Left And Right Wing Politics

What happens when a bird with split personality tries to fly.
[from CarAddiction...]
Why is something controversial automatically "left wing"? Is this some sort of AmericanCulturalAssumption? ;-)

For a controversy to exist, it needs two sides. Obviously, we're not talking about the left and the right fighting each other since that would make every issue controversial. A controversial issue is one where the left or the right is fighting with the center. In a very right wing country like the USA, right-wing issues will be uncontroversial. In a very left wing country, left-wing issues will be uncontroversial. The existence, necessity and desirability of universal health care is uncontroversial everywhere outside the USA. Right-wing (Liberal, Canadian Alliance and Conservative) plans to dismantle Canada's universal health care system are extremely controversial even in a moderately right wing country like Canada. CarAddiction will be doubly controversial to Americans since the UnitedStates is very right-wing and extremely attached to cars. -- RichardKulisz


If the US is extremely liberal, why on earth can an argument be dismissed simply with the label of "socialist" there?

You have to distinguish between the people of the USA and the institutions of the USA. UnitedStates usually refers to the latter. You also have to distinguish left and right from liberal and conservative. Both liberals and conservatives are right-wing. Left and right refer to commitment to a particular economic system. Center is no commitment whatsoever just willingness to follow what the people want. On the left are socialists, communists and anarchists. In the center are social democrats. On the right are liberals, conservatives, libertarians and fascists. Theoretically, in a left-wing country the conservatives are left-wing.

Taxes are not a straightforward left vs. right issue. You can be an extreme left-winger and still hate taxes. Especially so if you're an anarchist. I'd like to see income tax (which taxes the poor and middle class) replaced with taxes on capital like negative interest currency and the Tobin tax. Their purposes are to boost the economy and end stock speculation but they'd still be very good at generating income. Then there's the land tax which the USA was actually founded upon and which Georgist Libertarians whole-heartedly approve. Taxing capital accumulations directly would prevent the perversion of income tax into a regressive tax system, as has happened.

Even health care isn't straightforward. The principle that everyone should have access to health care is characteristically left-wing but particular implementations differ. And health care is a good indicator of the schizoid US political scene because a majority of US citizens support single-payer health care without even any media attention to the subject. Incidentally, even most corporations (ie, all non-insurance ones) support single-payer health care since it is more efficient. But then, corporations rarely believe their own propaganda (depressions occur when they start to).

And then there's the media. The US news media is not left-wing at all. Rather, you have to again distinguish between the individual journalists from the news organizations. Journalists tend to be liberal or socialist because they are more educated, more informed, and more intelligent than the general population. However, the opinions of journalists do not dictate the news. Editors and celebrity journalists dictate the news. Editors are all rabidly and extremely right-wing. This is because they are appointed by owners, who are all billionaires and whose interests are served by right-wingism. Editors are in a position of extreme power versus journalists and can filter anything they like. That is, until the regular major scandal hits the fan and the editors are forced to back off, at which point journalists push through all their accumulated censored news. And celebrity journalists are also chosen on the basis of their political views. But that's not even necessary since when you give someone a million dollar salary and force them to schmooze with other millionaires, they will naturally start thinking that progressive taxation is a bad idea. Their economic views will change rightward following their changed economic interests and class membership. All of this is explained by NoamChomsky in TheManufacturingOfConsent with much more detail and vastly more rigor than I have briefly sketched here.

On a practical level, the distinction between left wing and right wing doesn't matter. There is only class interest. Workers, all workers, have interests in common which are antithetical to those of managers'. And actually, even the class analysis itself is irrelevant on a practical level. The most extreme right-winger will still go into hysterics when hit with a 20% increase in rent. At which point he'll run to the neighbourhood Marxist and say "We've got to do something!"

Personally, I think that parties are all nonsense. The only important political issue in actual human beings is between the sadomasochists and the rebels. The former group refers to those who submit to the system, especially those who do so in order to dominate others. The latter group refers to everyone else, even the crotchety individualist gun-nut right-wing extremist. -- RichardKulisz


I don't know if you meant to say this, but the above paragraph implies that right wing people are ignorant idiots. Many of them are not. AynRand, for example, was quite intelligent (something she really flaunted in her books), and yet she was severely right wing. For the life of this country, we right-wingers have been the major drivers of the economy. I wonder where other more liberal countries would be without the right wing US? If it weren't for us, the rest of the world would be mostly speaking German and Japanese. You buy our software, and our weapons. You go to our schools and use our inventions, all the while talking about how stupid we are, and reckless and dangerous. Maybe next time we won't come up with a war ending weapon for you. Sorry, this got to be a bit more inflammatory than I intended. Someone else can edit it or delete it if they feel the need.

