Adam Ash

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Deep Thoughts: in defense of neoliberalism

Commercial Virtue, Romantic Ecstasy
By Francis H. Buckley

My talk today is a defense of market liberalism, which used to be called liberalism tour-court, and now called conservatism or at times neoliberalism.

Curiously, neoliberalism is meant as a term of opprobrium. I had not been aware that the older liberalism of John Stuart Mill and Abraham Lincoln was problematical, but then again, I’ve been out of touch at George Mason.

In any event, I am happy to accept the term, as it invites its own comparison between the antiliberals of today and the past.

It turns out, you see, that everything today’s antiliberal says about free markets was said seventy years ago--and said better--by another group of people, neither Right nor Left, but partisans of the first Third Way.

They studied at Uriage, they drank coffee at Deux Magots, they defined what it meant to be modern.

These were the fascists.

And while they deserve our scorn, they were still in some ways a more attractive lot than the present lot of antiliberals. The older crowd was better educated, wittier, more learned than their modern epigones. They lived better and dressed better.

Their views were loathsome, to be sure. But all the more reason not to forget them.

Will technology dissolve our traditions and culture? Better check in with Martin Heidegger.

Is bourgeois morality vulgar and inauthentic? Lafcadio’s nephew, Drieu la Rochelle, was there first.

Is commercial culture uninspiring and banal? No one said it better than Emanuel Mounier, who thought that you couldn’t beat a great with a weak mystique. I’ll let you guess what the great mystique was.

All this explains why Zeev Sternhell called his study of fascism L’…ternel Retour .

Am I a neoliberal, then? Right. But then what are the antiliberals?

In some circles, that constitutes a knock-down blow. But as an argument, this has three serious flaws.

First, if this were a wholly satisfying response, then Benny Levi would be a serious political philosopher.

Second, provenance apart, the staying power of the antiliberal’s argument provokes our interest. This begins to look like a chronic disease.

Third, there are a good many people who questioned commercial virtue whom we should not wish to concede to the other side: Burke, Wordsworth, Charles Peguy.

We might thus be tempted to make our peace with the antiliberal. And indeed he offers us a bargain, a Faustian bargain.

We are given the social sciences, but at the expense of the humanities. We are permitted to inhabit the world of facts, but not of aspirations, higher morality, or romantic ecstasy.

The conservative dominates economics, and has made a slow march through law and the social sciences. Today econometrics is to the sophisticated political scientist what heraldry was to Sir Walter Scott. “Not know 2SLS. Of what could your father be thinking?”

As a bargain, however, this will not seem particularly tempting. The liberal is permitted to live in a Gradgrind world of facts, at the expense of sacrificing his culture and the qualitative pleasures that alone make life worth living.

This is not what economists call a stable equilibrium, as John Stuart Mill famously discovered.

It is therefore difficult to separate economic and cultural issues into watertight compartments.

The liberal will not wish to concede that his views are culturally challenged, while the antiliberal will identify what he sees as cultural flaws in the economist’s view of the world.

I shall therefore examine two complaints which antiliberals lay at the door of free markets. The first is that free bargaining regimes are self-defeating because they subvert the virtues that sustain them.

The second objection is that contractual institutions will succeed all too well. In the process, however, they will dry up other sources of joy. Getting and spending, we will lose the power to appreciate beauty and the bonds of solidarity which unite us to each other.

Thus far, economists have not joined in this debate. We don’t like arguing with people who have zero opportunity costs. It can get out of hand.

And we don’t like arguing with people who confuse anecdotes with evidence and aspirations with facts.

However, I don’t think economists can duck the debate. We can’t seek to wall ourselves off from the cultural war since the antiliberal argues, not implausibly, that liberal institutions are themselves dependent on our culture.

The Cultural Complementarities of Capitalism

Let me then begin with what Daniel Bell called The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Free markets depend for their survival on bourgeois cultural norms which Bell thought free markets would dissolve.

Bell wrote during the 1970s, a period of real and imaginary energy shortages and economic weakness. However, Bell thought that the real danger was moral and not material, and during the last decade many fin-de-siecle social conservatives shared these concerns.

America is manifestly able to produce the material capital of a wealthy society, but to many it seemed less able to produce the social capital of cooperative behavior and stable families; and, if Bell was right, the decline in social capital might in time threaten material capital as well.

Goldsmith saw it coming, and thought he knew the cause:

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.

