Right wing rebels


3:00 pm - March 23rd 2010

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Guest post by badstephen

Somehow, over the past half-century, the right have grabbed for themselves the mantle of revolutionaries.

Right-wingers, the argument goes, are the anti-establishment mavericks, battling the status quo. Liberals now control everything. That last part might come as a surprise to many liberals.

Interestingly, the faux-revolutionary stance disguises the essential nature of the right’s project – the preservation of existing structures of power and wealth.

Friedrich von Hayek got the ball rolling in 1944 with The Road to Serfdom. Keynesian economies, allegedly, were every bit as repressive and socially restrictive as the totalitarian regimes they were fighting. Only the free market model could deliver genuine social mobility, with no single dominant class. Well, the UK has had the experiment of the last 30 years to demonstrate exactly how successful the market is at breaking down social divides. It’s not looking good, Friedrich.

In the 1960s, Richard Nixon further developed the concept of the anti-establishment right-winger. There was, apparently, an urban elite entrenched against him. The liberal media was out to get him (“You guys won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.”) And he invented the ‘silent majority’ – the right’s imaginary friend ever since. “Grocer” Heath was doing much the same thing in the UK. He was the first Tory leader to break the patrician mould and present himself as an outsider. Oddly, the modern right is reluctant to acknowledge its debt to these two pioneers.

Yet their legacy is all around us. Take climate change. Sceptics project themselves as bold iconoclasts, bravely taking on the great global green conspiracy. It wouldn’t be quite so cool to be seen as apologists for the fossil fuel industries. Whenever Jeremy Clarkson questions global warming, he does so carefully, as a naughty schoolboy making jokes about polar bears, not as a cheerleader for the automotive conglomerates.

Or take comedy. Right-wing comedy has always relied on mocking vulnerable sections of society – not exactly subversive stuff. By creating the straw man of political correctness in the 80s and 90s, right-wing comedians reversed this perception. Suddenly, making jokes about blacks or gays became dangerous and edgy. Bernard Manning, whose act was much less offensive back in the 60s, understood this better than anyone.

In the United States, Sarah Palin appears to want to cryogenically freeze the entire nation in the year 1954. Yet she has successfully branded herself as a maverick, with her recent autobiography titled Going Rogue. Analyse her speeches and all the key elements are there – urban elitism, liberal media, silent majorities. Basically, she’s Richard Nixon with a better skincare regime. Meanwhile, as Obama has been extending healthcare to 40 million people, his opponents have been comparing him to the worst dictators in history. And what did these opponents decide to call their meetings? Tea parties. They were deliberately taking on the cachet of the original American revolutionaries and playing down the purpose of their campaign – the defence of the health insurance giants.

Things have not yet gone quite so far over here. But maybe we can expect defenders of our conservative political consensus to start comparing themselves to Wat Tyler or Guy Fawkes…oh, wait…

What can liberals do about all this? Well, we need to point out what is really going on. Every time Richard Littlejohn attacks elf ‘n’ safety or environmental control or equal rights “nazis” from the town hall, we should point out that he is actually defending bosses’ rights to endanger their staff, or to pollute, or to pinch secretaries’ bottoms.

We also need to ask why right-wingers feel the need to do this. Deep down, do they yearn for the glamour of the rebel? Can they not admit their conservative nature even to themselves? And if so, what are they so ashamed of?

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Great artilce.

“We also need to ask why right-wingers feel the need to do this. Deep down, do they yearn for the glamour of the rebel? Can they not admit their conservative nature even to themselves? And if so, what are they so ashamed of?”

It’s to do with people’s sympathy for the underdog – it’s much more romantic and honourable to fight alone and against the odds, battling a firmly established, powerful and corrupt regime than to defend the status quo… just look at star wars

Thread header: “Friedrich von Hayek got the ball rolling in 1944 with The Road to Serfdom. Keynesian economies, allegedly, were every bit as repressive and socially restrictive as the totalitarian regimes they were fighting.”

The thing is that the Nazis did latch onto the idea of boosting government spending to create jobs at times of high and widespread unemployment. Once in government in Germany, the Nazis from January 1933 onwards were hugely successful in bringing down unemployment through public works spending on building autobahns, stadiums and new government offices:

” . . from 6 million in October 1933 to 4.1 million a year later, 2.8 million in February 1935, 2.5 million in February 1936, and 1.2 million in February 1937.”
[CP Kindleberger: The World in Depression 1929-1939 (Allen Lane, 1973) p.240]

Keynes had travelled to Germany to lecture in January 1932, a year before Hitler became Chancellor – see DE Moggridge: Maynard Keynes (1992) p.539. On his return, he wrote in the New Statesman: “Germany today is in the grips of the most powerful deflation any nation has experienced . . ”

