What is left and what is right?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by fitshaced, Jun 12, 2017.

  1. fitshaced macrumors 68000

    fitshaced

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    #1
    It seems that we use terms that by definition are good, strong descriptions against each other. George Orwell might have said it was by design. Words such as democratic, republic, liberal or social should really be honourable qualities that we aspire to having. It baffles me that we would pick a side at all, yet we do it like picking a football team.

    In your own honest opinion and without being derogatory or rude, can you explain in simple terms what you think defines left wing politics and what defines right wing politics?
     
  2. satcomer macrumors 603

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    #2
    To me it comes down to whom wants more government (US Democrats) and those whom want less government (Republican). Sense President Reagan is Miliary spending too!
     
  3. BoneDaddy Suspended

    BoneDaddy

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    #3
    The left is the side that can make an L with the index finger and thumb.

    The right is the side that is jealous of not having a wedding ring.
     
  4. Scepticalscribe, Jun 12, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #4
    There are no hard and fast definitions of 'left' and 'right' because both terms exist on a spectrum, the precise understanding of which varies from culture to culture and from country to country. Therefore, what one country or culture thinks of as 'left' and 'right' would be vehemently disputed and repudiated by others.

    Thus, some of what would be viewed as 'very liberal/left' in the United States, would be viewed as centrist and very mainstream thinking in much of western Europe, and the understanding of the sort of services that are best supplied by government and what are best supplied by the market - what is 'left' and what is 'right' - differs drastically again in the eastern part of Europe for cultural and historical reasons.

    For example, in the Baltic states, a few years after the collapse of the USSR, I knew passionate anti-communists who thought it a function of government - all governments - to supply them with endless hot water all day every day because that is what they had enjoyed under communism.

    My response that not even the most left wing of radicals from western Europe would consider it a function of government to supply endless hot water was met with bewilderment; in western Europe, the debate over left and right often takes place over who should run, and control, and pay for, hospitals, health services, schools, housing.

    Some countries have privatised utilities (electricity, water, transport), others still retain control of these in the hands of the state. But none would consider privatising prisons, or police forces. Thus, the understanding of the terms 'left' and 'right' are quite different (but not entirely different) in the US and in Europe.

    Historically, those terms date from the time of the French Revolution, and it described where the respective factions sat in the chamber of deputies from the perspective of the chair; those who sought radical change sat to the left of the chair, those who wished to preserve matters much as they were, or sought limited change, sat to the right of the chair.

    However, despite differences of degree, there does exist a broad understanding of what 'left' means, and where it fuses with - and differs from - what is considered 'liberal'.

    While both 'left' and 'liberal' have historically united in their support for the struggle for civil, or human rights, (freedom of assembly, expression and association, voting rights, ethnic rights, women's rights, etc), historically - and in more recent times - the left has attempted to make society fairer, and redress social, legal, political and economic inequalities by the provision of services supplied by the state (these can include housing, health and sometimes education), and funded by taxation.

    However, the far left, in general, tends to emphasise the needs of the collective good - sometimes at the expense of the individual good, - which is where they part ways with liberal thought where the rights of the individual are always stressed and considered paramount.

    Likewise, what is understood by the expression 'Right' also has two strands of ancestral or philosophical DNA; the primacy of the individual, (the US definition, which does share some mitochondrial DNA with some of classical liberalism), or the desire to preserve, or conserve traditions and the rights, status, position and power of traditional (or newer) elites. Thus, the 'radical right' are not always the same was the 'traditional right', although the fault lines that differentiate between the two may change over time.
     
  5. Huntn, Jun 12, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017

    Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #5
    There are several ways to describe Left vs right, and @Scepticalscribe provided an outstanding over view of these definitions.

    My input is that liberal (left) is we>me and conservative (Right) is me>we. I'll point out that every law passed for the benefit of working class people, is championed by liberals and is distained by conservatives as an assault on their golden calf of profits.

    Conservative values are mostly focused on protecting the aspects of our civilization that they view as valuable, produce wealth, to such as extent that they are trilled to hand out corporate welfare to support our valued citizens. Their policies tend to benefit a small club of people in the top 10%, along with their rationalization, that by making us filthy rich, you'll benefit too because there will be more of our leftovers for you to pick over.

    Simultaneously, they distained social welfare with words of wisdom: Get a job. Implied: You made your bed, now lay in it, or pull yourself up by your boot straps and change your pathetic lives. Don't expect or demand help from us.

    Do you have an opinion on the subject?
     
  6. daflake macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    I haven't and won't. I refuse to subsribe to one way of thinking.
     
  7. Scepticalscribe, Jun 12, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #7
    I meant to ask whether you expect those who reply to the thread to state whether they have made a choice "to pick a side" on the debate, and, if so, why.

    In my earlier reply, I merely offered some thoughts on possible definitions that I think might allow some insight as to what these terms mean and how they are more malleable than is often realised.

    For myself, I vote left.

