OPINION: Left-wing & Liberalist: A Change in Dialogue.

By Théophile Gaudin
April 3rd, 2018

 

If you’ve perused the Facebook Liberalist group or if you heard about the fans of YouTuber personalities such as Sargon of Akkad, you may have drawn your conclusion that these people are pretty right wing, or “far-right trolls,” as they are often described in the media.

And you would be partially correct. I am conducting polls aimed at liberalists in which I ask their position on the political compass (https://www.politicalcompass.org/) to correlate it with various other responses, and the same form of distribution presents itself again and again:

Distribution of liberalists on the left-right axis according to the political compass (262 data points)

So yes, admittedly, there is a slight right leaning in the group, but summarizing liberalists as a right-wing group would be patently wrong. The picture is markedly different from the “alt-right trolls” image that mainstream media painted of pro-Sargon of Akkad people in the past, notably when the Kekistan meme was at its peak:

  • The group is mainly centrist on the left-right axis;
  • There is significant viewpoint diversity on this axis: if you take two liberalists at random, there is a fairly high chance that the difference on the left-right axis between them will be around 16%;
  • There is a significant minority of liberalists who are left-wingers.

Consider that I am somewhat left-leaning myself, something like 70% left, 30% right on the political compass, and I often defend left-wing positions in the group on various topics, liberalists have accepted me and respect me to the point where I’m significantly invested in the movement. But let’s review what the alt-right actually is, so you understand that we literally have nothing to do with them.

Some Small Considerations About the Alt-Right

The alt-right believes that races should be segregated in ethnostates due to intra-group preference and are afraid that the white race will disappear due to differential reproductive rates. Since both liberalists and alt-righters troll each other using each other’s vocabulary in a satirical way, it can be hard for the uninitiated to see the differences, but the main difference is quite clear: liberalists don’t believe in identity politics and we see people as individuals before members of their racial group. The second key difference is that we don’t believe in a “Jewish conspiracy” like they do. Some simply realize that Ashkenazi Jews tend to be over-represented in positions of power due to higher average IQs and other factors including culture. Another key difference is that we don’t believe that traditional gender roles should be suggested to people through social pressures as many alt-right identitarians believe. We think freedom of choice is paramount, and if the end result is that the majority of people choose traditional gender roles, for example, we are fine with that. We are also fine with people making different choices as long as it’s a free choice. As a left-winger, I have been trolled by both centrist Sargon fans and the actual alt-right, but they are clearly different entities with different beliefs.

Exploring Potential Causes of the Liberalists’ Center-Right Bias

 

Now let’s review potential reasons why the liberalist movement seems to attract slightly more right-wingers. The main causes that called the movement into existence are freedom of speech, the pursuit of truth, and a rejection of identity politics (or affirmative action).

I strongly believe that anyone should be heard and that people should not be shielded from any opinion, because as soon as we censor opinion, we have to cope with the subjectivity of those that have the power to censor. And yet conservatives and libertarians (who are classically considered right-wing and tend to score so on the political compass) are often painted as Nazis/racists/sexists/homophobes/bigots when they defend their opinion, on the basis of slippery slope fallacies, and therefore we’re facing real censorship, notably on campuses [1]. They are denied the right to express their views because universities and medias consider it to be too offensive.

Equality of opportunity should be ensured as much as possible so that people are on equal grounds to realize any of their ambitions in life. On this basis, we take a strong stance against any form of identity politics (or affirmative action), that favors one group over another based on their identity
(e. g., their gender, race and so on). For daring to take a stance on this point, even people who identify as centrists are thrown to the fire. For example, James Damore [2], who dared to point out that women tended, on average, to be less interested in tech-oriented activities, and that therefore, the gender gap in tech should not be closed through affirmative action as it might not be mainly due to sexism as often assumed in mainstream media, was painted as a sexist bigot and fired from Google.

