March 23, 2018
A sincere and well-meaning young man, to be sure. And yet, look at what the media has done to his mind. Black men are killing themselves (and others) every day on the streets of America’s inner cities. From Baltimore to L.A., “the black community” is singularly violent. Still, to expect blacks to be accountable, just as whites are supposed to be, is unacceptable in polite (read: cowardly) society. Between black resentment on the one hand and decadent white guilt on the other, such social justice is far out of reach.
Of course, if America still had strong industries, then there would be much less resentment like that evidenced by the rude young black man in my anecdote. Nor should we overlook the seriousness of this loss. The importance of place, of a sense of rootedness and belonging in a community, is a primordial feeling, related to the feelings associated with man’s love for family. And though gentrification is, as it were, a necessary effect of business, it is surely a vulgar thing to reduce one’s need for a meaningful place to mere wealth, as though there were nothing to the value but money. As with life itself, there is more to a country than that.
There is, for example, the idea of the common good, and in order to realize that, there is the duty for politicians to be economic nationalists; that is, to advance laws and policies that aim to produce gainful opportunities for ordinary people, as opposed to just maximizing profits for elite international capitalists.
Here, as always, there is plenty to learn from the past. Though fiercely conservative, Thomas Carlyle described laissez-faire capitalism as “the liberty to starve.” The phrase still has a kernel of truth, for not everyone has the ability to be a high-tech engineer, or a computer programmer, or an investor. Nor are there unlimited opportunities for all the competent people who can do such white-collar work. There are, moreover, some who bring to the marketplace a strong back and honest, manly work ethic. What of them? Shall they just be deemed superfluous as blue-collar jobs are exported overseas or replaced by immigrant labor?
We are free to answer yes, of course, but if we do so then we are not thinking of a country but of a business network.
Is economic nationalism, and the common good generally, asking for too much from most people? After all, are not most of us egotists, in whose lofty moral language there is usually so much material self-interest? Perhaps it is not asking for too much from most people, provided that we are inspired by a hero or true leader. And that, to draw on the past once more, is what a politician should be. He should not be selfish and shortsighted like the financiers who brought about the 2008 recession. Rather, he should be a wise steward. He should not be a politician but a statesman.