Socially Liberal, Fiscally Liberal
Yet something about economists’ unwavering optimism seems to offend the progressive sensibilities. Several Democratic presidential hopefuls, including California Senator Kamala D. Harris, Massachusetts Senator and Law School Professor emeritus Elizabeth A. Warren, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, have already made fixing the economy a keystone issue — adding to a raucous chorus of new progressive voices in Congress that are raising concerns about subsistence wages and what they consider the growing ranks of working poor. There’s also something unsettling, as the conservative British author Tim Montgomerie once put it, about the amorality of the capitalist marketplace in general. Something about divorcing economics from civic or moral judgment naturally unsettles us.
Abraham Lincoln famously wrote, in a moment of great moral fortitude, that by “giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.”
I wasn’t all that disheartened a week ago Tuesday when I learned that Charlie D. Baker ’79 had won reelection as Governor of Massachusetts.
It was strange watching a Republican president criticize the Federal Reserve for its latest interest rate hike (the Board of Governors voted to raise the rate by a quarter-percent to 2.25). Gone were the days of a laissez-faire GOP lauding small government and market efficiency (though I already suspected this). The thought that government might exit the money market was now a “crazy” idea — a “mistake.”
By socialism, I mean government intervention on a small scale. Think Alaska’s Permanent Fund, which draws revenues from oil companies to distribute an annual monetary stipend to state residents. That model is overwhelmingly supported by Alaskans and has shown sustainable growth over its five-decade lifespan (in addition to spillover economic benefits). It’s also smarter than the average wealth transfer, taking into account fund size, growth, and government spending needs in its calculation of dividend amount. If this is socialism, it’s socialism with an economic conscience.