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"Right-Wing" and "Left-Wing" are Meaningless
Raymond Long's blog: 2016-Mar-12
Politics
Pedantry

The political positions of parties and individuals are commonly classified as to how right-wing or left-wing they are. But as the years have gone by, I've had increasing difficulty understanding this division.
I first felt mental discord over these ideas in maybe 1995, when I heard an MP in the UK's "right-wing" Tory (Conservative) party. This MP, Gyles Brandreth, described a Tory as someone who believes in personal freedom. This surprised me, because until that time I'd thought of the Tories as wanting to restrict freedoms. The Tories advocated tough punishments for crimes and tried to encourage traditional family values, which I though of as authoritarian and controlling.
The Nazis are usually thought of as extremely right-wing, and they're notorious for their restrictions on freedom. How can a belief in personal freedom also be right-wing when fascism is right-wing?
Nowadays I classify policies not into right-wing and left-wing, but into policies which are or aren't authoritarian. By authoritarian I mean that the policy seeks to restrict or control people's behaviour, whether by force or by nudges.
Authoritarian policies associated with the so-called "right wing" include:
Restrictions on recreational drugs other than alcohol and nicotine.
Tough punishments for crimes.
Encouragement for traditional family values (eg. tax breaks for marriage, restrictions on divorce).
Denying same-sex couples the right to marry.
Restrictions on homosexuality.
Restrictions on immigration.
Restrictions on abortion.
Authoritarian policies associated with the so-called "left wing" include:
Restrictions on alcohol and nicotine.
Restrictions on firearms.
Restrictions on commercial practices.
Quotas on recruitment to encourage employment and promotion of females and minorities.
Health and safety legislation.
In democracies, most parties that espouse policies from one list tend to oppose policies from the other. These parties aren't consistently authoritarian or opposed to authoritarianism.
Communist and fascist parties tend to pick most of the authoritarian policies from both lists. These alone are consistent in being always authoritarian. I don't know of a party that's against all of these authoritarian policies.
I'd expect parties called "libertarian" to reject all authoritarian policies, but in reality they tend to be socially conservative. They seek to ban gay marriage, restrict immigration and so on.
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Reply: 2016-Mar-14
Stephen Richrdson
Left and right have always been simplified descriptions
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