The Tragedy of Us (Unedited

)
The Creative Concord, Culture, the Debate of Virtual and Actual Force, and Greek Fate
O.G. Rose

Today, we hear the word ‘tragic’ and think ‘sad’, ‘tragedy’ and think ‘catastrophe’, and
because these words have become similes, we have lost the ancient and Greek understanding that
life is often the stage upon which multiple goods come in inescapable conflict. Having lost this
revelation which the invaluable philosopher Martha Nussbaum works to bring back to our
attention, we are intellectually impoverished, hopelessly unable to understand socioeconomics,
politics, or ourselves. Not that our understanding could change the tragedy of being, but it could
help us live with it.
This paper is written assuming you have read “The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose, and
in light of that work, it is a reaction to “Terry Eagleton in Conversation with Roger Scruton”, an
event that occurred at the Royal Institution on 13th September 2012, thanks to Intelligence
Squared. The talk makes it clear that the two men should be invited to debate everyday on
television networks around the world – encountering this level of intelligence and mastery of
civil debate is terribly rare. Which brings us to the concern of this ‘reaction’: Capitalism – a
phrase I use in this paper simply to refer to the current global order, though I believe it is
technically a ‘mixed market’ – destroys culture, art, and intellectualism, and yet as argued in
“The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose, requires these forces to beget the creativity without
which Capitalism self-destructs. Culture incubates creativity as creativity incubates culture, and
yet again Capitalism tends to destroy the culture that incubates the creativity it requires to avoid
‘the material dialectic’, alienation, and collapse Marx warns about. Markets certainty don’t force
artists to make government propaganda, as can happen in Stalinism, but markets seem to
incentive artists to generate what consumers will consume while simultaneously making the
average person increasingly ‘culturally illiterate’. In other words, Capitalism seems to sow the
seeds of its own destruction, not directly by force, but indirectly by influence. Does that mean
the citizens are ultimately responsible? It depends on how if you believe the ‘influence’ is too
great for human beings to overcome (which alludes to “On Responsibility” by O.G. Rose).
I
According to Terry Eagleton, a function of culture is to be critique – it is to question our
way of life and open us up to new possibilities. Unfortunately, as art and culture are increasingly
marketized, culture loses this function of critique and drops in quality. Culture now contributes
to us being mindless consumers, rather than ask if consumption is the only way to live. And
there’s certainly truth to this, though I would point out there are a large number of newspapers,
movies, and artists with a Progressive leaning who are incredibly critical of Capitalism. To this
point though, I believe Eagleton would respond with something similar to what he says about the
modern university: according to him, colleges are now bureaucratically operated and defined by
market societies. Yes, there are many Progressive professors and Liberal ideas, but they are also
forced to live and work within a Capitalistic framework that greatly retards the influence and
power of Progressivism. In other words, Progressivism exists within a Conservative framework,
but it is virtually powerless to influence or change that framework: there is only an ‘appearance’
of debate between Liberalism and Conservatism within a Capitalistic system that serves to ‘hide’
that Conservatism sets the rules of the debate. Likewise, on art and culture, though there are
certainly Liberal forces in newspapers, movies, and the like, they are all operating within a

Capitalistic socioeconomic order, and though they critique Capitalism, this critique actually fuels
Capitalism: Progressive newspapers are sold through the market; Noam Chomsky’s books are
distributed through Amazon; and so on. The critiques themselves are marketized, and like works
of art, only the ones that will sell are marketed.1
Eagleton warns the more culture is marketized, the less it functions as a critique that we
need in order to ask ourselves ‘what could be better?’. Critique prevents complacency, and is
needed in Capitalism, seeing as the socioeconomic order tends to cause complacency,
materialism, and narcissism, precisely because it is successful.2 I agree with the economists
Hyman Minsky and Joseph Schumpeter that the success of Capitalism leads to a period in which
people cease acting as they should to create future prosperity, which leads to economic turmoil,
which snaps people back into acting like they should, which causes prosperity – restarting the
cycle. Capitalism is unstable (though fortunately technological innovation is firm), and the less
Capitalism is critiqued, the more likely it is it remains unstable – that people won’t change their
behavior during ‘the good times’ to prevent there from being an endless series of ‘booms’ and
‘busts’ at an ever-worsening intensity (perhaps until the system can’t take it anymore). Critique
can help stabilize Capitalism because critique can help generate culture and creativity, which
influences the behavior of citizens to not act, spend, invest, etc. in such a way that creates a
‘boom’ and ‘bust’ cycle (as discussed in “The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose).
To push back on Eagleton’s idea a little bit though: doesn’t Capitalism make it possible
for the average citizen to access and create culture like never before (a point stressed by Deirdre
McCloskey in The Bourgeois Virtues)? We have Youtube, countless, creative websites, cheap
tickets for theatre, inexpensive books on Amazon, and more. There has recently been a big push
for creativity and entrepreneurship in the work place, citizens regularly see movies, and award
shows like the Oscars are popular to watch. ‘True’, I think Eagleton would acknowledge, but
again, all this is occurring ‘within’ a Capitalistic framework, and so fails to function as critique;
consequently, culture serves the market rather than the market serves culture, shaping our values,
religions, and communities in the ‘image’ of Capitalism, threatening creativity and so the
socioeconomic order itself. Furthermore, as will be expanded on later, I believe Eagleton would
argue that as Capitalism provides citizens with leisure, it simultaneously weakens their capacities
to realize that leisure well.
But surely Capitalism has earned the right to shape culture rather than be shaped by
culture? It’s the most successful socioeconomic system in history. Since it has created so much
prosperity, we shape our ideas around it, precisely to help continue the growth of that prosperity.
But does Capitalism cause a crisis of culture and character? Tragically, the socioeconomic order
that seems best at enriching society monetarily is in fact prone to contributing to an
impoverishment of culture. It seems that the problem with Capitalism is precisely that its success
creates a space in which people are free to do mostly whatever they like, including living like
hedonistic consumers, narcissists, and whatever else they like. In a collapsing socioeconomic
system, unless you are in the ruling party, if you are to survive, you will have to suppress your
worst traits and characteristics – you must enter into ‘survival mode’, if you will. But in thriving
Capitalism, you are much less incentivized to ‘suppress’ your desires; in fact, the system
encourages you to indulge them. And indulge them people do, which causes a deterioration of
the culture that incubates creativity, without which Capitalism collapses.
Yes, McCloskey is right: the average person, thanks to Capitalism, is able to access and
create culture like never before. But it seems that in the act of giving them this access and
capacity, Capitalism changes people’s behavior so that they will not take advantage of these

gifts. Capitalism blesses in the act of taking away the capacity to receive blessings. It provides
the average citizen more leisure than ever seen in any age prior, and yet by the time people reach
that space in which they can culturally enrich themselves, they have lost the capacities and
energy to use that leisure for anything other than consumerism. Capitalism seems prone to fail to
take seriously the admonishments of Bertrand Russell through his “In Praise of Idleness”, as it
seems unable to prove Marx’s prophecies wrong about the inability of the working class to
engage in culture due to the high demands of the working life. They just don’t have the energy
for it.3
Worse still, in addition to hurting culture, Capitalism also seems to contribute to the
tragedy of character, as discussed in The Death of Character by James Davison Hunter, and the
collapse of social capital, discussed by Robert Putman in Bowling Alone. The two seem linked:
character is damaged because Global Capitalism tends to bring about an ever-Pluralizing
Pluralism that weakens communities and ‘social capital’, and hence removes the context in
which character can be defined and developed (which contributes to consumerism, narcissism,
etc.). Capitalism also creates a space in which technologies like the television can be invented,
and the technologies that tend to be popular are those that feed our worst consumeristic and
hedonistic tendencies (though I don’t mean to say pleasure is innately bad), setting us up to
‘amuse ourselves to death’ (to allude to Neil Postman) while isolated from our neighbors (though
we ‘love humanity’ all the while – bringing tears to the ghost of Dostoevsky). Accelerating the
self-destructive decline, the death of community and character contribute to the death of culture,
and that contributes to the end of creativity and the end of the Capitalism that influenced us to
unintentionally ruin community and character.
So what should we do to stop the negative influences of Capitalism? Should the State
censor and control content and force us to be more ‘culturally literate’? Surely no one wants such
a ‘Stalinistic’ world, but then what are we to do – we being a people who seem to use freedom to
ruin the culture we require for the creativity that keeps Capitalism from self-destructing?
II
Socialism works for a time but not ultimately – this paper will assume this premise. If
this premise is false, than perhaps we are saved from the tragic situation of Capitalism, in which
we must choose between prosperity and being virtually forced to live in such a way that makes
that prosperity hallow and empty. However, I believe disproving this premise is no easy task: the
defender of Socialism must disprove Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Deirdre McCloskey,
and Thomas Sowell – to name a few. If you are capable of this, I hope everyone in the world
reads your book; I certainly will be looking forward to it. Admittedly though, I doubt you can –
I’ve never read a Progressive on socioeconomics that is nearly as convincing as Friedrich Hayek
– part of the problem is that they’re never tragic or ironic enough. They lack Shakespeare.
Yes, Karl Marx was brilliant, as were many of the thinkers from the Frankfurt School, but
I don’t know of a single Progressive thinker who has overcome the critiques of Hayek or
McCloskey. The case that Capitalism is the best system for wealth creation, the distribution of
resources, the reduction of poverty, and the incubation of innovation, I believe, stands currently
undefeated. That doesn’t mean Capitalism is perfect or sinless (nor does it mean our current
socioeconomic order is actually a ‘free market’ versus a ‘mixed market’, as discussed in “No
Exit” by O.G. Rose), but it does mean that we shouldn’t discard it in favor of Statism.

And so this brings us to how I see our situation: Capitalism is the best socioeconomic
system for ending poverty, increasing wealth, and distribution resources, and yet it also
influences us to destroy culture, engage in consumerism, view everything in terms of utility, and
lose the very creativity which Capitalism requires to avoid self-destruction. I love culture and
creativity, and yet support the Capitalism which threatens what I love, for I see no alternative,
though that isn’t to say one doesn’t exist.4 Tragically and ironically, I find myself having to
support for the sake of culture the system that influences people against culture, for I believe
McCloskey is right that Capitalism has helped art spread and provide average people with leisure
in which it is possible to engage in creativity to an extent the world has never seen before.
Capitalism enables and disables culture, creativity, and by extension, itself. Admittedly, it is the
framework in which culture blossoms and dies, but all the other frameworks I know of are ones
in which poverty worsens, innovation slows to a crawl, and goods and services are poorly
managed and distributed. As argued in “The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose, because there is
the possibility of creativity, there is the possibility of Capitalism overcoming its worst
tendencies, but admittedly, it seems that Capitalism virtually forces those within it to work, play,
and live against Capitalism’s survival, let alone Capitalism’s thriving. Leaning on this perhaps
futile hope, and in light of the arguments of Hayek and other free market thinkers, I support
Capitalism (though don’t mistake me as saying I support our modern Banktocracy).
There is a rise in innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in America today –
symbolized by Silicon Valley – and this gives me hope that the influences of Capitalism against
culture and creativity can be overcome (though I fear it might be a reaction to the 2008 Financial
Crisis that’s too little too late, as lamented in “No Exit” by O.G. Rose). Will America and the
world ultimately prevail? Perhaps not, but for me, in addition to Capitalism’s proven history of
successfully distributing resources, erasing poverty, and incubating innovation, the fact that there
is the possibility makes Capitalism superior to the kind of Statism through which Mao can force
his people to destroy culture and itself. The discussion between Terry Eagleton and Roger
Scruton that inspired this paper itself took place within Global Capitalism, and quite a number of
people attended, but under Mao, everyone who was part could have been imprisoned if not
executed. Yes, Global Capitalism influences the public against these kinds of lectures, but at
least in our modern world services and organizations such as Intelligence Squared exist at all –
the same can be said about colleges, TedTalks, Silicon Valley, Amazon, NoiseTrade, local book
stores, and so on. The Liberal may acknowledge this but argue that the majority of people prefer
the NFL to Intelligence Squared – that cultural resource are available, yes, but people don’t use
them because of how Capitalism has influenced their behavior – and to this point, I must
acknowledge the Liberal argument as tragically valid.
If someone as smart as Karl Marx can figure out and design a socioeconomic system in
which resources, poverty, and innovation are as well catered to as they are in Capitalism, without
the influences against culture, I’m all ears, but I’m naturally skeptical of all such efforts, seeing
how costly ‘social designing’ has been just in the history of the 20th Century, and how vague
Progressive alternatives to Capitalism tend to be (in my opinion). I don’t mean to say that all
designs of society are bad – after all, Capitalism is a social design – but I do mean to suggest that
attempts to create a ‘perfect’ and/or ‘idealistic’ social design have been costly. Capitalism isn’t
perfect, and so there will always be an anxiety for something better, but if we don’t learn to live
with that anxiety, we can throw out Capitalism in hopes of achieving an ideal and end up with
something much worse.

III
Roger Scruton is Burkean and believes social designs – a matter of ‘high order
complexity’, as discussed in “On Experiencing Thinking” by O.G. Rose – must emerge
organically and dynamically through time, tradition, and history. Scruton, like T.S. Eliot, is a
Conservative, but acknowledges the damage Capitalism can to do to the arts and cultures, and
acknowledges that Capitalism tends to reduce everything into a utility. However, believing
people shape political structures more than political structures shape people, Scruton doesn’t
think this problem can be fixed by politics or revolution, or any effort that tries to stuff citizens
into ‘an abstract geometry’ and/or ‘social design’; rather, the citizens, from ‘the bottom up’, must
choose from their free associations and mutual respect to give rise to a society that thinks of
things in line with values different and higher than mere ‘utility’.5 If people don’t choose to
change their ways for the better from ‘the bottom up’, there is nothing we can do.
It should be noted that Liberals may find the Conservative view hopeless and pessimistic
(and easy to ascribe to when you happen to be on the ‘more privileged’ side of Capitalism) – that
Conservatives are ‘giving up’. Perhaps, but do note that Conservatives don’t believe a ‘better
world’ is impossible, only that it can’t be rushed (and also note that you don’t wait until you get
a diagnosis from a sick doctor before you take the diagnosis seriously). It takes time, and we
can’t accelerate its achievement through revolution or a new ‘social design’ that we come up
with in a dissertation – it must arise organically and dynamically through history and free
exchange ‘from the bottom up’. The very fact it does ‘take time’ is part of the tragic character of
the human experience, and learning to live with tragedy isn’t the same as being hopeless. The
conflation of ‘realistic’ and ‘pessimistic’ is an unfortunate development of modern thought.
Scruton holds a ‘constrained vision’ and/or ‘tragic vision’, to use a phrase from A
Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell, and though he dislikes the negative influences Capitalism
can have on culture, he also believe it is the best system we have and that we must learn to live
with its tragic consequences. If we don’t, as I’ve already said, in the name of establishing a
system that is better, we will establish a system that is worse. Yes, Marx is correct that
Capitalism threatens culture, but I agree with Scruton that all attempts to realize Marxism have
been horrific failures. I respect Eagleton who is a Marxist and not a Stalinist, and who has spent
much of his life fighting against perverted realizations of his ideology. However, though I would
even go so far as to say I respect Marxism, I’m skeptical that there exists any way to realize
Marxism into the world without it taking the form of a perverted Statism such as seen under Mao
or Stalin, or without it bringing about a Socialism that is ineffective and unable to distribute
resources, create wealth, etc. as well as does Capitalism. As Hume discussed, almost as there
doesn’t seem to be a way to leap from ‘is’ to ‘ought’, there doesn’t seem to be a way to leap from
Marxism into the world. Eagleton is a genius, but I know of no way yet to translate his Marxism
into societies without major consequences (thought that isn’t to say Marxism can’t function as a
useful critique).
That said, Capitalism tends to make ‘private desire’ god, threatening marriages, cultures,
values, ethics, and our very humanity. ‘What you want’ becomes the standard for all decision
making, precisely because what drives much of the economy is ‘consumer demand’. Every
business markets and tries to convince people that they should spend their money on them, and
this inevitably leads to marketers creatively coming up with as many ways as possible to tap into
and stimulate consumer desire. Gradually, ‘desire’ becomes to be seen as not only acceptable,
but good, and though certainly desire shouldn’t be seen as innately bad, desire alone is a poor

