The Troubled Relationship: Why Conservatives Should Reassess Free Market Capitalism | Christian Mills
‘The Morganites fear what cannot be purchased, for a trader cannot comprehend a thing that is priceless’Sister Miriam Godwinson, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
One thing I really dislike about being a conservative – big C or small – is that the label carries with it a lot of crude generalisations I’d rather wish were not made.
A big problem is the legacy of Thatcher who, after her triumphant rise in the late 70s and her premiership during the 80s, forever changed what the kingdom thinks whenever they hear the word. So large and looming was her shadow that everything within the party falls under it, incapable of escaping to make its own presence known.
Typically, when I say “Oh, I’m a Conservative” I’ll get the usual assumptions.
Oh, he’s pro-markets. He’s pro-business. He’s pro tax and spending cuts. He’s a Thatcherite.
Allow me at this point to set the record straight on that matter. I am a Conservative. But I am not a disciple of Margaret Thatcher, and while I bear her no ill will, I do not believe the Conservative Party should continue to follow in the example that she set.
I must now say something that I fear will make a few of my compatriots rather upset. I rather feel as though the Conservative Party, and conservatism in general, should reconsider its relationship with free market capitalism and all that comes with it. That the two have become so closely intertwined that considering them separately is actively frowned upon by certain members of our faction is not a cause for celebration. It is very much a cause for concern.
The simple reason is this. Free market capitalism as practiced by the modern-day neoliberal – your Thatcherites, your Reaganites, your Blairites – is inherently materialist, nihilistic and utterly amoral. Not immoral, the term I’ve used is quite deliberate. But virtue and morality are certainly not a part of its concerns.
This contrasts sharply with what conservatism typically is. Conservatism tends to be at least mildly spiritual; it tends to stand for something meaningful, it tends to uphold virtue and righteous behaviour, it holds to things that are valued but have no price.
Duty, honour, integrity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, patriotism. These are conservative values. They are notably values that capitalism does not promote.
Now before people accuse me of being a socialist, I do want to stress that I am not suggesting capitalism be overthrown and replaced. Far from it, capitalism as a system has been invaluable in promoting individual liberty and prosperity. Even if I were to suggest that perhaps an alternative system should be considered, God knows I don’t have one I could seriously offer.
There is little to be gained and far too much to be lost to pursue the destructive path of socialism and communism. We can acknowledge that the car isn’t working, yet still not want to have it scrapped for parts. Nevertheless, the car is not working. It needs fixing.
Part of the problem is that free market capitalism as espoused by Thatcher and those that follow her places all its emphasis on the profit motive. So long as there’s profit, and lots of it, then nothing else needs to be considered. Truth, dignity, morality – throw all that out of the window. There’s money to be made.
There is no beauty in free market capitalism. There is no virtue. There is no loyalty. Just the almighty dollar, and the pursuit thereof. If it has no price, then it has no value.
It’s telling that the one decision made recently by the Conservative Party that defied the demands of the market – leaving the EU – nearly split it into two. One decision where an intangible quality such as sovereignty or freedom is valued over what the business sector wants and there was utter chaos that has only just now been settled.
According to the free market voices, leaving the EU was national suicide. They kept frantically pointing at their numbers, screaming ‘Think of the stocks, you fools!’ and decrying the country’s yearning for freedom outside the constraints of the Bloc as sheer stupidity. They predicted massive unemployment, the flight of business and capital, and the collapse of the British economy.
The seas would boil, the Moon would fall from its orbit, and Great Cthulhu would emerge from the sea to start a thousand years of terror and madness in New Romney.
The economy didn’t shrink, however; it kept growing. Jobs were not lost, they became more valuable as cheap European labour could no longer be imported. Trade with Europe is already rebuilding after the initial slump and trade with the wider world is set to follow.
Leaving has not been without its pains and much work still needs to be done, but it was not the disaster scenario many had feared (or surreptitiously hoped for).
Thanks to our freedom outside the EU, we were able to secure our own vaccine arrangements with providers. We avoided the disastrous EU vaccination policies that saw the entire continent flounder for inefficient distribution, underdelivered shipments and confused policy. We secured deals with providers that ensured that we’d have enough vaccines for our people with plenty to spare.
Now two thirds of the British population is vaccinated, while the rest of Europe has only now managed 25-30% even as millions of vaccines sit unused. The British economy is set to grow at its fastest rate since the Second World War and has once again reclaimed its spot as the 6th largest global economy.
Short of dooming the British economy, this act of faith in our country and our refusal to bow to the dictates of the business sector has arguably saved it.
Over the past two years, we have demonstrated that nations still have a place in the modern world. That patriotism can still be a driving force in politics, that people are motivated by things beyond the markets, beyond tax policies and beyond the self-centred priorities of Canary Wharf.
Imagine if we’d followed the dictates of the market. Imagine if we’d again placed coin before country? Finance before freedom? Dividends before duty?
What else is our blind commitment to the markets holding us back from? This is a question we need to start asking ourselves, as I genuinely believe that the single-minded obsession with free market capitalism and its gold-painted promises has prevented us from doing far greater things and considering far more glorious roads.
As Conservatives we need to start remembering that we are not just the party of lower taxes. We have much more to offer the country than that. Our legacy is not just that of Thatcher, but also that of Churchill, of Disraeli, and of Wellesley.
Let us again become the ideology that champions the family, the nation, the altar, and timeless values. Let conservatism again be the ideology that is committed to greater treasures than those that can be found in the vault of a bank.
It’s time Conservatives reclaimed that legacy and started to remember that we are not defined as conservatives by free market capitalism and its dictates. We are defined by our desire to take what we have inherited from our forebears and ensure that, always, it is passed on in better condition than it was found.