Global Insight: Inequality will get far worse if post-COVID economies keep capitalism

Prof Wolff joins the South Korean TV program Global Insight to discuss how inequality will get far worse if post-COVID economies keep capitalism.

 

Watch this segment on Global Insight.

 

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  • Keith Ford
    commented 2021-02-05 01:12:34 -0500
    Russell Kirk and Conservatism.

    Any thoughts, criticisms, or critiques are welcome and appreciated.

    In the Concise Guide, Kirk lays out ten characteristics of conservative thought.

    “Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom that is more than human—in divine justice” (2). Kirk made clear that “Christianity prescribes no especial form of politics” (9). At the same time, he believed that conservatism was built on a religious foundation and that religion in the modern world was largely defended by conservative people (9). “The conservative believes that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (10)
    “Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence” (2-3). In rejecting absolute equality, Kirk did not mean equal treatment under the law, but an equal outcome enforced by the state.
    “Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own—to the things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their property, and their personality” (3). Society, said Kirk, is a partnership in which all have equal rights but not all have equal things.
    “Property and freedom are inseparably connected: economic leveling is not economic progress” (3). Kirk argues that the three fundamental rights in the Anglo-American tradition have been life, liberty, and property (what Thomas Jefferson described more expansively as “the pursuit of happiness”). If there were no private property, we would not all be rich together; we would all be poor together (56-57). Private property is not only a good in itself; it is also a means to culture and freedom. The role of the state is to protect man’s property, not to allocate it. For his part, the virtuous citizen understands that property comes with duties, and by our property and possessions we ought to serve God and serve our fellow men (60).
    “Power is full of danger; therefore, the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs” (3-4). Kirk is not anti-authority, nor even anti-government. He considers government “a necessary good” provided it is just, balanced, and restricted. Men with power cannot be trusted, so ambition must be made to counteract ambition.
    “The past is a great storehouse of wisdom; as Burke said, ‘The individual is foolish, but the species is wise’” (4). The conservative knows he was not born yesterday. He is eager to listen to the “democracy of the dead.” The conservative does not idealize the past, but he believes that we will be wiser if we listen to the wise men and women of the past.
    “Modern society urgently needs true community: and true community is a world away from collectivism” (4). Conservatives are public-spirited. They believe in doing one’s duty to town and country, to his business and to his church, to his school and to his union, to his civic association and to his charitable fund (44). In genuine community, decisions are made locally wherever possible, and philanthropy and neighborliness are voluntary virtues.
    “In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world, but ought not to try to remake the world in its image” (5). Kirk is less interested in a specific foreign policy than in a general inclination that urges America to be virtuous, without necessarily being interventionist.
    “Men and women are not perfectible, conservatives know; and neither are political institutions. We cannot make heaven on earth, though we may make a hell” (5). Human nature is not malleable. We must deal with people as they are, not as we wish them to be. This means, as Kirk says elsewhere, “politics is the art of the possible, not the art of the ideal.”
    “Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical: moral and political innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial” (5-6). The conservative does not believe in change for the sake of change. He is not eager for revolution. He does not believe in the abstract cult of progress. When in doubt, permanence should be favored over progress. Choose what is old and tried, even if it is imperfect, before what is new untried. Conservatives prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.
    Summary

    Any thoughts, criticisms, or critiques are welcome and appreciated.

    Kirk was writing in the 1950s so the great enemy, as he saw it, was collectivism and totalitarianism. Like many conservatives, he did not see the injustices in his country as well as the injustices in other countries. In general, the conservative movement since World War II has been proven right on the issues of communism and socialism but has often been proven slow (or wrong) on the issue of race. Of Kirk’s ten points, I’d say 1 is undeniably Christian and 4, 5, 6, and 9 can be drawn from Christian principles, but they are certainly not the last word on moral philosophy or a Christian approach to society and politics. As I said earlier, I do not offer this summary of conservatism because I think it should become a confessional standard for Christians. Perish the thought! We have an inerrant Bible, not to mention our own dogmatic tradition. But I do believe Kirk’s definition of conservatism (or something like it) is worth our careful consideration, not least of all from those Christians who call themselves conservatives.
  • Carole Oleniuk
    commented 2021-01-06 11:46:00 -0500
    great interview, great optics, great ideas, moving on, like
  • Richard Wolff
    published this page in Blog 2021-01-06 04:38:59 -0500

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