The contrast between material and social capital recalls Sallust’s complaint about Rome’s “private wealth and public poverty.”

That tag was formerly employed by liberals such as John Kenneth Galbraith to argue for increased government spending. In the 1990s, however, the concern for public poverty was voiced by conservatives such as Robert Bork and William Bennett to describe a spiritual deficit.

Similarly, it was formerly the liberal who asked us to look at the “root causes of crime,” back when these were thought to be economic. But now that the root causes seem social -- and attributable to the decline in traditional family structures and the weakening of moral norms--we might more profitably seek advice on the causes of crime from social conservatives such as Myron Magnet and James Q. Wilson.

Declinists left and right are nevertheless vague on how free market institutions might have contributed to a social capital deficit. In what follows, then, I shall examine three cardinal commercial virtues which free markets have been thought to subvert: solidarity, prudence, and fortitude.

Solidarity is the virtue of individuals bound together in a strong community and is not a virtue itself so much as a font of virtue.

We learn to be moral through our dealings with others. We are not born virtuous and then corrupted by civilization, as Rousseau thought. Instead, we need others to flourish and attain moral responsibility.

However, free societies are mobile societies, and mobility is not without cost, since it weakens social bonds.

The high divorce rates in the Bible Belt and the high personal bankruptcy rates in the economically dynamic Sunbelt would be puzzling but for the fact that these are high migration states. It’s the Newt Gingriches who get divorced, not the Tip O’Neills. Where one does not know the neighbors, the social stigma of promise-breaking is weak.

Recent scholars have bemoaned the loss in solidarity in America. Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone described an America in which people have stopped participating in clubs and associations and Alan Ehrenhalt’s elegiac Lost City mourned a similar decline in civic participation.

Putnam’s findings have been doubted by empirical scholars. In any event, it is difficult to see how mere expressions of sentiment might ascend to the level of a policy argument. Would we bar exit rights?

We left the past with a sigh, but the psychic cost of staying was always greater than the cost of leaving.

More to the point, such comparisons are inapposite for my purposes. The proper comparison is not between a rooted past and a deracine (le mot de Barres) present, but between commercial and noncommercial societies.

Comparing America circa 1950 to America today won’t tell us much about commercial virtue, as both were commercial societies. The difference was that the earlier society was simply a safer one, and therefore characterized by a greater sense of solidarity.

The 1950s was a time when bored mothers told their children to go out and play. One doesn’t do that anymore and the stock market has nothing to do with it.

We should instead compare America today with, say, France today, or America circa 1950 with France circa 1950.

Certainly the French saw it that way. That was Hugo’s point in Les Miserables, where the vile and grasping Thenardiers are sent off to America at the end of the novel. A fit place for them.

In the last century, Bernanos compared the Anglo-American assault on France to the invasion of Tamburlaine. That was in 1947. France knew something about invasions at the time. But what the Blitzkreig Bernanos had in mind was the Marshall Plan.

Hugo and Bernanos recognized that, relative to France, America was a wealthy society, and thought that Americans were simply more opportunistic. But this has it precisely backwards.

Commercial societies are necessarily trusting societies. It is precapitalist societies--Banfield’s Montegrano--which conspicuously lack trust.

Solidarity is founded upon trust, which is the cement of society. Without trust our friendships would becomes affairs of momentary convenience, on which no plans, no projects for future cooperation, could be formed.

We rely so often upon friends and associates that we often forget we are doing so. We scatter our promises about without paying much attention to what we are doing.

We make seemingly trivial promises--to meet for lunch or to return a call--on whose performance deep friendships depend. And we make unspoken promises that are the foundation of trust: I will take your side; I will not betray you.

Not surprisingly, then, Hugo’s contemporary, Tocqueville, found America to be a profoundly communitarian society, and so it remains. By any objective measure, including club memberships, attendance at religious services, and charitable giving, Americans are joiners.

A naive explanation is that Americans are simply more gregarious than other people. A more plausible explanation is that as members of a highly commercial society, Americans have a greater need for self-protection through club membership than people in a more hierarchical society.

In a hierarchical society, the relationships that count are noncontractual and vertical: lord and vassal, priest and layman. But commercial societies are more egalitarian and the voluntary, horizontal relationships of joint bargainers substitute for hierarchical bonds.

We would therefore expect more, not fewer, private communities in a commercial society such as the United States; and that is just how things have turned out.

