Our current system of political labels is bunk.
The traditional Left-to-Right spectrum goes from violent Marxists on the Far Left, to Fabians and Euro-socialists on the Near Left.
In the middle, called Moderate, are moderate socialists and ‘mixed economy’ types who believe in a moderate amount of tyranny and rather moderate liberty. They believe arbitrary despotism can coexist with limited government. They believe that charismatic dictators using the laws to play favorites and grant exemption to political allies can coexist and cooperate with the rule of law. The Moderates believe in freedom and the free market except when it does not suit them, whereupon they call for Caesar to intervene. Wage and price controls, Keynesian bullshit, rationing and shortages, and minute regulation via unelected and anonymous bureaucrats are the hallmarks of the Moderate.
Next, on the Near Right, allegedly live that tribe of chimera, so often talked about in left-wing circles but rarely seen (until, ironically, Leftists gain power) who attempt to use government power to make sweetheart deals with big business, to indulge in corporate welfare, crony capitalism, and so on. This is a welfare state run for the benefit of the rich. Let me coin the term Plutocratic Socialist to describe this.
I realize that the term Plutocratic Socialist sounds like a paradox, but it is not. Technically speaking, welfare for the rich is rightly called socialism, since it holds all property to be available for looting by the state, that is, all property is common property, and it is a plutocracy since the state is run by and for the benefit of the big-government-big-money elite.
Whether the businessmen are corrupting the politicians by bribing them or the politicians are extorting loot from the businessmen is a moot point: the group enjoys a homogeny of outlook and a mutuality of interest.
The only real world example of a state run this way, before Obama’s America, before the nationalization of motor car industry, the school loan industry, the mortgage industry, and the medical insurance industry, was, it should come as no surprise, Mussolini’s Italy. Technically, this form of government is called fascism, but that word has long since be etiolated of any real meaning, so I use it cautiously. One thing it is not, is a free market system.
To the far Right resides a violent form of fascism. This breed of fascist are all in favor of socialism, from public insurance to public education to wage and price controls to the subjugation of all trade and industry to military discipline, but who want to use these alleged benefits of socialist control for the nation, rather than for the proletarian. They are known at National Socialist, or Nazis.
Got that? The political spectrum left to right is: Stalinist socialist, Fabian socialist, halfhearted-socialist, fascist socialist and national socialist.
The thing this spectrum measures is the degree of loyalty to Leftism, or, to be specific, the impatience with which one is willing to tolerate the evolutionary steps leading to the promised Utopia of the Socialist mockery of the New Jerusalem. The Moderates are willing to let the promised Utopia be born in small and gradual steps, whereas the Stalinists wish for a bloodbath today as a caesarian section forcing immediate birth. The Plutocrat Socialists resist the Utopia, and the National Socialists resist violently, since private wealth and national identity are things to be sponged away by the Utopia.
But what does this spectrum not measure?
The general thing left off the Left-Right spectrum is the imperialist, the monarchist, the classical liberal republican, and the believer in limited government, the rugged individualist, even the anarchist. In other words, the general thing left off the so-called political spectrum is the entire political spectrum of ideals that formed the character of Western Civilization from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the Enlightenment to modern times.
The specific thing left off the Left-Right spectrum is the one thing, the only thing, that opposes totalitarian socialism: the concept of a limited government protecting private property rights.
Limited government is the concept that the state legitimately exercises only those powers granted by the consent of the governed, who in turn can legitimately grant only the powers needed for protect the rights of liberty and property. State powers are illegitimate if extended into any area beyond.
A limited government, whether it is a constitutional monarchy or constitutional republic, is designed with a separation of powers, checks and balances, and a deep respect for the Rights of Man, and must be continually vigilant against the twin dangers of an untrammeled democracy as well as untrammeled despotism.
The foremost of the natural Rights of Man is the right to bear arms, which means, the right to overthrow the state by force when (not if) the corruption of power makes that necessarily. Without this right, the other rights are merely words on paper. This right is also the touchstone for any legitimate political taxonomy: any labeling scheme that lumps Nazis and Monarchists and other gun-grabbers in with Republicans and Libertarians, and pastes the same one label on them, paints them with the same broad brush, blackens them with the policies directly opposite their own, such a scheme violates the honesty we expect. It breaks the labeling laws.
