Once upon a time, a certain friend of mine, a sweet and caring person, informed me that she was moving in with her boyfriend. This surprised me, as I found her to be a Romantic soul, and more prone to pursuing the unshackled enterprise of marriage than the timid and unpoetical modern invention of cohabitation (which, as far as I can tell, is nothing but concubinage, excepting the pity generally given to the concubine).
I had learned at a young age that fairy stories and old movies generally end with marriage, and not with an uncommitted, “Well, let’s see…” So I determined marriage was superior to cohabitation. With this bias in mind, I asked my friend, “Why?” She responded that their relationship was becoming serious, and they wanted to see if things would work out well between them if they someday married. It was a “trial period,” and a sort of “test-drive” for the two of them. I will put aside for now that it seems entirely out of keeping with the feminist movement for a woman to allow herself to be “test-driven.” For now it is enough to mention a certain thought that occurred to me following this conversation.
Capitalism is a system for fulfilling what people think they need. To put it simply, it asks people what they want, how much they are willing to pay for it, and attempts, if the price is right, to fulfill that desire. It is a thing of supply and demand—or, perhaps more accurately, a thing of demand and supply, for after all, “The customer is always right.” Whatever one wants, another will attempt to supply, and if the latter does not supply it adequately, or if another supplier arises who can supply the good more effectively or pleasurably, it is a customer’s right to forsake the first supplier for the second. Capitalism is a thing of utter self-interest, for in it, the consumer demands the satisfaction of his desires, and producers attempt to get rich granting even their silliest wishes.
Capitalism Abroad, Love at Home
The conservative has generally been considered the major proponent of the capitalist system (if it may even be called a system) and rightly so. But this is only somewhat true, for the conservative is also the most belligerent opponent of capitalism. To him, capitalism is much like keeping a pet crow: It makes for great amusement and pleasure as long as it is kept in its cage, but if allowed to fly about, it is nothing but destructive.
The cage I mean is the market. In the market, capitalism is a great advantage to mankind, not so much because it greatly increases people’s particular wealth (although it surely does), but because it makes it possible to sell 14 different brands of Vienna sausage, all tuned to a customer’s various whims and moods on any given day. When interacting in the market, a conservative is glad to make demands, heartlessly choose and change suppliers, “take his business elsewhere,” tip badly, and in nearly every regard be entirely selfish.
When he returns home, to his family, friends, or work, however, he must quit the game. Such hedonistic self-interest must vanish from his mind; and in its place, a network of duties, loyalties, and obligations, springing from love, need dominate. For the conservative, there is no place for supply and demand or self-interest the second he leaves the supermarket or used-car lot. It does not matter if he is a “satisfied customer” in his marriage or family. In fact, it is blasphemous and irreverent to think of him as a kind of consumer at all in such arrangements, for marriage does not exist to please him, but he to please a marriage. Neither does he exist to enjoy his friends, but rather that he might be enjoyed by them. The second such capitalistic notions of customer satisfaction escape the market’s cage and flutter around the sacred realms of human society, everything beautiful in life is immediately reduced to an exercise in greed.
The Liberal: A Capitalist Zealot
The liberal stands in contrast to this. In fact, I find the liberal to be the most fanatical capitalist. However, he is a capitalist of a curious sort, for he applies the capitalist system everywhere and to everything in his life save the marketplace, where he issues forth cries for fairness, equality, and magnanimity. The liberal is much like a young bachelor who uses duct tape to make picture frames, form his wallets, cover holes in his jeans, protect books, and craft silvery adhesive roses, yet is baffled about what to do when he notices that a pipe seems to be dripping. Those like him have abandoned the “natural use” of capitalism “for the unnatural” and so have received for themselves “the recompense of their error.”
The example first cited in this article exemplifies this capitalist zealotry. There was a time when people merely fell in love, and, in a moment of abandon, committed themselves eternally to one another. Now, in these more enlightened times, people think of their partners as a means to fulfilling their emotional needs, that is, a supply for their demand. In the same way that businesses give customers a money-back guarantee when it could be difficult to determine if a given piece of furniture fits in your living room or a given tool fits your carpentry project, so now cohabitation is a sort of money-back offer, except that the merchandise is a person.
And what if people do choose to commit in accordance with the ancient dictums by marrying their beaus? They are told that, if their spouse does not “satisfy their needs” they should first call the repair-man and check for defects (I speak of therapy), and if the spouse turns out to be defective, he should be quickly thrown away, and the market scoured for a new one. Such is the underlying thinking of no-fault divorce. That “he is just not giving me what I need” constitutes grounds for terminating a marriage in the eyes of many proves that, to the average liberal, a spouse, just like a television, is a product one buys.
For Sale: Social Institutions, All Kinds
Recently, an online commenter touted the various new “models of marriage” for satisfying the desires of indecisive millennials, who find the old strictures of love and devotion (those things about which men used to write so many poems and novels) much too constricting upon their pursuit of self-satisfaction. I do not wish to say anything rude about the person who wrote this, but it is obvious she understands marriage merely as a societal commodity thought up to satisfy some demand, and believes that new demands require new commodities.
Often, you get the feeling that liberals believe all societal institutions to have arisen in the same manner as a new line of shampoo; as they explain it, marriage, sexuality, gender identity, religion, “family structures,” and the like were all developed by an antiquated marketing board to be foisted on the public in the next business cycle. Since such institutions are arbitrary, and suited to the “needs of a time” at best, we can displace them, or at least supplement them with new products for new needs.
Much of the modern gay-marriage debate seems to center around these same leftist capitalist convictions. Marriage, it is said, was an institution the government offered heterosexual couples to augment the pleasure of their mutual love. However, in these last days, they say there are other, non-heterosexual forms of love, and therefore demand new varieties of marriage to accommodate their desires.
Love Bears All Things
The same can be said of that most sacred estate of friendship. I recently read an article entitled, “When old friends stop being good friends.” In it, I came across the following line: “But what about when the effort is no longer producing a relationship that is nourishing or pleasurable — when our old friend is no longer someone we like to be around? Ultimately it should feel good to be around our friends, at least at some level. It certainly should not feel bad. After all, friends are people we choose to include in our life. When it feels bad much of the time, we need to make a change.”
A friendship, we find out from the author, is to pleasure and nourish us. We make friends to acquire the feelings we desire. When a friendship ceases to be so, it should terminated. Dead in the author’s mind is the rhetorician’s old axiom that “friendship is a second self” wherein, when one dies, “He enjoys a second life after his own is finished.” And even deeper in the grave do we find the words, “Love bears all things.”
I would go on to speak of this same phenomena as it is found in the Left’s understanding of the place of the Church, but word count restrains me. Let it be enough for you to meditate upon the meaning of those commonly heard words: “Religion needs to change with the times.”
Those on the Right are entirely wrong when they speak of liberals as being anti-capitalist or against free markets. It is better to say they favor capitalism and free markets, just not in commerce.