As one American analyst of the Nazis comments:

“The Nazi Party leaders were savvy enough to realise that pure racial anti-semitism would not set the party apart from the pack of racist, anti-semitic, and ultranationalist groups that abounded in post-1918 Germany. Instead, I would suggest, the Nazi success can be attributed largely to the economic proposals found in the party’s programs, which in an uncanny fashion integrated elements of 18th and 19th century nationalist-etatist philosophy with Keynesian economics. Nationalist etatism is an ideology that rejects economic liberalism and promotes the right of the state to intervene in all spheres of life including the economy.” [W Brustein: The Logic of Evil – The Social Origins of the Nazi Party 1925-33 (Yale UP, 1996), p.51]

The fact is that Keynes was a Liberal and personally deeply opposed to totalitarian ideologies. His focus in economics was to understand how capitalist market economies could stagnate and maintain high levels of unemployemt without collapsing and without improvement.

I’m afraid this article is confusing two concepts. Liberal versus illiberal and right-wing versus left-wing. I am liberal and economically (and in some aspects socially) right wing (and also quite radical, although I tend not to find it worth shouting about). This is not unusual. Despite the wierd American usage, liberal does not mean left-wing: a lot of Republicans are very liberal on say gun control, when their ‘liberal’ opponents are not. Rather it means opposed to unnecessary control of people’s lives, be it by church or company, state or union, patriarch or campaigner.

Most modern right-wing radicalism is born of despair at the way the state assumes control over aspects of our life, and indeed identifies risks then moves to ameliorate them for our benefit, without leaving the choice to us. Basically it comes from the perception that the state and its allies (large companies, pressure groups, community leaders) want to tell us what to do rather than leave us alone. It is at heart extremely liberal – there is no desire by most radical right-wingers to impose their views on others, just to make their own choices. This might include the right to bear arms, smoke, hunt small furry animals (not all of which I personally support) etc.

Yet this modern radicalism, aimed at the state, is not that of Heath or Nixon (neither of whom was really radical compared to say Thatcher or Reagan). They were radical in their departure from accepted norms, but still stayed within the statist consensus that government was the best solution. Their radicalism was that they were opposed to a much more extreme (if by then not radical) socialism in domestic (for Heath at least) and world politics, but was nothing to do with modern liberal radicalism.

Indeed, in many ways Heath at least was reactionary – defending the existing order – rather than radical. And this brings us to the final key flaw in this argument. By assuming all right wing extreme positioning to be radicalism, badstephen fails to allow for the fact that (as on the left wing) much of the loud noise is generated by reactionaries – those opposed to change. Littlejohn and the late Bernard Manning were never radical, just loudmouthed enough (and smart enough) to say what they knew some people were thinking, and to base it on fear of change. They (or at least Mr Littlejohn – Mr Manning may have been different than his comedy persona for all I know) were relying on fear of change, of the majority of their audience identifying with a traditional image of Britain with clear racial and gender divides (that it may never had existed does not mean people did not believe it did). But this was also a Britain of powerful police control, of a benevolent state, and one where to be different stood out, rather than made you yourself. It was not radical, but rather conformist and to some extent backward-looking.

By conflating Heath and Hannan, and the UK and the US, it is possible to produce badstephen’s narrative of the ‘adoption’ of radicalism by the right-wing, but it is flawed by the lack of understanding displayed. Modern right-wing radicalism is not reactionary, in that it wants to make changes to benefit people, to free them from state control. It is liberal in that it wants people to make their own choices, not have them imposed by men (and it is still normally men) in positions of power, often not elected. It is true radicalism in that it wants to make changes, perhaps even revolutionary changes, rather than tinker with the existing system. And despite badstephen’s final comment, it is far from conservative, and it is also seemingly increasingly far from David Cameron.

Right-wing radicalism is also a potential ally for the politics of many on this site, for it wants change to protect social liberty, to allow people to express their own identity. Ignore the BNP, UKIP and EDL, as they are as much to do with right-wing radicalism and the BNP, SWP and Respect are with true radical thought on the left. Try to acknowledge that right-wing radicals can differ from you on the role of government, especially in the economy, but stand alongside you as liberals in social affairs. Those of you who believe the state is better than the individual at making the right choices, right-wing radicalism is indeed a threat, but on the left, as on the right, liberalism is the major virtue, and there is an alliance available there, rather than a threat.

4. Mike Killingworth

I think one element that you could make more of is location. While the polarity of big city liberalism and small town conservatism is easier to see in America, it also exists here. In many national organisations there is considerable resentment of Londoners and/or delegates to annual meetings from London, for example.

[3] Well, if I no longer had a National Health Service or a public sector pension to live on I’d be better off, right, because “freer”? Just want to be sure I understand your argument.

