Economy without the Human Element

In today’s frenetic globalism, the rusty steel girders of the industrial age have now become barriers themselves and are being hurled down and scrapped.  From the ruins of our rust belts, fiber optics cables are spinning the web of a new networked global society radically different from our own.

Such advances break down not local but national trade, political and economic barriers and create ever bigger global networks and structures. At the same time, the cables that connect also bind since all are tethered to these giant networks and are subject to their rules.

Thus, we see the framework of a global economy being built where huge markets are opened, but the regulations of new supranational structures impose themselves upon the nations as can be seen in global trade rules, monetary unions or even the Kyoto protocols.

Likewise, the same technologies that supposedly empower the individual to pursue his own happiness, also power the massive databases of intrusive government that pry into the private lives of individuals, record his every movement and monitor the operation of markets.

But the most destructive part of this new transformation is the force by which it sweeps aside those remaining national institutions that could serve to temper frenetic intemperance.  Even the most optimistic promoters of flattening all barriers are forced to admit the disruptive challenges that threaten the “particular cultures, values, national identities, democratic traditions, and bonds of restraint that have historically
provided some protection and cushioning for workers and communities.”

To the extent that these barriers are torn down, they erode that human element, which does not fit into the fast-paced sterile environments of vast networks.  It is what Russell Kirk referred to as the “permanent things,” those norms of courage, duty, courtesy, justice, and charity that owe their existence and authority to a power higher than the markets—indeed to a transcendent God.

In making these observations, we are not criticizing technology, the free market or innovative change.  Rather we are targeting the frenetic force by which modern technology aided by the State has effected massive changes at the expense of that essential human element that protects the individual.

If we do not react, by the same dynamism and logic with which unrestrained industrialism destroyed the pre-industrial order, the present order will destroy its own substratum—and what little is left of Christian civilization.