compass for life. Few people start off desiring to read War and Peace – they have to gain that
passion through discipline and hard work – most of us begin life wanting to watch television, and
sadly Capitalism often teaches us directly and indirectly that it’s not only alright for us to do so,
but even our God-given right, for we all have a right to live as we want to live. And indeed, there
is truth to this, but we must use our freedom do what is good – it isn’t the case that a given free
act is innately beneficial. I can freely eat potato chips all day or murder an enemy, but though I
do these acts freely, they certainly aren’t good. Considering this, desire in of itself is neither
good nor bad – it must be trained and directed toward the good.
But what constitutes ‘the good’? This answers varies from person to person and depends
on the context, and because of this, it is important that people have freedom to determine the
good for themselves (this points to why Statism fails). And yet at the same time, in freedom,
people naturally gravitate to doing more of what they want to do that is easy, versus what they
need to do that is hard. This is the paradox of freedom: it makes possible the good while
simultaneously making the realization of the good improbable – freedom enables people both to
make the most of themselves and to ruin themselves, and what people do with freedom depends
on their character and wisdom.6 Much of beneficial character and wisdom are developed
precisely from not giving into instantaneous gratification and ‘denying ourselves’, when people
who have been cultivated through ‘self-denial’ make free choices based on what they believe is
‘the good’, the chances are much higher that they actually pick a real good versus a ‘good’ that is
more so only a ‘selfish desire’. The more people who have character who act freely, the higher
the probability the culture grows and flourishes, not because they will make perfect choices
every time, but because the majority of choices will side more so with an ‘objective good’ versus
a ‘subjective desire’, which will emerge dynamically and organically through time (as discussed
in “Equality and Its Immoral Limits” by O.G. Rose).
Paradoxically, in order for freedom to be used to cultivate the best of ourselves and our
culture, we must use our freedom to restrict what we want to do. We all too often just want to be
mindless consumers (much more often than we let ourselves realize), and Capitalism – through
its businesses and marketers – certainly can encourage us to give into these desires; in fact, many
people make their livelihoods by marketing and feeding our basest desires. And yet in order for
culture to be kept alive in Capitalism, we must freely ‘deny’ ourselves what we want to freely do
– the State cannot do this for us without risking all the problems that Statism is prone to cause
(as described throughout the works of O.G. Rose, though that isn’t to say the State should never
act). If we fail to freely ‘deny ourselves’, culture will collapse, and with it, the creativity we
require to create wealth and keep Capitalism from self-destructing.
IV
Culture is the environment that incubates the ‘high order complexity’ of creativity, which
causes the growth of the artifex that keeps the bourgeois and proletariat from deterministically
alienating and combating one another in a fashion that pulls apart the socioeconomic order (as
discussed in “The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose). Culture that incubates creativity exists
thanks to degrees of ‘self-denial’ that the people freely choose to put themselves through.
Capitalism provides the freedom in which people can make this kind of choice, but does it
simultaneously incentive people more so to be uncultured than it does to make the most of
themselves? If so, Capitalism provides freedom we require through a structure the influences us
to use that freedom to our own detriment.

Does Capitalism influence us more so for the bad or for the good? Does its incentivestructure work against the development of our best selves? I can hear Deirdre McCloskey
shouting as she reads this sentence. Her series on ‘the bourgeois virtues’ makes an incredible
case that Capitalism is not only good for wealth creation and accumulation, but that it is also
‘good for us’ – that it instills in us values and virtues that make us better people in families,
communities, and the world in general. I believe it would be very difficult to argue that her
analysis of economic history is wrong, and I certainly have been sold on the case that Capitalism,
up to now, has made us all better people. You may take strong objection to this belief, and I
invite you to disprove McCloskey. If you succeed, you will nearly if not entirely prove that
Capitalism necessarily destroys human character, culture, and hence itself via the loss of
creativity. The Liberal case will reign victorious.
Despite how greatly I admire McCloskey, I must raise a concern. Indeed, up to now,
Capitalism has increased access to culture, the arts, and helped creativity thrive while instilling in
us virtues that make us better people. In of itself, the free market is good for us. However, if it is
the case that the ‘free market’ inevitably becomes a ‘mixed market’ (because of human choices
within that free market or something inherent with its structure), then though theoretically
Capitalism is good for us, ultimately and practically, it is bad for us, for it always becomes the
‘mixed market’ in which ‘too big to fail’ institutions are possible and hence the separation of
‘self-interest’ and ‘self-regulation’ (as expanded on in “No Exit” by O.G. Rose). I believe our
current system is a ‘Banktocracy’ or ‘Creditism’ (to use Richard Duncan’s phrase), and as such,
it encourages for people to live outside their means, to become materialistic and narcissistic, and
to become rich without creating wealth. If it is the case that Capitalism inevitably and/or
intrinsically becomes a mixed market of some kid, then it is the case that Capitalism is ultimately
corrosive of culture, bad for us, and self-destructive (though note this would not disprove
McCloskey, only ‘bracket’ her analysis).7
Secondly, if it is the case that Capitalism necessarily leads to the creation of technologies,
values, and/or habits that cause us to ‘amuse ourselves to death’ (to use Neil Postman’s phrase)
or to spread a ‘narcissism epidemic’ (as written on by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell),
than Capitalism will probably ultimately cease to instill in us ‘the bourgeois virtues’ that have
helped to make the modern world. Problematically, as already claimed, Capitalism does seem to
have a tendency to make the new god ‘personal desire’, and though wants aren’t inherently bad,
they must be cultivated for the good; otherwise, personal desire can lead to person destruction.
But paradoxically, we often don’t know what is good for us, and hence even if we want to
‘pursue the good’, we can lack the knowledge of what to pursue. Providing us with the guidance
we couldn’t always provide ourselves are families, communities, churches, schools, and so on,
but as warned by Putman, Murray, and Hunter (to name a few), these features of our societies are
changing and even falling apart. Personally, I believe we are currently experiencing a major shift
in values – for good and for bad – brought on by Globalization, Pluralism, the transformation of
the family, and other significant, socioeconomic shifts. Deirdre McCloskey’s incredible analysis
of economic history was in regard to Capitalism before these institutions fell apart and before
freedom itself was valued as an intrinsic good (versus to the degree that freedom aligns with ‘the
good’), and it will be interesting to see what the future holds. Obviously, McCloskey could argue
that we currently have a mixed market and so what happens now isn’t necessarily a reflection on
the influences of free markets on values and ethics, but perhaps it is the case that free markets
inexorably lead to mixed markets? Through ‘virtual force’ or ‘actual force’? These are hanging
questions for later in the paper.

Lastly, though Capitalism that is less global than more has instilled in us ‘the bourgeois
virtues’, it might be the case that ‘Global Capitalism’ does not. Globalization has increased
competitiveness and ‘the speed of business’, for good and for bad, and now more people are in
the game of Capitalism than ever before. This has pulled apart communities with traveling and
out of town jobs and made the average person increasingly ‘out of body’ – concerned with what
is happening in China more so than the neighbor’s kids. We are faced with more advertisements
and options and choices and consumable goods and increasingly find ourselves distracted and
paralyzed by ‘the paradox of choice’ (to use Barry Schwartz’s phrase). And artists, to stand out,
must increasingly conform to ‘what the markets wants’, which is increasingly decided by
publishers and agents who are reacting to global, market signals.8 In today’s environment, it’s
questionable if a poem like The Waste Land or book like Finnegans Wake would ever see the
light of day, consequently depriving us of what we never know we are deprived. Perhaps they
would have, perhaps not – it’s hard to say, but the current situation gives me reason to pause.
And perhaps ‘the bourgeois virtues’ are instilled in people under Global Capitalism just as much
as they are under Capitalism, and if that is the case, McCloskey remains standing. But again, the
current situation gives me reason to pause.
Deidre McCloskey is as brilliant as they come, and I hope her argument applies to Global
Capitalism just as much as it does to Capitalism. Additionally, I hope free markets don’t
inevitably pervert themselves into something else, and that my concerns – similar to Eagleton’s –
that Capitalism destroys culture are incorrect. However, for the rest of this paper, because I have
reason to believe it is the case, I am going to assume that Capitalism influences us against culture
today, though it increases the availability of culture like never before. This could be wrong, and
if so, Capitalism isn’t doomed to destroy itself and McCloskey is right not only about history, but
about Capitalism’s present and future. If she is right, there is hope for overcoming the tragedy
that is the human race, given that we learn to live with tragedy and don’t destroy Capitalism in
hopes of achieving something idealistic and worse.
But even if it is the case that Capitalism inevitably ‘falls in on itself’, it is still the case
that McCloskey is right about Capitalism up to now, and it certainly doesn’t mean Statism is
better. Ultimately, perhaps our tragedy is worse than we thought: perhaps not only is the best
system fated to influence people against themselves, but perhaps it is also fated to fail.
It’s hard to say.
V
If you implement the system of Capitalism that makes culture available to the everyday
person, you at the same time may influence the individual to reduce his or her capacity to receive
that culture, but if you don’t implement Capitalism, the person will have little use for his or her
capacity to receive culture, and the person’ poverty may very well make him or her resentful of
it. It seems that Capitalism influences us – even heavily – to act in such a way that destroys the
culture which incubates the creativity Capitalism requires to avoid the self-destruction of Marx’s
‘material dialectic’. But Capitalism doesn’t force us to (indirectly) destroy ourselves; at the end
of the day, we are free to do what we will, even though we won’t always feel that way, and even
though are freedom is necessarily within limits. Could it be argued that because we must make
money in Capitalism to survive that we must participate in the action that will influence our
behavior against culture? Yes, it can be, but is it the case that because we must make money, that
we must destroy culture? No, I don’t believe so, though it can certainly seem that way. That said,

I think this question ‘points to’ what fundamentally divides Liberals and Conservatives, which is
a disagreement about the relation between ‘influence’ and ‘responsibility’, ‘virtual force’ and
‘actual force’.
Capitalism works – this paper will assume that thanks to the work of others – and so
creates a space in which we are free to do what we want, even though we may be heavily
influenced by socioeconomic structures and peers (who too are influenced by the system) to do
that which threatens culture. Though influenced, we are free, and this leads me to conclude that –
given that there is creativity in the system – the problem with Capitalism is that it works so well
that it allows us to be whoever we want to be, and that creates a space in which we can ‘glimpse’
our ‘human nature’ (though perhaps that nature can never come entirely into focus). And
unfortunately, it seems that it is in our nature to be consumeristic, shallow, and narcissistic when
left to our own devices – when nothing forces us to act otherwise. To be good, it seems that we
must be forced to be good, which makes forms of Socialism tempting, for our better selves.
But if that is the case, then to engage in Socialism is to run away from who we are: it is to
distract ourselves from our natures so that we don’t have to force ourselves freely to be who we
should be. It is to outsource the responsibility of changing who we are to the State, making any
change that we do experience alienating and artificial (as warned about in “Equality and Its
Immoral Limits” by O.G. Rose), and consequently, I don’t believe it is possible for the State to
effectively ‘change the character’ of its people as well as the people could change themselves
(nor could they run the economy as efficiently, as argued by Hayek). To outsource personal
development is to end it, and yet when we are free, we are forced to face the reality that we want
to outsource personal development to an externality that will force us to change – us being
terrified by the experience of what we do when we are free.
To be fair, Capitalism virtually forces people to act certain ways, as does Socialism; for
example, Capitalism virtually forces people to work if they are to be paid. Hence, to receive pay
from an employer, people must get up when they want to sleep in, work when they want to watch
television, and so on. Certainly, there are degrees to which Capitalism virtually forces us to
change our character, habits, etc. lest we can’t afford food, a house, etc., but comparatively
speaking, it pressures us to do a whole lot less than does a Stalinism – we can only ‘outsource
personal development’ so much. Certainly it isn’t the case that all systems that virtually force
people to change are innately bad: families discipline, schools grade, and so on. People need, to
some degree, to be ‘called out of themselves’ into something greater – they need coaches,
mentors, and so on. Even legal force could be used to make humans better people, though legal
force comes with different good and bad risks than virtual force (as described throughout the
works of O.G. Rose).
Technically, Capitalism never actually forces people to act anyway whatsoever, only
virtually forces. If you don’t go to work, Capitalism won’t throw you in jail, though in the Soviet
Union, to not work had the possibility of leading to imprisonment. Capitalism doesn’t establish a
direct causation between ‘not working’ and ‘punishment’, while Statism can. If I don’t work
because I’m lazy, it is still possible for me to receive food from a neighbor or a shelter: it isn’t
the case that not working necessarily leads to starvation. But if the State passes a law that says
‘to not work is not to eat’, the State can make it illegal to give food to someone who doesn’t
work, making it unlikely that a neighbor will give food to someone who is lazy. Granted, the
neighbor can still, despite the law, offer food, but the point is the State has the potential to create
laws that legally force certain activities, while Capitalism can only virtually force. This point

cannot be overstressed: I believe it hints at a fundamental disagreement that splits Liberalism
from Conservatism.
Yes, in line with the thought of Marcuse, Capitalism can get so good at marketing that
it’s virtual force ‘feels like’ legal force. Yes, in line with the thought of Foucault, Capitalism can
create systems of control that are so discrete and effective that the line between ‘virtual force’
and ‘legal force’ seems to fade away – acts of free will become difficult to define from acts
shaped by externalities. And yet, Capitalism never uses true force as does legal force, only
approaches it like an asymptote line. Perhaps there is a point where virtual force is so strong that
it is in practice just as effective as true force, but technically, virtual force never ‘is’ true force.
This is pivotal: it is what I believe often lies at the heart of the split between Conservatism and
Liberalism.
For the Conservative, to be influenced is always better than being forced and isn’t the
same as being forced, but to the Liberal, influence can be so strong that it is indefinable in
practice from force, and hence the State is needed and morally obligated to stop the influence, in
the same way the State is morally obligated to stop a citizen from using force against another (a
premise that even Ayn Rand would agree with). Conservatives believe people are free and so
responsible for themselves even if strongly influenced, while Liberals believe in freedom and
personal responsibility as well, but also believe there is a point in which influence becomes
indistinguishable from force. Conservatives may say the impoverished child is ‘virtually forced’
to become a criminal due to the environment, genetics, etc., but not ‘actually forced’, while
Liberals may believe there is no practical difference. Consequently, the two camps have radically
different views of what constitutes the moral and just responsibilities of the State.
I will go out on a limb and claim that Terry Eagleton rests more on the side that believes
influence and/or virtual force is often (practically) indistinguishable from (actual and/or legal)
force in Capitalism, while Roger Scruton holds to the true point that virtual force is never the
same as (actual and/or legal) force. Consequently, the two thinkers have dramatically different
views on what constitutes ‘responsibility’, ‘personal responsibility’, ‘moral obligation’, etc., and
which socioeconomic system is best for the world. ‘Truth organizes values’, as warned by O.G.
Rose elsewhere, and perhaps it could be said that an inconsistent thinker is someone whose truth
is organized by his or her values, rather than the other way around. But neither Eagleton and
Scruton are ‘inconsistent’ – the two stand straight and tall from ‘the bottom up’ – both make
arguments that are perfectly ‘sound’ relative to the fundamental axioms about human nature that
they ascribe to, and yet the two disagree. This point to a hard reality that will be discussed later
in The True isn’t the Rational by O.G. Rose, one that I will only allude to here:
‘The map is indestructible.’
VI
Tragically, the socioeconomic order that seems best at enriching society monetarily
seems prone to contributing to an impoverishment of culture. But not directly – it’s more a
matter of ‘high order complexity’, to use language from “Experiencing Thinking” by O.G. Rose
– Capitalism doesn’t actually force people to destroy culture like Mao forced his people during
the Cultural Revolution, but it does seem to influence and/or virtually force people to weaken
culture (and by extension, itself). If you (Conservatively) believe that virtual influence is
practically the same as actual force, than it follows that it is morally permissible, if not morally
necessary, to use (State) force to stop the virtual influence, for it impedes people’s freedom.

