11/28/2019

Burke’s Political Economy Reconsidered

"Burke held that the incentive structure of voluntary contracts and the wizardry of the competitive price system tend to promote a synthesis of interest between transacting parties, specifically in the domestic economy. He displayed a heightened level of sympathy toward market exchange that contemporary conservatives such as Patrick Deneen, Patrick Buchanan, R.R. Reno, and Claes Ryn do not, and defended middlemen with a vigor that is typically communicated in contemporary libertarian circles.


We must be careful, however, in using Burke as a prop to rationalize pro- or anti-economic liberty arguments today. For his economic thought draws attention to prevailing tensions between conservatism and classical liberalism, such as those discussed by Yoram Hazony, that illuminate varying conceptions of the importance of market freedom in the promotion of human flourishing. Although the distinctions between the two intellectual traditions are threaded with too fine a needle at times, they do reflect key differences between Burke’s embrace of commercial exchange and other proponents of market liberty and contractarian social thinking in the early modern period. Unlike the latter thinkers during this time, and many classical liberals and libertarians today, he did not conceive of man as an individual who entered civil society merely to preserve his natural rights to liberty and property; nor as a mere instrument for the maximization of utility; nor as a someone whose moral commitments extended only to the fulfillment of the terms of voluntary contracts"