To that end, I believe that there is such a thing as truth, that the logical process of inference can allow us to approach it, that the scientific method is the best available to investigate it, and that any of our views should be as consistent as possible with the most accurate picture of the truth available at the moment. On this point, there is a part of the left that went off-track by censoring people who cited scientific data and dared to draw hypotheses that did not fit their agenda. Many mainstream media journalists lean left, and these journalists construct the information that most of the population consumes. Moreover, there is a big left-wing bias in the humanities that can push professors to reject statistical analysis in favor of semantic analysis or experiential reports on the basis of an anti-positivist philosophy that is hardly falsifiable, and therefore doesn’t respond to scientific standards for the pursuit of truth. In the past, science was mostly on the left, when there were large numbers of climate change and evolution deniers in the ranks of right-wingers mainly due to religious beliefs. More recently, various data seems to question the extent of plasticity of the human brain, questioning the Blank Slate view of human nature (cf. Steven Pinker [3]) on evolutionary grounds. Right-wingers were the first to accept such data as it cohered with their view of society that tilts on stability of hierarchies and roles. Yet many left-wingers did not want to accept that human nature was constrained in any way and painted right-wingers as Nazi eugenicists when they dared to point out the scientific data that supported a more nuanced view on the matter. So science denial shifted sides. Most conservative or libertarian liberalists accept climate change and the phenomenon of evolution, but they also tend to accept the finite plasticity of human nature and are genuinely outraged by the science denial of a large part of the modern left. And since the majority of people revolted by the science denial of the modern left are, in fact, not left-wingers, then the average bias of people ready to fight politically for the pursuit of truth in all its uncomfortable complexity is slightly right.

Do you believe that freedom of speech, equality of opportunity, and the fact-grounding of opinions are right-wing positions? I don’t believe that. As a left-leaning person, I believe that these positions are neither right nor left-wing positions, but rather that they are the fundamentals of any civilized society that give the best possible grounding for a healthy and productive left-right dialogue. I believe that we have to solve this issue before going back to the usual left-right conundrum. Mutual listening has to be possible for any discussion to take place. And I believe that liberalists are the best available alternative right now to start fixing those issues.

My Left-Leaning Liberalist Experience

It’s understandable that left leaning people tend to place a larger emphasis on personal feelings than right-wingers (you will often hear them say “facts don’t care about your feelings”), because although these are not objective, they may bring complementary information with respect to more robust analyses. Here I will tell you my experience in interacting with other liberalists, as a left-winger. What I can tell as an introduction is that it’s a very enriching experience.

You will go out of your ideological echo chamber and get the opportunity to be exposed to respectful, but yet opinionated and tough debaters of contrary viewpoints to yours. You will get to experience what exactly is the healthy dialog between left and right if we consider it from the perspective of Jonathan Haidt: the left throws out ideas and possibilities and the right puts an emphasis on facts, which can help left-wingers make their ideas more articulate and help them discard bad ideas. Thanks to this dialogue, you may learn facts that you didn’t know before and explore logic that you didn’t consider before. In short, you will expand your intellectual horizons.

If you saw conservatives or libertarians as “alt-right trolls,” you will get to understand their overall culture, and more importantly, the diversity of their viewpoints. You will recognize that demonizing them was wrong. That does not mean your opinions will align to them, as, again following Haidt, left-leaning or right-leaning is partly bound to deep temperamental differences, but you will be able to listen to them, and if they see that you are open to discuss with them, they will also listen to you and stop conflating leftism with censorship, fantasy worlds, double-standards or hypocrisy. You may help right-wingers to understand that leftism is not about contradictions, but about accepting ambiguity and trying to find new ideas for the future. They will help you understand that right-wing ideology is not about bigotry, but rather about consistency and sticking with the facts. Liberalists offer a space where healthy left-to-right dialogue can occur under the paramount values of freedom of speech and the pursuit of truth. Don’t ignore right-wingers in this cause. They actually want to talk to you. They are eager to debate with you and they are impatient to exchange ideas without being deplatformed.

My experience of the discussions within the liberalists is that most of the posts lean relatively conservative/libertarian. You will often see pro-gun posts and memes about communists. This is because the slightly right-leaning majority is more vocal than the left-leaning minority, which might be due to the fact that it’s harder to summarize and meme left-leaning views that are more prone to ambiguity and paradox. But do not hesitate to be a contrarian, to pose provocative questions. Do not hesitate to try to meme your left-wing opinions although it’s harder. Sometimes I do it. I don’t claim that these memes are as dank as the usual right-wing ones but we left-wingers have to develop our meme skills. Our right-wing friends will be more than happy to be trolled. They want us to be able to do it as well.

