deletedJun 9, 2022·edited Jun 10, 2022
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deletedJun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022
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Clearly America has one TIE-Fighter party and one Y-Wing party.

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Yah but there are TWO parties. TWO! 😭

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why does the 'left/right' nomenclature really make sense?

Are we all going to agree with Zhou Enlai that it's too soon to tell the results of the french revolution because it never ended?

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So if that chart can be believed, US Republicans are slightly more supportive of contraception than US Democrats?

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From now on, I will claim that anarchism-capitalists are moderates and cite to this piece

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So I haven't read the source in depth, but the numbers in the diagram seem really odd to me. Barely 20% of democrats think abortion is morally acceptable? 30% of both parties think premarital sex is morally acceptable? Even less think homosexuality is okay? And alcohol use is at less than half?

If nothing else, how does this square with e.g. 70% support for gay marriage (https://news.gallup.com/poll/350486/record-high-support-same-sex-marriage.aspx as the first source I found).

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

When the left/far left says "all parties are right wing" they mean to the right of Western Europe. The left in the US has a deeply post-colonial mindset about how Western Europe is great. And often a somewhat spotty knowledge of what those countries are actually like. If you press them with those maps about how being gay is illegal in like 90% of the world they'll start doing No True Scotsmen and you'll eventually find out they mostly mean Denmark.

The right/far-right, being the party of rah-rah patriotism, is less likely to do this. They're more likely to argue that the US is the best of the world basically in all ways. But when they do it's often some kind of noble savage thing. Yes, Hungary or Thailand might be poor, but at least they have social cohesion brought on by traditional values! Men are men and women are women! None of that western decadence! Or whatever.

It's all a sign of the provincialism of American politics. Other countries don't really exist except as an opportunity to bash your opponents. People will proudly pronounce on how the Swedish healthcare system works without even knowing what the SSAP is.

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This post also seems sloppy in the way that it talks about "parties".

The graph in this post is from a poll of Americans, showing the views of the 33% of poll respondents who said that they preferred the Democrats and the 26% of respondents who said they preferred the Republicans (while leaving out the 41% who identified as Independents, or indicated no preference, or gave some other response).

It's showing the views of the people, not the views/positions/agendas of the organized political parties.

Just because those 26% of people prefer the Republicans, that doesn't necessarily mean that Republican Party elected officials & political candidates are doing a good job of representing their views. Some of them might see the Republican party as too left-wing (on, say, premarital sex), but at least not as extremely left-wing as the Democrats.

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That graph is graphing a weird thing, "percentage of respondents stating that each issue is morally acceptable."

The poll asked people whether (say) premarital sex was morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue. I don't get what the difference is between saying that premarital sex is morally acceptable vs. saying that premarital sex is not a moral issue. It'd be more meaningful to graph the percentage of people saying that premarital sex is morally unacceptable, and I think that holds across the board for all the issues.

e.g. The graph shows that only about 1/3 of people who prefer the Democrats called premarital sex morally acceptable, but the most common response was to say that premarital sex is not a moral issue. Only about 1/4 of people who prefer the Democrats called premarital sex morally unacceptable.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

Yes, this sort of thing frustrates me constantly.

Words only have meaning within a context. When the context is missing, they become hot air.

Statements like "Police suck at their jobs! They take up 30% of [some town's] budget, but have a murder clearance rate of only 50%!" leave me scratching my head wondering "is 30% unusually high? Is 50% unusually low? What would we expect those numbers to be?" It only confuses the issue.

Good writing doesn't just discuss the facts under consideration, it discusses the world around those facts, so the reader has some context for them. You can't understand the animal without understanding the jungle, so to speak.

(Please email your exhaustive 5000 word explanation on murder clearance rates to me at nobodycares@thisisamadeupexample.com instead of posting it here.)

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The version of this that I see most commonly in my circles (leftist) is that both parties are the same in that they both serve corporate interests, and that is basically objectively true. Anti-capitalism just doesn't have a place in American politics, where the dollar is king no matter who is president. Even Bernie, an outsider in his own party and supposed socialist, is pretty milquetoast by global socialist standards.

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To a first approximation, I'd say we have one party, generally run by people with lots of money, with two wings. The two wings take turns running the country. Also, all things being equal, the general tendency is to move towards the left socially, and also economically, but more slowly economically.

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I always thought the OECD countries thing was implicit. It seemed obvious to me that the left is not talking about Egypt, Thailand, etc when we say the US is rightwing- we're saying it's rightwing compared to the average of countries like the UK, Sweden, Japan, Australia, France, and so on and so on- roughly the OECD/rich countries. Maybe this was unreasonable in hindsight.

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Much better take than the last article, for sure.

A similar idea is when people refer to entire countries as "right-wing" or "left-wing". It really depends on the issue you're talking about. The US has a dysfunctional right-wing healthcare system, for example, but it simultaneously has immigration policies that are radically liberal compared to those of European countries.

>Are you sure you're not just taking your own personal beliefs about what seems reasonable, declaring the middle of that the objectively correct center, and then getting angry when the real Overton Window isn't centered around that point?

I'm inclined to be a little more generous to these people and say that this is mostly a product of geographical self-sorting. Their Overton Window isn't based on themselves, necessarily, but on the set of people they interact with on a daily basis. This statistically tends to be people with similar worldviews. I think this is borne out by the fact that the people making these comments (anecdotally of course) don't consistently describe themselves as being "in the middle"; self-described centrists have a different flavor of lazy cynicism.

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The main conclusion I get from this is that a Japan/Czechia hybrid would be a very interesting nation to live in.

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A more relevant question is not the left vs right breakdown but rather globalism vs localism. Have both major parties in the US moved towards a form of global classism? In this view, politicians at the national level become more influenced by corporations and billionaires than by those they supposedly represent. Local voting patterns would in theory realign their interests back to their districts interests. However, the power of media conglomeration, targeted advertising, and bot driven social media may have become so effective that the voting public may have essentially lost its “free-will”. In this view the direction of the global political class will diverge from the voting public until it reaches some breaking point. If past history is a guide, the breaking point is usually run-away inflation and/or food shortages.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

Completely flummoxed by this graphic. More Republicans than Democrats believe that contraceptive use is morally acceptable? Only ~38% of Democratic respondents support divorce?? What does this mean? What Democrats OR Republicans are out there arguing for the rollback of the legalization of divorce? How do these "morally acceptable" questions correspond to actual policy decisions? I guess these questions would all be answered if I read the paper, but right now I am just very confused

EDIT: reading the comments, I guess everybody else has already pointed this out. Shame on me for commenting without reading the comments first I guess.

