Left vs. Right?

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Zamfir
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby Zamfir » Fri Mar 06, 2009 12:29 pm UTC

Grappig. I thought that meant that many revolutionaries in the French revolution were executed by their successors. How would that relate to current parties? I dont' really see a murderous streak in the PvdA or SP :) I guess your father means something else?

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby King of Frogs » Fri Mar 06, 2009 12:59 pm UTC

guenther wrote:We could have a socialist society and just tell people over and over to stop being lazy and depending on the government, but we know that doesn't work. Capitalism is great because it recognizes a truth about human nature.

I wanted to quickly pick up on your point here (sorry for coming into the discussion halfway through, but I never noticed this topic before). The thread seems to have been dominated by North Americans, so as a Briton I might not quite get the nuances of American politics, but I just thought I'd try and form a critique of your thoughts of scientifically discovering the "best" political system.

It is this quote that worries me about your conception of the creation of a scientifically accurate political system. The thing is, you already have political assumptions. We all do, it's a part of being human that we hold opinions which are inherently political. Now, in your society, as in mine, capitalism is assumed to be, more or less, a good way of doing things. I myself identify as a socialist (obviously, I have specific views within that, but for my purposes a broad definition will do) and would severely contest this.

Of course, this isn't the thread to discuss the validity or lack thereof of capitalism, but it is, I feel, useful to first work out: "what are the political assumptions I am making here? How would that affect any political science I undertake?" It's similar to the case where Alfred Wallace, one of the discoverers of the process of evolution, couldn't bring himself to accept that humans, like all other animals, had evolved. His preconceptions about human nature led to a major scientific mistake.

I worry that your "knowledge" that capitalism appeals to a (totally unverifiable) human nature will warp any investigation you put into politics.

If you can find a way to make an investigation into the optimum political system double-blind I would be more confident in your project.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby Dhes » Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:50 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Grappig. I thought that meant that many revolutionaries in the French revolution were executed by their successors. How would that relate to current parties? I dont' really see a murderous streak in the PvdA or SP :) I guess your father means something else?


Lol.

Not just those 2 parties, my father is an Austrian/American living in the Netherlands so it spans a few countries.
Nothing as drastic as killing people, but there are a lot of people that took to the streets in the 60s en 70s to fight for any number of liberties and principles. You have the same people now fighting (not on the streets) to take that stuff away from current generations.

i.e. in the 70s there where big demonstration for squatters (squatting a building in the Netherlands is legal), there are people that demonstrated for in the 70s, that are now fighting to for stricter laws and criminal prosecution. People that fought for the current drug law in the Netherlands, the same people that want stricter laws now. You can see stuff like this in a lot of counties, where people are doing a 180 with the principles.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby Zamfir » Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:22 pm UTC

i.e. in the 70s there where big demonstration for squatters (squatting a building in the Netherlands is legal), there are people that demonstrated for in the 70s, that are now fighting to for stricter laws and criminal prosecution. People that fought for the current drug law in the Netherlands, the same people that want stricter laws now. You can see stuff like this in a lot of counties, where people are doing a 180 with the principles.


Yes, I sometimes feel irritated about "babyboom hypocrisy", the generation that wanted easy housing when they were young and poor and strict control now that they are rich and own houses... If your father sticks to his principles, that is probably commendable. On the other hand, times really change, and squatters are a good example. In the 1970s there was a definite idealistic thing about them, or so I hear from those old enough to know. In the 1980s, the squatter movement turned out to have a pretty violent streak in it, although some people say they fought for good things. In the 90s, squatters seemed to fight mostly for their right to free housing in attractive locations, something that doesn't incite a lot of goodwill from people with mortgages.

My parents used to sympathize a lot with the squatter movement, and I don't think they do now, but they do feel somehow guilty about that. To some extent they became older and more conservative, but squatting also simply didn't turn out to be something worth fighting for. And so did Maoism, I think even the SP agrees on that now.

I get personally most irritated by people who used to be activistic, are now settled citizens, and now expect the young to be activistic and maostic and whatnot in their place...

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby guenther » Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:28 pm UTC

Dhes wrote:The “Us” vs. “Them” mentality isn’t all bad. I think that it’s a way to moderate people. Even if you're part of group A, not everyone in group A will have the same point of view. By grouping together everyone evens out.