However, if you believe (Liberally) that virtual force is never morally akin to actual force, than
you very well may believe it is actually immoral for the State to stop the virtual force.
So who is correct? The Liberal or the Conservative? Well, fundamental axioms are never
easy to overturn; in fact, as argued in “The True isn’t the Rational” by O.G. Rose, they are
ultimately invincible (which doesn’t bode well for the Habermasian project). In my opinion, in
cases where virtual freedom is practically actual force, than indeed, it is moral for the State to
act. But here’s the problem: who’s to say which situations are those in which influence and force
are one and the same, and which situations is there is a distinction? Determining which situations
are which seems beyond human comprehension (as discussed in “On Responsibility” by O.G.
Rose), and so though I agree with Liberals ideally, practically, since I don’t believe it is possible
to determine which situations are those in which influence and force are one and which are not, I
must side with the Conservative position as my default, begrudgingly. I wish it were possible to
know that situation x was one in which State action was moral but not situation y, but seeing as
this cannot be known, we must side with non-intervention. The probability of mistake – with
heavy consequences – is just too great.
But isn’t it immoral if we don’t stop situations in which influence and force are
indistinguishable? Yes, but we don’t actually know for sure that any such situation actually
exists. But assuming it does, it is true that not stopping it is immoral, in the same way that it is
immoral not to stop a murder. And so because we lack omniscience and the capacity to know
what transcends what can be known, we must live with (the possibility of) being immoral (as
discussed in “(Im)morality” by O.G. Rose). There is ‘no exit’, and I’m afraid denial of this truth
has contributed to some of the horrible Statism that has cost humanity so much. However, if you
know of an exit, please show me the way, but please do not try a road that many have already
tried before at a heavy cost.
VII
Capitalism works for and against us; it influences us positively and negatively. The
Conservative believes how we are influenced doesn’t make us unable to act freely, while the
Liberal believes influence practically forces us, making the State morally obligated to help.
Because knowing which situations are those in which we are forced versus influenced transcends
conceivability, I begrudgingly side with the Scrutons of the world, though I accept the warnings
and genius of Eagleton.9
In my opinion, though we face much virtual force and influence, it is true that as
Capitalism grows and expands, we become increasingly, ultimately free (though not totally). We
have more control over how we live than generations in the past could have even begun to
imagine. This has given us space to see what kind of people we can be, and it seem that, left to
our own devices, we have a nature that guides us toward self-destruction and shallowness more
so than toward realizing the best we can be (though perhaps my assessment is incorrect). In our
freedom, experiencing this, we seem to run from ourselves and toward establishing ways to force
ourselves to act contrary to our natures while simultaneously hiding our natures from ourselves.10
From freedom, we run, searching for a Grand Inquisitor that can only be found in the pages of
Dostoevsky.
This leads me to wonder: is it really that Capitalism influences us to destroy culture so
much as it is human nature to be consumers rather than cultured, and that Capitalism simply
provides the freedom in which our natures can act, unhinged? In The House of Intellect, Jacques

Barzun argues that ‘an anti-intellectual spirit’ is nothing new – it has existed in every
civilization, throughout history. Perhaps people read more in the past than they do now, but
that’s only because they didn’t have television, not necessarily because they more appreciated
‘the mind’. Perhaps Barzun is wrong, but if he is right, perhaps we are blaming Capitalism for
what is our fault, and we shouldn’t blame our liberator when we use our freedom to make
ourselves miserable.
Can we change our nature, considering that our nature is by what we organize and
exercise our freedom? This question makes me wonder, in line with the thought of Rodger
Scruton: what can change people who seem to use freedom to consume as an end in itself? Other
people, I believe, and this being the case, such change must be inherently local. I don’t believe
people on television can change one another like people can who you encounter face to face, and
that kind of interaction starts with the family, then the community, then the school, and so on –
it’s ‘bottom up’ not ‘top down’.11
If it is people that can change the nature of people – making them ‘toward’ being cultured
and creative – by what means, systems, or communal structures do they do so? If it is the case
that Capitalism lets us live out our human nature freely, and that our nature is self-destructive,
what are the structures through which people ‘pull each other out from’ their terrible, human
nature (for Capitalism doesn’t seem to do this in of itself, at least not today, considering
McCloskey)? These structures must change what people naturally demand and help supply what
is then demanded, or at least equip people with the capacities to find what they want on their
own. And these structures consist of the family, which helps people want stable relationships (for
example), while supplying a model of what that looks like so children can know for what to look.
These structures are communities, which help people want to help one another (for example),
while supplying neighbors that people can help. These structures are religious gathering places,
which help us desire to be virtuous (for example), while supplying people with teachings by
which to understand what constitutes ‘being virtuous’, as well as resources for helping the poor.
These structures are schools, which cultivate within students a desire to learn (for example),
while supplying them with the resources necessary for learning.
But do these structures survive under Capitalism? Or are they virtually or actually forced
to change in ways that make them useless for helping change human nature for the better?
Indeed, religion, marriage, education, communities, and families all seem to be changing
dramatically in our current age, as portrayed in the works of James Davison Hunter, Neil
Postman, Robert Putnam, Jean Twenge, David Brooks, Charles Murray, Brad Wilcox, Michael
Sandel, David Blankenhorn, and documentaries such as Waiting for Superman, directed by Davis
Guggenheim. Is Capitalism to blame for the changes described by these works and thinkers?
Answering that would require determining if Capitalism is essential or accidental for these
changes (to make an Aristotle distinction). To clarify: is the case that Capitalism necessarily or
unnecessarily gives rise to universities that ‘pull out from’ communities and localities ‘that best
and brightest’, creating a society-splitting ‘New Upper Class’ and ‘New Lower Class’ (to make
an example from Coming Apart by Charles Murray)? In other words, is it the case that if there is
Capitalism, there will be a brain-drain that threatens to make a nation ‘come apart’? To make
another example: is it the case that Capitalism necessarily or unnecessarily gives rise to
Globalization that splinters and fragments communities, making citizens increasingly global and
less local, destroying ‘social capital’? And is it necessarily or unnecessarily the case that
Capitalism give rise to technologies like television that acceleration the erosion of ‘social capital’
(to use an example from Bowling Alone by Robert Putman)?

Indeed, since Capitalism seems to make the prime virtue ‘personal desire’, it would seem
that Capitalism (resistibly and/or irresistibly) influences people to detrimentally change the
social structures by which people change each other for the best. But are these detrimental
changes essentially part of Capitalism? If so – if it is the case that education in Capitalism
necessarily becomes that which incubates a lack of creativity in students for the sake of making
them employable, for example (to allude to “The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose) – than
Capitalism erases culture and is inherently and essentially self-destructive (but remember,
tragically, that doesn’t mean Socialism works). If the Liberal can determine that Capitalism
essentially destroys the social institutions through which people change the natures of one
another to strengthen and advance culture, than the Liberal can prove that Capitalism’s
destruction is embedded into its very structure.12
Clearly the question is this: does Capitalism essentially destroy and/or erode the social
institutions citizens require to avoid self-destruction? It’s certainly the case that Capitalism is
often blamed for being so responsible, and consequently, we can cast it out and suffer under
some form for Statism (we seem fated for tragedy). If Capitalism necessarily erodes character
(for example), it erodes the ‘groundwork’ needed for ‘free associations out of respect’, required
according to Burke for us to change society away from rapid marketization and wide-spread
utilization. But again, does Capitalism necessarily so change us? Ultimately, I think determining
that transcends what can be known. As we cannot know which situations are examples of ‘actual
force’ versus ‘virtual force’, so we cannot know if Capitalism essentially erodes culture or only
accidentally. Considering this, the successful history of Capitalism (as mapped out by
McCloskey), and the risks of Statism, I believe we have reason to side with Capitalism, even if it
‘virtually forces’ us to destroy culture. If a Liberal can figure out a way to determine if
Capitalism essentially erodes culture, character, etc., than a Liberal will prove that Capitalism
inherently destroys itself. However, again, I stress I am skeptical of all such Liberal proofs,
considering the long, horrible history of Progressive social programs (as mapped out through the
works of Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, and others, though perhaps these geniuses are
mistaken).
But the Liberal could still object: even if it is the case that Capitalism doesn’t essentially
force us to destroy and/or erode society and culture, it accidentally does so in a way that is
practically essential. This is similar to the view that ‘virtual force’ can become so powerful that
it is practically indistinguishable from ‘actual force’, legitimizing and moralizing State action to
stop this ‘virtual force’, for the State is legitimate to act when people are forced by others in
different ways. For the Liberal who believes that Capitalism accidentally influences us against
culture in a manner that is practically the same as being essentially influenced against it, than the
State isn’t simply legitimized to stop Capitalism, but morally obligated to do so in the name of
justice. This is a major point that again points to the fundamental disagreement between
Conservatives and Liberals. Again, to reiterate a point I’ve already made, I believe determining
if Capitalism is ‘virtually, practically, and essentially forced’ to destroy itself transcends what
can be known by human beings, and this being the case and for reasoning already listed, I side
with Capitalism, though I don’t mean to imply it is easy to live with tragedy.
To review, I personally assume that Capitalism doesn’t essentially change us for the
worst, though despite the work of McCloskey, I do think Capitalism today can influence and/or
‘virtually force’ us to give into our base natures, destroying culture and hence Capitalism. I also
believe people can change and change one another, but again, perhaps I am wrong? I don’t think
I am: I do believe people can be changed for the better; otherwise, why would societies create

institutions of self-improvement like education, or societies create rituals for ‘becoming an
adult’, or parents attempt discipline? Perhaps it’s because all of humanity is in denial of how
little of an impact people have on changing one another for the better? Perhaps this is the case,
and if it is, the tragedy of humanity is all the greater: under Statism we suffer, but under
Capitalism, at best, our suffering is merely delayed – the sad story of civilization always
resumes.13
That said, I will hold onto my assumption that people can change – I combat determinism
in other papers – but admit that if the assumption is false, though perhaps Capitalism doesn’t
essentially change us for the worst, we are still seemingly fated by our natures to become
consumeristic, anti-culture, and anti-creativity when we are given much leisure and freedom. If
this is the case, no matter what the socioeconomic geometry in which we live, there is ‘no exit’
from tragedy, only better or worse degrees of it.
The worst tragedies are a result of how we respond when we face ‘the void’.
We become monsters.14
VIII
The Liberal believes those ‘practically forced’ to do x or be y – meaning they aren’t
literally forced and literally without other options, but in terms of ‘what they can practice’, there
is nothing else they can do – are those who the State and society are morally obligated to help,
but the Conservative believes everyone ultimately has power to make his or her life better, and if
not everyone does have that power, it transcends human knowledge to determine who’s who,
rendering us generally unable to help, even if we are morally obligated to act. We must live with
tragedy. If people are practically forced by discrimination or genetics to suffer poverty, tragedy
is part of life, but does that mean we can do nothing? The Conservative doesn’t believe that we
shouldn’t strive to fight for justice, to improve the wellbeing of the impoverished, and so on,
only that we cannot solve these problems through general social or State programs, especially if
they don’t start and move from ‘the bottom up’. These problems can only be identified and
addressed by people amongst themselves: only a given person in a given locality can see how
others nearby are living and what they are going through, identify what needs to be done to solve
their problems, and provide the necessary manpower through themselves. The Conservative may
believe that perhaps the State can help its people through its people ‘from the bottom up’, but the
State can’t help ‘from the top down’ – though we will be tempted to attempt that route, wanting
to fix all the problems quickly, driven by the anxiety caused by facing tragedy.
But if Capitalism necessarily destroys communal bonds, character, and so on, than
doesn’t Capitalism ruin the possibility of this kind of Burkean, ‘ground up’ problem-solving?
Additionally, even if Capitalism doesn’t, what if it is human nature to be selfish, consumeristic,
and to not really help one another, even those who are ‘practically forced’ to suffer? Then –
seeing as we need the very social institutions (through which people can change one another’s
natures) which Capitalism destroys in order to be able to handle the freedom Capitalism gives to
us without destroying ourselves – we must acknowledge that Capitalism is intrinsically and
structurally doomed, while at the same time acknowledging how incredibly well Capitalism
distributes resources, erases poverty, etc., while at the same time acknowledging the inabilities,
horrors, and grave risks of Statism. And so we reach the end of our road and find what can be the
most horrible of all possible things: a mirror.

