Jun 282018

Munk Debate 2018

If any proof is still needed that the popular notions of the political ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are completely erroneous, one need only hear those attempting to use those incorrect frames of reference in a political debate or discussion. If not so tragic, it would be humorous. The conversation will invariably disintegrate into a subjective morass of contradictory and meaningless labels that define nothing and resolve nothing.

That’s exactly what happened at the May 18th Munk Debate, featuring participants Jordan Peterson, Stephen Fry, Michael Dyson and Michelle Goldberg on a resolution about ‘political correctness.’ It also happened at the May 5th Society of Academic Freedom and Scholarship’s (SAFS) event featuring speakers David Haskell, Lindsay Shepherd, and Frances Widdowson during their discussion of free speech on campus.

The confusion arises in failing to recognize that the terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right,’ objectively defined, represent polar opposites, just like ‘north’ and ‘south.’

Unfortunately, the popular and accepted scale of Left and Right place ‘communism’ on the Left and ‘fascism’ on the Right, even though both communism and fascism are not opposites and explicitly sit on the Left. Nowhere on this scale is there a place for individual freedom or capitalism, despite beliefs that they exist on some imaginary ‘center.’ That scale looks like this:

LEFT ——————————————————————————– RIGHT
Radical —- Liberal —- Centrist —- Conservative —- Reactionary
Communism ———————————————————————– Fascism

To correct the popular scale in terms of how these terms work both in theory and in practice, one need only replace the word ‘Right’ with the word ‘Left,’ thusly:

LEFT ———————————————————————————- LEFT
Radical —- Liberal —- Centrist —- Conservative —- Reactionary
Communism ————————————————————————- Fascism

Only then will the scale make sense, even though freedom and capitalism still do not appear anywhere. It is a ‘spectrum’ of the Left only. In this case, a ‘centrist,’ for example, would be someone who supports an ‘equal’ mix of both communism and fascism. A ‘radical’ would be predominantly communist, while a ‘reactionary’ would be predominantly fascist.

To correct this untenable situation, here’s a very simple and workable distinction between Left and Right, in ideological and political terms – that includes freedom on the scale:

LEFT ——————————————————————————- RIGHT
Tyranny —————————————————————————- Freedom

It is important to note that in this case the ‘line’ between each pole does not represent a ‘center,’ merely space or distance. There is no ‘center’ when presented with binary options.

Other examples of the Left/Right binary might include:

collectivism ——————————————————— individualism
socialism/communism/fascism ———————————capitalism
censorship ———————————————————–freedom of speech
restricted/prohibited trade —————————————free trade
group ‘rights’ ——————————————————- individual rights
mysticism / subjectivism —————————————– reason
coercion ————————————————————–consent
altruism ————————————————————– rational self interest
autocracy ———————————————————– democracy

…and of course there are many more.

While many of these concepts can validly be discussed in varying contexts (i.e, modernism, post-modernism), in terms of Left and Right, the options become very narrow and precise.

Until this reality is recognized, no debate can possibly be resolved until both Left and Right are seen in a light that is Just Right.

  One Response to “562 – Still getting it wrong about Left and Right”

  1. Right on! Socialism is a disfigured body, with two left hands,

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