OF TWISTED WORDS => LEFT-WING AND RIGHT-WING

Words can be used to honestly convey ideas, or they can be used as weapons designed confuse the enemy. When conducting political warfare, the most devious propagandists sow confusion with glee, considering it a grand victory they can so confuse their opponents that they cannot discern friend from foe.

What are the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing”? Words so twisted they have become meaningless. Words now designed to confuse.

Where do the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing” come from? How did these terms become twisted? Let’s begin by looking at the origin of the words. Election 101: Where did the terms “left wing” and “right wing” come from? (history.com) provides the traditional definition in the text. In the video on the history.com post, a grinning George Stephanopoulos reminds us of the power of the news media, how the TV networks coordinated to stick the color red on the Republicans, but that’s another gripe. Here is how the text of the post starts.

Today the terms “left wing” and “right wing” are used as symbolic labels for liberals and conservatives, but they were originally coined in reference to the physical seating arrangements of politicians during the French Revolution. The split dates to the summer of 1789, when members of the French National Assembly met to begin drafting a constitution. The delegates were deeply divided over the issue of how much authority King Louis XVI should have, and as the debate raged, the two main factions each staked out territory in the assembly hall. The anti-royalist revolutionaries seated themselves to the presiding officer’s left, while the more conservative, aristocratic supporters of the monarchy gathered to the right. “I tried to sit in different parts of the hall and not to adopt any marked spot, so as to remain more the master of my opinion,” one right-wing baron wrote, “but I was compelled absolutely to abandon the left or else be condemned always to vote alone and thus be subjected to jeers from the galleries.” (continue here)

Is this the true story? There does seem some confusion about the matter. Where did the Right and the Left come from? (www.spectator.co.uk) and The history of the left-right divide: A centuries-old argument defines our politics, and offers a way forward (salon.com) suggest the terms originated during the debate (both men wrote) between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine over the French Revolution.Yet what put Burke on the Left and Paine on the right? Burke was a Conservative, not ready to completely abandon the past (religion and monarchy), and Paine was more Liberal, more willing to change? Perhaps.

What makes the labels “left-wing” and “right-wing” absurd, however, is when we call the fascists “right-wing” and communists “left-wing”. As a practical matter, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between fascists and communists. Furthermore, both Burke and Paine would have regarded both fascists and communists with equal horror.  Yet the news media puts fascists on the Left and communists on the Right all the time. Why? If they are not propagandists, why would they do something so utterly stupid?

Well, at least some news organizations realize just how stupid that is. Here, from Left-wing, right-wing: The case for realignment of political labels (thehill.com), is an example.

Perhaps nothing contributes more to the rancor of political discourse than the indiscriminate use of political labels as partisan epithets. Labels such as “left-wing” and “right-wing,” “red state” and “blue state,” “liberal” and “conservative,” or “communist” and “fascist” have ceased to provide meaningful distinctions between competing ideologies and political movements. If such labels are ever to have any use in communicating ideas or in describing an ideology, they need to describe, at the very least, a common denominator of the people within them. (continued here)

What is the difference between fascists and communists? They are both totalitarian socialists, but fascists use racial differences to divide and conquer and communist focus on class differences. Fascists use heavy-handed regulations to “socialize” wealth, and communists insist upon direct ownership by the state.

What is the point of the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing”? Isn’t the object to meaningfully divide the political spectrum? How should we go about that?

  • First, we must identify appropriate parameters to characterize the differences between differences between the various groups. Since these differences are not one-dimensional, the terms left and right don’t work. It is not even clear what parameter left and right refer to.
  • Second, we must characterize what various specific groups stand for and then fit them into the spectrum. Why is that a problem? It is a judgement call, and most of us are hypocritical. What we want to do and how we want to be perceived are two different things, not the same thing.

What will the process of creating a political spectrum produce? That depends upon what we consider important. Here is a clip of a video produced by The John Birch Society. Given the way our news media propagandizes us, I am not certain what to make of The John Birch Society, but I like the approach in the video.

Note: I think the video is well worth watching. However, many people balk at spending the time (even though it is only a ten minute video). So if you want a summary, see this comment from below => https://citizentom.com/2018/05/10/of-twisted-words-left-wing-and-right-wing/comment-page-1/#comment-80815.

Here is a longer version of the same video.

If you search online, you will find The John Birch Society characterized as extremists. Since the The John Birch Society seems to have been most relevant for a short period after WWII, I don’t know much about it, but I don’t doubt that some of the organization’s leadership said things they probably should not have said. Nevertheless, I am a bit puzzled. Given the abysmal record of The Democratic Party, the things it stands for and has stood for, we still tolerate it. By comparison, what has the The John Birch Society done? It seems to me that the Democratic Party has had better propagandists supporting it.

There is a complete list “Of Twisted Words” posts at the first post in this series, OF TWISTED WORDS => FEMINISM.

47 thoughts on “OF TWISTED WORDS => LEFT-WING AND RIGHT-WING

  1. Tom,

    You say that there is no pure anything, but that is kind of my point. Rigid ideologies on both sides argue they extremes when real life exists for the most successful Western democracies somewhere in the imperfect and ever shifting balance. And there is little doubt from virtually any cost/benefit analysis of progress shows that the balance is more successful than the extremes. You are constantly trying to make your agreements with me sound like a real argument without providing much proof that we are in any real disagreement.

    Do politicians always bribe us with our own money or do they always serve the public by balancing competing interests? Do social programs always provide opportunity and a temporary safety net or are they destroying incentives to work and bankrupting the country? Do the regulatory actions of government actually engender a market economy by defining, arbitrating and enforcing property rights that otherwise would not exist (look at intellectual property) or does government just place a drag on markets by adding red tape? Is a buyer and seller market of goods and services always preferable even in natural monopolies or is government ownership always preferable even though government cannot necessarily have the wealth creating effect of driving scarce resources to their highest and best use (the famous “unseen hand”) that markets can?