    Personally, (although I have taught Russian history, and, among other subjects, studied and taught political philosophy), I don't give two hoots for Marx, Lenin, Mao and the rest of that illustrious constellation of communist thinkers. Not even Gramsci, or Tom Paine, although I do like some of their writings.

    I vote left because I don't like unfairness. Nor do I much care for inequality, especially structural, or inbuilt, inequality. But, I can hear the responses "life is unfair", or "the world is unfair" and people "aren't equal".

    True, life is unfair, and the world is unfair. I agree. But, that is no reason to let it remain unfair.

    And, that means that I am not on the side of those who wish to make sure that it stays unfair, or who seek to try to make it even more unfair.
     
  8. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #8
    The Left see the nation as a society, which must be protected at the expense of some individual freedom.

    The Right see the nation as individuals, whose personal liberty outweight the need to protect society.
     
  9. lowendlinux Contributor

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  10. A.Goldberg macrumors 68000

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    #10
    In terms of US politics... and speaking in generalities.

    Left: Looking at the whole rather than the individual, values civil rights + social progressivism, high level of financial/business control, loose interpretation of the Constitution

    Right: Looking at the individual over the whole, individual rights, high level of social control, values business/wealth/fiscal responsibility, strict interpretation of the Constitution

    I don't think one system is better than the other. Too much of one thing is bad IMO. I will agree with either side when I believe they are making the right decision and disagree when they're not. Oftentimes, I find myself disagreeing with both sides.

    I feel US politics has become too much of a team sport, where even a favorable move by an opponent is somehow unnacceptable... in other words a double standard. I think our political system focuses too much on the individual party or politician and not enough on the outcome.
     
  11. Scepticalscribe, Jun 12, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #11
    Well, this is a separate discussion, but I think that the zero-sum approach to argument and negotiation in US culture - the idea that compromise is seen as a 'sell-out' and a sign of 'weakness' (rather than a tactic whereby both gain something from a negotiation or deal, rather than a 'winner-takes-all' mindset) has contributed to this situation whereby not only is politics seen as a team sport, but that you declare an allegiance to your team right or wrong, and cannot admit to mistakes or poor judgment calls.

    In Europe, coalition governments are the norm, which means that deals and compromises are built into the system; even the largest parties do not - and cannot - get their way all of the time, above all, if they no longer enjoy the luxury of a majority (as the Conservatives in the UK are about to discover).

    Thus, they learn that they must give way on some issues (with a good grace) while being able to insist on pursuing other key policy initiatives.

    In practice, I suspect that wider cultural values that are prevalent in the US have served to influence the form politics takes - and how it is expressed - there, too.
     
  12. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #12
    In today's world, where we see more and more need for moderation and cooperation, the model of the Right demonstrates itself to be unsustainable. That doesn't mean it should be tossed altogether. We should always maximize personal liberty within the confines of how society must operate. However, as a dominant operating principle, conservatism is incapable of maintaining a modern, open, thriving society.
     
  13. jkcerda macrumors 6502

    jkcerda

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    #13
    if society as a whole has personal liberty, are they not protected? this is why you guys fail :D
     
  14. Mousse macrumors 68000

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    #14
    The right is Dexter (or skillful). That's why when equally proficient at a task with both hands he's considered ambidextrous or having two right hands.;)

    The left is Sinister.:eek: When someone is clumsy, he's thought to have two left feet.:oops:

    Y'all lefties are evil, evil I say.:p:D

    Oh, you're talking political views. Well, left and right are both equally wrong to someone in the middle. I'm a moderate with some lefty leaning. Yeah, I'm slightly sinister.
     
  15. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

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    #15
    "More" and "Less" in this context are weasel words, as used by marketeers (such as "Now with MORE flavor!!!!!").

    More than what? Less than what? Yours is a completely subjective and context dependent definition.

    Moreover, I would argue it is factually incorrect, at least with regards to the US. The Republicans favor less government in some areas (social programs, business and environmental regulation) and more government in others (religiously-informed moral legislation, the size of the military, "extreme vetting" of immigration, large-scale digital surveillance of citizens).
     
  16. Populism macrumors regular

    Populism

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    #16
    Great thread:

    In ideal, it's my opinion that the Left favors the group, and the Right favors the individual. (I think citizenzen and Huntn and others may have already said as much.) But that's only in the ideal.

    In reality/in practice, it's my opinion that the Left measures only by the ends - is there even one person left who has more money than another and how can that possibly be. And likewise the Right measures only by the ends - is there even one person who thinks they can have even a dime of my money and how can that possibly be.

    Admittedly, that doesn't account for social issues. In social issues the Left edges towards an end to any words that distinguish between humans. While the Right edges towards an end to any social evolution at all ever.
     
  17. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

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    #17
    Left and Right are artificial (and oversimplifying) terms of convenience; the danger is making them real and turning the debate into a binary choice between two absurd extremes.
     
