Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dave Brat's Religious Ethics Negates His Free Market Credentials

Will David Brat's unseating of GOP House Majority leader Eric Cantor help send the Republican Party in the right direction or the wrong direction. Initial signs are not promising. Brat holds

  • That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society.
The idea that there is a "right to opportunities" counterbalanced by "responsibilities as a citizen" indicates that Brat has no idea what rights are or where they come from. Who is to provide these opportunities, in exchange for what responsibilities? The only way for "opportunities" to be equalized—apart from equal protection of individual rights—is for government to violate rights (e.g., to impose taxes for education). Then, what "responsibilities" will the beneficiaries owe "society"; i.e., the government? Brat's premise leads directly to statism, not a free society.

  • That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.

This means that Brat is an altruist; meaning that he is in no position to fundamentally defend freedom.

Bloomberg's Jeff Kearns reports:

   “The one source of economic growth is virtue,” Brat, 49, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2012. “It is not property rights, not law or resources, but virtue.”
   The intersection of ethics and economics is a theme that runs across Brat’s research, teaching and consulting, as well as an academic career that includes degrees in business, divinity and economics.

Brat's correct that ethics and economics intersect. But how? It's true that it takes a certain constellation of virtues to earn property. But what virtues is Brat talking about? His religiosity hints that he considers virtue and property rights—a moral principle—as separate, not integral and hierarchical. Altruism, after all, holds that moral virtue consists of giving property away to others, not producing property in service to one’s own life and happiness.

It's true that our Founding Fathers believed that morality comes from God, which caused them to cling to altruism. It followed that capitalism—the system of rational selfishness that is implied in the Declaration of Independence and fully developed by Ayn Rand—could not, in the long term, survive and thrive in the culture steeped in the "moral fiber" of altruism. The result of this—The altruist/collectivist ethics, identified by Ayn Rand as “America’s inner contradiction"—is our disintegrating mixed economy of growing government controls and diminishing individual rights. If we are to take Brat’s God/ethics connection at face value, his free market philosophy is hollow, because he will only perpetuate America’s inner contradiction.

Brat made immigration the central issue in his campaign, and that is credited by pundits as tipping the electoral scale in his direction. But a reading of his immigration stance not only reflects his misunderstanding of individual rights, but also indicates a severe lack of basic economic understanding. He opposes legalizing illegal immigrants who have already built a life in this country by productive work, but claims that "Adding millions of workers to the labor market will force wages to fall and jobs to be lost." Huh? More people working, trading, starting businesses, etc. is bad for the economy? What does Brat think the economy is, if not working, trading, and starting businesses?

Brat apparently avoided many hot-button social issues in his campaign, such as prayer in government schools, gay marriage, and reproductive rights. But his explicit religiosity indicates he'd be on the wrong side of those issues.

The Republican Party desperately needs a new direction; one that consistently and explicitly upholds individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government—and upholds the ethics of rational selfishness that underpins these political values. It does not appear that Brat will lead them there. Future GOP leaders must break with religion and altruism for the party to become an effective counter-force to the Democrats' crusading collectivism/statism.

Related Reading:

My Challenge to the GOP: A Philosophical Contract with America With America

1 comment:

Mike Kevitt said...

Is there any sign WHATSOEVER that future GOP leaders will break with religion and altruism? Nobody ever comes along but what they're stuffed full of each. They're no different than '60's hippies.