Left vs. Right

March 05, 2021

You may have heard the terms “left” and “right” when it comes to politics. If you’re reading this blog, you may have been called “far-right” yourself :-).

But what does all this really mean?

Short History

The terms seem to have appeared in the French National Assembly (parliament) during the French Revolution.
Politicians who wanted to preserve the existing order sat on the right side of the room, those who wanted radical change sat on the left. (See more on Infogalactic.)

Historically, the left was usually associated with socialism and other forms of forced collectivism, while the right was often associated with conservatism.

Is There Any Logic to This?

If the definitions used in mass-media seem completely arbitrary, it’s likely because they are. They usually call right and far-right everyone they don’t like. But you’ll never hear anything about the far-left.

If we’re talking about left and right, we are talking about an axis. And to place things on an axis, we need a metric, a measure, if you will.

For instance, if we were talking about temperature, we would put the lower temperatures on the left of the axis, and higher temperatures on the right.

Getting back to politics, the best metric I was able to find is the degree of individual freedom.

On the left, you’d have various degrees of collectivism and little to no individual freedom.
The more you go the the right, the more individual freedom you’d have.

Based on the above described metric, communism, socialism, national-socialism are on the far left.
Libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism would be on the far right.

Why Do They Say the Nazi’s / Fascists Are Far-Right?

Well, let’s explore.

The term Nazi comes from national-socialist. In German, it was called Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, meaning The National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

In 1930s and 40s fascist Italy, one of Mussolini’s slogans was ”Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”. The individual was just a tiny cog in the huge machinery of the state, just a disposable ant in a colony.

Both the national-socialists and the fascists believed in the supremacy of the state over the individual and the subordination of the individual to the collective.

They sound a lot like socialist parties, don’t they? Let’s take the analysis further.

Same as communists, national-socialists and fascists instituted price controls, wage controls and they even tried some form of rent controls.

The only somewhat meaningful differences I could find so far between communists and national-socialists / fascists:

  • In communism, individuals were defined by their class membership (see kulaks). In national-socialism, the individual was defined by race.
  • The communists had complete ownership of the “means of production”, while the nazis had a somewhat indirect control.

In conclusion, there’s a huge degree of overlap between all three ideologies. To claim that they are polar opposites is a complete denial of historical facts and elementary logic.

However, presenting them as opposite systems favours the communists by allowing them to say “only nazis were the bad guys, and we’re nothing like them”.

The Horseshoe Theory

You will often hear some say “Yeah, but it’s not an axis, it’s more like a horseshoe, where the extremes are close together”.

This is one of the most ridiculous arguments I heard on the subject. Nowhere else is this true. High temperatures are not similar to low ones. High speeds are not similar with low ones, or with the absence of movement.

Furthermore, if national socialism / fascism are conservatism taken to extremes, how does a small government, freedom-loving conservative becomes all of the sudden a big state totalitarian? Where exactly is that inflection point on said horseshoe?

A Great Video

Finally, nobody describes all this better than Dinesh D’Souza in the short video below.

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