Here's one way I characterize the difference between left and right.
Via this Quora question : https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-the-left-wing-and-the-right-wing-What-is-the-difference-on-a-basic-level-and-on-a-hardcore-politician-level/answer/Phil-Jones
This is a good question. I'll try to sum it up like this.
Let's say we look at the world and we see that we're born into a system. It's pretty well established (over centuries) and complex. There are property rights. And laws. And institutions (marriage, and churches and football etc.) And culture. (The books we like to read and films we like to watch and way we talk etc.)
The right-winger looks at this system and says. "If politicians can just come along and overturn this system, these rights or these institutions, then there is no stability. No security. I have no freedom (from their interference). There must be things which are impervious to the whims of the politicians or the baying of the mob. Otherwise it's tyranny."
The left-winger looks at this system and says "If I and my friends can't overturn this system, these rights or these institutions when they aren't good for us, then we are effectively its prisoners. We have no freedom (from the predations of the system), no opportunity, no security. There must be mechanisms by which we can get together to change a world which does not suit us. Otherwise it's tyranny."
Methodological Holism vs. Individualism
I stand by that. It's what continuously cements the alliance between right (or economic) libertarians and conservatives. How come they always stick together? Well, because both have individualist perspectives. The conservatives analyse the world in terms of individual people and their character. Problems are due to moral failings : wickedness or weakness. Solutions come through moral virtues : self-control, religious piety, willingness to stand up to bad people. ( LibertarianismAndConservatism )
For economic libertarians, the economic world is similar. The rich got rich by their intelligence or industriousness. The poor remain so because of idleness or ignorance.
The left, meanwhile, can talk to neither group, because the left seek systematic or situational explanations that try to go beyond qualities of individuals.
Many people note that the war in Iraq has made strange new alliances. The Eustonites find themselves with greater and greater admiration of the neocons, while a leftist like me finds it more congenial in the company of the anti-war right. Even of an extreme CulturalConservative like WilliamLind.
Lind finds the situation amusing : http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind502_06.htm
I think not. What's interesting about the 4GW / anti-war right (including Lind and the more moderate JohnRobb) is that they do have a systemic view of the world. This is why it's interesting to engage with them (and even ThomasBarnett). Theirs is a discussion, not about good and bad people, but about situations, systems, topologies etc.
Here's a good example. I don't know Robb's political position. My intuition is that he's a mild-conservative with libertarian sympathies. But here he does what I consider to be classic left thinking : instead of being constrained to simply think about the problem at hand (ie. green tech. startups) he looks for the wiring behind the scenes : First, [Friedman] is totally entranced with the innovation being produced by hundreds of alternative energy start-ups. I am too, although I would contend that the small start-up is harder to do today with the recent changes to rentier bankruptcy laws (try to start something with a credit card and an idea today and find out what happens...).
Even more interesting is Lind's analysis of a recent alleged atrocity committed by US troops which rejects the "bad apples" theory of war atrocities. Or rather accepts that armies will always contain bad people, but that the real problem is situational : the strong fighting the weak.
I'd argue that here, the CulturalConservative Lind is more "left" than a self-proclaimed left Eustonian who's given up on situational explanations.
Interesting analysis of genetic influence on political position : (via http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/GeneticsAPSR0505.pdf (via tdaxp : ) http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/11/03/the-dna-of-politics.html )
Added 2018-07-17 : Added 2018-07-16 : Left vs. right dogmatism
See also :
Quora Answer : In layman's terms, what are the major political ideologies and what do they want?
The left-wing believe that the government's job is to defend the weak against the strong, on the grounds that the strong are likely to use their strength to abuse the weak.
The right-wing believe that the government's job is to defend the virtuous against the unvirtuous, on the grounds that the virtuous are more deserving than the unvirtuous.
The left believe that the poor should be protected from the rich. That the minorities should be protected from the majority. That women should be protected from men. That nature should be protected from technology. Etc.
The right believe that the hard-working should be protected from the idle. That the honest should be protected from the criminal. That the compatriot should be protected from the foreigner. That proven tradition should be protected from irresponsible innovation. Etc.
The left are concerned to diagnose the imbalances of power, but are sometimes blas\xc3\xa9 about the value of traditional virtues.
The right are concerned to diagnose virtue and vice, but are sometimes blas\xc3\xa9 about the abuses of power.