The Illusion of Left And Right

What goes where?

You probably think that politics can be neatly divided into two sides. There is the Left and there is the Right. Everything has to fit in somewhere on that line. You probably think there is some clear and logical principle that will tell you where to put every political persuasion on that line.

A simple political spectrum

A lot of people do see it that way. 

The reality though is that things are not that simple. The reality of human thought and political belief can’t be captured on a single one-dimensional line. There are many dimensions by which we can measure political persuasions. 

Before we look at those other dimensions we need to understand where this one came from. It is a surprisingly simple story.

Left & Right comes from where people sat.

The terms “Left” and “Right” in politics come from where people sat in the French National Assembly leading up to the French Revolution in 1789. Those who supported the rights and privileges of the King, the aristocracy, and the clergy were on the right of the president  (the “Right Wing”). Those who were on the left (the “Left Wing”), angered by those same privileges for the elite sought to establish a more egalitarian society. 

That happened over two centuries ago. So how did that work out? 

It didn’t end well.

Not very well actually. The First Republic dates to 1792. In 1793 they executed King Louis XVI. The dictatorship of the Committee of Public Safety and the Reign of Terror soon followed with some 17,000 public executions. As many as 10,000 died in prison without a trial. After interminable turmoil, Napoleon Bonaparte took control in 1799, and was declared Emperor in 1804. This led to the Napoleonic Wars that finally ended in 1815 with the final defeat of Napoleon.

The French Revolution started out with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It ended with a bloodbath, dictatorship, and wars that decimated France and Europe. 

In America

But again how does all of that apply to America today? This country has never had a legally established aristocracy. Churches in America have never had the privileges and power once held by the Catholic Church in France. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution specifically prohibits the granting of titles of nobility by the United States government. The United States Constitution was ratified in 1788, a year before the French Revolution. It has been a model for limited government and respect for individual rights since the ink first dried on it.

No one is arguing that it was perfect, or was perfectly followed in principle. It was a model of an enlightened government regardless of any criticisms of its implementation. It was the ideals in that document that eventually led to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery in the United States. 

Nevertheless, there is a clear principle to be drawn from the French Revolution. That principle can still have some applicability in the politics of the modern world. The principle is about conservation vs. change. The Right seeks to conserve and the Left seeks change. If we are to use this principle consistently then any political movement seeking to change the status quo is on the Left. Those seeking to preserve the existing regime are on the Right. Simple, right?

Neither protecting what is established or changing it into something else has in itself any inherent good or evil. We can only impute moral good or evil when considering what is to be preserved or the changes some wish to make. We also need to examine how likely it is that those goals will actually be achieved in reality. 

The road to hell

We need to consider the old proverb that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Nowhere is that fact more evident than in the French Revolution and in the Russian Revolution that followed in the 20th century. We have already mentioned the blood bath of the French Revolution. 

The Russian Revolution led to the Soviet Union. Estimates of how many died in the Soviet Communist Gulags vary from several million up to 12 million. Another 7 million victims are credited with state planned famines to collectivize agriculture in the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1933.

We will never know the exact numbers. The Soviet Union was certainly in the same league as Nazi Germany in murdering its own people. The Communists just had different reasons and techniques for murdering them. 

In their own minds many of the Russian revolutionaries, like the French revolutionaries, saw themselves as champions of humanity. The results, however, did not live up to their ideals and that is an important fact to consider. History teaches that good intention more often than not leads to disaster without plans grounded in the reality of human nature.

Up next

In this article, we have established where the political terms of Left and Right came from. In the next article, we will examine how far the modern political landscape has diverged from that simple picture. I will show how inadequate “Left” and “Right” are as a measure of the modern political scene. Also, I will attempt to show how these terms have become more tools of propaganda than of reasoned debate. Finally we need to look at some of those other dimensions we can use to more accurately gauge political positions.

Net Neutrality – The Internet Was A Success Without It!

A lot of techies and millennial types are going apoplectic over the FCC’s current move to roll back provisions for Net Neutrality adopted under Obama. A lot of people I know who are technically literate consider it blasphemy to be against Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality

I guess then I am a blasphemer.