    These either/or questions do not actually pragmatically exist as either/or answers. Every time I show you that the extremes don’t work you agree and then pretend that I am arguing the opposite extreme. Why? I guess it’s because you are an ideologue and I’m not but you want to pretend to have an opposition ideologue to argue with, but because so few of these actual dragons exist you fight windmills instead.

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  2. Tom,

    Left and Right terminology link back 3000 years ago. Check out this link that relates left and right to Christianity.

    In my opinion, the today’s left relates to secularism, and right to Christianity,if you link the morality issues of both political parties.

    For example, left pro-abortion, right anti-abortion, etc. etc.

    Nothing new under the sun

    http://www.thejoshlink.com/article262.htm

    Regards and good will blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seems kind of strange to us that their is a prejudice against the left and the right is regarded more favorably. Of course, there is the obvious explanation. Most people are right handed. What we have forgotten is that toilet paper is still a recent innovation, and it is still catching on.

      In much of the world most people wipe their butt with their left hand (the custom). They save their right hand for eating and other social uses.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tom, you stated,

        “Seems kind of strange to us that there is a prejudice against the left and the right is regarded more favorably”

        If you consider judgement time as being judged to sit on the right hand of God, is not prejudice but an honor based on your morality in life.

        For example, you question how would Socialism, Fascism, and Communism sit compared to Capitalism, assuming Capitalism was conducted morally as explained in the Bible.

        I see righteous Capitalism sitting on the right, and all the other on the left according to the parameters of fairness and justice according to the Bible.

        For example, Communism resulted in killing millions. Thou shalt not kill.

        There is no prejudice in the Bible, only judgement on righteousness vs. wickedness, in my opinion.

        Everything else is just plain implied prejudice, when in truth it is a failing, excuse, or a false reckoning of morality of the Bible teachings.

        I am assuming God takes into account exceptions based on someone never being introduced to Christianity or whatever.

        The proverb that all the marbles are in His court when it comes to judgement.

        In other words, pray for the political left and their commitment to secularism rather than Christian morality, the basis of our Constitution.

        Regards and good will blogging.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. @scatterwisdom

      This is a good point. The definitions are not perfect. There are still many many good Christians who are very liberal on economic issues especially. However, if one were to generalize, as much as anything, the liberal Left can be difined as having at best a distrust of organized religion and at worst evangelical atheism. Why?

      Maybe it’s because each side feeds off resentment of the worst tendencies of the other side.

      Many Christian conservatives deeply resent how liberals enjoy bashing believers as lacking compassion and as being mercilessly dogmatically condemning. In response, Christian conservatives double down and end up acting even more hatefully and condemning, which simply proves to the religious sceptic the untruth that religion is inherently hateful. In response, liberals treat the sacred with increasing sarcasm and ridicule. And the cycle continues with battle lines drawn and the camps increasingly polarized and disagreeable.

      As a Christian, I have come to believe that the best way to break this cycle of condemnation is to act with Christian kindness and empathy rather than to simply live up to the religious skeptic’s worst criticism. It means finding balance and common ground. It means listening with love in search of truth rather that simply shouting out ad hominems, strawmaning and labeling each other with stereotypes.

      I must admit that that is easier said than done though.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. @tony
        You said, “ The definitions are not perfect. There are still many many good Christians who are very liberal on economic issues especially.”

        I agree most Christians are liberal on economic issues mainly because they believe it is not Christian to have such a difference in the disparity of rich vs. poor.

        The problem is a moral issue as I implied. Moral Capitalism is not righteous when 90 percent of the worlds assets are owned by 100 families and never shared in a Christian way of serving God, with the disparate poor. Shared in a way that requires able bodied mankind will willing work and earn a livable wage.

        As for the rest of the liberal viewpoints about drugs, free love, abortion, in my opinion, left wing Christians might be more effective to serve God by working together to persuade a Christian moral message ot the 1 percenters to be more charitable.

        As King Solomon wrote, both rich and poor will die and the poor will inherit the wealth in the end, if not in this life, certainly the next.

        As a Christian, in my opinion, accepting the far left moral secularist view on the other issues is not a matter that can be compromised morally. In other words, they are choosing the wrong side to support Christian morals and family values.

        Praying is not too effective a means to open peoples ears. I say just tell liberal what you do not agree with and why. In other words, tell the truth and do not try to compromise God’s Commandments.

        Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

        Regards and good will blogging.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Well said scatterwisdom. However, one small point. When is acting with kindness, love and compassion a compromise of religious principe? I guess that there is always a point where enraged condemnation may be appropriate. I just wonder if we believers tend to leap to it far too quickly, especially when assailed with the foundationless moral criticisms of secular and atheistic liberals, and all the while forgiving our own supposedly religious leaders all sorts of moral hypocrisy. There are better biblical schalors here than I will ever be, but the Jesus, the apostles and the Saints that I have read about and heard about in church more often than not seem to lead with compassion, mercy and kindness rather than hate and condemnation.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. @tsalmon

            I agree that no one should promote hatred of anyone. However, I believe condemnation is merited same as Jesus condemned the Pharisees in the Bible.
            Check out the link below, except compare the Atheists and Secularists messages in the same manner as the Pharisees attacked Jesus, which led their hatred, condemnation, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

            My point is Jesus condemned false beliefs and practices, rather than hated. In other words, when Christians are hated and vilified, do not be afraid to condemn them for their beliefs and practices, in a loving, compassionate, yet truthful manner.

            Your message may not make any difference to the secularists. However, it will serve to maintain the teachings of Jesus instead of weaken Christianity to compromise His Truth.

            For example, instead of arguing with someone who has no faith, just end the conversation by stating you will pray for them, which is all you can sometimes do.

            Keep in mind, Satan’s message begins with compromise, develops into habit, and works on down to destroy resolve.

            As you say do not hate, but do condemn falsehoods, and never compromise on truth..
            Do that and you will most certainly be hated by Satan.