I admit that there is a strategic element in American clubs, which operate as efficient trust-building institutions. Is the American sense of solidarity for that reason less valuable than the sense of solidarity one might have in a more hierarchical society?

I do not know.

I do know that, if I had to choose, I should much prefer to be washed up, naked, and friendless on an American than a French shore.

Would it bother me that an element of self-interest might be present in the generosity of the Americans? I think not. I might at least expect to be taken in, and as Jack Nicholson said, “It doesn’t get better than that.”

Turn now to prudence, the second of my foundational commercial virtues. If free markets weakened our willingness to defer present consumption in return for future gain, there might be something to the Bell thesis.

Like Max Weber, Bell thought that capitalism flourished in the arid garden of Puritan virtue. “Sobriety, frugality, sexual restraint and a forbidding attitude to life” might not seem quite the recipe for a joyous life, but Bell nevertheless thought them a good career move for the rising capitalist.

In Weber's day the Protestant virtues seemed firmly entrenched; in 1976 the world looked very different to Bell, who drew what he thought a logical conclusion about capitalism’s impending decline.

Bell thought that market societies produce self-absorbed hedonists who squander their inheritance of bourgeois virtue, and who, like prodigal sons, burn through the wealth of their doting Puritan forebears.

This turned the Marxist critique of capitalism on its head. Marx had predicted that capitalism would be destroyed by its economic failure; but Bell predicted it would be destroyed by its success.

But just how would this happen? Bell lay the blame on a new device which had arisen to corrupt the prudent saver: installment sales. Easy sales credit persuaded people to buy goods they could ill afford, mortgaging their future earnings in the process.

What this gave us, said Bell, was hedonism, a “world of fashion, photography, advertising, television, travel . . . a world of make-believe in which one lives for expectations, for what will come rather than what is. And it must come without effort.”

All this from a Land's End catalogue. Heaven knows what Bell would have said about Victoria’s Secret. Or the weekly credit card in the mail.

Several kinds of mistakes seem to be going on here. Firstly, the pursuit of pleasure does not threaten free markets. Indeed, no one needs markets more than the hedonist, for they supply him with his pleasures.

Secondly, the hedonist has a robust incentive to save to fund his future consumption. The true modernist is not a surfer, but a litigator who dockets 3,000 hours a year and whose spouse works similar hours as a tax lawyer.

As an empirical prediction, Bell had it exactly wrong. People in First World countries work harder than those in backward countries, and people in the United States work hardest of all.

Thirdly, if personal debt loads threatened free markets, the problem might be cured by eliminating the fresh start of the American Bankruptcy Code. High debt levels in America are a rational response to Chapter 7, the world’s most forgiving personal bankruptcy law.

Finally, the optimal debt-equity ratio is not zero. Eliminating all debt would sacrifice the tax incentives to personal leverage, through home mortgage deductibility as well as the ways in which debt can be employed to finance investments in human capital.

In sum, if people outside the U.S. borrow less than Americans, it’s not because they’re more prudent: it’s because they’re poorer.

The third indispensable virtue is fortitude.

We shape our institutions and then our institutions shape us. Every age has its own forms of economic production, which in turn elicit a different set of virtues.

The virtues of a precapitalist society, where advancement came from war and conquest, were those of the soldier. In a commercial age, however, the heroic virtues are less prized than the bourgeois virtues of Montesquieu’s doux commerce.

It is almost a general rule that wherever the ways of man are gentle there is commerce, and wherever there is commerce, there the ways of man are gentle.

Adam Smith and Benjamin Constant had similar things to say about the commerant’s pacific nature. In our time, this has given us Tom Friedman’s “McDonalds” rule: no two countries with a McDonalds in each have ever gone to war with each other.

However, the pacific virtues are self-defeating if commercial societies lack the courage to defend themselves, as Joseph Schumpeter suggested in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.

Schumpeter’s pessimism was curious, since he is best-known for his trenchant rejection of the Marxist argument that capitalism is self-defeating. Marx thought that free markets would result in monopoly capitalism, with greater and greater industrial concentration, until big corporations dominated our lives and we lost our freedom.

Nonsense, said Shumpeter. Look at the world of business and what one notices is the “creative destruction” of capitalism. Old firms die and new firms replace them.

However, Schumpeter was a declinist who thought that capitalism was self-defeating in another way, with commercial societies unable to resist military threats from authoritarian ones.