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Normally people mean mean the Democratic Party is the right of the mainstream Conservative party in many countries don't they. Don't know if that's true or not though.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

One thing I've been questioning is the meaning of "far-right". Colloquially it means either fascism or some sort of neo-reactionary monarchism, but shouldn't it really mean anarcho-capitalism? The more "right wing" you get the more varied and mutually irreconcilable views you encounter, to the point where I don't think we really have a coherent sense of what "right wing" even means.

I think "far-left" is easier to pin down, my first guess is it basically means "Everyone should have all their needs and many of their wants provided through [INSERT SYSTEM], preferably in an equitable way". Probably a Stalinist and an anarcho-communist will agree on this?

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The American parties are more like TIE fighters. Terrible designs, but when sensible accomplished people like Thrawn try to do anything about it, they can barely be heard over stupid prestige projects like the death star.

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"Left" and "Right" in the contemporary American sense, really only make sense in the specific context of contemporary USAian politics.

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" Are you sure you're not just taking your own personal beliefs about what seems reasonable, declaring the middle of that the objectively correct center, and then getting angry when the real Overton Window isn't centered around that point?"

Well, I don't get angry, just disappointed with my fellow Americans. :)

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From a non-US perspective, both parties reflect the two different sides of America. It's easy to tell the difference between a Democrat politician and a Republican, most of it is squabbling at the fringes about the issues du jour. Which, if we're honest, are merely the trimmings of the socio-economic pie- the big stuff has been more or less agreed. America, regardless of which party controls the apparatus of the state, is the land of trade, opportunity, capitalism, world policeman, head honcho, guffawing tycoon etc.

America has two left/right wing parties in the sense that both of them agree that there is an AMERICA. Even with the new found rhetoric from the left about evil empires and reparations and so on, ultimately the people who are making their speeches about the indignity of the flag are just jaw droppingly AMERICAN to an outsider. Looking from afar at scuffles between, say, Antifa and Trump supporters, it just screams a certain Americanised way of behaving*.

And it isn't just a matter of culture, the politics of your nation is so interwoven with the fabric of your society (freedom! democracy!) that to be AMERICAN is to scream a certain political stance to the rest of the world. Of course, you'll get the communists and the libertarians, politically polar opposites, but even just their voice will betray the irrefutable truth that at the core of their thinking lies the same psyche.

*I'll note that with globalisation the American psyche is rapidly becoming the de facto Western psyche. For example, BLM was imported wholesale across the anglosphere regardless of the completely different cultures on the ground. What seems to matter more and more is the culture of the internet- which is American.

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If the US's two major parties were the Communist (Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist (Revolutionary), I think it'd be fair to say that both parties are left-wing, and not just because they're to the left of where we are now. To the extent that "left" and "right" are meaningful categories, your position on the spectrum is about how much you subscribe to one memeplex/ideology/etc, how much you reject the other one, how much the other one rejects your views, etc. Since the two communist parties both subscribe to the left-wing ideological cluster, they're both left-wing. If both parties in the US subscribed to the right-wing cluster, they'd both be right-wing.

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> The objective standard? Are you sure that exists?

Yes. Recall yesterday's post on parties being "extreme": Similarly there are multiple reasonable objective definitions of "center".

For example, there's a very common one you may have seen involving a grid and left/right auth/libt axes, used in a million memes. It has its roots in a pretty standard 20th century dichotomy where "left" meant socialist and "right" meant capitalist. In that system, the center meant a mixed economy, and center left / center right meant a mixed economy with a bit more socialist / capitalist stuff, respectively.

There are other definitions you could use too. It depends on your purpose. It's fine. It's good. Let's not demand a single perfect definition that captures all intuitions, and so flail our arms in the air and declare it all "just taking your own personal beliefs about what seems reasonable".

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The within-country differences paper doesn’t seem to look at economic issues at all, even those are many of the biggest policy differences between the United States and other countries, not to mention between parties in the United States. Compare to gambling and alcohol use, which aren’t even meaningful partisan issues in the United States.

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Wait, what? Less than 30% of Democrats think homosexuality is morally acceptable? Only about half of Democrats think *contraception use* is morally acceptable? Really? How about alcohol? Don't most people drink? Does anybody understand these results?

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My sense is that this paragraph is where people who seriously make this claim disagree:

"Relative to the US? False; both parties usually get about half of the vote, suggesting one is to the right of the median American, and the other to their left. You can probably argue that the Republican Party’s structural advantages cause both parties to be a little to the right of where they’d be without them, or that Americans’ ignorance of party platforms means you can smuggle a few points in that are slightly more extreme than what they’d endorse, but it’s going to be a small effect."

Left-wing people who believe this argue (something like) that the US is a sham democracy ruled by an oligarchy that uses domination of the media and the churches to convince people to vote against policies that are in their interest and that they (in some broad sense, or with the correct information) support. This is the "What's the Matter with Kansas" argument or the "Manufacturing Consent" argument.

Right-wing people who believe this argue (something like) that the US is a sham democracy ruled by a permanent civil service bureaucracy that stymies all efforts at conservative reform plus an academic/cultural elite that effectively ostracizes anyone who speaks up for the common-sense views of ordinary people. This is Curtis Yarvin's argument, Andrew Breitbart's argument, and to some extent Trump's argument. During the Bush administration, the argument was more specifically that most Americans are conservative but that nonwhite people and some "white ethnic" people were "heritage democrats" that would switch over to Republicans once they became convinced that Republicans didn't hate them.

Both of these arguments can find support from polls showing overwhelming agreement with some properly worded progressive or conservative ideas.

