To begin, he was wrong about almost everything in his monologue. Marijuana is not destroying the young. There is not a nefarious elite plotting the ruin of the middle class. Any tax cuts, be they corporate or income, spur on the economy and thereby help individuals. Right wing populism and a strong executive branch is not the answer. What he gets right he, admittedly, doesn’t even say outright, but it is this: the meritocratic system in America fails everyday and conservatives need to bear this in mind while designing policy.
I saw many conservative commentators make reference to the ‘success sequence’ in response to his monologue and in defense of the market. The argument runs essentially like this: individuals in a market are almost guaranteed to be free from poverty so long as they graduate high school, get a job, get married before having children, and subsequently stay married. Unfortunately, these few steps are quite difficult for reasons which are invisible to many. For student privacy, I will mix a few stories together into a child that we will call Jacob and see how he struggles through the ‘success sequence.’
Regarding the first step, graduation from high school, Jacob has an issue with a teacher, he has no parent to defend him in the office or talk him through his frustration. While my father edited every essay I wrote in high school, no one in his immediate family can speak, let alone write in fluent English.
Regarding the acquisition of a job, no one has shown him how to get one. Perhaps a teacher will help him with applications if he’s lucky, but the process of obtaining a job is an opaque, indiscernible mist. If he gets a job, he will encounter adversity at work for the first time and the only person there to guide him is a strung-out older brother who will counsel him poorly.
When it comes to marriage, he has no quality role model in his life that can show him what marriage should look like. How can we expect him to just stay married when he hasn’t even acquired the vocabulary and framework, in any language, for properly discussing and thereby managing marital strife?
For many in his situation, conservative, market-minded policy will help. The legalization of marijuana will keep him out of jail. School choice would let him move to a school that would serve him best. Low taxes will help his city flourish so he can hold a stable job even if it’s only entry level. That being said, he could try with everything he has and still end up with failed classes, no job, and a broken marriage. The free market remains the best way to help the majority of the poor, but it is not enough to help all.
Bearing this in mind, there are two things conservatives need to reconsider: welfare and regulation.
For all the merits that private charity has, it isn’t enough to account for the gaps in the market and so welfare is a necessity. After Hurricane Katrina, there were record setting levels of donations that accounted for a paltry 3 percent of the needed funds. Does this justify a massive welfare system? No. Should it still require recipients to actively look for a job and abstain from drugs to ensure that it’s not enabling poor decisions? Yes. Does a welfare system have utilitarian value? Absolutely.
In defense of regulations, the profit margin can lead to predatory actions from corporations and banks. Surely, the opioid crisis, as one example, qualifies for Mill’s harm principle and some amount of government intervention could be justified. Regulations not to constrain corporations but rather ones that protect individuals have a place.
Carlson was right in suggesting that the market is culpable for the poverty of some individuals and unable to uplift others even as the GDP grows. Regulations must protect them when the market leads to harm and welfare support them when they fall on bad luck. In short, there are orphans and widows in this world to we’re called to help and government has a role in their support.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.