Is Inequality a Conservative Value?
"Equality in itself never can be or should be a conservative goal."
- David Frum, conservative Republican scholar and author
I'm taking a break from blogging about the environment today to venture into an area that is probably near and dear to the hearts of many social enterprise founders: equality. Â I read the line above in New York Times magazine article written by Frum entitled "The Vanishing Republican Voter," and the intellectual implications of that statement have kept me thinking all week. Â Is he really saying that an entire political class should not concern itself, as a general rule, about eliminating inequality in society unless it affects their chances in an election?
Some background: Â the article itself is a well-written thought piece about why he thinks educated, upper middle class voters are abandoning the Republican party in recent years. Â He argues that the huge and growing wealth gap between the middle class and the very wealthy has fostered a deep skepticism in the middle classes about conservative Republican economic policies. Â This, in turn, pushes them away from the R column at the ballot box. Â As he puts it:
"As America becomes more unequal, it also becomes less Republican."
Let's extend this idea on equalityÂ beyond the immediate implications for the Obama- McCain showdown happening in America. Â If you are a social enterprise or part of the rising class of B-corporations, as a matter of definition you have identified an inequality in the world and have developed a business plan to address it. Â You've probably found it difficult to raise capital for your enterprise. Â David Frum implies that the reason behind this isn't just that your new model is untried, but also that the conservative financial system inherently doesn't value the idea underlying your business plan. Â Improving equality can be a by-product of a business, never its underlying mission.
The idea that equality should never be a conservative concern gives lie to the line "unfettered free trade is the best way of reducing inequality globally," often espoused by hard-core free trade advocates. Do the Milton Friedmaniacs out there really believe this is a core rationale for free trade, or is it merely pseudo-liberal window dressing for their arguments?
So, enough from me. Â What do you think? Â As a business-person, do you see a rationale for addressing inequality? Â If you consider yourself a conservative, would you agree with Mr. Frum's assertion?