I generally agree with Scott that while we're all obviously being manipulated by powerful forces all the time, and the manipulations are probably often successful, on average people tend to vote for politicians that say they'll do things that people want them to do, and the median voter is somewhere in between the Democrats and Republicans on most issues. But I don't think this is obviously true, and I could be convinced by empirical evidence that it's not true.

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Yes, what's up with Czech Rep.?

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I was shocked that only 50% of US democrats said contraception was acceptable, so I skimmed the paper and saw an additional 40% said it was not a moral issue.

In that poll, there were three options: "morally acceptable", "not a moral issue" and "morally unacceptable". The first two options are nearly equivalent, but only one of them counts in the chart. I would be much happier if the comparison chart went by the percentage who said a thing was morally unacceptable.

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Credit to Jonah Goldberg for this phrasing, but rather than two far-whatever parties, we’ve got two parties “determined to be minority parties”. In many cases the institution of the party itself has changed from being concerned with assembling electorally valid coalitions under a loosely aligned set of policy preferences with somewhat consistent messaging and mood affiliation into institutions focused on assembling an narrow coalition less concerned with electoral viability and more concerned with purity, enforcing narrow alignment, and a no enemies to the left (or right) approach - electoral considerations and institutional coherence be damned.

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Debates about left-wing and right-wing are tiresome.

We are a two-party democracy - an 18th century quasi-monarchical hybrid. Third parties will come and go but none can establish itself as a major force because of the way our republic is structured. We have a chief executive elected independently of our legislature, a figure operating outside of it who cannot be removed for reasons of competence or policy . Our elections are at set intervals, so governments cannot fall. There are not any no-confidence motions in the US system, but minority parties rely on the no-confidence mechanism to exercise power. And then there's the Electoral College.

Given that we have, and will only ever have, two effective political parties, the real question of interest is this: Do those we have represent the American people sufficiently well that the will of most of the electorate can be expressed by voting for one or the other?

In my opinion, the Republican Party represents a substantial but likely minority of American people, and does so very well. The Democratic Party does not represent enough of the remainder to fill its proper role in our system. That's why there's so much interest in third parties.

I'm one of those who's opinions are not well represented.

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The only problem with Scott's argument here is that he assumes that people are saying smarter things than they really are. When someone says "America has two right-wing parties," 99% of the time they're not making a considered comparison with some other country. They're just saying: I wish the American political parties were both more left-wing. And vice versa.

One of the biggest interpretive mistakes you can make is to over-interpret what the other guy is saying. Usually there's less meaning than you think, not more.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

I don't like defending trite clichés, but I think this is kind of missing what people mean when they say such things. The mistake here is assuming people are treating "left" and "right" as parts of a continuum rather than distinct and discrete sets of ideas.

Concretely, when someone says "both parties are socialist" they (probably) don't think of socialism as any point at least x standard deviations left of center. Instead, they (probably) mean it as an ideology with some axiomatic, normative idea(s) against which you can compare a party's program and decide one way or another.

Stereotypically (but maybe a bit strawmannish) a right-winger could conceive socialism as the idea that the state has a right to individuals' property and income. Since both parties to some degree support taxation, they'd then both be straightforwardly socialist. Or maybe the right-winger defines socialism as handouts, and neither party outright rejects welfare support, hence socialism. In a third case, regulating the market at all is socialism, etc.

(Also works as a case "for" socialism as common sense, see: Bernie Sanders arguing that fire departments are socialist. The natural conclusion is that everyone is at least a little socialist.)

Conversely, a left-winger might conceive socialism as workers' ownership of the means of production, or abolishing the "chaos of the market" or some such. Since both parties support private capital and markets, they're both liberal or rightist or whatever.

It obviously gets a bit more nebulous when using the phrases left and right rather than the more specific "socialism", but I think generally it's implicitly still about discrete minimum requirements rather than points on a spectrum.

NB. This way of understanding these phrases also gives enough benefit of the doubt to them that they come kind of close to really interesting questions. For example, there is a wealth of literature and think-pieces trying to figure out why the US (and Canada) never developed anything like a European-style labour/social-democratic party. That's a very legitimate mystery – it's a distinct type of party which most comparable countries developed in the 19th-20th century, and yet which even New Deal-democrats only kind of approximated. Doesn't the question of "America's missing labor party" kind of sound like what people are getting at when they say both major parties are right-wing?

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This historical argument for saying both parties are left wing is correct.

The OECD argument for saying both parties are right wing is wrong. On basically every cultural issue, Democrats are to the left of other rich country left wing parties. On economics, the Bernie wing (maybe a third of the party and its loudest speakers) is substantially to the left of social democrats elsewhere.

Furthermore, Republicans like to claim MLK for themselves, which is absurd and representative of how dominated by the left most of the political discourse (X is the real racist!).

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How about 240 parties instead of 2?


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I generally share this view. But in the interest of steelmanning or whatever, a few other possibilities (not that I necessarily believe them) (mostly from the POV of both parties being to the right but I'm sure you can flip it around)...

Maybe you have one left party and one right party compared to the zero-point of the median voter, but maybe two right parties compared to the zero-point of the median person. Add to that the idea that nonvoters are disproportionately on the left, or hand-waving arguments about why certain people vote but don't count.

Ignorance of party platforms being a bigger deal than you say. In particular the hot button issues that get the attention are a subset of all the issues out there, and maybe on the ignored issues both parties are right wing compared to the nation. Or maybe parties do a better job of hiding the ball on what they care about then you think.

Related is by only considering certain types of issues in your accounting of who is left and right wing. So e.g. the idea on the left that the right uses culture war issues to get elected and then pursues big money interests - you an extend this a few ways. Maybe a view where both parties are to the right on economic issues relative to the median voter, and (though it's not usually phrased this way) the average of the two parties is to the left on social issues, and you consider economic issues to be the "real" measure. Or maybe to the right on economic issues, more center on social issues, and your weighting of the two is simply different from the voters'.

Or relatedly, maybe the parties are centered around the zero point because the two axes aren't "social issues" and "economic issues" but "issues" and "vibes". Then the idea would be, I guess, that both are right wing on "issues", and Dems are left wing on vibes and Republicans are right wing on vibes, but people vote based on vibes. Or perhaps a weighted average of vibes and issues but same basic idea.

