The Roots of Left vs. Right Ideologies

Right wing and left wing movements, when viewed from a public policy angle, may appear utterly inconsistent and contradictory. Right wing movements nowadays appear and/or profess to favor little government involvement in financial affairs, but don’t seem to be too keen on civil liberties or a smaller military. Left wing movements appear to focus on civil liberties, and a more humble military, while supporting government intervention in financial affairs.

How, may one ask, does this make any sense?

Well, none of the above definitions actually look at the root of these ideologies which in my opinion are rather emotional inclinations more than anything else. I recently posted a comment to The confusion between right and left which explains it:

Left vs. Right Ideologies

Socialism vs. capitalism are economic concepts of societal organization. As such they are objective and scientific.

But left vs. right ideology emerges from emotional tendencies and then guides one’s political actions and decisions. Whether one leans toward one or the other rather seems to be rooted in one’s childhood upbringing, and the role that authority figures have played in one’s life. Thus it needs to be analyzed as such:

Left wing sentiment is rooted in the feeling of guilt and a resulting pity for weakness. As a corollary that means pity for the poor, pity for minorities, pity for the elderly and the disabled, etc. This naturally means that left ideas oppose power and strength as an end in itself (but not necessarily as a means to ends that satisfy their pity for the weak). It also means that left wingers have a high tolerance for the notion of surrendering one’s body to earthly pleasures, which most people consider a weakness. One could reasonably argue that left wing thinking, as a tendency, is the projection of a rather maternal upbringing, mostly stressing instincts that prevail on the female side rather than the male side, such as caring, kindness, forgiveness, weakness, dependency. These are attributes that go way back to the beginnings of the human species and while they are becoming less and less relevant on a practical level in today’s advanced world, they still play a role in the psychology of the human mind. (This is not to generalize, just to point out general psychological tendencies in the different genders of the human species, of course always duly accounting for exceptions to the rule.)

Right wing sentiment is rooted in the feeling of fear and the admiration of strength as a perceived necessity to combat it. As a corollary this means admiration of military and the glorious nation state. It also comes with a high relevance assigned to strength through discipline and the rejection or at least a curbing of indulgence in earthly pleasures. At times it may be expedient for right wingers to pull the “fiscal discipline” card, just another corollary of the idea of discipline in the minds of many people. Right wing sentiment leads, as a tendency, to a rejection of protection for the weak and/or minorities, and a general animosity to indulgence and pleasures. One could reasonably argue that right wing thinking, as a tendency, is the projection of a rather paternal upbringing, mostly stressing instincts that prevail on the male side rather than the female side, such as strength, discipline, order, and independence.

Important: What I am pointing out above are the extreme ends of the spectrum. Moderate left and right ideas can be placed anywhere between those two extremes.

Now, whether one supports state control of the economy depends on one’s premises. If the overall mood is such that the economy should be regulated to curb the actions of the powerful successful industrial tycoons, for the supposed benefit of the weak and poor workers, then a leftist ideology is rather likely to support such policies, while a right wing one would lean toward rejecting it. (It is certainly fair to compare the current mood with this scenario.)

If, however, the mood is such that the currently powerful and rich have attained their status by state means, and that free markets enable poor people to rise to the ranks of wealthy ones, then a leftist ideology may actually favor less government involvement while right wingers may support the opposite. (This scenario can be more or less compared to the mindset that generally prevailed during The Age of Enlightenment and arguably during the founding days of the United States.)

Nor do left and right wing ideas have their roots in conservatism vs. progressivism. The left wingers of the Cuban revolution are today referred to as conservatives because they want to keep the current system in place. The same applies to virtually all radical subversive left wing movements that tried to establish a socialist or theocratic utopia.

My point being, left and right ideologies first and foremost emerge out of emotional considerations. How their supporters stand on specific matters of public policy largely depends on the overall conditions and mood that prevails in public opinion.

