The spark has ignited a fire which is quickly turning into a blaze.
“Capitalism is immoral,” the first one proclaims. “It keeps the oppressed staying that way and only feeds the coffers of the rich, who care about no one other than themselves.”
With this bold statement, the second nearly loses it, though through strained teeth manages to reply, “Socialism is depraved, and has brought nothing but problems to nations that have tried it. How you can advocate something like this is beyond me!”
“Time!” The moderator yells.
I am fairly sure that this is how the exchange went, give or take a few words. Sitting back and taking in all that had just happened, I mentally congratulated both of my friends for their performance in the debate. Though I obviously agreed more with the latter politically, both had contributed greatly to a spirited discussion, and supported their respective arguments with facts, as opposed to stereotypes or suppositions.
Judging from the statements of these two, you would probably guess that the economic socialist was a leftist, and the anti-socialist a rightist. From my standpoint, you would not be wrong, but consider this; the first was a devout Christian who was vocally opposed to legal abortion, and believed strongly that God had a place in the political process. The second was a Christian as well, but far less fundamentalist-minded about religion in general; supporting, amongst other things, women’s reproductive rights, and never making so much as a comment to me about inserting theology in public policy measures.
The lines are not so clear anymore, are they?
The fact of the matter is that most people are neither completely rightist nor leftist in their political views. Take the congresswoman from a racial minority-majority district who votes for every handout program and pork barrel measure that comes her way. At the same time, she professes moral values to her constituents, deeming these as cornerstones of the community itself. On the other hand is the congressman who is strongly on the side of the free marketeer; so strongly that he favors phasing out personal income taxes in totality. Yet, he thinks that gays, lesbians, and those falling somewhere in-between are essentially second-class citizens, deserving of few rights and eternal damnation in the fabled fiery pit of hell.
Obviously, our hypothetical-but-none-too-far-from-reality-based congresswoman favors fiscal statism, a left-wing proposition if there ever was one, and individual moral order, an unmistakably right-leaning idea. The congressman, meanwhile, who is also realistically hypothetical, avidly supports private sector enterprise, something Barry Goldwater would have cheered, but feels no remorse in forcing his own constructs of social norms on others, an action straight out of Stalin’s playbook. These seeming contradictions on each politician’s behalf might appear as if wholesale hypocrisy is taking place, but this is not the case.
As philosophers ranging from Karl Marx to Ayn Rand have pointed out, all politics are rooted in economic concerns. Seeing as “Left” and “Right” are the two broadest terms possible for describing one’s political school of thought, one could very easily fancy him or herself as being on the right while giving high marks to socially authoritarian schemes, just as he or she could be a self-described lefty and nonetheless uphold traditional morals on the personal level. I have found in my discussions with hardline left- and right-wingers that they unwittingly cross over to the “other side” of the political spectrum in their opinions, especially regarding social issues.
It is deeply ironic, then, that a label revolution of sorts took place across the country during the twentieth century’s Great Depression and continued throughout succeeding decades into the Age of Y2K, where it seems to have actually gained a great deal of steam. Many are now of the opinion that another’s political beliefs can easily and neatly be categorized under, it would seem, some warped extension of Aristotelean logic. Aside from being irrevocably flawed at its onset, this system of interpersonal judgment breeds, exclusively, from my experiences, intellectual contempt, feelings of hatred, and, ultimately, outward displays of bigotry.