Secular Right | Reality & Reason



We are all Leftists now?

So argues Kevin Gutzman in There is No Authentic American Right – and a Good Thing, Too. In What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 there is some coverage given to the attempt by some early Federalists to create what might be termed a Tory party. They failed. In many ways both the pro-business and development Whigs and populist Democrats who crystallized during this period were liberal parties. Though it must be added my understanding is that most liberal parties in the world are generally clustered on the Right more than the Left in the public imagination (e.g., German Free Democratic Party).



  • Ploni · May 29, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Gutzman is one of the best contributors to Takimag, which is saying quite a lot. After reading the article, though, I still don’t see how preferring a strong or weak federal government translates into right or left. I think of the left-right axis as equality-hierarchy. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but that seems orthogonal to strong-weak federal government, regardless of how they may have happened to match up historically. And re Calhoun, democracy (as opposed to liberalism) is also orthogonal to left-right: check out Carl Schmitt on that.

    If you accept this taxonomy, then the anti-capitalist, semi-feudalist, pro-slavery, antebellum Southern conservative tradition was in fact an authentic American Right, as were their descendants, the Southern Agrarians. So that animal did in fact exist, and even thrived for a time.

    Suggestion for further reading: Eugene Genovese, The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism.

  • Anthony · May 29, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Much American political discussion can rightly be criticized for being so America-centric that it ignores the rest of the world; I get the impression that Taki’s Mag commits the opposite sin. Gutzman’s argument basically boils down to “the American Right is different than the European Right”, which is not a terribly novel argument to make. gutzman never explains why the Continental conception of the “Right” is any more authentic than the American one.

    For that matter, the “authentic” right of Europe is less motivated by religion than the (bulk of) the American right, even those which actively seek to restore Church privilege, which somewhat undercuts his argument.

  • The Kat · May 30, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    What always puzzles me in American politics is how ideas that were traditionally associated with classical liberalism and Enlightenment ideals are today right-of-center in typical American discourse. I guess we can chalk that up to how collectivist the left has become. For myself, I really don’t have any way to peg myself as left or right. I usually describe myself as a radical individualist or rational egoist.

  • Devin Finbarr · May 31, 2009 at 9:06 am

    In order to begin these arguments, you must first define what the right and left are. We know that the left and right exist, and we know they have existed for four hundred years. What is the shortest definition that would allow you to accurately identify someone as a member of the left or right, no matter what the time period? The definition I’ve settled on is: “The Left is an inter-generational social network of power seeking intellectuals, that traces its original lineage to the dissenter protestants of 17th century East Anglia.” Or another way of saying it is that the Left is a social network that emanates from Harvard and Oxford. The Right comprises the various factions that oppose the left.

  • kurt9 · June 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Both the left and the right in the U.S. are outgrowths of classical (18th and 19th century) liberalism. Viewed within the proper historical context, “true” conservatism is feudalism, and who wants to go back to that?

  • John · June 1, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    “What is the shortest definition that would allow you to accurately identify someone as a member of the left or right, no matter what the time period?”

    How about this? People on the left emphasize the ways in which people are alike. People on the right emphasize the ways in which people are different.

    Any takers?

  • Kevembuangga · June 1, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    People on the left emphasize the ways in which people are alike

    No, people on the left mandate that people are all alike!
    I am not a conservative nor that much on the right but certainly AGAINST leftism.

  • Susan · June 2, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Is it currently even possible to arrive at a definition? I define myself as a conservative, but according to a Christian fundamentalist, I’m a liberal. I don’t pass the abortion/gay marriage litmus test, which according to a CF is what distinguishes right from left.

  • kurt9 · June 2, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    The following link suggests that social culture was actually worse in the past and that things have improved since:

    Is there even a need for a social conservative political movement at all? I think not.

  • John · June 2, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    “No, people on the left MANDATE that people are all alike!”

    Ha! Ha! Good point.



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