@badstephen

You are wrong in saying that the right wing is illiberal. If you follow the philosophy of true liberty and freedom, the logical conclusion is the extreme right, no tax, no state and you deal with individuals not collective groups.

@Watchman

Kudos to you! You said exactly what I was going to say be far more eloquently.

“Right-wing radicalism”

Would you really say Sarah Palin was part of that tradition?

I thought it was an excellent article, conservatives are too often publically masquerading as radicals, using the rhetoric and ideas of right wing libertarianism. Yet when it comes to being consistent with libertarian principles they often fall far short, and are basically people whose philosophy can best be described as “me, me, me”. When it comes to the rights and liberties of other people they are as authoritirian as anyone. A good example highlighted on here last year was the remarks about Gypsies/Travellers made by the chairman of the freedom association. Now when this was highlighted, the other libertarians on here went to great lengths to distance themselves from the remarks and point out that he wasnt really a libertarian.

Watchman, would you accept that there is a problem with conservatives such as Palin using the rhetoric of libertarianism without applying the philosophy consistantly- which to me was the point of the article?

@Mike Killingworth

The essense of it is this; is it fair for me, who has paid their NI and tax all their working life, who has never used the services of the NHS and who is paying into a pension pot that can’t supply the people currently claiming (who have paid into it all their working lives) from it let alone the future generations.

Or is it fairer for me if you to opt out of NI, get your own health insurance and private pension (which in a truely free market would be a lot cheaper and better than it is now), which you and only you use as and when you need it.

If you don’t claim on your health insurance then the cost of it goes down, but NI doesn’t no matter how much or how little you claim on it.

8. gastro george

They watch too many cowboy movies and “maverick” detectives.

“Little man” politics goes back a long long way. Hitler used it to gain power. Read “Listen, little man” by Wilhelm Reich.

“on is the extreme right, no tax, no state and you deal with individuals not collective groups.”

Well in practice you don’t – you deal with warring clans, religious fundamentalists, warlords and private security firms protecting natural resources 😉

Mike,

At which point did I suggest the NHS or state pensions were illiberal or needed removing as excessive state? This is the same weak thinking that badstephen displayed; that you can generalise all right-wing thinking from different traditions and aims, and then infer that I oppose the NHS and state pensions. Get a grip on reality: right-wing radicals are not the enemy; that is reactionaries and those who want to destroy our liberties for the common good.

As it happens, I think one of the roles for the state is to provide free at the point of use healthcare, because it avoids the sort of corporationist system whereby insurance companies and government work together to their own benefit seen in the US (even now I bet it will not be the insurance companies that suffer from the healthcare reforms). Whether the hospitals need to be run by the state is another matter, and the level of regulation and central control in existence at the moment is ridiculous.

As to pensions, I’m happy for the state to provide these. So long as it has the money. But I would also like people to be allowed to opt out (although perhaps they would have to guarantee to be paying into another pension scheme), as compulsory pensions restrict choice.

So I am in favour of both the NHS and state pensions, but could see changes that could be made to improve the services and get away from the problem of state control. You would be free to use them as you wished (to be fair, like the NHS now), so freer, but they would be there if you did need them. I’d take that to be better off personally?

@Planeshift

“Well in practice you don’t – you deal with warring clans, religious fundamentalists, warlords and private security firms protecting natural resources ;)”

Anarchy in the political sense doesn’t mean disorder, it just means no government. You don’t need a government regulating, approving and controlling every aspect of your life, humans existed for a long time without governments holding our hands from the cradle to the grave.

12. Planeshift

Bobski I know,

I wrote “In practice”. See numerous examples from the last 30 years of what happens when you have no functioning state.

Planeshift,

Palin, who is actually more liberal than normally given credit for (for example she does not oppose arbortions, her beliefs being personal), is not a radical, but she is not playing at being radical, apart from perhaps in terms of being a long way from the metropolitan elite she so cleverly sets up. She is promoting very traditional views.

Perhaps the differentiation we should make here is between radical politics and presentation of yourself as an outsider, which is done by all movements at some point. Heath and Palin might have used the outsider angle, but that does not make them radical, just (if their presentation is true) outside the system.

But I would accept there is some problem with anyone adopting a partially-liberal stance, that is adopting certain liberal themes without recognising liberalism is not a buffet option (libertarianism is a form of liberalism for the purposes of this debate, at least in my mind – some might not like it, but it shares the same roots). So advocating personal freedom without challenging vested interests such as big companies or churches is not proper liberalism. I do not know enough of Mrs Palin’s beliefs to judge if she falls into this category however.

14. Planeshift

“Mrs Palin’s beliefs to judge if she falls into this category however.”

Well take the movement that she and her movement represent and ask whether they are likely to support the right of people from asian backgrounds not to be tortured by the government.