Yes, Capitalism may influence and ‘virtually force’ us to destroy culture and hence
Capitalism, and yes, Capitalism may influence and ‘virtually force’ us to mutate Capitalism into
some kind of ‘mixed market’ – such as the ‘Creditism’ described by Richard Duncan and/or the
‘special interest group’-nightmare described by Jonathan Rauch in his Government’s End – and
considering this, yes, Capitalism may influence and ‘virtually force’ us to ruin civilization. And
yet, for the Conservative, ‘virtual force’ is never the same as ‘actual force’, nor does it entail the
same moral and civil obligations. But the Liberal may disagree, and argue that though we aren’t
‘actually forced’ to pervert Capitalism into a ‘mixed market’, we are ‘practically forced’.15 Is this
true? If so, free markets – the system best at distributing resource, reducing poverty, etc. – is
doomed.
I don’t know. I don’t even know if it can be known. But perhaps I’m being too
pessimistic about ‘mixed markets’. Perhaps they work better than I think. In fact, perhaps free
markets actually require becoming mixed market to survive.16 I believe this would be a more
Keynesian view, such as held by Nobel-Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman.17 If it is the
case that free markets are inherently flawed or ‘incomplete’ – which I believe describes
Krugman’s view, though I could be wrong – than the free market system that I believe is best at
incubating creativity is doomed (according to right or wrong arguments I’ve made elsewhere),
and it can only be saved by the interventionism that would change the economy into a mixed
market. In a mixed market, I believe creativity will increasingly lessen (though perhaps I am
wrong, giving us hope), and this would mean we would be increasingly susceptible to ‘the
material dialectic’ Marx warned about as the artifex dwindles. If free markets are inherently
flawed – if Krugman is right – Capitalism, the best system we have, is inherently tragic.
If free markets are ‘practically forced’ to become mixed markets, if free markets are
inherently flawed and/or incomplete, and/or if free markets ‘practically force’ the erosion of the
culture creative requires to be incubated, we and are situation is tragic – though there is hope that
I am wrong about mixed markets and their tendency to reduce creativity and ‘creative
destruction’, by extension. But what does it mean to say free markets are ‘inherently flawed
and/or incomplete’? What exactly is failing? Free markets entail less policies, regulations,
institutions, laws, etc. so in what way can ‘free market’ policies, regulations, institutions, laws,
etc. fail? In a sense, if these things are present in a free market, it’s perhaps precisely not the free
market that is failing, but these entities that aren’t very ‘free market’ at all (but we must be
careful here before we conflate ‘free market’ with ‘anarchism’, which is admittedly difficult to
avoid doing).18 In free markets, it isn’t so much a what that fails, but a who, while in mixed
markets, it can be a what and/or who.19
People cause free markets to fail more so than free markets cause people to fail. To be
more technically correct, it isn’t so much the free market that fails as it is the people within it.
Free markets can’t really succeed or fail, being more anarchistic, though mixed markets can. It is
people who succeed or fail in a free market, while in a mixed market, it is the system and/or
people who succeed or fail. This is a crucial distinction, and it should be noted here that it is
hence hard to say when a mixed market is failing, because it’s not clear if it’s the people
responsible or the system; in a free market, it’s easier to say it’s the people’s faults, and yet, for
some reason, the failure of people in freedom is interpreted as evidence against the system of
freedom – there doesn’t seem to be a distinction between ‘success/failure of system’ and/or
‘success/failure of those/that within a system’ (perhaps because this distinction is impossible to
‘trace out’, the border where one begins and the others ends being indiscernible).20

When people are free and fail, should we critique freedom or people? It’s been argued
that freedom isn’t a good in itself – it has to be used ‘toward’ the good – but does that make
freedom responsible for and or ‘the cause of’ the bad? That doesn’t seem logical – people are to
blame. In the free market, it is more so people who are responsible for errors than the system,
while in anarchism, it is entirely the fault of the people. In a mixed market, responsibilities lies
with both, and in Statism, the responsibility lies (almost) entirely with the system. Since we are
currently in a mixed market, responsibility for failure is mixed – perhaps to the point where it is
like milk and dye, indistinguishable. But if we were in a free market and the system failed, would
it be our fault? And perhaps it is the case that the failures that are occurring in our mixed market
are more so do to ‘the freedom part of it’ than the ‘non-freedom part of it’. Who can say?
Yes, free people create systems ‘in freedom’ that are open for critique, but freedom itself
isn’t really a system, though there is a system insomuch as there are parameters ‘around’
freedom, necessary for making it possible (such as national defense, laws against murder, etc.).
These parameters can be critiqued, and in this sense free markets can be critiqued ‘as a system’,
but it is much more the case that people are the cause of problems in free markets than the
parameters. The parameters aren’t necessarily innocent – hard to say – but when a free market is
critiqued, it is more so the people under scrutiny than it is any system. But to critique a mixed
market is to discuss both a system and people, and to the degree the market is mixed (which can
be difficult to determine) is to the degree that critiquing it is to critique a system more so than
people.
Considering these distinctions, it should be noted that supporting and critiquing a free
market is different from supporting and critiquing a mixed market, for what is (mostly) being
considered is different. To discuss free markets is to more so discus people, while to discuss
mixed markets is to more so discuss systems, and yet the two are discussed as if discussing the
same entity. This leads to confusion and ‘talking past one another’, for the Conservative more so
discusses human beings, who cannot be designed or broken down into legislation, formulas, etc.,
while the Liberal more so discusses systems, which can more readily be considered in terms of
‘low order causality’.21 The Conservative can understand what the Liberal is speaking about to
be more so ‘human beings’, while the Liberal understands the Conservative to be defending
more so ‘a system’. This transforms to the two sides what are the ‘fundamental problems’ that
need to be dealt with: for the Liberal, it’s social, fiscal, monetary, etc. policies, while for the
Conservative, it’s character, families, morals, etc. Liberals are concerned about external
motivators while Conservatives are more so concerned about internal motivators (though that
isn’t to say Liberals don’t care about ethics or that Conservatives don’t care about monetary
policy – we are in a mixed market, after all). The focus is different, and so is what the two camps
believe needs to be ‘primarily fixed’, and with this changes the hermeneutics through which the
two camps understand what one another is saying or ‘trying to fix’. Misunderstanding naturally
follows.22
IX
Generally for the Conservative, there are two ways to address problems in society: fix
moral motivations/motivators or reduce freedom. If you reduce freedom, you destroy what
makes the most successful socioeconomic system function, you reduce the possibility of
authentic relationships, reconciliations, etc. between people, you increase pressures on a society
that can lead to discontent if not revolution, and so on; hence, it is much more preferable to

reform moral motivations. As discussed in “On Kafka, Character, and Law” by O.G. Rose, when
a society is moral, it will want (and be able to handle) freedom, but when a society ceases to
moral, it will not want to be (and not be able to handle) freedom. If I leave money on a table and
when I return I find it still there, I will think nothing of it, but if I return and it’s been stolen, I
very well may want to install a security camera or reform laws to make sure this doesn’t happen
again. Gradually, people reduce freedom little by little in response to immoral actions done
against them or others, rather it be terrorism or the failure to take care of the sick. And then, one
day, suddenly and all at once, people realize how little they have left, but fail to remember that
they wanted things to end up this way, one response to immorality at a time.
Generally speaking, Conservatives prefer reforming morality to reducing freedom, but
then of course they could use this as an excuse and distraction from ever actually helping the
poor or downtrodden (determining if this actually happens in practice would require a study to
see if more Conservatives or Liberals gives to the poor, volunteer, etc. – it’s hard to say). But
morality automatically entails restrictions on personal liberty, and if liberty is seen as a ‘good in
of itself’, than this will be taken personally by those who feel restricted. Conservatives for
example may oppose sex outside of marriage, believing this increases the likelihood of broken
families (which increases the likelihood of poverty and a host of other problems), and Liberals
may find this view outdated and restrictive – if people want to have sex outside of marriage, they
should be free to do so without stigma. Granted, a Conservative shouldn’t pass laws to make it
illegal to have sex outside of marriage (and this would contribute to making the market more so
‘mixed’ than ‘free’, which isn’t very Conservative), but I believe it erroneous to accuse the
Conservative of bigotry, oppressiveness, etc. for having some kind of schema for ‘the right way
to live’ (morally) at all. Unless, that is, this morality is wrong, but that must be determined by
argumentation.23
Unfortunately, I believe Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue is correct: we have lost the
capacity to have discussions about right and wrong. We have moral words, but not moral
frameworks; it’s as if we have words like ‘gravity’ and ‘motion’, but no framework of physics.
Today, Nietzschean, discussions about morality often seem to be just about ‘power’ and/or
‘winning’. This isn’t to say people don’t care about doing ‘what’s right’, but that morality has
become a language which we want to know yet all means of learning it have been lost – people
happen to say a word here and there that harks back to the lost tongue, but the fragments cannot
be put back together into a working body of knowledge. It’s fragmented into puzzle pieces, and
the pieces we have don’t fit together: we are missing necessary parts that we don’t know how to
recover. But if morality is necessary for freedom, does this mean freedom is doomed? Not
necessarily: if we lose the language to discuss morality but are in fact moral, all is well. But what
if ‘moral living’ is currently on the decline? Then freedom would in fact be in trouble, but
determining if ‘moral living’ is actually failing would be difficult to determine and outside the
scope of this work.24
But let us assume ‘moral living’ is in fact declining. In this case, not only is freedom
threatened, but reducing freedom becomes the best (if not) only way to address problems in a
society (not so much because a ‘free market’-system has failed, but because people have failed in
a ‘free market’). Unless morality and its motivations can be reformed, but if it is the case that we
can no longer discuss morality, this kind of reformation doesn’t seem possible. Hence, reducing
freedom is the only way to solve social problems, which threatens the Capitalism that is best for
increasing the socioeconomic equality of a society.

What causes moral decline and the inability to discuss morality? If it is Capitalism, then
Capitalism is inherently self-destructive, for it destroys the morality that freedom requires to
work, and hence destroys the freedom that is the lifeblood of Capitalism. However, if it is people
within Capitalism that choose to destroy morality and the language needed for discussing it, then
people are responsible more so than Capitalism. Unless that is Capitalism ‘practically forces’
those within it to destroy morality and moral dialogue, perhaps by ‘practically forcing’ them to
destroy the social institutions through which people make one another moral and capable of
moral discussion. If this is the case, the best socioeconomic system is tragic.
Then surely the State must be used to instill morality in its people if freedom is to have a
chance – then surely the State must infringe upon freedom to save it. But can the State make its
people moral? By passing a law against murder, it helps make people moral, right? Yes and no: it
helps people be lawful, but not necessarily moral, seeing as conflating ‘lawful’ and ‘moral’ is
erroneous. However, a law against murder happens to help make people moral, for murder is
immoral, but no law can be passed that says ‘you must help the poor’ lest an Orwellian police
state comes into existence. In other words, the extent by which law can make people moral is
very limited, and even it can influence people to be moral in some ways, it cannot necessarily
make people be intentionally and authentically moral, and law can actually contribute to a
questioning by people of one another’s moral authenticity, which can lead to existentiality
uncertainty (as discussed in “Equality and Its Immoral Limits” by O.G. Rose). If it is against the
law to be a racist, for example, and I encounter someone who isn’t a racist, I can never know for
sure if the person actually is racially-accepting, or if the person is just ‘going through the
motions’ to avoid punishment. Law creates uncertainty (which can threaten racial reconciliation,
for example), but if it is the case that people in their freedom will not choose to be anti-racist,
than perhaps this is better than the alternative. Of course, a society of people who freely choose
to be anti-racist is best, but perhaps this is an impossible ideal. Who can say? Who can avoid
taking a ‘leap of faith’ one way or the other?
Conservatives seem to think that only in freedom can morality be created and
experienced as authentic, and that morality which isn’t authentic or experienced as authentic
cannot last. Conservatives may even go so far as to claim that human nature cannot be changed
for good authentically without free choice. If this is the case, morality authenticity requires
taking a risk for tragedy – a risk of freedom in which people can use their freedom for moral
decay, which will result in the society wanting to limit freedom, which will self-destructively
hinder moral authenticity and creativity. Also, if it is the case that Capitalism inherently destroys
morality and moral dialogue (either directly or through ‘practical force’), than freedom, which
makes possible moral authenticity, is that which also destroys the possibility of moral
authenticity. This would mean moral authenticity is ultimately impossible, which means morality
must ultimately become a matter of law, which means ‘existential uncertainty’ and its
consequences over moral matters is an inevitable dimension of life. If it is the case that this
‘existential uncertainty’ somehow ‘practically forces’ the eventual destruction of morality and
moral dialogue, then humanity is inescapably tragic.25
But what if in the end it is freedom itself that is responsible for ‘the bad’ that occurs in
freedom, which both turns us against freedom and against the culture we require for creativity? 26
If this is the case, then we ultimately require totalitarianism, which history shows us is prone to
be a nightmare. But if freedom causes its own collapse, than freedom too is a nightmare.
Perhaps, but at least the nightmare that freedom brings about takes more time than the nightmare

brought on by totalitarianism. How do you know? Honestly, it cannot be said for sure. But if it is
the case that freedom itself ruins us, then Sartre said it best: we are ‘condemned to be free’.
We are ‘condemned to be [tragic]’.
X
Will the majority ever overcome the influences of Capitalism to ‘freely deny their
freedom’? Or will it always be a minority? This is reminiscent of what Charles Murry discussed
in Coming Apart about religion: though it is the case that a given person doesn’t need religion to
be moral, it is the case that the majority needs religion to be moral. Likewise, though it is the
case in Capitalism that a given person can resist its influences and contribute to the cultivation of
culture that Capitalism requires, is it the case that the majority never will? And if the latter is the
case, is not Capitalism inherently doomed, and is it not the case that we must design a better
socioeconomic geometry? And if all that is so, isn’t Eagleton correct and the Burkeans wrong?
Perhaps, but perhaps Capitalism isn’t so much to blame as is ourselves, those in
Capitalism. In freedom, perhaps we are forced to see that it isn’t Capitalism that makes us
shallow; rather, we are shallow. Perhaps Capitalism destroys itself because it ‘practically forces’
us to run to the State, insomuch as it makes us see ourselves. On the other hand, Capitalism, by
forcing us to ‘see ourselves’ can enable us to change our natures for the better, for you can’t
improve a problem you don’t realize is a problem. Whether ‘seeing ourselves’ makes us face or
run from ourselves will depend on who we are and whether we see our natures as something to
overcome or something that we have no power to change.27 In other words, how we respond to
seeing ourselves in the mirror of freedom will depend on our character.
Character – which is necessarily an act of self-denial against temptations of self-desire
(such as wanting to make an event all about you, getting ahead at the expense of your colleague,
etc.) – is arguably threatened by the Capitalistic order that is organized around freedom and the
profit-motivator, especially when what a society believes ‘profits them’ is increasingly thought
of in individualistic and materialistic terms. Capitalism often markets to personal desires and
even attempts to moralize them, and in this ethos, it isn’t surprising that character and self-denial
can fade. Additionally, Capitalism may ‘practically force’ the destruction of the social conditions
that make character possible, rather those conditions be the difficulty of life that forces parents to
take discipline more seriously, or a life in which people don’t feel forced by social pressures to
treat everything and everyone as an obstacle that has to be overcome so that they can maximize
their potential. If character and the possibility of character are lost – along with the language
needed to discuss character and recognize its loss – freedom will not be far behind, and with that
will go creativity and the free market, which is unrivaled in its capacity to create wealth.28
As hopefully is clear, there is no shortage of ways that the human condition can be
inherently flawed. Perhaps it isn’t, but there are many ways it can be so. When we are free, I
believe we more readily have to face the possibilities of how we can be tragic, and rather than
blame ourselves for this or just accept our tragic nature, we are prone to blame something or
someone else – the system that makes us free, ‘the other’ who isn’t like us, etc. Freedom can
motivate us to escape freedom, but rather than accept there is no escape, we find one scapegoat
after another, sacrificing each after the next, on and on, hoping there is no need to continue. For
if the end arrives, there will only be us left, holding the knife.
Following the arguments of McCloskey, it seems that Capitalism works so well that it
forces us to see ourselves, for it allows us to be free. Not liking what we see, we blame the