Finally on the question about being left/right relative to OECD/American history. I think the reason they don't specify the group they're comparing to is that they see it as obvious. Like, of course the zero-point is measured by reference to other first world democratic nations! Or, of course the zero-point is measured by reference to American history! Sure if you want to use more exactitide you should say who you're using for reference, but since when is political rhetoric like that?

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Ok, entirely different nit to pick since no one else seemed to call it out :

"both parties usually get about half of the vote, suggesting one is to the right of the median American, and the other to their left."

It suggests one is to the right of the median American VOTER, and the other is to their left, not the median American. Relatively few eligible Americans vote, something like 50-60% in presidential elections, much less in off year elections. It is possible that the people who don't vote are distributed sufficiently like those who do that the median would still be in the middle somewhere, but it is conceivable that e.g. the median American is a smidge to the left of the Democratic party, but since young people skew left learning and don't vote much the median voter is farther to the right of the Democratic party.

Nit picky, but worth noting that those 40-50% of eligible non-voters in presidential elections are doing... something... and it might differ significantly from the voters, who are a minority of the whole population.

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The two main political parties in Poland struck me as both right of center, at least the last time I looked into it a few years ago, with the ruling party being more populist and the the former ruling party being more pro-business.

Israel is pretty much all rightists these days, too, with Bibi being replaced by Naftali Bennett, who identifies as being to the right of Bibi. Eventually Bennett is supposed to be replaced by his coalition partner, who is to the left of Bibi but not by all that much as far as I can tell.

Of course, within Poland or Israel, the various contending parties probably seem quite different to each other.

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I am definitely one of those annoying people who are often found quoting the likely apocryphal, but to my knowledge ascribed to Bastiat, quip that "America needs a second party". Allow me to explain.

I am a lifelong classical liberal/small-l libertarian, which means that I describe myself, politically, as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. My ideal government is a representative, constitutional democracy that focuses on protecting natural rights. In practice, I want a government that is dedicated to safeguarding my and everyone else's individual liberty to engage in both whatever voluntary revenue generating activity appeals to me, and whatever victimless personal behavior that is meaningful. My priorities are: 1) do no harm to others' persons or property; 2) seek fulfillment, happiness and flourishing by whatever means you see fit.

Neither American party has ever represented me. I often find the question in American politics to be, "Do you care more about personal (D) or economic (R) freedom?" Willfully leaving aside commentary on how neither party has lived up to these standards, I resent the fact that this should be the dichotomy.

Personal and economic freedom are not mutually exclusive. I favor both equally. I would love there to be a policy agenda aimed at maximizing ALL victimless freedoms. There is no party that represents me.

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My complaint is deeper than and subsumes Scott's complaint: I deny that Left and Right are even coherent, much less objective, notions. I deny that there is any such single dimension on which political differences can be measured.

It's not just that political differences are multidimensional, and reduction to the Left-Right is overly lossy. That suggest that we just need to add another dimension, as in the common two-axis political compass charts. I don't think that's right, either.

Forget that you'd every heard of such a spectrum or compass, and ask your, based on first principles, why would one expect political thought to be measurable by one (or two) dimensions? Is the space of, say, computer architecture designs or biological organisms measurable by one (or two) dimensions?

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> I think most people who claim “America has two left-wing parties” are talking about relative to US history

Wait, who is this? I suppose I’m in a bubble. Even my Republican friends/family don’t say this. Is this some neo-reactionary thing?

> and people who claim “America has two right-wing parties” are talking about relative to other OECD countries.

In my experience, this is true. But to be more specific, I think it tends to be about economic leftism/rightism. On social issues there is less of a clear split; gay and abortion rights are way worse in some predominantly-Catholic Western European countries than in the US.

But on many economic issues (things like taxation, corporate regulation, antitrust, etc.), the Clinton/Biden/DNC wing of the Democratic Party is sometimes viewed more like a business-friendly centrist or center-right party in the EU, rather than an actual “left” party.

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TIL Republicans are more in favor of birth control than Democrats. that was not what I expected

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Some people try to claim that New Zealand has a North Island and a South Island. But by OECD standards it's clear that they should be called the Far South Island and the Really Far South Island.

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I get irritated that issues get bundled into a pair of parties at all. Why should there be correlations on anyone's views on:


nuclear power


CO2 emission control

human-toxic pollutant control

economic redistribution

sexual minorities of various sorts (and this is itself a bundle)




nuclear weapons crisis stability (tactics for maintaining stable deterrence)

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I see no one's mentioned the famous quote:

The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them. - Julius Nyerere

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I didn't know the Czech Republic was the true home to the light of freedom.

You learn something every day.

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Relative to European social democracies, is the comparison I've commonly seen. I initially assumed the meme underlying this post was https://www.fishbowlapp.com/post/europeans-will-understand-this-meme-americans-will-just-get-triggered

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I kind of agree with respect to some proportion of this kind of thing, and I get annoyed by the article with respect to another proportion of this sort of thing, when the context adds the meaning which is absent from the claim itself.

In regard to the former - yeah, it's not great. (But also "say what you mean" is actually a really high bar to clear, and maybe a lot of people saying this kind of thing, while they do mean something like "compared to American history" or "compared to a particularly salient reference class of European countries", don't actually know that that is what they mean)

In regard to the latter, I think this feels more like a correction when somebody uses who/whom incorrectly.

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„ By the standards of the Soviet Union, both US political parties are extremely far right;“ The Soviet Union stopped being a radical left wing party in the 1930s - at least culturally. By the 1970s the US had moved far to the left of the Soviet Union on most social questions, other than abortion. Even Putin is to the left of the USSR when it comes to homosexuality, or freedom of expression.

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There is a real difference, but neither party know what it is. The Republicans are the party of self-control and responsibility, the Democrats of Peter Pan, never growing up, and pretending actions don’t have consequences.

Most people will hate this characterization, and will immediately bring up counter arguments (what about climate change?) but those shibboleths, not fundamentals. If someone tells you that you should “follow your bliss” or that “the drug war is all paranoia” you know pretty well which party they belong to.