Depends on the sort of right-winger. If by right-wing you mean libertarian or classical liberal then you might be mistaken. Interesting essay here pointing out that classical liberalism was once considered a movement of the Left against Conservative statism:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard33.html

Bobski: “You are wrong in saying that the right wing is illiberal.”

I think you’re right there on the one hand – the driving force behind some right wing activism is indeed hostility to authoritarian government, and that’s fairly liberal.

However, most of the politicians benefiting from the support of these movements aren’t usually real libertarians (wanting to promote the free market) but corporatists instead (wanting to promote the interests of the main players in that market). They don’t worry so much about authoritarianism, economic or social – and indeed are often quite keen on it.

On top of that, I think libertarianism is only a small part of the typical radical right wing movement. You’ve also got the people who are just fine with state authority generally (and indeed want more of it), just so long they have total control of it.

17. Mike Killingworth

[7][10] These two replies to my earlier post demonstrate that there is a wide range of views under the general overall heading of “liberal”/”libertarian”. I guess Watchman and I both want to be “as liberal as possible, as socialist as necessary” but have very different ideas as to what that means in practice.

Bobski, however, is beyond the pale. All state activity in practice involves transfer payments. The police represent a transfer payment from strong fit young men to frail old ladies and small children. State education represents a transfer payment from gays to straights. And so on and so on. You are at a time of your life, so far as I can tell, where you are paying in. In the past and again in the future the system will be paying you. One argument for the State’s involvement is basically that the costs are less if the system doesn’t have to provide for profits. Another is ethical: as a society we should signal our approval of solidaristic behaviour and our disapproval of greed.

18. Shatterface

‘State education represents a transfer payment from gays to straights’

Eh?

You have establishment types both on the left and the right. This is the right wing anti-establishment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZX5aRF4HZM

The G.O.P. used to be a broad church with a liberal, moderate and conservative wing. However, that is long gone. The liberals and moderates were purged and are now the Blue Dog Democrats. Currently even the conservatives are being purged by the real fruitcakes for not being conservative enough. There is not a modicum of liberalism in the contemporary Republican party. For parties who could have any hope of gaining power in a Western society they are the most poisonously extreme.

One of things Sarah Palin uses to define a ‘ real American ‘ is someone who can speak the mother tongue of err Great Britain. Too stupid to see the irony of using language as a metric of citizenship in a land of immigrants.

I am always struck by the contrast between the bloggers on the Right and the commenters who post on their blogs. If the blogger is a liberal there is precious little liberalism shown by the people who follow them. Comments which are homophobic, racist and unadulterated intolerance of anyone ‘ different ‘ stand in stark contrast to the supposed libertarianism of the Right.

21. Charlieman

What is an “outsider” and does it matter if you are one? If you can define an “outsider”, then when I fail to meet your criteria (I guarantee failure), does that make me an “insider”?

In terms relative to the 1970 Conservative party, Edward Heath was outside: modest family background, grammar rather than public school, undefined sexual identity, Selsdon Man (Tories were not read for monetarism), europeanist etc. But he was a Tory MP for decades and there was still a copper standing outside his front door 31 years after he ceased to be PM.

22. gastro george

You would have thought that the anti-state pro-market “liberals” would have learnt something from the crash …

I’d have less of a problem with market fundamentalists if they would do away with state support like limited liability and trust law, and the army and police, and …

“What is an “outsider” and does it matter if you are one? If you can define an “outsider”, then when I fail to meet your criteria (I guarantee failure), does that make me an “insider”?”

Charlieman,

Outsider is generally a self-potrayal, so the ‘insiders’ are the opponents of the declared outsider (I’m sure there have been political campaigns where both sides were ‘outsiders’ and portraying their opponents as ‘insiders’). So I cannot really define what an outsider is.

But by that logic, an insider would be someone who makes play of their place in the system. Gordon Brown’s ‘No time for a novice’ line would be an insider play (although it was followed by a spell of outsider presentation…). More topically, Stephen Byres presented himself as an insider for personal benefit.

You all have to see Bob Roberts, filmed in 1992. Talks about the whole phenomenon of “conservative rebels”.

“I’d have less of a problem with market fundamentalists if they would do away with state support like limited liability and trust law, and the army and police, and …”

george,

Might I suggest that the point of having a police force is to protect people (the army also), so should not be governed by market forces. That is to say, justice should not have a profit element, for slightly obvious reasons. The proper right-wing liberal approach to the police is in fact probably to support greater democratic control of the police as a public service, not to remove them from democratic control and place their functions in private hands.

Right-wing radicals are democrats remember – they believe those making decisions should answer to those they serve, not shareholders or committees, but voters or elected representatives. I think your obsession with a free market (which does not suit large companies all the time – they rely on limited knowledge) is blinding you to the fact that there is much more to right-wing thought than capitalism.

