Lord Keynes has a great post on the recent election in Ireland, and it looks like the Irish are definitely rejecting the austerity straitjacket. However, there are still plots afoot to impose austerity on other parts of Europe and the United States. The United States has already experienced a kind of “stealth austerity” at the local and state levels, but it can still get much, much worse, especially if the most “conservative” Republicans get their way.
The reality of austerity, including the destruction of livelihoods, the forced emigration, and especially the toll austerity takes on family formation among the young, makes one wonder about the state of modern conservatism. Conservatives are always complaining about low birth rates and the decline of marriage in the West, but one look at Latvia, the austerity poster child and the neoliberal model that we are all supposed to follow, and we can see that the reality is very different. Indeed, more and more I am convinced that what John Kenneth Galbraith said about modern conservatism is definitely true: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
Older forms of conservatism, whether the British tradition of Edmund Burke or the Continental tradition represented by Joseph de Maistre and others, had the benefit of being about more than just fighting for the most powerful capitalists in society. Indeed, many traditionalist conservatives, such as the Vicomte de Bonald, were very much opposed to capitalism as it was seen as a kind of anti-conservative, revolutionary force. To be sure, the traditionalist conservatives had their faults, certainly, but at least they held onto some principles that can be translated into support for the common people and opposition to turbo-capitalism. How can you really support the Throne and the Altar when you worship at the stock exchange and bow before the throne of Mammon?