I discovered the following at Susan Turner's site <ntlu.blogspot.com> I feel that it offers a great starting point for us to clarify some terms that are frequently used in the posts given here. How comprehensive are these labels and do they do the job required?
I began with six terms two each in three categories. Those categories were Political Justice, Social Morality and Economic Welfare. The two terms we considered under Political Justice were 'right wing' and 'left wing'. The two under Social Morality were 'liberal' and 'conservative' and the two under Economic Welfare were 'socialist' and 'capitalist.' There are, of course, many other political labels. For example individualist, republican, anarchist, totalitarian, libertarian, communist, neo-Con, green and so on. How these other terms relate to the ones selected for treatment in my course was often a matter of lively discussion. Needless to say, they all do relate in one way or another.
But the main focus is the six terms themselves as these tend to be the most frequently used the touchstone terms, if you will, of political analysis and conversation. So, after much justification of the defining project itself—in over ten years of philosophy teaching experience, I still find the most difficult false belief to disabuse even very smart people of is that it is always wrong to limit the meaning of a word—yes, once that was cleared away, we got down to business. In the second class, I proposed the following definitions as working models for each of the terms
1. Political Justice The primary internal role of the government is to facilitate or ensure
left wing Basic equality of outcomes among the citizenry
right wing Basic equality of opportunity among the citizenry
2. Social Morality The primary role of socialization of children, youth and new citizens is to facilitate or ensure
liberal tolerance and the celebration of value pluralism
conservative tradition and the celebration of shared values
3. Economic Welfare The primary role of commercial activity is to facilitate or ensure
capitalist The market driven distribution and redistribution of resources, labour, capital, and manufactured goods, etc.
socialist The government driven distribution and redistribution of resources, labour, capital and manufactured goods, ect.
I’m in no position to defend Professor Turner’s categories, but perhaps , as she said, there are many other ‘labels’ on the horizon that a person may need to employ to better describe themselves?
You don’t seem too pleased with being labelled a “right-wing, liberal capltalist lisbliss? (a joke) The fact is that you may have chosen the right-wing over the left, but in reality you might be of a more centrist position - and the same can be said of the capitalist versus the socialist label. The problem seems that we need a whole lot of other options to get a true picture.
I believe that the right wing mantra is that they “work to offer everyone an equal opportunity” at least that is the right wing rhetoric, but in reality we all of course realize that in the practical world there is no such level playing field and that the right naturally protects and defends the rich having all the best opportunities. Of course if you challenge them on that point they always tend to say, “we want everyone to have an equal opportunity, so that even the poorest person can rise to become wealthy. We are the land of opportunity!”
Right wingers believe this kind of mantra, but everyone knows that it is practiced nowhere and is nowhere in evidence.
“Right wingers believe this kind of mantra, but everyone knows that it is practiced nowhere and is nowhere in evidence.”
Since this refers to the notion of “equal opportunity” I don’t recall anyone on the right ever using this mantra—or framing, which seems to be the more popular way of stating things like this. Seriously. Especially the current crew in power at the moment. The mantra seems to be something more on the order of “every man for himself, and too bad if you’re a loser” backed by a special kind of elitism that holds that the rich have been rewarded by God and can do no wrong because God tells them what to do. You know what I mean—that direct pipeline to God thing.
Too many of those on the right write about bell curves that prove that certain groups are naturally inferior, not just disadvantaged, fight against affirmative action, want to dispose of public education, want to privatize social security, etc. for me to think for a minute that there’s any kind of mantra about “equal opportunity” for anyone.
I think the right wing really believes in Social and Economic Darwinism,
Survival of the Fittest. However they modify it so that their offspring and future generations start with advantages, that are not genetic or related to fitness, but only related to where you stand in the “Good Ole Boy’s Club”.
Actually I could be quite okay with this idea of Darwinism, If all Inheritance was made 100% taxable, and Education was 100% free and equal.
That would certainly help “level the playing field”.
I have always seen it somewhat like this (these terms apply to American contextual definitions):
The chief division between conservatives and liberals lies in their concept of liberty. Is liberty the mere possession of rights on paper? Or is it also the ability to exercise those rights?
For conservatives, generally speaking, mere possession of rights is enough. Thus, if the law says blacks and whites are equal, then they are, by defintion.
For liberals, generally speaking, mere possession of rights under the law is not enough. To be free, one must also have the ability to exercise those rights, regardless of what the law says.
Thus, conservatives and liberals have differing views on the role of government in the securing of citizen liberties.
For conservatives, merely saying that citizens are free and equal, without changing anything else in society, is enough, and the government has no obligation to do anything except punish obvious violations of race- and gender-neutral laws.