I do not know enough of limited liability and trust laws to get what you are saying, but please explain.

26. Charlieman

@23 Watchman: In the late 1970s I was a punk — search for other LC contributors using the same words 😉 — but I wasn’t an outsider of society. I was/am always polite and helpful to old folks and think socially.

At gigs, there definitely were insiders — the mob who were admitted back stage — but so many people were excluded that you could not classify them as outsiders. They and their children are contributors here, no doubt.

I think that we both agree that “outsider” and “insider” are useless terms, unless qualified.

As it happens, I think one of the roles for the state is to provide free at the point of use healthcare

So, just to be clear, you are the type of right wing radical who is actually a moderate socialist or social democrat (or, in US money, some kind of communist…).

Which I think begs the question posed in the original article. Why is a right wing radical seen as the thing to claim to be? Why is that rhetoric and imagery the one overwhelmingly used by pretty much every political strand outside university?

You’re over-complicating things, tying to make this some kind of pathology when there are simpler explanations. What you call ‘right wing radicalism’ is basically conservatives’ answer to the question of what to do when you’re opponents come to power. No, liberals don’t control everything – but on the other hand, Freddie Hayek and the Austrians, along with the Chicago school were at one time swimming against the economic orthodoxy. That this is no longer the case doesn’t alter that fact. Those who are still striking the pose as iconoclasts can be seen as the die-hard fundamentalist residue of this tradition.

Nobody does projection like the right wing.

They are always the poor, little oppressed guy that is fighting for freedom, in their minds. According to them , white, middle aged, middle class men are the most powerless group of people in all the world.

But the rights definition of freedom is not the same as the dictionary definition of freedom. Right wing freedom is their right to impose being an asshole on everybody else, and if they are not allowed to force their assholeness down everybody’s throat, then they behave like children , and throw their toys out of their prams

30. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Palin, who is actually more liberal than normally given credit for (for example she does not oppose arbortions, her beliefs being personal), is not a radical, but she is not playing at being radical, apart from perhaps in terms of being a long way from the metropolitan elite she so cleverly sets up.

It’s not Palin’s ‘set up’ – the fake out group ploy been going for years, perhaps initially in the guise of the ‘liberal media’ and more recently as the OP and many others before him points out, under the banner of the ‘pc brigade’.

As we all know it’s rather simple – take a hate filled or demonstrably incorrect standpoint and rather than defend it simply claim there’s a vast shadowy conspiracy trying to stop you from expressing that view point, be it the ‘pc brigade’ or the ‘liberal media elite’. The impressionable will be drawn in, not unreasonably inferring that if somebody is stopping the expounding of a view it must be incendiary, edgy or indeed as the OP puts it – rebellious.

Of course it rarely is, it’s usually a bit fucking stupid.

For a recent pertinent example, see Lou Dobbs, he went on television and said something he knew to be false, when various groups pointed this out he derived legitimacy for that view from those that opposed him.

FWIW the notion of ‘liberal’ right wingers in (the US at least) probably died when William Weld took to the stage at the GOP convention and told the assembled he wanted to keep the state out of the bedroom and out of the pocketbook.

A view for which he was soundly booed.

31. Charlieman

@30 DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells: “As we all know it’s rather simple – take a hate filled or demonstrably incorrect standpoint and rather than defend it simply claim there’s a vast shadowy conspiracy trying to stop you from expressing that view point, be it the ‘pc brigade’ or the ‘liberal media elite’.”

Or another approach. Use and understand classical liberal arguments.

32. gastro george

@25 watchman

It’s simple enough, limited liability and trust law is there to protect the wealthy from losing their shirts on the downside. But they are purely constructs offered in law by the state to smooth the running of the economy. In their place they are are a good thing. Radical free-marketeers would have the state remove all “impediments” from their backs – like taxes and regulations. But they are happy to have regulations that save their skins.

A good parallel are the casino banks – the bankers are happy enough playing with our money to make their fortunes – they should play with their own, with no limited liability.

33. FlyingRodent

What can liberals do about all this?

I heartily recommend pointing and laughing. Anything more than that and you’re conferring more respectability on dipshit views than is necessary, and nobody likes to be the butt of the joke.

34. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@31

Tocqueville?

Sounds foreign.

I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to discuss political ideologies using American terminology as it’s all a load of counter-intuitive, contradictory and illogical shite. European definitions of liberalism, conservatism, left and right are far more robustly understood.

The US definitions of Liberal and Conservative might as well literally mean ‘Blue’ and ‘Red’ for all the resemblance they bear to the doctrines in reality.

