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Sunday, July 24, 2011

What is the Left Right Political Spectrum Supposed to Measure? by Chuck McGlawn 08/14/2010

Dear Reader,
By way of introduction, I would like you to know that I am on a quest to recapture the terms “Right”, “Rightist” and “Right Wing” to mean, 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.]


What is the Left Right Political Spectrum Supposed to Measure?
by Chuck McGlawn 08/14/2010
First of all, let us list what it cannot measure. When anyone objects to the efficacy or speak of the inadequacy of the single plane political spectrum, it is because they are trying to measure something that cannot be measured on a single plane spectrum, namely values, any values. Especially liberal and conservative values. It cannot be done.

A thermometer keeps you aware of the ambient temperature. The altimeter measures how high you are above sea level. The pressure gauge measures the pounds per square inch (PSI) in a compressor. A speedometer measures the speed your vehicle is traveling. All of these are examples of single plane measuring devices. All of these single-plane measuring devices have two things in common. First, each provides the user with useful information.
The temperature outside so you know how to dress, the speed your car is traveling and whether or not you are risking a speeding ticket or an accident etc. Secondly, they provide ONLY objective information. Information that is not affected by feelings or prejudice or preconceived notions. The thermometer reads 92°, there is not a place on this single plane spectrum that says, “It is getting warm”. The speedometer reads 75 MPH, there is not a place on this single plane spectrum that says, “You are risking a ticket”.

Conversely, when a very attractive woman enters a room, someone whispers to his friends, “A 10 if I have ever seen one”, one friend replies, “Naaa, no more than an 8.” Is either of them wrong? NO, because beauty is a subjective value, not chartable on a single plane spectrum, despite Hollywood’s attempt to the contrary with the movie “10”. Other examples of subjective values are: “He is bold.” “She is shy.” “He is gregarious.” “She is a loner.” “He is a rube.” “She is a sophisticate.” These are all subjective evaluations. The most subjective of all is, “She is liberal.” “He is conservative.” None of these values have a place on a single plane spectrum. It cannot be done. It is simple Physics, a single person may hold both liberal often called “leftist” and conservative often called “rightist” values at the same time, [do you know anyone that doesn’t?] but he cannot occupy both ends of a political spectrum at the same time  You cannot be acting to reduce the size of government and increasing the size of government with just one issue at the same time.
It is possible, however, for one person to hold:
               Liberal Agendas
1. Favor Saving Social Security
2. Oppose a military draft
3. Favor tax supported preschool
4. Oppose criminalization of drug use
5. Want employer paid Family Leave       Conservative Agendas
                        And at the same time 6. Support 2nd amendment gun rights
                                                             7. Want illegal immigration stopped
                                                             8. Want to reduce Foreign Aid
                                                             9. Want Internet sex sites blocked
                                                           10. Oppose minimum wage increases
                                                           11. Oppose same-sex marriage
12. Want to decriminalize prostitution
Using issues 1 through 6, the person is liberal on five of the six issues. Does that make him a “Leftist”? It does not, because if you evaluate this same person, using just issues 7 through 12, the person is a Conservative five of the six issues. So, does this make him a “Right-Winger? It does not. The single plane Left/Right Political Spectrum was never designed to measure values. To make the Left/Right Political Spectrum provide useful information, you must know what it is you are trying to measure. Saying a person is tall means nothing. I am tall until I go to a professional basketball game, around those guys I am short. However that single plane spectrum called the tape measuer says correctly that I am 72 inches tall.

The paramount question and solution to the prevailing confusion in the current usage of left/right is: What is the Left/Right Political Spectrum Supposed to Measure? This question is clearly answered by Murray Rothbard, in two separate articles.[And by many others that preceded 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)
According to Dr. Rothbard, the left/right political spectrum measures the increases in governmental power, especially the power to intervene into the daily lives of individuals and businesses.
A reinforcement of this concept is found in “Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal” published in 1969, Rothbard further observed: “…we adopted the standard view, (Emphasis added) let me repeat “…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." Rothbard’s  standard view of the left right political Spectrum would have looked like this, I have added some of the major occupants and their relative positions on the chart. (view full screen)
100% government ß-----------------------------------------------------------------------------L---I --B---E--R--T--A--R--I --A-- Nà 0% government.
Left  (Totalitarian Communist Socialism Fascist Nazi)                                                                       Anarchy . Right
Note: Because different Libertarians believe in different amounts of government, we have spread Libertarianism over the right end of the chart.


Additional confirmation, farther along in the 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” in their Libertarians thinking, there heroes were chosen from men that were closer to anarchy and 0% government on the right end of the Political Spectrum, that Dr. Rothbard called the standard view. 

Going back to our example, when evaluated on all twelve issues our imaginary politico is conservative on six and liberal on the other six.

It would look like this:
                        These are all

                        Left-Wing Agendas

                        Liberal or Conservative

1.Favors saving Social Security Liberal

3. Favor tax supported preschool Liberal

5. Want employer paid family leave Liberal

7. Want illegal immigration stopped Conservative                      These are all

9. Want Internet sex sites blocked Conservative                        Right-Wing Agendas

11. Oppose same sex marriage Conservative                            All Libertarian

                                                                        2. Oppose military draft. Libertarian/Liberal

                                                                        4. Favor legal drugs. Libertarian/Liberal

                                                                        12 Want legal prostitution. Lbrtrian/Liberal

                                                                        6. Support gun rights Libertarian/Conservative

                                                                        8. Oppose Foreign Aid Libertarian/Conservative

                                                                        10. Oppose Min. Wage Libertarian/Conservative

This exact person may not exist. However, of the hundreds of issues that we everyday it is possible, in fact likely, that one person to hold at least six liberal views and at least six conservative views at the same time. That person would not be a Leftist, he would not be a Rightist, and more importantly, this person could not even be a Centrist. Therefore, if one person can hold liberal and conservative issues at the same time then that person cannot be charted on a left/right political spectrum.

