Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What Happened to Personal Responsibilty?

A purportedly conservative site has published an article that includes a definition of conservatism. One of the author's tenets of conservatism refers to "the market’s corrosive impact on humane values."

Isn't personal responsibility a conservative value (as well as a libertarian one)? Markets don't corrode values; people corrode values, namely, their own and their children's. If you don't like what the market has to offer, reject it; do without, if necessary. No one forces you to own a TV or to watch everything shown on TV; no one forces you to attend movies that are full of sex, violence, and profanity (movies are still made that lack those elements); etc.

That "the market" caters to vulgarity and obscenity isn't the fault of "the market." It is, rather, a reflection of the general decline of moral and values. Most conservatives would agree (I daresay) with the proposition that moral values were stronger in the late 1800s than they are today. Yet, the late 1800s saw rapid economic growth because markets were then much freer than they are today.

If you want to blame any outside force for the decline of moral values, blame the intrusive state (more accurately, those of us who empower it and operate its machinery). The state has done much to undermine social norms and thus liberty.

P.S. Another example of "blame the market" appears in a piece by Jennifer Graham, at First Things. Reviewing Neil Gilbert's
A Mother’s Work: How Feminism, the Market, and Policy Shape Family Life, Graham writes:
Cultural norms are fluid and malleable, but in a capitalist society they tend to flow away from traditional family life and toward the accumulation of ever more stuff. “The triumph of materialism in modern times feeds the market and leaves childrearing and family life undernourished,” Gilbert writes. “The capitalist ethos underrates the economic value and social utility of domestic labor in family life, particularly during the early years of childhood.”
Note the reification of "cultural norms" and "materialism," as forces until themselves, divorced from human will. Similarly, it is not the "capitalist ethos" that "underrates the economic value and social utility of domestic labor in family life." The "underrating, rather, reflects the free (if unwise) choice of individuals.