Personally, I’m thoroughly sceptical about all political labels, many of which are little more than marketing gimmicks intended to confound the unwary.

I’ve not the foggist idea about the precise connotations of “left-wing” and “right-wing” and even less about what the “radical right” is intended to convey unless it’s explained.

“For words are wise men’s counters; they do but reckon by them: but they are the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever”
Leviathan (1660) Bk.1 Chp.4
http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/h/hobbes/thomas/h68l/chapter4.html

Yes indeed. Watchman is a lefty, though he doesn’t know it yet.

Re: Bob B @ 7.19pm

The ‘Right wing rebels” title of the piece is actually fairly close to the mark compared to the piece itself. Right-wing means, more or less universally, protection and entrenchment of existing power structures. This can manifest in overt ways such as racist and sexist politics, or in subtler, more ‘arguable’ ways such as industrial deregulation and top-rate tax cuts.

If a rightwing group is earnestly described as ‘rebellious’, it merely highlights how grotesquely privileged the describer is, which is why the right go to such great lengths to appear to be down-home salt o’ the earth underdog types in order to subvert this.

36 Bob b. History has shown us that power corrupts. Any political party in power for probably 12 years or more will attract those who find power attractive. After a while the Party in power believes it’s interests are identical to the state. The maintenance of power becomes the sole criteria for success. After a while a significant number of people depend upon the Party for their income, status and powers of patronge. History has shown very few people relinquish their power with good grace.

People who have a broad range of experiences often realise that there are often more than one way to solve a problem: the task is to find the most effective one. Also people who have a broad range of experiences tend to be more tolerant of other’s opinions .

Perhaps the greatest vanity is by people who think they are good; consequently their actions are good and anyone who opposes themselves and their ideas are bad. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Experience often enables people to realise what may be a a solution in the short term will create long term problems.

@38: ” Right-wing means, more or less universally, protection and entrenchment of existing power structures. ”

Thanks – but does that mean Hayek wasn’t “right-wing”? He explicitly denied being “conservative”.

And I can’t quite figure where Stalin fits. He consolidated power unto himself by using levers of power that Lenin had created: the institutions for democratic centralism and the Cheka.

According to John Lukacs, Hitler was “a racist, nationalist, revolutionary, populist who drew his strongest support from the middle classes and above all the working class.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lukacs

If so, does that mean Hitler wasn’t “right-wing”?

@39: “History has shown us that power corrupts. Any political party in power for probably 12 years or more will attract those who find power attractive.”

Perhaps the most interesting challenging examples are the uninterrupted periods in government of the Social Democrats in Sweden and the Liberal Democrats in Japan. It’s possible to argue that in both cases there were abuses of power by the respective governments but we regard both countries as essentially democratic because the governing parties continued in government despite regular, contested elections. Interestingly, both countries have constitutional monarchies.

Good post.

However, just as an aside, the idea that bloggers such as Guido Fawkes or Wat Tyler, whom you namecheck, are “defenders of our conservative political consensus” is, if I may say so, laughable.

Both GF and WT believe in cutting the size of the state as a matter of ideological belief (as do I). None of the three main parties share this position.

This does seem to be a consistent theme on Liberal Conspiracy – the notion that all right-wingers are essentially the same, and any differences between them are either unimportant or cosmetic. Perhaps you take the view that because all right-wingers are wrong / full of ill intent, it doesn’t really matter what our internal disagreements are (we take pretty much this view of people on the Left). But it doesn’t lead to very exact analysis.

One should know one’s enemy

43. badstephen

Many good comments, for which much thanks. I accept I was a little free and easy with some of my terminology.
However, I am accused of conflating the radical and the reactionary right (the best and most articulate expression is Watchman at 3). I don’t think I accept the distinction – and this lies at the heart of my argument.
The “liberal right” has always struck me as quite selective in their liberalism. They reject state intervention in many areas, particularly anything involving social redistribution. But they welcome Big Government into many other fields, particularly where it can reinforce existing social structures – the military, law ‘n’ order, the family. In terms of the outcomes they see as desirable, the radical right-winger and the old-fashioned conservative Conservative are indistinguishable.
The “radical” Thatcher is a good case in point. It is clear from her autobiography that she regarded this country as having taken the wrong path in around 1880, and it was her mission to re-establish the values of that time. She used a mixture of liberalisation measures and state controls – but always to reactionary purpose. Thus the City was deregulated to give capital greater freedom, but a raft of union legislation introduced to curtail the freedom of labour. This duality could sometimes been seen within a single policy. Council house tenants were given the right to buy – to create a new home-owning class – but local authorities were restricted in spending the receipts – to prevent new generations of council tenants, even at the cost of greater homelessness. A clear case of using state apparatus for social engineering purposes.
State spending on the police was, famously, increased almost as soon as Thatcher took office, as they would be crucial to dealing with the social consequences of her project. This is the essential difference between Thatcher and Heath. They set out with remarkably similar economic agendas but Heath failed to appreciate that, to succeed, a “radical right-wing” programme must always be enforced by a Leviathan state.

