Friday, January 4, 2019

In Which I Approve Some Words from Tucker Carlson

Mitt Romney announced his arrival in Washington with an Op-Ed that ripped Donald Trump for both character failures nobody can deny and policy choices that to some of us seem a lot more debatable. Romney presents himself as the man from Bain Capital, fired up at Trump's apostasy from free-market fundamentalism, and besides that so offended by Trump's withdrawal from Syria that he doesn't even bother to explain why staying would be a good idea.

This launched Fox News personality Tucker Carlson on a madcap rant that pretty much sums up what he and his ilk are angry about. Some of it is nonsense but some of it is striking:
Our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.

One of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.

Members of our educated upper-middle-classes are now the backbone of the Democratic Party who usually describe themselves as fiscally responsible and socially moderate. In other words, functionally libertarian. They don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function. Somehow, they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy, or for that matter, the country’s ability to pay its bills. As far as they’re concerned, these are two totally separate categories.

Social conservatives, meanwhile, come to the debate from the opposite perspective, and yet reach a strikingly similar conclusion. The real problem, you’ll hear them say, is that the American family is collapsing. Nothing can be fixed before we fix that. Yet, like the libertarians they claim to oppose, many social conservatives also consider markets sacrosanct. The idea that families are being crushed by market forces seems never to occur to them. They refuse to consider it. Questioning markets feels like apostasy.

Both sides miss the obvious point: Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two. It used to be possible to deny this. Not anymore. The evidence is now overwhelming.
Carlson presents this conclusion as if it were controversial, but I am not sure that it is. I mean, Karl Marx certainly thought industrialization and the nuclear family were closely tied together, and so have lots of people since. But as George Will once wrote about Rick Santorum, the reason we talk so much about economics is that we think we know how to make the economy better. How to promote "thriving families" is an altogether different and much harder proposition.

I agree (I think) with Tucker Carlson, though, that unrestrained capitalism is not helping, and I agree that the support of many "socially conservative" voters for the harshest sort of capitalism is very wrongheaded. I think there are measures we could take that might help ordinary families a lot, from  free community college to stringent limits on drug prices. As I have said many times, I am not sure there is any better way to fundamentally restructure our economic world, but we could fiddle with the details in ways I think would matter.

I wonder, though, what measures Tucker Carlson would support to make life for families easier? Obamacare, for example? Somehow I doubt it. How about the changes in corporate governance Elizabeth Warren is promoting, which are supposed to force corporations to consider their workers and communities as well as profits? I don't think Carlson has taken a position, but I wouldn't count on his support. Support for unions? That would probably get him fired from Fox. It is fine to say that you want to help workers instead of banks and CEOs, but what are you willing to do to move the economy in that direction? Ranting about evil billionaires and permissive liberals won't help.

The places where workers continue to get a bigger piece of the corporate pie, and where corporate leaders take the interests of workers and communities more into account, are all in northern and western Europe, and they all have much bigger governments and higher taxes than any American Republican has ever been willing to countenance. On the other hand Carlson leaves us with this warning:
Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.
So maybe there is some hope that at least a few conservatives will support meaningful changes.


G. Verloren said...

You wonder what measures Carlson would support to make life easier for families, if not Obamacare, or corporate governance reforms, or unionization, etc?

It's really quite simple. You just have to understand that when he says make life easier "for families", he means make life easier "for white conservatives".


I don't read this as some sort of argument against being allowed to regulate the economy in ways we refuse to regulate family, faith, culture, etc.

No, it seems to me that Carlson is arguing for making it possible to regulate family, faith, culture, et cetera, the way we regulate the economy.

One must never forget that cnservatives in this country are fundamentally anti-minority, anti-woman, anti-homosexual, etc, control freaks. They don't just disagree with other people about how they should live their lives - they want to forcibly impose their values on anyone who disagrees, and demand universal conformity.

So to my mind, this is clearly just Carlson opining that if only our leaders would give "The People" (i.e. - him and his ilk) the power to regulate who is allowed to get married, who is allowed to immigrate here, what religion people must follow, etc, then "we" (they) would be able to make the economy boom continuously for eternity and life would miraculously become grand and wonderful for "all Americans". (The ones who remain after the purges, anyway.)

This is classic Fascist and Authoritarian rhetoric: diversity is weakness, dissent cannot be tolerated, and we need to go back to "traditional" ways of doing things, returning to a mythical age of splendor and grandeur, before life was ruined by freedom hating globalists allowing the dirty minorities to step out of line.

Susi said...

Tucker Carlson’s first paragraph seems to me to describe Trump. Why does he support Trump, then?

John said...

@Susi- because he thinks that both liberal politicians and Republican businessmen despise ordinary white people and don't give a damn if they live or die. Trump may lack the character or the intellect to create real change, but at least he wants to help ordinary white people and is willing to take on their enemies. Or that's my interpretation, anyway.

Susi said...

Thanks, John. I come here for reasoned opinions and am grateful to you for this platform. I especially enjoy the interplay between you and G. Verloren.

Unknown said...

Carlson's ethnic nationalism is pretty much a dealbreaker for me. As soon as any political position is enunciated in those terms, to me those terms instantly become the most salient aspect of the platform, and render it unacceptable. Such ideas are, to me, part of why we need to bring back the FDR/LBJ approach to social protection, along with it being the right thing to do.