Before you read my article, Let me ask you a question. Is it your understand that the terms “left”, “leftist” and/or “left wing” are somehow connected with statism, socialism, communism or totalitarianism, and basically the advocacy of more government? If your answer is yes, you are halfway onboard with my quest. Because all I am trying to do is to reestablish and I do mean reestablish that “right”, “rightist”, and or right wing is the exact opposite, or the advocacy of less government.
You do not have to read the complete article in one setting. Each segment is a stand-alone part of the whole. And I might suggest that you re-read some of the segments, as to more completely imprint them in your memory.
What you will learn reading this article:
1. How the left and right got their names and meanings.
2. Political realities that created a NEED for a Left/Right Political Spectrum.
3. How earlier thinkers dealt with this basic left/right information.
4. How confusion took root, to muddy the waters.
5. How clarification works for us, in our efforts to promote liberty.
6. And lastly, I would like to show how you, yes you can begin clearing up the confusion and begin to recapture the single plane left/right political spectrum as the Roadmap to Liberty.
How the left and right got their names and meanings.
Let us go back to find out how left and right got their names and meanings, and no, gentle reader, it will not be necessary to revisit the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly Circa 1789. Even thought it is true that the Clergy (the First Estate) and the landed nobility (the Second Estate) sat on the right hand of the King. This positioning arose solely from the respect the King was showing for those two very powerful and respected groups, and had nothing to do with their support of or opposition to Louie the XVI, the King of France.
On the left side of room, were the “cheap seats”, occupied by the (Third Estate) everyone else. That included the middle class the working class and if you will the begging class, including, some very unsavory characters. The Jacobins (Which some have considered the prototype for communism) sat on the left hand of the king, and some say Bastiat was on the left side of the room. Neither the occupants on the right or the occupants on the left were voting blocks, that passed their philosophy along to future generations of leftist or rightist. Again, it was not because of any support of or opposition to the King. All of these groups were their seeking favor. Seeking to lobby the King, to protect what they had, or to improve their position.
The Single Plane Left Right Political Spectrum was not brought into use until much much later. I do not find any reference to it until the early 20th Century. Contemporary writers have used the facts surrounding the French National Assembly to designate the significance of the seating arrangement.
If you would like “my spin” on how right means an advocate of less government. And my spin is no more conclusive than any of the others. In the 1840s Marx began calling his movement a “movement of the left” it may have had something to do with whom he viewed as his enemy. You will recall the landed nobility, were the exploiters of labor, and that "Religion is the opiate of the proletariat". Regardless of why Marx chose it the LEFT designation caught on and has been used ever since to describe communism, socialism and totalitarianism.
Lenin and Trotsky continued to refer to Communism as a movement of the left. “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”. See Encyclopedia of Marxism. “During the 1920s and onward, Trotsky criticised (sic) the Soviet Union in some cases for being too far left (e.g. forced collectivisation).” See Encyclopedia of Marxism)
Over the years “Left” has been used to describe Communism, and Socialism. The name spread to describe governments that were totalitarian, including the National Socialism of Hitler and the Fascism of Mussolini. In the early 20th Century it included people who advocated a move toward more government, and the “Right” got its name and meaning merely by default.
Now, stay with me here, if advocating more government is left and 100% government is the extreme left on the “Left/Right Political Spectrum”, then the advocacy of less government is right and 0% government is the extreme right, on the political spectrum. And the English Language, has words that mean 100% government and 0% government, they are Totalitarianism (Note the word “total in totalitarian.), and Anarchy derived from the Greek meaning “no rule”.
This is not just conjecture; gentle reader, nor is it just my opinion. When someone is advocating more government he is calling for a move toward 100% government on the left. When someone is advocating less government he is calling for a move toward 0% government on the right.
Confirmation of this hypothesis can be found in two articles by Murray Rothbard. In The Transformation of the American Right First published in Continuum, Summer 1964, pp. 220–231. Murray Rothbard correctly observed,
The modern American Right began, in the 1930's and 1940's, as a reaction against the New Deal and the Roosevelt Revolution, and specifically as an opposition to the critical increase of statism and state intervention… (Emphasis added)
Additionally, in “Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal” published in 1969, Rothbard further observed:
All of our political positions, from the free market in economics to opposing war and militarism, stemmed from our root belief in individual liberty and our opposition to the state. Simplistically, [still quoting] we adopted the standard view (Emphasis added) of the political spectrum: “left,” meant socialism, or total power of the state; the further ‘right’ one went the less government one favored. Hence, we called ourselves “extreme rightists."
Farther along in that same article Rothbard said.
Originally, our historical heroes were such men as [Thomas] Jefferson, [Thomas] Paine, [John]Cobden and [Richard] Bright and [Herbert] Spencer. As our views became purer and more consistent, we eagerly embraced such near-anarchists as the voluntarist, Auberon Herbert, and the American individualist-anarchists, Lysander Spooner and Benjamin R. Tucker.
In other words as they became “purer” and more “consistent” there heroes were chosen from men that were closer to anarchy and 0% government of the right end of the spectrum.
