Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Lawrence Auster has a heap of posts and comments up at the moment about the late Holy Father. Auster is derisive of the view that John Paul II was a conservative. But that depends on what you mean by conservative and Auster has an unusual view of that. It is certainly clear that JPII was a political centrist but I think one could say much the same of GWB. So is GWB a conservative? NO! I can hear some people shouting. But no real-life politician wins universal approval even from his own side of politics so I think we have to say that in the ordinary meaning of the term GWB IS a conservative.

From my own libertarian conservative viewpoint both GWB and JPII are/were not nearly conservative enough but I think that real-world conservative politics at least from Disraeli on have almost always consisted of finding a safe balance between competing political claims rather than pursuing some hard-line ideology. Hard-line ideologies are for Leftists. So I think Auster's view of the matter misses the point that JPII was of necessity a real-world politician -- so compromises were to be expected of him. Even my great hero, Ronald Reagan, signed into law some pieces of legislation I would rather not think about.

What I think Auster also misses is that political centrism is thoroughly Papal. The attitudes of JPII were simply modern adaptations of traditional Papal thinking. I go into that at slightly greater length here. Papal thinking is in fact the ancestor of the Blairite "third way". The syndicalism that was recommended in the famous 1891 encyclical De rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII also tried to strike a balance between capitalism and socialism.

Update: I guess I should mention explicitly something I initially thought was too well-known to require comment: That there was one respect in which His Holiness was NOT a centrist -- his stand in favour of individual rights versus the power of the Communist State. So in that respect he was very much a conservative, and a great one.


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