Thursday, October 28, 2010

More on Daniel Hannan – Telegraph Blogs:
Memo to my Leftie friends: you'd feel better if you tried not to hate us so much

Memo to my Leftie friends: you'd feel better if you tried not to hate us so much – Telegraph Blogs

The Left - Right alignment developed between 160 and 220 years ago. It began in the French National Assembly where the Jacobins sat to the left of the Speaker's dais in the Plain and the Royalists, Feuillants and later Girondins sat in the raised bleachers to the right, called the Mountain.

The designation in England of the Tory Conservatives as the equivalent of continental reactionaries was always problematic. They represented, and to some extent still do, rural and traditional interests. They were socially conservative but also sympathetic to a hierarchical society and an active paternalistic government. The Torys muddied the waters if they are viewed in a continental right-left manner by supporting the Reform Bills.

The English party that was the heir to those aligned to the innovative mercantile interests that resisted arbitrary authority were the Whigs who morphed into the British Liberals.The Liberals were the party that most closely resembled the American Conservatives in their (lower case) libertarian leanings. The transformation of the Liberals as they spent the last century and a half wandering across the ideological map is a fascinating story.

Historically there is often an alliance between the Nobles and the Commons against the Merchants and the Sovereign. For example in Rome the Emperor was usually aligned with the mercantile urban Freedmen Plebians against the Senatorial Class Optimates and the rural latifundia. Those late Republic identifiers may not apply over time but the concept remains valid.

The peasantry are usually attached to the rural gentry and when there is competition for their support the political system can become dangerously unstable. Their antagonism to the old nobility, exaggerated by the obsessive legal disputes and privileges in old regime France, fueled the Great Fear that ignited the Revolution. In England Charles I by aligning himself with the Nobles against the Whig Commons broke the historical pattern and temporarily doomed the Monarchy. The extension of the franchise under the Conservatives and their sympathy to social welfare can be viewed in that historical context.

Even today the Monarchy remains aware of it's dependence on popular middle class as opposed to aristocratic support. They have to be careful to calibrate just how far they go in project their image as sympathetic to different interests. Edward VIII was considered dangerous because when he toured afflicted regions and said "Something must be done to find these people work" it was seen as leading to a potentially fascist popular threat to the constitutional order.

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