Universal prosperity (otherwise known as ‘happiness’) is the implicit legitimising promise of post-Enlightenment modernity.
Dedicated as it is to the advancement of the common man, it has to promise the common man things he needs. And, snobbish but true, that breed has mostly material aspirations – especially now that its traditional metaphysical concerns have been roundly swept aside.
Such is the widespread belief. However, it’s not always, and never wholly, true. For the system best suited to fulfilling the implicit promise of modernity, what Marx called capitalism, comes in conflict with the ideology of egalitarianism begotten by modernity as an accompaniment to prosperity.
Arranging the demography of modern prosperity in any country will produce a pyramid, tapering from economic hoi-polloi up towards the rich. Nevertheless, by any historical standards, Western prosperity is as universal as humanly possible: most of those at the base of the pyramid still enjoy lives that most earlier generations would have regarded as luxurious.
However, ideology isn’t about double-entry accounting. It’s about activating the least laudable human qualities in pursuit of some pernicious purpose, usually political. It’s not for nothing that modern correctness is called political.
People’s ability to earn money varies widely, making it inevitable that some will have more than others. But ideologues promised equality, didn’t they?
And it wasn’t that obsolete namby-pamby equality of all before God either. Since God was replaced by Darwin, equality got to be mostly understood as an entity denominated in units of currency. Alas, while old equality followed from the essence of Christianity, new equality not only didn’t follow from the essence of capitalism, but was made impossible by it.
Hence it was easy to portray any capitalist system as inherently unjust and hostile to modernity’s cherished ideal of equality. By inference, that made everybody who did well out of the unjust system themselves unjust. They were increasingly portrayed as blood-sucking leeches on the body of a nation.
(This, incidentally, explains the predominantly socialist nature of modern anti-Semitism. Christian anti-Semitism went the way of Christianity, while conservative, clubbable anti-Semitism has more to do with snobbery and the desire to keep outsiders outside. As an old Tory explained to me once, “Anti-Semitism is hating Jews more than necessary”.)
Thus modernity differs from Christendom in one critical respect. If the latter tried, with variable success, to encourage the better part of human nature, the former implicitly fosters – and expiates – the full array of deadly sins. Envy and pride lead the way, with greed and anger following closely behind.
In parallel with inculcating such vices into the metaphysical makeup of society, modern Western nations extended egalitarianism to politics by both expanding the democratic franchise ad infinitum and downgrading all competing forms of power.
Specifically in Britain that manifested itself in steadily lowering the voting age and debauching both the monarchy and the upper, hitherto unelected, House of Parliament. That way the masses, brainwashed about the injustice of the traditional economy, could elevate to government those made in their own image.
Such developments can be observed, mutatis mutandis, in all Western countries. As a result, Western governments had to renege on the founding promise of modernity, that of comfort and a steadily improving standard of living. Ideology has begun to rule the roost.
Contrary to what Clinton’s strategist James Carville once said, it’s no longer the economy, stupid. It’s now ideology, stupid. That’s the new god and it’s athirst, demanding greater and greater sacrifices. The economy is one such.
Modern governments, largely made up of spivocratic nonentities capable of only following, not shaping, popular demands, demonstrate time and again their willingness to throw the economy under the wheels of the ideological juggernaut.
For example, it will cost Western governments trillions in any currency you care to name to cater to the climate hoax perpetrated by those who have an anti-capitalist axe to grind. Never in the history of human economics has so much been sacrificed by so many on so little evidence.
The less sophisticated mouthpieces of the hoax, such as that poor retarded child Greta, don’t even bother to conceal the anti-capitalist animus behind their crusade against warm weather. The clever grown-ups behind the scenes are more circumspect, trying to hide their true motives behind pseudo-scientific cant and the kind of arguments that any clever secondary school pupil could blow out of the water.
It’s too early to calculate the damage done by our response to Covid, which is probably incalculable anyway. Yet it’s easy to discern an ideological component in the drive for destroying the economy for the sake of rather nebulous health benefits.
Unlike with climate, this isn’t pure ideology, what with some of the dangers being quite real. Yet, comparing Britain with Sweden, where the government’s response was more restrained, one would find it hard to make a persuasive argument for the economic devastation chosen by HMG.
These are just the most recent and visible examples. But there exist many others.
The egalitarian ideology of modernity attacks the economy in all sorts of ways, most camouflaged with bien pensant waffle. If our governments were driven by economic goals, they wouldn’t have accepted the ideologically inspired welfare state – and the attendant ruinous burden of debt.
It goes without saying that civilised governments will make provisions for looking after the old and infirm. But our welfarism run riot goes well beyond civilised decency. Instead it enters the realm of economic madness that has dire social consequences as well.
Everywhere one looks, one can observe a clash between economy and ideology, with the latter running up a huge winning score. For example, ideology demands that all obvious differences between races and sexes be ignored, and the economy docilely complies to its own detriment.
The essence of capitalism, the system that has produced unprecedented, if unequally distributed, prosperity, is competition. And the essence of competition is offering the market the best goods and services at the lowest possible price.
That involves each business hiring the best talent it can afford, which in turn leads to competition not only for markets but also for labour. This is economics at its most basic, but in barges ideology at its most virulent.
It demands that, regardless of talent and ability, all races and sexes be represented in the workplace in proportion to their numbers in the population, or in some cases way beyond such numbers. That makes a travesty out of competition for labour and ultimately for markets.
Forced to hire not the best but the most ideologically acceptable, businesses reduce their productivity, with the quality of their offerings going down and the price heading in the opposite direction. That has a knock-on effect on everything: when businesses become less profitable, the tax base shrinks.
The government then has to borrow even more, and the merry-go-round never stops. Nor is it possible to jump off without risking life and limb.
The upshot is that capitalism is taken away from capitalists and placed in the tender care of ideologues. That means capitalism becomes corporatism at best, outright socialism at worst.
“The moment that Government appears at market,” wrote Burke, and I repeat these words of wisdom often, “all the principles of market will be subverted.” Replace ‘Government’ with ‘ideology’, and the statement will ring even truer.
The world does go round, but it’s not money that makes it do so. Those who insist it is ought to know better, and by and large they do. But ideology doesn’t let them tell the truth.