We are seeing this play out in SF as many many people who thought they were Democrats are learning what it looks like to live in a city devoid of responsibility, from zero consequence crime to open air drug markets to educators who believe their primary mission is not learning but the destruction of “a white privilege” (whatever that is imagined to be).

A smart Republican (so not Trump, but someone else?) will realize this message and rally people around it: “we may disagree about many details, but we agree that America is built on personal responsibility, and I stand for personal responsibility” — and OMG will that work as a rallying cry… People are absolutely starved for a message like this.

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What’s with the chart though? When exactly was it that only 30% of US dems found premarital sex morally acceptable?

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The chart seems odd to me. Democratic voters seem very conservative by the standards of the West, even by the standards of the world sometimes. The leadership is fairly radical though.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

People seem to have a very strong belief in objective leftness or rightness, which I find weird. In my personal life, this mostly manifests as people refusing to believe me when I point out that - stipulating that Hispanics grow to an even larger portion of the US population, and that current Hispanics overwhelmingly vote Democratic - there are no implications for Democratic policies defeating Republican ones. People *want* to believe that more Hispanics means the balance tips permanently over to the Democratic Party and it goes on to implement all of its current goals for no other reason than that those are Democratic goals. But that's not how coalition politics works. Hispanics aren't obligated to support the Democratic Party's current goals - if there are more of them, that just means the Party will shift _its_ goals to be more in line with _them_. (And so will every other party.) That would be a win for economic redistribution, but it would be a loss for environmentalism, feminism, sexual exoticism... and it wouldn't even be a win for the Democratic Party, because every party will shift their policies until a balance of voters is achieved.

In other words, the belief I generally observe other people express is that party platforms exist independently of the voting base (?!), and what policies are implemented is just a question of whether current voters vote for one party or the other one. But it mystifies me how anyone could arrive at, or believe in, this model.

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Hang on: Only ~30% of Democrats think Homosexuality is acceptable? What? Am I reading the chart right?

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"both parties usually get about half of the vote, suggesting one is to the right of the median American, and the other to their left."

Good scatterplot showing systematic divergence on economic and social issues: https://www.niskanencenter.org/libertarians-just-might-exist/

The median American is CULTURALLY to the right and ECONOMICALLY to the left of the average party position. That's because elites are able to sway decision making into their preferred direction.

As an example: a wealth tax on billionaires is popular but not supported by mainstream politicians. Affirmative action is unpopular even in Democratic states, but still a thing.

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I legit read the title as being about two parties (of the late night punch bowl sort) dedicated to X-Wings

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The pattern in the west I see is a much bigger divide between the long educated and shorter educated than between left and right. The longer educated have a overwhelming hold on politics, academy, media, and higher level civil servants. This IQ gap is increasing because IQ is hereditary. When you sort by IQ and then put the sexes together at prime mating age you got an efficient eugenic system a.k.a. university.

So there is still left and rights in politics but all we hear from is the eloquent voices of the long educated. If the lower IQ gets too disgruntled, the higher IQ tends to dismiss them out of hand since their voices often sound stupid and dumb, therefore all too easy to dismiss. The fact that 95% of the UK Labor (University educated) MP's were against Brexit while 60% of the members was in favor is telling. Observe how a member of congress has a lot more affinity with the other party's members of congress than their own working class members.

This was different in the 20th century, we then still had many high IQ members from the labor class but the widespread adoption of university education, their stellar careers made their kids breed this out out of the working classes.

So we still have a political left but the eugenic universities system made it very theoretical, desperately lacking the pragmatic power from the lower working classes to keep it grounded. An interesting point is how the US opioid crisis that killed 100,000 people in 2021 is rarely discussed but somehow the very rare transgender issue overwhelms the internet bits.

I think a lot of the confusion about left and right comes from the fact that ~70% of the population is excluded from the conversation but still has a vote. A bit like dark matter.

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Here is a model where this would work.

1. People vote on some cultural war positions, say, on abortion and race proxy issues such as policing.

2. The parties satisfy the median voter theorem on these issues, so one is left wing and the other is right wing.

3. On some other issues, e.g. economics, both parties are to the left (or to the right) of the median voter. These issues matter to the voters too, but both parties as so far out as to make their positions indistinguishable for many voters or at least indistinguishable enough for cultural war issues to dominate on the margin.

One could plausibly argue that both parties are to the left or to the right of the median voter because the median voter probably subscribes to positions such as "Keep your goddamn government out of my Medicare" which are both to the left and to the right of both parties.

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The meme originated in the late 1990s/early 2000s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll3iyvbsRDM is from December 1999), when the two main US parties were indeed a lot closer to each other than today.

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What's striking about your examples is that they bear no relationship to what anyone born before, say, 1980, would consider issues of "Left" and "Right." To the extent that one extreme of these opinions is associated with "the Left", that simply reflects the transformation of those parties from mass movements, often linked to trades unions, to elite boutique political movements run largely by educated middle-class socially liberal professionals. In the days of mass parties of the Left, these parties tended to reflect the social conservatism of their working-class base.

It's truer, in most countries today, to talk of a Monoparty with different internal tendencies. The model is something like the Chinese Communist Party, except not as organised an effective. A career in politics, independent of which label you decide to wear, requires a broad acceptance of various economic and social givens, though there may be sharp disagreements on points of detail. The fact that in most countries this is expressed by the maintenance of a formal two or three party system doesn't prevent a very large measure of agreement within the elite political class: indeed, there is an increasing tendency for politicians to move between parties, much as they would join or leave factions in a one-party state.

The traditional distinctions between Left and Right - who gets to control power and wealth - haven't gone away, but the political system no longer reflects these differences. As I tried to explain in this article, the supply of politics no longer corresponds to the demand.


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Well, American has more than two parties.

There's the ruling party, which is center-right by current global standards, and which has "Republican" and "Democratic" wings.

And then there are a number of smaller parties, some of which deviate from the center-right mainstream in one direction or another.

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This feels a strawman-y to me. At least from my end, I’ve only heard this statement followed by a lot of context.

The form I’ve heard has been that “America has two right wing parties”, with the context that:

1- its relative to the other developed western nations today, OR to American standards since Roosvelt.

