Left and right, the political dichotomy

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Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby drunken » Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:55 am UTC

I came upon a realisation lately, and I apologise if this was already obvious to everyone except me (and also if I am misguided in even realising it). It seems to me that the main difference between left and right wing politics, at least in the modern context, revolves around perceptions of human nature. It seems that right wing political ideology is informed by the general perception that human beings are base in nature, cruel, greedy, stupid and selfish. Conversely left wing political ideology seems based on the idea that humans are basically good, kind, altruistic and intelligent. Typical policies reflect this: in justice, the right advocate harsher penalties, and the left argue for rehabilitation and reconciliation; in economics the right generally argue in favour of using greed and self interest as the driving and moderating forces of economies, whereas the left generally prefer systematic distribution with an emphasis on providing everyone with what they need.

This leads me to want to abandon the left vs. right debate entirely in favour of the good vs. bad debate. I would like to debate this here if possible. Do you believe that humans are basically good by nature or that people are basically bad by nature, and what can you offer in support of these beliefs? Individual cases are not especially useful in such a debate as there are of course many examples of horrific cruelty and many examples of saintly altruism. scientific/social/psychological studies may be more useful but I would be surprised if there are sufficient in number or quality to resolve this question. Obviously there is the middle ground that people are both or neither, but this leaves us none the wiser for the debate and all the problems of, for example harsher penalties vs. rehabilitation, are left unresolved, and those that believe this should probably discard all current political ideologies and attempt to create a new, middle ideology that takes into account the more complex picture.

My answer
Spoiler:
The wall of text is large enough and I understand that many people may not be in the least bit interested in my own preferred answers to this question, so I have spoilered it to keep the post tidy.

I believe this debate is just as subjective and unresolvable as the original left/right debate, I like this one better solely because it is simplified and condensed, and rather than argue about hundreds of aspects of the previous political one we can reduce it down to a simple personal choice.

As for the actual question I choose to believe that people are basically good, not because of conclusive evidence that they are, but more because this is a subjective question as much about myself as about people in general. I like to believe that I am a good person. If for example I am to fail at something or everything in my life, I would rather have failed because I trusted in people to be good and honest and they betrayed me, than to have failed because I mistrusted people, and expected them to act in immoral ways, and my plans fell down because they were better than I assumed. Conversely if I were to succeed at something or everything, I would rather succeed because I trusted people to be honest and good and my trust was vindicated, than to succeed because I set out to exploit the weakness, stupidity and cruelty of humanity, and they behaved just as badly as I expected

Lastly I would like to point out that I believe the entire left right debate to be trivial and irrelevant and this aspect of it equally so. I believe that we can assume that humans are good or bad or both or neither, that left or right policies are superior, and we have achieved nothing without answering some much more important questions about where we are going and what we want the future to be like. This is why I also started another debate about these questions, the answers to which are not only achievable but also worth having. http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=64518
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Azrael » Sat Sep 25, 2010 12:45 pm UTC

drunken wrote:This leads me to want to abandon the left vs. right debate entirely in favour of the good vs. bad debate.

Which debate do you want; whether people are good or bad, or what motivates left vs. right politics? I ask because you have skipped over any reasonably encompassing demonstration, let alone proof, of your hypothesis that the left believes people are good and the right believes people are bad. You just kind of blurt it out and then move on.

Left and right are primarily a conservative vs liberal dichotomy, with conservatives after gradual change and showing a favoritism to tradition. In some ways a desire to restrain societal change indicates approval of where it is -- i.e. conservatives think people and society is ok, and doesn't need to change. This is directly opposed to your hypothesis.

So, again, which debate do you want to have? And if it's the latter, why have you muddled it by linking it to the former's hypothesis and then hidden your answer behind a spoiler?

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby icanus » Sat Sep 25, 2010 12:48 pm UTC

drunken wrote:It seems that right wing political ideology is informed by the general perception that human beings are base in nature, cruel, greedy, stupid and selfish. Conversely left wing political ideology seems based on the idea that humans are basically good, kind, altruistic and intelligent. Typical policies reflect this: in justice, the right advocate harsher penalties, and the left argue for rehabilitation and reconciliation; in economics the right generally argue in favour of using greed and self interest as the driving and moderating forces of economies, whereas the left generally prefer systematic distribution with an emphasis on providing everyone with what they need.

