Year: 2018

Why the Categories of Left and Right are Worse than Useless

The idea of a political “left” and “right” originated in revolutionary France around the turn of the 19th century when members of the National Assembly who were more supportive of the throne sat on the right, while those who supported revolution sat on the left.  Analysts employ the concept of a political left and right every day.

A continuum is often drawn between the political left and right:

Left/Progressive <————————————————> Right/Conservative

Placing the left and the right on a line for analysis is like creating a continuum between kumquats and Volkswagens; it makes no sense and causes confusion.  They are very different ideologies in several fundamental ways.  Unless one compares those critical differences, not the amalgamation of ideas that comprise each ideology, confusion reigns.

Political analyst David Nolan (among others), frustrated with the inadequacy of this one-dimensional analysis, created a two-dimensional graph to better explain political ideologies.  Nolan believed that the amount of government control advocated was the crucial difference between political camps.  He further distinguished between government control in the economic and personal realms.  The Nolan Chart maps ideologies on a chart with two axes: one measuring economic freedom and the other personal freedom.

Nolan Chart – Wikipedia

The Nolan Chart is a political spectrum diagram created by American libertarian activist David Nolan in 1969. The chart charts political views along two axes, representing economic freedom and personal freedom. It expands political view analysis beyond the traditional one-dimensional left-right/progressive-conservative divide, in order to position libertarianism as outside the traditional spectrum.

As I’ve asserted in my book Newthink: The Hidden Logic of Progressivism and the Usurpation of the Traditional American Worldview, because of the nature of worldviews, the three foundations of progressivism are atheism, group struggle and big government.  Likewise, the three foundations of conservatism are God worship, individual struggle and small government.  Comparing these three qualities makes the differences between ideologies clear.

Unfortunately, comparing three factors like these requires a three-dimensional graph with three axes that only a geek or a social scientist could love.  Luckily, for practicality’s sake, because group/individual struggle and the big/small government factors are highly correlated (ideologies promoting group struggle tend to favor big government), we can eliminate one of them.  That leaves us with a manageable graph tracking just two factors: the level of (monotheistic) God worship and the level of government control.

Analyzing political groups or societies by their fundamental features, which I assert are their levels of God worship and government control, rather than worn-out and irrelevant historical labels clarifies the relationship between “left” and “right.”  Progressives often regard America of the 1950s, which was more religious and had a smaller government than today’s America, as a prototypical right-wing society.  But as the chart above makes clear, it was worlds away from the totalitarian and more secular society of Nazi (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) Germany, which is often, in a manner slanderous to conservatives, characterized as right-wing.  This ideology chart also clarifies the direction America is moving as it becomes more progressive over the years.

The notion of political groups having either a leftist or a rightist ideology is less than useless – it obscures the true nature of those groups. Further, this conception causes confusion, doubt and inaction among those on the right because it ignores their principles and unfairly bunches them with repugnant groups with which they have no real affiliation.  So, conservatives: Forget left.  Forget right.  Call yourselves conservatives or traditional Americans.  And call the left what they are: secular, victim group-oriented statists.

Different Worldviews, Different Virtues: Honesty vs. Utility

Different worldviews promote different virtues.

Under the traditional American worldview, honesty was honored.  From the fable of young George Washington confessing to his father that he chopped down his cherry tree to the tales of Honest Abe Lincoln, we taught our children to revere truthfulness.  Everything we did was exposed to the omniscient view of God.  Under Americanism’s Universe Metaphor, Americans unconsciously believed that the Universe was a Home and God was the Father.  Maybe we could fool other people, maybe we could fool ourselves, but we could never fool God.  In traditional America, we achieved moral merit by what we did, not what we said.  God could see the good in our actions over a long lifetime.  In such a world, honesty was the only policy.

Under the progressive worldview, God has gone missing.  There is no omniscient Being watching and judging, so what is actually true is less important than what works.  (And, by the way, since progressives accrue virtue by what they say and the positions they hold, they constantly virtue signal.  Virtue signalling, a fruitless endeavor under God’s all-seeing eye, increases your progressive virtue among your fellow human beings; there is no need to worry about God’s opinion since he is out of the picture.)

It’s almost hard to remember, but traditional Americans – more akin to the Bushes than  Barack – dominated the left in the mid-twentieth century.  These classic liberals tended to believe in government social programs, but were generally religious rather than humanist, family-oriented rather than victim-group-oriented, and at least somewhat aware of the importance of balancing government with the private sector.  Right-and-wrong, more than political correctness, governed them.

Enter former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be more a classic liberal than a progressive.  Dershowitz understands and honors the principles of the Constitution, which lead him to defend President Trump in some situations, like Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.  Dershowitz seems to be a man of principle who honestly and evenhandedly applies those principles, even to those he doesn’t like.

Dershowitz: My Liberal Friends Say My Trump Defenses Are 100 Percent Right, But I Should Also Shut The F**k Up

Politico wrote about a few top media and political figures and how they dealt with being mentioned by President Trump on Twitter. For one Hillary Clinton supporter, liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz says his family has seen better days.

But the progressives who surround him deal in utility, not honesty:

My really, really close friends say, ‘You’re 100 percent right in your analysis, but can’t you just shut the f–k up and not talk at all,’” he said. “They tell me, ‘This is a time for selective silence.’ My nephew thinks I’m helping keep in office one of the greatest dangers in American history. I tell him I’m just standing up for principle. He tells me that I don’t have to stand up so loud. (Politico)

Were all traditional Americans honest?  Are all progressives Machiavellian schemers?  Of course not.  But honesty was valued higher under the traditional American worldview; pragmatism in achieving one’s social goals is valued higher by progressives.  This utilitarian attitude among Dershowitz’s leftist friends is typical.  For them, the struggle always comes first; honesty is way down the list.

For more explanation of this perspective, read my book Newthink: The Hidden Logic of Progressivism and the Usurpation of the Traditional American Worldview.