On this week’s episode of “The Ben Shapiro Show: Sunday Special,” Ross Douthat, columnist at The New York Times and author of “The Decadent Society,” sat down with The Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro for a wide-ranging discussion, in which Douthat talked about globalization and the American family.
During the discussion, Shapiro asked the right-leaning columnist what he thinks conservatism should look like in America.
“Conservatives should support free markets, because free markets are efficiency and growth-maximizing structures, but free markets are not always maximizing for every human good,” said Douthat. “I think there are certain social goods in American life that, over the last fifty years — as cultural conservatives have been arguing for a while — have started to crumble.”
While Douthat emphasizes that social goods haven’t collapsed because of free-market globalization — noting that the government “can’t start a religious revival” or “make you love your wife” — he says the globalization trend has weakened American “economic structures” that made it easier to raise families.
“There are things that you can do with the design of tax policy and the welfare state that we have now, and so on, that can build a somewhat firmer structure under those cultural and communal institutions,” said Douthat. “Everything in Western life has gotten more efficient in certain ways, except taking care of and raising kids.”
Although Douthat agrees with using some government power to support families, he contends that such policies should be neutral on how they’re applied with respect to families with two working parents and families with a stay-at-home parent.
“I’m very against universal day-care and pre-k,” said Douthat. “I think there’s room for a little more family-leave policy, but mostly I just want to give families with young children more money,” citing examples such as tax credits and child allowances.
Douthat contends that these measures constitute populist policies that should be enacted in America, but distances himself from other populist policies that explicitly favors “industrial policy that focuses on building up American industries.”
Nonetheless, Douthat argues that populist policies geared toward rebuilding American industry make strong points, particular within the context of coronavirus.
“The sort of pure free-market view says, ‘look, the most efficient thing is to have all of our factories in China because that maximizes our GDP, it maximizes China’s GDP and we all get rich together.’ But there are also some reasons why it’s not good to export your entire industrial base to China,” said Douthat.
“I’m a little bit agnostic about the industrial policy stuff, but the coronavirus thing has made me a little more open to the idea — again, public policy should say there’s a national security interest in not totally deindustrializing the United States, again, even if in global terms, that’s not the perfect efficiency maximizing perspective,” he said.
In response, Shapiro says that maximizing the most efficient free-market outcome through China isn’t necessarily a free-market principle, noting that “fostering the growth of a communist regime that exploits labor” helps to develop a repressive government infrastructure.
Later in the conversation, Shapiro pushed back against Douthat’s premise that free-market outcomes should be a consideration in how they’re applied, arguing that free markets are “inherently moral,” irrespective of the prosperity and efficiency that they produce.
“I’ve suggested that free markets are not just good in that they’re utilitarian, free markets are good that they’re inherently moral,” said Shapiro. “As an individual, you have a right to the property that you create. People do not have the right to take that away from you in the name of a broader communal interest.”
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