I don't think it's as simple as that - right wing policies could just as easily be seen as working on the assumption that people are innately good: We don't need to legislate protections for minorities because people will deal with that for themselves. We don't need a social safety net because charity will take care of anyone who falls through the cracks. We don't need to regulate business because entrepreneurs will act morally. Criminals deserve harsh penalties because they are bad and as such different from real people and probably beyond redemption.

Likewise you could make the opposite case that left wing policies work on the assumption that people are innately bad: We must legislate nondiscrimination because otherwise people will be douchetrucks. We need a social safety net because otherwise the rich will watch the poor starve. We need to regulate business because greedy corporations will chase profits at the expense of the interests of the public good. Criminals deserve rehabilitation because they are people who circumstances have led to act badly which could happen to any of us.

Ultimately I think the truth really does lay somewhere inbetween - as Terry Pratchett put it, we're "where the falling angel meets the rising ape". Sometimes we're naughty and sometimes we're nice, and I think it's massively oversimplifying to say that the Right thinks we're entirely one way and the Left thinks we're entirely the other. If I had to draw such a distinction I'd lean more toward saying that both sides of the political debate believe people are complex and flawed, but the Right tends to believe these flaws will self-correct, while the Left tends to believe that the government should step in and enforce good behaviour (at least insofar as that behaviour affects other people - for some reason when we're talking about victimless behaviours, like consensual sex or drug taking, the sides flip around).

edit for communication fail.
Last edited by icanus on Sat Sep 25, 2010 1:27 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Vaniver » Sat Sep 25, 2010 1:18 pm UTC

drunken wrote:It seems to me that the main difference between left and right wing politics, at least in the modern context, revolves around perceptions of human nature.
You may be interested in A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell. It analyzes this in some depth.

drunken wrote:This leads me to want to abandon the left vs. right debate entirely in favour of the good vs. bad debate.
I don't think good vs. bad is a good way to phrase it. The question is "changeable vs. unchangeable."

Most people on the right would say that, on net, humans are more good than bad. But they would also mostly think that top-down efforts to change people won't be effective. Indeed, if you believe that top-down effects to change people are effective and you want them to happen, aren't you already assuming people aren't good enough to begin with?

Good enough is the turning point there, but it should highlight the difference between "good" and "bad" in this context. A better way to visualize it might be this: one side believes the best way to improve humans is to collectively make group improvements; the other side believes the best way to improve humans is to individually make local improvements.

The truism comes to mind: the only person you can change is yourself.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Sep 25, 2010 2:31 pm UTC

I see more of a problem with the acceptance of conservative versus liberal as a valid dichotomy; what exactly are you calling right wing and what are you calling left wing?

For instance, libertarians(at least in america not sure outside) are the most ardent free market people and the most socially liberal. The problem is by claiming left wing vs right wing you are claiming that economic, social, and foreign policy are all linked along one axis that measures right vs left.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby drunken » Sat Sep 25, 2010 4:48 pm UTC

Already some very interesting responses here. Some of them are directing questions at me specifically so I will attempt to answer them.

Azrael wrote:Which debate do you want; whether people are good or bad, or what motivates left vs. right politics?


Either one is fine, all the responses so far have been about the latter, and I have no problem with that. Hopefully the two debates aren't so separate that they can't be contained in the same thread. With regards to a proof of my hypothesis, I never offer any such thing (unless my hypothesis is of a scientific nature), and I don't intend to start now. I offer a view, your choice is to accept it or reject it. It appears you have chosen to reject it and your arguments are compelling.

If you think the spoiler was a mistake I would be happy to edit it (or feel free to do so yourself).

With regards to Azrael's comments about conservative vs liberal, and also the questions raised by Vaniver and mmmcannibalism, there is a terrible trend of morphing the meanings of words in modern politics, usually to suit ones own agenda. I am guilty of this here to a degree as the correct meaning of the words left and right in this context is usually defined as liberal and conservative. I should have made this clear but I meant something slightly different and more complicated. The reason is that during the formation of modern democracy and political thought monarchy was something of an established norm.The right wing or conservative thinkers, as pointed out above, favoured the old ways and slow change. Current politics now have a slightly different history, and therefore the meaning of conservative has changed. For example with regards to modern USA (and many other countries), I could be called a conservative, in that I think many of the changes over the last 50 to 100 years were a very bad idea, and that the government should seriously consider reversing many of them. However I could hardly be described as right wing according to the current usage of the word. In fact the republican party in the US which is usually referred to as right wing seems quite radical to me. So we have a conflict in the meanings of the words. I was referring to right wing not as meaning conservative now, but as meaning what conservatives believed back when these words were first used to describe political ideology.