2- its mostly in the context of social democracy vs Laissez-faire stuff. Think issues like the size of the welfare state, worker’s rights (% country unionized, maternity leave, paid time off, minimum wage), public vs private healthcare, progressive taxation, antitrust laws, nationalizing certain industries (railways, energy sector, prisons, etc), trade laws (more or less protectionism), etc. They are mostly NOT talking about social issues like lgbtq rights, abortion rights, gun control, contraception use, religious freedoms, or adjacent issues like war, corruption, etc.

I don’t want to claim that everyone has used the “two x-wing parties statement” responsibly every time, with all the necessary caveats. But this article struck me as a little unfair, as I’ve seen plenty of people do just that.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

What *is* unusual from a European perspective is that since there are only two parties that matter, they have to be very broad.

Meanwhile, the situation in Germany is very typical for a European country - a conservative party (well, two, technically), a liberal party, a social democratic party, a green party, a hard-left party, and an alt-right party. This does give each a much clearer identity. The Democratic party's voters would split (unevenly) into three or four under this.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

The right and conservatives have not "conserved" anything that I care about (except maybe expanding concealed carry at the state level in a lot of places) in my lifetime. Most people on the right have the same impression, which is why they perceive the parties as left, and "lefter."

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This is the whole problem with the "extremism" debate, tbh. Neither party can be "extreme" in relation to the average voter, since they both get close to 50% of the vote.

Instead it's a feeling that culture is either lagging far behind or changing way too quickly, and that's contextual. I honestly think both parties' voters expect too much too quickly in terms of feasibility and good policy, but that's a personal judgment. They aren't "extreme," they're just wrong. And they aren't even *objectively* wrong, they're wrong in the eyes of a person who is knowledgeable about policy-making, but who obviously has his own biases and assumptions.

Probably this is one of those models where rationalism can either be useful or worse than useless, and both versions give false confidence about how useful it is.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

Earlier comment deleted; I have found the underlying report here: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/interactives/global-morality/

But something's gone seriously awry. I think the question got bad answers, because on all these topics, we have very different responses to slightly different questions. On homosexuality, see here: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2013/06/04/global-acceptance-of-homosexuality/ These numbers look much more like other survey results.

I suspect the translation of "morally acceptable," might not give a uniform impression.

The other part is that the authors of the paper blow through "not a moral choice," as another commenter noted. This gives you about a third of Republicans saying that use of alcohol is morally acceptable, which is deceptive. Having a "morally acceptable" contraceptive use number in the US of 50% or so does not tell folks that the percentage saying it was morally unacceptable was 7%.

So I think this is a deeply flawed interpretation of a flawed survey and doesn't support the underlying hypothesis (on which I do not take a position.)

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"The leftmost thing I can imagine is an insectoid hive-mind; the rightmost thing I can imagine is a rapidly expanding cloud of profit-maximizing nanobots"

That FINALLY helps me understand what you think left and right mean. No wonder I have such a hard time understanding your politics posts. I had thought it was just the American-centeredness. I guess this is just another piece of evidence that the terms left and right are pretty useless.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

1. Semantics. According to the first sentence of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-wing_politics, "Left-wing politics is the support of social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy." Conversely, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_politics begins with the statement that "Right-wing politics is generally defined by support of the view that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable". Now, those are precisely the definitions I'd personally use, so of course I'd quote a source that confirms them. But I feel Wikipedia can be considered a pretty good indication of where the basic social consensus about these terms' meaning currently lies, and people wishing to adopt other definitions should at least feel the need to explain their choices, especially when they criticize others' usage of those terms.

2. "Both parties usually get about half of the vote, suggesting one is to the right of the median American, and the other to their left" is an obviously circular reasoning depending on redefining the terms "left" and "right" as synonymous with the two parties' and their positions. It's not just a bad, fallacious argument against the "two X-wing parties" adage, it represents precisely the kind of intellectual blind spot the adage is aiming to bring awareness to in the first place.

3. Surely, the classification is historically specific and only makes sense within some specific frame of reference. I also agree that, in principle, it's always better to be more precise and leave no assumptions unstated. However, I'd propose that there exists a frame of reference that is such an obvious default choice that many people wouldn't consider the need for it to be stated explicitly. To name it nevertheless, "America has two X-wing parties relative to the average beliefs of its population".

4. I blame the essay's failure to even mention "beliefs of the population" on an unexamined assumption that those beliefs can be adequately expressed by the results of elections. This assumption is false for multiple reasons. I already pointed out the problem of it reducing the vast, multidimensional space of possible political beliefs to a single line drawn between the current positions of the two parties, but there's more. What if the parties don't meaningfully differ on some dimension and the voters have no way to discriminate between them and therefore voice their actual beliefs in a meaningful way? What if the differences between them amount to a, largely strategic, choice between two evils? What about all the more immediate reasons to vote for one party over another, completely separate from abstract political positions? What about factual, low-level disagreements about practical effects of specific policies? I could go on, but skipping to the end - what if the existing model of democracy is systematically biased against representing the will of specific group (general population) and for representing that of another (a caste of career politicians)?

5. I posit that the issue of inequality in the contemporary US can mostly be thought of as an issue of economic inequality specifically. But even if economic inequality is not THE defining left-right issue I think it is, in light of the definitions I quoted earlier it should be uncontroversially understood as A left-right issue. Moreover, I posit that, empirically, two facts are true: 1) The US general public wishes for a much more egalitarian distribution of wealth. 2) The economic inequality in the US has continued to rise for decades, regardless of which party exercised control. Now, we can disagree about whether they're true. But if they are, "America having two right-wing parties" is not just a perfectly coherent statement, it's a direct implication.

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Another annoyance of mine: "America really only has one party." While some interpretations of this statement are fair, most are absolute nonsense, and it's so vague it fails to distinguish between truth and nonsense.

Maybe it's supposed to mean "there are no meaningful differences in the policy positions of the parties." This is clear nonsense, they distinguish themselves on a few dozen different issues.

Maybe it's supposed to mean "the differences between the parties are meaningless wedge issues that don't address America's problems." Except America has open primaries in most states. We pick our own candidates, some of whom focus on so-called "wedge issues" and some of whom focus on other things. We tend to pick the "wedge" issue candidates. To me that suggests those issues aren't meaningless to most Americans. This may be another form of "Americans don't know what's good for them and can't be trusted with democracy" which I find not only annoying but dangerous. People get to pick what they care about.

