[pp.int.general] Our ideology

Eric Priezkalns eric.priezkalns at pirateparty.org.uk
Fri Jul 31 15:34:24 CEST 2009

Go back further and the distinction between left and right is  
different again.

left = reduce power of the monarch (and other institutions, like the  
right = retain power for the monarch

The original categorization between left and right came from France  
and the upheaval of the French Revolution.  It was originally about  
how much power you thought the King should have, with people favouring  
the King sitting more to the right.  This explains why it is possible  
to associate the 'left' with freedom.  However, you quickly morph the  
debate into one about 'positive' and 'negative' freedoms, what freedom  
really means and hence whether freedom means nobody having power over  
anyone else or freedom means somebody having power over other people  
in order to secure freedom.  Freedom can mean laissez-faire  
capitalism, which ends up looking like what you now call the political  
right, though its roots were in liberating individuals, and hence  
markets, from impositions of an arbitrary ruler.  The British Whigs  
were nominally on the left (by the standards of that time) because  
they wanted to reduce the power of the King, and the USA's Whigs  
called themselves Whigs because they were opposed to concentrating  
power in a President.  Stepping back a little earlier, the American  
Revolutionaries were radicals who removed the power of the British  
King to impose taxes on their economic activity, and they consequently  
believed in strictly limiting the power of the state to intervene in  
all aspects of civil society, whether economic or personal freedoms.   
The result is considered, by European standards, to be a constitution  
and civil society that is now weighted heavily to the right of the  
political spectrum!  So in the American revolution, 'leftist' thinking  
ended up with a conclusion that is now described as being on the  
'right' because of the freedom given to the market.

It can go the other way too, when it comes to leftism and freedom.   
J.J. Rousseau was a leftist thinker.  He influenced the French and  
American revolutions, and emphasized the delivery of freedom via a  
social contract, where some freedoms must be given up in order to  
secure other freedoms.  Robespierre, who tried to implement the  
philosophy of Rousseau, interpreted this as a mandate to kill his  
political opponents on the basis that they were essentially rejecting  
the social contract, and hence were a threat to it.  Robespierre's  
political enemies were hence killed, without this being seen as a  
violation of the principles of freedom!  Hence, you can go full  
circle, and argue that you need authority - and further still, you  
need authoritarian powers - in order to secure freedoms.  In this way,  
you go from the left being the pole in favour of freedom (from the  
King) to the left being represented by a government that will kill  
people opposed to its will.  Sad to say, Robespierre was not the last  
leftist politician to treat his enemies as enemies of the people, and  
hence to justify the need for repression in order to secure freedom.

I prefer Aristotle's analysis to the left-right categorization that  
came out of the French Revolution.  Aristotle thought governments  
either reflected the will of the many, the will of a few, or the will  
of one.  He said if it was a good government, the government of one  
was best, but if bad, the government of one was worst.  In contrast,  
he said the government of many was least best if good, least worst if  
bad.  In balancing freedoms in the real world, that analysis does a  
lot to explain why democracy, the least bad of the bad governments,  
the least good of the good governments, is so successful.  Karl  
Popper's analysis in the Open Society and its Enemies includes a  
critique of Aristotle's counterpart, Plato.  Popper argues that  
authoritarian systems are not derived from a left-right division, but  
from an unwillingness to tolerate alternative points of view and an  
insistence that one point of view can be shown to be comprehensively  
right, with no possibility of revision or of allowing people to change  
their minds.  That can equally well occur with Kings, or with those  
who claim to speak on behalf of 'the people'.   On this analysis,  
trying to link the political left with increasing freedom, and the  
political right with reducing freedom, is fundamentally flawed.



On 31 Jul 2009, at 13:25, Reinier Bakels wrote:

> tranditionally:
> left = believers in government intervention for more justice in the  
> devision of power and income.
> right = believers in the free market

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