Once upon a time in America, there was a left and a right and a center, and within these clearly discernible segments of the ideological spectrum there were distinctly calibrated gradations. Everyone could find an ideological niche without much trouble, and knew pretty well where everyone else stood too. Everyone knew who were the good guys and bad guys, and the varying degrees of rectitude of the guys in between.
By now it is almost a cliché that the old ideological points of reference are no more; that left, right, and center cannot be identified even with a scorecard. One way of describing these changes is to say that left and right have been collapsing toward the center, that is, toward the locus of power. Interests of state have increasingly taken over, leading the "responsible" elements within each ideological group more and more to resemble one another.
We have reached the final pages of Orwell's Animal Farm, in which the pigs, who had previously been the vanguard of the successful animal revolution against man, now walk erect and even live in the farmhouse, and "the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from Pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." Specifically, it has become almost impossible to distinguish "responsible" National Review conservatism from right-wing social democracy or from neoconservatism, and even, in some respects, from left-liberalism or the democratic socialism of the Robert Heilbroner variety.
How much difference is there, after all, among William F. Buckley, Sidney Hook, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nathan Glazer, Norman Podhoretz, and Irving Kristol – or even between them and Heilbroner and John Kenneth Galbraith? Admittedly there are differences of style, of traditional rhetoric, of ethnic roots, and especially, different persons and institutions each of these thinkers will salute on days of ritualistic obeisance. But the substance is all too similar.
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