Tuesday, 31 August 2010

So Wrong

This Theo Hobson post is plain nuts. I can sort of see where he's coming from. But he's obviously never bothered reading any of the CiF comments, where right wingers will self-righteously tell you that it is only moral to admire Pinochet because the imaginary Chileans who would have been killed if he weren't in charge would be much greater than those he did kill.

And let's not forget (though almost everyone in the media seems to have) the attempts of supporters of the Iraq war to portray opponents as buddies of Saddam. And does anyone remember when our armchair warriors were handing out cybernetic white feathers to the bloody conchies who were saying that we should keep well clear of the tie chewer of Tblisi (where Saakashvilli's tanks machine gunned fleeing civilians: which is moral in their world)?

In fact, the archetypal merry Tory GK Chesterton hated warfare AND the free market. I doubt if the supposedly carefree and unjudgemental modern right would really sway him with their lovable lack of heavy-handed moralising.

Being a somewhat distant relative of Sir Thomas Urquhart, I think that being quite carefree and disliking the preaching tone is quite acceptable for a social democrat. However, given that only a maniac would think there is anything moral about the free-market or warfare, I really don't feel any attraction to the modern right. But even if a tree fell on my head and I did, I think the heavy handed moralising that they use to dress up their self-righteousnes would put me off.


  1. Great post, Gregor. Chesterton became upset about things that are really worth getting upset about, like the depredations of capitalism. In fact, his being a merry conservative, I believe, directly influenced his anti-capitalism and other views we would now consider pretty radical. On the other hand, he poked fun at people who became riled up by what he saw as relatively petty matters, such as cigarette smoking.

    Now, if we look at modern liberals, it would seem that some of their biggest and most successful crusades have been against these very same petty “vices,” if you can even call them that. Tobacco smoking bans are one example. Another is the growing crusade against meat and other “unhealthy” foods. While people should choose to eat a healthy diet, I just can’t get too upset by the whole matter, especially when we have massive unemployment/underemployment, wars fought based on false information, extreme corruption in government and private industry, the return of private, practically unaccountable mercenaries, etc.

    Hobson makes some good points, but modern liberals should perhaps be ashamed of some of the manifestations of liberal guilt. Some kinds of conservatives, the kind that Hobson is talking about, that could care less about anything beyond their own privileged position, are as old as history, so I don’t feel he was too enlightening on that score. And, as you point out, there are also plenty of right-wing moralizers. The real problem, as I see it, is that the conventional modern Left is no longer the champion of the economic issues that seemed to define the Old Left.

    Personally, I think part of the problem has been the attempt to combine family-friendly economics with certain liberal social positions, but that might just be my idiosyncrasies talking, and I am sure many on the Left (probably a majority) would disagree with me, although I will stick to my beliefs, even if that means being left in the wilderness as a kind of odd Red Conservative.

  2. @John
    Thanks for your comment. I remember a phrase of Chesterton's along the lines of 'unbridled capitalism doesn't crate more capitalists but fewer'. I keep thinking of this when I see the number of small businesses that close down as supermarket chains dominate Britain. However, it seems that Reagan's economically illiterate term 'big government' has really dominated our discourse in the Anglophone world and stifled debate about social democracy.

    As for being a 'Red Conservative' I do think that reasonably conservative social democracy has done quite well in some parts of Europe. At least they have won the economic arguments which I think has a knock on effect. France is a deeply secular country but I think it is great that they have managed to stop Sundays from being days of commerce, whilst here it was the Tories who started Sunday trading.