system, when really the problem is the nature itself we live out. Just as when we cease having a
scheduled (such as in school) we are forced to confront the reality of what we do in our free time,
so it is the case that when Capitalism makes leisure available to its people, they are forced to see
themselves and their natures. And rather than see our humanity and fight to change it, we often
blame Capitalism for ‘making us this way’ and run away from what we’ve seen to a ‘mixed
market’, sowing the seeds for our socioeconomic decline in the name of realizing our better
selves.
That said, if it is the case that humans who are free are ‘practically forced’ by freedom to
destroy themselves and free markets, than it is the case that ‘running to a mixed market’ might be
our only hope. Our hope to escape one tragedy is to run to another that we hope is less tragic.
And yet if it is us who are inherently flawed, than rather in a free market or a mixed market,
there is ‘no exit’ from the tragedy – there is only managing the problem. Which system is best
for such a managerial task? Free markets, mixed markets, or some form of Statism?
Over and over again, we return to this kind of questioning. Which is best? What must we
do? This alone makes us tragic beings, seeking knowledge that never feels complete, never sure,
and only feeling like our knowledge is complete at times when we are fated to end up like
Oedipus. Brilliant. A bad joke. Everything is running. Toward. Away. For. From. To live is to
run. To head in a direction. To head from a place. Seeking. Escaping. Aspiring. Fearing. We
exist; we run. And we keep running until we cease, and then we cease.
We stop.
What is to be done?
If we are ‘walking tragedies’ – (ir)rational, (im)moral – what can we do that isn’t tragic?
Nothing.
But we can manage.
Assuming that humans, Capitalism, and/or Statism is tragic – that tragedy is inescapable
– the question then becomes which system is best for handling tragedy, failure, and mistake. In
other words, in which system is it least likely or impossible for the collapse of a given thing to
cause the collapse of the entire system? Simply put, in which system is ‘too big to fail’ least
likely? If every system that humans construct will consist of tragedy, the question is in which
system is the damage done by tragedy best contained and even directed toward the evolution of
the society. According to Nassim Taleb, the mind behind The Black Swan and Antifragile, free
markets are best at avoiding power concentration – that is precisely their virtue – and I
personally find his arguments convincing. Statism concentrates power the most, while mixed
markets concentrate power more than free markets to some degree (perhaps increasingly
‘toward’ a Statism). For Taleb, the more power is concentrated and not broken upon across
millions of different entities, the more difficult it is for the system to evolve, for the prime engine
of evolution is ‘trial and error’ and/or ‘natural selection’. This causes the system to become
increasingly fragile and easy to exploit, and ultimately leads to evolutionary stagnation –
progress ceases.
I agree with Nassim Taleb: the free market is best for avoiding power concentration, and
since humans are inevitably tragic, it is imperative that they never have access to too much
power that would cause their failure(s) to be not merely dire, but fatal. Evolution itself is
inherently tragic – progress occurs over bones – and we being creatures of evolution, we too
must share in its story. Where there are humans, there will be disasters, but in the free market,
the disasters are never ‘too big to occur’. But if Nassim Taleb and I are wrong and free markets

don’t avoid power concentration, certainly Statism doesn’t avoid such either, and the tragedy of
the human condition is inexplicably and inevitably linked with ‘too big to fail’, fatally.
Even if Taleb is correct, what if free markets are ‘practically forced’ to become mixed
markets? Considering No Exit by O.G. Rose, this would mean that free markets must inevitably
become ‘that in which ‘too big to fail’-entities are not only possible, but rational’, and if that is
the case, the Libertarian theory of ‘free markets’ is incomplete (though that isn’t to say they are
wrong about Capitalism being the most successful socioeconomic system known to the human
race). If it is inevitable or at least likely that free markets become mixed markets, Capitalism –
our best system – is (probably) destined to fall apart.
If it is the case that free markets will be ‘practically forced’ to become mixed markets
and/or that Capitalism ‘practically forces’ the destruction of the culture necessarily for
incubating the creativity Capitalism requires, than isn’t it the case that we need ‘fail safes’ like
the Federal Reserve, law, and regulation from the State to try to keep these self-destructive
events from happening? In other words, if people use their freedom to become racists, to threaten
culture, etc., and won’t change, don’t we need to make sure the government has the power to
step in and stop this kind of behavior, just in case? If the market begins to collapse, don’t we
want the Federal Reserve to have the ability to control interest rates to ward off a Great
Depression? These ‘emergency fail safes’ would seem necessary and to be our only hope, but if
Milton Friedman is correct and that these entities will ‘practically inevitably’ be corrupted by
businesses and interest groups, these too will ultimately fail and may actually accelerate the
death of the free market.29
‘We are condemned to be [tragic].’
But we can manage.
XI
Perhaps there is a chance for Capitalism if the connection I have assumed between
‘culture’ and ‘creativity’ is wrong. Perhaps it is the case that culture, character, communal
relations, and so on aren’t needed for creativity, and if that is so, than even if it is true that
Capitalism inherently destroys the social institutions we require through which to change our
natures for the better, it isn’t the case that Capitalism inherently self-destructs. Seeing as it is
possible that this connection between ‘culture’ and ‘creativity’ could be wrong, there is reason to
have hope (though there are still the concerns in No Exit by O.G. Rose to address).
But I am doubtful. Indeed, I don’t think culture is necessary for there to be creativity at
all, but I do think it is indeed for the majority to be creative. There will always be a creative
minority, but without culture, I cannot imagine there being a creative majority, which threatens
the growth of the artifex necessary for stopping Capitalism from collapsing on itself. But perhaps
it is the case that culture and creativity are always reserved for a small minority – perhaps the
hope of spreading these attributes to the majority has always been an unrealistic ideal. If so, then
Capitalism will always rest its hopes on a minority, but if that minority cannot provide the
creativity necessarily for supporting the majority, the socioeconomic system will decline if not
fall apart.
Perhaps ultimately Capitalism isn’t doomed because “The Creative Concord” by O.G.
Rose is wrong and that even if culture is necessary for creativity, creativity isn’t needed for
Capitalism. And indeed, perhaps that paper is wrong, and perhaps Karl Marx is wrong about ‘the
material dialectic’. But even if this is so, I personally don’t want to live in a country without

culture and creativity. Perhaps we can survive, but we won’t thrive, and that alone seems to stand
as a strong argument against Capitalism. Perhaps it’s the best at erasing material poverty, but at
the cost of our souls, though that doesn’t mean Socialism doesn’t kill our souls as well.
To be is to be tragic.
Personally, I don’t believe the free market is determined or ‘destined’ to work: it lacks
determinism ‘from the bottom up’. It works no better than the people within the system, and
believing humans to be tragic creatures, I regrettably hold a tragic view of Capitalism that seems
to me similar to Krugman’s thinking.30 The ‘invisible hand’ is our hand, and if we are not good
people, the ‘invisible hand’ will not be good to us: it will always be a reflection of what we are to
ourselves.
This paper has consisted of many assumptions and many ‘perhaps’ – there is hope for us
if one of these ‘links’ is incomplete or a possibility missed. The main point of this paper though
has been to introduce a number possibilities of our present condition that I believe are often
overlooked when Liberals and Conservatives debate – those with the (somewhat) ‘tragic vision’
and those with the ‘unconstrained vision’ (to allude to Sowell) – both tend toward idealism in
their own ways, though that isn’t to say the two sides are always wrong or lacking in genius. My
goal in this paper was less to prove we are tragic than to suggest the strong possibility that we
and our situation is such. I hoped to paint a humbling picture, and perhaps if it is the case that
humans are in fact inherently tragic, there is a common ground upon which those who
passionately disagree can finally learn to live with one another. Because we are tragic, perhaps
there is hope for the Habermasian project.
There is no guarantee that a ‘flawless system’ is possible, though we speak as if we have
to believe in this idea, similar to how many scientists speak as if some ‘Unified Theory’ must
exist.31 Our longing for perfection is like our longing for unification: it never settles for less. And
though there is something heroic about this kind of aspiration, it can also lead us to sacrificing
‘the good’ for ‘the best’, leaving us with ‘the worst’. We need to know not so much when to quit,
but when to settle down and work.
This brings us to the final considerations of this paper, organized around the thought of
Martha Nussbaum, the genius behind The Fragility of Goodness.
XII
In the 1980s, during his program “A World of Ideas”, Bill Moyers interviewed Martha
Nussbaum about her book The Fragility of Goodness, and a transcript of the conversation can be
found in Moyers’ book by the same name as his program. In the talk, Professor Nussbaum
focuses on the Classics, and takes from Aristotle the idea that people, generally speaking, all try
to be virtuous relative to the goods they choose to be ‘toward’, and these ‘goods’ become the
standards by which people determine what actions and choices are rational (for them). But
according to Nussbaum, this inevitably leads to tragedy: the person who tries to be upright
inevitably finds his or her self tragically caught between two just and moral goods. Nussbaum
makes an example of the mother who must choose between putting all she can into her career
and taking care of her daughter, and notes that the idea of being able to ‘balance’ these two
goods is delusion. She believes it is futile of society to attempt to hide the reality that we will
eventually find ourselves like Agamemnon, having to make a choice between goods when they
inevitably come in conflict.

Can a person prioritize and balance goods? According to Nussbaum, only a person who
doesn’t believe herself to be truly engaged in ‘goods’ would do that: if the mother were to say ‘I
have a meeting for work tonight and my child has a play at the same time, but since my child is
all that matters, missing the meeting doesn’t matter’, the mother implies that the work she does is
meaningless and irrelevant, which would signify that she doesn’t actually believe it is good and
that she lacks any meaningful attachment to it. If the mother was truly engaged in what she
believes was both a good of parenting and a good of her career, she would feel a powerful,
existential tension in making the choice – it would be no easy matter – and what exactly is ‘the
right choice’ isn’t easy to say. Both choices are a mixture of the good and the bad, and ‘if you
really feel what it is to love someone or some commitment, and be bound to that, then when a
conflict arises, you will feel deep pain’.32 ‘Ranking obligations’ and ‘prioritizing’ are ultimately
just ways to avoid or ignore the existential anxiety of the situation – to help deal with the pain of
having to choose between two things equally worthy of honor. And if you don’t choose, you will
starve to death like the donkey trying to act rationally between two equally sized piles of grain.
To illustrate her point, Nussbaum takes an example from Greek tragedy:
‘Take the problem of moral conflict. Now, here you have, in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, a king who’s trying to do his best; he’s
trying to lead his army, and he’s following the commands of the gods, leading his army off to Troy, and suddenly he finds that
his expedition is becalmed. He can’t move forward. And he’s told that the reason is that the gods are demanding a sacrifice. He’s
got to sacrifice, he’s got to kill his own daughter in order to complete that expedition.
‘So here we have two deep and entirely legitimate commitments that he has in his life, coming into an absolutely terrible conflict,
in which there’s not anything he can do that will be without wrongdoing. And at that point he says, thinking about this, and the
play says, with tears in his eyes, “Heavy doom is disobedience, but heavy, too, if I shall rend my own child, the pride of my
house, polluting my father’s hands with streams of slaughtered maiden’s blood, close by the altar. Which of these is without
evils?” Now, I think this idea – that often when we care about more than one thing, and care deeply, the very course of life will
bring you around to a situation where you can’t honor both of the commitments, and it looks like anything that you do will be
wrong in some way, will be perhaps even terrible in some way – and this is true.’33

Goodness is tragedy – you would be hard-pressed to find a thinker who has put her finger
on the problem of being human as well as has Martha Nussbaum. To be good is to be open to the
possibility of tragedy, and it is only probable that your goods will come in conflict and force you
to neglect one or the other. Whatever you do, you will have to mistreat something that is very
important.34 And if we act as if this choice isn’t painful or difficult, we’re deluded: Nussbaum
notes in the play that, after making his tragic choice, ‘[Agamemnon] does say, “It may all be for
the best,” and the chorus says that he’s mad’.35
Nussbaum hopes to show that when a person is a ‘good person’, that individual will
necessarily risk encountering the tragic, and if we grasp the point of Aristotle and Saint
Augustine that there is no such thing as an ‘evil motive’ – that humans are always motivated by
what they believe is good – than we begin to glimpse the powerful truth that human motivation
inherently consists of a tragic dimension. If I am motivated, I am motivated ‘toward’ tragedy,
and all humans are motivated. Some are motivated to sit around and do nothing, some are
motivated to run a business, and some are motivated to murder, but all are motivated. The less
we passionately we pursue the good, the better our chance for avoiding tragedy, but then we are
less noble and good. We avoid the risk of tragedy by being evil, callous, and unattached, but then
we are simply creators of tragedy for others. To avoid the risk of tragic pain, we must participate
in making the world a tragic place.
To the degree I am trying to live well is to the degree I am vulnerable to tragedy; if I’m a
bad person, I am safe. Since all humans are motivated by their idea of ‘the good’, everyone is so
vulnerable whenever they are ‘good’ relative to themselves, and they become even more

vulnerable to the degree the person tries to align his or her private ‘good(s)’ with the actual
‘good’, which impacts other, cared about people. If I believe it is good to murder and to watch
television, on a small scale, it is possible for me to find myself in a situation where I will have to
choose between killing and watching television. An absurd example, of course, but the point is to
say that, based on my ‘good(s)’, it is possible for me to find myself in a situation where I have to
choose between them, and the more meaningfully and deeply I am connected with these goods,
the more painful and difficult this choice will be. However – moving from private goods to more
public goods – if I believe it is good to raise children but also good to help the poor, and I find
myself in a situation where I must choose between spending time with my family and attending a
volunteer opportunity where I am requested, I will find myself having to choose between two
situations in which people need me. In trying to be a good person, I will want to be present in
both situations, but I can only choose one, and if I choose neither, I fail to be good. But if choose
to stay with my child, I fail to be a good person to the poor, but if I’m there for the poor, I fail to
be a good person to my child. I cannot avoid morally failing, and the pain of this reality is greatly
intensified since this ‘conflict of the goods’ isn’t merely a matter of conflicting private goods,
but widespread goods that impact other people who I care about.
Someone who is a ‘good person’ relative to only the standard of his or her ‘private goods’
isn’t exposed to the possibility of tragedy as is the person who tries to be ‘socially good’. The
more the individuals steps out into the society, the more the person becomes vulnerable. Yes, the
person’s idea of what constitutes ‘social goods’ will be relative to his or her ‘private ideas’, and
whether they are right or wrong is a different question. The point is that the more the person tries
to exercise his or her ‘private goods’ in a manner that causes ‘social good’, the more the person
will be vulnerable. The lesson here isn’t that we shouldn’t try to live well – there is less a lesson
than there is a realization – but to say the nature of being is such that if you live well, tragedy can
happen to you, but if you live poorly, you are free from any concerns of tragedy. To illustrate
this point, Nussbaum discusses Euripides’ Hecuba:
‘Hecuba lost her husband, she’s lost most of her children, she’s lost her political power. She’s been made a slave. But up to that
point, she remains absolutely firm morally. And she even says she believes that human good character is something extremely
stable in adversity and can’t be shaken. But then, her one deepest hope is pulled away from her. She left her youngest child with
her best friend, who was supposed to watch over him and watch his money, too, and then bring him back when the war was over.
And when she gets to the shore of Thrace, she sees a naked body that’s been washed up on the beach. And she looks at it more
closely, and then she notices that it’s the body of her child.
‘And she realizes right away that what this friend has done is to murder the child for his money, and to do it in a callous, heedless
way, without even taking thought for burying the child, just has tossed it out into the waves. And all of a sudden, the roots of her
moral life are undone. She looks around, and she says, “Everything is untrustworthy. Everything that I see is untrustworthy,”
because her moral life had been based on the ability to trust things and people that were not under her own control. And if this
deepest and best friendship proves untrustworthy, then it seems to her that nothing can be trusted, and she [turns] to a life of
solitary revenge.’36

Hecuba becomes an animal, literally or figuratively – it doesn’t matter – and ‘it’s pretty
clear that this comes about not because she’s a bad person, but in a sense because she’s a good
person, because she has had deep friendships on which she staked her moral life’.37 According to
this disturbing play, ‘the condition of being good is such that it should always possible for you to
be morally destroyed by something that you couldn’t prevent’.38 Nussbaum continues:
‘To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust certain things beyond your own control
that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances, in circumstances for which you are not yourself to blame.

