Both Left and Right

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If I’m asked whether libertarians are on the “left”
or the “right,” I would say that I can’t speak for others, I can
only speak for myself. And that I am both on the left and
the right. This reply would not be borrowed from the shallow and
nearly-fraudulent “social liberal, economic conservative” definition
of libertarianism. Nor would it imply a “centrism” or wishy-washy
indecisiveness. Indeed, I really do strongly hold many values and
beliefs long associated with the “Left,” and equal and corresponding
beliefs and values associated with the “Right.”

It’s really not all that complicated or surprising.
Everyone essentially lives in a “both/and” world, not an “either/or”
world. No one always and in every situation favors change for the
sake of change; similarly, no one always favors tradition for the
sake of tradition. Individuals are not always right, but neither
are families or churches. Beliefs do not morph into absolute laws
that we must obey every time, but rather into values which we weigh
differently according to the situation. Here is a list of my values
which I believe complement, not contradict, each other:

Left-wing or Liberal Values

  • Equality of rights under the law
  • Belief in individual freedom as opposed to conformity
    to errant and manipulative social institutions
  • The right of access to the earth’s abundance;
    rejection of the premise that hording land and natural resources
    is a “natural” or “inalienable” right
  • Anti-militarist, anti-war
  • Tolerance of “alternative lifestyles”
  • Democratic values of consensus and community-based
    government
  • Skepticism of absolute truth claims, regardless
    of origin
  • Appreciation of inter-cultural exchange and cosmopolitan
    urban life

 

Right-wing or Conservative Values

  • “Spontaneous” or unplanned order will result
    in a natural aristocracy, and in beliefs and traditions that develop
    through time
  • The right of organizations to define themselves,
    their beliefs, and their mission, and establish rules for their
    members
  • The practical and moral necessity of private
    property; the right of the individual to the product of his own
    labor
  • Right of self-defense, pro-militia
  • Complete freedom of association, including the
    right to discriminate for any reason
  • Fidelity to laws and institutions as they have
    been given to us and a rejection of attempts to change everything
    or establish utopia all at once; at the same time, rejection of
    unconstitutional laws, programs, and powers no matter how long-established
  • Defense of liberty of conscience, the right of
    the individual to believe in absolute truth claims, and of churches
    to expose heresy and expel subversives and infiltrators from their
    midst
  • Recognition that there’s a difference between
    immigration and invasion

You may object, “But liberals don’t really believe
in social tolerance, they believe in Political Correctness and intolerance
of those who disagree with them!” Or, your protest may be, “But
conservatives are really theocrats who want a police state at home
and perpetual war abroad!” Why are both the Left and the Right so
often, and so justly, depicted as not just wrong-headed, but evil?

The tendency
of both the Left and the Right is to accuse the other of the very
same charge. According to the Left, the defining characteristics
of the Right are coercion and centralization; the
Right supposedly wants to establish a fascist, imperial state with
absolute executive power. But according to the Right, the Left is
all about — you guessed it — coercion and centralization,
with the goal of establishing a communist world government with
unchecked judicial and bureaucratic power.

It is true that perverting my liberal values by
imposing them through the coercion of centralized power will lead
to a hellish society. But so would doing the same with my conservative
values. They would look different in style and form, but war, subjugation,
and moral and fiscal bankruptcy will be their fruits. I believe,
however, that neither liberal nor conservative values are defined
by the role of the State in our lives. They are primarily social,
not political, values, and a well-rounded individual appreciates
both.

Imagine a target,
like an archery target. The bullseye is the target of statists —
the “center” representing centralization, consolidated power. Those
who do not want to play the statist game will shoot for the outer
perimeter, or try to miss the target entirely. Some will shoot to
the left, others to the right, but in any case the aim is to avoid
centralized power. Regardless of whether they are on the right or
the left, do not those who oppose centralization and coercion have
a lot more in common with each other than with the Bushes and Clintons
of the world?

Remember how the first George Bush promised a “kinder,
gentler” America? That meant moving Reagan’s Republican Party leftward
to the “center.” What we got was an unnecessary war and diminished
liberties at home. Then Bill Clinton moved the Democratic Party
rightward to “the center” and gave us more war while we lost even
more freedoms. And then George W. Bush, with his “compassionate
conservatism” moved Newt Gingrich’s Republican Party again leftward
to “the center.” What did we get? Still more war, and an almost
completely-eviscerated Bill of Rights.

Who opposed
all these wars? The far — as in, anti-state — left,
and the far — as in, anti-state — right. Both the far
left and far right firmly opposed the PATRIOT Act and other War
on Terror suspensions of our civil liberties while “moderates” on
all sides blindly supported these measures. Both the far right and
far left oppose the globalist agenda behind fraudulently named “free
trade” agreements. Both bitterly oppose national education standards,
and favor local control of schools. Whether the theme is “democracy”
or “states’ rights,” both the far left and the far right oppose
top-down, bureaucratic “solutions” to social problems such as poverty.
Both seek radical changes in the federal tax code.

The enemy of the libertarian is not the liberal,
nor the conservative. Nor the Green anarchist, southern nationalist,
Georgist, or Constitution Party activist. The enemy is always the
Statist, the advocate of coercion and consolidated power.

It matters less and less to me the name of one’s
philosophy or party, or where one’s ideology falls on a chart or
spectrum. It is clear that the so-called “extremists” are the ones
most consistently anti-war, pro-decentralization, and pro-Bill of
Rights. If that makes me a leftist, then call me a leftist. If it
makes me a right-winger, then call me that. I know in my heart that
I am both.

 

December
15, 2005

James
Leroy Wilson [send him mail]
is a columnist for the Partial
Observer
and blogs at “Independent
Country
.” He currently resides in eastern Washington State.

James
Leroy Wilson Archives

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