Homo Economist: A New Species of Cave Man, or the Heir to ‘Liberalism’?
Have you ever seen models of Homo Economicus? No, that’s not a reconstruction from a jawbone and a femur. Some putative missing link, crouched in a diorama down the hall from the dinosaur fossils.
But it is a museum piece. It’s a dusty, forgettable model of humanity. In fact, one as phony as Piltdown Man. Its motives all boil down, in the end, to purely glandular cravings. (Warmth, protein, sex, power, status.) This creature mistakes the part for the whole. Then makes that into a fetish. Such a model is reductionist, since it cuts us all down to size. Then it views us through the envy-green eyeshade of an old fashioned accountant. Or a miser like Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge.
I’ve spotted a similar fossil, but its features are slightly variant. Its jawbone is slightly smaller, its brainpan a little sharper. It must have fallen from a different branch of Darwin’s fanciful evolutionary tree. I call it Homo Economist. That’s because it’s the figment of man cobbled together by the editors of the magazine, The Economist.
Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing
No, the Homo Economist is not a rude name for sexually deviant Keynesians (such as … John Maynard Keynes). Instead it’s a proto-human species in many ways different from us. But the self-assured elitists of The Economist magazine assure us that it’s in fact the new, higher form. The rest of us mere Sapiens are gradually evolving toward it. It seeks instinctual satisfactions, sure. But also something else. Absolute Freedom. From any restrictions at all. Not just from government force, but even family influence. From the legacies of its ancestors. Or concerns about its descendants. Not just from civil, but natural law. From nation, and culture, and custom. From anything, it seems, but the whim of the present moment.
What’s valuable in liberalism didn’t magically appear in the 18th or 19th century. Its origins lie deep in the Christian past.
This cult of caprice, this worship of whims, the mutant Homo Economist has raised to a religion. Stealing the name of a noble movement against brutal tyranny that predates him by many centuries, Homo Economist dubs it “Liberalism.”
And the real enemies of freedom agree. The Islamists, socialists, Integralists, Tradinistas, Pope Francis-bots and Inquisition Re-Enactors. All of them. They hate any political or economic system which doesn’t drub every citizen into a common model of “virtue” on the model of ancient Sparta. They damn it as “Liberal.” It leads by strict necessity to the low, degraded existence of Homo Economist, daubing pornographic images on the wall of his childless, air-conditioned media cave.
What Patrick Deneen and Rod Dreher denounce, The Economist loudly trumpets. See its recent 175th anniversary issue, and 10,000-word manifesto. Both sides agree on what Liberalism is. They differ on whether it’s good. And they’re all wrong, from top to bottom. Both on Liberalism’s nature, and its merits.
Christians Discovered Liberty
What’s valuable in Liberalism didn’t magically appear in the 18th or 19th century. Its origins lie deep in the Christian past. With Christians’ ancient refusal of emperor worship. Our liberation of women from forced marriages. Our shocking, unprecedented objections to something as simple and useful as slavery. And our dogged insistence that the Church must be independent of the State.
The Economist ignores all this. Now I’ve only read snippets of Jonah Goldberg’s The Suicide of the West. (I’m holding out for his next book, God and Man at Yale.) But from what I’ve read he seems to do the same. He can’t quite see how Western freedom and prosperity came about. So he calls it a “miracle” and dates it back only as far as the Enlightenment. (That’s when we date the very first fossils of Homo Economist.)
To say this is to hack off the roots from which Western blessings grew. No wonder, since Homo Economist also wants to deny them water and sunlight. To mix metaphors, he wants the Golden Egg of Liberty. But he’s willing to starve or poison the Goose that lays them: a stable, cohesive, Judeo-Christian society.
Democratic elections took place in Switzerland, with universal male suffrage, starting in the 13th century. Go visit Switzerland’s Appenzell, as I did (and Solzhenitsyn did) to witness the world’s oldest democracy in action. The Economist drops facts like this into the Memory Hole. Well, Orwell did say that to control the past is to rule the future. …
Resistance to tyrannical power in England began with the Magna Carta. It only succeeded because it was located in institutions, from the Church to the Parliament. In France, by contrast, the Church was captured by the State. Its parlements lost their power struggle against the king, and finally faded. In the Holy Roman Empire, institutional resistance to the monarchy was actually too strong. The Empire lost all cohesion. That’s a glimpse of what unhinged Liberalism does. It kills the Goose, and breaks the Egg.
But John Locke and Adam Smith didn’t invent the concern for freedom. They were drawing on (and feeding off of) a much older tradition. Thomas Becket, resisting the power of the Crown. Thomas More, dying for his conscience. The Protestants who died under Mary. The Catholics under Elizabeth.
