Left nor Right embracing liberty

By Tibor Machan: Freedom New Mexico columnist

When those on the political Left refer to defenders of the free market system as “right wingers,” there is understandable concern about how the term is being abused. Classical liberals, the supporters of both economic and civil libertarianism, have been anything but “right wingers,” quite the opposite.

In European political history, the Right has been royalists, fascist, traditionalists and even militarist, while the Left included mainly socialists, communists and welfare statists. Those who champion free market capitalism do not fall within either of these groups because they tend, in the main, to oppose statism or the use of the government for purposes of problem solving.

For the classical liberal the problems in a society are best addressed within the private sector.

In America, the classifications are different because America’s distinctive tradition includes classical liberalism. The right wing in the United States isn’t mostly fascist or royalists but religious and traditionalist. But since a central feature of tradition in American politics is classical liberal or libertarian, labeling champions of the fully free system “right wingers” makes a certain amount of sense.

But it can also serve a dubious agenda of the Left, namely to associate free market capitalism with right wing statism, as if the likes of F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand and so on had anything at all in common with fascists and royalists.

But the association serves the not-so-hidden purpose of smearing them in virtue of how the Right elsewhere does veer very close toward fascism and royalism.

In the current dispute about the vast and rapid expansion of the role of government in society, increasing government’s scope by leaps and bounds, charging opponents with being right-wingers comes in handy.

These opponents are indeed a coalition of libertarians and American conservatives because libertarians oppose statism on principle and also for a variety of practical reasons, and American conservatives oppose it as a matter of the American political tradition — for example, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

But the American Right is quite selective about embracing liberty. Mostly American conservatives support free markets but not so much civil libertarianism. On that score the American Left is more like the libertarians, although mainly for opportunistic reasons.

This is evident on how readily the American Left, along with others on the Left across the globe, supports the likes of Venezuela’s strong man Hugo Chavez as well as Fidel Castro. In the case of these political figures, the Left abandons its apparent support for civil libertarian ideals, mainly because the American Left tends to share the revolutionary goals of other Left wingers around the globe. And any revolution, Left or Right, would be slowed down by principled civil libertarian policies.

So while civil libertarianism is useful for the Left as it combats general right wing measures such as those included in the more hysterical elements of the homeland security, it is likely to be abandoned once the Left gains power in the USA.