The Wrecking Crew

For Gilder as well as D’Souza and Gingrich, liberalism was always evil while private enterprise carried within it the spark of the divine. Their superficial changeability reveals a truth about American conservatism generally: The interests of business are central and defining, while every other aspect or strategy of the movement is mutable and disposable. Indeed, even the cult of the free market, which appears to be such a solid, fixed element of the business mind, is malleable as well, with conservatism whining for bailouts and high tariff walls when those seem like the way to maximize profits.…One year, the working-class, values-voting “hard-hats” are trumpeted as all-American heroes; on another occasion they are an uppity canaille requiring a whiff of grapeshot. Thinly veiled racism elects a host of Republican free marketeers; soon afterward, the system’s big thinkers can be heard proclaiming racism to be the great enemy of free markets. Patriotism is a virtue under all circumstances—until the time comes to declare the nation-state a relic of the protectionist past. Combat veterans are to be venerated—until they run for office as liberal Democrats. Even communism itself becomes perfectly acceptable when, as in Red China, it mutates into a way of enforcing market discipline.

The needs of business stand like a rock; all else is convenience, opportunism, a bit of bushwah generated by some focus group session and forgotten the instant it is no longer convincing. Fundamentally amoral, capitalism is loyal to no people, no region, no heroes, really, once they have exhausted their usefulness—not even to the nation whose flag [they] pretend to worship.

—Thomas Frank, The Wrecking Crew (New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2008), 99.

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