For liberals, social inequality precedes legal inequality, so changing the law is not enough; the government also has to dismantle non-government obstacles to liberty and equality. They feel that changing the law, without changing society itself, only tends to obscure and further entrench the real cause of injustice.
I also would further divide conservatives and liberals into either progressive or reactionary versions of the two camps. Progressives (either conservative or liberal) seek fundamental, sometimes radical, change to the status quo, place a higher premium on pragmatism over dogma, and tend to believe that society’s best days lay ahead rather than behind. Reactionaries (either conservative or liberal) seek power primarily for its own sake, prefer dogma over reason, and tend to believe that society’s best days lay in a remote utopian past that needs to be revived.
Neither of these catgories is cut and dry, though. It’s entirely possible for a conservative to be progressive on one issue and reactionary on another (for example, George W. Bush is a progressive conservative on the issue of Social Security reform, but a reactionary conservative on gay rights issues). Ditto for liberals (for instance, most feminists are progressive liberals on issues of present-day gender politics, but some of them are reactionaries in their beliefs about pre-historic “Goddess” cultures).
I thought I’d point out that endorsing equality of opportunity in the context of Political Justice does not imply any sort of substantive equality. It means the government will create no laws which have the effect of giving any particular group advantages or rights over any other group. If you introduce equal rights into a substantively unequal society, you will entrench those inequalities; justify them, basically. Historically, the ‘right wing’ was occupied by the wealthy, the nobility and other powerful groups in society. My LW and RW categories presuppose some form of universal suffrage has already been established in law. The historically wealthy were prepared to live with equal rights as long as the playing field everyone was on was not levelled. That way, equality of opportunity guaranteed there would always be poor, un/undereducated people; lots of people for whom equal rights under the law would at best mean they could not be literally enslaved. Equal rights, on an equality of opportunity view, were a minor obstacle to the principle of right wing politics: winner takes all. Right wingers are therefore against affirmative action, for ‘work for welfare,’ against so-called ‘special’ rights for First Nations peoples, and I think, though must reflect more on this, they will tend to be Legal Positivists when the RW is politically ascendant and Anti- Positivists when the LW is.
As for equality of outcome: well, in that case, if you are LW then you are very much into fiddling with the law and specifically to level the playing field. For some, this is so that some day, when it is sufficiently level, perhaps a system of perfectly equal rights can be established. Some LW ideologies which hold out promise of equal rights get stuck in the fiddling stage of their realization. Others see the world as a place in which keeping the playing field level is a neverending job. But, of course, to a RW, level playing fields take all the fun out of life and generally don’t make any sense. I’m enjoying the comments! Susan
By the above definitions, I am primarily a “Right Wing, (progressive) Conservative, Capitalist”………..and quite proud of it at that!
However, to be perfectly honest, I must admit to some occasional lapses of “(progressive) liberal tolerance” when it comes to issues such as the separation of church and state.
First, CanZen, having spent more time that I care to remember in the socialist workers paradise of Saskatchewan, been greeted by the T-Rex and blown sideways across the icy tarmac at the Regina Airport on too many occasions, slapped mosquitoes the size of humming birds after the spring melt, seen the ineffective socialist government run healthcare system and associated back-room provincial political intrigue and economically stifling Crown Corporation monopolies “up close and personal” I can understand your state of depression and belief that equal opportunity does not exist in your environment……that is why most young people choose to emigrate from Saskatchewan to Vancouver, Toronto or (if they can get a green card) to the US.
Secondly, MJ, what’s your problem?…….NYC, as a bastion of “Blue State” liberal political power should be the land of equal opportunity for a guy like you. I’m sure if you just contact Hillary or Chuckie they will be glad to get the government help you out.
We right wingers do believe in and actively promote equal opportunity. That is what the “No Child Left Behind” act was all about. That is what the support for school vouchers is all about. That is what welfare reform, tax reform, social security reform, tort reform and the Bush vision of an “ownership society” is all about. That is why we oppose “affirmative action” because it is inherently and by definition “unequal opportunity”.
We not only want opportunities to be equal, but we want those opportunities to be more prevalent, greater and better for everyone.
We also believe that the people who are most likely to benefit from equal opportunities are those who are prepared and committed to take advantage of the opportunities available, to work the hardest and to take responsibility for their own success or failure.
The liberal myth that rich people got that way because they are somehow part of the “old boy network” is just objectively not true. I recommend that you read “The Millionaire Next Door”, by Stanley and Danko.
You will find that millionaires are the among the fastest growing segments of US society, over 80% are “first generation affluent”,83% attended public schools, most work between 45 and 55 hours per week, 75% are self employed in “dull normal” everyday businesses, they are “fastidious savers” and “live below their means”. Interestingly, although self employed people make up less than 20% of the US workforce, they comprise over two thirds of the millionaires.