 

Painting liberalists as closed-minded due to their average center-right lean is completely wrong. I am pretty invested in the liberalist movement now and and have taken on greater responsibility, and I remain transparent about my left leaning. They were always open to dialogue with me and to putting our differences aside when we needed to organize. I never felt that my viewpoints were silenced due to being minority viewpoints. I’ve made some very good friends from all political leanings there.

To summarize, you will be welcome as a left-leaning liberalist. Do not hesitate to question conservative beliefs and to provoke discussions. This will be beneficial for everyone. Furthermore, we need you to prove that the fundamental beliefs of freedom of speech, pursuit of truth, and equality of opportunity are not part of the left-right axis, but are the foundations of a well-functioning civilization. We need you so that these issues stop getting painted as partisan or as slippery slopes towards sexism, racism, or identitarianism.

Opinions of a Left-Leaning Liberalist

Here I illustrate what opinions can be held as a left-leaning liberalist using myself as an example. Of course you can disagree with me and still be a left-leaning liberalist, but these opinions can give you an idea of how leftism is compatible with being a liberalist.

Feminism
Depending on the definition of feminism, I’m either not a feminist or a feminist (choice feminist, liberal feminist). I’m not an anti-feminist and in that I may be in a liberalist minority as many liberalists consider feminism to be gender communism and therefore an adversary movement. If you want to suggest to them that it’s not the case, join me in the discussions.

I believe in gender equality, as every liberalist does. I think that neither the law nor social pressures should constrain men or women to specific choices. However, I strongly believe in freedom of choice and I don’t support law nor social pressures that incentives women to choose equivalent life paths to men ones. There is strong scientific literature on gender differences that consistently shows that average differences in personality and preference exist between men and women and that the fraction of these differences increases in societies that have more freedom. Moreover, the differences tend to increase in freer societies (cf. the Norwegian gender equality paradox). Thus, I have no issues with engineers being mostly men or with veterinarians being mostly women as long as there is no social pressures that constrain either of these phenomena. In that you can portray me as a liberal feminist, as I believe that women should not be infantilized by using affirmative action and their free choices as adults should be respected. I believe that portraying women as victims of systemic oppression is fundamentally bad for women and for society as a whole.

The definition of feminism that involves systematic oppressive patriarchy does not correspond at all to my views. I believe that since men and women show physical and psychological differences on average [4], they face different problems in life. The main specific issue that women face in their daily lives is sexual harassment. This is both supported by statistics [5] and by my personal experience with the women I know, either left-leaning or right-leaning. The right-leaning ones tend to be tougher and “deal with it” but suffer from it and sometimes suffer from trauma as well. Moreover, women, on average, tend to experience more negative emotion [6]. The main specific issue that men face in their daily lives is status pressure. If you don’t have a girlfriend or a wife, and a lucrative job then you are a loser and no one wants to talk to you. This translates into, at least in France [7], 95% of people sleeping in the street being men. The suicide rate among men is also higher, and the self-reported satisfaction is generally slightly higher in women than in men [6] (which may be related to their slightly higher enthusiasm in the Ten Aspects version of the Big Five personality model). You could do a long list of issues but this will do nothing more than illustrate the fact that it’s impossible to compare “who has it worse” and that both feminists and men’s rights activists have some degree of legitimate activism to do to move toward a society where the specific issues of their gender are alleviated. They are not adversaries; they are complementary.

GUNS
I’m for gun regulation. I believe that we should strive toward a world without any lethal weapons, including guns. Even if it is not possible now, I believe that as a society we should try to do some effort in that direction and that guns won’t spontaneously disappear unless governments take some action. I don’t believe that guns should be forcibly taken from people who legally own them. However, I believe that a tax should be put on guns/gun pieces that should slowly increase over time to disincentive people about buying new guns or pieces and that government should propose advantageous prices for those eager to sell their guns so that it’s a viable option for people in need of money.

