Thursday, December 15, 2005

Both Left and Right

Fellow traveler James Leroy Wilson discusses one of my favorite topics on today — what’s Left, what’s Right? — and he does a fine job of it. Here’s his conclusion:

“The enemy of the libertarian is not the liberal, nor the conservative. Not the Green anarchist, southern nationalist, Georgist, or Constitution Party activist. The enemy is always the Statist, the advocate of coercion and consolidated power.”

But getting to that conclusion is great fun, so read “Both Left and Right” in its entirety.


At 10:32 PM, Blogger Chuck McGlawn said...

While Jim did arrive at the correct conclusion. He did so without benifit of a correct premise.

I read Jim's article "Both Left and Right", and I would agree with it completely if he would just substituted the word Liberal for Left and the word Conservative for Right. That is what I think he really means. He useses the terms Conservative/Right as if they were synonyms. He also useses the terms Left/Liberal as synonyms. Early on, they were almost synonyms, that is no longer true.

From 1933 to about 1950.
You see, the “Old Right” was launched in opposition to the expansion of government being initiated by FDR. They took the nomenclature “Right” perhaps because Lenin had confirmed the claim made by Marx, on the name “Left” (which called for more government). At this point in history, Left/liberal meant more government control, and right/conservative meant less government power.

The first divergence from the terms being synonymous occurred when the modern Conservative movement was launched by Buckley. Starting in the 1950s a new plank was added to the conservative agenda. Now along with being for less government, the conservatives began calling for more government to oppose Communism. So now, conservative and the old right began to divide. And the terms were not as synonymous as they were before Buckley.

The “conservative” and “right wing” movement continued evolving, spurred on by the burgeoning fundamental Christian revival of the 1970s. With this growth in numbers and power, conservatives learned that through government, they could advance their agenda. At this point Conservative and right-wing ceased to be synonymous. Now they were not always anti-big government. They now favored things like “troops on the border” to stop immigration, laws that made “abortion illegal” and the Presidential use of the “Federal Registry” to stop “partial-birth abortions” and “stem cell research”. All of which call for more government and a move to the left.

Left took on its modern meaning partially from Karl Marx, and then wholly from Lenin. “Lenin’s last major work, addressed to the supporters of the Russian Revolution in the West, was entitled “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder - a critique of the “left-ism” Encyclopedia of Marxism. “Trotsky criticised the Soviet Union in some cases for being too far left (e.g. forced collectivisation)” Encyclopedia of Marxism The left’s connection to liberal occurred around 1920. The left in the US did not want to be connected to Marx or Lenin so the name they used in the US was “populist” or “progressive”.

The total failure and complete discrediting of the populist/progressive movement left the terms populist and progressive as perjoritivies. The leftest needed a new name by which they could identify themselves. The word liberal was chosen.

From the early 1920s to the mid 1960s the terms left wing and liberal was almost synonymous. These terms were used almost interchangeably to describe people who were generally calling for more government. Liberals had applauded the growth and expansion of domestic social programs during the Roosevelt era. Additionally, liberals tolerated the militarist expansion of Truman and Eisenhower. However, during the mid 1960s to late 1970s, a change was gradually taking place. Even liberals, that had always favored expanding government, were beginning to be concerned with the exponential growth of governmental power. Liberals began feeling the pinch of expanded government.
At this point, the word “Liberal” and the word “left wing” ceased to be synonymous. Liberals now, did not always call for more government. On issues like marijuana use, prostitution, censorship and especially the military draft, liberals were decidedly anti-big government.

These changes however, had no effect on the left/right political spectrum. Then as now, the left/right spectrum measured the degree to which government makes decisions for the individual citizens, and the degree to which the individual citizens were free to make their own decisions.It looked like this: (view full screen)
100% government ?-------------------------------------------------------? 0% government .
Left USSR England USA Anarchy . Right

The Soviet Union under Communism, (a totalitarian system) was 100% government, as the State made 100% of the decisions for its citizens and businesses. The Soviet Union was therefore, on the far left end of the spectrum. Anarchy, which literally means “no rule”, would be on the opposite right end of that spectrum. England, with a Monarchy and a Parliament, and a socialist economic system, made a high percentage of the decisions for its citizens, but still less than the 100% of the decisions as in the Soviet Union. Great Britain was then, to the right of the Soviet Union, but far from the right end of the spectrum.
This would place the constitutionally limited government of the United States clearly to the right of England and toward the right end of the spectrum but still to the left of anarchy.
My personal involvement in the conservative/right wing movement took place from 1960 to 1977. Early enough to see the marriage of conservative/right wing and the liberal/left-wing but late enough to witness their divorces.

In conclusion, I, like Jim have both liberal and conservative thoughts. But I am always right wing, always opposing increases in governmental power. And I am never left wing, because I never favor increases in governmental power.


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