Libertarianism

(Non-political) Libertarianism is completely indifferent to right or left wing ideologies. It doesn’t need emotions to justify its proposals. Its method rests on logic and evidence, and as a result the recognition of universal human rights derived from consistent and universal ethics. It is in its fundamentals not a pre-conceived ideology, but a scientific world view. A libertarian will endorse changes to his views wherever one convinces him on logical grounds. He will never cling to creeds for their own sake or to merely manage his anxiety about existing societal problems. He views them as a means to attain a better society.

Libertarianism is to economics and politics what Galileo’s theories were to geology, what Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was to physics, or what Darwin’s discoveries were to biology. It really has nothing at all to do with political ideologies.

While the right wing ideologue will oppose leftist welfare proposals on the grounds that they are “liberal bleeding heart socialist” ideas, the libertarian will simply point out that he, too, shares the objective of lifting the poor out of their current predicaments and helping them enter the ranks of the middle class, but that the leftist proposals will actually accomplish the exact opposite of the desired outcomes.

While the left wing ideologue will oppose right wing militaristic ventures on the grounds that they are harmful to the many weak nations we occupy, the libertarian will argue that he shares the objective of having a strong defense, but that spreading militarism across the globe will actually weaken your security, harm your troops, and attain the opposite of the ends sought.

It is hard to tell how long it will take for all the false ideas that still prevail in economic and societal matters to be rejected by the majority. But whoever truly opens up his mind, sets aside emotional and preconceived notions, and begins approaching important questions from first principle, will never again listen to the proponents of those false ideas the way he used to.

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Ayn Rand Predicts Move Toward Collectivism in USA

This is from an interview with her in 1959:

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The Self Hatred of the Masses

The average person does not in any way have an impact on major developments in the world. Be accomplishments in politics, science, business, architecture, literature, the common man does not contribute in any major way. He listens to what he is told in the media and by his favorite politicians. He doesn’t question, reason or think. He follows and takes orders, he doesn’t lead, change or create. He thinks and stays inside the box.

Only very few people have the drive and the ability to create, change, and improve things. The greatest technological accomplishments in this world, such as electricity, motor vehicles, aviation, or computers were not made by a collective herd of compliant individuals. They were the work of a few innovative, industrious, and contrarian researchers and businessmen.

Today the American worker enjoys goods and services that a Croesus or the Medici would have envied him for. But he doesn’t realize that it was very few brilliant people before him who made this possible. He mostly takes these things for granted. He doesn’t acknowledge his deficiency when compared to these individuals, in fact he generally scorns them as intellectual elitists.

Those few who create, change, and innovate are caught in a precarious predicament. They need to produce for a large number of people who generally display poor judgment, bad taste, and consume goods of little intellectual value. This is particularly true in the fields of entertainment and literature. The majority of people prefers shallow movies and novels. But in a relatively free system the producers have no choice. They have to serve their consumers as they please and subordinate their will to the wishes of the masses.

Nobody likes to accept the fact that he himself is a tiny cog in a huge machine and that he has contributed nothing to the accomplishments of his age. Thus he finds refuge in the words of the politicians. The people who tell him that all humans are equal. That no one person contributes more than another. Thus he falls for the soothsayers of collectivism. He begins to sympathize with the mindless blather of the worshipers of nature, the people who tell him that human accomplishments will always be inferior to the creations of the seas, the earth, and the winds, that the merely man-made New York skyline is dwarfed by the colossal beauty of the Alps, the Sierra Nevada mountains, or the redwood trees of the Yosemite valley. He finds comfort in the words of religions that tell him that in the end we’ll all be judged by god in heaven and that mundane accomplishments won’t matter anyway.

Thus he begins placing his trust in government instead of in his own capacities. The government, as the mystical force that can conjure up wealth out of nothing. The government that tells him everything he wants to hear. The government that represents the mighty collective versus the callous and rugged individual. The government that will fix all his problems. The thought of that is way too appealing to be cast aside as a result of any logical reasoning. Plus an army of self styled intellectuals stands ready with simple and shallow justifications for any government policy, no matter how mindless and harmful it will be.