There is also a conflict between what the various political parties profess to believe, and their actions.
icanus wrote:right wing policies could just as easily be seen as working on the assumption that people are innately good: We don't need to legislate protections for minorities because people will deal with that for themselves. We don't need a social safety net because charity will take care of anyone who falls through the cracks. We don't need to regulate business because entrepreneurs will act morally. Criminals deserve harsh penalties because they are bad and as such different from real people and probably beyond redemption.

Although many people on the right claim that the ideology is about reducing legislation, in many cases the opposite is true, the current debate in the US about minorities is about legislating where they can build mosques for example, or making stricter rules about crossing borders and more comprehensive policing of these rules. Not regulating business is a misnomer often used for creating more regulations about what businesses can do, for example special legal protections for companies like the firearms industry and the oil industry, preventing them from liability in the case of harm. The existing rules that apply to everyone are added to with special exceptions for certain circumstances. Calling this 'deregulation' seems wildly dishonest. It also seems to be dishonest to claim to be reducing the power of the government over people's live while increasing the power of corporations over people's lives. The fact is that people want reduced interference from any large powerful organisation, this is not something that is only a problem when the government do it. The modern left wing is just as guilty of this dishonesty, mainly in that they have given up most of their ideological differences from the right, and are now simply more of the same. The words liberty and liberal are also changed beyond recognition, and libertarian is even worse. The original meaning of liberal was the movement of politics away from central power and towards collective power, and at the time after throwing off monarchy this was a fairly straightforward and understandable definition. But now that the context is gone the words have come to mean personal rather than social liberty, which is an entirely different idea. The majority of personal liberties infringe upon other people's personal liberties, and so the words have lost any coherent meaning, and have come to mean "what I want". Against a backdrop of slavery and monarchy the words suddenly become clear again.

So where does this all leave us? Well, confused for a start. I have already taken up far too much space here to get into the details of modern left and right wing politics, as I pointed out in my spoiler I think the whole issue is pointless anyway. I believe we would be better off having a multi dimensional spectrum of politics, perhaps only 3 dimensional so as not to over complicate things. No doubt someone has attempted such a classification and it never caught on.

I will try and wind up by defending my hypothesis, although it should not be assumed that I do so because I believe it. On the contrary I have made it my life's goal to systematically doubt everything in the universe, and that in no way excludes my own ideas. I defend it because I wish for it to have a fair chance before everyone, including me, discards it.

I was referring to concepts of left and right wing that are now outdated, think of the independence war in the US, or if you are sick of hearing about US politics the French revolution, or the independence of any colonial nation. I was thinking along the lines of government by the few, versus government by the many. I think this is as fair a definition of the terms as any of the hundreds one could choose and I apologise for not defining my terms from the outset. I think my hypothesis stands on this, as the few generally believe that the many are unfit to govern. If the government is by the many however, the reasoning is that the many are indeed fit to rule, and may reach an intelligent and fair consensus. These ideas are also not that outdated. The circumstances have changed somewhat, but an aristocracy of the rich through a free market is qualitatively not that different from an aristocracy of the rich through bloodlines. The idea of left making extra laws was simply to replace the whim of kings and aristocrats. The idea that the laws are more controlling and intrusive in peoples lives, and more destructive to their freedoms than the edicts of unaccountable ruling elites is absurd, except in those rare cases where the ruling elites were unobtrusive and respectful of the people's liberty. Equally absurd is the idea that any reduction in rules results in a corresponding reduction in the exercise of power.

I think that the comments posted by others have severely weakened my hypothesis, and although it is not entirely destroyed, it does seem that I have grossly oversimplified things. This is partly a result of the format of the discussion however. I think that if I were to write many thousands of words rather than the amount I did write, I would be criticised rather than praised for the extra complexity. If I were to write a book on the subject an internet forum is hardly the place to do so.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby lutzj » Sat Sep 25, 2010 6:50 pm UTC

Well, confused for a start. I have already taken up far too much space here to get into the details of modern left and right wing politics, as I pointed out in my spoiler I think the whole issue is pointless anyway.