‘And I think that says something very important about the condition of the ethical life. That it is based on a trust in the uncertain,
a willingness to be exposed. It’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very
particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.’39

To be good is to risk agony that will motivate you to leave society, which Nussbaum
notes for Aristotle is to cease being human – it will motivate you to live like an animal rather
than bear the burden of what it means to be human. But since a human must always be motivated
by some idea of ‘the good’, even the hermit is vulnerable, but at least in being outside society,
perhaps the pain the hermit can experience is much less.
I believe the prerequisite for ‘being good’ is ‘being free’, for if people are not free, they
cannot pursue their ‘good ends’, or at least not authentically.40 Furthermore, it could be argued
that there is no true freedom without the good or true good without freedom, for humans are only
truly free to the degree the use their freedom ‘toward’ a true good. Regardless, in freedom, you
must be orientated ‘toward’ what you believe is a good, and you must pursue it, unless that is you
are not human. When you aren’t free, there is a reason you would not pursue what you believe is
‘good’, but if you are free, the only reason you wouldn’t pursue it is if you are dead. If you cut
yourself in freedom, you believe for some reason it is good to cut yourself; if you become a
millionaire, it is because you believe for some reason that having money is good. You cannot be
free and not pursue what you believe is good: if you want to be a professional writer and in your
freedom don’t pursue it, you believe the good of ‘being a realist’ is greater than the good of
‘chasing your dream’. Yes, in freedom, you can choose one good over the other for some reason,
but you cannot avoid pursuing a good at all.
Consequently, in freedom, you are necessarily ‘toward’ the good, which necessarily
makes you vulnerable to tragedy. Freedom is inseparable from the good, and hence inseparable
from tragedy, and to the degree we align our ‘private goods’ with ‘social goods’ is to the degree
we risk experiencing an ever-worsening pain. Following Aristotle’s definition of what it means
to be ‘human’, if the tragic pain we are exposed to isn’t ever-worsening, then the degree we are
human and free isn’t ever-climbing.
XIII
Considering that in freedom you must pursue what you believe is good, the more freedom
you have, the more you will have to be vulnerable toward the tragedies of life, which very well
can inspire you to run from freedom (a possibility explored by Dostoevsky through his Grand
Inquisitor). If it is the case that facing our inherently tragic situation ‘practically forces’ us to run
from free markets to the State, it could perhaps be argued that Capitalism is inherently flawed.
But then is this example of Capitalism collapsing under its own contradictions or us being
contradictions under which Capitalism is crushed? Perhaps where the line of one begins and the
other ends cannot be drawn.41
According to Nussbaum, when you care deeply about many things – as any good person
will since the world consists of many things that a good person will care about unless callous –
‘the very course of life will bring you around to a situation where you can’t honor [all] the[se]
commitments, and it looks like anything that you do will be wrong in some way, will be perhaps
even terrible in some way’.42 This isn’t the fault of Capitalism or freedom – this is the fault of
being (human) – though we are prone to blame these to avoid accepting that the problem is us. If
there is Capitalism or freedom, they will be tragic, for if we exist, there will be tragedy, and there

are two, essential ways we can respond to this reality: ‘to see the complexity that’s there, and see
it honestly, without flinching’, or to run like Hecuba.43, 44
Nussbaum believes tragedy is unavoidable in life, and I agree with her. Whether we run
or stay, we will not escape it. We must be able to face it unflinching – that is our best chance for
seeing how to best organize society and to live. But at least up to now, we have not, in general,
been unflinching. Consequently, we have been unprepared for the reality which lies before us
and ever-underneath us, which has contributed to making us cynically-ironic and idealistic, both
these being modes by which we can distance ourselves from the reality for which we have been
unprepared. Nussbaum notes that the Greek tragedies were performed in a way highly different
from what we are used to for drama, and perhaps this helped the ancients be more prepared for
the tragic reality that couldn’t be avoided. She claims:
‘[…] the tragedies were not performed like going to a Broadway show, where you go into this darkened auditorium and you see
somebody up there on the stage, and you think, “Well, what has this got to do with me?” The tragedies were a civic festival,
where all citizens came in there, and they looked across the theatre at their fellow citizens. And they saw this as a scene for
feeling and thinking about the life of the city.’45

The Greeks were familiar with tragedy (perhaps this is a reason their empire lasted so
long), and they did not see tragedy as something outside the socioeconomic and sociopolitical
lives they lived: civil life had to be organized around dealing with tragedy. I think the Greeks
were much better prepared for reality than we are, and I believe the consequences have been
costly.46 Politicians have been able to feed our idealistic impulses to garner votes and hide us
from the tragedies and trade-offs of life we will inevitably have to face. Furthermore, we have
held politicians up to an impossible standard in which they make no trade-offs between
competing goods, and consequently rejected good men in favor of lesser leaders who tell us what
we want to hear. We have treated economic downtowns as preventable mistakes versus
necessary challenges that make possible the good. We have expected our neighbors and
ourselves to live lives without hard choices, and though we speak as if we know we all must
make hard choices, when those choices are made, we treat one another like fools. We have used
reasoning to realize ideals rather than possibilities, and accepted ideas only if they were perfect
versus best. We have used reasoning to try to escape from tragedies rather than to reason through
tragedies. And so on. Unlike the Greeks, it seems we have ignored what lies ahead of us, but we
have still had to face it.
Arguably, thanks to the growing forces of Pluralism, Globalization, and Global
Capitalism, many of us are becoming increasingly freer and yet less prepared to face and accept
tragedy that is inseparable from freedom.47 The threat grows as our defenses lessen. Not all
tragic situations are equal – some tragic choices are less fruitful than others – and the less we
accept that we will eventually face tragedy, the higher the likelihood that we will undergo
tragedies that are less fruitful than more. We will gain less from our suffering than we could.
The second half of this essay collection – The True isn’t the Rational – will primarily
focus on questions like ‘what is a question?’, ‘what is thinking?’, ‘how do we think?’, ‘how do
we reason together?’, and so on. A reason it is worth the time and effort to master ‘the life of the
mind’ is in order to maximizing our humanity and to hopefully achieve the Habermasian ideal of
learning to live together in our Pluralistic Age. But even if we master the art of thinking,
speaking, and reasoning, if we do not know and accept that tragedy is inescapable, than we will
not know into what world our reasoning is leading us, nor will we know where to stop and settle,
never recognizing that we have arrived at our destination.

We are not going to paradise; we are going into a tragedy. If we fail to recognize the
situations we will always, ultimately find ourselves in – rather it be in politics, economics, or
everyday life – we will probably be unprepared to handle having to choose between goods, and
consequently, such choices could destroy us. Furthermore, if we don’t accept the kind of
situation we will have to face, when it arrives, we will pass it looking for an ideal, all while the
inevitable, tragic situation remains, possibly worsening due to our delay.
Some tragedies are better than others, and by mastering ‘the life of the mind’, we can
enter a tragedy worth suffering – a Christ-like Passion after which the tomb is empty. Am I being
idealistic? Perhaps – perhaps all tragedies are equally terrible. If that is the case, that is the case,
but we shouldn’t accept that without a fight. If we don’t try to master ‘the life of the mind’, we
have no hope of avoiding ‘the worst of all possible’ tragedies; by trying, we have hope, even if
ultimately that hope is futile. Always fight, even if you will lose in the end, because otherwise
you lose at the beginning.
Is this all an indirect argument for Greek tragedies to be performed in the middle of the
city again? Perhaps – perhaps what I have argued does point to the need for culture, for it is
through culture that we can learn about how tragic being is being itself. But what if Capitalism
inherently destroys culture? Than our most successful socioeconomic system sets us up to be
unprepared for what lies before us, perhaps fatally. And perhaps Capitalism does inherently
destroy cultures and institutions, which are impossible to recreate ‘As Wittgenstein said, reviving
a tradition is like trying to repair a spider’s web with your bare hands.’48 But if that is true, what
are we to do?
Caught between the ‘perhaps’ and the ‘perhaps’ – this is how we must live. Perhaps in
the end we will have to choose between destroying institutions and saving ourselves. Perhaps
not, but we will have to make some kind of tragic choice. I hope you can prove us wrong, but I
agree with Nussbaum: to be is to be tragic. If everything else in this paper about Capitalism,
Conservatives, Liberals, ‘virtual force’, ‘actual force’, ‘practical force’, and so on is all wrong, I
believe the analysis on tragedy shaped by Nussbaum’s genius still holds, but out of all the
sections of the paper, that is perhaps the most unfortunate section to be true.
Personally, it doesn’t seem to me as if modern debate, discussion, or politics is carried
out understanding this fate: people act and think as if ‘being good’ doesn’t entail risking ‘being
tragic’. People are like Agamemnon, mad. This isn’t to say hope is a delusion, but it is to say
unrealistic hope is costly. We must hope through the world, not away from it. And we must hope
for freedom, knowing that freedom is tragic. How we want to live will lead us to times when we
don’t want to live; if we live ‘the good life’, we will experience times when good realities collide
and cannot be resolved. Before we begin focusing on how to ‘reason together’, we must accept
that success will not save us from tragedy. This is our fate; knowing it, let us all reason together.
God help us all.

Notes
1

Additionally, I believe Eagleton would say something similar about Progressive ‘protests’ within Capitalist societies: yes, there
are movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘Occupy Wall Street’, but these are powerless to change the framework they occur
within, and frankly, can be ironically marketized, empowering the very framework they intend to critique.
1.1

To Eagleton’s point, it is hard to imagine how many of the greatest cultural works of history would ever survive today, seeing
how for so long so many of them sold so poorly.
2

For more on the modern epidemic of narcissism, please see the work of Jean Twenge: I believe Generation Me and The
Narcissism Epidemic are helpful for understandings the negative influences of Capitalism on culture.
3

This prophecy deserves meditation: according to Eagleton, Marx warned that Capitalism creates a labor force that absorbs awful
culture and art because they are so tired that they don’t have energy left for ‘high art’ and/or ‘high culture’. I believe Marx is
right: I’ve seen it in my own life. When you have a job you have to go to everyday, it’s hard to have the motivation to read a
difficult book afterwards. And if you have a family, you just don’t have the time.
Capitalism, trying to cope with its tragic nature, I believe tries to provide ‘space’ for its working class by giving them
‘retirement’, but unfortunately, by the time the working class reaches this stage, they have often lost the capacities to use this
leisure for ‘higher aims’ versus ‘consumeristic habits’. After years of training to live one way, it’s hard to live any other.
To its defense, at least Capitalism makes it possible, if not likely, for the average citizen to have a space of leisure that rivals what
was available to the aristocracy of the past (who didn’t have laptops, indoor heating, etc.), and so a space in which they can, if
they want, pursue higher aims, even if few will actually use retirement in this way.
Still, it cannot be ignored how Capitalism influences its citizenship, which ‘points to’ the final question of this paper on ‘virtual
force’ versus ‘legal force’.
3.1

Colleges are designed to be a ‘space’ like retirement, partook in by people before they have lost their capacities for ‘higher
aims’ or formed habits unintentionally against them, in hopes of teaching students to live in such a way that they never lose these
capacities (which is invaluable for maintaining ‘The Creative Concord’). This is a reason why the ‘marketization’ of universities
can be such a problem, as Eagleton rightly points out, not only for culture, but also for the socioeconomic order which requires
creativity to cease from falling apart.
4

Unfortunately, thinking a given system is this sought ‘holy grail’, countless people have made ‘The Burkean Error’, as will be
described in other by works by O.G. Rose.
5

It should be noted that Burkean Conservatives have similar views when it comes to overcoming racism, achieving diversity,
ending Islamophobia, valuing art, stopping discrimination, revitalizing ‘social capital’, and so on – these ends can only be
achieved through the free associations and choices of free people. They cannot be forced by law or the State, and if they are,
these problems will actually worsen (due to growing ‘existential uncertainty’, as discussed in “Equality and Its Immoral Limits”
by O.G. Rose). Again, if people don’t choose to change for the better, these problems cannot be solved, and all alternative
methods to solve them will worsen them. Are Burkean Conservatives correct? Perhaps – we cannot find out either way without
great risk.
6

Admittedly, what ‘character’ means is somewhat relative, though I do think it has enough of a general, universal meaning –
despite the varieties of its particularities through communities – to be a useful word here. For a better treatment of the subject,
please read The Death of Character by James Davison Hunter.
7

The Liberal who believes virtual force is practically the same as actual force may believe it is the case that Capitalism inevitably
becomes a ‘mixed market’, for the free market influences its participants to mutate it in that direction. Based on what a person
believes is the relation between ‘influence’ and ‘freedom’ will change what that person believe is ‘inevitable’ or simply ‘tragic’.
8

Additionally, artists are increasingly becoming controversial, as admonished in “In Defense of Pedophilia” by O.G. Rose,
hurling us toward committing ‘The Burkean Error’.
9

Generally speaking, Conservatives believe that if you are impoverished, a victim of bad genetics, of unfair circumstances, of a
broken family, etc., though you might be ‘virtually forced’, you are never ‘actually forced’ to fail, be impoverished, or to suffer a
certain plight in life. And if there are those that are ‘actually forced’ to suffer a certain condition, identifying these people
transcends know-ability, and so the State is unable to help.

Additionally, in line with “Choosing Determinism” by O.G. Rose, Conservatives can worry that if you put the idea in the heads
of the people that some are ‘actually forced’ to suffer poverty, fail, etc., than everyone who suffers poverty, fails, etc. will claim
that they were ‘actually forced’ to end up the way they have (and they will genuinely believe it, considering “Self-Delusion, the
Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment” by O.G. Rose), and hence the government has a moral obligation to
help them. How would you be able to prove which claims are valid and which are not? I am doubtful you would be able to, and
consequently the State would find itself morally obligated to help everyone who was poor, who had failed, etc., even if those
individuals were responsible for their condition. This could lead to national bankruptcy, and furthermore seem to build a case
(with amble ‘evidence’ that cannot be falsified) that Capitalism doesn’t work and that Socialism is needed, even if Capitalism is
the best system we have for winning the war against poverty.
Worst yet, when a nation ‘chooses determinism’, it chooses an ethos for itself in which what Deidre McCloskey calls ‘the
bourgeois virtues’ cannot flourish, and if she is correct that it is these ethics which have made ‘the modern world’, modern
prosperity will not last. Also, Thomas Sowell argues convincingly that culture is much more impactful on socioeconomic
outcome than a person’s geography, nationality, etc., and the kind of culture that will formulate of a people who ‘choose
determinism’ will be a culture that probably destroys wealth creation and socioeconomic evolution of that people. Sowell notes
that the caveman had more natural resources than any nation does today, but because he lacked human capital and culture, the
caveman was unable to use those resources to create wealth.A Culture and human capital are what make the difference, but if you
believe that nothing you do can get you out of poverty, or that ‘the system’ will always keep you down, what’s the point of
working and trying to ‘climb up the American ladder’? Basic survival seems to be all for which you can hope.
‘Determinism’ is the opposite of the philosophy of liberty on which American has traditionally been organized (imperfectly), and
if McCloskey is correct that this ‘dignified’ philosophy incubated a culture that created wealth unlike anything the world has ever
seen before, then I fear Liberalism (and its belief in ‘practical force’) incentives people to ascribe to a deterministic ideology that
will impoverish the very people who Liberals genuinely want to help.
Ideas do in fact have consequences.
A

“Wealth, Poverty, and Politics”, an Uncommon Knowledge Conversation with Thomas Sowell, as can be found here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGYl17DiEwo
10

This has led to the creation of a ‘mixed market’ – our current socioeconomic system – which I fear is a terrible system, for it not
only sets us up for the catastrophes described in “No Exit” by O.G. Rose, but it results in us being increasingly marketized (a
terrible characteristic of Capitalism) while we increasingly outsource to the State personal responsibility to ourselves, others, and
our communities (a terrible characteristic of Socialism). We have created a system the fuels the worst dimensions of Capitalism
while also retarding personal and communal development due to State involvement.
Increasingly, ‘the society’ becomes a simile for ‘the State’, and when we face problems, our default is increasingly to motivate
the State to act to solve it, rather than try to solve it ourselves. In fact, ‘ourselves’ is increasingly becoming a simile for ‘the
government’, and the consequences of this Rothbardian change are expanded throughout the works of O.G. Rose. This isn’t to
say all State action is bad – plenty of it is good and necessary – but it is to say that having the State be our ‘default problemsolver’ is dangerous.
11

In line with this paragraph, consider To Change the World by James Davison Hunter.

