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Thursday, 10 August 2017

On Liberty

Image result for political spectrum
When we think of the word ‘liberal’ we think of someone with left of centre views. I consider myself a liberal. When we think of a conservative we think of someone with right of centre views. When we think of a fascist we think of 'far-right' groups like the Nazis, UKIP, the BNP, the DUP and the like.


Nowadays the lines between ‘right wing’ and ‘left wing’ have become so blurred. In its rawest economic sense, right wing means free trade and left wing means state ownership. In that case, right wing economic policies are libertarian because they emphasize the free market, which allows businesses to trade without government interference. Left wing economic policies are authoritarian because they emphasize state ownership rather than individual businesses owning property.

In that case, aren’t liberals really right wing and fascists really left wing? Well. This is where politics gets tricky. Economics are only one part of politics. There are social aspects, international aspects; things like housing and education to consider. I’m no expert on political science; this is all coming from my own interest and curiosity.

When looking at social policy, this deals with how the people are treated. Someone once explained to me that socialism isn’t just about economics, it’s also about how we treat people. With socialism come things like feminism, welfare, a universal healthcare system, higher taxation for the rich, LGBT rights, secularism rather than theocracy, all things that intellectuals worked through during the 17th century Enlightenment. Socialism isn’t just about how the economy is run; it’s also about treating people fairly as equals rather than discriminating on the grounds of race, gender or class.

Hence why those on the lefts are traditionally known as ‘progressives.’ The meaning of the word ‘conserve’ is to keep the same. Conservatism (socially) is about maintaining the way things are. For example, I live in Britain which has historically been a very Christian-based country. Nowadays it’s pretty secular, if de facto not de jure. There are still churches everywhere but no one bothers about religion as much as they did a hundred or so years ago. Those that are religious take a more lax ‘liberal’ approach.
Where some famous world leaders/thinkers fall.
Let’s look at these words again. ‘Liberal.’ A liberal attitude means having tolerance for change. ‘Conservative.’ Being more resistant to change. I have a liberal attitude to clothing; I think how a person dresses is their choice and don’t really give a shit if a girl is wearing revealing clothes or not. On the other hand, I have a conservative attitude to my taste in music, as I mostly enjoy listening to the same artists that I consider ‘good’ within the same sorts of styles.

This is why if you take a political compass test, it will spread your views across libertarian, authoritarian, economic left and economic right. I’ve taken this test several times over the past five or so years, and I always end up around the same place – libertarian left. Stalin can be considered authoritarian-left (communist) because he advocated state ownership and a planned economy, as well as taking away individual liberties. The current Labour government (under Corbyn) is libertarian-left (social democratic) due to believing in a mixed economy of some state ownership and some business ownership, and also believing in individual freedom on the basis of things like race, gender, sexuality and social class. Thatcher’s government would be classed as authoritarian-right because she believed in laizze-faire economics but also had a strong conservative view on things like marriage, gay rights and immigration. Finally, the best example of libertarian-right is anarchism, whereby you have free economic trade and people independently ruling themselves with little state intervention. A famous libertarian-right wing philosopher is Ayn Rand.
(Noted: Rand was very anti-anarchism; anarchism can be said to be 'extreme libertarianism' whereas she was more moderate - I think).

Let's quickly look at the phrase 'far-right.' The Nazi Party were classed as far-right, yet they were a socialist party. So wouldn't they be far-left? 'Far-right' means economically free trade with social conservative views dictated by the state. It means being pro-nationalism rather than globalism. Economically, the Nazi Party were not right-wing. They were a socialist party. Part of Hitler's manifesto was 'land, work and bread'. The Nazis were supposed to be a 'people's party. They had a full-employment rate. How exactly was Hitler's Third Reich different from Stalin's USSR? Besides the fact that Hitler was killing Jews rather than his own people. In practice, the Nazi Party operated under an authoritarian-left regime. Fascism: an authoritarian-nationalist regime that opposes all opposition, operates under a dictatorial one-party state, and has state-regulated economic policies. How is any of that right wing? Capitalist economics are the opposite of fascist. Laizze-faire capitalist economics emphasise free trade and business ownership (which I don't agree with because in practice it exploits the working class). So why are politicians like Thatcher and Trump described as fascist? In practice democratic liberal capitalism does not create a fascist state. 

But let’s get back to this word. Liberty. What does it really mean? Well, individual freedom. The ability to decide. Being pro-choice, and not just in the case of abortion. Taking a liberal attitude means saying ‘I don’t want to smoke marijuana, but it isn’t my decision to say whether or not other people can or can’t.’ It means saying ‘everyone should have the opportunity.’ I believe in free education because I think everyone should have the right to educate themselves, especially in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I believe in free healthcare because everyone has the right to live by way of their genes. Not everyone wants to take that hand. Someone may be suffering from a fatal illness and decide to kill themselves rather than getting help. But the offer was there.

Conservatism is more about standing on your own two feet. Looking out for yourself. The problem with this attitude is it is fine for the very wealthy, but not for the majority. Remember, the essence of conservatism is being resistant to change. Anti-abortion. Anti-gay marriage. Anti-marijuana or prostitution legalisation. Anti-male and female equality. Conservatism is about keeping things traditional. Keeping women in the kitchen and men in the office. Libertarianism gives women the choice; do you want to be in the kitchen or the office?

