from David French; ‘Nationalist’ Is How a Republican Spells ‘Progressive.’
Before I critique Rubio and Hawley, let me offer a word or two of unreserved praise. They are exactly right to highlight the American crisis of deaths of despair, they are exactly right to highlight the indispensable role of American families in American culture, and they are spot-on when they decry the breakdown of institutions—from churches to sports leagues to civic institutions—that have long formed the bedrock of American communities and provided countless Americans with invaluable meaning, purpose, and fellowship.
Moreover, to the extent they endorse greater respect for federalism—the return of power to states and local governments—to a politics that is truly more local, a politics of your town and neighborhood, I stand with them. But in practice, their policies all too often pull more power to the federal government and place more authority in the hands of federal bureaucracies. Hawley’s social-media reform proposals would grant federal control over the design and operation of the social media apps on your phone. His social media political speech proposals would place a government commission in charge of regulating a vast amount of core political speech online.
Moreover, they’re just wrong to claim that America is in the midst of “market worship,” and to embrace a new national politics that rests on faith in the federal government to this time be able to properly influence and direct the world’s largest and most complex economy to not only spur economic growth, but growth in the right places, targeted exactly at the right people is to ignore decades of recent American history.
In fact, whenever I hear the phrase “market worship,” it’s hard for me to take the critique seriously. To track the last century (especially the last half-century) is to track the extraordinary growth of government intervention in the economy. At all levels of government, various kinds of economic activity have been regulated, licensed, incentivized, and protected.
Hawley is worried about family farms? Excellent. He joins a long, long line of politicians who’ve been using the levers of power to try to prop up American farming for decades.
Rubio is concerned about American manufacturing? Fantastic. Politicians have been intervening in the economy to protect manufacturing my entire adult life.
In fact, one of the central economic insights of modern conservatism is that technocratic interventions—typically undertaken by the brightest of people with the best of intentions—often don’t work and are frequently counterproductive.
Let’s take a previous generation’s consensus view of “common-good capitalism.” If you rewind the American clock a short 15 years, you’d find a remarkable public/private consensus that home ownership was a key to achieving the American dream. The purchase of an appreciating asset like a home increases family stability and provides families with a real sense of home and place. The real estate bubble that resulted wasn’t just the result of Wall Street run amok, it was the result of a witch’s brew of misguided public policy, corporate greed, and—yes—personal overreach.
In the last half-century Republican presidents have implemented wage-and-price controls, imposed tariffs, and transferred billions of dollars to farmers to keep American farming afloat. At the state and local level Republican governors and legislatures have shoveled public dollars at large corporations to induce them to relocate and build in Red America. America is simply awash in efforts at “common-good capitalism,” and it’s still not adequately addressing the (very real) problems that Rubio and Hawley identify.