            Regards and good will blogging.

            https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23&version=CEV

            Liked by 1 person

          2. @scatterwisdom

            I’m not sure that we really have much of a disagreement. As I said, at some point, we all must condemn the worst sort of evil. The difficult thing for me at least is pretending to always know when outraged condemnation is appropriate and when I am condemning someone out of too much self righteous pride in my supposed superior knowledge of often mysterious truths. Jesus obviously always was perfectly correct in who and when to condemn whereas (as atheists rightfully criticize) human history is littered with the wasted suffering and deaths of victims of the prosecutors of self righteous religious zeal. Paul of Tarsus was just such a prosecutor until his eyes were literally opened to love by Jesus. I’m sure that you are a better Biblical scholar than I am, and no doubt there are exceptions, but it seems to me that the perfect judge, Jesus, was more forgiving of ignorant sinners and gentiles like the Romans, than he was of the religious elite who used the letter of the law to hate and condemn rather than recognizing the spirit of the Law was about kindness and love. I would rather be the sinner who does not pretend a perfect understanding of the truth enough to condemn all the time and instead lead with the love and humility of my own ignorance and my own flaws. I’d rather be the loving Samaritan, ignorant of perfect truth, but acting with the truth of love, than the believer who risks wrongly condemning. Who do you think Jesus judged more harshly?

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          3. Please do not take my following comment as personal of judgemental.

            History is all about sheep being led by their masters or leaders. I prefer a leader who does not waver on a path that leads me to be slaughtered.

            I prefer a leader who looks after his sheep and guided them away from people who are wolf’s disguised as sheep.

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          4. @anon

            Your comment reminds me of Gary Larson’s old Farside comic where all the wolves in a what had appeared like a flock of sheep start taking off their sheep costumes, and one of the wolves says, “Wait a minute. Are there any actual sheep here?”

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  3. Socialism is an actual definable word. Capitalism is also an actual definable word. In both cases, the words are defined more in terms of economics than as to form of government. (The fastest growing market economy in the world right now, China, is essentially an a centralized one party oligarchy). In practice, there is no pure form of either pure capitalism or pure socialism in representative democracies around the world. What actually seems to work best seems to be an imperfect balance between government provided goods and services and a well regulated (but not over regulated) market based capitalism.

    The historic disagreements between Republicans and Democrats are at the middle ground of that balance, not at the extremes. The Democratic Party does not stand for the elimination of markets by having government ownership of ALL the means of production of goods and services any more than Republican Party stands for having all goods and services be privatized and market based. The Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower, created the Super Highway system. The Democrat, Bill Clinton, actually enacted the most sweeping welfare reforms since LBJ’s War of Poverty. Why? Because both Democrats and Republicans have generally believed in some social safety nets, but both parties recognized taken to an extreme, just handing out money disincentivizes work and actually creates more poverty than it prevents. To say that Bill Clinton was not a believer in market capitalism is just as much a lie as saying that
    Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Socialist because he was for public interstate highways.

    Other than my time in the military most of my adult life was happily spent working at for-profit private companies. Just because I might disagree with you about public schools or the merits of government run Social Security Insurance program doesn’t make me a socialist. It pretty much makes me an average American.

    Growth in government is not the same as tyranny. In fact, it seems to me that, for a number of reasons, growth in government necessarily goes hand in glove with the growth in market capitalism. If you think that you are suffering under tyranny because our democratic government forces you to pay taxes to send someone else’s kids to public school, then you have a rather naive view of what actual tyranny is. People who are suffering from actual tyranny want to escape to the democracies around the world that all have public school systems.

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      1. All is well. Erin and I both survived her 100 mile trail race. I ended up pacing her for 33 miles at night. She limped in the last 15 miles on a sprained ankle. Her determination amazes me and scares me at the same time. She’s already planning a 200 mile run.

        Hope all is well with you and yours too.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Doing good to run 33 miles. Not something I could do, but 200 miles? Are there actually races that long? I guess so => https://www.bigfoot200.com/.

          There is a point of a diminishing margin of return. Running is like anything else. Exercise is a good thing. If running becomes a competitive hobby, that’s okay too so long as it is pursued wisely. But 200 miles? I guess she knows what she is doing, but at some point, we have to ask why? What is the benefit? What is the cost? When does the cost exceed the benefit?

          Keep an eye on that girl.

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    1. @tsalmon

      In practice, there is no pure form of either pure capitalism or pure socialism in representative democracies around the world. What actually seems to work best seems to be an imperfect balance between government provided goods and services and a well regulated (but not over regulated) market based capitalism.

      If you can find anything that is absolutely pure, you have found something miraculous. Getting millions of people just to agree upon the definition of a word would be a miracle.

      Here is the definition of socialism => https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism.

      Here is the definition of capitalism => https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism.

      Here is the definition of ownership => https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/own#h2.

      If we own something we have control of it. We possess it. If the government has effective control of a capital asset, doesn’t the government own it?

      Is China relevant to this discussion? In an odd way, yes, but not the way you seem to think. China provides a decent illustration. The Communist label is no longer relevant. What the regime in charge illustrates is the real desire of those who want to rule. They are after power. The ideology is not especially important. What oligarchs want is the power that comes from control.

      Government ownership of the means of production is not efficient. Government ownership of the means of production is especially when government tries to run all of a nation’s businesses. So the Chinese oligarchs are trying to run their economy more like the Nazis ran Germany. That looks a lot like Crony Capitalism run amuck. Such an economy is still rife with corruption and inefficiency. Nevertheless, the “owners” are still rewarded by making a profit. So the “owners” still have an incentive to provide their customers what they want at a “reasonable”. No sales? No profits.

      Does China have the fastest growing economy in the world? Maybe, but we have to be skeptical that the Chinese government would tell the truth.

      The historic disagreements between Republicans and Democrats are at the middle ground of that balance, not at the extremes. The Democratic Party does not stand for the elimination of markets by having government ownership of ALL the means of production of goods and services any more than Republican Party stands for having all goods and services be privatized and market based.

      Remember what I just said.

      If you can find anything that is absolutely pure, you have found something miraculous. Getting millions of people just to agree upon the definition of a word would be a miracle.

      It would be remarkably odd if you could not find a few examples of Republicans behaving like Socialists and Liberal Democrats behaving a bit Conservatively.

