Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Laissez-faire, Burkean or authoritarian - which type of conservative are you?

It's the sort of question that probably doesn't interest many people - including most of those of a conservative bent - but it's one I've been asking myself ever since I started this blog. I've read books and magazine and web articles and blog posts on the subject. Why bother? Because, although I find my attitude to any political problem or policy is invariably shared by many on the Right, I'm rarely in agreement with the same set of right-wingers twice in a row - from which I conclude that (politically) I'm a bit of a mess. This sense of confusion reached an apogee during the lead-up to Brexit, and continued right up until Donald Trump's victory a week ago...

...when I found myself cheering the election of a man with most of whose policies I profoundly disagree. For instance, I'm all for building a wall along the Mexican border, because the first duty of any government is to police its borders - but the idea (later watered down) of preventing all Muslims from entering the country seemed, well, daft. As for protectionism (or mercantilism, call it what you like) it sucks big-time. And, while I'm no fan of self-regarding elites (especially of the liberal-left variety), populism gives me the creeps.

So it was with interest that I read the following snippet from an interview with the American social scientist Jonathan Haidt on the Vox website:
I’m a fan of the political scientist Karen Stenner, who divides the groups on the right into three: The laissez-faire conservatives or libertarians who believe in maximum freedom, including economic freedom and small governance; the Burkean conservatives, who fear chaos, disruption, and disorder — these are many of the conservative intellectuals who have largely opposed Trump.
And then there are the authoritarians, who are people who are not necessarily racist but have a strong sense of moral order, and when they perceive that things are coming apart and that there’s a decrease in moral order, they become racist — hostile to alien groups including blacks, gay people, Mexicans, etc. This is the core audience that Trump has spoken to.
That’s not to say that most people who voted for him are authoritarians, but I think this is the core group that provides the passion that got him through the primaries.
Fascinating, but not much help - because, depending on the subject, I'm either one of the three - or a mixture of all of them. Much of the time, I'm a raving right-wing authoritarian - who wants the state to get out of people's private lives. I'm a small-state enthusiast - who supports a large and very visible police force and who would be happy to see the defence budget doubled (as long as it was all spent on military personnel and really scary weaponry). I'm a believer in laissez-faire economics and free trade - who wants this country's borders sewn up tighter than a gnat's chuff. I thoroughly enjoy living in a diverse, multi-ethnic society - but I want every section of it (at least, those sections which have chosen to settle here permanently) to see itself as British, to respect the country's traditions, to slavishly adhere to its customs, and to observe its social norms, and to damn well stand to attention whenever the National Anthem is played. I'm a social conservative and a political right-winger - who enjoys living in a socially liberal and politically left-wing city. I'm a believer in authority and order - who cannot stand being lectured by my "betters", and who loves it when someone like Mrs. Thatcher or an event like the Brexit referendum or the Trump election comes along and nobody knows what the hell happens next.

I've concluded that I'm a laissez-faire, big state/small state, right-wing, libertarian, liberal, fiscal, traditional, national, social, cultural, religious, progressive, authoritarian, Burkean conservative. (The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I'm not left-wing.)

I'm also a proud Norwegian who's just been to pick up his new passport - and who loves England and has absolutely no desire to live anywhere else. (The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I'm not "a citizen of the world".)

As I said, a bit of a mess.

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