12

The Liberal can establish a similar proof by showing that free markets necessarily become mixed markets in which ‘too big to
fail’ institutions are possible, as discussed in “No Exit” by O.G. Rose.
13

Similarly, if Capitalism necessarily destroys the environment, our being is all the more tragic.

14

Allusion to Nietzsche.

15

It should also be noted that to a Conservative, a theory isn’t wrong if people are ‘virtually forced’ to do that contrary to the
theory, while to a Liberal, ‘practical force’ can make a theory intrinsically contradictory, and hence a bad theory. Different
conceptions of motivation and philosophical premises of determinism can completely transform what one person believes is a
good versus bad theory.
16

What does an economy signify? What are we doing when we have an economy? What does the currency, the assets, the labor,
and so on, all represent? What are we valuing? Trust? Production? This seems like a difficult question: what actually is ‘the true
value of an economy’? What is it that is ‘underneath it all’ that we are trying to value, to trace out, like a theologian trying to
describe The Indescribable?

Personally, in line with “The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose, I think ‘what it all points to’ is ultimately the creativity in the
socioeconomic order (distinct from production), along with trust in that creativity. All creativity entails production (creativity that
isn’t only idea generation), but not all production entails creativity. Yes, a percentage of production entails creativity, but it is
hard to say which is which, as it is hard to say which expressions of creativity through production will indeed be valuable – that’s
why it’s important that the society ‘trust in’ its creativity (its ability to ‘come up with something’, to solve problems, and so on).
When the economy is truly strong versus simply inflated by credit and debit (though economic tools aren’t inherently bad), the
economy is creative and trusting in that creativity.
As creativity is difficult to contain, systematize, and describe, so it is difficult to contain, systemize, and describe the economy,
especially what that economy ultimately ‘points to’ and values. As there is something almost mystical about creativity, there
seems to be something mystical if not religious about the economy, and this is because the economy is ultimately about
creativity, and creativity is a matter of ‘high order complexity’ (to use language from “Experiencing Thinking” by O.G. Rose).
Economies, markets, etc. are attempts to translate, systemize, and in a sense, ‘stabilize’ in ‘low order complexity’-terms a matter
of ‘high order complexity’ (arguably like institutional religion), and like ‘the science of things divine’ (theology), economics
causes comprehension and confusion, comfort and discomfort, success and failure. Economics is a necessary attempt, but
inherently limited by what people do and how people choose to be – if people fail to be creative, no brilliant socioeconomic
model can save us. A given monetary or fiscal policy might help ‘stimulate us’ into creativity, if you will, but not necessarily nor
ultimately.
Which is best at so stimulating us? Free markets or mixed markets? Again, it won’t matter which kind of market a society has if
its people aren’t creative, but is one better at bringing out the creativity in us than the other? Theoretically, if the government
spends tax money or writes monetary and fiscal policy in a manner that creates new inventions, stimulate creation (of jobs,
businesses, etc.), and so on, than indeed, government can create wealth through people as opposed to produce or redistribute
wealth (though it should be noted that production and redistribution aren’t ‘intrinsically bad’ – it is possible these two methods
could stimulate creativity somehow, though not necessarily, though admittedly when it comes to creativity, perhaps nothing is
‘necessarily’, precisely because creativity is itself).
The question is then is government ‘in practice’ more likely to stimulate creativity than it is erase it, which makes the question ‘is
the free market, mixed market, or Statism more likely to incubate creativity?’. Given the history of the 20 th Century, I believe
Statism and creativity mix like water and oil, and I am skeptical of how well the government can incubate creativity, seeing as the
government naturally gravitates toward bureaucratization (for good and for bad), systemization, progress reports, and (micro)management, all of which I believe hinder creativity. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but I am skeptical: I believe a free
environment is one in which creativity is most likely to flourish – where it is alright to experiment, to not know what you are
doing, to fail, to not have a clear objective, and so on. This isn’t to say government can’t stimulate creativity – it is possible that,
through a grant for example, it could finance such an environment (though I am skeptical of how long the grant process wouldn’t
eventually force creative centers to bureaucratize, manage, focus on issues of the government’s choosing, etc.). That all said, to
emphasis, I am dubious of how often and well government can succeed in this ‘creative undertaking’, especially compared to the
free market, though I most certainly acknowledge the possibility, seeing as the government funded the incredibly innovative
Space Race, and seeing as massive government spending on innovation might be the only way to ultimately save our economy
and ‘Creditism’ (in line with the thought of Richard Duncan).
The question becomes a matter of probability: which is more probable to incubate creativity – the mixed market or the free
market? Additionally, seeing bad and good things of varying degrees will occur in both market types: within which system is
failure, corruption, growth, etc. able to occur without risking the entire socioeconomic order? In other words, which system is
more ‘robust’ and – better yet – ‘antifragile’ (to use Nassim Taleb’ incredibly useful term)? Which system is able to facilitate
‘natural selection’ and evolution without collapsing, and to even grow through that ‘creative destruction’? I believe free markets
are more agile, more adaptable, less prone to getting ‘stuck’ (due to ‘the old guard’ not wanting to change and/or ‘politics’ such
as what is described in Government’s End by Jonathan Rauch), less likely to concentrate power in a way that would hinder
‘natural selection’, and so on, but even if I’m right, that doesn’t mean free markets still aren’t inherently tragic (perhaps because
they consist of us, beings whose being is inseparable from tragedy and irony).
16.1

Problematically, I fear the values of our economy – employment, stability, growth, etc. – can stand in opposition to the
‘creative destruction’ societies require to advance. A society where employment drops and views this as inherently wrong will
stop the rising unemployment, when what could be causing it is a ‘creative destruction’ that will ultimately benefit the whole
socioeconomic order. When Wall Street tanks, this can tempt the Federal Reserve (often facing the panic of the public) to help
prop the financial market up, but this can keep the costs of starting a business high, keeping out entrepreneurs who would start
new businesses and create new jobs. For an economy to create wealth and not simply produce, it must undergo fluctuations, but
this will not sit well with a society that only thinks of markets ‘one dimensionally’ (as needing to ‘go up’, alluding to Herbert
Marcuse’s thought). No present species likes the process of natural selection (though they may like the fruit) – it’s inherently
threatening – and if they have the power to stop it, the present species probably will, and I fear this is practically inevitable in a
mixed market (though I could be wrong). However, this doesn’t mean free markets aren’t inherently flawed or incomplete or that
Krugman is wrong.

All values that hinder ‘creative destruction’ are problematic and allude to why all that ultimately matters is to the degree a society
is creative (which is very hard to measure precisely because of what creativity is, a matter of ‘high order complexity’). Everyone
can be employed in Stalinism, but that doesn’t mean the society is advanced; everyone can have a billion dollars thanks to
inflation, but that doesn’t mean people can buy what they want; a society can be incredibly stable, but unfortunately be under
totalitarianism. Unfortunately, I believe many of the ‘values’ by which society determines today if an economy is strong are
values that aren’t intrinsically good and that stand against ‘creative destruction’. The consequences for this mistake can be dire,
and if a Liberal could argue that it if free markets are ‘practically forced’ to make this mistake, the Liberal would have a strong
argument that Capitalism is ‘practically forced’ to fail.
17

Paul Krugman can generate evidence for why ‘free market orthodoxy’ is incorrect, and Thomas Sowell can take that same
evidence and show how it actually proves that more free markets are needed. It all seems random, and a reason for this, I believe,
is that whether a free market or a mixed market, without creativity, the system will self-destruct, and hence there will always be
evidence proving ‘free markets don’t work’ just as much as there will be evidence that ‘free markets work’. The lack of creativity
enables evidence to go ‘all possible ways’.
18

Whenever the free market supposedly ‘fails’, how can we be so sure that the solution isn’t more free markets, not less? The
Enron-caused blackout crisis in California could be evidence of the need for less free markets just as much as it could be
evidence for more – it could be evidence of monopoly formation in Capitalism as it could be evidence of what happens when you
fail to reform intellectual property rights and fail to make it easier for entrepreneurs to ‘creative destroy’ companies like Enron
(pinning down what evidence is rightfully ‘toward’ is incredibly hard). Additionally, someone in favor of free markets may argue
that the ‘Enron Crisis’ is insignificant compared to the systematic problems caused by ‘The Drug War’, and if we must choose
one or the other, Enron is far preferable (and we must choose).
19

But this of course begs the question ‘what constitutes ‘failing’?’, and this is no easy question: the closest answer seems to be
‘that which stops ‘creative destruction’,’ but those experiencing ‘creative destruction’ would probably say the opposite. What
feels like failing can be succeeding, and what feels like succeeding can be failing.
20

A similar point could be made about a democracy: how can we say it’s the system that failed when it’s really more so the
people failed? It’s hard to say, as it’s hard to say what it means when it is claimed ‘the democracy failed’. But again, we must be
careful not to make ‘democracy’ a simile for ‘anarchism’.
21

Perhaps this is a reason Liberals stress research, studies, etc. more than Conservatives, and why there are more Liberals in
colleges? Perhaps not.
22

At least according to Thomas Sowell in The Conflict of Visions, Liberals tend to favor State action and yet also tend to believe
people are inherently more so good than bad, while Conservatives seem to be against State action and yet have a negative view of
human nature. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t those who believe humans are ‘more so good’ support freedom over those
who believe humans are ‘more so bad’?
23

Unfortunatley, I believe it is increasingly the case that having a morality of any kind at all is associated with restricting freedom
and hence wrong, and yet freedom without morality will give way to a society that no one is going to want to live in (though that
said, do recall that I am highly critical of Ethics, as discussed in “(Im)morality” by O.G. Rose). This isn’t to say people never call
on morality to aid their political views – they do this often – but that people mostly construct their moral code around what
maximizes ‘personal liberty’ (primarily defined in terms of ‘what people want to do’), versus orientate ‘personal liberty’ around a
moral code and what maximizes ‘the good’. If freedom is the highest value, ‘the good’ will be defined in terms of ‘desire’,
‘wants’, and ‘shamelessness’, but if an ethic of some kind is the highest value, ‘the good’ will be defined primarily in terms of
‘sacrificing personal wants relative to that ethic’. Conservative believes that self-denial should lead to freedom while the Liberal
believes freedom should lead to self-denial; the Conservative believes that if you learn to not give into everything you want,
you’ll learn to be happier, while the Liberal believes that if you do what you want, that will or at least should include helping
others. Generally speaking, in Conservatism, ‘the good’ comes out of self-denial, while in Liberalism, ‘the good’ comes out of
freedom (though a Conservative may object and claim the ethic of self-denial is ‘freely chosen’ as a Liberal may argue that
freedom is self-denial – again, I speak generally).
The two sides hold virtually opposite ideas of what constitutes ‘the good’, though that isn’t to imply Conservatives don’t want
people to ever do what they want to do or that Liberals have no moral oppositions. Certainly, the two sides act like one another
quite often, but they have very different emphasis that might be irrevocably opposed (though do note that both Conservatives and
Liberals will use the same language of ‘doing what is right’ as if they are discussing the same things, when they are working from
very different axioms).
23.1

If you ask people directly if they think ‘morality is bad’, they will tell you ‘no’, but if you listen to how they discuss and
debate moral premises, they indirectly imply this and only refer to moral obligations when they align with their idea of the best

political structure for society. We respond as if we think very differently when asked directly versus indirectly – we should
almost consider people as having two moralities – their ‘direct morality’ and their ‘indirectly morality’.
23.2

In my opinion, in the Conservative view, there is a much more natural ‘restriction on action’ from within freedom, while it is
much less clear in Liberalism why x action should be restricted and not y action if morality is primarily organized around
‘personal choice/desire’. Perhaps I am wrong about this assessment, and certainly I don’t believe Liberals are immoral – they
often have an incredible longing for justice.
24

But it should at least be noted that perhaps the health of marriage in a society is the best way to determine if ‘moral living’ is
declining or not, for marriage seems to me to be a great indicator of how willing a people is to ‘self-deny’ themselves in favor of
something greater than themselves – to give up ‘what they want to do’ in favor of ‘what they should do’. Perhaps not, but it
would seem to me that marriage is a good place to start the investigation.
25

To express a reason for why: without morality and its corresponding values and character, public education is very difficult,
because teachers will end up having to spend all of class trying to get students to pay attention. If teachers aren’t readily able to
discipline, this situation in classrooms will only worsen. This being this case, it is hard to imagine that (many) schools could
incubate creativity in the next generation, which will contribute to growing poverty, as argued in “The Creative Concord” by
O.G. Rose. Poverty can contribute to a collapse of the family, and when the family collapses, so too can lessen morality in
children, which will worsen the situation faced by teachers, causing a tragic cycle.
25.1

There is an argument to be made that without morality, public education is impossible, and if we are in fact in an age of
declining morality, we are also probably in an age of declining education. If it is the case that Capitalism inherently destroys
morals, then Capitalism inherently destroys education, and with education very well may go Capitalism itself.
26

It should be noted that if Bernard Hankins in his lecture “Integrating People of Color” is correct and there is a necessary link
between creativity and overcoming discrimination, than freedom itself could be what makes overcoming discrimination so
difficult, and yet it could be the case that freedom is required for authentic and lasting reconciliation (a possibility presented in
“Equality and Its Immoral Limits” by O.G. Rose).
27

This might be impacted by how rampant the idea of ‘determinism’ becomes in a society, as discussed in “Choosing
Determinism” by O.G. Rose.
28

Paragraph inspired by “Character is Destiny”, a conversation between David Brooks and James Hunter, as can be found here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCdNH953xUE
29

Furthermore, providing these ‘fail safes’ requires growing the State, and this always entails taking the risks warned about in
“There is No Big Brother” by O.G. Rose.
30

Furthmore, I find my view in line with the work of Hyman Minsky, who didn’t believe in the Efficient Market Hypothesis and
favored a financial model that was more unstable. Indeed, I believe free markets are efficient, but without creativity, I don’t
believe a free market necessarily has to balance itself out at some ‘equilibrium’. If we will not help ourselves, the system will not
help us. Perhaps it could even be said my views are Keynesian, given that Keynes believed that Capitalism was the best system,
but that it only worked with help. I’m just not sure who must do the helping: the people or the State (which my default is to be
skeptical of, for reasons described in “There is No Big Brother” by O.G. Rose). Either way, tragedy seems unavoidable.
31

It could be argued that this paper itself is a kind of ‘Unified Theory’, and I admit, that would be a fair critique.