      Where did Eisenhower err when he created the super highway system? Since roadways tend to be natural monopolies, government cannot allow them to be operated as purely privately owned capitalistic systems. The toll charges are just outrageous. Hence, we use to have a tradition of government owned infrastructure financed by bonds that is paid off by user fees. Eisenhower erred by getting rid of the tolls and using the general funds to pay for the roads. Once politicians realized roads did not have to pay for themselves, political donors, instead of the people who use the roads, effectively exercised most of the control over road construction and maintenance. That has led to traffic jams.

      The 104th United States Congress passed the welfare reform act of 1996. Clinton just signed it. That is not insignificant, but Clinton was under lots of pressure. Republicans had majorities in both houses.

      Growth in government is not the same as tyranny.

      Nobody said it was. Why the government grows is relevant, of course. The mere fact that government size increases does not turn a republic into a tyranny.

      We need government to protect our rights. If we need a bigger government to protect our rights, then we have to grow the government. WWII illustrates how that works. On the other hand, we have a problem if we grow government to take what belongs from some people just so the government can give that property to other people. We then make the same officials responsible for protecting everyone’s property rights responsible for redistributing the wealth. That is a clear conflict of interest, an invitation to demagoguery. Obviously, some politicians will try to buy votes with other people’s money, and some foolish people will be perfectly willing to sell their votes.

      In the long run, government-run wealth redistribution programs don’t help the people they are intended to help. That’s why our schools are declining, and our healthcare programs and old-retirement programs are bankrupting the country. The don’t work because stealing is wrong. When citizens start raiding the public treasury, they lose the capacity to rule themselves.

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  4. I remain somewhat baffled by the power and tribalism of all these political labels and what they even mean. To complicate matters, politicians themselves sometimes flip from Dem to Republican, or once they get elected, you discover what you thought was a “conservative” is actually a “liberal.” And of course it makes no difference to me whether I’m being abused by communism or by fascism, either way I totally object.

    Regardless,I am rather delighted in President Trump, who himself seems to have turned a few political labels on their head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We use lots of words because the propagandists use them. It is a measure of their effectiveness.

      “Tribalism” is the word I will probably take up next. Our battles are ideological, over our world view, not tribal, but “tribalism” seems to be the latest Liberal Democrat buzz word for denigrating their opponents. With respect to the current political debate, what do you think “tribalism” means?

      When asked asked about his religious beliefs, Thomas Jefferson described himself as a sect of his own. We each have our own set of beliefs, and Jefferson realized his religious beliefs were atypical. I suspect Donald Trump has happily created his own political label, ‘Trumpism”, but even he needs others to win. We all need others to win. So we form and join parties.

      When we get too involved with the cares of this world, however, we can forget there is someone who by Himself is always omnipotent. Whether it is politics or religion how we need to remember who is in charge.

      My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right. ― Abraham Lincoln

      So long as we are on the His side, labels matters little.

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      1. “With respect to the current political debate, what do you think “tribalism” means?”

        I think tribalism is an innate, biological part of who we are, so it’s neither good or bad, it just is. The problem that arises from it is when tribalism begins to shape our morality. So tribalism is what makes Dems embrace a narrative that suggests Bill Clinton is a great advocate for women while President Trump is allegedly a serial rapist. Tribalism is why sexual abuse in the church can be easily exposed in a really liberal, secular area, but it takes 30 years to confront the Mayor of Seattle for the same thing. Our very definition of morality gets shaped by tribalism. IMO, conservatives, Republicans are not nearly as shaped by tribalism as liberals and Dems are, but it still crops up. Also IMO the current accusations of tribalism against Republicans are actually a bit of a projection. If you observe the tribes objectively, conservative people caught in scandals tend to resign or not get elected at all. Morality is not nearly as subjective as it is on the more liberal side of things.

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        1. Agreed. Liberal Democrats tend to accuse others of their own sins. It is very human trait to want to believe others are guilty of the same sins we commit. What child needs to be taught to excuse their behavior by saying: but everyone does it. Yet the Moses when he inspired to write the first books of the Bible was the first religion to teach that every one is made in the image of God. And Jesus taught that all of us are worthy of salvation.

          When as Christians we believe and practice the teachings of the Bible, we cannot be tribal. We must try to bring everyone to Jesus Christ.

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      2. “‘Tribalism’ is the word I will probably take up next. Our battles are ideological, over our world view, not tribal, but ‘tribalism’ seems to be the latest Liberal Democrat buzz word for denigrating their opponents. With respect to the current political debate, what do you think ‘tribalism’ means?”

        Actually both political parties are lamenting the tribalism of the other party without recognizing the tribalism that they themselves are guilty of. Identify politics, whether in the form of the mostly white working class grievance that Trump foments or the racial and gender based grievance that Democrats often panders is all the same tribalism.

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        1. “THERE IS AN OLD STORY about two Russian peasants, Boris and Ivan. Both are poor as dirt, the only difference between them being that Boris has a goat and Ivan does not. One day, a good fairy appears at Ivan’s hut and tells him that she can grant him just one wish — but that it can be anything he wants. Ivan says, ‘I want that Boris’ goat should die.’”

          Pinker tells a version this story in his latest book. There have been several studies that show that people are less aggrieved by the fact that they are not getting ahead then they are that someone else might be getting ahead unfairly. In his populist race bating, trade protectionism and anti-immigrant ranting, Trump’s form of tribalism panders to just this sort of envy.

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          1. It depends upon how you define “redistribution of wealth”. For example, if a business is allowed to mine an ore and then dump it’s tailings into a river where a village fishes and residents get drinking water, then that business externalized the true cost of its product onto that village and its residents. If, on the other hand, the government, through environmental protection laws, forces the business to internalize the costs of safely disposing of its tailings into price of its product, then is that a government redistribution of wealth? Sure it is, and it is also good capitalism.

