Right-wing heroes

Posted by RDN under Politics & campaigns / RDN's media outings on 17 October 2012

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



  • Written by The Venerable Bede on 18/10/12 at 3:49 pm:

    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.

  • Written by The Venerable Bede on 20/10/12 at 10:23 am:

    I forgot Wordsworth, whose Prelude is the most sublime presentation of the journey from radicalism to conservatism as poetic epiphany!


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