One must surely grant the importance of largeness in the free enterprise system—for diffusion of risk, accumulation of venture capital, and economies of scale. But I cannot see how liberty is best preserved in the implacable swallowing up of small, autonomous firms into vast bureaucratic corporations. I cannot see the sanity in preferring the huge and cumbersome to the small, local, and independent. I cannot see much to admire in that consolidation which allows a single corporation to own 40 newspapers or 200 banks. It is often remarked, both anecdotally and more systematically, that the corporate psychology vitiates innovation and vigor; that it bureaucratizes and thereby weakens considerably the creative human impulses. Like any bureaucracy, the corporation can regularly mean the promotion of agreeable fecklessness, the rewarding of failure, and the punishment of independent enterprise. We are foolish, as defenders of liberty, if we reflexively defend the corporate economy, or if we willfully ignore the tension that sometimes exists between the corporatist ethic and the spirit of ownership.

Someone will surely reply that I am mistaken in my economics. But they have missed the point. Economics answers to its master: mankind. It is precisely backwards to let economics dictate our principles—for economics is a tool, just like any other applied discipline. Economics cannot tell us our vision of the good life any more than biology can tell us why human life is sacred, or chemistry why a glass of beer after a hard day’s work is such a great pleasure, or physics why men look to the heavens with such awe. Economics can surely aid us in our efforts to achieve the good life, but it cannot, of its own devices, articulate the good life. The reign of economics as a kind of totem is the sign of a servile people. ~Paul J. Cella, The New Atlantis

Mr. Cella has said all of this very well, and I have little that can add to it. This captures concisely what I have attempted to explain when stating that when conservatives make economic arguments we are making first and foremost moral arguments, arguments concerning the common good and how men may best flourish. This is the case whether the arguments concern free trade generally (be it genuine laissez-faire or globalist and bureaucratic), the role of multinationals in de-industrialising the country or the terrible homogenising, dehumanising and atomising effects of a corporate, service economy.

Very few people are protectionists or hostile to bureaucratic free trade regimes because they believe that “the economy” will necessarily “grow” more under such an alternative regime. Few have pretended that it would–the point is to develop and secure domestic industry. They hold these views because they wish that there might still be American factories and manufacturers producing their own goods, to both reduce dependence on foreign products and provide sustainable and stable employment in this country. They take these views on the assumption that greater economic self-reliance is as essential to political independence as personal economic independence is to personal liberty and also that service-sector work is the least permanent, least productive, least fulfilling and least human kind of work.

When our measure of the good is a strictly economic one, that of efficiency, growth or profit, then we have agreed to sacrifice all those intangible or immeasurable goods that pertain to life in a genuine community for those goals. A society that determines the common good in terms of efficiency has already deemed all claims of obligation, loyalty and personal attachment to be irrational and irrelevant, things to be swept aside in the dispensation of “creative destruction.” When we determine the national interest principally by an abstract growth rate, and not by the sustainability and relative self-sufficiency of the nation, we have abandoned our political loyalties and duties as if we, too, were rootless multinationals. Unlike a multinational, however, we have no excuse for putting our country and our duty as citizens second to the desire for cheap commodities, cheap labour and convenient and ready-made services. At the same time, our own property claims, and thus the sole substance that preserves us from true servility as individuals and as a people, are imperiled in the wake of decisions such as Kelo that now in the same spirit and with the same logic place higher priority on general “growth” rates and government revenue levels than on prescriptive property rights.