Time to re-assert a distinction

I bought Time Magazine today for the first time in decades so I could check out the story about my colleagues. First, let me say that buying Time isn’t that easy to do these days. The first two stores I visited don’t have it in their magazine section. As to Time’s coverage, I agree with Rocket Man that the pictures are excellent and the story is disappointing but not too bad. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I do take issue with Time’s characterization of Power Line as a right-wing (as opposed to a conservative) website. I last blogged about this distinction in September 2002 when we had maybe 100 readers, so maybe it’s time to do this again. Here’s some of what I said in two different posts back then:
“The dichotomy between the ‘right’ and the ‘left’ comes from European politics and applying it here isn’t particularly helpful except to those who want to diminish American conservatives. In Europe, ‘right-wing’ connotes a statist and somewhat authoritarian philosophy to which anti-Semitism is often attached (although nowadays such sentiment is far more prevalent within the European left). This philosophy has nothing to do with the main strand of American conservatism, with its strong optimism and libertarian tendencies. Instead, the fundamental divide in our politics is best captured by the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’ I believe that the attempt to re-characterize the debate as between the ‘right’ and the ‘left’ is really part of a marketing strategy used by liberals to make up lost ground. During the 1990s, polling showed that the electorate viewed liberals (the ‘L’ word) negatively. This was not due to the word itself (which has a solid pedigree) but rather to the failed policies of liberalism as practiced in the 1960s and 1970s, and to liberal opposition to the successful and popular conservative policies of the 1980s. Liberals needed new jargon, and they found it in the European concept of the ‘right-wing.’
“My teen-age daughters were taught that the spectrum runs from the far left, occupied by communists, to the far right, occupied by fascists and nazis. They were also encouraged to believe that these two extremes somehow merge when pushed to their limits. This is nonsense. A useful political spectrum must be based on a continuum of ideology. I can’t think of any such continuum in which communism and fascism are polar opposites. The most meaningful continuum is based on the two fundamental and related questions of political philosophy — how much power should the government have and how much freedom should the individual exercise. On this spectrum, as Balint Vazsonyi has pointed out, communism remains at one extreme, while the other extreme is occupied not by fascists but by pure libertarians. The fascists and the nazis (short, after all, for National Socialists) are situated right next to the communists because, as Vazsonyi has explained, their views on government power and individual freedom are quite similar. In other words, the two ‘merge’ not as the result of some cosmic paradox but because they were nearly the same from the beginning. On this spectrum, mainstream American conservatives, with their belief in effective but limited government, are located on the libertarian end, but at a distance from pure libertarianism.”


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