Maybe it means "Both parties support continued existence of large corporations." Which...most Americans consider themselves capitalists and like capitalism. I happen to think a little too much, but see above. Correct, no party that may win a majority of votes supports an unpopular change of economic system, nor are they thrilled by the idea of massive portions of that system failing on their watch. I don't like this at all. I think regular market failures are part of a functional market society, much as woods sometimes need a wildfire to support new growth. But wildfires are scary, and this looks to me like everyone, including the voters, responding to incentives instead of some insidious conspiracy.

It could mean "America is an extreme vetocracy." This is completely legitimate. The American federal government is not made for fast, revolutionary change, even if that change is legitimately demanded by the voters. If infrastructure bills or 3% tax cuts seem like small potatoes to you (which is reasonable), then it doesn't much matter who's in the chairs at the moment. Neither party will ever pass sweeping legislation. But your beef is not with the candidates, but with a system that requires a majority of voters, a super-majority of majorities of voters in each state, and a friendly court that may have been picked decades ago to come into alignment in order to pass any large legislative reforms. Still, in my home state a change of the state legislature saw a minimum wage hike, districting reform, protections for lgbt folks, massive education overhauls, and several other major policy initiatives passed in like 90 days.

Maybe it means "both candidates are always globalists as opposed to nationalists." And Trump notwithstanding, that's a fair charge. This seems like a place where the political elite either has a blind spot or is intentionally trying to avoid conforming to public opinion. People are reasonably scared of the massive changes brought about by the ease of outsourcing work, bringing in labor from out of the country, automation, global trade, etc. etc. The fact that I've looked at this issue extensively and disagree with the assessment that restricting trade will do anything positive shouldn't factor in. Most people want to feel the government is protecting U.S. interests, and the government of both parties has been mostly pro-Globalism for reasons I don't quite understand.

I'm tempted to chalk this up to "well, they're part of the educated class and they know better" but that's just a massive bias on my part. Also I tend to think of political candidates as being empty shirts that get filled with whatever views they need to win elections in all other cases, not sure why that would change now. It could be that the donor class is very pro-globalism, but I remain deeply skeptical that donations have big impacts on elections (generally the best fundraisers lose). My suspicion is that, like me, they are members of the professional class, and cannot conceive of a way to implement the changes people want. Not that they wouldn't make changes that had bad results, just that demands like "bring back the jobs," or "prevent outsourcing," or "leave the U.N." are entirely infeasible to begin with. My (very biased) take is that the political class calculates that the negative consequences would be so immediate and severe that they would cost more than the goodwill gained from giving in to populist sentiment.

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Starting with a compliment, I love this because it's like 75% of political discourse these days:

"Are you sure you're not just taking your own personal beliefs about what seems reasonable, declaring the middle of that the objectively correct center, and then getting angry when the real Overton Window isn't centered around that point?"

But: this post is an odd one... Bringing up some possible definitions that are almost completely unused and comparing to countries which aren't remotely the goal of any significant part of US political debate.

Using an objective standard to gauge political sentiment doesn't pass the smell test - is anyone seriously trying to do this? (Perhaps theocrats?) It's almost definitional - politics is about the things we can't all agree on. Anything that can survive 5 minutes of inquiry as an "objective standard" isn't political. "People need food to not die" is an objective standard and not a political question; "we should give people food so they don't die" cannot be objective and thus will forever remain a political question even if largely settled someday. I guess the debate around trans people does raise some of this "objective standard" argument, but the level of good faith around objectiveness there is low on both sides.

“America is to the right of other OECD countries on most issues”

Are a lot of people willfully avoiding this definition? It seems by far the most obvious. Comparisons to i.e. Nordic countries are rampant in US political discourse; no one is trying to be more like Pakistan.

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Well, I came here to offer a lame Star Wars pun, but others have already supplied those in sufficient quantity.

So, I'll give a serious answer: The basic assumption of your post is that there are parties in the United States. I disagree. The United States has outlawed political parties a long time ago, what you have instead are toothless folkore clubs that haphazardly dabble in organizing certain marginal aspects of the political day-to-day business.

In essence, a party is a large group of people that publicly bands together to participate in democratic mechanics of government, especially by participating in elections.

But in order to do that a party needs control over its own actions. Specifically it must be able to control who does and does not speak for it and who does and does not run for it. The US system of state controlled primaries has taken this control away from parties. In theory and political myth this was to "empower citizens" against evil party bosses who run things from smoke-filled backrooms. But the reality is that this has disempowered parties against special interests, especially well funded ones. To powerfully act in coordination, a party needs mechanisms to keep its people in line. Every first world democracy has those - except for the US.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

Left-wing and right-wing aren't relative, they're meaningful absolute economic positions that one can be more or less of.

Left-wing means supporting economic democracy - nationalization, socialization, worker ownership, unions, strong labour laws, regulation for the common good, strong social safety net.

Right-wing is the opposite. Privatization, consolidation, state support of private enterprise, big business, no unions, limited or no worker protection, limited or no regulation for the common good, limited or no social safety net.

In this sense, yes, America has two right-wing parties. The Dems are centre-right - they support regulation for the common good, are lukewarm on unions and social safety net, but are otherwise mostly econ-right. The GOP is obviously quite far econ-right.

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A major problem with this graph, at least in relation to abortion, is that it presents a multifaceted issue as a two-sided one.

My understanding is that on then whole, abortion laws in United States are still some of the most liberal in the world and that most European countries prevent abortion after 15 weeks, though even that is an over-simpification https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2021/us-abortion-laws-worldwide/

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

Of note: the chart in this post doesn't have all of the data, which is why the numbers are confusing.

The actual survey asks if a given thing is a) moral b) immoral or c) not a moral issue

That's why, for instance, only 25% of dems think Homosexuality is moral, most of the rest think it's not a moral issue. Only ~10% of dems thought it actually immoral.


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The relevant question is really: What's the appropriate reference class to compare the US to?

The right wing answer is US history. Which is not surprising for a party that claims to be conservative.

