Right-wing heroes

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]
Irving Kristol
Margaret Thatcher
Enoch Powell
Thomas Carlyle
Ayn Rand
The third Marquess of Salisbury
Samuel Smiles
Michael Oakeshott
Maurice Cowling
Roger Scruton
John Wayne
Milton Friedman
P J O’Rourke
William F Buckley, Jnr
Christopher Buckley
Adam Smith
David Frum
Barry Goldwater
Herbert Spencer
Charles Darwin
Horatio Nelson



The Venerable Bede
Great to see Samuel Smiles make the list. Hardly anyone seems to know who he is these days. On a pop-cultural level, I find it strangely heartening that Leo McKern, unlike Rumpole (his masterly to the point of seemingly interchangeable TV alter-ego) was solidly right wing, as was the peerless Leonard Rossiter. I'd also find room for Samuel Johnson, A.L. Rowse, Burke and Colin Wilson.
The Venerable Bede
I forgot Wordsworth, whose Prelude is the most sublime presentation of the journey from radicalism to conservatism as poetic epiphany!

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Publication date

17 October 2012