Please respond if I have gotten anything mixed up or if you disagree on anything. Or if you agree, that’s also great.
Me vs UK parties in the 2015 election

5 comments:

  1. "In that case, aren’t liberals really right wing and fascists really left wing?"

    Just to be clear, "conservatives" are not synonymous with fascists (nor are "liberals"). Fascists are fascists and they *usually* tend to be right-wing because right-wing is more associated with "authoritarianism". That being said, you correctly pointed out that many liberal zealots are more authoritarian than conservative zealots; thereby making liberal zealots more fascist than conservative zealots.

    In simplistic terms, liberals want revolution and conservatives want reform. Liberals tend to believe there's ALWAYS room for "improvement" whereas Conservatives tend to believe that "if it's not broken, don't 'fix' it."

    In America, the parties often change values depending on where those in the Bible Belt/Southern States of America side with. During the Civil War, the Southerners identified as Democrats/Liberals and were the ones fighting to KEEP slavery whereas the Republicans/Conservatives (including Abraham Lincoln) were the ones fighting to abolish slavery. Today, the Southerners identify as Republicans/Conservatives (mainly because of Bill Clinton & Bush Jr.) and "fight" against the Democrats/Liberals on issues like welfare and affirmative action etc.

    In reality, these people should have their own party in America and stop muddying the waters of politics for everyone else but then they'd lose every time (which is what happened when they did branch off as Dixiecrats). They attach to a party so they can have power; And they attach to whatever party isn't seen as the pro-black party at the time, as these "Dixiecrats" are the majority of racists in USA.

    Just a quick FYI, Ayn Rand sometimes gets associated with "anarchy" in modern times for some unknown reason but she actually condemned anarchism. Like me, she is very supportive of meritocracy and more embracing of natural law but not supportive of "anarchy" and loss of structure and cohesion.

    "The Nazi Party were classed as far-right, yet they were a **socialist party**. So wouldn't they be far-left?" By modern standards, Yes.

    People call Trump a fascist usually because *they* are the fascists and/or they have no idea what that word really means and never bothered to look into it. It's the same with why they call him racist and/or sexist etc.

    Another thing about modern liberals vs. conservatives is that often liberals are really bad at balancing a budget and want to give away money and free programs to everyone but then can't pay for it. Conservatives are often seen as more socially rude or less compassionate but often they are thinking more of balancing the budget and long-term consequences than liberals do.

    In modern times, liberals tend to follow their "heart" (feelings) and conservatives tend to follow their "head" (logic). In reality, people are supposed to balance between when to follow their heart and when to follow their head. No one should just follow their heart only or their head only, all of the time. It's very unbalanced which is why we have 2 extreme sides that are completely out of balance and a ton of moderates caught in the middle.

    "Conservatism is more about standing on your own two feet. Looking out for yourself. The problem with this attitude is it is fine for the very wealthy, but not for the majority."

    You should know that the problem with this attitude has nothing to do with being limited to the "very wealthy" and that's a liberal myth. It's limited to the personally ambitious, not the "very wealthy". I came from a mother on welfare and both parents have been working-class or less economically their entire lives. I didn't stand on my own two feet because of any wealth, but because of my personal desire not to just accept defeat from the get-go or embrace victimization etc.

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    1. BTW, I took the test and I got Libertarian Left (Green Square).

      "Your Political Compass:

      Economic Left/Right: -2.0
      Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.21"

      My dot was just a little closer to the center than yours (by the "Plaid Cymru" but very close. I don't think those questions were all well-aligned though. Some of them didn't make sense to me in the context of this quiz and there weren't any "neutral" options.

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    2. I would have thought you would be classed as libertarian right. Fair enough if the questions didn't all sit-well with you. It is arbitrary after all.

      True about Rand. She was a libertarian and anti-communism but she was also anti-anarchism. I think because anarchism is an extreme form of libertarianism she probably gets mistakenly identified with anarchism. (I also support meritocracy).

      Yeah the Democrats vs Republicans thing has always baffled me in the sense that Republicans freed the slaves but they're meant to be the 'bad guys'. (Republicans have a very poor reputation in Britain; the British Conservative party is no where near as right as the Republican party. When I think of Republicans I think anti-abortion, anti-science, anti-LGBT, women stay in the kitchen, kill blacks and jews, only teach Christian values, everyone have guns, free market for all, no universal healthcare etc. I'm sure they're not all like that but that's just the impression I've always gotten. The British Conservative party is more centre-right).

      Yep, moderate politics is the best. Also agree conservatives are typically better with the economy because they're more practical as opposed to caring about feelings.

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    3. It's not really that they didn't sit-well with me so much as I thought they were arbitrary to "political identity".

      What you described was A) A false stereotype that B) better represents those "Dixiecrat" Southerners I was telling you who often get mistaken for the "Republican party" in modern times. These same people were in the "Democrat party" during the Civil War. So as I said before, the parties change and aren't consistent.

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    4. Ok good to know. I thought that made more sense.

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