Excellent writing on the New Right.  The Old might read 

An insightful mini-essay from Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen on how his “own preferred slant of classical liberalism is being replaced” by what – for want of an agreed term – he categorises as the New Right

At his level of intellectual discourse, this means “the smart young people I meet who in the 1980s might have become libertarians”.

Presumably they didn’t.  But nonetheless “the New Right doesn’t entirely reject the basic principles of free market economics”. (Is ‘entirely’ redundant here?) 

Instead it tries “to transcend libertarian views with a deeper understanding of the current power structure … New Right thinkers regard most power as cultural in nature, rather than rooted in coercive government alone.”

The consequence is that their “policy emphasis … [is] … how to use the government to constrain the Left and its cultural agenda, rather than ensuring basic [classical liberal] liberties for everyone.”

You don’t have to agree completely (more commentary here) with this bold simplification to find it a helpful framework for better understanding the tensions in the world-wide democratic centre-right movement.

It is useful, for example, in explaining the phenomenon of political migration, for example why UK market liberals who supported the extension of the EU’s single European market, then became some of the most articulate Brexit supporters.

It also provides an angle on the bitterness of current intra-right disputes, whether it is the precise theology of tax cuts in the UK, the terms of incorporation of Trumpism in the US Republican party, or immigration policy just about everywhere.  

Cowen sees the argument not so much about the failure of current governmental, bureaucratic and media elites (a view increasingly shared across both New and Old Right), but the unreadiness of the New Right ideology to step into the space long occupied by classical liberal ideals – or more practically to provide better elites.  

Or as he puts it “If you yank out a tooth, you cannot automatically expect a new and better tooth to grow back.”

That’s a metaphor that ought to resonate with every conservative from Edmund Burke onward. 

Which is perhaps why this particular question seems to be being addressed less through revolution and more via the repetitive trial and error of political reconstitution.  

For example, take this piece from Politico entitled ‘How the far right got out of the doghouse.

“There is a normalization of far-right parties as an integral part of the political landscape,” said Cathrine Thorleifsson, who researches extremism at the University of Oslo. “They have been accepted by the electorate and also by other, conventional parties.”


“The rise of far-right parties is only part of the story. The facilitating and mainstreaming of far-right parties as well as the adoption of far-right frames and positions by other parties is at least as important,” tweeted Cas Mudde, a leading scholar on the issue.“

Leaving aside quibbles over the terminology and capitalisation accorded to the Right, it reminds us that at the bottom of politics is policy, and the coalitions built around it.

Old and New Right find it easier to make common cause when the left over-reaches with power, whether it’s co-governance in Three Waters or more bail for violent offenders in New York.  The looming Republican wave in next week’s US mid-term elections looks set to be a good illustration of that (although it’s less clear how that will play when it comes to exercising power).

But opposing the other guy only gets you so far.  The really hard policy issues arise from the compromises made by the Old Right in past decades in order to keep power:  whether in opening borders; high taxes for working people; increasing direction of lives, behaviour and incomes to environmental and social regulatory goals as diverse as child poverty, climate change and racially-constructed mores.

Electorates seem on the brink of rejecting the orthodox package, with doubts growing about its ability to deliver economic growth, higher house prices, a comfortable life, social peace and that ineffable sense of doing the right thing. 

Of course, the Old Right is quite right to remind that there will always need to be compromises.  But the New Right seems more interesting on what should be in the package.  Electoral success might provide even more encouragement.

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