Ignorance and unintelligence are two very different things. Most right-wing people I know are fairly intelligent but willing to overlook any number of facts to support theory. For instance there are stats showing that free trade hurt employees in Canada, Mexico, and the US, yet many intelligent people will still tell you that free trade is a benefit to the common man. I think if you look at the evidence you will see that right-wing policies are on the whole harmful, and I am speaking as someone who has and is witnessing two provinces slide to that end and suffer as a result. America is somewhat of a special case because of the control she exerts over the rest of the world, a sort of Athenian empire built by in defence against some common threat long since vanished (the Axis you mention above) and now maintained to a large extent by the tribute of its allies. As for the war-ending weapons you are so proud of, they have held the world in terror and near disaster for decades, and if they were ever needed at all they should have been deployed in half the number on a military target. I think you may be considerably underestimating what the world owes the US.


AynRand certainly was severely right wing. She was not, however, notably intelligent. By which I mean that she was certainly much brighter than average, but not one of the truly strong minds of her generation. She was a fair author; her prose is much better than her philosophy. As a philosopher, she has no currency except among a small group of (mostly) USians, most of whom are philosophically unsophisticated. Intelligent members of the hard right persuasion who *are* philosophically sophisticated know this, and use other sources. As for the original context, I will echo the opening sentiment above: intelligence and ignorance are very different things.
Right-wingers are committed to capitalism. Left-wingers are committed to an alternative economic system. The defining characteristic of capitalism is private property. Libertarians are capitalists through and through. Anarchists in contrast are anti-capitalists. Libertarians may like to style themselves as different from liberals and conservatives, they may even think of themselves as fundamentally different, but the political spectrum is much wider than merely liberal to conservative. Compared to anarchists, libertarians are closely related to liberals and conservatives.

As for conservatives being lumped together with fascists, a careful reading of history will show that when threatened with a left-wing revolt the conservatives switch allegiance to fascism. This happened in Italy, Spain and the UnitedStates as well as all Latin American countries. Most people are unaware that the big capitalists of the day conspired to overthrow UnitedStates President Roosevelt and install a Fascist regime in response to the New Deal. The conspiracy fell through when the general they got to do it turned out to be a patriot. Congress whitewashed the entire affair thus proving that you can commit treason but only if you're rich. (ref: The Rich and the Super-Rich by Ferdinand Lundberg).

As for the WorldsSmallestPoliticalQuiz?, the value of a test is in its discriminatory power. Since the quiz has no discriminatory power, it has no value. People of all political affiliations would be forced to declare themselves libertarians if they followed that quiz. It's a great rhetorical tool but nothing more.

Anarchists (see AnAnarchistFaq) don't need to use such cheap props since Anarchist history proves its fundamental anti-authoritarian stance. Thus, Anarchists don't care that they're on the extreme left alongside Stalinists because nobody who understands the movement will ever confuse the two.

Things are not so clear with Libertarians who belong to a much younger movement (20 years versus more than a 100 years), are much less significant, are regionally constrained (no presence outside the very right-wing countries), and support philosophies that permit all manner of atrocities (eg, Utilitarianism permits slavery). In a revolution, whom exactly would the Libertarians ally themselves with? TheLibertarianParty can only posture.

Many fine people describe themselves as Libertarian (especially Georgist Libertarians) but many people of much more questionable moral worth also subscribe to the ideology. The infighting can be very enlightening to an outsider, as well as very entertaining. But given that there is so much variance between libertarians, it's probably not a good idea to talk about the ideology. -- RichardKulisz


Canada lacks any genuine left-wing advocates. The New Democratic Party is centrist at best, it's too committed to the market and to small business to be other than social-democratic (ie, not socialist). Of course, this assumes we categorize parties by their actions instead of their rhetoric which isn't a given. For example, what defines Third Way politics is left-wing rhetoric and right-wing actions. Third Way politicians are all by definition liars. This includes Bill Clinton (Democrats-USA), Tony Blair (Labour-UK) and Jean Chretien (Liberals-Canada). If we go by actions then the USA has lacked even a centrist party since the mid-70s when the SUN-PAC Supreme Court decision allowed corporate control of the electoral system. What's funny is that the US Green Party is arguably right-wing.