With the benefit of hindsight, these fears now seem absurd. The Second World War and the Cold War have proven that capitalist societies can resist foreign threats. In part, this is because of the technological edge of the military in wealthy, free-market societies.

In addition, a nation of shopkeepers may possess pluck and courage in abundance, as Britain and America have proven again and again.

The most successful military states, as it turns out, are precisely those in which doux commerce has most strongly taken hold.

Since the collapse of communism, we live in a unipolar world, where the chief commercial society enjoys a military dominance without parallel in world history. Schumpeter’s declinist predictions could not have been more wrong.

In sum, history has not been kind to the argument that free markets are self-defeating. Social conservatives might possibly be right about the general decline in moral norms, but as for the economic virtues that support business, there’s no arguing with success.

With greater solidarity, prudence, and fortitude, the antiliberal might thus display more respect for commercial societies.

With a greater sense of solidarity, he might display less contempt for the shopkeepers, accountants and housewives in the ‘burbs.

With more prudence, he might be less quick to condemn market processes which have made our lives--and his, too--vastly more pleasant.

Finally, with more fortitude, the antilberal might be less ready to whine at the awfulness of life in America.

The Romantic Objection

This is not the end of it, for free marketers must meet a further objection in which markets succeed all too well. In the process, however, they dry up other sources of joy.

In getting and spending, we deaden our hearts to the confusing mixture of inner experience, nostalgia for the past, religious mystery, and aesthetic pleasure that constitutes the Romantic tradition.

Eighteenth-century Enlightenment figures such as Hume, Voltaire, and Smith had celebrated commercial virtue, material progress, and the triumph of reason over superstition.

What followed was a Romantic reaction, led by such nineteenth-century figures as Wordsworth, Chateaubriand, and Schiller, who rejected the Enlightenment’s orderliness, materialism, and rationalism.

The tension between the two traditions continues to this day, and many modern thinkers can fairly be placed within one camp or the other.

Nous ne sommes pas finis avec le dix-neuvieme siecle --or with the eighteenth either.

The list of those who embrace the Romantic tradition is long and varied.

On the right, it includes Charles Maurras, Martin Heidegger, Leo Strauss, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn;
on the left, it includes Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Roberto Unger;
and then there are those who cannot be easily pigeonholed in either camp: Alasdair Macintyre, George Grant, and Christopher Lasch.

The Romantic objection was also voiced by the aesthetes, with their eclectic mixture of modernism and nostalgia. Theophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, John Ruskin, and Matthew Arnold all saw markets as a poison which deadens the soul to deeper joys and as an antidote proposed an aesthetic sensibility where play and art might flourish.

On one thing they all agreed, Mounier, Bernanos, Sartre: if the realm of commercial degradation had a name, if it had a place, then the name and the place was America.

Is America then deprived of the authentic volkish joys of the more rooted countries of Europe? Let us see.

The Romantic objection assumes that markets impose negative moral externalities by obscuring our sense of the sacred and coarsening our society.

The first way in which this might happen is by diverting attention from spiritual to material matters, which was the point of the story of the rich young man who wanted to be perfect in Saint Matthew’s Gospel.

The Romantics were not always religious; but some were, and many were and people like Chateaubriand, Coleridge, and Hugo, and had an anti-antireligious fascination with the hidden, the mysterious, and the sacred.

For their part, the Enlightenment’s religious skeptics saw a similar link between material wealth and spiritual poverty, and drew the opposite conclusion.

“Go into the London Stock Exchange,” said Voltaire,

“and there you’ll see representatives from all nations assembled for the utility of mankind. There the Jew, the Mohammedan, and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion, and give the name of infidel only to those who go bankrupt.”

Before the temple of Mammon, every enthusiasm that might have inflamed the passions had dissolved into benign indifference.

There was an established religion, of course, but what delighted Voltaire was that no one seemed to take it seriously. Voltaire had seen the future, and it worked.

What must be remembered, however, is that we are comparing societies, not individuals.

The question is not whether an accountant is more spiritual than an anchorite, but whether commercial societies are less religious than noncommercial ones.

The United States will then seem a curious counter-example, since it is both the most commercial and the most religious country in the developed world. By any measure, including church attendance rates and opinion polls, religious sentiments are far weaker in European countries which pride themselves on their difference from a materialist America.

