The Wright Perspective: Who is on the Right?

My column for this week at Everyjoe:

What is a Conservative? Who is on the Right? I am, if these words are used honestly. They are almost never used honestly.

Conservatives are placed to the Right on the traditional Left-to-Right political spectrum. That spectrum groups Whigs and Republicans as well as their enemies the Monarchists and Imperialists on the Right, Conservatives as well as Anarcho-Capitalists, and, worst of all, members of the National Socialists Worker’s Party (Nazis). The traditional spectrum is based on the assumption that enlightenment, change, revolution and progress are the exclusive property of Socialism, and that any opposition to Socialism is rooted in benighted ignorance, folly, reaction, conformity, cowardice and regress.

If we call ourselves “Right,” the unwary are likely to get a confused mental image of a follower of Torquemada, Simon LeGree, Adolf Hitler, George Bush and Gordon Gekko, perhaps with Cotton Mather thrown in. But none of these men have anything in common, except that they represent ideas Progressives hate.


  1. Comment by Tecumseh:

    Sounds pretty much right to me.

    The cultural descendants of the French Revolution, Marx, and Lenin can be summed up in two thoughts: 1) The ends justify the means; and 2) They know best what those ends should be. Divorced as they are from any thoughts of higher authority, they see anything they wish to accomplish as “good” and any opposition as “evil”. From there it is a relatively easy proposition to come to a place whereby murdering practically every inhabitant of a city with almost 600,000 people or eliminating at least ten percent of the population is seen not only as necessary, but positively virtuous.

    The triumph of modern progressivism represents nothing more than the triumph of Satan. The dragon is being loosed from the pit right before our very eyes. And we must not forget that the prime movers behind the spirit of progressivism are not flesh and blood, but the very powers we were warned against in the Bible.

    • Comment by Mary:

      There’s a third.

      3. Only the elite are really human. The rest of humanity is, in reality, chessmen. They can be moved about the chessboard of life by the hand of the elite, and have no movement except what the hand gives them.

      This is why they get so annoyed when we jump up and run about on our own. And no matter how often they hear us correctly predict the easily predicted results of their programs, they will still be surprised when we are right.

      To be sure, this is in part because what I just said is tautological: those who give up thinking like that stop being leftists.

  2. Comment by ConceptJunkie:

    This is a good article. I’ve shared the link on Facebook, so we’ll see how my few liberal friends react. I expect they’ll ignore it. Or maybe they’ll be so distracted by “41 Slow Motion Bouncing Lady Bits” and not actually make it to article.

  3. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    Of recent years I have taken to referring to myself as a 19th century liberal.

  4. Comment by Sean Michael:

    Let’s not forget the embarassing fact that Hitler himself was a man of the left and always considered himself a leftist radical. Jonah Goldberg demonstrated this with ample quotes from Hitler’s own words in LIBERAL FASCISM.

    And I don’t see why conservative republicans have to be the enemies of conservative monarchists. What matters to a conservative is whether the gov’t he lives under, republic or monarchy, is (1) legitimate and (2) accepts limitations on its powers and respects the rights of its people.

    Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by ConceptJunkie:

      It’s a cultural meme that’s a holdover from the fact that we, as a country, rebelled against a monarchy that needed rebelling against. We’ve convinced ourselves that a democratic republic is the only good way to implement a modern, liberal (in the classic sense of the world) government.

      On one hand, I believe a monarchy could be perfectly fine, if it’s a Catholic monarchy anyway, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s the same kind of mistake made by people who think communism would be just fine if it were only done correctly. I think the important difference is that any government based on Catholic social justice (as described by Pope Leo XIII, not the modern version which too often ends up being nothing more than watered down socialism) will be fine.

  5. Comment by brucecharlton:

    I think your answer is too complex and fuzzy-edged to be useful – the useful answer must be simple.

    Mine is that the only real Right is the Religious Right – and everybody else is of the Left.

    And the Religious Right is defined simply as those who put Religion *first* when it comes to organizing society.


    Therefore, there are as many ‘Rights’ as there are Religions – and (since the Left is always evil, later if not sooner) the only legitimate political choice is the choice between Religions.


    Now, this definition means that a “Secular Religion” must be regarded as an oxymoron; and the only Religions are theistic. I know there are arguments for calling, say, political correctness ‘a religion’ but this would need to be regarded as merely a simile – not a genuinely correct characterization.


    So – if it accepted Religion = a type of theism.

    Then – the political spectrum is:

    Right = Religion-first versus Left = everything else

    (…including secular reactionaries, libertarians, National Socialists and all fascists who do not grant primacy to the Church).

    (I regard fascism as nothing more precise than ‘reaction against communism’ – hence mostly secular. But among fascists some are Left and some are Right – eg Mussolini was of the Left, Hitler was of the Left; but Franco, I think, began on the Left merely allied with the Church from necessity and mutual interest; but after about a decade, Franco perhaps evolved to become of the Right – for example he gave the economy over to Opus Dei technocrats in the 1950s, with good results.)

  6. Comment by Rainforest Giant:

    Without acknowledging the truth of Christianity I think that all left or right are in error. To paraphrase Mr Charlton, ‘right becomes left’ if it is not moored in Christianity. When we move from the truth of Christianity we leave ourselves open to overt and covert errors and refuse to see the real truth of the world around us. When we insist that all humans and cultures are equal and identical we err but the left must insist that all are equal (except as they offend the left’s shibboleths) because there is no God the Father who made us all equal or Christ the Redeemer who makes us all the same promise.

