January 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Inquisition has begun. Tucker Carlson is guilty of heresy.
His crime? Arguing free markets tend to erode, instead of promote, the overall well being of a country, especially its families.
“Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot,” the preppy intellectual asserted last week on his television show. “Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined.”
The Pat Buchanan-esque Fox News host has drawn the ire of pretty much every neoconservative thinker the past several days. And for good reason. Carlson has violated the cardinal sin of the modern day Republican Party: questioning the infallibility of the market.
During his impassioned 15-minute monologue, Carlson, clearly motivated by a Christian concern for his neighbors, convincingly argued that middle America has been hollowed out by globalist policies and that the real goal of Republican economics is to “make the world safe for banking.”
Taking aim at Senator Mitt Romney, Carlson pointed out that the failed presidential candidate has spent “the bulk” of his career taking over companies, firing their employees, and extracting their wealth. “Romney became fantastically rich doing this,” he notes.
The establishment freaks out
Predictably, Carlson’s apostasy stirred up a hornets nest of activity among the cult-like conservative commentariat, which, unsurprisingly, accused him of Bernie Sanders-type thinking.
National Review, a magazine that believes taxing soda is the equivalent of socialism, leapt into action as if the republic itself were on the verge of collapse, publishing multiple articles that basically amounted to telling Carlson to shut up and stop acting like a victim. “The market cures all!” the outlet seems to think.
Ben Shapiro, the keynote speaker for the 2019 March for Life, was similarly apoplectic, regurgitating the tired consequentialist trope that more people have been lifted out of poverty thanks to capitalism than any other invention of mankind.
The argument being that workers today make more money than any other time in human history. If they aren’t happy as a result, tough luck. Keep quiet and be grateful. You have air conditioning and a nice truck.
This sort of stale, ideological way of thinking about the economy in the 21st century is about as boring as listening to millennial Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez drone on about how only “radicals” can effectuate change.
The fresh perspective Carlson brings to policy discussions in the age of globalization should be most welcomed by pro-family Christians, who should long for an economy built not on rugged self-interest but radical selflessness. Carlson pricks the conscience of those who generally only think in terms of dollars and cents. He shines a light on the very real, often intentionally overlooked, communal damage done by slavish devotion to profit. He seems to understand that markets affect persons and their families (and towns) in totalizing ways, and that economics is not just about individuals pursuing mammon in a cordoned-off sphere of life.
“One of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters,” Carlson said in his monologue. We are told “economics is a topic for public debate” while “family and faith and culture” are only “personal matters.”
Not so! says Carlson.
“We are not servants of our economic system. We are not here to serve as shareholders. We’re human beings and our concerns are real,” Carlson told the snippy Shapiro during an interview in November. People having to move to “crappy” suburbs and work for equally crappy corporations isn’t something conservatives should be OK with.
A more authentic, Christian conservatism
The rise of Carlson’s star at Fox is reflective of the larger political emergence of what is often incorrectly labeled “the populist movement.” In reality, what Carlson is actually arguing for is a more local, more traditional variant of conservative thinking that regrettably lost out to William F. Buckley’s big business, pro-war, (and possibly CIA-backed) neoconservatism in the 1960s.
Such an approach, sometimes referred to as “paleoconservatism,” views international banking, multinational corporations, and deregulated markets not as benevolent forces showering upon mankind a cornucopia of unreserved benefits, but as intentional creations of the rich and powerful that over the long haul have probably done more harm to Americans and their communities than good.
“There are a lot of ingredients to being happy,” Carlson said, reflecting his multilayered traditionalist philosophy. “Dignity, purpose, self-control, independence — above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children,” not cheap plastic possessions and soul-crushing jobs where “mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation” to the American people rule over them.
This anti-establishment sentiment is what undoubtedly motivated voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to support Donald Trump in 2016. Blue-collar folks living in towns decimated by NAFTA whose most recognizable feature is a rusted water tower are all too painfully aware of the truths coming from Carlson’s mouth. Republicans would be wise to embrace them.
Ultimately, Carlson seems to side with the Catholic Church’s social doctrine, which essentially holds that taking away as many restrictions on man’s economic behavior creates a space where unbridled competition (i.e. the worst effects of original sin) are allowed the most room to grow. Hence, as Pope Leo XIII taught, the state must prudentially intervene in the economy, especially when the family — the basic building block of society — is threatened.
America needs laws, not just citizens, that promote virtue
While some conservatives have made the argument that a sound economy relies on a moral and virtuous citizenry, it seems nonsensical to say that being privately virtuous is the sole solution, primarily because America’s current economic system a) strongly entices us to un-virtuous behavior and b) not only doesn’t take into account family life and the importance of local communities but actively wars against them.
How, in other words, can persons operating in an economic system that undermines the very things that help make men moral remain virtuous? Isn’t the whole point of being virtuous to eventually change public policy so authentic human flourishing can spread and so others, including and especially capitalists, can more easily attain virtue as well?
Pro-family Europeans seem to understand this. In Italy, the nationalist party is giving land to large families. In Poland, parents who have more children are awarded tax credits and stores are required to be closed on Sunday. Advocate for such things in the United States and you’ll be accused of being a fascist by the political right. Recall that when Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee fought to expand the child tax credit in 2017, not a few neocons threw a temper tantrum.
Carlson not the first to identify the problem
The tidal wave of attacks launched by market fundamentalists against Carlson is a sure sign as any that he and his pro-family, traditional economic views are a threat to Wall Street’s grip on the “free market” narrative pushed by the Republican Party. As it currently stands, neoconservatives are on the ropes. Their imperialist foreign policies were put on the endangered species list the day Donald Trump won the presidency. Now they’re worried their economic ideas may become extinct as well, so they want to make an example out of Carlson.
In many ways, Tucker Carlson, whether he knows it or not, is making arguments similar to those marshaled by Robert F. Kennedy, another original thinker who viewed economics holistically and from a Christian viewpoint.
In 1968 at the University of Kansas, Kennedy delivered a speech wherein he anathematized the idolatrous worship of America’s gross domestic product. Carlson would be wise to discuss it on a future episode, as it reflects how all Christians should view economic life: a mere means to an end, not an end itself.
“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things,” Kennedy said.
“Our Gross National Product … if we judge the United States of America by that … counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.”
“It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.”
The GDP, Kennedy concluded, measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
Amen to that! More conservative Christians need to line up behing this sort of thinking, as it seems Tucker Carlson has. The sooner the better.