Is the Political Left Today’s Conservative Faction?

I tend to think so. I come across more and more anecdotal evidence to support my thesis with each passing day. For example, in my current research on Dutch colonial responses to Javanese political strategies, I came across the following passage by Dutch historian Eduard JM Schmutzer in his 1977 monograph Dutch Colonial Policy and the Search for Identity in Indonesia 1920-1931:

The abuses in government exploitation under the so-called “Cultuurstelsel” (Cultivation System) and the subsequent criticism by humanitarians [...] made the liberals aware that new methods for the exploitation of the East Indies and for the development of its inhabitants were to be found. In contrast to the conservatives who maintained that the central role of government in economic life was necessary to protect the natives against the overpowering influence of private capital, the liberals argued that the doctrine of free enterprise and its beneficial laws of unrestrained capital and labor market, promised in Indonesia an increase in the sagging production and an improvement in the welfare of the natives. Both conditions [free capital and labor markets - bc], the liberals maintained, would be to the advantage of the population at home and abroad.

However, the channeling of capital into the structure of government monopolies by private investors did not result in the expected increase per capita productivity [Ya don't say? - bc]. (1)

The emphasis is mine. Can anybody name any factions in today’s world that advocate restraining private capital in the name of (condescendingly) protecting those who are too stupid to know what to do with their own money?

Anybody at all?

Needless to say, the liberals lost those important colonial policy battles of the late nineteenth century (probably because they were outnumbered by both the theocrats and socialists who believed private capital was bad for the natives and that therefore authoritarian paternalism was in order).

I can’t help but wonder: Does the anti-globalization Left realize just how conservative its position is?

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2 thoughts on “Is the Political Left Today’s Conservative Faction?”

  1. Here is another great quote from the book Nusantara: A History of Indonesia:

    In the long run, however, there was no escape from the conclusion that the principles of Liberalism [in the classical sense] were irreconcilable with a system of government enterprises based on compulsory labor and trade monopolies. (303)

    Libertarians have long maintained that freedom and imperialism are mutually exclusive. Right now I’m reading a section in this book about the politics behind imperialism in the Netherlands of the 19th-century. Libertarians (or “Liberals” as we are known in the non-Anglo-Saxon world) during this time period and in this particular instance thought that working through government could be a good option for ending colonial domination but also for further integrating Dutch and Javanese society.

    The liberals lost out to the socialists and conservatives, of course, but really: What else is new…

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