            Look at the plight of the coal country that Trump somehow promises to fix. Mechanization was killing coal miner jobs long before it became an environmental issue. The discovery of cheaper and cleaner gas and oil through fracking technologies signaled the final death knell of coal jobs even if there weren’t any environmental regulations. Trump’s elimination of laws that prevented dumping of coal tailing into rivers won’t really save mine country but it sure will redistribute some of the real cost of coal unto the people downstream and onto future generations. Sounds to me a lot like killing Boris’ goat for no good reason except a misdirected grievance mentality.

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          2. Why do you think making it against the law for businesses to dump poison wastes on people has anything to with this post? Being poisoned is not a violation of our rights? Stopping people from poisoning us is redistributing he wealth?

            What is I suggest you consider is the environmental damage that results when tyrants rule. When we make government officials responsible both for the regulation of a business and running a business, they don’t make objective decisions. That includes objective decisions about the human costs of pollution.

            This problem with objectivity is also one reason we don’t want politicians in charge of our schools. Clearly children need to the wisdom that comes from reading the Bible, but we cannot trust our public officials with this responsibility. So we have generations of Americans ignorant of the religious beliefs that made Western Civilization possible.

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          3. Should get my facts straight. It was actually a relaxing of EPA rules that required the proper disposal of toxic coal ash at coal fired power plants. However, the same redistribution applies. It was done to discourage the rush of power plants to convert to cleaner and cheaper gas power.

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          4. The term “redistribution of wealth” is fraught with jingoistic platitudes but has little practical meaning in an economic sense, except st the extreme situation of a government arbitrarily taking wealth from some people and handing it out to others. A democratic government’s actions in the practice of market capitalism always has an effect on wealth creation and distribution, no matter what that government does or fails to do, That’s because wealth creation, although it plays on natural human incentives, in and of itself, is not the natural stasis. Competition may be a natural human trait, but that competition must be tempered by institutions with clear rules, umpires and a regulation playing field. Without some confidence in these institutions, eventually capitalism just degrades into, as you have pointed out, an oligarchy where people are controlled by tyranny.

            It is famously attributed to Ad Smith that man’s natural state isn’t wealth, but poverty. Capitalism creates wealth, but it does not do so at all in a governmentless cacuum. One reason for this is that capitalism creates wealth, but in and of itself, capitalism does not distribute the fruits of a society’s production of wealth very fairly or even well enough to provide the competitive incentives upon which capitalism itself motivates wealth production.

            The question therefore is not “whether” a republiican form government will control how wealth is distributed, it is instead “how” government can balance the competing social goals of a distribution that is as altruistically fair as possible while still appealing to the motivations (which are not all materialistic) upon which capitalism’s wealth creating function depends and even thrives. This balance between creating laws and government institutions that support the shared prosperty of the community as a whole while still incentivizing the wealth creating ambitions of individual investors, entrepreneurs and capital holders is not black and white, but a dynamic balance. And it’s not static from the 18th Century birth of primitive industrialization, but technology evolves and as economic models adapt, government laws and institutions necessarily but imperfectly must constantly adapt to balance the twin pillar goals of capitalistic democracy in order to keep up. This takes a good deal of incremental trial and error, prediction and elimination of unintended negative consequences and endless progressive reform.

            Universal education is within these twin pillars in that it distributes the wealth of capitalism more equally while providing the equality of opportunity that engenders the competive incentives upon which capitalistic wealth creation survives and thrives. Considering the vast changes in technology and economics, the fact that the current education model is in need of rebalancing reform Is a simple truth about the dynamic quality of democracy based capitalism. The shape that that reform should take is less a moral question than a pragmatic question of what actually works most effectively to maintain the twin pillars of capitalistic success in democracies: the fairest possible distribution of the wealth created by capitalism while maintaining the competitive ambitions upon which capitalism depends.

            Henry Ford is attributed with remarking that he would be more wealthy if his workers could afford to buy the products that they created. Capitalism requires some wealth inequality of distribution to work, but too much inequality and concentration hurts capitalism and also endangers democracy.

            It is therefore not a question in every successful model of modern democratic capitalism whetther government distributes wealth through offsetting government safety nets, regulations and goods and services – it’s just a question of what works best to balance our twin democratic goals of progress in both equality and prosperity.

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          5. @tsalmon

            The comment here (=> https://citizentom.com/2018/05/10/of-twisted-words-left-wing-and-right-wing/comment-page-1/#comment-80871) went into the spam bucket. Don’t know why. Sorry.

            The term “redistribution of wealth” is fraught with jingoistic platitudes but has little practical meaning in an economic sense, except st the extreme situation of a government arbitrarily taking wealth from some people and handing it out to others.

            Whenever I debate a Liberal Democrat, I am amazed by how much time they want to spend debating the words I use and how I use them. It seems they think they can carry their argument by limiting our vocabulary strictly to their own politically correct words. I think the first statement in this comment helps to explain this problem.

            Why do you think “redistributing the wealth” has little practical meaning? Well, you don’t think you have an ideology, and you have a deep-seated prejudice against a belief in God-given rights. It seems you cannot imagine government taxing and spending for any purpose except to redistribute the wealth.

            Consider. Your belief that government gives us our rights is ideological. It is an assumption that provides a basis for the other things you believe, your overall ideology.

            What is the problem with an assumption? If we never test an assumption, how do we know that assumption is correct?

            The unexamined life is not worth living. — Socrates

            Because Socrates considered larger and more important issues than the one we are discussing here, he thought it worth his life to ask questions, to examine those assumptions that form the basis of our beliefs.

            When I speak of government redistributing the wealth, what am I talking about? If government gives us our rights, why would government take money from taxpayers and give that money to policemen? We need policemen to protect everyone’s rights. If government gives us our rights, why would government take money from taxpayers and use that money to pay for roads? We need roads to protect everyone’s freedom to travel. In fact, if we believe God gives us our rights, not government, we would try to make certain that as much as possible the people who use those roads pay for them. Nobody has the right to force others to pay for their way. No way is a “freeway”.

            If God gives us our rights, why do we sometimes encounter situations that require interference in the free market, what looks like taking property from one person and just giving it to another? Theory and practice are two difference things. Hence, we require wisdom to make our practices come close to what we desire in theory.

