I contend that in America (unlike Europe in important respects) “the right” is defined by two pillars: religious and cultural traditionalism on the one side and classical liberalism or economic libertarianism on the other. We can get hung up on the labels, but it is fair to say that people who are very culturally conservative are usually identified as “right-wing” and those who are very libertarian on economic matters are dubbed right-wing as well. Modern conservatives, for the most part, adhere to the “fusionist” school which tries to marry both traditionalism and laissez-faire in one coherent vision. Meanwhile, the Nazis – and, to a lesser extent, the Italian Fascists – rejected both of these worldviews while embracing statism. In my book (literally and figuratively) that puts you on the left. To date no one has successfully rebutted this argument.
This is from Jonah Goldberg’s response to his critics. I haven’t actually read his book Liberal Fascism. However, I know he makes an argument similar to that made by political philosopher John Gray: Government officials who deliberately set out to oppose cultural traditionalism (as with atheist opposition to religion) inevitably resort to extreme violence to impose reforms on the population.
This is characteristic of the self-righteous idealist. Of course, it is completely opposed to the liberal ideals of “tolerance for all viewpoints” and “social change through education.” It is, rather, a response to frustration at the natural intransigence of normal people to the useless idealism of pointy-headed intellectuals.
It is the hard-headed and frequently hard-living “average working men” who constantly befuddle the manipulators on the left and right. They are generally employed, but not well paid. They generally despise their employers, but depend on them anyway. They generally claim to be Christian, but don’t necessarily read the Bible or go to church, and are unlikely to have been “born again.” They generally respect authority, but hate being told what to do. They consider themselves well informed if they watch Jon Stewart or Bill O’Reilly regularly, but they typically fail surveys on geography, history, and science facts. These contradictions enable the continued charade of the American “two-party” system, which expends most of its resources trying to capture a majority of these voters for one of the sides, usually through various rhetorical tricks and publicity stunts.