  7. Comment by Stephen J.:

    I think Left and Right are differing schools of answer to the same question:

    “Under what circumstances, and to what degrees, is it morally licit to use the power of the State to control, via the public declaration of what is forbidden or compulsory and public punishment for doing the former or not doing the latter, the behaviour of your fellow citizens?”

    Both Left and Right claim (many adherents often honestly) to favour the narrowest circumstances and the smallest degrees possible that are compatible with maximizing public weal. The biggest difference between Left and Right is:
    – The Right generally believes that public weal can and should be maximized by working towards the reduction of state power, because they believe that the personal choices of individuals are the most influential factor on their social prosperity and the State’s optimum function is to keep those individuals’ collisions to a minimum; while:
    – The Left generally believes that maximizing public weal requires working (at least temporarily) towards the expansion of state power, because it believes that the impersonal conditions of society are the most influential factors on citizen prosperity and the State’s optimum function is to change those conditions in ways no lone individual can do.

    Each will have specific areas of policy which vary from their general norm (many who otherwise identify as conservatives are very keen on heavy state power in the areas of drug policing or anti-terrorism, and many progressives who otherwise favour heavily-controlled speech in both politics and art consider any attempt to restrict pornography as intolerable “government morality”), but I think this is an accurate generalization, or as accurate as any generalization can be.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Agreed. When you speak of the Left’s willingness to blame impersonal conditions of society, you have struck the nail on the head. First, it seems more in keeping with the childlike idea they have of science (or, rather SCIENCE!) to place blame on inhuman factors for the success or failure of moral actors rather than moral actors; second, it allows them to reject all contemplation of history, evidence, and experience, because if the institutions of society are to blame for all human misery, there is no need to be loyal to those institutions; third, it allows them to be wrong on every issue of public policy from the time of Marx onward, and blame the diseases (so to speak) on the doctor, because if the cause and effect is merely a vague attribution of blame to some undefined idol called society, their imaginations are set free to envision any sort of benefit they wish to envision springing from any sort of public policy even a retarded monkey could see is obviously counterproductive, such as, for example, state control of industries, minimum wage laws, paying poor women to have bastard children, race quotas for college admissions, and on and on and on. Each one of these things has the exact opposite effect of the stated goal sought, but the self defeating nature of the policy never causes the true believer to question the wisdom and goodness of the policy. This is because the theory of the Left divorces cause from effect in human action.

      • Comment by Mary:

        Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed is good on this.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        “This is because the theory of the Left divorces cause from effect in human action.”

        Part of the reason for this is because one of the primary goals of the Left (at least in most leftists’ understanding that I’ve known) is to create a society where a moment’s bad choice or a temporary turn of bad luck need not lead to permanent, or indefinitely long-term, bad consequences.

        Insofar as this represents a genuine desire to alleviate suffering and to look after ones’ fellows with compassion, I can respect it; the problem is (a) the failure to recognize that removing responsibility from human beings has its own major social and philosophical problems, and (b) the all-too-frequent predilection to enforce that “responsibility” on anyone to whom they form an antipathy, but through informal and private networks rather than government power. (Donald Sterling is probably a terrible person and a terrible manager, but losing one’s job, fortune and place in society over one non-criminal remark taped in privacy without consent should give anyone the chills.)

  8. Comment by Richard A:

    I understand a general attitude of chivalry toward women to be an important marker of respectable conservatism, at least in Western societies. It would seem from many earlier comments that you do, too. So why are you choosing to post some of your musings on a site with a bouncing lady bits link embedded at the top? For that matter, why would a self-identified conservative forum allow such a thing?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The content of EveryJoe’s advertising was not an item in my contract with them, only the length of the articles and their rate of pay. It annoys me, but the editor tells me my columns might help put heart in young and lustful conservative boys reading the website, so on the whole I think I am doing more good than harm: but it is something that makes me hold my nose. It is like eating with harlots and taxgatherers.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Okay. I have asked the editor to talk to the publisher, to see what can be done. I doubt, after two 1K essays, I have the clout to swing this, but we’ll see.

      • Comment by Rainforest Giant:

        Thank you. If they cannot change their adverts I think you are doing more good than harm in exposing these young men to better ideas. And if it makes you feel any better I once collected taxes.

  9. Comment by Richard A:

    When Playboy interviewed Bill Buckley, the interviewer asked him why he’d agreed to be published in their magazine. His response was that he wanted his son to read something he’d said publicly.

    I only hopped over there the first time when you put up the link to an article by a Col. Kratman, who I gather is also a new recruit to the blog. No doubt your young lusty conservative boy is also attracted to arcane discussions about firearm design (a much safer attraction than bouncing boobs, I’d say), but I marveled as well that a ‘Col.’ would willingly associate with it. I’d been told any number of times by my father, who’d been an officer in the US Air Force, and a former boss of mine, who’d been an officer in the US Army, that “an officer is a gentleman.” I presume Col. Kratman, especially if he’s publicly willing to be identified as a conservative, would say, and believe, the same. Surely he’s holding his nose, too?

    Maybe Everyjoe could put it at the bottom of the web page, so it’s not something one has to see?

    Note: the interview was reprinted a few years later in an anthology of Buckley’s works; I did not read it in the original ‘journal’.

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