Tipsy posted a link to a very interesting piece from R.R. “Rusty” Reno at First Things entitled “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism”. I am not linking to it as full-throated agreement. For starters, he has a negative view of corporate push back in support of gay rights during Indiana’s RFRA debate. But that’s just one piece of a much larger discussion which, for any flaws one might find, is undeniably thoughtful.
All right – that throat clearing out of the way, I was most struck by this passage:
Retro figures such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn gain traction, not because voters believe in socialism, but because they intuit that they cannot live in a world of pure dynamism and openness. We are drowning in freedom. … And in our age, which has taken economics to be the key to almost everything, that intuition naturally comes into focus with calls for limits on economic freedom.
Retro-socialism is a dead end. But in the absence of alternatives that promise stability and relief from the existential exhaustion of perpetual dynamism, Sanders, Corbyn, and others on the left are likely to garner support. The same can be said for populist sentiments that endorse nationalist economic policies of protectionism and subsidies that fly in the face of free market principles.
(emphasis added). This reminded me of the sense I got from history books when I was researching Indiana history for my bicentennial series, particularly the part about the 1920s and the rise of D.C. Stephenson & the Klan. Warren Harding’s promise of a return to “normalcy” had a lot of resonance.
Following [World War I] which, itself, was hot on the heels of the Progressive movement and the Industrial Revolution, Americans generally and Hoosiers in particular would be bone weary of change raising the appeal of a return to “normalcy” and giving rise to the Klan who promised a return to the good old days.
At the time I was writing, I framed it in terms of the people at the top of the social heap being exhausted (because they are the ones who have the most to lose from change.) Reno frames it as a core human desire “to give ourselves in loyalty to permanent things” by which he mostly seems to mean God but in a more general sense to “ends, purposes, and projects to which we can entrust our loyalty.”
Whether it’s God or something else that we stand for, as the saying goes, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” And when we’re exhausted by change, we seem to be particularly vulnerable to malignant hucksters promising a return to the good old days.