Over the Christmas break, Patrick Deneen published a bill of indictment against George Bailey – his soulless suburbs destroyed the tradition-bound community of Bedford Falls. On TPD this morning comes my brief for the defense. Yes, George Bailey destroyed Bedford Falls – but I say that’s a good thing!
Old ways of life that seem permanent are always in a state of decay. Deneen attributes permanence to Bedford Falls, but the movie shows that thinking to be false—just look at what Bedford Falls becomes without the life-giving power of George’s entrepreneurship! It’s not a choice between Bailey Park or Bedford Falls forever as it was. Bedford Falls was itself the product of a historically specific set of economic forces. It was always doomed to disappear whenever those forces changed. The only question is what would come next—and the two timelines in the movie show us the alternatives.
The defense explores at some length the overlap between the culture of marriage and family and the culture of entrepreneurship and enterprise. For example:
Marriage and entrepreneurship are generative and procreative. The family creates new life and nurtures the human person into a morally ordered being. The entrepreneur creates new ways of life that restore our moral bearings when old ways of life become—as they do in every age—cynical and dysfunctional.
A final thought. See the image at the top of this post? I put it there because I thought it shows pretty well how the entrepreneur is a moral force against the cynicism of old ways. It also shows the value of the finance system; people like to bash financiers, but they make a better life possible for us all. Most of all, it shows the moral significance of the suburbs – Deneen hates the suburbs, but as I argue in my piece, the suburbs represent the liberation of the human family.
But you know where I found that image? Democratic Underground. They’ve identified the wrong heroes and villains and that’s why they pursue the wrong policies, but they want the right things. I’m telling you, moral consensus is possible, if we can be hopeful entrepreneurs like George and seek opportunity rather than avoiding threats.