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The conservative movement has not just lost its moorings, it has experienced a brain drain. Worst of all, its naughty little love affair with the free market has blown up and its face. Nuanced argument has been replaced with water boarding and emotionally-charged bludgeons. They have traded Bill Buckley for right wing shock jocks and plumbers named Joe. Richard Posner laments:

My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largely failed in execution, and are political flops is therefore unsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.

By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.

And then came the financial crash last September and the ensuing depression. These unanticipated and shocking events have exposed significant analytical weaknesses in core beliefs of conservative economists concerning the business cycle and the macroeconomy generally. Friedmanite monetarism and the efficient-market theory of finance have taken some sharp hits, and there is renewed respect for the macroeconomic thought of John Maynard Kenyes, a conservatives’ bête noire.

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One Comment

  1. Agreed on brain drain of conservatism, but where is the nuanced argument brain from the left. You use the term “love affair with the free market” when you should be using the term “love affair with the “free”(wink, wink) market”. Here is the Wikipedia definition of a free market:

    A free market is a theoretical term that economists use to describe a market which is free from government intervention (i.e. no regulation, no subsidization, no single monetary system and no governmental monopolies). In a free market, property rights are voluntarily exchanged at a price arranged solely by the mutual consent of sellers and buyers. By definition, buyers and sellers do not coerce each other, in the sense that they obtain each other’s property without the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or fraud, nor is the coerced by a third party (such as by government via transfer payments) [1] and they engage in trade simply because they both consent and believe that it is a good enough choice. In addition, in a free market, force is not used to prevent competition among buyers or among sellers (called free competition). Therefore, force is not a determinant of price, but rather price is the effect of buying and selling decisions en masse as described by the law of supply and demand.

    The problem with the intellectualism of the left is that they want to apply their own definitions. They are good post modernists, truth is, what they want it to be.


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