Last week I gave a couple posts talking about why I am (and why I’m NOT) in some ways inclined toward the right end of the political spectrum. I’ve thought of another way to speak about it that builds on what I said before.
Let’s start by assuming that all of us ultimately, deep down inside, want both a perfect state and a tyranny. When we think about politics in the abstract then we wish society would be the best it could possibly be. When we’re thinking about our own selfish desires and the way they are restrained by the political community, and when we’re being completely honest with ourselves, there’s some part of us that wishes we could be living in a tyranny of which we are the ruler.
In reality, though, both of those outcomes are vanishingly rare. So we have to agree with everyone else to live in one of a few other possible setups.
One possibility is what the classics called “democracy,” which is to say, equality, diversity, maximal liberty. Plato placed this one just above tyranny, in the list of regimes (in which tyranny is the worst), and suggested it might be the one most likely to transform into tyranny. To me it seems that this vision is the one defended by the modern left, including the radical left. (I know that will initially sound wrong to some, but hear me out.)
Another possibility is the rule of money — what the classics called oligarchy. Now, the centre-right might use the language of equality and liberty and democracy, but what they’re really fighting for is the victory of wealth, as I think should be clear with little reflection. There are moments when I get the attraction of this one, and certainly there are good arguments to be made for its usefulness. On a fundamental level, though, this is the one I find most repellant, most ignoble. Probably this is the closest to what we are currently living in.
Another possibility is what Plato in the Republic speaks of as timocracy. This is the rule of the honourable, the heroic, the war-like. Plato speaks of this regime as being the closest one, among the realistically possible options, to the best state. It is the one most conducive to a virtuous citizenry, of the available possibilities. It seems to me that this vision is the one taken up on the reactionary right, and only there.
And out of the available options, that is the one which speaks to me the most. Today’s right has many problems, but I can’t quite see that deeply unfortunate fact as a refutation of the right as a whole. What I am attracted to is not the right as it exists, but an idealized version of it, I admit. But I think there will always be a part of me that is more at home in that ideological corner than the other available options, even as I recognize both its actual and its theoretical shortcomings.