Does Red Toryism Have an American Future?

by Mark T. Mitchell on October 5, 2009 · 3 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Stephen MacLean thinks the answer is yes. Is he right? At the very least, would the movement need another name? As our economic future contintues to unravel, perhaps it’s time for a creative alternative to the shrill and all too often mindless “debate” between capitalism and statism.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Médaille October 7, 2009 at 9:11 am

I think the terms of the discussion are so alien to the American political experience of the last 60 years that there is little likelihood of Red Toryism finding American roots. Stephen seems to place his hope in the Libertarians. However, libertarianism is itself a confused movement with “right” and “left” wings. The right wing (Austrian) libertarians are little more than the fellow-travelers and useful idiots of American style State Capitalism. The left wing, or “anti-capitalist” libertarians seem to have a much better grasp of the situation, but they have much less influence (and far less funding) among the libertarian movement. Which reminds me, we ought to invite Kevin Carson to comment on these matters.

avatar Stephen MacLean October 8, 2009 at 12:55 am

Many thanks for the link to my essay and to all the many readers who made the trek. I agree with Dr Mitchell that the movement may need another name, and with Mr Médaille that the terms are alien to the American political experience—given that the term ‘Tory’ has such negative connotations in United States history.

Personally, though, I demur from identifying intimately with libertarianism, seeing its value mainly as expressed in the activities of individuals and voluntary associations: a lowest common denominator that may be acceptable, from the conservative perspective, to both moderates and those further to the right. The Toryism I espouse is far more sympathetic to State action, either as a means of last resort when civil society cannot meet the challenge or in providing universal public services (e.g., British and Canadian healthcare).

I would imagine that moderate Republicans may be willing to accept the first understanding of the State as a ‘last option’, but it appears that only the Democrats will contemplate any sort of State-mandated public option. This may be as it should be, but it does underline the deeper associations of Toryism, and why a new nomenclature, as Dr Mitchell suggests, may be needed. (Many traditionalists, for instance, would consider ‘Red Tory’ not oxymoronic, but redundant.) But for moderate conservatives and Mr Médaille’s ‘“anti-capitalist” libertarians’ caught between the ‘all too often mindless “debate” between capitalism and statism’, there’s much to be gained between these two extremes.

avatar Bruce Smith October 8, 2009 at 10:08 am

They say that ideas know no boundaries and to my mind many of the ideas that reinforce the arguments that Phillip Blond is putting forward have been put forward by Americans. So for example, the notion that the human race always has to have a capitalism owned and controlled by the few is challenged by the “Strong Reciprocity” ideas of Herbert Gintis and Samuel Bowles, and the “Reverse Dominance Hierarchies” theory of Christopher Boehm. Our pursuit of conspicuous consumption is explained in terms of “Misplaced Fitness Seeking” by Geoffrey Miller. The use of the legally prescribed trust vehicle to overcome Principal-Agent government, business and sustainability problems is advocated by Peter Barnes. The importance of evolutionary adaptiveness techniques to overcome the average forty year life expectancy of businesses is raised by Erik D. Beinhocker.

In addition throughout the world it is slowly becoming apparent that many of our problems derive from allowing a capitalism where there is an obsession with only one Bottom Line, that of profit, because this results in a drive to minimize all Externalities regardless of consequences. Minimizing three of these Externalities creates massive problems.

Firstly, human beings have become an Externality where the object becomes to pay the workforce as little as possible in wages and benefits as possible. For example, this has resulted in a “captured” Federal Reserve that increases interest rates to choke off gains in wages but not dividends. It has created Barge Economics where the theoretical ideal is perceived to be putting all your manufacturing plant on a barge and towing it around to the country that offers the lowest wages (including child and slave labor), the least environmental regulation and the most subsidies including currency pegging manipulation and tax breaks.

Secondly, government and democracy has become an Externality where the goal of capitalism has become one of “capturing” both the institutions and the democratic process by what ever legal, or illegal, process possible in order to minimize regulation and seek subsidies and tax advantages.

Finally, Nature which can be viewed as a Commons that ought to be used to benefit all has become an Externality with the object of using it for free in an unsustainable manner and avoiding fair distribution of its largesse.

The minimizing of these three Externalities is common to all countries that allow Mindless Capitalism. The huge deficits that these countries have to incur to mitigate the dysfunction caused by this mindlessness means, however, that all ideas are going to be welcome for change irrespective of their country of origin.

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