Sunday, July 24, 2011

Right and Left: Differences

Now, this might be a bit contentious. But here's my hypothesis.

The Right
The Right tries to achieve a god-given basic state, often described with 'freedom' and 'liberty'. It thinks that the less government there is, the better. But the point here is that this is not a conclusion. It is the thesis, or even the axiom. The Right may argue that 'free markets' are useful, but that is not why the Right desires them. The god-given basic state of humanity, the cowboy on his ranch, is the goal the Right wants to achieve.

Of course, the Right is often right (no pun intended), when it comes to the benefit of little government influence, the invisible hand and the pure power a free market can unleash when it comes to generation of wealth. But this just strengthens the arguement for the god-given state. It is not the reason for this desire.

The Left
The Left tries to achieve a human-created state. A state that allows everybody to live a life free of misery. They are willing to use any means necessary to achieve this. If big government is necessary, then so be it.

Of course, the Left knows that free markets are incredibly powerful at creation of wealth, and it often argues in favor of them. But free markets are just a tool the Left begrudgingly uses to increase the size of the cake it ultimately wants to redistribute.

Both are extreme ideologies, of course. The Failure of the Right often is that it doesn't want to create a society anybody actually would want to live in, but rather a visionary god-given state that in its truest form is probably not desirable for most people. The Failure of the Left is that it overestimates the human ability to govern itself and ignores harmful side effects of laws and centralization.

In todays NYT I found this:
Subsidize Vegetables
We could save billions in health care costs and make healthier food cheaper if we taxed nutritionally weak foods.

Now, this proposal is obviously on the left hand side of the political spectrum. The Right will disagree with this, and it will give all kinds of arguments. But the real reason the Right disagrees is that such a tax would remove the country from the god-given state.

The Left, on the other hand, welcomes such a proposal. It is always looking for easy ways to make life better. There might be negative side effects of such a new tax, but it's something the Left would have a look at before it would discard the proposal.


  1. Are you basing this off of an American viewpoint, a European one or politics in general?

    Whilst I agree that *in general* the right is usually more liberal and the left is usually more authoritarian, I think it's important (nay, necessary) to separate Left-Right from Authoritarian-Libertarian in order to try and look at things objectively.

  2. This is a try to capture the essence of the left/right divide. It is, of course, not objective.

    I don't think using a two dimensional scale is any more objective, by the way. It is just a more complicated model to capture the essence.

    Mostly, I am interested in reactions. ;)

  3. "Mostly, I am interested in reactions. ;)"

    Well, in that case:

    Methinks the fundamental reason why the left (the real left, not centre-left parties that are utterly useless anyway) consistently fails is that to achieve its end goal is virtually impossible in a free market, and unless the country is totally self-sufficient, changing that market often results in a both a national and international loss of available capital and support that simply isn't tenable. In order to truly succeed, it needs to build from the ground up, but that's failed catastrophically (Khmer Rouge as an example.)

  4. The problem is that "right" and "left" are not at all monolithic. Libertarians, conservatives and fascists are all generally described as being on the Right; anarchists and Stalinists are both regarded as being on the Left. Not a lot in common in either case... I find using something like the Pournelle Chart ( a lot more helpful in categorising political groups.

  5. The irony is that the Right has zero actual interest in limited government. This is the same group of people opposed to Gay Marriage (and gays in general), abortions, and anal sex (e.g. sodomy laws). You cannot oppose those things without a government making them illegal, limiting the liberty and freedom of individuals all the way into the bedroom. Moreover, as I mentioned a few days ago, what power vacuum does exist is filled by the corporations themselves. A pure libertarian state is a plutocracy. And all of this is wrapped up in the package of Conservatism, where change and progress is resisted in deference to stagnation and custom.

    I think the fundamental issue is the acknowledgement of whether or not there are problems (or opportunities) that cannot be solved by individual self-interest. Would libraries exist without government? No. Would colleges exist without government? Maybe a few. Do public schools grow the economy in a better way than simply leaving people to their own devices, pumping out millions of uneducated children because private schools are more expensive and they would rather them work for $5/day instead? Obviously yes. Once you start acknowledging that there are problems only government can solve, you become a Leftie despite that being the only truly rational thing to do.

    That is funny thing about the vegetable story you linked. The Right would oppose it out of principal, because it amounts to taxing corporations despite the fact that it would save billions of dollars in return. You do not have to give two shits about the health and well-being of people to be in favor of making healthier food cheaper than the garbage food - you just have to be capable of math. In this way, I identify more as a liberal Pragmatist.