In principle I rarely support increasing the scope and power of government unless someone can show a large, unambiguous, and clear benefit of government regulation. There are good arguments for regulation and government oversight, sometimes. One example of where government regulation clearly fits is in assuring that large enterprises be 100% responsible for cleaning up the messes they make instead of passing the buck to taxpayers which is clearly a subsidy for those enterprises.

A lot of the arguments I hear for Net Neutrality come down to something like “big powerful corporations controlling access to the Internet will block access to those sites they don’t like.” So I guess the Koch brothers are scheming to buy large ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and block access to Left leaning websites?

In reality if you want to see real examples of businesses discriminating against a particular point of view you don’t have to look much further than Google, Facebook, and Apple, all heavily Left leaning corporations heavily in favor of Net Neutrality.

Josh Steimle made a lot of good points in Forbes back in 2014 when Net Neutrality was first being discussed. He wrote that:

“I don’t like how much power the telecoms have. But the reason they’re big and powerful isn’t because there is a lack of government regulation, but because of it. Government regulations are written by large corporate interests which collude with officials in government. The image of government being full of people on a mission to protect the little guy from predatory corporate behemoths is an illusion fostered by politicians and corporate interests alike. Many, if not most, government regulations are the product of crony capitalism designed to prevent small entrepreneurs from becoming real threats to large corporations.”

In the long run more regulation more often than not ends up favoring the largest corporations which can most easily deal with the red tape (and then pass the cost on to you and other taxpayers). Josh Steimle goes on to say that:

“Free speech cannot exist without privacy, and the U.S. government has been shown to be unworthy of guarding the privacy of its citizens. Only the latest revelation of many, Glenn Greenwald’s new book No Place To Hide reveals that the U.S. government tampers with Internet routers during the manufacturing process to aid its spying programs. Is this the organization we trust to take even more control of the Internet?”

We can with some version of Net Neutrality guarantee some version of Internet service that some perceive as “fair,” but I prefer the idea of competition. We don’t know what clever people will come up with in the future if we regulate the opportunity out of existence today.

The Left often views everything as a zero-sum game where there is only so much to go around and everyone is trying to get the biggest share of the pie. The other point of view held by proponents of free markets is that we need to keep on building bigger pies so there are ever growing opportunities and resources for everyone (and yes, the pie is still not evenly distributed).

Communism and Socialism are in effect zero-sum games. Capitalism, whatever the practical faults in its historical implementations, is a non-zero-sum game dedicated to building bigger and better pies. Net Neutrality is the group-think of zero-sum thinking.

The Internet came about originally from a government project called ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) but it soon spread to the private sector with explosive results in information sharing (and stealing) that heralded in the modern Information Age. The world changed. It would have changed whether or not the government started out with a Defense Department project we now call the Internet. It would have changed because it was time for it. Period.

The major principle was freedom, a “Wild West” of opportunities. What some people don’t seem to understand too well today is freedom also applies to the businesses that work and scheme to bring the Information Age into our homes and businesses. We can shackle them with a mantle of government regulation today to try to preserve what we think is good about the Internet today, but we sacrifice at the same time the opportunities for innovation that originally birthed the Internet.

If we can keep government hands off the Internet, at least as much as possible, then some truly clever folks are going to create things no one has yet imagined.

 

DACA Is Not What the Democrats Say It Is

More facts about DACA and other interesting stories.

DACA Is Not What the Democrats Say It Is. Here Are the Facts

Some members of Congress are threatening to block government funding unless Congress provides amnesty to so-called Dreamers—the illegal aliens included in President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Donald Trump is ending.

Responsible members of Congress should not give in.

Such an effort would be fundamentally flawed and would only encourage even more illegal immigration—just as the 1986 amnesty in the Immigration Reform and Control Act did.

Hans von Spakovsky, READ MORE at The Daily Signal


Hallelujah! Trump Will Recognize Jerusalem as Capital of Israel Wednesday, Begin Moving Embassy

President Donald Trump will announce Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that the State Department will begin a process to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Trump will first announce that the “United States government recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” according to one of three senior administration officials who spoke with reporters on Tuesday.

MIichelle Moons, READ MORE at BREITBART NEWS


I Hate The New York Times

My hometown paper drives me crazy.

I read The New York Times because it often has good coverage. The newspaper pays to send reporters to dangerous places all around the world.

But mostly I read the Times because my neighbors read it, and I need to understand what they think.

John Stossel, READ MORE at Townhall


December 6, 2017 In America