If that is true, why are we debating it?
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby athelas » Sun Sep 26, 2010 1:27 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:I don't think good vs. bad is a good way to phrase it. The question is "changeable vs. unchangeable."

Most people on the right would say that, on net, humans are more good than bad. But they would also mostly think that top-down efforts to change people won't be effective. Indeed, if you believe that top-down effects to change people are effective and you want them to happen, aren't you already assuming people aren't good enough to begin with?
Great point, and I think it's really telling that evolutionary psychology is considered to be associated with the right, by both the left and the right. The left tends to believe that by top-down action you can make people good and society would be better. The right believes that human nature is pretty much set, and what's important is a culture that channels these tendencies to productive use. (The classic example is capitalism, which channels human selfishness - which right-wingers believe can't be seriously reduced by coercion or persuasion - into a means of improving human well-being.)

Culture is a form of technology - something that takes the input of fallible human nature and outputs a society, functional or dysfunctional. Conservatives look at successful, civilized cultures and say "what we have works pretty well...let's not break it." Liberals look at it and say "it's terrible that people are selfish and mean; let's engineer a culture that makes them better, rather than usefully channeling these impulses."

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Sharlos » Sun Sep 26, 2010 3:37 am UTC

athelas wrote:Culture is a form of technology - something that takes the input of fallible human nature and outputs a society, functional or dysfunctional. Conservatives look at successful, civilized cultures and say "what we have works pretty well...let's not break it." Liberals look at it and say "it's terrible that people are selfish and mean; let's engineer a culture that makes them better, rather than usefully channeling these impulses."


Or a less incredibly biased version: "What we have now isn't too bad but it could be so much better if we worked towards it."

And I think the historical background would prove them right.


On a previous note though, the reason the 'Left vs Right' debate is so terrible is it ignores a vast number of peoples opinions on things. What if someone is anti-war, socially liberal, economically conservative? Are they left or right?

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Vaniver » Sun Sep 26, 2010 12:43 pm UTC

Sharlos wrote:What if someone is anti-war, socially liberal, economically conservative? Are they left or right?
In the words of Ronald Reagan, they are up.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Earl Grey » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:28 am UTC

I just finished a quasi-related post on another forum which specifically referenced a great TED talk that deals with the differences between liberals and conservatives, and the binary opposition there. I'll link it here, and add a few thoughts which pertain to this thread. Link to TED Talk.

Azrael's right to ask for more clarity. It's clear you're aware that you're dealing with a complex issue that isn't easily distilled. Instead of running 'round the bush, dropping caveats and considerations, just grant that you have to simplify to some degree to get anything done, then decide what simplification is going to be most helpful. The 5-channel morality construct discussed in that TED video, I think, is potentially a very useful tool for thought on this topic. Obviously, I'm saying this because that's the foundation I'm now going to be walking on.

The Good and Bad dichotomy is a terrible binary to impose on the Left - Right construct. The vast majority of people want what is arguably 'good' (presence of fairness, absence of harm), but how they should work/negotiate for, achieve and maintain that good is where the chief differences lie. Like with biological evolution, memetics, or the evolution of ideas, is affected by the 'push-pull' dynamic (for an amazing illustration of the push-pull of evolution, I suggest reading Jonathan Weiner's The Beak of the Finch). Any particular trait, idea or ideology is only useful in a particular situation or context. If the situation changes, an advantageous idea may become a disadvantageous one.

For example, in a context of safety and plenty, in a system that can deal with shocks, the 'liberal' trait of openness to experience carries advantages, because you can afford the risks that attempting new ideas brings, and stand to reap the benefits of those risks. However, in a context of instability, or outright danger, that same openness to new things might result in the dismantling of the parts of the system that were keeping you afloat. In that context, you should keep things the same, or change them very slowly.

So, perhaps the differences between liberals and conservatives are more affected by how each perceives the situation in which they live, and less on notions of good and bad. If the situation is perceived as unstable, the difference seems to lie between people who think that the instability is caused by abandoning trusted structures, or those who think the trusted structures have become outdated, and new structures need to be created and applied.

I hope I haven't derailed, or too drastically diverted the thread from what was desired, but I found these thoughts extremely useful as they were presented to me.

