(Drafted in 1986, published circa 1990 by the student newsletter Liberal Voice)
As the spiritual and intellectual debacle of socialism becomes increasingly obvious to everyone outside the ranks of Western intellectuals, there are signs of increasing tension between various non-socialist schools of thought. For example the IPA Review during 1988 reported a survey of six liberal or conservative columnists on a wide range of issues which yielded unanimous agreement on only three items.
If these tensions reflect fundamental differences, then the groupings of the 'non-left' may fragment into warring factions. No doubt some differences arise from misunderstandings which can be resolved, and some simply reflect the different priorities and interests of individuals. Significant differences are likely to arise in two areas: a) the use of state power to enforce moral principles and b) the domain of economic policy. In each case the nub of the issue is the extent of state intervention that is appropriate.
Greg Sheridan provided a useful point of departure in considering these issues when he described three strands of right-wing thought and floated the idea of a merger. In The Weekend Australian (July 12, 1986), he pondered the prospect of some masterly theorist effecting a 'dazzling synthesis' of market liberalism, cultural conservatism and the thoughts of BA Santamaria.
He associated market liberalism with the free-enterprise think tanks, such as the Centre of Independent Studies. The conservatives tend to be involved with Quadrant, the Association for Cultural Freedom and perhaps the Institute for Public Affairs. Santamaria does not fit comfortably with either of those groups though he has points of contact with both. He operates in a tradition of Roman Catholic thought which includes Hilaire Belloc and is equally suspicious of capitalism and communism. (This was first written in 1986, Santamaria is no longer a living presence in this debate).
The synthesis that Sheridan wants to see would combine the economic rigour of the market liberals, with religious and spiritual inspiration, both tempered by the prudence of the conservative.
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