As a self avowed, ‘right-winger’ I sometimes have to reflect on the necessity of the left wing. When I do I can not avoid the conclusion that the existence of the left, of collective thought, is vital to our social, economic and physical health as much as the existence of the right wing belief in the ascendancy of the individual. It is a begrudging conclusion but, some things the left has right.
Now I want to start by mentioning things that the left champions that are not necessarily the exclusive bailiwick of collectivists and in fact in nation states in which the extreme left has held sway are often less championed than in states where the evil capitalists hold sway. Some of these issues are adopted mostly as political tactics. I’ll borrow from the leftists’ lexicon and style these as things that are ‘politically appropriated’
Conservation of the very planet is as much a right of center issue as a leftist issue. Experience has shown that extreme right on the political spectrum and extreme left both tend to ravage the natural world. The extreme left has locked onto the issue of environmentalism in the Western World because it is an issue that allows attacks upon the industrial complex that provides succor to so called capitalism and the extreme freedom of convenience that westerners love. We see that in communist nations the environment is woefully exploited and ravaged to a degree that would make the most heartless capitalist concern blanche. The wasteland of portions of Russia, the Ukraine and Georgia, the unmatched pollution in the PRC, the denuded forests of the former GDR show us that leftist ideology, although of a collective responsibility nature, tends to ravage the very land upon which it resides as much as, albeit less efficiently, as the rampant engine of capitalism.
The right has reacted strongly against the environmental lobby out of a knee jerk reaction against the sometimes absurd excesses. This is a mistake borne of retaliation. The need for a healthy, non toxic earth is obviously as important to the individual as to a collective. In fact the individual may have more of an interest in ensuring that collective goals such as increased production of a certain commodity or desire to balance territorial settlement do not victimize an individuals right to maintain his/her property and physical self in a clean and healthy manner.
The political left is right to champion real environmental concerns and to fight the exploitation of bleed over air, water and ground water pollution. It is right to insist that there may be a natural stopping point at which some terrain and habitats can be altered or pushed aside. It is right in that there are clearly collective, common, environmental issues. However it does exploit its very fight against exploitation to champion clearly absurd, so called, environmental causes. It’s embrace of certain groups that claim environmental concern but in reality have a special interest in sniping at the competitive vigor of some because of the inability to compete financially by their own interests. It is wrong to embrace unproven scientific theory and shut down debate in the name of consensus and in service to special interests.
The left’s mantra about capitalist society making the increased mining, harvesting, etc of natural resources and ever spiraling increase in consumption to fuel wealth the overriding goal isn’t necessarily wrong at all. We have become a nation that measures happiness on the stockpiling of more and more goods and the greater and greater elimination of daily labor and exercise. We demand greater and greater personal living space, greater and greater personal recreation space, more and more things in order to be happy. We neglect personal balance, family life, personal health and yes, collective weal in a mindless rush to accumulate. Every year in the U.S. the success of the year’s economic health is measured in large part by the ability of merchant’s to convince consumers to increase consumption of non vital goods and services regardless of the mounting debt, increased liability and resultant decrease in the next year’s free time and family time. The left’s war against consumerism is an appropriation of old fashioned, ‘waste not, want not’ which should be the center rightists’ mantra rather than ’whoever dies with the most stuff wins’.
The left is right about the dangers of rampant consumerism. Right wingers, aka ‘conservatives’ should probably embrace the mantra of ‘waste not, want not’, ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’, etc. over continuous growth and economic expansion. In fact it is as much, if not of more, of a concern to a society that embraces individual self restraint and competitiveness over collective oversight of goods and services allocation.
THE POLITICAL HORSESHOE
Now comes the heart of my assertion that the left is sometimes right although the assertion could more honestly be entitled, “We need the left and the right”. Why didn’t I just call it that? Well it isn’t as snazzy of a title.
Let’s look first at the definition of the political left and the political right. I believe that the standard political graph that consists of a straight line with a left and right terminus is a poor indicator of the political spectrum.
Instead I think that the less often used ‘horseshoe’ is a far better graphical representation.
In this horseshoe shaped political spectrum, the far left prong of the horseshoe signifies complete collective shaping of the boundaries of life and the allocation of goods (communism in the dictatorship of the proletariat stage). The far right signifies complete lack of collective coercion in the allocation of resources and the shaping of the boundaries of life. It also represents the complete lack of government and made man law.
It should be noted that just as the horseshoe bends to make the extreme left and the extreme right closer to one another than to the center that they also both have a seeming common goal; i.e. the ultimate elimination of government coercion. The extreme left as expressed in the writings of Karl Marx envisions a dictatorship of the proletariat that will ‘wither away’ after all the vestiges of class antagonism are wiped from men’s minds leaving a peaceful, government-less utopia. The anarchists of the extreme right also advocate a utopian, government less utopia as the end result. Both sides envision incremental stages to arrive at that result.
