What are these competing ideologies, and why do they clash?
This page is the exploration of the what and the why of the left and the right. I expect to keep revisiting and updating this topic, as it seems too deep to fully analysis in one attempt.
In particular interest to me is the question: why are the things people champion grouped, when they can be so diverse? Why do people tend to choose almost all of the left policies, or all of the right policies, rather than varying mixes of each?
- The Ideologies, and the Clash
- Left Ideology: Everyone is equal
- Right Ideology: Achievement must be rewarded
- The conflict.
- Juggling Ideologies
- The Labels
- Historic Political Forces: The First, Second and Third Estates.
- ‘Left’ and ‘Right’: The Origin
- Progressive and Conservative
- Why Are People ‘left’ or ‘right’?
- The Echo Chamber
- Social and Economic position
- Implementations and Extremes
- Democratic Socialism
- Western Capitalism
- Conclusion: Outrage
The Ideologies, and Juggling
Left Ideology: Everyone is equal
It sounds simple. Do you have a favourite musician? Are they famous? Do they deserve to be paid more than lesser musicians? Or are all musicians equal? There are limits on the practicality of simply declaring all equal.
Right Ideology: Achievement must be rewarded
Reward, and thus prosperity, should reflect achievement. The better the musician, the more joy the bring to people and the more remuneration they deserve! The problem with rewarding achievement is there is no perfect system for determining achievement, nor for determining the appropriate prosperity balance.
The Conflict Between Left and Right.
As soon as you even measure achievement, everyone is no longer completely equal. Even if all ethnicities, genders and preferences are considered equal, how can the differences between those dedicated to helping others and those who commit horendous crimes be considered equal.
What places people on the spectrum from far left through the centre to far right, is their confidence in the judgement of those who have achieved.
Both left and right ideals are sound, despite their contradictions. The John Stuart Mill “greatest good for the greatest number of people” requires juggling both ideologies.
Consider 6yr old children in a running race. The extreme of ‘everyone is equal’ would result in equal prizes for all, but with no celebration. Why even bother running as fast as you can? Adding prizes for winning, provides incentive, and satisfaction for those who are awarded prizes. o
The extreme of ‘achievement must be rewarded’, would be to not only give ribbons to place getters, but also have a party with the quantity and desirability of food and drink given to each child, determined by their result. Why give everyone the same food and drinks when some deserve the best?
Neither extreme of ‘everyone equal’ or ‘achievement determines prosperity’ alone provides and ideal solution. Mixing some of every one is equal and achievement deserves prosperity requires juggling, and will usually be plagued by the difficult in determining ‘achievement’.
Consider an example. The winner has the best time the school has seen, despite never training. The winner has a birthday tomorrow, and at 6yrs and 364 days, is also the oldest 6yr old ever to race. Second place by less than 1/10 of a second, is actually 10 months younger and has been training every day for months, recorded the second best time ever, and would have won in any previous year.
Who deserves most accolades? Rules are rules, so ‘the winner takes it all’?
But second place worked harder.
In fact, although in the same age band, relative to actual age, the time of second place was more impressive.
Then we have third place. Third place was also impressive. With an identified gene based limitation compared to the positions 1 and 2, 3rd place did record the fastest time ever in the state for someone with that genetic structure. Impressive considering their limitations, but still overshadowed by gold and silver ribbons. Unless of course that genetic difference was having two XX chromosomes in place of an X and a Y. The record for the state would then be celebrated because women are a recognised sub-group, while the record for any other sub group may be overlooked.
Ok, it is only a race for 6 year old children! But statistically, those born at the right time of year to oldest at competition time will have an advantage every year. That advantage leads to not only a ribbon, but more chances to receive training and encouragement that could eventually lead to sports scholarships.
No matter how you adjust the system, some will have an artificial advantage over others.
