Left and Right Are One Now


Hearing President Bush at the UN on September 23rd reminded me that the Florida 2000 decision probably didn't make any difference after all. Sure, I find Bush more simpatico, just because Gore possesses such an unappealing personality. But that shouldn't matter for political purposes. What ought to count there is which of these individuals is likely to promote the best protection for individual liberty. And, I am afraid that George W. Bush has shown absolutely no interest in that task whatsoever. He doesn't even pretend to be interested in the basic rights of Americans any longer. At the UN we heard that he is mostly concerned with order-'it's between order and chaos that we must choose. As he put it, 'Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides: between those who seek order and those who spread chaos.'

Just before President Bush sounded off on his various pet topics'-Who should establish order in Iraq; How sexual slavery must be combated, etc.'-we heard from Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan. And he, too, made it clear that individual liberty isn't at the top of the list of his concerns. What he wants is, well, more power for the United Nations to deal with the world's economic and social problems. As he put it, he believes that 'this assembly itself needs to be strengthened and that the role of the Economic and Social Council and the role of the United Nations as a whole in economic and social affairs, including its relations to the Bretton Woods institutions, needs to be rethought and reinvigorated.'

In other words, Annan believes that a world authority of top down regulation of human societies everywhere needs to be established. Certainly, social problems cannot be left to free men and women to sort out as best as they judge fit. So, it is clear that President Bush and Secretary General Annan see things eye to eye: the world needs to be put in order, as per the vision of world leaders.

I am sorry but I do not see much difference between this and what some of the worst dictators in human history have had in mind for us. Sure, these two blokes may not wish (yet?) to resort to out and out brutality, at least not on the scale of a Stalin or Hitler, in attaining their vision for us all. They will probably proceed by more subtle means'-various treaties and such, backed up by the heavy hand of the tax authorities everywhere who will make sure that our lives and labors go to a good cause and aren't wasted on things we ourselves might like to pursue. (Oh, that unalienable human right to the pursuit of one's happiness! Where has that notion gone these days?)

Domestically and internationally it looks more and more like the forces of Left and Right have reached a rapprochement. They will no longer fight each other on very much but agree to unite so as to bring about order. Sure, some of their objectives may remain slightly different'-the Right will tend to fret more about our souls, while the Left will likely keep attending more to our pocketbooks. But these are mere details.

What is crucial for both camps now is that statism live on and flourish and everywhere people give up all that nonsense the American founders made so much fuss about, namely, our basic individual rights to life, liberty and property. Because there are rival groups vying to run the world, some more overtly violent than others, some threatening more innocent people than others do, the relatively more 'civilized' statists can invoke plenty of excuses to try to hold on to power and wield it themselves rather than allow these barbarians to take over. But this is only a matter of degree, not one of principle'-all the major power blocs are out to rule the rest of us.

There was once an idea, even if not quite a full-blown reality, that the USA was a sanctuary to the politically oppressed across the globe. But no more. The USA has now become just one of many countries in which statism is running amuck and individual liberty isn't even mentioned in the country's presidential addresses.

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Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.