Avoiding the Oversimplifications of “Right Wing” vs. “Left Wing”

Avoiding the Oversimplifications of “Right Wing” vs. “Left Wing”

Editor’s Note:  Our exposes of the detrimental impact of public sector unions to America’s economic health, private sector workers, taxpayers, civil liberties, and democracy itself, are routinely derided as “right-wing extremism.” Our position has been to consistently maintain that public sector union reform – if not outright abolition – is a strictly non partisan issue that has compelling value for anyone who values, as noted, America’s economic health, private sector workers, taxpayers, civil liberties, and democracy. We have also consistently attempted to make clear that there is a natural identity of interests between public sector unions and other powerful political and financial elites, because they all benefit when power of government is expanded. This post by Nick Sorrentino, editor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org, provides a useful alternative model for the political spectrum. Sorrentino’s original post, plus the post on The Hill’s Campaign Blog that prompted it, plus the many comments on both of them, make for additional insightful reading. Anyone who currently thinks the “right wing” is out to get “working families” because they object to the power of public sector unions, should read all of this with an open mind.    

Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, has labeled President Obama a “corporatist” (view report). Schweitzer says Obama has moved to the “Right.” What does “Right” even mean these days?

Schweitzer is trying to “out progressive” Hillary Clinton and other challengers by throwing some bombs. In this case–at least on the corporatist charge–a bomb of truth.

But he heads into the bushes when he asserts that Obama has moved “Right.”

It’s funny, the only people I see ever talking about “Right” and “Left” seriously these days are the statists. Though deeply ingrained in our psyches the “Right/Left” paradigm doesn’t make much sense. I still use it as shorthand on occasion, but I don’t like to because the Right/Left thing as we knew it in the 20th Century is not very helpful, even though it is familiar and easy to fall into.

There are people who are still convinced that fascism is not a form of socialism. These are the same people who believe that FDR didn’t look to Mussolini for tips. They still adhere to the 20th Century political continuum which holds that there are flavors of statism at opposite poles, but that statism is a given. That the “state” is the ether through which all politics flow.

This is false.

The Continuum of No Government to Total Government


I believe a more accurate explanation of politics is a continuum which moves from 0% government on one end, to 100% government on the other end. Fascism (corporatism, crony capitalism), social democracy, international socialism, general despotism are all of a similar type and are generally on the same end of the spectrum. On the other end one would have total “anarchy” (not in the sense of people burning cars and looting, but in the sense of people living as completely private agents without rulers), libertarianism, small government conservatism, etc.

Even this explanation is far from perfect. But it’s better than the antiquated one we’ve been saddled with for over a century which makes absolutely no sense at all if one thinks about it.

About the Author:  Nick Sorrentino is the co-founder and editor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. A political and communications consultant with clients across the political spectrum, he lives just outside of Washington DC where he can keep an eye on Leviathan. This post originally appeared in AgainstCronyCapitalism.org and appears here with permission.

Additional References and Notes:

An article referenced in the comments section of Sorrentino’s post is worth special mention here. Entitled “All Ends of the Spectrum,” it includes the following diagram called the Pournelle Chart. This offers another paradigm of political ideology that is arguably more representational than the conventional left right split:

The Pournelle Chart – Two Axes of Ideological Continua


These references would not be complete – particularly in the context of how advocates for public sector union reform cannot accurately be placed into a conventional right vs. left paradigm, without mentioning an article turned up via Google search, written in the public finance blog CIV FI entitled “The Extremists of the Status Quo.” The author offers – thankfully without a diagram – three continua that presumably constitute a three-dimensional paradigm. Two of those continua borrow from a typical libertarian litmus test, pitting libertarian vs. statist on the first axis, and social liberal vs. social conservative on the second. This post then adds a third axis, pitting “emergent” vs. “status-quo.” To quote from the post:

“Observing this third political continuum, representing a preference for dominance by status quo vested interests at one extreme, vs. embracing disruptive, upwardly mobile forces at the other, sends a multitude of valuable messages regarding how and where the force of democracy can be effectively applied, and how enlightened electorates can be empowered. For example, embracing disruptive technologies and encouraging entrepreneurship often causes the dismantling of powerful bureaucracies across the entire spectra of vested interests – corporations, agencies, and unions. Such an embrace of competition and merit is color-blind and gender-blind, and gives the small players the chance to become big players; it nurtures economic pluralism in a free market. It embodies a version of capitalism that challenges conventional stereotypes.

Using the status-quo vs. upwardly mobile continuum can inform studies examining the reality of worker compensation between those who are lucky enough to work for the government, or belong to powerful private sector unions, and the rest of the workforce, who exist within the meritocracy of the globalized private sector. If you make these comparisons for workforces, the crowing by public employee union spokespersons about “executive compensation” is revealed as a canard, because the privileged members of public sector unions, ultimately, share a preference for the status quo with those wealthy elites. It is not tens of thousands of allegedly overpaid executives, but tens of millions of ordinary private sector workers, blue collar and white collar, non-union and often even those who are unionized, who occupy the other extreme on this new continuum, they are the upwardly mobile who compete in the global economy without special privileges.

Only by visualizing and aspiring to the centrist space within a cube that represents these three very distinct value continua can policymakers and policy advocates who aspire to a healthy and prosperous democracy properly diagnose and cure the extremes of collusion between corporations, government, and unions, and place the other more conventional versions of left and right into their proper perspective.”

Food for thought.

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