Sunday, November 15, 2020

There is No Necessary Connection Between Conservatism and Profit

The conservative parties in all the developed world have become the great protectors of profit-making against all forms of regulation and compassionate limitation.

Yet there is nothing inherently conservative about profit seeking.  Quite the contrary - the profit motive is what makes capitalism so destructive of all traditional structures and relations, however creative that destruction might be.

The closest connection I see between conservatism and profit-seeking is the dour realism of (Calvinist-inflected) Adam Smith.  Smith knew that profit seeking is based on the vice of avarice.  He believed there was a way, though, to harness this individual vice into being a source of public good.  However, to keep profit seeking within safe bounds, the market needs to be constantly controlled by the state and tempered by the virtues produced in civil society.

Unfettered profit-seeking is not conservative; it is the enemy of conserving the known and the good.