Tucker Carlson has fired the first shot in conservatives' civil war over the free market

The right might finally be realizing there's nothing conservative about free markets

Tucker Carlson.
(Image credit: Rich Polk / Getty Images)

If anyone had suggested to me five years ago that the most incisive public critic of capitalism in the United States would be Tucker Carlson, I would have smiled blandly and mentioned an imaginary appointment I was late for. But that is exactly what the Fox News host revealed himself to be last week with an extraordinary monologue about the state of American conservative thinking. In 15 minutes he denounced the obsession with GDP, the tolerance of payday lending and other financial pathologies, the fetishization of technology, the guru-like worship of CEOs, and the indifference to the anxieties and pathologies of the poor and the vulnerable characteristic of both of our major political parties. It was a masterpiece of political rhetoric. He ended by calling upon the GOP to re-examine its attitude towards the free market.

Carlson's monologue is valuable because unlike so many progressive critics of our social and economic order he has gone beyond the question of the inequitable distribution of wealth to the more important one about the nature of late capitalist consumer culture and the inherently degrading effects it has had on our society. The GOP's blinkered inability to see beyond the specifications of the new iPhone or the latest video game or the infinite variety of streaming entertainment and Chinese plastic to the spiritual poverty of suicide and drug abuse is shared with the Democratic Socialists of America, whose vision of authentic human flourishing seems to be a boutique eco-friendly version of our present consumer society. This is lipstick on a pig.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.