I think UVT (Us vs. Them) is a part of us, neither good nor bad. My theory is that it creates an irrational bias, sometimes drawing people closer, sometimes pulling apart. Sometimes the bias is for good (family, friends, sporting competition), and sometimes it's for bad (racism, sexism, nepotism, etc.). I'm not out to issue judgment on UVT anymore than I would for anger. Both have a place, but in excess (either too little or too much) it causes a problem.

This irrational bias is what I'm talking about. For Us it accentuates common ground and makes people work together. But for the Us/Them divide, it accentuates differences and drives apart. Again, I'm not speaking in terms of good/bad, but rather about effective communication. This bias is often amplified (sometimes intentionally). The stronger the bias, the less rational the person will be. Convince a mother that her son is a cold-blooded murderer. Convince a hard core Democrat that a hard core Republican can have compassion. (These are just random examples to illustrate the point, let's not elaborate on them.)

I think this bias is being manipulated by shrewd political advisers because they know it produces good results during elections. But this comes at the expense of greater hurdles to overcome to effectively solve problems and run our country. This is why I believe the problem is systemic. And my hope is that if we reduce the "Team" element in politics, then it becomes harder to manipulate this effect.

imho
Left = The group over the individual
Right = The individual over the group

This is getting a bit off-topic, but one mistake I think people make (though I can't know if you in particular are guilty of it) is that they think the Left/Right divide represents reality. But the truth is that Left/Right is a basis onto which we project information. A particular basis can present some information quite clearly at the expense of hiding other information. The Fourier basis is extremely useful for any form of analog communication. It's frequency domain perspective makes designing filters intuitive. But this comes at the expense of seeing how the signal changes over time.

Projecting onto Left/Right yields a wonderfully simple picture and is probably better than any other one-dimensional basis in terms of politics (I'm guessing, I'm no expert). But we lose the complexity which might hold valuable information as to what's really going on. As Whimsical Eloquence stated earlier, some people use a two-dimensional basis; the familiar Left/Right and another that represents how strong the government can enforce it's ideology.

I don't have any insight into what might be a better basis. I haven't studied this stuff nearly enough to know beyond wild speculation. But I do get a sense that people tend to oversimplify too often.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby guenther » Fri Mar 06, 2009 7:15 pm UTC

King of Frogs wrote:I wanted to quickly pick up on your point here (sorry for coming into the discussion halfway through, but I never noticed this topic before). The thread seems to have been dominated by North Americans, so as a Briton I might not quite get the nuances of American politics, but I just thought I'd try and form a critique of your thoughts of scientifically discovering the "best" political system.

My goal with this is not to form a "best" political system. It's actually simply to correct what I think is a flaw. If we conclude in the end that the entire system needs scrapped, then so be it (but I find that very unlikely). My guess is that we could do small changes to the existing framework. And I'm from the US, so it's our system that I follow. I am not educated in governments of the world enough to keep this from being US-centric. :) But I'm happy to hear other opinions on the matter.

It is this quote that worries me about your conception of the creation of a scientifically accurate political system. The thing is, you already have political assumptions. We all do, it's a part of being human that we hold opinions which are inherently political.

You hit upon a problem with examples, or perhaps my example-crafting skills. :) My example was to provide clarity, not push a new idea. I wanted an example of where there's a systemic problem and you can't just educate the population out of it.

My particular example probably shows my lack of education in this field as much as my bias. I said "socialist society", but I really meant pure communism. A state where no one owns anything, and everyone is compensated equally regardless of what they do or how much they work. It was meant to be a bleak and extreme example, one where we could all agree that it has problems. I wasn't actually trying to provide commentary on the more socialist states of Europe as compared to Capitalism. In fact, if I meet objections to this example, instead of defending it I would rather chuck it and find a new example that we could all agree on. It really is about providing clarity to my original point rather than pushing a new idea.

It's hard to decouple the specific point I'm trying to make from it's political framework, and it may not even be possible or practical. But that's what I'm trying to do. :) I tried to state my problem clearly in my last post to Dhes. Basically we have a strong UVT bias that is not allowing a rational discussion to prevail. Too many people are out to characterize the other side as bad guys rather than actually discuss the issues the other side raises. How do we fix that?

And, since you don't have the US perspective I'm interested in how you see things. Do you see this problem in Briton or anywhere else? I'm curious if someone else has already figured out a solution, or if they're just a plagued by it over there.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby King of Frogs » Sat Mar 07, 2009 12:45 am UTC

Thanks for clarifying :D.

