Libertarians, conservatives, religionists, reactionaries

It is strange, the mishmash of views that get lumped together on “the right” as if they were a continuous or even unitary reality.

In a way, it makes sense. The different perspectives are sometimes unified by a common resistance to some other standpoint. They are lumped together mainly due to the fact that each in its own way hesitates at or actively resists the increasingly ambitious egalitarianism of what is called the left.

And yet they are not the same by any means, and they are deeply opposed to one another on important questions. To attempt to think them all as a single thought, as different sides or emphases of a coherent whole, is an impossibility.

That’s not to say that they are entirely incompatible. They can be forged into combinations. But each combination in this realm reduces the things combined.

The libertarian prizes freedom, and will accept the negative consequences that might come from greater freedom as the price we pay for such a great good as liberty, and will likely forecast that many of the short-term problems will solve themselves in the long run through market forces and human ingenuity.

Further to the right are conservatives, who think last year was better than next year appears to be, who are not averse to change but want to move slowly and cautiously and to avoid destroying, in the process, the good things we have made for ourselves in the past.

The religionists are those who take their guidance from a religious tradition, wishing society to be infused with meaning, bound together by faith, and directed by knowable moral principles.

And the reactionaries are those who would give up the modern world and its conveniences in exchange for an older, harder, brighter way of life. They prize strength and beauty, glory and honour, toughness and elegance and community.

They are not the same. As long as we keep trying to treat them as if they are, we are fated to be full of incomprehension, and trapped by incoherence.

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