During an outing on the Daily Politics Andrew (BBC TV, 20 September 2012) Neil asked me about right-wing heroes. I think we agreed that they were thin on the ground. I mentioned Keith Richards on account of his “the buck stops here” attitude to drug abuse. (And forgetting his claim to anti-Establishment dissidence, cited in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind.) I collected myself sufficiently to add Margaret Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph. Below, are some more.
The fact is, to be right-wing is to be a pariah and it is perhaps natural that people have the label thrust upon them more often than they seek it.
I am not sure whether Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Mises or Milton Friedman would any of them accept that they were right-wing though their thinking is the bed-rock of the modern free-market economics which is important to most right-wingers and even defines them. Adam Smith – perhaps especially with his emphasis on empathy as the core of moral life – might well claim, if he wanted, to be antithetical to right-wingery. Isaiah Berlin was very probably a social liberal of such a kind as to be positively lefty, though I wouldn’t know. LIkewise, Tom Stoppard. But Berlin’s identification of the dangers of “positive liberalism” – and Stoppard’s seeming endorsement of Berlin’s thought – gladdens the heart of the right-winger since it underpins a dislike of the extremes of bossy liberalism.
There are other heroes of the right who I haven’t read or researched. So I won’t big-up Bastiat, for instance, until I’ve rectified that. I am wondering which Roman I should choose, and I shall get to that. I want to include Erasmus and Cicero, but realise I can’t just include my personal heroes on the basis that they have contributed to the way I think.
It’s time to stop hedging. Here’s a list of my heroes of the right-wing (in no particular order), irrespective of whether any of them would like the ascription.
Edmund Burke [Thank you, Venerable Bede – see comments]
The third Marquess of Salisbury
P J O’Rourke
William F Buckley, Jnr