I sort of disagree – the radical right are genuinely radical. The problem is that there are only about 3 of them, and they tend to spend most of their timing campaigning on behalf of the decidedly non-radical right anyway.

@ 43

Thus the City was deregulated to give capital greater freedom, but a raft of union legislation introduced to curtail the freedom of labour.

Many would argue that the abolition of the closed shop and the non-secret ballot were liberal measures.

The way she used the apparatus of the state against the miners was another matter.

Re: Bob B @ 12.25

Both questions are interesting, and I’ll start by saying that I personally think ‘left’ and ‘right’ should refer to the outcomes of such policies, rather than the arguments proposed or the support demographic.

Hayek is an interesting example, because he wasn’t really right wing to start with. He thought laissez-faire capitalism was a dangerous thing to be avoided, but was also opposed to the central control model that the Communists argued for because he believed the Rule of Law would be unworkable in such an environment (RoL is a left-wing ideal, in that it ignores power and treats people equally). The fact that Road To Serfdom would later be half-heartedly skim-read by a power-mad failed chemist with a rich husband doesn’t change this, in my opinion.

In his later life, the tremendous privilege of his upbringing began to catch up with him, and he started banging on about how free-market dictatorships had more liberty than ‘unlimited democracy’ (he was considered a deity by this point, so nobody asked him what the fuck he was on about). He had, of course, grown up as privileged nobility, had never worked a day in his life, had no clue what serfdom actually was, and so couldn’t recognise it when it was dangled in front of his nose. Regardless of what he used to think, he very clearly was a right-wing conservative when he started praising Pinochet for his liberalism.

Hitler on the other hand is more misleading. He completely uprooted the old system of government and enacted policies that we now call Keynesian about 20 years before Keynes gave his name to them. The way he gained the power to do all this was to use the same rhetoric used throughout history to justify oppressing jews, roma, etc and his ‘Third Reich’ idea was based on the German people being the born genetic rulers of the World, descended from the Holy Roman Empire. The economic benefits were also limited strictly to white western europeans, which on the grand scale of things isn’t a left-wing outcome. So yeah, I’d say he was of right wing beliefs, and it would weird to claim that Nazi Germany was a social democracy.

Both fun to wonder about, though.

@46 Gwyn

Isn’t it stretching it a bit to call Hitler Keynesian? There was perhaps a pretence of state investment but the actions of the Party in power did not fulfil their promises. The worker’s levy for VW never provided the “car for every worker” promised. It and and other funds were used to expand Party power and for the military. There was a lot of “investment” based on borrowing without any intention of repayment. After all, debts could be nationalised and invaded countries pillaged while Untermenschen could be enslaved as free labour.

46
Just to nit-pick but The Third Reich was actually based on paganistic myth mixed with a liberal portion of pseudo-Darwinism. It was reported that Hitler had a picture over his bed with the words ‘Without Juda, without Rome, let us build Germania’s dome’ The Volkish myths, which featured in the nazi’s belief system, were beloved of Wagner, and to this day, Wagner is banned in Israel. It appears that this sort of romanticism and mythology are a common feature within fascism, I think Bob B has, on a couple of occasions, posted a definition of fascism, but I’ve been unable to locate it.
Government spending to build Hitler’s war machine did massively stimulate the economy, this is why he was strongly supported by both middle and working-class alike. It was the German aristocracy who supported Hitler because of the myths which gave a ‘biological superiority’ to the Germans. This was the genius of nazism:- the ability to bring together the whole of the German population.
But Keynesian type economics were first introduced in WW1 in both Germany and the UK, and it was this model which was copied by the soviets.
This illustrates the difficulty in labelling political ideololgies as left or right or revolutionary/reactionary, there are so many overlapping strands. Is classical liberalism right-wing because is believes in minimal/no state intervention, but then marxists actually believe in no state at all. Perhaps we need to be looking at a new set of labels.

49. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs)

“Anarchy in the political sense doesn’t mean disorder, it just means no government.”

Well quite, but anarchy doesn’t mean libertarianism either. Modern-day libertarianism may like to wear the clothes of anarchy, but it has a massive and bizarre blind spot when it comes to the behaviour and ambitions of private corporations.

A pure libertarian society would resemble the world in Robocop – just as authoritarian and oppressive, but run by oligopolistic private corporations who perform the same role as the state, only with less political accountability.