Plus the achievements the selves are often very artificial. Someone gets to be best are a running race with a start according to a specific set of rules, on flat ground and over one specific distance. Change any of the parameters and the winner may change, but that doesn’t matter, what matters is there was a contest that determines a ‘winner’.
There is no system for determining merit that is flawless, yet reducing all to ‘participation’ removes incentive and an real achievement for everybody.
For events for 6 year old children, it is common to give ribbons for 1st, 2nd and 3rd as well as participation ribbons for all. This provides balance, rewarding ‘achievement’, and giving some recognition that all have some merit. When it comes to celebrating, everyone gets the same food and drink.
The achievement itThe sense of achievement
A key part of keeping things in balance, is to not place too much importance on the actual results. To keep the reward in balance, and perhaps recognise the system of determining ‘merit’ is not necessarily perfect.
This balance is more challenging when applied at a society wide level, but most people, and most societies, juggle ‘everyone is equal’ and ‘achievement deserves reward’.
Historic Political Forces: The First, Second and Third Estates.
The system of ‘estates’ has existed in various forms, and has been the basis of many political systems, in many countries and for many centuries, but most predominant in medieval Europe.
Western style democracies evolved from systems based on representation of the estates of the realms.
- The First Estate
- Clerical Nobility and the Church
- The Second Estate
- The Noble/Royal Class
- The Third Estate
- Everybody else
- Others (building on the original concepts)
- The King and Queen were typically above all the estates
- Fourth Estate?
- Some countries divided the third estate into two
- some countries had an even lower fourth estate
- Now, The media has come to be known as the Fourth Estate
- Some countries divided the third estate into two
- Fifth and Sixth estates?
- Now in the 21st century, alternate media is sometimes referred to as new estates
The first estate has the fewest people (in France, up to 0.5% of the population) and the most political power per person. The second estate had up to 1.5% of the population. That leaves a lot for the third estate, but women were excluded, and in most countries labourers who did not own or rent their land were also excluded. Most people were completely excluded.
The more education and wealth, the more included. The French revolution was the first to try giving a vote to at least every adult male in 1795, but this did not actually become reality until 1848.
Not just property owners, but allowing every citizen can vote, is quite a new concept. A new concept even before considering how recently women were given the right to vote.
For example, New Jersey revised its state constitution to abolish property requirements in 1807, but at the same time prevented all women from voting (even wealthy ones who had been allowed to vote there since 1776) as well as all free blacks.US History
England was no better
The British electoral system of the early 19th century was viewed as extremely unfair and in need of reform. In 1831, only 4,500 men could vote in parliamentary elections, out of a population of more than 2.6 million people. There were also concerns about parliamentary representation, as there were rotten boroughs, such as Dunwich in Suffolk, who could elect two MPs when they only had a population of 32 in 1831. In contrast, large cities, which had expanded over the previous century, including Manchester and Birmingham, had no MP. With increased pressure for electoral reform, parliament inevitably had to make changes.National Archive
One reason countries did not permit even ‘all male citizens’ to vote, was the lack of citizenship. Yes it seems unfair, but if someone did not own land, how could you determine to what area they were ‘loyal’?
Historically, even democracies, where government by the only people who were educated and/or travelled: the church, the wealthy and high ranking military.
‘Left’ and ‘Right’: The Origin
The French revolution sought to replace the ‘Ancient Regime’ of King and the estates with a vote for every man. Women were still excluded, but it was still a significant change.
Those who wanted change to a republic, with ‘one man one vote’ and greater representation of the masses were ‘the left’, and those who wanted to go back to the old ways with greatest representation by king and estates, were ‘the right’.
As it turns out, the left-right political spectrum originates from the seating arrangement in the French National Assembly during the French Revolution.
