March 3, 2006

Crunch nonsense...

I might have missed, if a friend hadn't pointed it out, Jonah Goldberg's critique of Rod Dreher's book Crunchy Cons. I find Dreher's way of thinking ludicrous, and 10-x ludicrous when garbed as conservative thinking. The idea that hippie affectations, such as "organic food" or "natural" fibers constitute virtues always reminds me of the woman in CS Lewis's marvelous Screwtape Letters, who rejects the food offered by her hosts, and demands they make her just a little dry toast, cooked just exactly so. She is a glutton, though she imagines she is just the opposite.

Eating lovingly prepared foods with congenial friends may well be an antidote to the anomie of modern life, but so is sitting in McDonalds reading a good book....

...And then there's this whopper of a statement: "Adam Smith and Karl Marx are two sides of the same coin: they define man as primarily economic man."

Putting aside the grotesque slander to Smith, who was one of the great moral philosophers of the last three centuries, it's simply untrue that the free-market is rooted in materialism or that Smith's intellectual descendants define man in economic terms. Classical liberals root their case for laissez-faire in the autonomy of the individual, the primacy of freedom, the faith that virtue not freely chosen isn't virtuous, and in a deeply religious conception of the individual conscience (another sorely missing voice in Rod's book is Michael Novak, the world's leading authority on the intersection of market economics and Catholicism). Save for a few Randians (heh), the only people who really think the free market is based on a materialist vision in an intellectually serious way are themselves Marxist materialists, in much the same way that the only people who see white racism behind every black problem are people convinced of the primacy of race.

Besides, we don't even get the sort of metaphysical materialism Rod talks about from Marx, or even from economics. We get it from Darwin and Malthus....
Posted by John Weidner at March 3, 2006 8:17 AM
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