Capitalism is no longer a force for liberalism and pluralism
Hooray for Jeff Bezos! The plucky businessman from New Mexico increased his net worth by $13 billon this week, Amazon shares surging in the nightmarish plague year of 2020.
Most of the tech giants have done well since the Dark Times began, but then Covid-19 was only accelerating an existing pattern, the consolidation of wealth by an oligarchy.
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Bezos’s good news caused a little disagreement between Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson spends his D-block criticizing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for adding to his overall net worth during the coronavirus pandemic.
Watch Carlson’s face during the handoff to Sean Hannity who defends Bezos.pic.twitter.com/WcFlZTJTHU
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) July 22, 2020
After Carlson had criticised the gazillionaire, Hannity responded: “People can make money… that’s America, it’s called freedom, capitalism, as long as it’s honest.”
Twenty or even ten years ago Hannity’s views would have been the mainstream on the Right, but not anymore, and there are good reasons for that.
In The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, Joel Kotkin notes that:
Kotkin’s argument is that the modern economy is developing neo-medieval characteristics, in particular that people are far more constrained in their ability to rise up the ladder, and more and more wealth is being concentrated in fewer hands. Social mobility was possible in the medieval period, but it was difficult, and although exact translations of wealth are hard to calculate, the relative amount owned by medieval barons would have dwarfed that of modern plutocrats… until now.
‘That’s capitalism and freedom” is well and good, except that the collection of public virtues associated with democracy and conservatism depends on a strong middle class, promoting middle-class moderation, middle-class frugality and middle-class patriotism. Republican virtue cannot survive the consolidation of wealth in the hands of a few barons.
Then there is the conservative moral argument that, while inequality is natural in that our abilities vary — 18th century writers talked of our “diversity” to mean natural differences between people — extreme levels are immoral.
But there is also the point that, if we are returning to a medieval tripartite social order, then the very wealthy largely support the established religion — and that religion is progressivism, and an increasingly intolerant form.
Capitalism has traditionally been a force for liberalism and pluralism — the Venetians were always getting in trouble for breaking the ban on trading with Muslims, Jews and later Protestants — but that is no longer the case.
The new intolerance, whatever name we give it, is not being restrained by capitalism, but aided by it; woke capital, by infecting the market with politics, is a force for illiberalism and conformity, and much of what we call “cancel culture” is in fact “corporate HR culture”, with big business being able to silence the opinions of workers living in precarious financial conditions.
Increasingly tech monopolies are using their power to clamp down on unpopular and unorthodox thinkers, while big business uses its influence to lobby for political causes (see Google’s recent tweet targeted at Liz Truss over the trans issue).
As Tucker has said before: “The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose does not come from the government anymore, but it comes from the private sector.” The sooner conservatives wake up to that fact, the better.