by Nathan Kreider
Just about everyone believes the world would be a better place if everyone believed the same things they do. In some cases, they might even be right. And we can confidently say that some ideologies contribute absolutely nothing to public discourse. But if we think in broader terms of left and right, rather than specific ideologies or policy positions, we can say that they both contribute to public discourse in some way, and a healthy society will have proper space for both.
To defend this claim, we first need to define left and right. The beginning of a full analysis of each interpretation of left and right can be found here, but for the context of this article, they will be defined by their broad priorities, even though exceptions exist.
To be on the right is to emphasize order and values established through tradition. The right (typically) seeks to conserve the current system and its foundational principles. The term first applied to those that wished to preserve the system during the French Revolution. In the example of Chesterton’s Fence, the right, when coming across a fence, will assume it is there for a good reason, and will be wary of the consequences of removing it.
To be on the left is to emphasize the value of changing society towards the perceived ideal. This change can in any variety of directions, some good and some bad. During the French Revolution, the left were the revolutionaries rebelling against the system. In the example of Chesterton’s Fence, the left will prefer to remove the fence if they see it as an obstacle. Unlike the right, they are not as cautious when changing the structures of society.
Granted, these definitions are quite general, and loads of exceptions apply. When the founding fathers of the United States led a revolution against Great Britain, they were on the left. They were revolutionaries that desired a massive change to the current system. Once they established a new nation with its own principles and constitution, they became the right, despite their ideology remaining the same. Again, exceptions apply, and there are other definitions of left and right.
If an imperfect society does not have a constant voice calling for change, it will remain imperfect. Some left wing ideologies (like Marxism) will change society for the worse, while others, like liberalism during the Age of Enlightenment, have dramatically changed society for the better.
A society also requires a base of support, and a strong right wing to defend it. The importance here is not the ideas themselves, but the methodology used to advance society. If a society begins adopting radical changes without any considerations to the foundations it is resting upon, it could easily destroy itself.
In America and parts of Europe (among other places), we can see the consequences of a disproportionately powerful left wing. Not only is it heading in a rather harmful direction (embracing Marxism and intersectionality), but it has very little interest in public discourse. Jonathan Haidt argues in The Coddling of The American Mind that the problem is not that the left wing is present in places like academia, but that it is overwhelmingly present, creating its own bubble.
We can also tell that the left is too powerful by the resurgence of more right wing populist parties in response, along with the phenomenon of many left wing individuals leaving the left and allying with the right. Their core principles and beliefs may not have changed much, but the leftward shift has made their position more right wing by comparison.
Since societal change can go in multiple different directions, it is inevitable that parts of the left will align with the right when one direction gains significant traction that doesn’t align with the values of the rest.
Therefore what we need is a restoration of balance. Each of us, depending on our own beliefs, will have a different view of where exactly that balance is, but as a society moves too far in one direction, more will agree that balance has been lost. When things have shifted too far to the left, we see the creation of fantastic organizations like The Liberalists, consisting of an alliance of left and right that agree that the authoritarian left needs to be stopped. We can also agree that some societies (especially those in the Middle East) could use a stronger left wing voice.
What’s important to remember here is that nearly all of us desire a prosperous society, and we all have differing opinions on how to bring that about. We must acknowledge the necessity of societal change that the left wing advocates, as well as the importance of the structures that maintain a stable society, which the right wing seeks to preserve.