There is a second taxonomic scheme that uses the same spectrum: it places Progressives on the Left and Conservatives on the Right. Radical Progressives are on the Far Left, and Conservative Reactionaries are on the Far Right.
This spectrum is even more confusing and dishonest than the last.
More confusing because, by this nomenclature, we had the absurd spectacle of free market reformers in China being labeled the progressives, despite that they were moving toward a more American form of government, and the hardline communists in China being call the conservatives, even though they represent the mortal foe of everything what is called conservatism in America.
A conservative in Europe is defined as one who seeks a return to the Reformation-Era ideas of a sacred throne and Established national Church, a society divided into aristocratic and common classes, and slavery; whereas a progressive is one who seeks the style of constitutional and limited government we once had here in America. Whereas in American, the main danger to the limited government comes from populist and democrat and socialist reformers who long to destroy (and largely have) our ancient liberties and rights, and expanded the government into all areas of private life.
And then again, those in the day of Henry VIII who wished for an international Church not under control of the local Monarchs would be the conservative party because they were harkening back to an older system; and during the day of Charlemagne or Clovis those who supported the rights of the local Monarchs and warlords against the troubled and fading power of Byzantium would be the conservatives; and in the day of Constantine, the conservatives were pagans, and the progressives were Christians. How much sense does that make of that label? In the day of Caesar, the conservatives were republicans and the progressives were imperialists. In the days of Tarquin the Proud, the conservatives were monarchists, and the progressive were republicans.
This nomenclature is more dishonest because it is based on the lie that the divine finger of history always points in one direction: toward the coming property-free utopia. By this metric, anything moving toward the communist utopia of gender-free race-free atheist cloudcuckooland is progress and any movement away is regress.
‘Conservative’ is the term our enemies call us in order to make us sound like the old fashioned folk who like the old because it is old, and, of course, whatever was old when we were young was new, meaning that the world ‘conservative’ has no meaning at all. This is the game of the deconstruction artists.
What we stand for, and what we are trying to conserve, is not the old for the sake of the old, but the Anglo-American Common Law, which is the most sane and decent and fair-minded in history, the US Constitution and its philosophy of limited government, free men and equal all possessing natural rights, and the Christian moral code, with its emphasis on all men being the divine image of God, and every life, even those of black slaves or unborn children, being infinitely precious.
In nations and at time when these ideas are alien to the current society, we who believe in them are radicals, and favor violent revolution to put them in place; in time when these ideas are known but have not yet been tried, we are the progressives, and the goal toward which we progress is these ideals; in times and place, SUCH AS NOW, where the lying-ass termites of political correctness are seeking to undermine these ideals and we to defend, protest, and restore them, we are conservatives because we act to conserve.
The ideas themselves are eternal: English law, American limited government, Christian decency. When our ideals are in the future, we head toward the future. When they are in the past, we turn back the clock. When they are in the present, we resist change to keep them. When they are absent, we unsheathe the sword of rebellion and cut our way into the future where they are ours.
Their only way to gain power over free men (or retain power over slaves) is through a series of lies, deceptions, omissions, and through pretending to be like us, to favor liberty and progress, the two things they hate most, to call themselves liberal and progressive, the two things they are directly opposed to, and to call us by names their either mean nothing or which deliberately mislead.
It is, in fact, the entire purpose, the sole purpose of the Left-Right spectrum to put across these two falsehoods: the first is to abolish the distinction between plutocratic socialism and the free market protected by a limited government, and the second is to paste the shiny label of NEW and FUTURE on the tired, old, worn-out and mentally ill daydreams of that Victorian Era fraud, Marx.
Progressive? The Modern Progressive is still in rebellion against the working conditions of Dickensian England and the race policies of the Confederate States of America and the sexual norms of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The Progressives are lost in the labyrinth of a long dead past. We would need Doc Brown’s time machine, followed by H.G. Wells’ time machine, just to reach back far enough to find an era when their concerns still had some relation to reality, if they ever did.
Instead of this bogus spectrum, we should employ a taxonomy that reflects the reality of what is being discussed, not the Madison Avenue deceptions of slick advertising. What labels should we use? Ah, but that answer will have to wait for our next episode.
Don’t miss last week’s column: The Unreality Principle: Loyalty to Lunacy.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.