A long time ago – when I was much younger – I assumed that, in general, the various political parties had similar goals, but different views about how to reach those goals. Essentially I assumed that all parties wanted to help to develop a decent and fair society but disagreed about the best way to achieve this. I assumed that left-wing parties believed in a welfare state providing basics services for everyone, while right-wing parties believed it better to have private provision as this would promote more growth and hence give more opportunities for people to succeed. Ultimately right-wingers believed (I thought) that most – in a well run society – would be able to afford all the things that a welfare-like state would provide.
I have known for quite some time that the above view was simplistic and naive. The Liam Fox affair seems to have illustrated just how naive the above view can be. Liam Fox has had to resign as Defense Minister because of his links to his friend, Adam Werrity, who was – it appears – being funded by right-wing lobby groups to try and influence the Defense Minister. Prior to resigning, Liam Fox seems to have been the darling of the right-wing of the Tory party.
It seems like the ultimate goal of people on the far-right of the Tory party, in the UK, and the Republican party, in the US, is to do whatever they can (within the law if possible) to help big business and big corporations. This includes influencing defense spending, spending on healthcare and influencing policy (keeping taxes low, reduced regulation, etc). They presumably argue that this is good for all of us as it helps to create a strong economy. It’s possible that this could be true by chance, but certainly doesn’t seem to be by design and on current evidence doesn’t seem to be true at all. Ultimately, the goal seems to be to try and maintain the wealth of those who are already wealthy and, as far as I can tell, very little of what they try to do is in any way aimed at helping society in general.
It seems – to me at least – that the goals of the far right are not entirely consistent with what I would regard as the principles of democracy. Our elected leaders are meant to be ruling in such a way as to create a society that’s free and fair for all, not just for the wealthiest few. Of course, those on the far-right of the Tory and Republican parties are indeed elected so it’s partly our own fault for believing their rhetoric. There’s also nothing strictly illegal about holding these views (even if some of their tactics might be). You can’t really accuse them of being prejudiced. You don’t have to be from a particular race group, gender, or have a particular sexual orientation. You don’t even have to be from a wealthy background, you just have to be wealthy now. The main issue I have is that their policies seem to be explicitly aimed at benefiting the few rather than the many and hence do not appear to be consistent with what I would regard as the standard democratic principles.
One might argue that the same could be said of the far-left of the Labour and Democratic parties. Acknowledging that both left- an right-wing radicals are dangerous, the left-leaning elements of the Labour and Democratic party at least have policies that are aimed at benefiting the many rather than the few. I would happily agree that hardcore socialism is not a good way to run a society, but at least the intention is decent and consistent with the basic principles of democracy (at least in theory, if not in practice).
Just as I started writing this I discovered this article by George Monbiot about
think-tanks suggesting that the practices of many right-wing think-tanks are a threat to democracy. It’s more factual that what I’ve written above and certainly worth a read.