aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

The problem with conservatives

One of the problems that conservatives have is how we come off when promoting economic freedom. Many conservative candidates get a real glow on when talking about the entrepreneurial spirit. They resemble nothing so much as a bunch of Jaycees giving their "Wonder of Capitalism" speech. Now, everything they say is right and true, but there are still too problems with it.

First, my eyes glaze over when I hear it (and I'm not alone). I find it hard to pay attention to this stuff, even when it's in my own best interest -- even when it's my own retirement numbers I'm looking at. There are so many other things I am more interested in. And, yeah, I know this is more important in the long run, but, well, for all the time the speech is going on, I keep asking, silently, Are we done yet? Please?

The second problem with the "Wonder of Capitalism" speech is that if it doesn't bore you, it scares the bejeezus out of you. I'm sure the person giving the speech seems himself as a bold buccaneer, a super-hero, even as James Bond. He gets off on taking risks and claiming the rewards thereof. I like to see myself that way, too, occasionally, but I am actually very risk-averse. It sounds great to say we're going to set you free to make a better retirement than the government can give you; but I don't wanna. I don't want my boredom or my lack of skill to lead me into making a mistake whereby I have to eat beans for the rest of my life in a dirt-floor hovel.

Now keep in mind, I'm plenty smart. If there were no alternatives, I could manage my own money so as to make it last to my final days. But I have other things I want to do besides grub for money my whole working life, all the while worrying about ending up poor. What I want to do is hire you to handle my money for me so that I don't wind up that way. And I want some guarantees about how you'll handle said money so that I don't get wiped out along the way because you turned out to be a bozo or a crook. Is that too much to ask?

Meanwhile, the liberals come along peddling their snake oil. Their elixir promises to take care of you, to relieve you of worry, to make sure nobody winds up poor, etc. It's all very soothing. It's also a total crock, built upon pixie dust and administered in a corrupt fashion, but you can understand why people buy it. As long as they vote for the libs, they don't have to pay attention to the numbers and they don't have to worry about risk. They will be betrayed by their trust in the end, but until the crash comes, they will think everything's okay.

For conservatives to win the public debate, they have to quit assuming that everyone they're talking to is just dying to be a Board Room Buccaneer. What they need to be telling the risk-averse is that capitalism is about managing risk, not enjoying it.

Capitalists invented insurance, for instance. It started with merchants engaged in overseas commerce. You put your goods on a ship and sent it off for months or years at a time, hoping that the storms didn't sink the ship (and all your goods with it), that pirates didn't steal ship (and goods), that you actually sold enough to make a profit. And remember, your total outlay was all up front. A loss is a loss whole and irretrievable; you can't even start over, because your entire capital is tied up in the physical goods on that physical ship. So merchants would band together and pay into a fund a percentage of what they were risking, based upon the rate of loss that experience showed. One ship out of twenty sinks? One other is captured by pirates? That's two out of twenty, or ten percent of all shipping. If we all put ten percent in the pot, there'll be enough to compensate anybody who loses on the voyage and all of us can sleep at night.

Insurance went from covering shipping to houses to people's lives and health to crops in the field. Anything that we can establish a rate of loss on means we can establish a cost to insure that relieves people of worry. Even the join stock company (the "corporation" so derided by Democrats) was founded as a means of pooling risk -- and profit. Money-lending, estate management, and all the other practices of modern banking were invented to help people save or make money without having to play Scrooge McDuck.

Capitalism answers the concerns of those who vote for liberals' snake oil better than socialism can -- but you have to address those concerns and not talk to them as of it they were all stockbrokers. When you do that, you wind up talking past them and they go buy the snake oil because even if they know it's poison, it's the only product advertised for their condition.

Economic freedom doesn't mean throwing granny off the cliff. Economic freedom means we can keep granny more secure than those who scare her by constantly talking about the cliff and who view the grannies who do go over the edge even though they bought what the liberals were selling as simply more evidence of the perfidy of conservatives.

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