What I'd like to know is if there are any viable left-wing parties in the very right-wing countries. -- RichardKulisz

 Country	Left	Center	Right
 --
 Australia		ALP, Dem	Liberal, National, One Nation [1]
 Austria
 Britain			  Labour, Liberal, Conservative
 Canada		NDP, BQ?	Conservative, Liberal, CA
 USA				Democrats, Republicans, Reform
 NewZealand

Some of the minor parties in Britain are traditional left wing, and devolution has made some of them viable. The ScottishNationalParty? (the official opposition in the ScottishParliament?) and PlaidCymru? in Wales have certain socialist policies and the ScottishSocialistParty? would be poorly named any other way.

[1]ALP = Australian Labor Party. Spans true-left -> right, but usually ends up centrist. Dem = Australian Democrats Party.


"Trying to discuss politics with someone who insists upon the left/right duality is like trying to discuss art with someone who insists there's only two colors: "Red", by which they actually mean orange, and "Hot", by which they mean all other colors, but usually a sort of purple." -- Some guy on alt.slack.

(I know a guy who invented a classification system for politics as a PoliSci? thesis - it had 7 axes, and room to add more. Sadly, he seems to have lost the file.) -- AnonymousDonor/WikiNewbie


[this should probably be refactored to UnitedStatesOfAmerica or CorporateGovernment. Yup, definitely needs refactoring.]

Indeed. Much of this discussion is very UnitedStates focused and bears little resemblance to the distinction between left and right in European countries. For example, up at the top it says...

''Why is something controversial automatically "left wing"? Is this some sort of AmericanCulturalAssumption? ;-)

I'd say it's "left" due to its pro-environment and somewhat anti-business (anti- buying and selling lots of car products) slant.''

Also in here is a comment that managers and workers interests are often inherently in conflict. Both of these are AmericanCulturalAssumption's stemming from the belief that the primary/only goal of business is short term growth. In other capatalisms (e.g. Germany, Japan), longer-term considerations such as economic stability and social cohesion rank higher than short term business results. (Although even as I type these ideas are being eroded by the WTO & co. pushing their own AmericanCulturalAssumption that the UnitedStates form of capitalism is the OneTrueWay.)

I think that limiting our view of things to "right vs left" is creating more confusion than illumination. If Anarchists and Stalinists are both "far left," then there must be some other measure by which we could say that they're different. (I'm attracted to the "7 axes (or more)" idea mentioned above.) -- JeffGrigg

The two axes of political and economical are actually a pretty good start, IMO. These are used on the WorldsSmallestPoliticalQuiz? but they pinched it into a diamond shape, so that Libertarianism wouldn't look any more to the right than Anarchism - a square would be better. -- JoshuaGrosse

If Anarchists and Stalinists are both "far left," ...

Actually, arguments can be made putting Stalinism on the far right. The international socialist website argues that post-1920 USSR was merely an extremely efficient capitalist nation with a single person (Stalin) owning everything and everyone working for him. This way of looking at it has some merit, especially since Stalin was in heated competition with other states. Since the unit of competition is a State, they call the system state-capitalism. (http://www.internationalsocialist.org/pubs/origins/sfbel.html).

An interesting observation is that depending on how much of the economy you let a monopolist own, whether nothing or everything, you exclude either Libertarianism or Stalinism from the far-right. You can also include both of them in the far-right if you say it doesn't matter. But there's no clean way to exclude them both.

If I were to design a political spectrum, it would be Authority. Anarchy would be at the far left and everything else would be to the right of it. But that's because I think most or all other issues are derivable from authority and so I consider it the most important. My understanding of the definition I gave of left-right is that it is the standard polsci/European definition of things. -- RichardKulisz


Pathologies, stereotypes, or myths of both sides:

Left Right

That successfully mischaracterizes much of the left, especially the first point. And I know much of the right isn't actually religious, though I'd need somebody closer to that end of the spectrum to tell me if the third point is anywhere near universal to them.

I added the word "stereotype" in description.


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