            Consider the problem of eminent domain. If some guy owns property that straddles a mountain pass that separates people who strongly desire to trade with each other, he can charge everyone who travels across his property a very profitable toll, but that toll will violate the rights of the people who want trade with each other. That guy is imposing an inordinate cost and giving nothing of value in return.

            Does the owner of that property straddling the mountain pass have a right to his property? That is a separate issue, but we can assume he does. Yet the mere fact he owns that property does not entitle him to parasitize other people, taking from others without returning anything of value. Just because leach finds itself sitting on our back and sucking our blood does not mean we are supposed to leave it there.

            Given God, not government, gives us our rights, what is the meaning of “redistributing the wealth”? When government arbitrarily takes what belongs to some people and hands it out to others, that is “redistributing the wealth”. This redistribution of wealth is arbitrary because it has nothing to do with protecting everyone’s God-given rights. Instead, the objective is to give some people more “rights” at the expense of other people’s rights. At best, with the goal of equality, the objective is to level everyone. In a “fair” world, some would have us believe no one is supposed to be smarter, prettier, richer, healthier, ….. than anyone else.

            When we allow government to give us our “rights”, jealousy and envy soon become much more important than the difference between right and wrong. Hence, there is a commandment against coveting what rightfully belongs to someone else.

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          6. “Consider. Your belief that government gives us our rights is ideological. It is an assumption that provides a basis for the other things you believe, your overall ideology.”

            We don’t really have to go much further than this statement because it is simply untrue. We have discussed the theory of God given rights at length and on several occasions, and my answer is always the same: “I don’t know.” I don’t pretend to know the mind of God and make up things that God supposedly gave me when I have little or no proof of what they are. There seems to be little scriptural basis for God given rights. It’s seems to be an invention of 18th Century Enlightenment Philosophers.

            Instead of a direct presentation and enumeration of God given rights there is a good deal of scriptural basis for “God given responsibilities”. Can God given rights be implied indirectly from those God given responsibilities even though their is no direct, unambiguous Scriptural statement of rights? For example, can a right to life be indirectly implied from the responsibility not to kill? Perhap, but the indirect nature of how the right is implied convolutes the actual statement of the right and makes defining of the right’s divine ownership rather ambiguous at best. In other words, even if we can rationally surmise that we each have rights that can be indirectly implied from our God given responsibilities, because has only been clear about what are our responsibilities, then we have to leave it to religious legal scholars to come up with a convoluted rational that turns those responsibilities into legally enforceable rights through the government and the law in order for these laws to actually have any practical effect. For example, did Christian concept that we all begin as equal in God’s eyes imply an equal individual right to liberty which implies the equal individual rights to the First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion? Would the same also imply a God given liberty to sexual preference or medical care or to own intellectual property? I don’t claim to know the mind of God with such legal specification. How many angels can sit on the head of a pin? Which of us is so prescient of the mind of God that he or she gets to decide? You? Me?

            Ultimately, we can argue all day about what specific rights can be indirectly derived from our God given responsibilities (and I sure enjoy such arguments) but in actual practical effect, a right that a government of men does not define at law, enforce at law, and that does not provide somewhat unbiased institutions to arbitrate at law, although it may or may not arguably come indirectly from God, simply does not exist in action.

            So in actuality, our difference is not that you believe in God given rights and I don’t. Instead, it is that you think you know the mind of God well enough to specifically define, arbitrate and enforce these supposed divine rights apriori to government and the law, and that government and the law should follow you (and those you agree with’s) self-proclaimed divine knowledge, and I simply make no such claim. What I instead see before me in reality are numerous government defined, arbitrated and enforced rights whose relationship to what God actually affords us may be quite arguably more or less tangential derivative but whether they are actually God derived or not, don’t historically exist in practice without a government to define, arbitrate and enforce them.

            Because the rest of your reply is predicated on this continuing misrepresentation of what I believe, I see no need to respond further.

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          7. BTW, if “I don’t claim to know” can actually be an ideology, then I guess you can put me down for that. There is a good deal that I just don’t claim to know literally, especially when it come to many religious mysteries. Your ideology That claim to know with certainty about God given rights may be true, but because I don’t find completely concurrence with your ideological belief necessary as a matter of Christian faith, please forgive me if I am not convinced, particularly as to which rights you may divine are derived directly from God. 😊

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          8. @tsalmon

            For someone who doesn’t claim to know, you have an awful lot of opinions. Still, you say Conservative Christians are ideologues, but you are just pragmatic. Yep! You have just discovered that the government is a great tool for ordering people about and getting things done! It is just pragmatic to use the force and power of government to make folks do what is good for them, and no justification is required because it WORKS! Anything else would be extremist. Therefore, because great, wise, and pragmatic Liberal Democrats can get away with it, we must use the tool of government to the greatest possible extent?

            You say the Bible, which have not bothered to read, much less study, just adds icing to the cake. The Bible says people have “responsibilities”, not rights. So we should just point to the Bible as our excuse for ordering folks to do “what is good for them”?
            🙄

            I may eventually write a post on God-given rights “or natural rights” as they arise from the Bible. It has been done, but I think it would be useful to raise the discussion anyway. There is obviously some confusion. It amazes me that rational people cannot distinguish between rights and responsibilities.

            Meanwhile, I will just leave you with this thought. What follows are the Ten Commandments. It is a combination of rights and responsibilities.

            Deuteronomy 5:7-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

            7 ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.

            8 ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 9 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

            11 ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

            12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

            16 ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

            17 ‘You shall not murder.

            18 ‘You shall not commit adultery.

            19 ‘You shall not steal.

            20 ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

            21 ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

            Verses 7 – 10: We violate God’s rights when worship anything but Him.
            Verse 11: We violate God’s rights when we blaspheme His Name.
            Verse 12 – 15: We have a responsibility to worship God once a week.
            Verse 16: We have a responsibility to honor our parents.
            Verse 17: Right to life.
            Verse 18: Responsibility to avoid fornication.
            Verse 19: Right to property.
            Verse 20: Responsibility to honor the truth.
            Verse 21: Responsibility to control our thoughts. We should mediate on good things, not dwell on thought that lead to sin.

