Submitted by Voice of Tradition
Every government chooses what institutions are privileged, subsidized and taxed. That which is privileged, holds honor in society. That which is subsidized, is encouraged. That which is taxed, is discouraged. If you were, for example, to give a check to a family every time they had a child and reduce their income tax by a couple percentage points, very quickly there would be an increase in large families. On the contrary, if you were to subsidize young adults who chose to pursue a career or higher education rather than those who chose to start a family, and if you increased a family’s income tax per child, then you would very quickly see a decrease in large families. What institutions exist and flourish is at the behest of the government.
“Let us all be ‘free’ of one another; we shall then be happy. Free, without bond or connection except that of cash-payment; fair day’s wages for the fair day’s work; bargained for by voluntary contract, and law of supply-and-demand: this is thought to be the true solution of all difficulties and injustices that have occurred between man and man.”
In the first of his Latter-Day Pamphlets, Thomas Carlyle satirizes the privileging of economic relationships over organic relationships. Carlyle saw in his day, and would be horrified to see in ours, the readiness to replace the complicated, the messy, and the organic with the cold, the efficient and the economic. Mom and Pop shops and even national businesses, now due to the restrictions resulting from Covid, are thrown away to make room for Amazon. Taking a lady out to dinner is too personal and inconvenient, so a one-night stand from Tinder fills the hole. “The old relation has become unsuitable, obsolete, perhaps unjust; it imperatively requires to be amended; and the remedy is, abolish it, let there henceforth be no relation at all.” Why bother with the messy, the sticky and the painfully demanding, when a clinical and economic substitute is available?
“From the ‘Sacrament of Marriage’ downwards, human beings used to be manifoldly related, one to another, and each to all; and there was no relation among human beings, just or unjust, that had not its grievances and difficulties, its necessities on both sides to bear and forbear. But henceforth, be it known, we have changed all that, by favour of Heaven: ‘the voluntary principle’ has come up, which itself will do the business for us.”
It used to be understood that difficulties and inconveniences were a part of any normal, organic, relationship, yet, for Carlyle’s generation, and even more so for ours, these difficulties are simply too much work. Divorce is rampant in America; it is much easier to separate from your spouse than to work things out; it is easier to cheat on your spouse than admit you have ego and self-esteem issues. An uncomfortably large number of college students prefer Tinder to dating, and even report that they do not want long-term relationships…only want one-night flings. Each passing year an ungodly number of small businesses are crushed in their fight with Amazon, Walmart and Target. Local coffee shops are disappearing fast and being replaced by Starbucks. This is just to name just a few instances of the economic replacing the organic. Life is complicated and many an American would happily spare the complication at the expense of the organic and the communal.
That these United States are in dire straits should be no surprise; our delicate web is being unraveled at a greater and greater pace. A society is an intricate web of organic relationships spun over the generations. Lose those relationships and you lose society. Attempts to reverse this trend, to save the organic, have either failed or were not earnest attempts in the first place. Donald Trump was elected in 2016 by using the language of family values, national community and national strength. If only his actions were paid attention to, not his words, he would be seen for who he really is, someone chiefly responsible for replacing the organic with the economic. What did Trump accomplish? Mostly tax cuts for Amazon, Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Pornhub, Tinder, and all the other key killers of the organic. Electing a businessman will not save our country from the clinical and cold domination of economic relationships.Neither will the left-wing of this country do either. Antifa, supposedly defenders of the oppressed and enemies of capitalism, are actually the servants of Capital. Why do they attack the biggest critics of neoliberalism and never lay siege to Wallstreet? Why do they only attack right-wing pundits who are critical of capitalism, and never its defenders, such as Ben Shapiro? Neither Trump nor the left-wing oppose the privileging of the economic over the personal, they defend it.
If neither Trump nor his left opposition can, or ever intended, to solve these problems, what is to be done? Organic relationships need to be strengthened and defended from the impersonal giants. To achieve this, a new kind of politics is needed, or maybe a politics that has been long forgotten. Instead of focusing on the grand and the impersonal, politics should be focused on the small and the communal. The growth of local and state-level businesses, not the growth of the Fortune 500, could be the future measurement of success. Increasing the number of single-income households could also be a measurement of success. Fostering the growth of local and state-level businesses and single-income families would not be hard, all that is needed is to redirect already existing subsides and shifting the tax burden. Apple and Google do not need the numerous subsidies the government provides, the local hardware store does,however. Middle class families do not need to be taxed at all if international corporations were held accountable to their tax burden…their tax burden need not increase! If it is true that organic, personal, relationships are what uphold society, then it should be a government’s first priority to privilege and subsidize them, while at the same time taxing those tendencies and forces which undermine said organic, personal, relationships.
A new politics of this sort would take seriously the insights of both the right and the left. From the right, organic relationships and institutions are recognized as the foundation of society. From the left, the government’s ability to shape society is recognized.Taking seriously the insights of both the right and the left does not mean that this new kind of politics is a fusion of the two, it means that this new politics is committed to being open, being open enough to put worn categories and party affiliations behind and being open to reinvigorating our organic relationships, our humane relationships. If there is a rallying cry for this new politics, it is this: “Back to the humane!”