Monday, March 30, 2009

What Lies Beyond Marxism and Capitalism?

It was a commonplace in the 90's to remark about how the fall of the Berlin Wall, coupled with the move of China toward state capitalism, symbolized the end of Communism as an historical force. During the current economic meltdown, it has become a commonplace to speak of the end of capitalism as an economic system. But this is old news. Marxism was finished once the crimes of Stalin became widely known and Capitalism had to absorb many Marxist ideas into itself as the welfare state emerged out the New Deal. It was either that or perish in the fires of revolution. Capitalism has been like the corpse of Lenin under glass for quite some time now.

Now that we are moving decisively beyond the two great religions of the Enlightenment, what lies ahead? It seems to me that there are two possibilities: either a revival of Christian faith in the West, which will lead to a distributivist economic system and freedom or the continued rise of the bureaucratic, managerial, state and the loss of freedom.

The bureaucratic, managerial state is operated by a special class of experts who function as managers throughout the state apparatus, which continuously grows and expands until all human life comes under its purview. At that point, human life can be managed effectively for maximum efficiency and rational planning can ensure human happiness. There is every reason to believe that most people will gladly trade freedom for security, as Dostoevesky's Grand Inquisitor argued in The Brothers Karamazov. The state is nameless and faceless. No one person is in charge; no one is accountable. The state is ubiquitous (a property of Jesus Christ) and it is all-powerful (an attribute of God). The state eliminates the vagaries of chance, individual initiative, disease and fortune and provides total security for every person. The state controls most of the wealth, of course; individuals are put on "an allowance." Personal initiative or eccentricity is diminished and the pleasures of the flesh are emphasized. Through expert planning the state not only rules or governs; its controls and manipulates.

But unlike the "hard totalitarianisms" of the mid-Twentieth century, this "solft totalitarianism" does not provoke fear, hatred and resistance from its citizens because the state appears as the Great Benefactor of the populace. In other words, human nature has changed and no longer yearns for freedom from state control because people have been conditioned to love security, fear freedom and accept state control.

This dystopia is perfect in every respect, as prophet like Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), and Fyodor Dostoevesky (The Brothers Karamazov) have foreseen, except for one little detail. C. S. Lewis points it out in The Abolition of Man. In the great war of man to conquor nature, (which is the chief enemy of the bureaucratic, managerial state), the conquest of nature turns out to be the conquest of human nature as well and this means that it is the conquest of some men by other men. In other words, Nietzsche's vision wins out in the end.

If I were to boil down what it means to be a conservative today, I would say it means to oppose the bureaucratic, managerial state and all its works - including eugenics, the increasing separation of human reproduction from sexuality, high taxes and big government social programs, the endless regulation of all aspects of life, the ursurpation of authority over the family, the usurpation of authority over the Church, policies designed to ensure the continued destruction of the family farm, globalization, the government monopoly on education, and the glorification of greed, lust and sloth as the highest ideals.

If I were to answer the question of what it is, exactly, that conservative seek to conserve, I would answer: humanity itself.

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