Principled Consequentialism

Rod Dreher writes an honest post on the probable consequences of another Great Depression. Read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

I keep going back on forth on whether or not I support the proposed bailout. But I’m thinking a lot these days about my children, and how they would fare if they spent their childhoods in a Depression, as my father did (my mom was born in 1943, so she missed it). I think the lasting damage the Depression did to my dad was the absence of his father, who was away for years, working construction jobs where he could get them, sending money home to feed his family. My grandfather was robbed of much of his two boys’ childhoods, because he had no choice but to travel for work. That could happen to me. That could happen to you. Conservatives should ask ourselves whether risking a collapse of the currrent economic and civil order is worth holding fast to principles. Phrased that way, the answer would likely be no, and I don’t mean to beg the question. It could be that we’ve gotten so strung out that only crash therapy can return us to reality. I honestly don’t know. I wish the way ahead were clear, and that we had leaders we could trust to get us there.

Although I view the crisis through a different ideological lens, I certainly sympathize with many of these concerns. But an attachment to principle provides an equally pragmatic reason for voting against the bailout. Forcing the market to absorb a necessary financial corrective may be harsh, but it’s a hell of a lot better than creating a massive moral hazard that could exponentially magnify the problem ten or twenty years down the road. Unfortunately, I have no idea if this is the correct decision-making calculus, and while I’m reluctant to defer to our establishment’s hysterical plea for more money faster, I have little to offer in the way of plausible alternatives.

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