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Defining the left-right spectrum
Posted By Vox Day On 09/08/2003 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Editor’s note: Vox Day will be Joseph Farah’s guest on the WorldNetDaily Report radio show today to discuss the syndication of his column. The show airs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern and can be heard online.
Although the media regularly apply some form of the adjectives “left” and “right” to nearly everyone from the Chinese politburo to Baptist ministers, as is often the case with mainstream journalists, they do so in almost complete ignorance of what the words represent in terms of political ideology.
The most common error is to postulate a Communist left-wing extreme opposed by an extreme Nazi right wing. Not only does this leave out a substantial body of political and philosophical thought, but the construction falls apart the moment the two socialist ideologies are compared. Any reasonable comparison inevitably forces the confused advocates of such a definition to assert that the spectrum is actually a circle, in which case the terms left and right, much less left-wing and right-wing, are wholly nonsensical.
Nor is the original usage of much utility today, since it represented the fundamental division of the pre-revolutionary French national assembly. Since very few nations feature a monarchy these days, and even fewer political parties espouse positions with regards to the Bourbon kings, this definition is now defunct. And the notion of basing the spectrum on progress, of course, begs the Marxian question. In other words, progress toward what? The worker’s paradise?
To find a stronger foundation for a proper political spectrum, it is necessary to delve into intellectual history. Looking back to ancient Greece, one finds striking similarities between the collectivism of Plato’s Republic and modern leftist thought. And likewise, the close relationship between the Aristotelian regard for the individual, the American Bill of Rights and today’s Libertarian Party is equally hard to escape.
Taking this fundamental dichotomy between the supremacy of the community and the primacy of the individual as a starting point, it becomes relatively easy to determine where an individual or party happens to fall on the political spectrum if communism is accepted as the anchoring point for the extreme left wing. The figure below illustrates where some of the most familiar political philosophies fall upon the spectrum based on an analysis of what I consider to be the ten most significant elements affecting individuals and their relationship to their government, followed by a point-by-point breakdown of how these positions were determined.
Religious Freedom represents the amount of control the state exerts over the individual practice of religion, zero representing total control. Thus, Libertarian and Democratic adherence to the expanded notion of the so-called separation of church and state gives them a lower score than the more religious-tolerant Republicans. Right to Life takes into account both state killing and abortion – Democratic and Libertarian support for 1.3 million annual infanticides showing a more significant disregard for human life than Republican backing for the 20 executions that have taken place yearly since 1976. I judged support for a state-defined Money Standard to be more significant than positions on taxation, as a government’s ability to print money at will renders all taxes wholly unnecessary.
|Right to Life|
|State Money Standard|
Despite left-liberal chest-beating with regard to the Freedom of the Press, I noted it is primarily Democrats who support government-run media and the limitations on the individual inflicted by federal regulation of the airwaves and campaign-finance reform. National Sovereignty reflects both a willingness to sacrifice it in favor of international treaties and governing bodies as well as a lack of respect for the sovereignty of other nations or national borders. The last item, Central State Authority, represents the general tendency of the philosophy to support or oppose increased central state power through its policies.
|Freedom of the Press|
|Central State Authority|
This political spectrum of freedom is by no means complete, and I would certainly welcome any suggested modifications or additions from thoughtful readers. What it does provide, however, is a reasonable starting point for a discussion of the left-right political spectrum based on identifiable facts and philosophy instead of ignorance, deception and half-baked history.
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