In Britain, for most of my life (probably revealing my youth here) we have had, like the States, two very similar parties competing for the middle ground in politics, which, in the States would be considered fairly lefty I suppose. The Labour party, ostensibly a Social Democrat party has either just left- or just right- of centre politics at any one time these days. The other party, the Conservatives tended to be more right-wing, but right now its nigh-on impossible to tell the difference between their policies. That was, of course, until all the economic shit hit the fan, and the Labour party has been talking more about government influence in the economy than usual, though I can't say its made much of a difference.

Anyway enough of the crash-course in contemporary British politics, the point is that in the past the Labour party was explicitly socialist (in a non-communist way) and the Conservatives were very right-wing. This created a very antagonistic political scene in Britain, mostly divided along class lines - if you were working class you would vote Labour and if you were Middle or Upper class you would vote Conservative. Oddly, now that there isn't as much of a difference between the two parties, the same differences still exist. This is the case especially in Scotland, which was at one point predominantly working class, where even now, despite the similarity in policy, the Conservatives will never get a majority here because of the cultural memory and general political bad blood (also, the Conservatives really fucked Scotland over in the 80s)

I suppose my point is that, yeah, political antagonism leads to antagonism in society, even when that political aspect has all but gone. So, really, I agree with you, the "us-vs-them" attitude makes people vote, not necessarily for the people they support, but specifically against the people they have been conditioned to dislike, just out of a kind of cultural spite.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Sat Mar 07, 2009 10:57 pm UTC

Yes, on the subject of British Politics: essentially, Margaret Thatcher (damn her, I can't began to explain her wrethced actions) got the Conservatives in for a number of years and Labour got back by getting Tony Blaire. Blaire was the Obama of Britain a decade and a half ago, New Labour and Third Way politics (idiotic, stupid lies sold to people) were going to destroy the old Left v Right divide.

Labour not only failed to do anything except strip away the liberties of its people and distance people from the notion of any Labour party. The Conservatives are actaully are a more palatable option then Labour simply because they'll banish the police state and be somwhat (not a hard thing) more enviourmental than Labour.
Ultimately the Liberal Democrats (look over there a third option!) are the best party, they favour more socialist policies(vaugely, not as much with Clegg but...eh), a British Consitution and Elected second house, as well as just good and sensible opinion. Whenever I watch Question Times I some how find myself immediatly agreeing with the Liberal Democrat rep (generally less bigoted and sensible).

THe main problem with Britain is the one seat constituencie, first past the post election system makes the two big parties most likely to get in. The Lib Dems get in somwhat, but are not favoured for fear of loosing there vote.

A site I would recommend for all is http://www.politicalcompass.org/, this reforms the old and nebulous Left/ Right system into a two axis Cartesian Geometry one where one axis measures economic policy and the other personal freedoms.
It also places countries, politcians and you (yes you!)on it and gives a very good system for measurment and a way of breaking through the lies told and strawmen fed to us/
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby jsgoyburu » Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:38 am UTC

So, in the defense of "pure communism"!

What do you mean by it, "pure communism"? Do you mean marxism? As marxism is a fairly interesting and illuminating way of analizing society, and certainly an important development on the history of modernity, such as Hegel, or Kant or Stuart Mill. I consider myself, in fact a marxist, and I'm certainly ready to defend the basic tennets of marxism.

Or perhaps you mean third internationalism or soviet communism, marxism-lenninism, the prolongation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the engeneering of the new society from the ashes of the absolutist kingdom, with which I don't agree, but makes rather interesting points, as much as to be worth of reading if a copy of Lenin. I mean that marxism-lenninism was not necesarily a bad idea when it came to be in 1917. The US, in fact, had a fair share of communist supporters, from the working classes organizing their unions, many working women (always promoted sexual equality, communism). US demonizing came from the bolshevik revolution, the first succesful communist revolution, which by the state planned economy grew from an almost feudal society into an industrial and well educated one in just years. It was a system that had to fail in the long run, because the technological conditions for communism can't just be "created" by state planning, but it threatened capitalism idea of itself. PS: capitalism is not sooooo good... it's just that you're standing on top of a lot of other people's shoulders, so you get a nice view (but now it's kind of trembling, isn't it?).

Or maybe you mean stalinism, which is other option, the complete control of all aspects of society, the tyranny and oppression of a few over many... that's bad, and certainly not communism by definition of it's theory. It could be argued that it's the inevitable corollary of the theory, but that's hard to back up. It could be just proof that the classiocal marxism can't be forced, and you can't get communism from absolutism, without capitalism. Or it could be the proof of Trostky's argument that the revolution can't be localized and has to be worldwide, Stalin's idea of "socialism in one country" only led to the perpetuation of militarization and thus a new class system. And by any means is US capitalism any better. How many people has died, do you think, over the years, by order, or indication, or pressure from the US? From the dissapeared in all Latin America, to those dead in the Chaco war, instigated by the Standard Oil in one side and Shell in the other, between Bolivia and Paraguay, and that killed 95.000 people and ruined their economies, causing the deaths of thousands others in the following generations.

