How Conservatives Occupy Wall Street
Just about everyone right of center has been sniggering at the rather sorry products of our education system currently "occupying" Wall Street. It confirms why Nancy Pelosi could be so confident that the Tea Party was "astroturf." Everything that comes out on the left is astroturf, so Pelosi naturally assumed that the right was just the same.
But let us take these young skulls full of mush seriously. Let us not merely sneer, as Jonah Goldberg did, about folks who want the "government to work on the same non-hierarchical, consensus-based, extremely deliberative form of direct democracy that they're using down in Liberty Plaza." Or at Ezra Klein's report that "[d]ecisions are made by the NYC General Assembly, which Nathan Schneider describes as 'a horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with roots in anarchist thought.'"
Lefties since time immemorial have longed for liberation and equality through this vision of a world without hierarchy. Today's generation has watched lefty documentaries like The Corporation for inspiration. That's why one of their demands is "End Corporate Personhood." It's a major theme of The Corporation.
It's the way that corporations got the courts to define them as "persons" back in the 19th century, by piggy-backing on the Fourteenth Amendment, that offends the left. Why, if corporations are persons, you only have to look at the way they behave, using DSM-IV manual of mental disorders, to realize they are nothing but psychopaths! Then the documentarists go on a 2-hour, 25-minute itemization of all the "harm" that corporations inflict on us, from sweatshops to toxins and pretending they are "just folks." Lefties Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Naomi Klein are on hand with sound bites to help things along. The message is clear: corporations are to blame for all the bad things in the world.
It was back in the 1940s that thinking Marxists realized that our problem wasn't just corporations. Refugee German Jews Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno looked at fascism and World War II and realized that it was the entire scientific, Enlightenment project of "instrumental reason" that was to blame. Corporations, science, bureaucratic government -- all were rational projects trying to use reason to dominate the world. Thus, "[e]nlightenment behaves toward things as a dictator toward men."
Given this rage for domination, it's not surprising that moral movements arose to control it. Marxists and liberals wanted to control the evils of capitalism, classical liberals and libertarians wanted to control the evils of government, and environmentalists wanted to mitigate the problem wherein "what men want to learn from nature is how to dominate it and other men."
The problem with each of these moral movements is that the only way they know how to combat their one particular evil is by domination. Liberals want to dominate corporations. Environmentalists want to dominate by government regulation. Everyone wants to dominate government. In other words, they all want to be dictators.
Enter the modern conservative. Edmund Burke railed against the dominator of India, Warren Hastings. And he reckoned that the French Revolution, with its economists, sophists, and calculators, would end up at the gallows.
That was then. This is now. Now we have Michael Novak and his Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. As I interpret his manifesto, he calls for a Greater Separation of Powers between the economic sector, the political sector, and the moral-cultural sector. He calls not just for separation of church and state, but for separation of economy and state. By separating these powers, he hopes to reduce their powers of domination.
Let's combine Novak with Horkheimer and Adorno. Their problem with mankind's modern "instrumental reason" is that it has conjured up enormous powers that have let loose a tide of domination. How do you prevent a power from defeating you? You prevent it from reaching strategic concentration. The modern powers of instrumental reason need to be limited, whether they are corporate, governmental, or religious. And no fair government and business ganging up in crony capitalism, or politics and religion merging into totalitarian communism or fascism.
Maybe the young skulls full of mush should study up on conservatism, for it is modern conservatism that wants a thriving civil society of mediating structures to restrain the megastructures of business and government. It's a pity that their professors never told them about any of that.
Here's an idea. The cool kids could go across the street and learn a thing or two from the uncool Tea Party folks. The Tea Party knows that you can't solve the Wall Street problem until you curb the debt and the spending problem.
But the cool kids could never do that. After all, their professors told them that the Tea Party is racist.
Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.