If the objection from religion amounts to a prediction about how people behave, it is unpersuasive; and if it does not, there is little reason to pay much attention to it, since the inner experience of religion is veiled to human eyes.

There are all kinds of religion, of course. Talleyrand mocked the United States as a country with thirty-two religions and one dish at meals.

Believers will not find every religion equally sensible--not if they’re true believers, in any event.

There are religions of great antiquity and religions invented last Wednesday in California; there are religions that value high art and iconoclastic religions; and there are religions of perpetual responsibility and of cheap grace.

I once heard a radio preacher ask for a show of hands from everyone in the audience who was “saved.” That sets the bar rather low, in my view. But I don’t question that these are all religions, whether for the radio preacher’s justified sinners or for the unjustified saints of Charles Peguy and Graham Greene.

Turn now to the second form the Romantic objection might take, that commercial virtues transform us into utilitarian calculators who barter sentiment for efficiency and joy for wealth.

The intuition that a transcendent reality underlies ordinary experience--which Christians express through the Incarnation and Romantics though their awe of nature--is lost when the spirit is no longer made of flesh and the world is no longer sacred or magical.

The world of wonders recedes and Weber’s world of disenchantment (entzauberung) takes its place.

Here is how one person, that improbable hippie Heidegger, resisted the call to material advancement:

I recently received a second invitation from the University of Berlin. I left my town and retreated to my cabin. I listened to the voice of the mountain, the forests and the fields. On my path I met my old friend, a 75-year-old peasant. He learned of the invitation from a newspaper. What would he say? He faced me, calmly, he clear and unclouded eyes before me. He put his faithful and prudent hand on my shoulder, and in an almost imperceptible way shook his head. Which meant: “Absolutely not.”

The Black Forest for Heidegger, the Lorraine for Barres, the rooted past, Mounier’s “authentic spiritual elan” of the fascists all ranged against the ravages of a joyless bourgeois modernity.

The Romantic complaint was strikingly made by D. H. Lawrence in a comment on that paragon of commercial virtue, Benjamin Franklin. “Rarely use venery,” advised Franklin. But the point, said Lawrence, is that one should never use venery.

The commerant is wonderfully able to extract a contractual surplus; he is “calculating and daring at the same time, above all temperate and reliable, shrewd and devoted to [his] business.” But withal something still is lacking, said Weber, if successful businessmen are “specialists without spirit” and “sensualists without heart.”

Markets permit us to achieve happiness by satisfying our preferences. But happiness might seem an unworthy goal, when compared to Holderlin’s ecstatic sense of a god-filled world, or the solemnity and formality of Racine’s tragic drama.

Happiness is a suitable goal for those who are content with a quotidian life, slouched before the television set.

Happiness is the stuff of sensible policy suggestions and worthwhile Canadian initiatives. It does not begin to describe the goal of a complete life, with its passions and joys.

The quest for happiness is even a little banal when compared to the other goods of this world, and like Paul-Jean Toulet, we might wish to guard against an easeful contentment.”

Quand l’ombre est rouge, sous les roses,
Et clair le temps,
Prends garde ‡ la douceur des choses.

I feel sorry for you, wrote Baudelaire to a critic, that you are so easily made happy.

But does this amount to a telling criticism of commercial societies? There are at least three reasons to think that it doesn’t.

First, the antiliberal tries to have it both ways, portraying commercial man as seeking both too much and too little pleasure. Sometimes it is hard to keep it all straight. Is he Sombart’s joyless drudge or Bell’s giddy hedonist? Is he a thin-lipped Puritan or a leering sensualist, an efficient planner or a debt-ridden consumer, a calculating miser or a compulsive spender?

He cannot be all of these things; and if one is as plausible as the other, then none are plausible. The antiliberal’s complaints are long on rhetoric but short on analysis or evidence.

Second, our experience with states that sought to define themselves through joy or beauty is not one many of us would like to see repeated.

Senator Clinton thought we lacked something and offered us a politics of meaning.

More chilling still is a politics of joy or of beauty.

The first self-conscious attempt to transcend liberal democracy with a “politics of beauty” was Gabriele D’Annunzio’s city of Fiume, which became the model for the aestheticized politics of Fascism and Nazism.

What the fascist state offered, said one of its admirers, was an experience of joy entirely missing from the old parliamentary democracies it supplanted:

The young fascist in his camp, amongst his peace comrades (who could be his war comrades), the young fascist who sings, who marches, who works, who dreams, is first of all a joyous being.

