Left to Right - A perspective
With the latest electoral machinations going on in Quebec, the confusion that is the "left-right" paradigm has reared its head again. Despite the efforts of the Stageleft Bunker to bring some sanity to the discussion using the "quadrant" picture of political belief, clearly some people don't get it.
While the quadrant is much better than the old left-right idea, I prefer a simpler and more historically accurate line of reasoning as presented by Karl Hess in his book Dear America:
My own notion of politics is that it follows a straight line rather than a circle. The straight line stretches from the far right where (historically) we find monarchy, absolute dictatorships, and other forms of absolutely authoritarian rule. On the far right, law and order means the law of the ruler and the order that serves the interest of that ruler, usually the orderliness of drone workers, submissive students, elders either totally cowed into loyalty or totally indoctrinated and trained into that loyalty. Both Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler operated right-wing regimes, politically, despite the trappings of socialism with which both adorned their regimes....Hess was a former Barry Goldwater speech writer and Republican hawk that went through a kind of conversion to anarchism in the 60's and 70's. It was through his travels across the spectrum that he came up with the above observations and I believe it is most accurate.
The far left, as far as you can get away from the right, would logically represent the opposite tendency and, in fact, has done just that throughout history. The left has been the side of politics and economics that opposes the concentration of power and wealth and, instead, advocates and works toward the distribution of power into the maximum number of hands.
—Karl Hess, Dear America [emphasis mine]
It is about authoritarianism and hierarchy, not who supports what program. Based on this then, out Canadian spectrum would look like this:
Economically it resembles this:
Decentralized voluntary------------>Planned--Corporatist-->Planned Communist---> Feudal
Free Market----------------------------------------------------------------------->Total Control
So, as Sheldon Richman has observed, the true left are the libertarians and the anarchists, who most value freedom - both social and economic - while the right are those who wish to impose their authority - both social and economic - upon others. The imposition of authority can come directly from the state, or via crony capitalism and state intervention in the economy on behalf of the corporate elites.
In Canada then, we really only have varying degrees of authoritarianism in our mainstream parties. So, when a Conservatives says they are a libertarian, they are lying - as long as they are okay with state or corporate control and favors, they are not in favour of freedom. When a Liberal or NDP says they are concerned with your liberty, they are lying - as long as they wish to regulate and legislate your economic activity and behaviour, the are not in favour of freedom.
The only real difference between our parties are who their corporate and union friends are and who they will rule for.
As per Ron's comment below, I'd like to make it clear that I don't see much of a difference between the major parties. Sadly my ascii art capabilities are not up to the task. There are very little differences between them. The NDP would have you give up economic liberty for lots of (perceived) personal liberty and the Conservatives would have you give up personal liberty for lots of (perceived) economic liberty. The Liberals will take a bit of both, and tell you they are moderate. In the end, you are still ruled by people who will use force and coercion against you and tell you they are doing it in your best interests, when its really in their interests and that of their cronies, be they unions or corporations or both.