The Origin of Left and Right Politics

The Truth of the Muddy Waters

During the French Revolution (c. 1789) in the National Assembly those who supported the monarchy sat to the right of the assembly’s President. Those who were for revolution sat to the president’s left. Baron de Gauville said, “We began to recognize each other: Those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the [president’s] chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.” [1] (Hodgson, 2018)

Simply put, those that stood on the right wanted to keep with tradition, order, and the rule of law. Those who stood on the left wanted democracy, freedom, and to be free of a “Divine Right” king, and the accompanying hierarchy. In doing so they would gain equality. This is the beginning of the European political science model. 

Using the above, our founding fathers were decidedly left wing. They fought to be free of an oppressive distant monarch. They designed the Articles of Confederation, and later the Constitution, to place a protective umbrella over the original 13 colonies, now states unto themselves. That umbrella was leaky and weak by design. It allowed the individual states to govern as the residents saw fit. The federal government was truly only in place to settle disputes between the states and to protect the conglomerate from external forces. Thus, ceding power to the individual states and then to the individual.

So how did the current political definitions of Left and Right come to mean Progressive and Conservative? How did Fascist and Nazi come to be thought of as a Right Wing ideology and Communism and Socialism thought of as Left Wing? It is simply that political scientists apply the European model to American politics. They see the support of the federal government as support of a monarchy. The Fascist and Nazi were run by a charismatic leader that were “popularly” elected. [2] (al, 2016) [3] (Magstadt, 2015)

Many political scientists see Communism and Socialism as leaderless systems of government, hence including anarchists and progressives within the penumbra of Left Wing politics. [4] (Brooks, 1994) [5] (Gosse, 2005) Included within the definition of what is Left Wing politics is also racial equality. [6] (Klarman, 2006) Modern political Scientists tend to turn a blind eye to the face that Mao and Lenin exterminated many more people than Hitler’s NAZIs ever dreamed of. Succession within the communist circles was not hereditary like divine right kings (the exception being North Korea). So how is the modern system of classifying Left v Right caused Murderous NAZIs to be associated with the right?

Lenard W. Ferguson developed a system to classify a person’s political leanings. He used ten measurements consisting of: belief in God (Theism); position on capital punishment; the use of birth control; thoughts on evolution or Darwinism; the rule of law; waging war; the treatment of criminals; humanitarianism; religious discrimination; censorship; thoughts or beliefs on communism; and patriotism or nationalism. [7] (Ferguson, 1941)  

His chart has Radical to the left and Conservative on the right of the X-axis. Authoritarian at the top and Democratic at the bottom of the Y-axis. Radical communism with a leaderless democratic government is to the left, where each decision is made by a vote of the people is fully debated and majority decision is made is opposed to a federal government with a head of state that for (in the case of the United States) four or 8 years has a leader that directs the course of government, that manages foreign policy, and plans the budget on an annual basis. This is his X-axis. 

His Y-axis assumes that the communists elect through popular vote the correct and proper course of action for the people while the authoritarian president elected by a majority vote of the states is directing the economy, foreign policy and day to day life. He sees communism as free and fair to every individual where as American federal government as oppressive to some if not all of the people that it governs. 

I believe that the weights assigned to each of his measures skews the results in a manner that makes the assignments of someone’s political bent inaccurate. For example, while Communist and Fascist appear to be at the same level of authoritarianism scale, the communist sits at the extreme left of the chart whereas the fascist sits almost at the opposite end of the conservative scale. Considering that more human suffering and loss of life under communist dictators has occurred than ever under a democratically elected system, I believe that NAZI and Fascist ideologies must be counted as Left Wing ideologies. 

Oddly, both Communism and Fascism are actually socialist ideologies. The only difference is the racial cleansing that was done by Hitler and the NAZIs during WWII. Both Hitler and Mussolini were very authoritarian leaders. They were allies. While Mussolini did round up a few Jews, at the request of Hitler. It was never on the scale of the NAZI party. They simply believed that the Socialist Revolution that Marx and Ingles dreamt of would never be achieved on an international scale that Marx had postulated. The Revolution needed to be done on a national scale. [8] (D'souza)

A truly honest way to measure one’s political leanings would be a simple rule of how much power an individual is willing to cede to the government. The greater the desire for individual freedom the further right one is placed on the scale. Yes, that would place anarchists and Sovereign Citizens at the extreme right. Those that want the government to supply them with every comfort and convenience as well as all the necessities of life would be, of course, to the extreme left.  

A second dimension may be added.  The more force that you believe the government should use to maintain the status quo the higher that individual would climb on the authoritarian scale. An anarchist would believe that the government should not use any force against them would be solidly to the right. The socialist and the racist believing that the government should provide remedies in the extreme would climb vertically over the left end of the spectrum.        

Today, progressive politics wants to restrict speech to only what they feel is in their interest. They are willing to use the federal government to do so if demonstrations, riots, and sheer force of will not. I point to the drive to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. This doctrine would force, under color of law, a commercial radio/television station or commercial print/internet publisher to locate, and air or print the view of another person that has an opposing point of view. This is a banal example of a left leaning person or group giving up a right and a freedom to the government. 

A more egregious example would be the requirement by the federal government that every citizen purchase health insurance. Having the federal government order a citizen to spend time, energy, experience, and talent, which we use money to gage and exchange, to purchase anything is unconscionable to a conservative individual. To deny an individual the free use of his time, energy, experience, and talent is about as close to slavery without the whips and chains as can be. This is exactly what Hitler and the NAZIs did to the Jewish population and any non-Aryan individual. Mussolini, also a socialist, did essentially the same thing.

Truly, the Ferguson metric is flawed because it moves individual asset forfeiture of totalitarian socialists to the right when any use of force to coerce the population into essentially slavery is a leftist trait. The greater the force applied, the greater the position to the left of the scale. The use of this flawed measure and many other measures has made a visible and emotional divide in the United States and other countries around the world.