catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Left, right and radical non-left

with 14 comments

Nicholas Gruen has an interesting piece on the transition that some people made from hard left to hard right (non-left in my language).

I have recycled my (now classic) statement on this topic from 1986, at the John Quiggin site, just to keep them alert.


Market liberalism aims to protect the private domain of the individual and small groups – including the family – Burke’s ‘little platoons’. This domain is at risk from the hostile activities of individuals and groups who are liable to use brute force or other political means of coercion if they are not kept under control by institutional constraints, a strong liberal tradition and the Rule of Law. In the protected private domain all manner of spiritual and cultural traditions and practices can be nurtured but the barbarism of unchecked power is likely to sweep these things away or else corrupt them by recruiting them to its own purposes, as when Christianity became the official religion of Rome.

Some economic rationalists may need to be reminded that we do not live by bread and technology alone. Our lives gain meaning and purpose from the myths and traditions which constitute our non-material heritage. At a lower but no less important level our daily transactions are dignified and lubricated by civility and good manners. Both the higher and lower orders of this fragile structure of civilisation are perpetuated by cultural practices and by institutions such as the family and the universities. These, like the private domain itself, are under threat from various doctrines and schools of thought that are also part of intellectual heritage. If we lose the capacity to subject our tradition heritage to imaginative criticism we run the risk that the positive tendencies will be driven out by the negatives. Some would say that this process is well advanced.

Economic liberals may sometimes appear to have little interest in these spiritual and cultural matters but this is not entirely true and the impression arises from three reasons. First, it is not possible to talk usefully about every social problem at once and economists tend to talk most about the things they know best. Second, they do not speak with one voice on such matters. Third, they do not see these things as part of the agenda of state policy. Here a basic principle is at stake because they do not aim to impose religious or cultural values, instead they wish to sustain ‘a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental, others are allowed to pursue different ends’, as Hayek put it.


Written by Admin

December 16, 2006 at 10:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

14 Responses

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  1. Nick’s attitude on this is just as silly as his little rabbit punches at Richard Dawkins for not taking the fairy tales of God botherers seriously. It’s all about being ‘polite’ in his book rather than about being correct and having a logically coherent system. His pussy footing little agnosticism and ‘staying above the fray’ on everything annoys the hell out of me more than principled arguments from opposing sides. He carries this to ridiculous lengths with his little screed on Troppo about how he is a liberal-conservative-socialist.

    He obviously reads too much Jane Austen and should spend more time reading more tough minded authors. To quote another author with balls – ‘A is A’

    Jason Soon

    December 16, 2006 at 10:38 am

  2. As Jason sez, it’s not about left vs right, obviously, it’s about true versus false. The “tone” NG is complaining about has little, if anything, to it.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 10:56 am

  3. Hey Daniel – you want to jump into the little Jurisprudence stoush? Hume has come up again.

    Jason Soon

    December 16, 2006 at 10:59 am

  4. Tho I have noticed that “tone” often rises in proportion to the indefensibility of a given argument!

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 10:59 am

  5. well ironically Popper had a hectoring tone too but he was correct …

    Jason Soon

    December 16, 2006 at 11:01 am

  6. Rafe
    I’ve long concluded that Nick is a postmodernist in disguise. I don’t know why you keep trying to save his soul.

    Jason Soon

    December 16, 2006 at 11:04 am

  7. >Hey Daniel – you want to jump into the little Jurisprudence stoush?

    Errr..ok. I’ll have a look. I see my name has been mentioned. Or I could just stay home and beat myself up.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 11:44 am

  8. Jason, I feel sorry for Collingwood supporters, like Nicholas, Tim Blair and David Williamson.

    Rafe Champion

    December 16, 2006 at 1:31 pm

  9. Rafe

    Nicks comment seemed to only have found fault with the rights way of preaching. He seems totally deaf to lefty preaching which we get in spades.

    This is not middle of the road. It is an exercise in intellectuall blindness. I actually don’t think Nick is even aware of it.

    In any event, if you want to here preaching, go listen to Al Gore sermonizing and scaring the kids. He couldn’t even carry his own state in 00 because people there found to be sanctimoneous deadshit.

    He is now scaring the shit out people with his movie.


    December 16, 2006 at 2:17 pm

  10. “well ironically Popper had a hectoring tone too but he was correct …”

    What. You mean about EVERYTHING. You mean he NEVER made a mistake.


    You are not ready to be an atheist.

    He was surely right about very many things. His criticisms of historicism. His championing of small and open government.

    But this is the halo-concept in spades.


    Start tommorrow.

    Only leave the temple when you are really truly ready grasshopper.


    December 16, 2006 at 3:07 pm

  11. Troppo seems to have probs with labels, if you are ‘violent’ you are hard left/neocon and anti wealth redistribution is a rightist. Post Vietnam pacifism is the new left which explains the myopia over N Vietnam and further puts those who fight for democracy beyond the pale.

    Realistically none of the labels fit.


    December 16, 2006 at 3:52 pm

  12. Jason:
    >Hey Daniel – you want to jump into the little Jurisprudence stoush?

    Well, I had a go. Do you reckon we got anywhere? Or maybe our Hume Nuke is actually a kinda Hume Neutron bomb. It kills all the other arguments, but GMB remains standing…;-)

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 7:47 pm

  13. You have to be careful with what you read on the net, but this guy has written a book so he might just exist;


    December 16, 2006 at 10:31 pm

  14. Level-thee-not thy Hume-nuke at me…….. CLIFF!!!!

    The selective use of the Hume-nuke must be a major cause of bad thinking in modern philosophy.

    Sure seems to be at least.


    December 17, 2006 at 8:16 pm

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