During the 1790s, when the French were trying to overthrow the monarchy, the seating in the assembly was based on political affiliation. King Louis XVI sat in front while to his left sat the liberals (Girondists) and radicals (Jacobins) who wanted the establishment of a democratic government and to his right sat the conservatives (Feuillants) who were in favor of the King and supported the consitutional monarchy. (the article continues after the ad)
Even today, in most House of Representatives the left-wing party occupies the side to the left and the right-wing party occupies the side to the right of the President of the House. Oddly enough, in the US House of Representatives, the seating arrangement have turned: Republicans sit to the left of the House Speakers and Democrats to his/her right.left right wing origin
The labels are based on the left-wing wanting change and representation for and by the masses, and the right-wing seeking continuance of power by those historically in power.
Progressive vs Conservative
In France, the left wanted change, the right wanted either maintenance of the status quo, or return of the old ways. Some degree of this wanting or not wanting change applies to these groups today. I found lots of articles on people being progressive or conservative, but I found none that explained ‘conservative’ positions. Most people and governments are very ‘central’, but there are still those most ‘conservative’. But these ‘most conservative’ people tend to adopt many policies that are not really related to the label ‘conservative’ such as:
- concerns there may be people receiving unemployment benefits they do not ‘deserve’
- are more likely to want to own or shoot a gun
- are so concerned about immigrants arriving (even in countries like the US or Australia where the people who are worried are children or grandchildren of immigrants
Left and Right appear to define positions on a long list of views. Viewpoints that fit the description ‘progressive’ and feeling things need to change, do fit more often with the ‘left’, and the description ‘conservative’ and desiring things to be how they have been in the past do fit more with the ‘right’, but not always.
To me it seems ‘progressive’ vs ‘conservative’ are labels that look at the symptoms rather than the underlying factors that drive to people to embrace ideology.
Progressives are people who want change, not for change itself, but because they feel many treated most unfavourable merit better treatment, and those of greatest wealth and privilege may not merit their wealth and privilege.
Conservatives do not oppose all change. What is opposed is the very changes desired by the progressives. It is ‘Robin Hood’ changes to the redistribution of wealth and privilege that are opposed.
Why Are People ‘left’ or ‘right’?
There are many citations of people allegedly having said how children can be shaped by ‘mentors’. I am not sure how true this is, but it does seem that children will tend to grow up following the same political leanings as their parents.
How relevant is this factor?
From political parties, to discussion groups, left vs right becomes an identity dividing people into ‘tribes’. As a member of a tribe, people support the ideologies of the tribe. This provides an explanation those of the left and right tending to support their side on such a wide range of issues
The Echo Chamber
There has always been an echo chamber. I sort of ‘recommended for you’ reading list. Initially in the form of magazines, but today very often social media. There is a rabbit hole of information to support any point of view.
Social and Economic Position
Logically the rich and upper class support that our system of rewards is accurately rewarding merit, and poor lower classes would feel the system is unjust. However this is far from universal
One key reason for poor and lower class people to support ‘the right’ is adulation. People you admire should be rich, and their being rich gives them reasons to be admired. People admire royal families even when they do little to earn admiration. The Kardashians? Sports heroes. Actors. Musicians. ‘Celebrities’. I have a separate post exploring this.
Adulation only a reason for people choose right vs left, but I believe it is a factor.
Policies Of Left vs Right
to be added… there are many list of the positions of left vs right, often without logic as to why. I want to explore this.
Implementations and Extremes
I will come back to this and add examples of countries implementing extreme left, extreme right and central points of view.
I want to learn things like why communism, which purports to be a philosophy of the left, seems to always be a dictatorship.
My current conclusion is that is all comes down to the balance between two source of feeling of outrage. Focus on only one outrage and you are extreme left of right, while a balance of outrage would be the centre. In theory being ‘left’ or ‘right’ leaning, has come to be, not what do you believe in, but what causes you the strongest feelings of outrage. Political rallies have turned from celebrations of one point of view, into protests against an alternative point of view.
Outrage of the Left.
The huge discrepancy between rich and poor is an injustice.
Outrage of the Right.
The rich are rich because they deserve it, and people who complain are those wanting to commit the crime of accessing rewards beyond their entitlement.