Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ultimately empty

I picked up a copy of The Australian at my parents' house today. I don't usually read it, so was interested in how recognisably right-liberal many of the stories were.

A good example was a piece by Caroline Overington ("What's a nice kid doing in a pop-cultural caricature like that?) The gist of it was that what the world really needs is not Donald Trump but a nice guy right-liberal.

What is the right-liberal ideal for Caroline Overington? It's someone who isn't self-hating and who believes positively in the individual in the market. In her own words:
In the U.S. they are thirsting for a Reagan-style leader who believes in the individual and in the superiority of Western culture...Somebody who believes that capitalism - bold, enriching capitalism - is the best way to drag millions and then billions of people out of poverty; who is tired of being told that wealth must be redistributed to those who didn't earn it; who believes in merit and reward for sacrifice; who can't bear the stultifying political correctness of daily life any longer.

Who thinks that the pale-white, middle-class men behind revolutions such as the Apple computer company and the Microsoft operating system and the Google search network haven't done such a bad job, actually, of improving the world, just as it was largely American companies such as Ford and General Electric, led by white, middle-class men, who helped improve the previous century.

Who thinks our culture, our way of doing business, is not too shabby, so what is with the self-loathing? Because actually I want to feel good about myself and my country.

I can understand the superficial appeal of this kind of politics. If the only two options are a left-liberalism, which holds that inequality exists because of evil white males and the oppressive racist and patriarchal institutions of the evil West, and a right-liberalism, which holds that the liberal West is to be looked on positively for its progressive achievements and that what matters is people achieving things in the market - then the right-liberal option can seem like the more attractive one.

But if you look at it closely, then its emptiness becomes more apparent. Right-liberalism reduces a society to the market. What matters for right-liberals is a freedom of the individual to be self-made in the market. This then becomes a poor foundation for resisting the inroads of the left. Why, for instance, should a right liberal care if the left pushes for open borders? After all, an economic migrant is someone seeking their individual advantage in the market - which is a virtue in the right-liberal outlook. And if the market is the great force for progressive change, then why not have the kind of global free trade arrangements which have helped to deindustrialise parts of the US?

There is nothing in right-liberalism which runs counter to the abstracted and atomised view of the individual that is also part of the operating framework of the left. An individual in the market is not someone who is marked by a sense of belonging to a particular ethnocultural tradition; nor is this individual a moral being, distinguished by integrity or honour or conscience; nor is this individual marked by biological sex - by manhood and womanhood - and the identity and social offices deriving from this. An individual in the market is stripped down to a technological role of producer or consumer or profit seeker.

How then can we look to a right-liberal politics for our defence? Returning the Republican Party to this kind of politics is not the solution Caroline Overington imagines it to be.


  1. First problem with "nice guy right-liberal" is they don't get elected because they do not draw any sharp contrasts between themselves and their opponent (see: Wendell Willkie, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney). Indeed, they don't really oppose their leftist opponent's policies, they just want "slightly less" of the policies or want the policies "better implemented". Who wants to vote for "just a little to the right of the leftist candidate"? Not enough people. People who want liberalism, will vote for the left-liberal candidate. People who don't want liberalism, will not vote for liberalism lite.

    Second problem with "nice guy right-liberal" is he does not oppose and will not stop immigration (see: Mitt Romney). Ultimately, this is the same self-loathing, culture-hating policy as the Left. It has the same result: your country and your culture are swamped and extinguished.

    Finally, Trump is not self-hating, definitely believes in individual enterprise and capitalism, hates political correctness, and does not despise white, middle-class men. He wants us to feel good about ourselves and our country! So Trump is giving Caroline everything she wants - except, apparently, in a "not nice" package and that is unacceptable to her. For Caroline, as for so many other women, the emotional envelope is more important than the policy. It's about the feels, not the facts. Yet another reason women shouldn't be allowed to vote.

    1. Dexter, the first point you made is particularly good. The right liberal parties are often perceived to be "conservative" only in the sense of implementing the latest liberal push more slowly or cautiously - or perhaps accepting it after it has been implemented, or perhaps being less unkind in describing those resisting the change. But if I were a liberal, why would I think this a good option? If I thought liberal politics was right and good, then presumably I would go for the party more boldly pushing ahead with them.

      As for right liberals not being willing to stop immigration, you are very much correct. If anyone is interested you can click on the "right liberalism" topic link below and it will take you to a number of posts detailing how the right liberal parties have supported mass immigration.

  2. All liberalism, be it of the right or left, seeks to atomise the individual. The intention is to deprive him of all power and to render him a pawn of either the market or the state. Both are slavery.

    We must embrace family and enforce subsidiarity. It is difficult to see how this can be done when both the state and the market are so powerful. Both seem to be colluding nowadays, at least in the case of central government and big business, in what appears a conspiracy against the citizen. Our only hope may be total societal and economic collapse, enabling a picking up of the pieces by those in the best position to do so, which should be those not of a liberal persuasion.

    1. "The intention is to deprive him of all power and to render him a pawn of either the market or the state."

      I agree that is part of it. They don't want the "sideways" loyalties that connect people cohesively to each other and which make it more difficult to direct people to conform to the political and material interests of the elite.

  3. Off Topic,

    Big story coming out of Melbourne:

    They are talking about this on anti-feminist websites in Sweden.

    Just to be clear, I am not am MRA or anything like this. I don't know if these actions are common in Australia, but please note that this is how the PC forces work and every time that are successful in stopping events like these, they get bolder. Soon than you may think, it becomes very difficult to do anything outside of the internet.

    Personally, I am much looking forward to this film and hope that it will start a broader discussion on the problems with modern feminism.

  4. Mark, I know that you think the primary difference between the Left and Right is there stance on economics (pardon me if that is a misstatement of your view). Thus, you allow for both Left and Right Liberals. But using that criterion, couldn't there also be left traditionalists? Can you point out some examples?

  5. A bit off topic but you might like this video on why Marxism never works