Thus he begins placing his trust in the god almighty instead of human logic and reason. God, the ultimate judge of all his inferior children. God who will welcome him in his benign aegis as one among equals once his sorry mundane life is over. Again an army of self styled intellectuals stands ready with simple and shallow justifications for any particular religion one happens to have fallen prey to.

Justification for one’s relevance unwittingly turns into a genuine hatred of mankind in general, and ultimately self hatred.

Ayn Rand put it best in The Fountainhead. When the opportunistic, yet brilliant publisher Gail Wynand tells his soon to be wife Dominique on their romantic excursion on his yacht:

“[T]he person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind. He expects nothing of men, so no form of depravity can outrage him.”
“You mean the person who says that there’s some good in the worst of us?”
“I mean the person who has the filthy insolence to claim that he loves equally the man who made that statue of you and the man who makes a Mickey Mouse balloon to sell on street corners. I mean the person who loves the men who prefer the Mickey Mouse to your statue-and there are many of that kind. I mean the person who loves Joan of Arc and the salesgirls in dress shops on Broadway-with equal fervor. I mean the person who loves your beauty and the women he sees in a subway-the kind that can’t cross their knees and show flesh hanging publicly over their garters-with the same sense of exaltation. I mean the person who loves the clean, steady, unfrightened eyes of man looking through a telescope and the white stare of an imbecile-equally.”

(…)

“You’ve never felt how small you were when looking at the ocean.”

“Never. Nor looking at the planets. Nor at mountain peaks. Nor at the Grand Canyon. Why should I? When I look at the ocean, I feel the greatness of man. I think of man’s magnificent capacity that created this ship to conquer all that senseless space. When I look at mountain peaks, I think of tunnels and dynamite. When I look at the planets, I think of airplanes.”

(…)

“It’s interesting to speculate on the reasons that make men so anxious to debase themselves. As in that idea of feeling small before nature. It’s not a bromide, it’s practically an institution. Have you noticed how self-righteous a man sounds when he tells you about it? Look, he seems to say, I’m so glad to be a pygmy, that’s how virtuous I am. Have you heard with what delight people quote some great celebrity who’s proclaimed that he’s not so great when he looks at Niagara Falls? It’s as if they were smacking their lips in sheer glee that their best is dust before the brute force of an earthquake. As if they were sprawling on all fours, rubbing their foreheads in the mud to the majesty of a hurricane. But that’s not the spirit that leashed fire, steam, electricity, that crossed oceans in sailing sloops, that built airplanes and dams . . . and skyscrapers. What is it they fear? What is it they hate so much, those who love to crawl? And why?”

It is ultimately their own deficiency they hate. It is what makes them follow false ideas. But ultimately there is no problem with deficiency per se, so long as one accepts it and makes an effort to improve. The problems only arise when people reject reality, refuse to improve, and begin to delude themselves.

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Freedom, Liberty, Peace, Happiness and Prosperity

Freedom is the degree to which a thing can move without obstruction from other sources, while in itself not obstructing other things’ freedoms.

Liberty is directly derived from freedom. It is the concept of freedom applied to society. A society in which every individual is able to do what he wants with his body and his property while not infringing upon other people’s freedoms, that is their bodies and properties, can be called a society that has endorsed the concepts of liberty.

Since liberty, by that definition, requires absence of aggression from anyone against anyone, liberty cannot exist without peace. Peace is the indispensable precondition for liberty. Liberty can’t do without peace and peace can’t do without liberty.

Happiness is a subjective aim. It is that goal that every individual, with every action and every step he takes, seeks to attain. So long as one can pursue his desires in an unobstructed manner he becomes happier every step of the way. He might make false decisions once in a while, but this doesn’t in the slightest change the overall direction towards happiness. He will change course if he realizes that something doesn’t make him happy, seek advice with his fellow men, and get on the path he considers right again.