  6. The Right is about conservatism, about detesting change, looking back to a golden, often idealised, past. That's why for Americans the cowboy on the ranch is an appropriate symbol. But it's not really a desire for a particular state, if cowboy on ranch state were achieved right wingers would look back to a glorious state of multiethnic communities and representative democracy.

    The Left is about social justice, all forms of left thought are essentially Marxist and based on the premise that the wealthy unfairly exploit the workers. I don't think Left is necessarily in favour of free markets as many Leftist positions hold that centralised production is better (the Soviet Union failing not due to some innate flaw in the system but simply due to mismanagement).

    Neither Left nor Right are automatically extreme. Imagine a line. The ends are extreme. Everything left or right of centre is moderate close to the centre becoming more extreme the further out you go.

    As for vegetables, bizarrely in Europe we subsidise meat. There's absolutely no reason for this, some years we have to destroy surplus milk and meat industry by-products. We do this because the farming industry is very effective at lobbying politicians even though there's no sane reason to do it.

  7. "Subsidize Vegetables
    We could save billions in health care costs and make healthier food cheaper if we taxed nutritionally weak foods."

    The Right doesn't disagree with this because it wants some sort of God given state, it disagrees with this because it is idealogical stupidity.

    Taxing nutritionally weak food just makes that food more expensive. It doesn't lower the cost of healthier food. On the contrary, healthier food will increase in price due to more people competing to get it.

    More to the point, the lower classes who are the great consumers of nutritionally poor food would go berserk at such a policy. It's one thing to nanny state them into paying a huge price for cigarettes and booze, it's another thing entirely to single out what they eat.

    And if you think that they will somehow switch to cooking healthy meals, then think again. The industrialization of the food industry beginning in the 1920's separated peoples connection with food, which is over five generations ago. There would need to be a wholesale systemic education process that would take generations again and cost huge amounts of money. If you're interested in this subject the book, "One Continuous Picnic" is excellent.

  8. Adam, I didn't even read the article. My point is that the reasons you listed are not the true reason the Right wouldn't like such a tax. They are just arguments; tools.

    If we had a discussion about this, the Left would now start with "if you did it right" and "higher demand means higher supply - higher number of produced items means price would actually fall".

    But even for the Left this would not be the true reason it would want that tax. The true reason is that it liked the idea from the start and is now looking for tools to make an argument.

    Stabs, I know that many people who consider themselves Left or Right are not extreme. I tried to describe what is at heart of the applied ideologies. For example most people who consider themselves part of the Right argue that lawmakers are necessary. But for them this is actually a necessary evil. It is not what they really want.

    The reason people can argue for hours (and decades) about these things is that they fight shadow wars. They argue about the tools without actually tackling what divides them.

    @Tremayneslaw thanks. I didn't know that chart.

  9. Taxing nutritionally weak food just makes that food more expensive. It doesn't lower the cost of healthier food.

    Err... you know the whole point of the article is how vegetable subsidies would make healthier food less expensive, while removing the subsidies on the books for garbage food would pay for it. The only reason twinkies cost $1.29 a box is because we subsidize that entire industry, and then pay for it again when 38% of the US becomes obese.

    As for the crocodile tears you have for the poor, puh-leeze. Leaving it to "market forces" to solve their problems causes way more harm than anything else we could do. Now they and their children will have long-term health issues on top of their generational poverty.

  10. I wish I could remember who said this, but I read one commentary that said the fundamental divide of the right vs. the left is a disagreement over whether a person's "nature" is fixed. The right believe that a person has a fundamental nature or character, while the left believe that our character is shaped primarily by experience and is malleable.

    This explains why the right is for "small government" while at the same time being "law and order." If a person's nature is fixed, then all you have to do is get rid of the bad apples and everything will run fine.

    I mention this just as another understanding of what makes people right vs. left.

    I don't really agree with the idea of right vs. left presented in this post, but I don't think that matters. It could be that "right vs. left" is "nostalgia vs. optimism" or "nature vs. nurture" or any number of other divides. The important thing is that bit about how you have an emotional reaction first and then use reason to support that emotional reaction after.

    Couple that with the fact that the ability to form an argument and the ability to see through an argument are essentially the same skill (meaning none of us is terrible proficient at seeing through our own bullshit) and you get a bunch of people walking around fighting about things they don't really care about and never understanding themselves or anyone else.