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Steroid » Mon Sep 27, 2010 12:06 pm UTC

Both the OP's premise of left-as-optimism and right-as-pessimism, and the TED talk's premise of left-as-open-minded and right-as-closed-minded strike me as rationalizations designed to strike the right wing as wrong or in some way lesser than the left wing. They may be done in good faith, as would I be acting in good faith if I said that what I consider the main difference is that the left is collectivist and the right individualist, but even that is me slapping a pejorative on the group that doesn't include me and an encomium on the group that does.

What is a difference that I think might not fall into this rationalization is that the left is more objective in a moral context and the right is more subjective. Example: the left is concerned with man's effects on the environment, but as far as the right is concerned, man is part of the environment. Or, one person's sexuality is an inherent, uncontrolled characteristic from the leftist view, but a moral choice from the rightist view.

If the differences between left and right were superficial, they would have been identified already. They are not. They are deeply philosophical. The differences are metaphysical, epistemological, ethical. They are based in the feedback loop of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics. I think that rather than try to psychoanalyze the other position, which is only going to tick off the holders of that position, we are better served in trying to find a way to co-exist.

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby mmmcannibalism » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:34 pm UTC

What is a difference that I think might not fall into this rationalization is that the left is more objective in a moral context and the right is more subjective. Example: the left is concerned with man's effects on the environment, but as far as the right is concerned, man is part of the environment. Or, one person's sexuality is an inherent, uncontrolled characteristic from the leftist view, but a moral choice from the rightist view.


You have that backwards, right wing politics(or at least the religious part of it) is based in morality as intrinsic to an action; hence the whole we need to ban gays because being gay is intrinsically bad logic they use.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Le1bn1z » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:25 pm UTC

Interesting dichotomy.

It is wrong.

Take for example G.K. Chesterton, who, as an arch-conservative (he called himself "Orthodox") saw man as essentially good. (The Man who was Thursday, etc.) The same can be said for Lewis. Generally, the whole school of anti-Totalitarian thinkers of the Christian right were optimists of a sort. They had that in common with Orwell, on the left.

In the world of policy, the right often are more willing to trust people with significant power, such as in firearms law, where the right trust ordinary people to responsibly use firearms. The liberal left does not.

Of course, even this is a false dichotomy. Rural liberals and socialists in Canada are against the Long-gun registry, while some urban conservatives are for it.

Then, on issues like pornography, the position is flipped, with Conservatives not trusting the public to have a healthy mental and sexual balance without state intervention, and Liberals saying "I'm OK, Jack." Except with the Libertarians.

See. It gets confusing.

Burke, goddaddy of modern conservativism, saw humans as essentially good if imperfect people, who are quite able to muddle through without the guidance of a Utopian saviour.

Marx, on the far left, saw humanity as ignorant, self-interested and evil and in need of a fundamental over-right of human nature in order to even begin to become moral beings.

There is no clear dichotomy for the left and right in terms of reasons or rationale. Neither can claim a monopoly on faith, reason, optimism, pessimism, austerity, libertinism, orthodoxy or innovation. Any claim to base a solid dichotomy on any of these things will be swiftly shot down by me.

The only dichotomy I will accept is that of G.K. Chesterton: "The modern world has seen fit to divide itself into Progressives and Conservatives. It's the place of Progressives to keep on making new mistakes. Its the work of Conservatives to see that mistakes never get fixed."
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:52 am UTC

I see both "left" and "right" as wanting more control over you. The "left" is concerned about controlling what you produce and how (and who gets what you produce), while the "right" is obsessed with controlling your personal life.

Guns are always an odd point as, despite being a personal issue, the two parties are switched on this.

Libertarians love bringing up the Nolan Chart to illustrate this, and I'll agree with them on this point.

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby mosc » Fri Oct 01, 2010 5:29 pm UTC

On legislating morality:
Both sides love to do this. The right likes to protect society from individuals, the left likes to protect individuals from society.
On spending:
Both sides spend money. The right likes to spend money on tax incentives, defense, business incentives, etc. The left spends on social programs, parks/preservers, welfare, etc.
On taxing:
The left generally tries to balance the budget at tax. The right prefer deficits. The left prefer a "progressive" tax, the right a "regressive tax"
On money in government:
both the left and the right welcome nearly all legal sources of money into lobbying and campaigning.

The split does seem to be about morality. Right is "I'm fine, leave me alone. Tax me as little as possible. Just make sure people don't do offensive things or attack me". Left is "make society better for all. Redistribute the wealth. Let me do whatever I want as long as it doesn't affect somebody else".
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Dark567 » Fri Oct 01, 2010 7:42 pm UTC

mosc wrote:On taxing:
The left generally tries to balance the budget at tax. The right prefer deficits.

