As Mr. Will sees it, the liberal war on Wal-Mart in the name of the common man is really a war on the preferences of the common man. By couching his arguments in terms of “consumer sovereignty” and the “preferences of ordinary Americans,” Mr. Will undermines liberal objections to Wal-Mart by co-opting the historically liberal defense of unconstrained freedom of individual choice. This is effective for puncturing the pretensions of liberal elites, but it’s a curious position for an avowed conservative. 

Arguments from preference for, say, complete sexual freedom, unlimited abortion license and illicit drug use have never been very convincing to conservatives. Instead of asking what conditions most Americans prefer, postwar conservatives have traditionally asked the more important question: What conditions will make common Americans free – free not just to pursue their baser appetites, but to fashion an independent and virtuous life? Further, conservatives have argued that our democratic system of self-government cannot last in the absence of a class of men and women who are truly free by virtue of their moral, economic and cultural independence from the centralized management classes.

One of the primary conditions of freedom is a widespread distribution of capital, both economic and cultural. This accounts for conservatives’ long-standing skepticism and mistrust of centralized and concentrated enclaves of money and power with their tendencies toward societal management at every level. The oppressive effect of the management elites is essentially the same whether those elites sit in the board room, the judicial chamber, the legislative halls or the Oval Office. ~Caleb Stegall, Dallas Morning News