August 20, 2014 at 11:36 pm #20310murphy560Member
Everybody, this is a very basic question that I’ve always struggled with and have never found a satisfactory answer. I didn’t know where to post it so I chose the General Discussion forum hoping one of the professors may chime in but I’d like to hear anyone’s ideas: what is the meaning of the left-right spectrum in modern times? I usually hear that “leftists” believe in this issue or that issue but that doesn’t provide an essential defining characteristic by which one can differentiate left from right. I also hear references to the origin on the terms in the French Revolution but how does that relate to modern day?
TOM WOODS IF YOU SEE THIS PLEASE JOIN IN. I’VE HEARD YOU USE THESE TERMS IN A WAY THAT MAKES IS VERY CLEAR YOU UNDERSTAND THEM….I JUST CAN’T SEEM TO GET IT. THANKS!August 31, 2014 at 8:20 am #20311dardnerMember
I think you might find this helpful. It certainly opened my eyes. In my opinion, properly understood, the spectrum should be seen as; Free society(left) and Controlled Society(right). In modern times we find the leftist and the rightist are all far to the right. Oddly enough, I don’t think it is unreasoned to say the leftists may be further to the right than the rightist. Consider the democrats and republicans, left and right they say. Well, where does the libertarian go, in the center? Whatever the difference between their stated goals the modern left and right both seek the state to accomplish them. You wouldn’t expect to find between state and state, no-state. Clearly we are not a mid road between the two.April 29, 2015 at 10:12 am #20312darrell04Member
I’ve always thought of the left as the people who want change and the right as people who prefer the current institutions that govern society. I think that was the relationship between left and right during the time of the French Revolution. It is true that the left during the time of the French Revolution wanted a free society but Today, the left are more concerned with equality than freedom. Since equality and freedom are negatively correlated in their relationship, the push for equality has resulted in a loss of freedom. I’m using equality in the context of wealth redistribution.May 16, 2015 at 5:07 am #20313gerard.caseyParticipant
Here’s my simple take on the issue.
Leftists tend to espouse liberty in personal matters but are happy to endorse and encourage legal control of the economy; Rightists tend to espouse liberty in economics matters but look to the state to enforce moral codes. Leftists and Rightists compete with each other for control of the levers of power. Libertarians espouse liberty across the board as a result of which, their concerns cut across the left-right divide at right angles.
Of course, the reality is more complex than this and leftists will differ among themselves as will rightists but the broad picture is, I think, correct.July 23, 2015 at 11:21 am #20314dmineauParticipant
I have also struggled with the exact same question. A related question is, how could people considered radicals and revolutionaries in their day, if looking at their policy prescriptions, be considered generally conservative in modern american politics. Here is the conclusion I’ve come to.
A dictionary definition of a left-wing movement tends to support changes for a more equal and egalitarian society.
A dictionary definition of a right-wing movement tends to support preserve the existing order and tradition along with some kind of hierarchy.
Most people make the mistake of equating left-right with an ideology or group of policy positions. For instance, “Leftists support government intervention”, “rightists support war” would be 2 logical fallacies. To determine if a movement or person has more left or right wing tendencies, one must drill down into their reasoning and historical context.
A clear example might be about voting. In 17th century England, a person who believes that all men, but not women, are created equal and therefore should get to vote for parliament would be a leftist because that would be a change towards more equality. After all men won the right to vote for parliament, that position and reasoning would later become right-wing position and reasoning once the question of women voting for parliament is tackled as an issue.
For my two examples above. There is nothing inherently left or right about government intervention or even war. The thing that makes it left or right is the reasoning behind the movement or individuals supporting it. In the case of regulation, there is a right-wing Hamiltonian case for government intervention – the elite need to plan for the nation. There is also the more common progressive left-wing argument in that “big business” needs to be restrained. The same goes for war. A right-wing argument for war might be something like “that group isn’t like us and needs to be opposed for us to survive”. A left-wing argument for war might be something like “that group is being oppressed and needs to be saved”.
It is true that within a given nation and time period, right-wingers tend to support one ideology and policies more often than others and the same thing for left-wingers. And that is why people make the mistake of associating policies with being left or right.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.