This means the terms “Liberal and Left are no longer (as they once were) almost synonymous. This means the terms Conservative and Right are no longer (as they once were) almost synonymous However, it does not change the Left/Right Political Spectrum. It still measures 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. Just because Liberals have changed and now advocate less government on some issues does not make them left or right. Just because Conservative have changed and now advocate more government on some issues does not make them left or right.  Because of these changes, the Left/Right Political Spectrum is a more useful tool today than it ever was during the Roosevelt Administration.


Now for an eye-opening experience lets revisit the twelve issues listed above through the filter of Dr. Rothbard’s “…standard view, of the political spectrum: [where] ‘left,’ meant socialism, or total power of the state; [and where] the further ‘right’ one went the less government one favored.”
You will note that every odd numbered agenda in the list, whether it was a Liberal agenda or a Conservative agenda calls for increases in governmental power, and consequently if adopted it is a move toward 100% government on the Left end of the Political Spectrum. Likewise, every even numbered agenda, whether it was a Liberal agenda or a Conservative agenda calls for decreases in governmental power, and happily a move toward 0% government on the Right end of the Political Spectrum
This also means that on half of the conservative issues that we are listing here the Conservatives are calling for more government, or more shockingly a move toward a communist, socialist or fascist style totalitarian government. Additionally with half of the liberal issues we are listing here Liberals are calling for less government, and a move toward freedom and liberty on the right end of the political spectrum, toward “extreme rightist”. [I have boldfaced the word toward because when a person advocates a program that will call for more government, it does not make him a communist or a fascist, the same way that with a person proposes a program that will reduce governmental power, does not make him a believer in anarchy.]
It looks like this:
      Left-Wing Agendas                                          Right-Wing Agendas

Liberal or Conservative                                          All Libertarian

1. Favors saving Social Security. Liberal                

3. Favor tax supported preschool. Liberal

5. Want employer paid “Family Leave”. Liberal

7. Want illegal immigration stopped.    Conservative

9. Want internet sex sites blocked. Conservative

11.Oppose same sex marriage. Conservative

                                                            2.Oppose a military draft. Libertarian/Liberal

                                                            4.Oppose criminalization of drugs. Libertarian/Liberal

                                                          12.Wants legal prostitution. Libertarian/Liberal

                                                            6. Support gun rights. Libertarian/Conservative

                                                            8. Opposed to foreign aid. Libertarian/Conservative

                                                          10.Oppose Min. wages. Libertarian/Conservative

This should not come as a surprise. If we were not so busy studying economics, or so deeply involved in our own special agenda. Or if you were not so busy just trying to keeping our head above water. If we just had the time to stop and think about it, we would have noticed a trend, that all governmental powers were at one time individual rights. If you had the right to do it then the government did not have the power to prevent it. Once government has the power to prevent it you no longer have the right to do it. Here are some examples of it:
§        Until Feb. 3, 1913, individuals had the right to spend, save, invest or give 100%, of the money they earned, and the National 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 declared ratified. Thereafter the National Government had the power over some portion of an individual’s income, and the individual no longer had the unfettered right to spend, save, invest or give 100% of his/her income. Notice how your individual right was converted into a National Governmental power.
§        Until Jan. 16, 1920, individuals and companies had the right to manufacture, sell and transport intoxicating liquors. And the National 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 National Governmental power to prohibit individuals and companies from manufacturing, selling and transporting intoxicating liquors. Again, an individual right becomes a National Government power.
§        Until Jan.1, 1971 cigarette companies had the right to advertise cigarettes on television and radio. And the National 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 had been converted into a National 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 National Government. However, by 1971 the American people had become so conditioned to the concept that it was government’s job to solve problems the amendment to the Constitution process was no longer necessary.

Every new power of government and the corresponding loss of an individual right is a move toward the left end of the Political Spectrum, because, at some time along that continuum all rights will be gone and government will be all powerful, and “Totalitarian”. That is what the left/right political spectrum was devised to track. It tracks 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.
This is the standard view of which Dr. Rothbard wrote. (view full screen)
100% government ß---------------------------------------------L-I-B-E-R-T-A-R-I-A Nà 0% government.
Left  (Totalitarian Communist Fascist Nazi)                                                                                Anarchy . Right

Conversely, if the Liberty Movement successfully ended the IRS, then the government would lose the power over some portion of your income and you would have the right to choose how your income was to be used. If we eliminated all minimum wage laws, then the National Government would loose the power to dictate labor prices, and individual and businesses would have the right to hire someone at the market price, and individuals would have the right to take a job at a wage acceptable to the laborer. If all national taxes that were not used by the National Government to protect life liberty property were repealed we would have a National Government that was functioning within it proper scope. As we successfully accomplished these individual steps, we would be moving the nation toward the right end of the spectrum. Because at some time along that continuum, [and we are not necessarily recommending it] we would arrive at Anarchy.

My slam-dunk here is when you look a little more closely at the twelve issues we covered please note, how all of the odd numbered agendas require the initiation of force.
In conclusion, Liberals have adopted and co-opted half of the Libertarian Platform of NOT initiating FORCE to accomplish social and political goals, and Conservatives have also adopted and co-opted the other half of our platform of NOT initiating FORCE to accomplish social and political goals.

But the only political philosophy that adheres to the right wing advocacy of less governmental power and the Philosophy of Liberty is the Libertarians.

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