But when someone forces him down a path that he doesn’t approve of, it will be completely impossible for him to pursue happiness. Nobody can possibly tell someone else what it is that will make him happier. If one finds happiness in infringing upon other individuals’ liberties he has to understand that his lifestyle could not possibly be one that is applicable universally. For if he is to be allowed to infringe upon others’ freedoms, what keeps someone else from doing the same to him? Thus happiness, freedom, liberty and peace are inextricably linked.

At times one may seek material wealth and at times indulge in spiritual/intellectual activities. But before one gets to enjoy the delightful beauty of a Monet painting or the subtlety of a Kafka novel, he needs to provide for the means of bare subsistence for himself and his family. To blame capitalism for a lack of cultural or spiritual progress, or to blame it for negligence of the poor and the weak is thus an utter mistake. It is precisely in those countries that have later than others embarked upon a policy of destroying the accomplishments of the Age of Enlightenment and their corollary, free market capitalism, where people got to enjoy an abundance of art museums, opera houses, philosophical lectures, and the like. It is in those very countries where the vast lot of the poor and unemployed have been able to find employment in factories, behind desks and elsewhere and raise their standards of living beyond levels that a Croesus or the Medici would have envied them for. It is in those very countries where a dynamic market has provided for an ever rising supply of health care and pharmaceutical products to improve the lifes of the unfortunate, instead of casting them off a cliff. It is in those very countries where an indispensable network of churches and voluntary charities has been able to appeal to their affluent countrymen’s compassion and raise sums of money that dwarf all governmental welfare programs, quantitatively and most importantly qualitatively, in taking care of those few who were still falling through the cracks.

We are in the process of a complete destruction of all these accomplishments in the United States. We are returning to a state of mass poverty, pauperism, and militarism. But capitalism is not to blame for this unfortunate development. It is the rise of interventionism and the radical expansion of government intrusion that used to be unthinkable up to 100 years ago.

Prosperity is a direct outcome of the pursuit of happiness. To say that money or material wealth alone do not make one happy is to utter a rather pedestrian truism. There is no one thing in the universe that makes one attain a state of complete happiness. But every action voluntarily taken aims at getting closer to that state. It is what Thomas Jefferson had understood long before he chose his words for the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Government, by definition, is an obstacle to the pursuit of happiness. Its very essence consists in the infringement upon its subjects’ liberties through compulsory taxation. If it weren’t for this modus operandi, government would not pose such an obstacle.

If the past millennia have shown us one immutable economic law it is this: That governments always and everywhere grow and grow and grow in the long run, to the point of a complete and utter social collapse, only to start the cycle anew. The youngest and probably best example is that of the United States. Founded in 1776 as arguably the smallest government that has ever existed, it only took a few hundred years for it to turn into the biggest, most armed, most powerful, and most bellicose government in the whole world, along with a crushing public debt that will inevitably cause the demise of the current system within the coming decades.

These facts are not arcane or hidden. They are right before us. It doesn’t take the precision or smarts of a brain surgeon to grasp this. Quite the opposite: It takes really hard work and strenuous effort to ignore them and to delude yourself into believing anything else. The root causes for this deliberate self-delusion can be found in scar tissues from our childhoods and until one deals with one’s own personal childhood depredations and mental/physical abuses and corruption from authority figures, one is never going to accept such seemingly simple ideas.

For those who have understood the truth behind the concepts outlined above, it is obvious that there can only be one proper solution: The elimination of that institution commonly referred to as government, aka voluntaryism.

But all these realizations are worth nothing if the people who are subject to the government’s depredations and propaganda are not educated accordingly. In today’s world there is an overwhelming, though fading, compliance on the part of the public with the depredations of interventionism. It is thus my intention to spread the word about these truths wherever I can. Anyone who agrees should, if it doesn’t cause him major discomfort, do the same. It is in conversations in bars and restaurants, in the announcements in the news media, in town halls and on public squares, in quick chats with neighbors and friends where public opinion is formed.

Without an educated public, all the concepts that stand behind liberty and peace are meaningless. It is thus the duty of every one of us to take the word to those around us and show them the right way towards a better world.

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