Errr.... that might be the Repubs and Dems, but among economists its pretty clear that the left(Keynes, Samuelson, Krugman) prefer deficits, and the right(Friedman, Hayak, Becker) prefer balanced budgets. Granted when attempting to balance the budget, the left prefers increased taxation and the right prefers budget cuts, but on question of to balance or not to balance, its pretty clear where the lines are drawn.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Sharlos » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:55 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:
mosc wrote:On taxing:
The left generally tries to balance the budget at tax. The right prefer deficits.

Errr.... that might be the Repubs and Dems, but among economists its pretty clear that the left(Keynes, Samuelson, Krugman) prefer deficits, and the right(Friedman, Hayak, Becker) prefer balanced budgets. Granted when attempting to balance the budget, the left prefers increased taxation and the right prefers budget cuts, but on question of to balance or not to balance, its pretty clear where the lines are drawn.

The economists aren't the ones being elected to run the country.

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby mosc » Mon Oct 04, 2010 4:45 am UTC

Keynes might have been pro debt, but I don't think saying pro deficit is fair. They are two entirely different things. All economists want a balanced budgets (well, at least all sane ones). The left/right thing you bring up is much more about debt in general as some significant ratio of GDP. Economically, there is a clear trend towards deficit from the last 20 years of Republican (right) administrations.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Dark567 » Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:05 am UTC

mosc wrote:Keynes might have been pro debt, but I don't think saying pro deficit is fair. They are two entirely different things. All economists want a balanced budgets (well, at least all sane ones). The left/right thing you bring up is much more about debt in general as some significant ratio of GDP. Economically, there is a clear trend towards deficit from the last 20 years of Republican (right) administrations.


Actually I would go the other way with it, Keynes seems like he was more pro deficit than he was pro debt. He specifically advocated short term fiscal stimulus financed through deficits to fight depressions. As a counter to that he wanted countries to pay down the debt that was accrued during stimulus during the periods of growth. Keynes didn't want balanced budgets during recessions. I have no doubt Republicans are the major contributor to the current debt, that certainly doesn't mean that Rightest policies are pro deficit, it just means Republicans suck at following their ideology.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Azrael » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:42 am UTC

Partial thread reboot. Remember to argue points, not people.

King Author, you're done in this thread too.

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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Le1bn1z » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:47 pm UTC

mosc wrote:On legislating morality:
Both sides love to do this. The right likes to protect society from individuals, the left likes to protect individuals from society.
On spending:
Both sides spend money. The right likes to spend money on tax incentives, defense, business incentives, etc. The left spends on social programs, parks/preservers, welfare, etc.
On taxing:
The left generally tries to balance the budget at tax. The right prefer deficits. The left prefer a "progressive" tax, the right a "regressive tax"
On money in government:
both the left and the right welcome nearly all legal sources of money into lobbying and campaigning.

The split does seem to be about morality. Right is "I'm fine, leave me alone. Tax me as little as possible. Just make sure people don't do offensive things or attack me". Left is "make society better for all. Redistribute the wealth. Let me do whatever I want as long as it doesn't affect somebody else".


I did warn everyone.

Shoot down one:

"The right protects soc from indiv's, left vice versa." In Quebec and France, the political left has legislated against the individual's right to wear headscarves, niquabs etc. in order to "protect" society from Islam. In Britain, Labour has introduced sweeping anti-hate and anti-harassment laws which strictly penalise "anti-social" speech, including off-colour jokes. Predictably opposed by the right. The political right in Canada has also fought agains human-rights tribunals which likewise punish individuals for "hateful speech" which are harmful to society at large, a policy championed by the Left.

Shoot down two:

Spending. Environment: The largest National Parks expansion in Canadian History was undertaken by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a Blue Tory, who also introduced tougher environmental controls, especially in the campaigns to save the Ozone and fight acid rain.

Three:
Defense: Your dichotomy here is very Americ- and Euro-centric. In the old Soviet Bloc, in China, in Venezuela etc., it is the Left wing that is in favour of increased military spending, while the right wing has opposed increased military expenditures.