32

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
33

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/, another transcript of which can be found in A World of Ideas by Bill Moyers. New York, NY. Doubleday Publishing,
1989: 449.
34

Perhaps a goal of State should be to help people face less of these ‘tragic situations’ than more? For example, by providing
maternity leave, the State can help women not have to choose between work and family. A valid point, but if the State provides
maternity leave in a manner that ruins the economy, it very well may create more ‘tragic situations’ in the long run. Efforts to
alleviate the burden of tragedy could very well add to it, but who’s to say which actions to overcome tragedy will ultimately
worsen the problem rather than help overcome it? Tragic creatures, we might be unequipped to make this judgment, and so
should rather air on the side of avoiding power concentration so that when tragedy does occur, it doesn’t wipe out the whole
system.

35

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
36

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
37

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
38

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
38.1

Perhaps this is what is meant by saying the world is ‘fallen’?

39

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
39.1

Admittedly, I have quoted Nussbaum at length because I find her words beautiful.

40

Perhaps being alienated by ‘the goods’ you pursue can preserve you from the tragedies these good can cause you? But if this is
the case, we are saved from pain by disembodiment.
41

At least though in free markets power isn’t concentrated in such a way that the inevitable tragedies of humanity don’t collapse
the entire global socioeconomic order. But if free markets inevitably become mixed markets, then free markets lead to the
concentration of power and creation of ‘too big to fail’ institutions.
42

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
43

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
44

And there are many ways we can run: we can engage in blindness, idealism, cynicism, etc. David Foster Wallace warned that
irony was destroying our civilization, and if we are ‘practically forced’ to becoming ironic and cynical in response to seeing ‘the
tragedy that is us’ (which is difficult to avoid in freedom), than it is the case that freedom will lead to the destruction of
civilization. But without freedom, we cannot have the most successful socioeconomic system of Capitalism – we must be
impoverished and concentrate power in the State, which runs all the risks mentioned in “There is No Big Brother” by O.G. Rose.
44.1

And yet if we have been deeply hurt like Hecuba, is it not rational to leave society like her? Yes – this points to why ‘being
rational’ isn’t always the same as ‘being best’ (as discussed in “The True isn’t the Rational” by O.G. Rose).
45

Conversation between Bill Moyers and Martha Nussbaum, as can be found here: http://billmoyers.com/content/marthanussbaum/
46

It doesn’t help that our politicians often feed our idealistic tendencies and hide from us the tragedies and trade-offs of life. This
is perhaps the tendency of all politicians in democracies, problematically.
47

For example, Capitalism increasingly makes life more comfortable, characterless, and narcissistic, and tends to turn against the
humanities in favor of the sciences, making us unequipped to handle existential challenges we must be ready for when ‘things fall
apart’. This isn’t to say that the sciences are bad, but that we need the humanities as well.
48

Scruton, Roger. “Is Sex Necessary?”. First Things, December 2014:
http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/12/is-sex-necessary

Additions
1.

Does Capitalism have a tendency to destroy Non-Western cultures? Perhaps – thinkers like Edward Said, author of
Orientalism, has warned that the West can misrepresent other cultures in a manner that aids it in its Imperialistic
tendencies. But I don’t believe Capitalism forces Westerners to destroy Eastern culture; in fact, its socioeconomic
success makes it possible for the West to be ‘open to’ and ‘experience’ the East. Before Capitalism, tourism was must
less available to the everyday person; now, traveling to far off places isn’t limited to the aristocracy. But perhaps
Capitalism ‘practically forces’ the misrepresentation of Non-Western cultures, and hence destroys them through
misrepresentation? Perhaps, but I’m not sure if they would survive under Socialism, which fueled Mao’s Cultural
Revolution.

1.1 Do note that a Randian Libertarian would be against the use of force to destroy foreign cultures – that isn’t Capitalistic
at all. Capitalism entails ‘free change’ and contractual agreements, and when the West forces the marketization of
foreign cultures beyond what they want, the West fails to act Capitalistic. But does Capitalism ‘practically force’ a
destruction of cultural values in favor of marketization? Perhaps.
2.

Like the question of art and culture, does Capitalism ‘practically force’ the destruction or mutation of religion? If
Charles Murray is correct and ‘the majority’ needs religion to be moral (a pointed raised in Coming Apart), and if it is
the case that morality is necessary for freedom, then Capitalism is self-destructive.

3.

As Conservatives can conserve in a totalitarian way, so Liberals can liberate in a way that brings about totalitarianism.

4.

Global Capitalism may gradually force artists, filmmakers, writers, and so on to attend universities for credentials
necessary to be seriously considered by agents, publishers, etc., and this alone may curt the development of art and
culture. I don’t know if we would have Faulkner, for example, if getting published required him to have a degree. In
other words, it is perhaps the case in Capitalism that people come to be required to achieve credentials, and that the
processes by which people achieve credentials to do x are the processes in which people lose the capacities to do x.
Again, I’m especially concerned about this in the arts, for I am of the opinion that the arts tend to consist of
personalities that are crushed under systemization and bureaucracies, often composing accreditation processes. Not
always, but often.

5.

Economically speaking, it makes sense to be a Capitalistic, as culturally it makes sense to be skeptical of Capitalism. At
least in Capitalism people can choose to be cultured, but what if Capitalism if ‘practically forces’ people to lose their
cultural capacities?

6.

Conservatives and Liberals also disagree on what is meant by ‘privilege’; for the Conservative, ‘privilege’ implies only
‘virtual force’, while for the Liberal it implies ‘practical force’, resulting in the two camps having profoundly different
views on the moral obligations of the State.

7.

I personally believe that Capitalism doesn’t essentially change us for the worst, though despite the work of McCloskey,
I do think Capitalism today can influence and/or ‘virtually force’ us to give into our base natures, destroying culture
and hence Capitalism.

8.

I also think the differing views on ‘virtual force’ and ‘practical force’ can help shed light on the disagreements between
Liberals and Conservatives on LGBT issues, and also help explain why Conservatives find these issues often different
from what was suffered by black minorities in the Jim Crow South.

9.

Each day, it becomes increasingly difficult to talk about ‘a thing’ versus ‘a network of things’, though that isn’t to say
‘the thing’ ever truly existed. Likewise, it becomes increasingly difficult to discuss ‘the economy’ versus ‘the
socioeconomic system’, though that isn’t to say ‘the economy’ ever truly existed.

10. When people have freedom, like air, since there isn’t much of a system, freedom can feel absent, while for some
strange reason, perhaps because of contrast, when there is a mixed system, people can feel freer. Then again, perhaps
not.
11. When you are in a mixed market, it is impossible to tell to what degree problem x is a State problem versus a ‘free
market’ problem, which makes it possible for there to be endless debate about what is needed more of to solve x: the
State or the free market. And since a given variable can be (unrealistically) isolated from the whole system, Gödel-esq,
there will always be creative ways to argue one way or another, but that doesn’t mean all the arguments are false.
Anxiously.

12. What is ‘power’? Is it the ability to make people do what you want them to do regardless what they want? It would
seem so, and Foucauldian, it would seem true power would be to make people do x while making them think they want
to do x. If a person is forced by either power or true power, the State has a moral obligation to liberate that person, but
though it might be possible to identify when power is used, how can you tell when a person is forced by ‘true power’ to
do and want x from when a person ‘freely chooses’ to do and want x? If it isn’t possible (which I don’t think it is), we
must learn to live with our ‘(im)morality’. Otherwise, we will pressure the State to stop what attempting to stop will
threaten the freedom of all.
13. The Liberal generally believes more regulation is needed while the Conservative generally believes more freedom is
needed, and so the two sides believe that to solve a problem, more is needed of what the other side believes causes the
problem. It’s almost funny, in the way Kafka is funny.
14. Even if its citizenship fails, a reason the State may struggle to fulfill the moral duties that its people must address is
because government programs lack a ‘market test’, increasing the likelihood of not only error, but large-scale error that
could potentially have systematical consequences. A business is ‘tested’ by the market to determine if it offers actual
value, while a non-profit can be sustained by grants even if it fails such tests. This doesn’t mean every non-profit is a
failure, but it does increase the likelihood for error.
15. Freedom is morally replacing character, I believe, and ‘self-denial’ is increasingly considered ‘good’ only to the degree
a given person wants to ‘self-deny’. This is paradoxical – does Capitalism ‘virtually force’ this change? If so, freedom
internally contradicts, perhaps just like us.
16. Can the State instill virtues in its people as can social institutions that Capitalism ‘practically forces’ into oblivion? If
not and freedom requires virtues, then freedom erodes what it requires.
17. If people are immoral and free, the system will fail.
If people are moral and free, the system will not fail.
If people are immoral and not free, the system will fail.
If people are moral and not free, the fate of the system is not clear.
Does freedom ‘practically force’ immorality?
Does freedom ‘practically force’ morality?
Replace ‘morality’ with ‘cultured’.
18. For the State to make investments within the free market can avoid structurally changing the socioeconomic order to a
mixed market – for example, the State can finance the invention of an alternative energy source within the military (but
not through a private contractor, for then it is picking winners and losers) – but once the State begins trying to stimulate
the economy through tax subsidies, for example, it has begun to mutate the free market into something else. This could
be called ‘public entrepreneurship’, I think, and it could help to create wealth. But how can you identify what State
action entails spending ‘within the free market’ versus ‘structurally changing the free market’? This question isn’t easy
to answer, and if there is no answer, it might be best for the State to stay out of the way altogether – the risk for error is
too great.
19. If it is the case that after the 2008 Financial Crisis the love of culture and creativity is now growing, it could be argued
that Capitalism isn’t inherently contradictory – that it evolves from its mistakes and dialectically grows through
response, evolution, and continuation. And indeed, the emphasis on entrepreneurship has surged since 2008, so perhaps
there is hope for Capitalism. Unless, that is, there are within it ‘too big to fail’-entities, which would (eventually) ruin
the free market, as discussed in “No Exit” by O.G. Rose.
20. If human nature is mostly bad, then whatever in Capitalism individualizes destroys Capitalism. But perhaps ‘human
nature’ is mixed: perhaps one person is good and another bad. The question is then ‘what is the majority?’, and this will
decide the fate of the freedom.
21. Deidre McCloskey argues that dignity is much of why Capitalism is successful: it dignifies work and dignifies the
everyday worker. If she is correct that dignity is a prime reason for the success of Capitalism, than anything that
threatens this dignity, threatens prosperity. If taxes make people feel like their work isn’t appreciated (say because it is
spent inefficiently, provides welfare for people who don’t really need it, etc.), for example, prosperity can be threatened
(and this should be taken into consideration whenever new taxes are proposed). The more dignity feels ‘taken for
granted’, the less meaningful it will become, as the more ‘freedom to speak freely’ is threatened, the less meaningful
will be the ‘freedom of speech’ (as discussed in “The Spectre of McCarthyism” by O.G. Rose). Furthermore, if

McCloskey is correct about the importance of dignity, no third world nation can become prosperous without first work
being made dignified.
It is possible that whenever a State enacts mixed market or State-centered socioeconomic policies, the State inherently
teaches anti-‘bourgeois virtues’, as McCloskey calls them, and if McCloskey is correct about the importance of these
values, State action teaches values that destroy wealth creation. At the same time, if Capitalism tends to incubate
materialism and anti-‘creative values’, per se, then Capitalism also incubates values that will destroy culture and cause
‘the material dialectic’ to self-destruct. Perhaps Capitalism incubates both its life and destruction simultaneously? Such
wouldn’t be surprising in a world where ‘irony is life’.
22. To be good is to have to face a day when goods conflict, and perhaps a way we cope with this reality is to create
hierarchies (perhaps in line with our human nature, as discussed in Homo Hierarchicus by Louis Dumont). By
considering one thing as more important than the other, we can help ourselves cope with the reality of having to
choose.
23. Ironically, because Capitalism is successful, it makes us forget ‘the tragedy of us’, which sets us up to turn against
Capitalism when we – in our freedom, unprepared – are exposed to the reality that facing hardship, pain, etc. is
inescapable. On this line of thought, perhaps a problem with Capitalism isn’t so much that it destroys culture, as it
changes culture to (comforting) entertainment, presenting us with stories that don’t force us to see clearly ‘the Greek
tragedy’ that is human life. And so we are unprepared and primed to turn against our freedom in the name of ‘freedom
from tragedy’, which is freedom from life.
24. Perhaps the self-destructive forces that Capitalism incubates within itself end up stimulating people to be creative,
stopping the self-destruction before it fully occurs? Perhaps as Capitalism destroys culture, it incentives people to be
more cultured, stopping the culture-crisis before it ever fully materializes? Perhaps the nature of culture is to always be
on the verge of collapse, and to hold this against Capitalism is to make Capitalism responsible for the nature of culture?
Perhaps something similar can be said about community, and that as Capitalism destroys community, it incentives
people to recreate it? And perhaps these ‘internal contradictions’ of Capitalism actually drive creativity and communal
reinvention?
That’s all very well and good, but what if Capitalism essentially arises to ‘too big to fail’-entities somewhere along the
way? Then Capitalism is essentially doomed, as discussed in “No Exit” by O.G. Rose.
25. To say ‘Capitalism is corrupt’ is to more so say ‘people are corrupt’, while saying ‘Socialism is corrupt’ is to more so
say ‘government is corrupt’.
26. Perhaps a lack of encounter with, and education about, tragedy has contributed to us lacking an ‘emotional immune
system’ able to handle it (to allude to “The Emotional Immune System” by Adarsh Ramakrishnan and O.G. Rose).
27. Though perhaps Capitalism collapses due to its own contradictions, let us not forget that the Soviet Union did collapse
due to its own contradictions.
28. To allude to “In Defense of Pedophilia” by O.G. Rose, it is perhaps the case that Capitalism ‘practically forces’ a
culture to become based on ‘controversy for controversy’s sake’, along with a collapse of artistic literacy. If so,
Capitalism ‘practicality forces’ a socioeconomic order in which ‘the rational’ becomes the ‘self-destructive’.
29. Is Capitalism the best humanity can do? Perhaps not, but as we change the bathwater, we must be careful not to throw
out the baby.
30. It should be noted that Conservatives generally believe that government can’t be involved in something without the
government becoming a micromanager, even though perhaps the government doesn’t intend to ultimately act this way.
Likewise, Liberals generally believe the market can’t be left unregulated without forming monopolies that are ‘too big
to fail’. Both could be right.
31. The system isn’t all bad, but since it isn’t all good, terrible at nuance and passionate, we will throw it out entirely. Or
we’ll keep it without question.
32. With Capitalism tends to come ‘Capitalization’: the replacement of values with market values, culture with
consumerism, and so on. As Welfare impacts the acts and values of people, so does Capitalism: all systems impact
‘toward-ness’, for good or for bad.

33. As discussed by McCloskey, does Capitalism ‘practically force’ itself to become a system containing a ‘Prudence only’
philosophy?
34. The ideal Capitalism not only provides freedom, but simultaneously educates appetites so that citizens don’t settle with
base consumption. But is this ideal possible? Or does Capitalism ‘practically force’ the corruption of human appetites,
regardless how hard people try to educate appetites for the better?
35. It seems we are all different thinkers looking at different sides of the same ‘tragedy of us’, being only able to circle
what is already a circle.

O.G. Rose
1-25-16