8/29/2019

Note to Conservatives: Burke Believed in Trade Liberalization

"Some of today’s deepest conservative divides revolve around economics. The Burke admirers who have reservations about market economies have always had to consider that his most detailed treatment of economics, his Thoughts and Details on Scarcity memorandum of 1795, robustly defends what we would call “market liberalism.”

Some view this text as out of step with Burke’s general philosophy. They regard the memorandum’s forceful appeals to economic logic and the laws of nature and God as contradicting the philosopher/statesman’s oft-expressed suspicion of abstraction and his accent on prudence and consciousness of circumstances.

Deeper immersion in Burke’s thought and practice, however, indicates that a commitment to the extension of commercial freedom is part and parcel of the regime of ordered liberty which he spent his life promoting and then defending. It’s often forgotten that Burke—who was, after all, a Whig—was as much concerned with improvement and reform as he was with emphasizing tradition’s importance. To be sure, his case for the market is not that of a utilitarian, let alone a contemporary laissez-faire globalist. But it is consistent with the particular brand of thought developed by Burke."