Please evaluate the level of my persuasion on “How the left and right got their names and meanings.” Use one through ten. Post a comment below or E-mail your ranking to Chuckest@aol.com
Political realities that created a NEED for a Left/Right Spectrum.
It was Plato, who around 380 BC said, and I am paraphrasing “NEED is the mother of invention.” We can easily see that NEED was in play with the invention of the cotton gin. The cotton gin eliminated the bottleneck in the trip from the cotton field to the cotton buyer, profits increased.
Likewise, the traffic signal was a NEED fulfilled, brought on by the increased use of the automobile and growing traffic jams, traffic flowed better. Who can deny that freeways filled a NEED as urban centers developed adjacent suburbs. NEED also played a roll in the development of the Left/Right political spectrum. In the mid 1930s when FDR was expanding governmental power on a geometric scale, those opposed to this expansion needed some way to graphical display this growth of government.
Since all governmental power was at one time an individual liberty, increases in governmental power always represented a loss of individual liberty. The opposition to this expansion needed to display the growth of governmental power, and conversely the loss of individual liberty.
A thermometer would have worked, the rising mercury would represent the rise of governmental power and the diminishing empty tube at the top would represent the diminishing liberties of the individual.
A big pie chart could have be used with the expanding black wedge representing the expanding power of government, and the shrinking white wedge could represent the shrinking of individual liberty.
Now either of those displays would have worked. However, a different display was chosen, and chosen for a very good reason. It reminds me of the joke that goes: Why was PMS called PMS? The answer is that the name “Mad Cow Disease” was already taken. You see, Karl Marx had already staked his claim to the left by always referring to his movement as a movement of the “Left”. This tradition continued with Lenin and Trotsky. Consequently, almost no one uses the term “Left” incorrectly. (With the exception of Bill O’Reily who attaches the “Far Left” moniker to any one that disagrees with him.) It has always been used to mean an advocate of more government. The right simply took the name that was left remaining. That being the Right.
So you see, there was a NEED to be able to distinguish between the supporters of FDR and his “…critical increase of statism and state intervention…” and those who were opposed it.
Please evaluate the level of my persuasion on “How earlier thinkers dealt with this basic information.” Use one through ten. Post a comment below or E-mail your ranking to Chuckest@aol.com Political realities that created a NEED for a Left/Right Spectrum.
How earlier thinkers dealt with this basic information.
Before all of the confusion got a stranglehold on our language, the Libertarian movement, using the information that was available, took on some descriptive names. Let us look at the names by which Libertarians took on to identify themselves.
Most libertarians are willing to accept the name Miniarchist. What is the special significance of that selection? We all know that "mini" means small. Some examples of that include miniskirt, miniature, minimal, minimize, miniscule, minor, minority and minus. Arch means rule. Some examples of that include Monarchy (rule by one) oligarchy (rule by a few) democracy (rule by the majority) theocracy (rule by God). Therefore, the word Miniarchist (not just my opinion) literally means and at the same time describes the Libertarians that believe in the smallest amount of government rule as possible.
The second word that many Libertarians call themselves is Anarcho-Capitalist. Now if the group that devised Anarcho-Capitalist gave it any thought, and I sure they did, (Libertarians are very thoughtful.) this would mean Libertarians that believe government should have NO-SAY in the capitalist or free market system.
The third word that the smallest and also the most educated group of Libertarians hang on themselves, adopted long before the prevailing confusion, is a believer in anarchy. These libertarians believe that the solutions to social and economic problems are best found in an atmosphere of no government at all.
The word anarchy is made up of two Greek words: “arch” which we have covered as meaning rule and “a” which means "no". Examples of "a" meaning "no" include, Amoral (NO morals), apathy (NO feelings), absent (NO presents), aseptic (NO germs), asocial (NO social skills), acquit (NO guilt) and amnesia (NO memory). Therefore, anarchy literally means “no rule or no government”. This would make “Anarchy” or 0% government the Right end of our spectrum.
There is a philosophical basis for this mutually exclusive thinking. Rightist basically, believe that populations are made up of people that are mostly good. If these people remain minimally regulated and minimally taxed, they will make decisions that will generally tilt in their own self-interest. This thinking always leads to innovation and increased production, which moves a free people toward prosperity and peace. However, when they are over regulated and over taxed, they make decisions to avoid the consequences of the taxes and regulations. It is the reason that the freest areas of the world are also the most prosperous.
While most people are good, there are some people that are bad. This prompts the rightist toward the advocacy of some government, but the least amount of government possible, only an amount necessary to protect the good people from the bad people. Examples are a defensive military to protect the nation. a police department, to protect our homes and a court system to adjudicate disagreements our everyday actions
Leftist on the other hand believe that populations are made up of the strong (themselves) and the weak (the ones that need their help) , and the smart (themselves) and the not so smart (the ones that need their help). They believe that the weak and the not so smart are in those conditions partially because of government decisions that allow exploitation.
