The mid-term elections of 2010 have come and gone, and while I am generally pleased with their results, my primary concern before the elections remains my primary concern after: the re-education of America with free market principles. I say “re-education” because as C.S. Lewis so poignantly pointed out in his classic Mere Christianity, in our modern age it is not possible for people to be devoid of indoctrination as it pertains to important ideas relating to theology, history and economics.
While Lewis was writing specifically about theology, when you replace “theology” with “economics,” the bright-light of his wisdom shines through:
“In other words, Economics is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simplistic ideas about Economics. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not spend time studying Economics that will not mean that you have no ideas about it. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones – bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.
For a great many of the ideas about Economics which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real people (and economists) tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular view of Economics in modern [America] is retrogression – like believing the earth is flat.”
I wish every parent that identifies themselves as being “Center-Right” politically, culturally, and fiscally would read and meditate on those two paragraphs above. Religious conservatives, perhaps more than any other group or demographic, walk around in a sort of self-induced intellectual coma for most of their adult lives. They assume everyone “gets” what they “get” when it comes to such things as their personal understanding of the Bible or their values in the public square. This is a poor assumption, and is hurting the nation.
There is much to be said about this problem, and I plan on returning to it in the near future, but for today’s purpose let me concentrate on what I believe lays at the heart of any potential intellectual recovery for the ideas, ideals, and values generally known as free market conservatism.
What do I mean by “first principles”? With this blog-post having already benefited so much from the intelligence of a great English thinker, let me stick with my across-the-pond theme by allowing my favorite Frenchman, Frederic Bastiat, to delineate what it is that I’m driving at here.
From Bastiat’s legendary 1848 treatise, The Law:
Life Is a Gift from God
We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life.
But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.
Life, faculties, production–in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.
Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
This, for the sake of illustration, is what I, R.J. Moeller, mean when I mention “first principles.”
If every religious conservative in America could agree on something like Bastiat’s opening section of The Law as being a legitimate jumping off point to further debate and discourse on the issues of our time, things would be different in years – not decades.
We could being to make some serious headway in the necessary task of beating back the secular progressivism that typifies every level of academia, the media, and elected office.
We could spend our time finding effective and efficient solutions to modern societal woes instead of nit-picking and back-stabbing people and groups we actually share a common vision with.
The battle for the hearts and minds of any generation of Americans is primarily won or lost in the days, weeks, and months between elections. I want people to learn more about free market economics not because I want to win elections, but because I believe it is the truth.