December 5, 2005

each dependent on the other...

Mike wrote, in a comment to the previous post about the interview with Roger Scruton:

I find this an encouraging post. Much is made of a potential split in the alliance of libertarian/conservatives and cultural conservatives. But to hear a cultural conservative speak so highly of von Misses and Hayek, and to refer to the case for "maintaining [the free-market] as the core of economic life" as "unanswerable", makes me think that alliance is still very strong.

I think each part is dependent for success on the success of the other, and so the alliance is far far stronger than is usually consciously realized.

In particular, I think a key ingredient of a nation's success is that its people believe in the future, and have a willingness to endure risk and sacrifice in the present to build a better future. And that is largely tied, I think, to religion. I don't think it is an accident, that the further "post-Christian" Europe becomes, the more risk-averse it grows, and the more obsessed with present security and comfort. They are in economic stagnation because they won't undertake the risk of creating new enterprises (with the attendant certainty of destroying old ones) and they are facing demographic collapse because they won't take the horrible risk and bother of bringing children into the world. (And we see a lot of the same perilous slide here, which is what gives the Culture Wars their bitter edge.)

Economic success requires "creative destruction." New enterprises must be born, and old ones die. In the 80's America let a lot of its inefficient old "Rust-Belt businesses die. Far from being a catastrophe, this was the basis of our present success. A big part of our national strength was freed up, and forced to re-think and grow. And we could only do this because of a widespread faith in the future, faith that it would bring forth new and better things. There were lots of politicians ready to "save" America's industrial might by keeping those businesses alive. Still are. But that viewpoint lost. And that made all the difference.

And I believe, though of course there's no way of proving it, that what lies deep underneath those political and personal decisions is faith. Either religious faith, or just a generic faith in the future. And the same faith let Reagan (and in a smaller, more residual way Thatcher) undertake the huge military build-up that helped pressure the Soviet Union into fatal "reforms," thereby opening our world to vast new possibilities (and dangers).

And the alliance works in the other direction. A hopeful view of the future is reinforced by our strong and growing economy...

Posted by John Weidner at December 5, 2005 9:42 AM
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