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Sunday, December 3, 2006

Left Wing or Right Wing You Decide by Chuck McGlawn

Editors Note: By way of introduction, I would like for you to know that I am on a quest to recapture the terms “Right”, “Rightist” and “Right Wing” as meaning, a person or an issue that moves us toward less government, as the article below documents. Just as Left, Leftist and Left Wing means a person or issue that moves us toward more government. [Strangely there is almost no confusion about the meaning of Left. But the "Right" in today's writings has virtually no clear meaning]


Let me pose a hypothetical. Let’s say you are involved in a movement, call it, say Libertarian. The goal of your movement is to reduce the size and reach of government. You know that all governmental powers were at one time individual rights. Read the following

The United States of America came into being on July 4th 1776. At that time, the only power granted to the federal government was the power to protect the “lives, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” of its citizens. The individuals and the States held all other powers. Since 1776 much power has been transferred from individuals and the States to the federal government. Here are just a few examples:

Until Feb. 3, 1913, individuals had the right to keep 100%, of the money they earned, and the government did not have the power to take any of the money individuals earned. On that date, the 16th amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. Thereafter the government had the power to take some portion of an individual’s income, and the individual no longer had the right to spend 100% of his/her income.

Until Jan. 16, 1920, individuals and companies had the right to manufacture, sell and transport intoxicating liquors. And the government did not have the power to stop individuals and companies from manufacturing, selling and transporting intoxicating liquors. The ratification of the 18th amendment converted the individuals and companies right to manufacture, sell and transport intoxicating liquors into a governmental power to prohibit individuals and companies from manufacturing, selling and transporting intoxicating liquors. The 20th amendment reversed the 18th amendment.

Until Jan.1, 1971 cigarette companies had the right to advertise cigarettes on television and radio, and government didn’t have the power to prevent cigarette companies from advertising on TV and radio. After Jan.1971, by simple legislative action cigarette companies’ right to advertise on TV and radio was converted into a governmental power to dictate cigarette companies advertising privileges. Please note, the first two examples required a Constitutional Amendment to convert the rights of the individuals or companies into powers of the government. However, by 1971 the American people were so conditioned to the concept that it was government’s job to solve problems the amendment to the Constitution process was no longer necessary.

My question is how you represent incremental changes in governmental power and individual liberties graphically.

What are some of your choices? We could have a pie chart, with the black wedge representing governmental power and the white slice representing our liberties. As government increased its power, the black wedge expands and the white slice representing liberty shrinks.


What are some of your choices? We could have a pie chart, with the black wedge representing governmental power and the white slice representing our liberties. As government increased its power, the black wedge expands and the white slice representing liberty shrinks.

Another choice; we could have a thermometer where the red liquid could represent governmental power and the empty tube would represent liberty. As governmental power increases, the red liquid rises reducing the amount of liberty represented by the empty tube.

Let’s check with history. We can start with what we know. We know for instance that a dictatorship is an example of 100% governmental power. We also know that Karl Marx called for the dictatorship of the proletariat. We also know that Lenin established a Socialist system. Under socialism, government owns the major means of production. That is they own the land (that is the country), the labor, (that is you and me) the capital (that is the money and all the tools for making more money). Additionally, we know that Marx referred to his movement as a movement of the “left” We also know that Lenin was of the “left”. The Encyclopedia of Marxism reports “Lenin’s last major work… was entitled “Left-Wing” Communism…” The Encyclopedia of Marxism also reports, “Trotsky criticized the Soviet Union in some cases for being too far left” when they “initiated forced collectivization of all farms.”

If dictators are 100% government and communism is 100% government, and leftist Marx calls for the dictatorship of the proletariat, and Lenin established a totalitarian Socialist system, and Marx, Lenin and Trotsky all called themselves “leftist”. Additionally, the landowners and the Clergy occupied the right side of the French National Assembly, and it was the landowners and the clergy of the right that Marx of the left opposed.

We also know that the movement that opposed the expansion of government by President Roosevelt in the 1930s came to be known as the Old Right. We also know the major players in that group included early Libertarians like John T. Flynn, H.L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, and Garet Garret, Frank Chodorov and yes Murray Rothbard himself. We also know that the exact opposite of 100% government is 0% government; the name for 0% government is Anarchy. We also know that some segments of the Libertarian Movement refer to themselves a mini-archest, those who favor minimal government. Other libertarians refer to them-selves as anarcho-capatilist, a belief that government should have no say in the capitalist or free enterprise system. Lastly, some Libertarians advocate outright Anarchy, which is the complete dismantling of government altogether. Therefore, we can say that all Libertarians are in opposition to the 100% government of all totalitarian forms. Furthermore, they are in opposition all increases in government.

Therefore, it would seem that history dictates that we create some kind of left right spectrum, not so much to chart where we or other countries are located along the spectrum but to know in which direction we and other countries are moving.

Now with all this information clearly in mind, a President comes along that doubles the spending on public education, and then dictates that state governments follow a federal plan that is supposed to improve test scores. He also increases federal spending on a scale not seen since FDR. Calls for and gets the power to search your bank records without your knowledge. Moreover, makes it a federal crime for the bank employees to notify you that a search is going to take place. (See the Patriot Act) Calls for and gets the right to enter your home or business and copy information from your computer and not tell you for 90 days. (See the Patriot Act) Repeals the Bill of Rights for any citizen accused of terrorist type activities, invades a country that was no threat to US security. Would you say this President moved the country to the right or to the left?

How about actions of the private sector, we have a group calling for Federal laws to prevent stem cell research and abortion. They want the Federal government to define marriage as between one man and one woman. They want government to block adult web sites. They want the President to use (executive power) the Federal Registry to prevent partial birth abortion. Additionally, they call for Federal Laws that make adultery and homosexuality a crime. Why would we call this group the “Religious Right” They are not calling for less government. Let’s call them what they are, the Religious Left.

What would you call a group that wants more government troupes on the Mexican border, and are calling for the Federal government to build a fence between the US and Mexico? What would you call a group that wants to increase the penalties for drug possession and sales? What would you call a group that would reinstate the draft to carry out a non-defensive war in Iraq? I know what you would not call them; you would not call them the “Conservative Right”. Let’s call them what they are, the “Conservative Left”.

Can you see how this “Left/Right” chart would serve as an important aid to less informed voters? Can you see how in time every candidate and every issue would be evaluated using this chart? Can you also see how it would be important to the “government growers” to discredit this very powerful tool?

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