This opinion has some authoritarian leanings and due to that, it is quite unpopular among liberalists. But as I am a liberalist and most people recognize me as such, you can hold such sort of opinion and still be a liberalist. Liberalists lean libertarian but are not dogmatic ones (cf. figure below, again from political compass data) and can be okay with some degree of authoritarianism on priority issues. For most of them, gun control is not a priority issue, so it’s a subject of open debate. And as a left-leaning person, you will become aware of pro-gun viewpoints and you will learn a lot that your motivated reasoning would be likely not to provide to you. This is beneficial for everyone.

Distribution of liberalists on libertarian to authoritarian continuum (based on 261 data)

 

Social Safety Nets
In short, I’m for implementing progressively a Universal Basic Income (UBI), I’m for Universal Health Care (UHC) right now, and I’m for helping unemployed people, both by direct funding depending on their qualifications and past work, and by free professional training. Moreover I’m for free education and public retirement systems. I think that all of these safety nets should be funded by an automation tax (especially for UBI), some degree of income tax (I’m not decided on whether it should be flat or show some degree of progressiveness), property tax, and inheritance tax.

I fundamentally don’t believe in full equality of outcome and believe that merit should be rewarded. I believe safety nets allow a better equality of opportunity for various kinds of people, such as:

  • Those born in families with lower wealth level;
  • Those affected by disabilities, illnesses, or accidents;
  • Those that fail in life and want to rebound.

Moreover, safety nets are one of the ways to avoid absolute poverty (people starving and dying in the streets), which is a fundamentally human cause in my view. Sure, charities exist, but charities provide conditional help, not systematic help.

Fundamentally, my views on social safety nets are grounded on my nuanced view of individual agency. I don’t think that all individuals have full agency, e. g. that they have full mastery and  responsibility for their choices in life. People can have different personalities, abilities, or illnesses, bad events can happen in their lives, and a part of that is outside of their personal responsibilities. I believe that there is a distribution in individual agency and that only a minority of individuals are self-actualized, with a large agency.

On all those points, liberalists are very divided. Most of them are for some degree of social safety net, but the actual degree is quite diverse, and generally quite lower than mine. From my point of view, liberalists tend to show a strong belief in individual agency, and therefore personal responsibility. Social safety nets are not contradictory with core principles of liberalists, especially the equality of opportunity. When you debate these topics with liberalists, you will be confronted with the fact that welfare state may produce inflation, that taxes are not fully redistributed but a part of them are used for the functioning of the state itself and may fuel corruption, and that big governments may disincentivize people from being productive and responsible economic agents. All these points are valid in philosophy which is why a delicate negotiation has to be done to get the right level of social safety net, and ostracizing right-wing people is definitely not a good way to conduct this negotiation. In the group, we apply our freedom of speech principle and try to listen to each other’s viewpoints, coming from different perspectives. Left-wing ones are welcome to be expressed, otherwise I would have been ostracized a long time ago.

Conclusion

Yes, the issues of free speech, the pursuit of truth, and equality of opportunity are currently more forcefully defended by the right. But is there a reason to leave these causes in their sole hands? These causes are fundamental and in the past, the left did uphold them. We defended freedom of speech when religion was censoring science. We defended the pursuit of truth when climate denial or too-fixed views of human nature emerged. We defended equality of opportunity when there was a noble class that did have more rights. Now, as Jordan Peterson’s saying goes, we should “clean our room” in the left and stop infringing on these fundamental values because our deep leanings are not compatible with recent findings on human nature. We should recognize that conservatives were right in pointing out our moral self-righteousness when a part of us segregated from reality and looked down at them. And to clean our room as left-wingers, we should join the liberalists in activism to protect these fundamental values for as long as a part of the left sides with overly authoritarian and anti-scientific ideas. We have to prove to right-wingers that the left is not just a bunch of socialists, communists and Marxists, as their usual strawman goes. Join me so that we can maintain our true viewpoint diversity as the liberalist movement grows!

“Opinions belong to the author and do not reflect The Liberalist movement as a whole” 

References

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/conservatives-say-campus-speech-is-under-threat-thats-been-true-for-most-of-history/2017/08/11/6aa959fa-7c4b-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.b9486c37e694
  2. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586-Googles-Ideological-Echo-Chamber.html
  3. Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The modern denial of human nature, 2002.
  4. https://www.gwern.net/docs/psychology/2018-kajonius.pdf
  5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00067.x
  6. https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/how-s-life-2013_9789264201392-en#page105
  7. https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/1281324