Anarchism, if it means anything, is the realisation that we are social animals who depend on each other. Talk of “liberty” and anti-statism is meaningless if you are forced to pay a private police force (who has forced its rivals out of business) to protect you from rampaging Mad Max-style gangs. Anarchism is about toppling oppressive hierachy and power structures – not simply government.

“Libertarians” merely want to replace bourgeois capitalist liberal democracy with corporate fascism. Thus, they are nothing of the kind. And they are certainly not anarchists.

50. Mike Killingworth

[49] I had always supposed that the proponents of right-wing anti-statism, so far from wanting to pay to protect themselves from “Mad Max type gangs” intended to form them, or at least to join them themselves.

It is, after all, the only political “philosophy” which promises to let you kill anyone you dislike and treat women without any consideration for their feelings.

It is, after all, the only political “philosophy” which promises to let you kill anyone you dislike and treat women without any consideration for their feelings.

Sorry, Mike but I think I’m going to need a link for that one.

52. Mike Killingworth

[51] Almost anywhere on Samizdata, I should’ve thought. I have, of course, paraphrased slightly.

Re: steveb @ 10.01am – “Perhaps we need to be looking at a new set of labels.”

Labels are only useful when applied reproachfully to one’s enemies in order to discredit them. Better that we keep looking at new ideas, and leave labels to the spin doctors.

41. Bob b . Interesting points. I think if one compared many practices which are common in business and political spheres in Japan; compared to those in the UK, they would be considered corrupt by our standards . Sweden I do not know. I imagine corruption is fairly low : perhaps this is due to small population and the people tending to be straightforward. Consequently, people know what others are up to.

43. Bad stephen . By the 1980s many in the the City owed their positions to who they knew rather than what they knew. While at Eton, Lord Carrington was advised that stockbroking was suitable career because he was not academic. Max Hastings said he never became a Lloyds Name because he knew many of the underwriters from his school days at Charterhouse and thought many of them were stupid. The Big Bang turned the City into a meritocracy; that is why many British firms failed when they were subject to international competition. Thatcher made Britain far more meritocratic, rather than based on a hereditary class : this is why Sugar supported her. The days when a family name and an education at Eton, Charterhouse and those public schools formerly associated with the City ,automatically enabled someone to land a job in the City , no matter how stupid they were, are long gone.

@54: “I think if one compared many practices which are common in business and political spheres in Japan compared to those in the UK, they would be considered corrupt by our standards.”

Japan’s culture is very different from the Anglo-Saxon model, for sure, but then Japan developed in isolation from the rest of the world from early 17th century through to the late 19th century.

After WW2, economists in Japan tended to split into two camps: neo-Marxists and followers of Adam Smith but a sort of merged consensus evolved from that and Japanese economists became excellent developers of mathematical economics, which tends to fudge ideological issues (*). Several analysts have suggested that the large Japanese companies are not motivated by profit-maximisation after the fashion of Anglo-Saxon companies but by the objective of revenue-maximisation subject to a profit constraint.

An interesting insight, perhaps, is that “leftist” economists in Britain in the 1990s were apt to invoke Japan’s MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) and its “industry policy” as models for Britain to follow – I can vouch for that claim based on extensive personal experience. And the leftists could have a point: Japan’s automotive industry has been hugely successful in competing in international markets – Toyota, not General Motors, is now thw world’s largest automotive company. The trouble is that Japan’s automotive industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s successfully fought off the concerted efforts of MITI to include the indutry in its national industrial strategy.

(*) we often forget that Soviet mathematical economists were co-inventors of linear programming – Kantorovich was awarded a Nobel prize for his contributions which preceded WW2.

55
You might be interested to know that the MITI model is now being used as a framework for increasing productivity within the Mental Health Services. Known as the ‘Productive Ward’, initial analysis suggests that it works, even in a service area.

@56: Believe me, there’s no consensus among economists generally or in Japan that MITI industrial policy was importantly instrumental in Japan’s economic success through to the period of stagnation of Japan’s economy post-1992.

Important industries like the automotive industry, consumer electronics, cameras were not within the scope of the industrial policy. In the computer industry, Fujitsu, the largest and arguably the most successful of the Japan’s indigenous computer companies refused to sign up. Try Martin Fransman: The Market and Beyond (Cambridge UP) for a sceptical assessment of MITI and Japan’s electronics industry.

In a televised interview not long before he died, Honda related how MITI in the late 1950s had tried to prevent him from extending his highly successful company manufacturing motorbikes into a car manufacturer as well. He told MITI to get lost and Honda in due course became the third largest car manufacturer in Japan.

Papers on MITI’s industrial policy repeatedly attribute to MITI a continuing policy to avoid “excessive competition” in Japan. In fact, Japan’s internal markets are exceptionally rivalrous even if component suppliers in company supply chains are nurtured and cultivated in long-term relationships.


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