Govt 101: Learning Left From Right

I’ve been pondering the direction to take this blog for awhile now, and I think I may have hit upon it.

I was talking to my relatively politically apathetic younger sister the other day, and realized that she really doesn’t know the things I’ve come to believe or how I got to my conclusions. Basically, my whole immediate family thinks I’m nuts for waving the Tea Party flag. So while I’ll still be commenting on current events whenever one captures my fancy and I think I have a point that needs making, in the meantime I’ll be writing as though my lovely little sister has actually taken me up on my offer. Even if she doesn’t, I hope that someone can use this to help communicate their own ideas to rather incredulous friends and family members. I can’t be the only one, right?


At any rate, Jennifer, this is for you.

GOVT 101: Learning Left From Right

When I was a junior in high school, I took an AP US History course. Early in the course, we discussed what constitutes right wing vs left wing stances on various issues, and to illustrate, our teacher drew a little chart on the board that looked something like this:

I dutifully copied it down, but something about it didn’t seem right, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t until about ten years later (which, yes, was fairly recently) that I finally figured out what was wrong with this picture: What are shown as complete opposites — Communism and Monarchy — are in fact both totalitarian forms of government. They are not opposites; they are at least cousins. The only substantial difference between the two is one of administration.

Most people nowadays would take that first spectrum, replace “monarchy” with “fascism” (monarchies are soooo 18th century) and call it good. But this leaves us with the same problem — what are being shown as polar opposites are in fact closely related ideologies.

The fact is that the true left and right spectrum looks like this:

In simple terms: the more decisions and responsibilities you have over your own life, the farther to the right your government is. The more it makes those decisions and assumes those responsibilities for you, the farther to the left it is. Right equals less intrusive; left equals more intrusive. If you sit down and start putting various forms of government on this spectrum, you’ll notice it’s a little left-heavy. Tyranny has many names.

(And please don’t think I’m trying to disparage my history teacher in any way. He’s a good teacher and a smart man. He got the chart that he drew from the curriculum; it appears to be regarded as common knowledge. Unfortunately, this is a case where the “common knowledge” turns out to be a bunch of bunk.)

Coming next: More charty awesomeness. Stay tuned.

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4 Responses to Govt 101: Learning Left From Right

  1. Wraith says:

    >Take your seats, class…there will be a test later!

  2. Anonymous says:

    >Looking forward to the next lesson!

  3. >I also took AP history … but waaaaaaay longer ago than you :o). I also did not see the flaw in the common understanding of left v right until recently.I think because I saw a book advertised called Liberal Fascism and got to pondering what on earth it could mean. Then it hit me … Big Govt v Small Govt. Duh.I too look forward to future editions. :o)

  4. Anonymous says:

    >Nice job, Angelaisms. My dad was a history teacher…my history teacher, in fact. Unfortunately, I don't really remember much of what he taught me, lo these many decades ago, but I turned out "right." Snort.s

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