Sunday, July 25, 2004

Turning left

Here's a comment by the former leader of the right-liberal Liberal Party, John Hewson, in the Financial Review (23/7/04):

I believe that politics is about redistribution and certainly should be focused on helping the 'have nots'.

It's significant for John Hewson to say this, and not only because it shows yet another prominent right-liberal turning to the left.

It's not an accident, or some personal whim, which would lead John Hewson to claim that politics is about redistribution. It's the end product of a liberal thought process which goes something like this:

1) To be fully human we must be self-created by our individual will and reason.
2) Society is a collection of individual wills competing to enact their desires.
3) It is wrong for some wills to dominate others as this denies some people their full humanity.
4) The main aim of politics is therefore to ensure that all wills are equal.

Although conservatives might support a particular redistribution policy, we would never claim that redistribution was the main aim of politics. This is because we don't start out with the idea that society is a collection of competing wills.

Conservatives are still loyal to traditions and identities which lie outside the framework of liberal thought. For conservatives, a major aim of politics is to defend and protect such traditions and identities. For a conservative, it therefore makes no sense to conceive of redistribution as the central task of politics.

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