Therefore, the leftist, believe it is their responsibility to help the weak and the not so smart in a move toward more equality. Of course, the left always wants the government to tax everyone to accomplish this assistance, and the increased taxes. And expanding government shoves more and more of the marginal people into the not so smart and the not so strong categories, which always calls for more government and more taxation. That is why leftist thinking always leads to more government and more government and still more government until society winds up with the dictatorship of 100% government.
Please evaluate the level of my persuasion on, "How earlier thinkers dealt with this basic information." Use one through ten. Post a comment below or E-mail your ranking to Chuckest@aol.com
How confusion took root, to muddy the waters.
The “left” had a connection to liberal which occurred in the US around 1920, when the “Populist” and the “Progressive”, movements became so thoroughly discredited that the terms literally became pejoratives in the political lexicon. Therefore, leftist needed a new name to continue their leftist work of collectivization of the American people, and the name they took was “liberal" And soon thereafter the terms liberal and left-wing became almost synonyms. From the early1920s to the mid 1960s the terms left wing and liberal were used almost interchangeably to describe people who were generally calling for more government.
Please note that prior to the mid 1960s, the Liberal/left had applauded and encouraged the growth and expansion of domestic social programs during the Roosevelt era. Additionally, the liberal/left tolerated the militarist expansion of the Truman and Eisenhower era. However, during the mid 1960s into the 1970s, a change was taking place. Even liberals, that had always favored expanding government, were beginning to feel the pinch of expanded government. At this point, the terms “Liberal” and “left wing” ceased to be synonymous. Liberals now, did not always call for more government. On personal liberty issues like marijuana use, prostitution, censorship, abortion and especially the military draft, liberals became decidedly anti-big government.
There were changes on the right as well, the terms right wing & conservative which had been almost synonymous from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s, used almost interchangeably to describe people who were generally in opposition to the expansion of government, and favored less government.
The first deviation in the generally accepted meanings of these terms occurred in the 1950s when a large portion of Conservative/Right wing were convinced to take on the opposition to Communism. They were convinced by William F. Buckley who began calling for the expansion and empowerment of government, Buckley even called for a totalitarian government to have the necessary power to oppose communism. Please note the confusing factors. While opposing 100% government communism is an acceptable right-wing action, increasing the power of the US government to the point of totalitarian, in order to oppose communism is a left wing action.
A greater deviation in the meanings of these terms occurred in the1970s when the burgeoning evangelical Christian movement joined the conservatives, the conservatives became numerous enough and powerful enough to begin using government to advance their agenda, a program that they adopted, and continue to embrace.
At this point the terms conservative and right-wing ceased to be synonymous. Now conservatives are calling for all manner of increased government, to the detriment of their right wing roots.
All of these changes in conservative and liberal thinking had absolutely no effect on the left/right political spectrum. Then as now and always, the left/right spectrum measured the power of government, or the degree to which government makes the decisions for individuals and businesses, or the degree to which individuals and businesses are free to make their own decisions.
These changes in the basic thinking are exactly why the left/right political spectrum is more important today than any time in its beleaguered history. Just think when Conservatives wake-up to the reality that they have abandoned their roots and are now promoting more government. Conservatives are calling for more troops on the border, more laws regulating abortion. They want the president to use of the Federal Registry to prevent stem cell research, cloning and partial birth abortion. Many Conservatives supported more government restrictions on free speech like flag burning, calling for English to be our official language, term limits on elected officials and creating Free Speech Zones far away, from where you may want to demonstrate your message.
When we are successful in recapturing the word RIGHT to mean an advocate of less government, conservatives will have to face the reality that they are left-wingers or leftist calling for increases in governmental power. Convincing a small government conservative that he has been duped into doing the work of the left will start him thinking about liberty or Libertarian movements so fast it will make his own head swim.
Additionally, as the big government liberals (Now calling themselves progressives and populist.) will lose their power to confuse a large number of followers because we will tag them as left wing if they continue to advocate increases in government.
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. 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. cloning and abortion. They also want the Federal government to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. They want the 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 troups 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?
Please evaluate the level of my persuasion on, "How confusion took root, to muddy the waters." Use one through ten. Post a comment below or E-mail your ranking to Chuckest@aol.com
You can begin clearing up the confusion and begin to recapture the single plane left/right political spectrum as the Roadmap to Liberty.
This is not as big a job as you might first suspect. We do not have to try to change those people that have an agenda to confuse. Our success will deprive these confusers of this tool of deception. Likewise, you do not need to convert those people that are confused, our success triggers a change in the usage of the terms, they will start using it correctly just like they started to use it incorrectly. All we need do, is when we discover a writer using the terms incorrectly, drop him a friendly E-Mail with a short exposition of the true and clear meanings, and sources. It is amazing how three e-mails to one writer using the words incorrectly alters his writing pattern. He may not completely change after just three reminders. Continued monitoring this writer, let him/her know you have observed the pattern of change, and his move closer to the correct usage. This lets him/her know you are reading their material. Before you know it he will be using the terms correctly. (Read this paragraph four or more times.)