December 27, 2017

Capitalism is Winning

Yesterday's "Tough Times for Liberals..." post segues to a NYT piece about "the GOPs contempt for democracy." Reading through with an "it's about time" mindset, I found it quite open and honest about the tension between property rights and democracy, if not fully complete. Author Will Wilkinson never addresses two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner, but he does give fair treatment to the moral philosophies of Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. And acknowledges Buckley's temporary strategy that "banished radical libertarians to the fringes of the conservative movement to mingle with the other unclubbables." But as Reagan predicted, libertarianism has finally triumphed and realized its first big win in the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" of 2017.

Consequently, Wilkinson performs some philosophical gymnastics to make protection of property rights an achievement of democracy, not of libertarianism.

It's easy to say that everyone ought to have certain rights. Democracy is how we come to get and protect them. Far from endangering property rights by facilitating redistribution, inclusive democratic institutions limit the "organized banditry" of the elite-dominated state by bringing everyone inside the charmed circle of legally enforced rights.

Democracy is fundamentally about protecting the middle and lower classes from redistribution by establishing the equality of basic rights that makes it possible for everyone to be a capitalist. Democracy doesn't strangle the golden goose of free enterprise through redistributive taxation; it fattens the goose by releasing the talent, ingenuity and effort of otherwise abused and exploited people.

Except for the fact that wealthy non-elites don't seem to be included in Wilkinson's "everyone" whose rights are protected, this sounds pretty good.

I hope readers can add to my interpretation. Most encouraging to me however, is the approbation he gives to the ideas of property rights and capitalism. We're making progress if a defender of liberal democracy wants any share of the credit for them.


Economics and Markets Freedom on the March From the other side Government Philosophy Trump Revolution democracy Posted by JohnGalt at December 27, 2017 2:53 PM

The holiday spirit has truly infused my blog brother with the milk of human kindness. By all means, let us continue the interpretation.

Wilkinson describes the idea of some people keeping a bit of their money thusly:

At a time when America’s faith in democracy is flagging, the Republicans elected to treat the United States Senate, and the citizens it represents, with all the respect college guys accord public restrooms.

I read it as a defense, not of property rights, but of placing democratic, majoritarian guard rails on them.

Posted by: jk at December 27, 2017 5:16 PM | What do you think? [1]