            Is there a right to the pursuit of happiness in the Bible? Yes. We choose to repent of our sins and trust Jesus. No one can make us love God. Even God does not do that. Look at Hebrews 11. It is a chapter that honors those who have made and will make the choice to put their trust in God.

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          9. Tom,

            One of the things that I admire most about you is that you seem to have turned your life into a quest for the highest truth. So it always amazes me when you write things like this:

            “You have just discovered that the government is a great tool for ordering people about and getting things done! It is just pragmatic to use the force and power of government to make folks do what is good for them, and no justification is required because it WORKS! Anything else would be extremist. Therefore, because great, wise, and pragmatic Liberal Democrats can get away with it, we must use the tool of government to the greatest possible extent?“

            I have advocated using government to the “greatest possible extent”? If you have actually read what I have written here then you know or should know that that is simply false. Any quest for truth requires the humility of the recognition that the other side of the discussion may actually understand something that we don’t. It means actually listening. Your original argument here was against false labeling. Do you ever wonder if so much of the polarization in the country is just one side falsely assigning an hyperbolic extremism to the other side?

            One truth that you pointed out here is that extreme collectivism leads to oligarchy. It also smothers the wealth creating effects of capitalism. However, extreme individualism in the form of extreme libertarianism also will eventually lead to oligarchy because the stronger individuals will eventually assert their individual will over the weak. This also eventually subverts the wealth creating effects of capitalism because it smothers competition and innovation.

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          10. @tsalmon

            I said Liberal Democrats, the people you vote for, use the tool of government to the greatest possible extent.

            Note what you have said about your beliefs.
            — You support Socialism.
            — You have not established any hard limits on the use of Socialist techniques for governing. I have no idea when you think enough is a enough.
            — You have very little effort to justify using government. Pragmatism disregards morality.

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          11. @tsalmon

            One other thought.

            However, extreme individualism in the form of extreme libertarianism also will eventually lead to oligarchy because the stronger individuals will eventually assert their individual will over the weak.

            Government exists to provide justice. That involves protecting the weak, protecting their rights.

            What is “individualism”? Socialists equate the word with selfishness. That tends to confuse what the word means. Since Socialism thrives because we tend to disobey the 10th Commandment, it is also deceptive. Christianity, not government, provides the best solution for selfishness.

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          12. You wrote:

            “— You support Socialism.”

            This is false, Tom, and you should know it is false. No, I don’t “support “Socialism” and neither have most Democrats or Republicans advocated or historicallly acted as Socialists. Socialism is defined as when government controls all the means of production of all goods and services for the benefit of all. Simply because most Americans believe that certain goods and services are best provided by government and most goods and services are best provided by efficiently regulated private market capitalism doesn’t make us all Socialists.

            “— You have not established any hard limits on the use of Socialist techniques for governing. I have no idea when you think enough is a enough.”

            This is true to some extent but it depends upon what you mean by “hard limits”. Certain moral and practical considerations require that we work together as a community, and make every person responsible for contributing to toward the public goods and services that he/she enjoys as a member of that community. For example, the business that pays no taxes for roads and highways but enjoys the benefit of those roads is committing an immoral theft of public good and also the practical economic inefficiency of literally being a “free rider”. Unless one is an extremist ideologue, common defense and shared roadways have been fairly incontroversial examples of this. In contrast, moral and practical considerations require that we also respect the rights and ambitions of individuals toward both material and intellectual prosperity. Most Americans’ high regard for entrepreneurship, private investment and merit based opportunity are incontroversial examples of this. Although at the extremes we all agree that selfish individualism and tyrannical collectivism are both immoral and impractical, we know that our responsibilities to our community and our right to individual liberties both compete with and beneficially complement one another in a complex, nuanced and incremental balance in the middle ground that defies any static formula.

            “— You have very little effort to justify using government.”

            That’s because the moral and practical arguments for when and how much government to use, as I said, is situational, dynamic, complex and defies such closed loop absolutism. By way of example, let’s take my efforts to replace the windows in my home.

            Industries used lead in a number of products, including paint, because it was effective and cheap. What we found was that lead was poisoning us and our children to the point of causing brain damage. Industries were externalizing a real cost (lead poisoning of children) so that it was not part of the true price of their products. The EPA therefore banned lead in these products and thus internalized the true cost of the product into the price. This was both a moral good and a practical economic efficiency. Now to my windows.

            Because my old windows have lead paint on them, the EPA requires companies that do window installation to wear hazmat suits and breathing devices just to take out my window even though it’s obvious that there is almost no change of anyone being poisoned by lead. Furthermore, the EPA adds additional costs to every window buyer, whether they are replacing lead painted windows or not, because window installers must be trained and certified by the EPA in lead paint procedures and recognition, and they regularly audit these installers.

            Obviously, the government has a moral and ecomically practical role in insuring that industries don’t poison us and that they effectively internalize the true costs of their products. On the other hand, a government that places such ridiculous burdens on window installers is not effective economically or morally, but is actually immoral and economically detrimental.

            What is the perfect balance for the justified intrusion of government? I don’t think there is one. Even if there were, it would chance the moment technology or economics evolved. Which is worse morally and economically? Damaging the mental capacities of generations of children or wasteful, oppressive governmental over-intrusiveness? What would be the perfect reform and would such reform have to be constant?

            “Pragmatism disregards morality.”

            So what? Morality may also call for us to sometimes disregard what is seemingly pragmatic. The two things are not mutually exclusive though. In most cases, one can be both pragmatic and moral. Don’t you try to be both as much as possible?

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          13. Tom,

            Don’t mean to jump the gun, but just looking at the two posts that you reference, I might save you some time, unless you want to subscribe to me beliefs that I do not hold and then shoot down that straw man.