The left advocates the elimination of the bourgeois and mercantile classes with the full and absolute power being vested in a harsh and cleansing dictatorship of the workers. This dictatorship is to last as long as necessary to reeducate the citizenry, eliminate any desire to covet anything beyond the bare necessities of life and eliminate not only classes of man but the competitive nature of man.
The anarchists of the right believe in incremental stages of government elimination with greater and greater ability of the individual to defend and shape his or her own life in the direction of the dictates of their own individual natural natures and that somehow once the individual is fully responsible and empowered that the very need for government and the desire for control over others will disappear.
I think it’s fair to assume that both extremes advocate some state of existence for mankind that has never been in evidence and may not be a natural or desirable one.
Collective action as a solution.
The left sees that collective action is the highest and most efficient method of existence. There is some truth in this. Ultimately much of our existence is dependent upon cooperation and coordination. This cooperation and coordination must not be skewed towards the ascendancy of one class, or race or religious belief as that creates an antagonism and struggle that negates the very goals that we have in common. The biggest drawback is that the goals of life beyond mere drawing of another breathe and the mitigating of physical pain are not the same for all men and women. Making them the same may in fact eliminate a natural need for diversity in paths. Ultimately we know that not all labor is equally difficult, equally destructive of mind or body, and equally valuable. Is there a design in our species whether from an omnipotent, God like designer or as a cumulative effect of the playing out of the most quantum laws of nature, that dictates that we have different purposes or that different levels of desire, energy, industry, pensiveness, focus, range etc exist for some unknowable ultimate natural purpose? Will the ultimate imposition of a cleansing collective dictatorship and negation of individual variances be ultimately inefficient and perhaps destructive?
Regardless, there are some aspects of life that are more efficiently and practically addressed collectively.
Individualism as a solution.
The right sees the individual, unfettered, un-vetted by a governing body as the highest and most efficient method of existence. In part they are probably right. We are all born with a certain physical commonality that dictates that we have certain common needs. However we are not all born with equal capacity nor are we born as part of a collective body. We come out of the womb dependent but self contained.
When populations of us arise, we naturally gravitate towards specific tasks and struggle mightily to make our tasks and the rewards the greatest and most ascendant. In that process we create newer and higher technologies, increase production, and filter through a variety of competing ideologies according to practical, prevailing conditions.
Of course even though we are physically individuals and genetically divergent, we have the ability to, un-restrained, create conditions and environments that could and probably would destroy us all. We discover that cooperation and restraint are vital to our survival and longer life. While history has shown that individual restraint and discipline are vital to the survival of the individual as well as the individuals’ environment we have also seen that there is, possibly as a designed factor, a tendency of individuals to lose sight of common needs and trample upon other individuals without at least limited collective coordination and coercion.
Can we ultimately conclude that both the left and right approaches are vital to human dynamism and that their struggle is perhaps a part of our design or less religiously put, part of our nature? I think so. Can we conclude that perhaps society will need to continually bounce between the left of center to the right of center in finding it’s way, mixing our collective commonality and our individual natures and variance much as, for those of us old enough to remember them, carburetors mixed gasoline and oxygen in varying quantities to supply controlled explosions that translated to physical action.
Regardless, there are some aspects of life that are more efficiently and practically addressed individually.
So who’s more right, the right or the left?
I contend that we must struggle until the ends of our individual and species lifetimes to harness both the left and the right, the collective good and the individual good. Now the extremes of both prongs of the political horseshoe could argue that no, we must ultimately arrive at a utopian point at which man does that which is exactly in balance and harmony without any coercion or over riding self interest. They might, with validity, argue that our struggle is no more than the burning off of the husk that protects us in an evolutionary journey and that one way or the other must triumph, changing of nature through individual evolution or through collective force.
I see some merit in that idea as well but I fall back, in the end, on the observable behaviors of the natural world. I believe that everything that occurs occurs for a reason. Every so called good, every so called evil, has its purpose by virtue of the fact that it has existed. To see the perfect world we need to view the totality of history which shows that swings between extremes are in fact the nature of all things and if there is an ultimate purpose then those swings are the prescribed and perfect path.
The left, as much as I tend to vilify them, is in fact right on many issues and on the necessity of collective action in measure. That is why I never advocate the ‘crushing’ of the left, the elimination of the ideology of the left. I think that it is a vital and necessary part of our continued existence. In fact I think that any attempts to quash collective action or thought in an extreme rush of ideological fervor will fail and create an equal and inevitable backlash just as any attempt to quash individualism will result in a reaction in the opposite direction that will create much agony for those making such an attempt. I think that we can evolve somewhat from the swings between extremes and keep our left and right struggles confined to an area of the political horseshoe that could be roughly described as the ‘big bend’ area.