This from Robert Brasillach in 1939, six years before he was executed for collaboration with the Germans.

Such views belong in a political bestiary, or in Mel Brooks’s The Producers.

Third, there is no reason to think that the pursuit of happiness closes off avenues of joy. No one ever suggested that because bargaining permits us to satisfy our preferences, we should bargain till we drop. No time for friendship, music, poetry--just bargain, bargain, bargain.

That would be every bit as foolish as a ceaseless search for joyous experience, like Walter Pater’s invocation in The Renaissance “to burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy.” Joy is too ephemeral to be grasped in that manner.

We will bargain, to be sure. We will shop, we will consume. But we will also maintain a purely private space for the personal experiences of love and beauty and all of the numberless occasions of private joy and laughter.

We are not required to subscribe to a moral or political theory that makes us personally miserable. Instead, like Mill, we are asked to seek a fusion between rationalism and romanticism, between the public realm of sensible rules and institutions and the private realm of joy that alone makes life worthwhile.

It is mischievous and silly to suggest that in choosing one we must reject the other.

The antiliberal’s critique of commercial societies is therefore unpersuasive if it cannot explain why people would choose to live a joyless life. Why couldn’t they move or (like the 1970s drop-out) stop to smell the flowers?

That was what Franklin did, after all. After he made his bundle, he retired from business to devote himself to the things in which he took delight: intellectual conversation, literature, science, and the service of his country.

He was anything but a Puritan, and his ability to savor the Ancien Regime’s douceur de vie shocked the prim John Adams. If Franklin’s rules for life were sensible, they were wise for that reason.

With less arrogance, we might then find less to condemn in commercial societies. The dull commerant might be a faithful husband and honest friend, and these virtues--though grudged at by the aesthete--are reverenced the while.

The salesman is also an adventurer, who in a day might navigate past dangerous shoals and experience his own epiphanies, the epiphanies of everyday life, like Ulysses’s Leopold Bloom.

He must be open to possibilities, confident in the future. In periods of extreme tension, as after 9-11, there is even something heroic about his consumerism.

Nietzsche thought that a thirst for justice masked a burning resentment. And while that is not always the case, the demand for justice often seems a permission slip for the expression of anger.

Similarly, the antiliberal who preens over his organic foods, who sneers at the slobs in the burbs, who derides the inauthentic life, writes out a permission slip for his narcissism. Surely the consumer’s heroic materialism is more ethically appealing.

In sum, the cultural objections to markets are unpersuasive. Commercial societies are much more robust than antiliberals give them credit.

Schumpeter and Bell correctly noted that the strength of free markets depends on a general acceptance of underlying social norms. Where they went wrong was in thinking that these norms are subverted by free markets. All of the evidence points in the other direction.

Nor is the Romantic objection much stronger. This is not to minimize the concern for the wounds of modernism or the need for a revival of humanist traditions. Yet when one considers how markets permit individuals to flourish, how it promotes virtue, and how it maintains the arts, it is not too much to claim that consumerism is a humanism, too.

I quoted Goldsmith’s Deserted Village a moment ago. Let me close by quoting from another Oliver Goldsmith, a distant relative of Johnson’s friend. This Oliver Goldsmith was of loyalist stock in New Brunswick, and wrote a response poem called The Rising Village, which celebrated the country made by the emigres from Sweet Auburn.

The younger Goldsmith was a vastly more practical chap than his namesake, however, for if the older poem bemoaned Irish emigration to Canada, the newer one celebrated the Irish immigrant’s Canadian capitalism.

The wand'ring Pedlar, who undaunted trac'd
His lonely footsteps o'er the silent waste;

Establish'd here, his settled home maintains,
And soon a merchant's higher title gains.

Around his store on spacious shelves array'd,
Behold his great and various stock in trade.

Here, nails and blankets, side by side, are seen,
There, horses' collars, and a large tureen;

Buttons and tumblers, codhooks, spoons and knives,
Shawls for young damsels, flannels for old wives;

Woolcards and stockings, hats for men and boys,
Mill-saws and fenders, silks, and infants' toys;

All useful things, and join'd with many more,
Compose the well assorted country store.

(Francis H. Buckley is an associate dean at the George Mason School of Law and executive director of the George Mason Law and Economics Center.)


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