Left and Right

Why Both Left and Right Are Necessary

As a general rule, I lean more to the Left than to the Right. As many people know, the use of “Left” and “Right” in a political context originates from the seating arrangements in the French National Assembly in the late 18th century. The supporters of the king, aristocratic, and Catholic theocracy sat on the right side of the chamber, and the republicans sat on the left side.

If I were transported back in time as a member of the 18th century French National Assembly, I would definitely be sitting on the left side of the chamber. And that would probably be true at most points in time since then.

I generally think most historic achievements of the Left have made for improved societies, and improvements in the “human condition.” Do I wish we still had absolute monarchies, hereditary aristocratic titles, or theocracies in the Western world? No. Do I regret that codified recognition of the rights of citizens have been established in modern states? No. Do I regard the abolition of slavery and serfdom as progress? Of course. In the historic labor battles of the 19th and early 20th century would I have sided with labor against capital? Certainly. Do I think that universal suffrage was a necessary innovation? Yes, while mass democracy is under criticized, universal suffrage is a necessary constraint on elite power. Do I think that the abolition of old-fashioned racial segregation was a good thing? Of course. Do I think that the gender roles of the 1950s were preferable to those of today? No. Do I consider it to be progress that homosexuals are no longer regarded as enemies of the state? Certainly.

However, the propensity of the Left for all kinds of excesses in the name of progress and social reform is well-known. The Left may have brought about modern liberal-republicanism, but the Left also brought about the Reign of Terror. The Left may have brought about the 8-hour day, civil rights, and the abolition of the draft, but the Left also brought about Stalinism, Maoism, and Pol Potism. It is for this reason that the Right is needed as a persistent critic of the excesses of leftism. As John Stuart Mill said, “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.” It is for this reason that such works as Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago are indispensable.


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