From a reader:
While I’m obviously generalizing, I think the following mental calculation describes the perspective of a great many liberals/leftists:
Political thought can be described as a straight line with communism occupying the far left position, fascism the far right.
While I’m in agreement with a lot of its positions I’m not a socialist. For instance, I think some income inequality is probably necessary. And while there are parts of communism that I agree with, there are also parts that I have significant misgivings about, like the relative lack of press freedom and free speech.
There is almost nothing I find appealing or I’m in agreement with when it comes to conservatism.
My own views are pretty centrist. I may lean a little to the left but there isn’t anything extreme about my politics, and besides most of the people I know have similar opinions so I must be pretty solidly in the center.
If I’m in the center, and can find more common ground with communism than conservatism then conservatism must be pretty far to the right; if not exactly fascist very much in the same neighborhood.
Update: Quite a few readers wondered why I didn’t contest this. I think the reason is that I basically agree with it. I think the confusion stems from the fact that the emailer was referring to the liberal-leftist mindset rather than his own.
But I think he’s absolutely right. Liberals start from the assumption that fascism is on the right and then they fit their own biases to the political spectrum. What I Don’t Like becomes “fascist.” Things I Have Sympathy For, in whole or part, becomes left.
Update II: From the reader himself:
Thanks for posting my e-mail (a Navin Johnson moment!).
I think you read me correctly. I was trying to get at how pernicious the template of left (communism), right (fascism) is given that most people will tend to place themselves in or near the center (We make $750,000 a year, so we’re middle class). From that orientation a calculation of relative distance leads inevitably to placing any vigorous conservatism on the far right of the spectrum, which makes it fascist or quasi-fascist. The search for substantive differences with socialism and more serious differences with communism is a way of substantiating their position as being centrist. Hence the frequently observed denial of being a socialist despite espousing socialist views that you pointed to last week.
The above is in part why I think Oakeshott’s enterprise association/civil association categorization is so valuable (a brief explication of which can be found in the Hunter College address given for NR’s 25th anniversary and available on the archives)
Update III: It is very strange, but readers keep thing the above correspondent is talking about himself when he says “we make $750,000 …” He doesn’t. He’s characterizing a mindset.