So don't judge communism by stalinist and post-stalinist (bureaucracy to power) USSR. If you are going to be post-political, at least get to know your "post-"

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby Zamfir » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:03 pm UTC

jsgoyburu, I would humbly suggest that when King of Frogs said that the Labour party wasn't communist, he meant that they weren't communist.

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby Azrael » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:24 pm UTC

This does not need to turn into a debate about the varying forms of communism.

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby King of Frogs » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:50 pm UTC

Thanks Zamfir. As a point of clarification for jsgoyburu I meant that whilst the old Labour Party was socialist in its dedication to the nationalisation of major industries and the creation of a welfare state, they didn't have a Marxist/revolutionary ideology. Hope that clears things up.

I would like to agree that politicalcompass.org is a very good site, as I would think that any investigation into political dichotomies would have to do away with the one-dimentional "left-right" approach. It is unable to deal with more modern and subtle political distinctions. For example, how do you tell the difference between a Stalinist and an Anarchist? They are both on the "extreme left", but is one more "left" than another? No, the difference lies in their views on political and social freedoms. The same goes for the difference between "Iron fist" right-wingers like Margaret Thatcher and libertarian right-wingers like the Ronpaul.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby jsgoyburu » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:18 pm UTC

Dear Batracious ruler:

My defense of communism was not directed to you, but to guenther, who said that by "socialism" he meant "pure communism" as if it was clear that was the "bad socialism".

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby King of Frogs » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:01 pm UTC

Ah, my apologies. Might be helpful to quote what you're referencing, especially if it isn't on the same page.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby guenther » Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:30 pm UTC

jsgoyburu wrote:My defense of communism was not directed to you, but to guenther, who said that by "socialism" he meant "pure communism" as if it was clear that was the "bad socialism".

I'm not interested in discussing that example anymore, at least not in this thread. It's caused us to get way off track of my original point. The example was supposed to illustrate a situation where there was a systemic problem, much like what I think is happening with the Left/Right debate. I'm happy to use another example (but I can't think of one off the top of my head).

If you really want to discuss the merits of communism, socialism, etc., please use the existing thread.

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby PhoenixRider » Mon Mar 09, 2009 2:02 am UTC

Taking this thread into a new direction, I believe America's definition of "left" is quite centrist. In Canada, what the conservative party believes in most closely represents what the democratic party in America believes in. This is mostly because the label of "leftist" have been put on people with centrist views, to discourage people from thinking more to the left. Hell, it seems as if the Republican party is close to fascist, compared to the allegations of the democratic party being close to socialist.

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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:34 pm UTC

In response to the point raised by the previous poster:

You're quite right I feel, and for me I am always reminded of this in Fox News, or the brief excerpts I see of it. I use it as a source of humour, mainly its quasi-paranoid "The "Liberal Media" control everything" sentiments.

On the more earnest point I think the recent Obama election shows quite well how McCarthyism is still evident in American Society; not because of the odd notion of "He's a Socialist who will destroy the American way" pandered by ultra-conservatives and how that may have swung votes but of how the "ordinary voter" (for want of a better term) viewed him. In America he is seen as quite left-y or liberal at least to an extent but were he any other politician in Europe that held the view which he dose he would be regarded as a moderate conservative.

Please use a spell check. -Az

Edit: Just spell-checked, unless OpenOffice has messed up, all it got was homour which I have suitably edited.
Last edited by Whimsical Eloquence on Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:02 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Left vs. Right?

Postby guenther » Tue Mar 10, 2009 7:17 am UTC

Everyone feels like they're in the center. :) So if a country is further Left than the US, its people will view Obama as more centrist. People like to talk like there's an absolute scale, but humans are much more adept at seeing things relatively.

I like a lot of Obama's platform ideas, I just don't like him spending like the dickens. I don't know where running up massive debt fits into the whole Left/Right thing.

In regards to McCarthyism, I have seen it performed by both sides in the political debate. I think this tactic works well when there is a strong "Us vs. Them" mentality. This is the irrationality that I was talking about. We can't have a reasoned debate when both sides accuse each other of having some malicious hidden intent.
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