December 15, 2007

The Virtue of the Right

Alex Hilton infuriates me. His latest article in the Guardian repeats one of the most dangerous nostrums of the politically partisan, whilst conceding intellectual ground that I think he ought not to concede. Hilton has said in the past that he hates Tories- now he says he hates the right. He hates them because he sees the right as pursuing a self consciously selfish aim and beleives that there is no such thing as principled right wing politics. Of course Mr Hilton's assertion is manifestly untrue: most of the rightwingers I know may be in error but one thing they are not is unprincipled.

But this goes further than that statement. Lets for a second presume that the right are in the wrong and are in error. There are some errors that deserve hatred- for instance racism etc deserves hatred (though I would not ban the expression of racist views). The right's errors though lie in various areas which aren't in my view ipso facto immoral- the right puts too much of a value on a misconstrued notion of freedom, too much value on authority providing safety and security and too little value on equality and real freedom. There are other values you might place alongside that- but overall those ideas and arguments have a long pedigree, are respectable intellectual positions and do have good ends in view- even if the biproducts of those ends would be evils.

Mr Hilton seems not to recognise that- and to be so swallowed up in the bile of partisan hatred, trade union war mongering and spite for 'hoorays' that he has lost his sense of proportion. Furthermore whilst doing that he himself has moved into the territory of the right. His partisan anger has blinded him to the fact that to be rightwing is not to have an accent but to espouse a set of ideas- one of those ideas is that absolute poverty matters more than relative poverty. On that argument Mr Hilton is on the side of the Tories- I don't want to rehearse the argument again- but there are good reasons to think that poverty is relative as well as absolute- arguments Mr Hilton neglects. The perils of partisanship are such that you arrive at a position where you embrace your opponent's worst positions because they are popular, just because your fundemental cause in politics is not your ideas but hatred of your opponent.

What Mr Hilton has forgotten is that the real end of any political argument isn't to win, but to persuade. However hard that might be, there is no future in political arguments which exclude either the left or the right for snobbish reasons- we can both learn from and hope to persuade each other- and if we don't, then our politics is dishonest and is about winning, not getting things right. The day that one can't admit to error, is the day that one dies as a serious person.


Alex Hilton said...

I'm not saying relative poverty isn't a valid issue of concern. I do believe that a proper redistributionist government would end poverty. I just think it would take too long.

I feel a focus on absolute poverty could help those at the very margins of society far quicker and more directly.

If we could stamp out absolute poverty then of course relative poverty would have to be the next target and I would vote for a government to do that - I just wouldn't be driven to try to be in a government to do it.

CityUnslicker said...

It is a shame you wasted as much time on this on responding to a pathetic tirade of someone who seeks only the limelight for himself.

In and of itself not represetative of the working class whom he claims to speak for.

Ruthie said...

You must go read this. It ties right in to what you're saying.

I have the same problem with American political discourse, incidentally.