… is from page 27 of Stephanie Slade’s excellent cover essay – titled “Against the New Nationalism” – for the April 2020 issue of Reason:
Yet what makes the United States distinctive is the extent to which its history and culture are animated by liberal values such as pluralism, entrepreneurialism, and personal responsibility. In Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea (Basic Books), [Rich] Lowry’s National Review colleague Richard Brookhiser canvasses the last 400 years to show that, at virtually every turn, U.S. history has been shaped by Americans’ deep commitment to individual liberty, from democracy and markets to freedom of the press and the free exercise of religion. As F.A. Hayek put it, “What in Europe was called ‘liberalism’ was here the common tradition on which the American polity had been built.” As H.G. Wells once observed, “All Americans are, from the English point of view, Liberals of one sort or another.”
DBx: Indeed. And as Ms. Slade explains well, today’s conservative proponents of economic nationalism – pundits such as Oren Cass, Julius Krein, and Daniel McCarthy, and politicians such as Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio – are either oblivious to, or indifferent to, this American tradition. They would cast it off and replace it with the impoverishing and dignity-destroying feudal-like relations that would be the inevitable result of industrial policy.
Of course, Messrs. Cass, et al., do not intend any such outcome. On the contrary; they mean well. They imagine their schemes bringing about for ordinary Americans more economic and personal security, more meaning in their lives, more genuine prosperity, more fulfillment, more contentment, more of all manner of good things – spiritual, familial, communal, and material.
But each of these conservative nationalists lacks not only an understanding of American history, but also an understanding of economics. They blithely declare that their schemes will achieve the happy outcomes that float freely and beautifully in their imaginations. None, however, gives any genuinely serious thought to how their schemes will play out in reality compared to the results of the competitive market processes that each of them, in his economic ignorance, holds in contempt.