The Puritans who fled England for reasons of conscience. Those who overthrew King Charles I, for seeking absolute power. John Milton’s plea for free speech. The English Petition of Right (1628). The English Declaration of Right (1689). These all belong in the family tree of a Liberalism worthy of the name.
Homo Economist acknowledges no forefathers. And he wants no offspring.
Liberty Didn’t Leap, Fully-Armoured, From John Locke’s Head
John Locke came out of a specific movement. That was the English, Christian, Protestant movement for freedom of conscience. And secure property rights. And limits on royal power. Indeed, Locke took part in the conspiracy to overthrow James II. Not merely because James was Catholic. But because James was the puppet of Louis XIV. Louis, a few years before, had viciously persecuted Protestants, even taking parents from children to raise them Catholic. Oddly, this worried Protestants in England.
Adam Smith merely extended this English, Christian tradition. John Stuart Mill corrupted it, with his call on the State to “liberate” individuals from the “tyranny” of private, voluntary or natural institutions such as the Church and the family.
The Economist boasts that its version of Liberalism helped destroy many “prejudices.” For instance, it cites the “bias” against single parents. That’s a nice way of saying that his superstitious religion blinds Homo Economist to basic human truths. Such as the importance of intact families. Take that Liberalism into the ghetto, sometime. How’s it working out for all those fatherless boys on the fast track to prison? Do they feel liberated, yet?
On one subject after another, this stripped-down, rootless and futureless creed prefers its fantasies to facts. Rip “Liberalism” out of its vital context of Western, Christian society, and what does it turn into? A Frankenstein monster, a universalist ideology for export, as impervious to facts and critique as Marxism ever was. It can even become the pretext for monstrosities, such as abortion on demand.
No Trump, No Wall, No USA at All!
Or look at immigration. Does The Economist really believe that English Liberalism would have arisen had the Spanish Armada landed, and brought the Inquisition to London? That the Enlightenment would still have arisen in a Germany conquered (as Russia had been) by the Mongols? A Spain still run by the Moors?
Massive immigration endangers every institution that makes ordered liberty tenable. The Constitution of the Iroquois Federation didn’t matter. Not once armed English settlers outnumbered the natives. The EU’s vaunted tolerance? It’s a dead letter in Islamicized no-go zones. The U.S. Constitution wasn’t built to withstand a limitless influx of people addicted to socialism, cronyism, or sharia.
Selling the Rope which Will Hang Us
On trade, the same blindness prevails. The Economist favored inviting corporatist/ fascist China into the World Trade Organization. Now, China was even then controlling the most intimate details of every family’s life through the One Child Policy. Forcing millions of abortions and creating a massive deficit of girls in the next generation. So it was a tyranny, by any definition.
Massive immigration endangers every institution that makes ordered liberty tenable. The Constitution of the Iroquois Federation didn’t matter. Not once armed English settlers outnumbered the natives.
And it cheated on every trade deal it went on to sign. Stole and is stealing trillions in intellectual property. Such lawlessness poisons the system. You don’t invite a known cheat, ideologically committed to cheating, to the card table. By letting him cheat, you forfeit the game. You let him use the little pieces of freedom that suit him, to build up his empire of slaves. To arm it for conquest.
The last comparable folly? Inviting Stalin’s Russia to be a formative founder of the United Nations. That’s why the UN never functioned remotely as intended. Instead it became an enabler of the worst dictatorships on earth.
The Economist, in its anniversary essay, proudly recalls its first fighting issue. That was repealing the Corn Laws, which imposed tariffs on foodstuffs. That was good, as far as it went. But guess what? Those same free traders were happy to make Britain dependent on the cotton picked by American slaves. In fact, that addiction almost led Britain to recognize and ally with the Confederacy! A comparable corruption is happening right now, with industries beholden to China. Or why else is Google working with the Chinese Communist party to create a totalitarian search engine?
Evolving into an Electron
C.S. Lewis wrote that heresies are partial truths, cut off from the rest of the body like a severed ear, then grown to monstrous size in a laboratory. The Communists did that with Christian dreams of a perfect society after the Second Coming. Homo Economist severs instead the Western, Christian respect for individual freedom. He strips it and boils it down into a corrosive acid. One that eats away every tie not explicitly chosen by a consenting adult. It undermines the family, the churches, the free institutions of civil society, and even the nation itself. It shatters every inherited institution which gives order to liberty. And that reduces us each to an isolated electron, whirling in the void around the nucleus of the State.