Uh, oh. Politics again. Look away now.
In this series of articles, I’m exploring some ideas that have been bothering me for many years. This is just me thinking out loud for my own benefit. It’s a work in progress; a journey. I’m warning you. Click that back button.
We all know that the world is divided into left and right. We don’t always know exactly what this means, but we all know if we belong on one side or the other, or perhaps in the middle. In my case I’m right of centre. In fact, I’m a long way from the centre ground. You might say that I’m close to the edge. But this gives me a huge problem. Because in no way am I extreme right wing. Or not in the sense that people think.
I’m not a thug. I’m not a racist. I positively support immigration, in stark contrast to nearly everyone else in Britain. I don’t want to oppress anyone. I support freedom of speech, religious tolerance and gay marriage. I have never planted a bomb anywhere. If you met me in person you’d probably think I was a nice kind of guy.
And yet, everyone knows what extreme right wing means. It means Nazi. It means fascist. It means the worst kind of disgusting, reactionary, racist, narrow-minded, homophobic yob imaginable. That’s not me. I want to make that clear from the start. I’m the opposite of that.
So, if I’m the opposite of extreme right wing, yet I declare myself to be far to the right of centre, what on earth is going on?
Well, rather than worry about what I’m not, let me say what I am. I believe in:
- Maximising personal freedom for everyone.
- The rule of law.
- The law intervening in people’s lives only when absolutely necessary.
- Minimising the interference of government and authorities and other people in our lives.
- Equality of opportunity.
- Removing barriers to wealth creation for everyone.
- The right for everyone to own property.
OK, that’s a list of 8 things. I could go on, but really everything I believe in stems from the first belief – maximising personal freedom for everyone. It seems to me that’s what being right-wing means. And let me spell it out so that there’s no doubt. Personal freedom for everyone means everyone. Not just the powerful. Not just the rich. It means maximising personal freedom for the poorest, most vulnerable in society. In other words, empowering the weak. It also means respect for the individual, upholding human rights and protecting minorities.
Left-wing thinkers would probably start with something like “fairness” or “equality” as the guiding principle. They probably want laws to control powerful individuals and companies. They want government to intervene to regulate and ensure fairness and equality. They want redistribution of wealth from rich to poor. They want laws and regulations to protect the disadvantaged and vulnerable.
So the end goals of right and left are different (freedom vs equality) and their methods are in conflict (less government vs more government; removing barriers vs regulation).
I think that the fundamental reason for the divide between left and right is this: left wing thinkers believe instinctively that the challenge to society is to share the world’s resources fairly and equally. Right wing thinkers believe instinctively in economic and technological progress and believe that by creating more wealth there will be greater prosperity and opportunity for everyone.
If the world’s resources are fixed, then it’s right to be left wing. There’s a fixed pot of money and it clearly needs to be shared fairly. If one person is richer than others, that’s not fair. And the rule of law works to protect the rich and powerful and to oppress the disadvantaged and poor. That all makes perfect sense.
But if the world’s wealth and opportunities are growing exponentially as a result of human ingenuity and creativity, then it’s right to be right. In order to increase the wealth and opportunities for everyone, we need to remove barriers to wealth creation. We need to reduce the bureaucracy and red tape that strangles progress. We need to break down barriers and prejudices so that everyone can benefit. We must allow people to make their own choices in life and not be forced to do what others want. We must ensure that even the poorest in society have equal opportunities to better themselves and participate fully.
So, let’s return to the “extreme right-wing” fascist. What does his instinct tell him? I think that he believes that resources are fixed. That’s why he wants to keep immigrants out so they won’t “take our jobs”. He’s afraid of change. He probably thinks that life used to be better “in the old days”. In other words, he believes instinctively in a static kind of world. In my mind, this marks him out as characteristically left wing in his thoughts. He probably wouldn’t agree with any of my 8 core beliefs, except possibly the rule of law, although fascists have a marked tendency towards violent non-legal behaviour.
In short, I don’t understand why Nazis or fascists are described as right wing at all. They seem to me to be the antithesis of what it means. So, I’m trying to understand why this has come about. Why do people on the left believe that right-wing politics tends towards fascism?
I don’t yet have an answer, but I’ll be developing my thoughts on this topic in my blog.