Solzhenitsyn’s 1968 book Cancer Ward presented a metaphor of the state as a physician to capture what was happening in the Soviet Union. But the book can also help us examine American society in the Age of COVID.
Author: James E. Hartley (James E. Hartley)
Is it possible to argue that commercial activity is inherently virtuous, that it does not need to be tolerated as a necessary evil, but rather should be embraced as a positive good? If we all have the mind of the maker, if we are all created in the image of God, then we are all creators. For some, creativity manifests itself in commercial life. The changes of the eighteenth century, the bourgeois deal, allowed whole new sets of people to finally unchain their creative impulses.
Why do we so closely associate having degrees with the scholarly life? Most jobs, including the highest-prestige white-collar jobs, do not involve sitting around thinking lofty thoughts and reading deeply fascinating books all day. Instead, you could go to college to learn how to read Plato and Dante and Locke, and then go off to find a job which presents genuine intellectual puzzles that interest you, regardless of whether that job requires a college degree or not.
While it gives a certain amount of frisson to frame the story of GameStop as the Good Guys beating the Bad Guys, the details just don’t fit that narrative. It’s really important to think about the moral implications of economic activity, but it is equally important to get the details right. A lot of harm can be done by mistaking every economic event as fitting into a predetermined moral script.
Allowing capital to move is exactly what generates wealth. Yes, we could freeze capital in its current location; but then we would repeat the economic decline of impoverished countries by locking up that capital’s full, invisible potential.
American Compass and younger conservatives need to do more than complain about doctrinaire libertarians. There is a large need for careful thinking about the societal and cultural implications of economic policies, but blanket declarations of war against “libertarian fundamentalists” or “market fundamentalism” are no substitute for thoughtful analysis.
What is the value of human companionship or gathering together on Easter? What is the value of knowing that your elderly parents are safe from a highly infectious disease? There is no way to put either one into epidemiological or economic models. The debate between those insisting we need to follow the advice of epidemiologists and those insisting we ought to prioritize the economic effects of that advice may actually be a proxy war about what constitute the most important things in a society.
The Coronavirus epidemic has provided us with a lesson in how bureaucracies function in a time of crisis. It has also reminded us that education is more than merely transferring information. Real education takes place when the student and the professor meet face-to-face and just talk.
In a war, you know your goal, and then you decide on the best means to achieve that end. If you think about economic debates as a form of war, then choosing an economic model is not the first question. Instead, once you know your preferred policy outcome, you then choose an economic analysis that leads to that conclusion.
Is the world of private money an inevitability? Do we all need to get used to the fact that whether we like it or not, Facebook and Apple and Microsoft and Google are going to dominate the monetary landscape of the future? Not at all.
Attempts to discover the effect of immigration on government budgets are highly susceptible to the decisions economists make about how to measure all those benefits and costs and how to account for the effects on the indigenous population. The quick answer to “What is the effect of immigration on government budgets?” is “It depends on how you measure it.”
How do we determine the right level of immigration? Assuming the optimal number of immigrants per year is neither zero nor infinite, what is it? Five hundred thousand? One million? Two million? Five million? If we can start our discussion about immigration from a shared set of ideals, then we can begin the laborious task of determining the levels and types of immigration that will allow the continuation of the American experiment.
The notion that tariffs are bad has been supported by world-renowned economists for centuries. Yet we are currently in the midst of a trade war. Maybe what we need is a Just Tariff Theory: a system to weigh the economic harms of tariffs against the political benefits they may have.
Jonah Goldberg makes a fundamental mistake by tossing out God in the opening sentence of his latest book, Suicide of the West.