            As for pragmatism, it should be obvious to you that I am referring to the basic Merriam Webster definition where we should be rationally concerned with practical outcomes. Scientific research and development for example, is inherently pragmatic. A scientist can be moral or immoral and be pragmatic in both cases. For example, let’s say the goal is to commit mass murder with biological agents. No matter how practical the means in achieving that end, the process may be pragmatic, but the goal is immoral. Suppose the scientist instead wanted to create a cure to cancer which is a noble end. Even though it may be pragmatic to that end to experiment on live humans without their consent, it would still be immoral. On the other hand, let’s say that the scientist decided that the most moral means to cure cancer was to apply holy water, then he has not done anything particularly immoral, but because his efforts are unlikely to be that effective in achieving his highly moral goal, he is not being very pragmatic, and thus ineffective (which also could be a form of immorality). Finally, a scientist could use ethical experimentation and research to cure cancer and her means and her end can be both moral and pragmatic.

            As I said, morality and pragmatism are not mutually exclusive any more than science and morality are mutually exclusive. However, only the most naive absolutist does not recognize that there are situational dilemmas and grey areas between means and ends. And that’s where we get to what’s situational.

            I believe that there are univeral and timeless morals that come from God. They are called virtues, and I believe that they derive from God’s love and his command that we love one another. However, I also believe that, in a finite and fallen world, the “practice” of virtue depends very much upon context and intent. Depending upon the situation and subjective intent, the individual who runs away from danger can be prudent or virtuous and the person who runs toward danger can either be courageous or foolhardy. The same means can be virtue or vice. The same end can also be virtue or vice.

            Can torture ever be morally justified even in the ticking time bomb situation? Can the mass killing of innocents ever be morally justified in war even if it saves more innocent lives and stops a greater tyranny? Hard to say – it depends upon the context and intent. In other words, it depends upon the situation.

            So I believe in universal morals and I also believe that they depend upon the situation. In a finite and fallen world, only at the extremes are such things black and white.

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  5. Defining terms is essential to communication. I teach a college class on World History, and I have shared that account of right-wing and left-wing that arose during the French Revolution. I believe it is correct. When it becomes relevant, I write a spectrum across the board: Radical–Liberal–Moderate–Conservative–Reactionary. I explain how the terms relate to each other and describe how an idea that was liberal two hundred years ago can be a conservative idea today. Talking about fascists and communists, I stress their similarity as a totalitarian style of government. (I also point out that every Communist Party has actually practiced socialism, not true communism.) In our session on the Cold War, I indicate how many people fled Cuba, East Germany, North Vietnam, etc. and how few struggled to go the opposite direction. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So what you seem to be saying is that Americans exist on so diverse a spectrum that we are hard to pigeon hole into generalized labels such as Left or Right, liberal or conservative, or for that matter, even Democrat or Republican. Couldn’t agree more.

    At least in this country deterministic ideologies such as Communism, Socialism and Fascism don’t define the political parties or the political movements except at the extreme fringes. The vast majority of Americans want neither extreme collectivism nor extreme authoritarianism. Neither of the two major political parties actually endorses either extreme. And yet that is all we seem to argue about with conservative Republicans accusing liberal Democrats of being Communists or Socialists and liberal Democrats accusing conservative Republicans of being Fascists and Anarchists It’s straw man building demagoguery on both sides, but unfortunately each side only sees it as creating a false straw man when the other side does it, don’t you think?

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    1. @tsalmon

      So what you seem to be saying is that Americans exist on so diverse a spectrum that we are hard to pigeon hole into generalized labels such as Left or Right, liberal or conservative, or for that matter, even Democrat or Republican. Couldn’t agree more.

      Did you watch that first video? If you did, I think you missed the point.

      In one sense you are right, we have a diverse political spectrum. That is, lots people think they stand for something different. However, when it comes right down to it, we have two choices: maximizing liberty or maximizing tyranny. Either we support our constitutional republic or we support some sort of tyrannical oligarchy.

      Consider carefully what the folks who made that video are saying. Their chart shows a plot of government power going from 100 percent to 0 percent. Then they place various types of governments along that plot. Where we see a republic we see a maximum of individual liberty.

      Here is a subtlety. The plot includes a parameter that is implied but not directly shown: individual liberty. To protect liberty some government is required. Either too much government or too little results in tyranny. The optimum type of government required for liberty is a republic.

      So it is that this political spectrum chart considers two parameters: the amount of government control and the amount of liberty. So it is that this political spectrum chart conveys a meaningful concept. Whereas, when we talk about Left-wing and Right-wing we don’t know what we are talking about.

      As the video proceeds, its authors demonstrate that any type government other than some sort of republic leads to an oligarchy. Even anarchy leads to oligarchy. Thus, they assert that when all is said and done, we can choose between an oligarchy or a republic. Either we work for a republic or we will be tyrannized.

      The vast majority of Americans want neither extreme collectivism nor extreme authoritarianism. Neither of the two major political parties actually endorses either extreme.

      What we want does make a difference, and I would agree that vast majority of Americans want neither extreme collectivism nor extreme authoritarianism. Unfortunately, in order to avoid an oligarchy (which by definition will be tyrannical at least to some degree), we have to have the wisdom to operate our government properly. Hence, when you say the following I just shake my head, nope! I don’t agree.

      And yet that is all we seem to argue about with conservative Republicans accusing liberal Democrats of being Communists or Socialists and liberal Democrats accusing conservative Republicans of being Fascists and Anarchists It’s straw man building demagoguery on both sides, but unfortunately each side only sees it as creating a false straw man when the other side does it, don’t you think?

      Liberal Democrats do advocate large sweeping programs that require either the implementation of or the maintenance of socialist programs. That is not the least bit in doubt. For almost a century, Liberal Democrats have been methodically increasing government control over our nation. The best word I know to describe that is Socialism. At the same time, Democrats accuse Republicans of being Fascists and Anarchists (Ask President Donald Trump.), and you just admitted there is no basis for the accusations.

      Do most Americans have good intentions, even Democrats? Yes, but most Americans don’t have much respect for the rule of law, not even our lawyers. That is not a good thing.

      Like

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