As an Australian, it irks me that people of the “Left” in politics get called “Liberals”. The reason that it irks me so much is that in Australia, the Liberal-National Party Coalition are the conservatives of politics. Being conservative does not mean one has what is considered to be “extreme right wing” views. The fact is that calling conservatives “Right wing” is in fact an error. This suggests an association with Nazis and Fascists, yet conservatives do not agree with the politics of either Nazis or Fascists who were and are in fact “of the Left” in their ideology.
I believe that the Wikpedia entry on the political spectrum is in error because it leaves out one very important point, and that is: some of the groups classified as Right wing i.e. the NAZIS and the FASCISTS are in fact Leftist because they are also followers of Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels, and I might add, they believe in Government control of the lives of the population. For this reason, lumping the Nazis and Fascists in with the conservatives of politics is just plain wrong. I would suggest at the same time that it is inappropriate to lump dictators such as Pinochet as right-wing is also inappropriate from a modern viewpoint.
However, Wikpedia is a good starting point when it comes to understanding the origin of the “Left/Right” political spectrum. It is unclear as to when this terminology was first used, but according to Wikpedia it occurred in the French Parliament around the time of the French Revolution. It is all about the seating in the Parliament and that as groups of people identified with each other they sat together, one lot on the right side of the Parliament and the other lot on the left side of the Parliament. In France, the parties that sat on the Right were those who supported the monarchy, whereas those who supported the revolution and Robespierre sat on the left side of the Parliament. The same seating arrangements also occurred in the British Parliament, where there were Whigs and Tories, prior to the emergence of the British Labour Party in 1906.
The Left/Right spectrum also fails to take into account that there is a wide group of like-minded people who are middle of the road. These are the true conservatives. They are neither left, nor right, but depending upon the policies they can lean either way. Some for example are considered to be socially liberal, but others are economically liberal.
The word liberal is another word that has been taken out of context. Note, in the last paragraph I wrote of socially liberal. I think a better word to describe such people is libertarian or better yet, libertine. By this I mean that they are people who believe that the government should not interfere with their lives behind closed doors. Some of the things that they support include abortion on demand, voluntary euthanasia, easy divorce, living together and yes even homosexual marriage. Their attitudes actually suggest a break down in the morals of society.
An economic liberal is someone who believes that government should not be controlling their economic lives especially when it comes to business. Again, this does not mean that there should not be any government regulation which is the position of the economic libertarian.
I do believe that Left/Right has been falsely defined for probably more than 100 years. For example the Wikpedia definition states that the left are people who usually advance the rights of the economically disadvantaged. However, based upon the Australian experience, this is not true.
To be continued