Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Column on Right Wing Conservatism

Neither Left nor Right Wing

Tibor R. Machan

For over 40 years I have written columns for our local newspaper and for
over that many years I have seen letters to the editor charging this paper
with being Right wing. The charge, however, is way off.

In the context of contemporary American politics, Right wing means
favoring the status quo, mainly, with heavy emphasis on using the power of
the government to regulate people?s morals and their thinking. Left wing,
in turn, tends to mean using government to regulate how we spend our
money, to take it fro us so the government can use it for what politicians
and bureaucrats judge it should be used for.

The line is not a clear cut one because in our time, for example, often
those on the Left do not hesitate to use government to dictate to us about
our use of language?that?s what political correctness is mostly about. And
the Right wing is now well into taking our money and spending it for
us?that?s what prescription drug programs and farm subsidies are about.
Still, the rough distinction is between those who want to control our
souls, namely, the Right wing, and those who want to control our bodies,
the Left wing. Neither is into promoting individual liberty, that?s for

Now, as a matter of proven record, the paper for which I do most of my
writing simply does not fit either of these characterizations. That is one
reason why, when I had a collection of my columns published in 2004, I
entitle the book Neither Left nor Right (Hoover Institution Press). But
still, just the other day a reader wrote about the alleged daily
?poisonous wails and barbs of the angry right wing in the Opinion
section.? What, I thought, must be going on? Whereof such complete

Well, one answer is that many people who have opinions about the paper do
not actually read it. I had this confirmed recently when I went for coffee
with someone who had a very firm view about the paper?s editorial stance
but hadn?t read a single issue, ever. She thought it was a Right wing
conservative editorial position. I asked her, ?Is opposing the war on
drugs a Right wing conservative position?? She said ?No.? I went on, ?Is
opposing the war in Iraq a right wing conservative position?? Once again
she said, ?No.? How about criticizing big corporations for urging cities
to use eminent domain measures against small businesses to gain entry into
markets? Once gain the answer was ?No.?

Well, then, where does this blind charge of ?poisonous wails and barbs of
the angry right wing in the Opinion section? come from? I guess I would
have to write much of it off as pure, unadulterated ignorance?the charge
emanates from folks who just don?t read the paper. Or it comes from some
who want to smear it with some simplistic label. But it could also come
from some who are just confused. The first two really cannot be helped
much. But the last might be.

In the United States of America ?Right wing? often means ?conservative,?
and what conservatism used to mean here, in part, is to preserve the
institutions and principles associated with the American founding. Mostly
this means principles in the Declaration of Independence and sometimes
those in the better parts of the original constitution.

So, unlike conservatives in other ports of the globe, American
conservatives are to some extent loyal to the principles of a fully free
society, one in which all citizens have their basic, unalienable rights to
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness protected by their government,
a government that gains its just powers from the consent of those being
governed. However, over the two centuries plus of this country?s
existence, these principles have been both widely violated and pretty much
abandoned even as ideals to aspire to. And as that has occurred,
conservatives have changed their tune.

Today President George W. Bush?a big spending, big government Republican
who cares nothing for limiting the scope of government, who embraces the
Hamiltonian, not Jeffersonian, idea that ?The job of a president is to see
problems, confront problems and solve problems? (never mind where they
are, whose problems they are, or whether his job description includes the
task of solving them)?is regarded as a Right wing conservative.

Let me assure you, that is not the editorial philosophy that the paper
and other outlets for which I am permitted to write champion, not by a
long shot.

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