Saturday, October 23, 2004

Conservatism & capitalism

I think it's a mistake to define conservatism around the idea of the free market. To illustrate why, consider the comments that President Bush recently made in an election debate on the issue of illegal immigration into America. President Bush said:

Many people are coming to this country for economic reasons. They're coming here to work. If you can make 50 cents in the heart of Mexico, for example, or make $5 here in America, $5.15, you're going to come here if you're worth your salt ...

And so in order to take pressure off the borders, in order to make the borders more secure, I believe there ought to be a temporary worker card that allows a willing worker and a willing employer to mate up, so long as there's not an American willing to do that job, to join up in order to be able to fulfill the employers' needs.

The focus of President Bush is on allowing the free market to do its thing. People are held to act according to economic self-interest, and government exists to allow them to do so. Placing restraints on such behaviour for some higher good, such as the preservation of a distinct national tradition, is not even considered.

President Bush has made the free market the ultimate end of politics, and as a consequence he believes it to be a positive thing for Mexicans who want more money, and American employers who want cheaper labour, to "mate up". He does not mind if this radically transforms the national identity of the USA.

If you are the kind of person who does mind if your own national identity is overthrown, the lesson is that the free market should not define your politics. You need to put other higher goods before the free market, and be willing to restrain the market, where necessary, to preserve those goods.

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