ThoughtStorms Wiki

Over the years I've been collecting ways of making sense of the difference between left and right politically





Methodological Holism vs. Individualism

In my response to the EustonManifesto I said that one of the clearest distinctions between left and right was between MethodologicalHolism and MethodologicalIndividualism in explaining the world.

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

But is there a reason beyond desperation with flirting with the FourthGenerationWar theorists? Is it, as the pro-war left would have it, a symptom of pathological AntiAmericanism?

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.

Compare :



Added 2018-07-17 : Added 2018-07-16 : Left vs. right dogmatism

Quora Answer : In layman's terms, what are the major political ideologies and what do they want?

Aug 24, 2014

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.

So ...

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 blasé about the value of traditional virtues.

The right are concerned to diagnose virtue and vice, but are sometimes blasé about the abuses of power.

Quora Answer : Can I be neither left wing or right wing? Am I supposed to choose one side?

Sep 10, 2017

No one else will force you to choose one side.

Your brain will.

What we call "left-wing" and "right-wing" are just clusterings of opinions about political issues which usually go together.

If you believe some things, such as that racial prejudice are wrong, you are likely to believe others, such that prejudice against people because of sexuality or poverty is wrong. Similarly if you think that government is too interfering in your commercial transactions by demanding health and safety inspections, you probably think it's also taking too much money from you in taxes.

These clusters of ideas are what we call left-wing and right-wing.

Sometimes there are institutions that push our ideas into a certain cluster. For example, I might not be racist by inclination, but if the government decides to impose race-based restrictions on my business, and I HATE government interfering in my business, I may find myself hanging out with a bunch of racists who are complaining about the same restrictions, and find their ideas rubbing off on me.

Similarly, some events seem to cut through the "natural" clustering, and these are confusing and traumatic. For example, Brexit, in the UK, is dividing both the traditional right-wing Conservative party and the traditional left-wing Labour party.

Both sides have fissures into pro and anti Brexit sides. And these are particularly painful because they divide people who are usually allies.

See also :