Would a New Conservative ‘Fusionism’ Help?


What with middle-class Americans starting to reject the woke rule of the educated and credentialed class, does that mean America is ready for a new “fusionism” — a combination of traditionalism and capitalism of the kind put together by Frank Meyer under the patronage of William F. Buckley half a century ago? That’s what Donald Devine asks at the American Spectator in “Is Conservative Fusionism Dead or Simply Confronting Changing Times?”

And he has a book out, The Enduring Tension: Capitalism and the Moral Order, that according to Amazon’s “look inside,” digs into critiques of capitalism and the western social order in Rousseau, Marx, Locke, Schumpeter, and also Hayek’s critique of the modern conceit that “empirical science has the answers to all social problems.”

Devine asks how we can create a framework to understand and regulate capitalism and yet provide “the moral restraints needed for social order, but still consistent with pluralist capitalism”? For Devine, it all comes down to a “moral legitimizing ideal” to legitimize the political order and the economic order.

And how are we going to do that?

I say that in the modern world there are three kinds of people, and they genuinely want and expect different things out of their lives and the world — and different moral legitimizing ideals.

First of all is the elite: political, religious, economic: what I call Creatives. They are essential to any society: the political to protect against enemies, the religious to protect against evil, and the economic to direct production and exchange. Boy, are they trouble.

Then there is the middling sort of person, what I call Responsibles. These are ordinary competent people — yeomen, commoners — that take the world as they find it and live to make the most of what God has provided them within the given political, religious, and economic parameters.

Finally, there is the Subordinate person, who believes him or herself at the mercy of events, and looks to a powerful patron to protect them from the merciless forces of this world.

Each of these kinds of people have a profoundly different relationship with capitalism and with the moral framework. In the Creative class, the politically minded elitists see capitalism as something to be controlled and tamed; the religious minded elitists see their job as developing a resonant moral critique of capitalism. Economically minded elitists are looking for a start-up opportunity to build into the biggest thing ever.

In the Responsible class, people see capitalism as something that a person has to grapple with and live with so that they can live a decent prosperous life with marriage and children. They accept the existing moral framework and try to live their lives by it.

In the Subordinate class, people see capitalism as an incomprehensible monster that demands skills they do not have, and puts them at the mercy of bosses that mistreat and misunderstand them. They cling desperately to any patron that offers to protect them, and experience any setback as an injustice deliberately visited on them by cruel overlords.

Now, in my worldview you see that ordinary Responsibles are the good guys, just getting on with life. The Creatives are problematic because their lives depend on directing traffic and/or changing things. And the Subordinates insist on someone — employer, government, labor union — babysitting them. But our present ruling class has another worldview, the Ally narrative that the educated class of Allies is fighting to defend the helpless Subordinate “oppressed peoples” from the patriarchal Responsible “white oppressors.” As you can see, this worldview is completely upside down from my worldview, and it is a replay of Marx’s narrative of noble Communists rescuing the proletarians from the exploiting grasp of the bourgeoisie and capitalists. Obviously, Critical Race Theory and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are variants of the Ally narrative. They all advertise that the noble and educated and evolved elite are Saviors without which the Subordinates are doomed to racial exclusion and oppression.

Can we all agree, finally, that this is a Big Lie? A Big Lie that simply empowers the educated elite to wield political and moral power and order everyone around.

And can we agree that the rule of the Creatives has Made Things Worse for the supposed “oppressed peoples,” whether a despairing white working class or black “aspiring rappers?” But the Creatives have the power.

So the only way we get to the future is for the Creative elite of Allies to make such a mess of things that everyone agrees that it is Time for a Change, and we kick the Allies out of power.

Then we can invent a moral framework that teaches the Woke a lesson, provides a sensible framework for the Responsible middle class and helps the Subordinates get a clue.

So, new fusionism be damned. We Post-Woke humans will have to make it up as we go along.

Christopher Chantrill | Columnist

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