Spirit of the Age
Why is the free market retreating and why is the state always advancing? Once upon a time it was obvious that freedom was the only guarantee of prosperity. Today, people believe that the government can rescue them from poverty. Only now, the government is sucking the economy dry, having become the all-consuming monster that tramples down the market and demoralizes investment. One has to ask: Why hasn’t the market been successfully defended? I believe the answer is found in the spirit of the age, and from the conditions which give rise to this spirit.
At the end of Paul Gottfried’s book, The Strange Death of Marxism, we find a brief explanation of the decline of market society as it devolves into “administered democracy.” Gottfried wrote as follows: “The consolidation of a managerial state, appealing to the idea of service to the people and to ‘scientific’ governance, sealed the doom of the society it took over. The new regime appropriated the functions of the Victorian family, mediated relations between parents and children and between contending spouses, and eventually came to preside over a society of deracinated and footloose consumers.”
It must be admitted that Gottfried is onto something when he writes of the “new regime” appropriating the functions of the Victorian family. Here is the key to everything that is happening today. Furthermore, it was the annihilation of the father that stands as the decisive achievement of the new “administered” regime. If anyone doubts the economic impact of this development, they should consider the 2010 CDC statistic that 40.8 percent of all births are to unmarried women.
My libertarian friends may ask why out-of-wedlock births would have anything to do with the destruction of capitalism. The answer is simple. The welfare state has fed off the social catastrophe that is fatherlessness. As the father is no longer necessary, and the new regime promises to support all those in need, the society is transformed and the spirit of the age is no longer capitalist. It is statist. And now, instead of millions of fathers taking care of wives and children, we have the government taking care of them. This is true at least in principle, and in the last analysis it may be said that all women have one true and steady husband. That husband is the state.
Capitalism is a system of proprietorship, and fatherhood is the fountainhead of proprietorship. This is best shown in the scholarly work of Stephen Baskerville whose recent article, “Why We’re Losing the Battle for Marriage,” explains that “marriage exists to attach the father to the family.” Marriage, he says, is not a gender-neutral institution. It is the proprietorship of the father that establishes the family as an economic unit, and that enables the regenerating function of motherhood. Without this proprietorship there can be no capitalism, no effective private property, and no sound basis for national economy.
As Baskerville points out, wherever fatherhood is discarded or diminished, we find “impoverished, crime-ridden and drug-infested matriarchies.” Taking on the role of proprietor, the state becomes the father under such “matriarchies.” According to Baskerville, “Without paternal authority, adolescents run wild, and society descends into chaos.” Quite naturally, the state has an ever-increasing reason to intervene in such a society – and inevitably, in the economy. What many defenders of capitalism have failed to understand is the connection between paternal authority and the free market. They have failed to understand that the erosion of patriarchy signifies the rise of a leviathan state (i.e., ever increasing government controls on the economy, and socialism).
The erosion of patriarchy is no accident. It has been accomplished through the courts, through legal judgments that violate property rights. As Baskerville explains, divorce is the first step in the destruction of freedom: “Just as marriage creates fatherhood, so divorce deliberately destroys it. Divorce court is largely a method for plundering and criminalizing fathers – men convicted of no crime but criminalized by divorce proceedings that are legally and literally ‘no fault’ of their own.” Baskerville further adds, “With such a regime arrayed against him, no sane man today will marry and start a family. No amount of scolding by armchair moralists … is going to persuade men into marriage that easily means … expropriation and incarceration.”
Therefore, if we return to Gottfried’s statement in which he describes the current regime in terms of the state appropriating the “functions of the Victorian family,” we may find the critical linkage between the collapse of the free market and the collapse of the two-parent household. From the ashes of the family there now arises a new multicultural ideology. With the bourgeois family destroyed, and the proprietorship of the father discarded, there is nothing left but the bureaucratic administration of the human wreckage – of fatherless children and mothers in need of state support. From this regime, says Gottfried, there is no way back. “The social preconditions for a return to the past even in a limited sense, such as going back to the gender roles and constitutionally more limited welfare state of the mid-twentieth century, are no longer present.” The media and the education establishment “have altered social morality.”
This last point must be allowed to sink in before making the next and even more devastating point set forth by Gottfried; namely, that the new regime has established itself as morally superior to the system it has destroyed, and this moral superiority is based on the idea that our media and educators are “liberating” oppressed individuals from bigotry and ignorance, inequality and the unfairness of patriarchy. According to Gottfried, Europe is even more in the grip of this regime than is the United States. And if we look at the bankruptcy of Europe, and if we consider the impending bankruptcy of America, there is only the difference of months or a few years between the collapse of the one and the collapse of the other.
Why is the free market retreating and why is the state always advancing? We have changed society at its foundation. We have done so without taking a larger view. Such is the spirit of the age. What follows is the cataclysm of the age.
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