Four:
Tax Incentives. Really? The Left and Right both use tax incentives liberally, for all manner of things too numerous to list. For transit, for economic immigration, for medical care, for economic development, you name it. The Tar Sands of Alberta were developed through generous tax incentives.... introduced by a left-leaning Liberal government.

Five:
On Tax, Progressive v. Flat: The varied income tax was first introduced in the West by William Pitt the Younger, PM of the UK during the Napolenonic era.

Here, dichotomise this: A constitutional conservative who championed the abolition of slavery, an agressive military expansion and military campaigning strategy against France, though he was against continued war with America during the revolution there, supported abolition of slavery and of rotton bourroughs and tried to extend voter franchise to include lower-income people and emancipation for Irish Catholics.

Income progression has been championed at different times by the left and right, most notably for the latter during time of war, when the left occassionally has opposed it.

And who precisely welcomes "all legal money?" As phrased here, that's a bit of a tautology (they welcome as legal all that is legal.) In Canada, the Liberal party introduced a ban on union and corporate donations, and capped individual donations at $5000. The right originally opposed this, but then infact lowered the max individual donation to aprox $1300.

Political dichotomies are inherently ideologically unstable. Any attempt to define historical divisions that are really about political power by some sort of policy or ideological constant is absurd.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby drunken » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:14 am UTC

The British Labour party

While I agree with almost all of your last post and found many of the examples very interesting, I have to point out this specific example as it speaks to many others in the thread. 'New Labour' as they are known in the UK are not a left wing party. They used to be before the Thatcher era, and they still sometimes call themselves left when it suits them, but the general tone of their policies is right of centre. When we talk about what is left and what is right in terms of policy, we cannot simply take the claimed alignment of political groups at face value and then use that as a definition of the ideology.
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby meatyochre » Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:09 am UTC

I don't believe people are intrinsically good OR bad. I think that's a poor way to define it, because good and bad mean different things to different people. To Glenn Beck, I am bad because I'd prefer not to see "under God" on our country's currency. To Jon Stewart, I am good for the same reason. But my belief on the separation of church and state doesn't actually make me a good or a bad person. Similarly, there are gray areas even when it comes to murder (good luck getting a roomful of xkcders to agree whether or not a man is good or bad for killing the person who raped and murdered his daughter).

I propose an alternative framework, where people have traits that can be classified either as obedient or rebellious. Since humans are social animals, we naturally tend to form groups. There are uncountably many different groups in the world at many different tiers, both local and societal--religions, subcultures, fashion trenders, gun-owners, etc etc. Obedient people are more likely to suppress their internal belief structure or morals to fit in with the group, while rebellious people are more likely to adhere to their internal belief structure or morals, regardless of the group. The designations are not exactly universalizable, since a Baptist in a Baptist community would likely be classfied as obedient, whereas a Baptist in a Muslim community would likely be rebellious. However, I think this system works better than "good" vs "bad" because it doesn't have to contend with the fact that the definitions of "good" and "bad" may differ from person to person.

As it turns out, more people are obedient than rebellious, even when obedience involves causing direct harm or death to another human being:
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Re: Left and right, the political dichotomy

Postby Le1bn1z » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:44 pm UTC

drunken wrote:The British Labour party

While I agree with almost all of your last post and found many of the examples very interesting, I have to point out this specific example as it speaks to many others in the thread. 'New Labour' as they are known in the UK are not a left wing party. They used to be before the Thatcher era, and they still sometimes call themselves left when it suits them, but the general tone of their policies is right of centre. When we talk about what is left and what is right in terms of policy, we cannot simply take the claimed alignment of political groups at face value and then use that as a definition of the ideology.


All political spectrums are relative, not absolute.

The Labour Party remained and remains the left-most major elected party in the United Kingdom (don't feed me the SNP BS line about being leftist their economic policy was to split up the country (yay small government!) and rely substantially on deregulation to attract business. Their website used to cite Ireland and Iceland as the models to follow. Morons.)

While "New Labour" swang "centre," that swing only took it to where most major left-wing parties in the English speaking world, and some parts of Europe that aren't on the brink of bankruptcy, are already. Yes, they gave up state ownership of industries, but not free housing and generous welfare, and not cheap university and not universal healthcare etc.

Basically, they ceased to be socialist and became social-democrat. For Canadians, think less Karl Marx and more Jack Layton. For Americans, think of the most left leaning member of the HoR or Senate, and then shuffle three meters further to the left, at least.

That's Labour.

Still a Leftist party.
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