  18. jb1280 macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    We have entered a post-traditional partisan environment in the West.

    There are revolutionary forces across the entire political spectrum that seek to undo progress as a result of post-war institutions. These forces are anti-international institutions, anti-freedom of movement of goods, people, and ideas, anti-capitalism in many respects, and seek to restore an imaginary world of prosperity for a certain class of workers that might have existed 50 years ago or seek to create an imaginary world where muscular government really works. They are also living in fact adverse worlds where assumptions are treated as gospel.

    There remain traditional forces who live in a fact-based world that acknowledge that while there are significant challenges, post-war institutions have created more prosperity and wealth across the world and that these international institutions, freedom of movement, capitalism, and fact-based information remains vital.
     
  19. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #19
    Abstract concepts are boiled down into artificial and oversimplified terms because it facilitates communication of complex ideas.

    It's not a danger. It's not absurd. It's just the way humans communicate.
     
  20. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

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    #20
    I agree - as long as people are capable of critical thinking when using such terms. Sadly, not all people are so equipped.
     
  21. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

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    #21
    I've gotta say, although there are classical definitions of left and right that describe what these groups have been in the past, I don't think they work to adequately describe the present situation in the US. On the Right, an increasingly aggrieved population (concentrated largely in the heartland of the country) sense that their jobs, their culture, and their very future is being swept away by "elites" on the more prosperous and populous coastal regions of the country. On the Left, an increasingly aggrieved population (concentrated largely in the massive urban centers on the coasts) sense that their jobs, their culture, and their very future is being swept away by the conservative 1% who control all the wealth.

    Egged on by incendiary sources of political opinion, both sides have unilaterally given up on the very idea of compromise, and seek to set up a government where their own ideas can be imposed upon the majority of the country.

    In short, today both Left and Right seek to deny freedom to individuals. It has come down to that, in my opinion.
     
  22. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #22
    Exactly. And agreed. And a point very well made.

    And political vocabulary develops - as it is needed - to be able to describe what is happening in a way that those wishing to read about it, or discuss it, can do so and expect to be understood by everyone who is conversant with that vocabulary and those concepts.

    Moving away from 'left' and 'right' for these terms have become invested with deeper meanings as they have come to be a part of people's cultural and political identities, and thus engender emotions - sometimes, deep ones pertaining to identity if they are attacked - I would like to offer a more recent - well, relatively recent - example of the development and emergence of a complex political vocabulary which evolved rapidly and came to be used by the entire commentariat as a convenient short-hand when describing and discussing political matters and socio-economic and other stances.

    The example concerns the word "wet".

    In the 1980s, when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister, when reading proposals and material sent to her by ministers, she was in the habit of writing comments - and sometimes suggestions - in the margins. She used the word 'wet' to signal disapproval, and her view that a certain proposal or document was insipid and weak.

    Mrs Thatcher came from an era and generation, and social class, where salty language was not used, and swearing was almost unheard of, especially in public, and above all not by women.

    But, she still got her message across, perfectly clearly, and soon it was understood that if she wrote 'wet' on an official document or proposal that it was viewed with deep disapproval.

    Within a matter of months, a rich and surprisingly complex and finely calibrated vocabulary arose around this one word. Those who advised caution at the speed of her political revolution came to be known as 'the wets'; some were viewed as 'slightly soggy', while others - her outright opponents within the party - were considered to be 'dripping wet', or 'sopping wet'. Her robust supporters, on the other hand, were described in terms which suggested the opposite - for they were described as 'dry', or, better still, 'bone dry', or 'desert dusty dry'.

    Yes, it was possibly a simplistic terminology with which to attempt to describe a complex series of philosophical - and personal - and professional - differences on matters of principle and policy within the Conservative party in the 1980s and early to mid 90s (for this continued under John Major), but it served as a very useful, and ever so slightly comical, yet completely comprehensible means of describing those internal party political differences.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 12, 2017 ---
    As I mentioned in my own earlier posts, what is understood the the terms 'left' and 'right' in the United States is now how these terms are understood historically and/or used contemporaneously in Europe.
     
  23. Raid macrumors 68020

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    #23
    I agree with Blackadder, left and right is a simplification, and perhaps an over simplification to reach opinion before critical thinking.

    It may not be just in reality/practice. For example in terms of say abortion rights the left (typically on govt platform) favours the individual decision, while the right favours the views of religious groups that are against such practices.

    Yeah these are extremes, there are some on the left that look for 'social equality' via absolute social blending to a homogeneous mix ; while the extreme right tends to push for 'social equality' via enforcing adherence to majority practices. I can see either extreme being a dystopian solution.
     
  24. satcomer macrumors 603

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    #24
    These are not my decision sense I left the the Republican Party awhile ago. First offense was "no new taxes", the second was the 2nd Bush expansion of government and the third was the high jacking of the original Tea Party! So no more money and I have become more conservative libertarian in my older age!
     

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