Based upon their extensive study, the authors conclude that most wealth comes not from inheritance, advanced degrees, or intelligence but from “a lifestyle of hard work, perseverance, planning and, most of all, self-discipline.”
These are “equal opportunities” available to anyone willing to accept them.
Finally, Iisbliss, you said “I think the right wing really believes in Social and Economic Darwinism, Survival of the Fittest.”
I think that to some extent, at the institutional level, you are correct but not at the individual level.
Certainly, on the economic side, it is true. We believe that only economically viable enterprises should survive. For example, Enron should not have survived. It had a fatally flawed business model that only generated “phantom” economic value. That this now obvious fact was hidden from the investing public was criminal and should be punished to the full extent of the law but the corporation ultimately and appropriately succumbed to “Darwinian” economic forces.
On the social side, we believe in helping people to help themselves to succeed but not in giving them incentives to fail or to continuously view themselves as victims.
We want to create an opportunity rich environment and give people the tools and incentives to pursue them.
CA, it is odd that you would infer a “state of depression” ensues when certain rw-conservative-capitalist ideas are rejected. I’m not sure if you were referring to a personal state of depression or one that applied to Saskatchewan as a whole? You certainly brought out some of the negative aspects of life in our socialist paradise, but I tend to disagree with your flogging of our crown corporations (monopolistic). In fact these provicially owned entities control certain essential amenities (power, gas, phone, insurance) so that we all benefit more equitably - and we certainly allow private enterprise competitors in even those essential industries.
Unfortunately, our biggest export is our youth but this is more due to our rural economies and agricultural base rather than our political affiliation. Take a look at the rw-conservative-capitalist states bordering on Saskatchewan - Montana and North Dakota, they are also exporting their youth and having difficulties in attracting new industries (and residents).
You cite that “equality of opportunity” is not merely an idea on paper that has no substantive effect, yet I would tend to agree with gvi and Susan on that ground. It seems that philosophically and for practical purposes, merely defining “equality of opportunity” in legal ordinance does not “level the playing field” at all and enshrines that existing deficiencies will be maintained. I agree that the new rich people tend to work harder, spend less firvolously and save - that’s seems obvious.
Anyway CA, I am fairly certain that our exchange has veered off the SamHarris track, but I found your assessment intriguing. (You should have come to Saskatoon rather than our capital?)
Hang in there Conservative Atheist! I find the majority of posts on this forum extremely biased politically. Thank you for rationally swimming against this leftist tide.
Why do most who question traditional Faith tend toward the Left politically?
It appears that once the Bible is discredited then anything else traditional, regardless of the facts, is also equally suspect.
Just because a point of moral value can find support in the Bible does not mean that the opposite point of view gains any more legitimacy because of the Bible’s fallibility. Case in point: abortion. As an atheist myself I am against it. Not because of the Bible, but the Declaration of Independence (Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness). I don’t wish to argue this here other than to say that support for either side can be made without referencing a specific religion (and no I do not consider “endowed by their Creator” to be an endorsement of specific religion).
As for economic policy I find it ironic that socialism has more in common with Jesus’ teachings that capitalism, yet the so called “Religious Right” embrace capitalism while the “Socialist Left” reject Jesus. There is more going on here than meets the eye.
I wish the Left’s endless concerns about Bush ushering in an american theocracy (which I find laughable) could be shifted to the real theocracies present in dictatorships in the Middle East which present a much greater threat to world peace.
I don’t know if anyone here has given any thought to the idea of a political compass, but that seems to me to be more reflective of the kinds of positions that seem to be articulated by people, with left and right being a measure of economic thought, and a vertical measure from authoritarian to libertarian measuring social thought (http://www.politicalcompass.org has a test you can take to determine where you are on the compass relative to famous/notorious political figures).
For instance, I’m pretty leftist in terms of economics (I believe in stronger economic controls that serve the community, rather than an unrestricted economy that serves only itself), and pretty libertarian (pluralism, human rights, individual choice are all up my alley). I think a measure that encompasses both thoughts on social policy as well as economic policy are more useful than just an economic measure; one doesn’t imply the other.
Also, it becomes far more difficult to slot people into convenient, one word labels, like “liberal” or “conservative”, which get tossed around in political discourse like so much dung in a monkey cage. What if I’m all for balanced budgets, government regulation of big business, and polyamory? One word just doesn’t fit all of that (neither does one political party, but the Tories here in Canuckland seem to be trying to do it… good for them, I guess).
Oh, and Iisbliss, I totally agree with you. How can there be equal opportunity for women, for example, when a great deal of men are simply unwilling to perform the same domestic roles that women have traditionally been assigned, and women are statistically underpaid relative to men occupying similar positions?