The left wing answer is Europe, or international organizations which contain mostly European countries. I have always found this surprising. Is the implication that the US is fundamentally a European country?

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Overall I think this argument is sound, but I wanted to reply to one claim that's important on its own merits: that we can reasonably assume that roughly half of Americans support the policy positions of each party ("both parties usually get about half of the vote, suggesting one is to the right of the median American, and the other to their left.") Most of Achen and Bartels "Democracy for Realists" is knocking down this exact (reasonable) assumption, and I highly recommend reading it; unfortunatey my copy is in storage in another state so I can't quote the relevant passages and studies, but my brief recollection goes basically like this:

*Most Americans are staggeringly ignorant of the policy positions of both individual politicians and the major political parties, to the point that if everyone tried to vote based on policy without otherwise changing their information-seeking behavior, the result would be a lot more than the "few percentage points" Scott suggests.

*Only a minority of American voters are actually driven by policy in their voting behavior; the vast majority vote primarily based on two factors. The first is partisan identity, both of the traditional sort (I identify as a member of Party X) and increasingly and dominantly, negative partisanship (I recognize Party X has issues, but Party Y is so terrible that I have to vote for X to keep them for power). The second is a sort of point-in-time feeling about How The Country Is Doing (mostly economically, but with a few other factors), which gives elections a certain amount of essential randomness; given that the governing parties policies effects on the economy, if any, typically take years to manifest, there is very little relation between whether the economy is doing good under one party and their policies, and yet voters will vote as if there is a strong relation. This itself leads to median voter behaviors: if you have votes with significant random factors, you're going to approach 50% for each party.

This results in a few things: first, that parties can have policy positions significantly away from the mainstream, and not have it significantly impact how much of the vote they can get. Numerous surveys of Democratic vs. Republican policies have found that most (but not all) of core Democratic policies have majority support, many of them even attaining majorities among Republican voters (e.g. some level of gun control, some amount of abortion access, meaningful response to global warming, at least an honest attempt at reducing police violence and qualified immunity) whereas most (but not all) Republican policies do not.

And this is without even examining the relationship between partisan identity and policy preferences; the traditional theory imagines an informed vote with a set of policy preferences who chooses the "best candidate" for them, but what seems to in fact happen is that voters become aligned with a party, often in childhood (growing up in a Republican Family/Community or Democratic Family/Community) and their policy positions, insofar as they have cogent ones, emerge from the partisan identity and not the other way around. If the party changes, so do they; this is why Trump could suddenly pivot the Republican party from free trade to protectionism and lose basically no voters over it.

In short, we should not assume that just because X% of voters vote for a party, that means that those voters, on average, approve of the party's positions; and we shouldn't even assume that they approve of the party's positions *more* than they approve of the other party's positions, at least not when those positions are evaluated on their own merits. One of the theories for why Republicans consistently support gun control in polling, and yet Republican politicians get punished for even the slightest show of support, is that when actual legislation is introduced, it's inevitably by Democrats, and so the Republicans get punished for "crossing party lines" even if it's for a policy they support, because negative partisanship is so strong.

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They're not looking at the same axis. When people say America has two right-wing parties, they mean neither party supports true economic leftism, i.e. abolishing private property completely. Western Europe doesn't do that, either. Clinton-era neoliberalism, by which US Democrats were right even of Western Europe Social Democrats, is probably over, and support for higher average tax burden, more progressive rate brackets, and a strong welfare state, are largely back (though also largely unsuccessful because of procedural conservatism built into the US legislative system), but true socialism was never in the Overton Window and still isn't. So there never has been and probably never will be a true left-wing US party on that axis.

The people complaining about the opposite, that there are two left-wing parties, are talking about a completely different type of leftist, and simply comparing widespread social mores of the current era against widespread social mores of past Americas. Acceptable workplace behavior, what constitutes too far for a joke, the demographic makeup of casting calls, have all changed pretty radically in the last 30 years. A lot of people feel like they no longer recognize their own country, and because this is a form of social progressivism, they consider it "leftist." Historically, I think this is because these were more a matter of class values than political values, and all politicians tend to be of the same social class. Witnessing the Obama-era Tea Party types that very conspicuously made sure they were seen eating fried butter at state fairs, wearing cowboy boots, and firing rifles on the campaign trail, Trupm was far from the first politician to realize he could build a constituency by pretending he didn't share Ivy league lifestyle values, but he was so successful that this has quickly become not only definitely now a political axis, but maybe even the most important thing a whole lot of voters care about. To the extent that "right-wing" means something like a political party where the members honest to God can't stand Hollywood movies and would prefer to watch whatever the heck Dean Cain, Kevin Sorbo, and Kirk Cameron are being cast in these days, there is no real right-wing party.

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Yep, the US is politically somewhere between Czechia and Pakistan on most social issues, therefore is not right-wing. Obviously.

Reminds me of people in the west earning $250 a month complaining that they're "in poverty", completely oblivious to the global median income!

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There's a saying that Republicans and Democrats don't differ in that they give to their friends, they just have different friends. (Though not always.) I interpret these kinds of equivalence statements as frustration over Public Choice outcomes of the political system. People often assume the result should flow from ideological first principles.

"If people weren't responding to political incentives, we'd have two different perspectives, but [the Evil side] has corrupted [my Virtuous side] so they no longer hew to Righteous principles." Except that's true of all political perspectives. You can't pretend away Public Choice, nor should you want a system run on pure ideology with no connection to real-world conditions. What you want to avoid is capture by small interest groups, which is a hard problem, but it's not just your side getting captured.

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In which Scott writes essentially a throw-away article to elicit thesis-level political theory treatises in the comments.

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Wait, there are people who claim with a straight face that both major parties are socialist? My mind hurts contemplating that. Also that chart makes the Czech Republic look like a super chill place to live.

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Woah the more republicans thinks contraception use is morally acceptable than democrats.

Did not expect that.

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I feel like honeslty you ve missed the thread here a bit. of course people are referring to their own beliefs,and prettymuch everyone understands this. Some people like true religous believers do think therer standards are objective by authority of a creator god. sam harris tried to come up with some objective sense of the moral range of humans basedon evolution. but most people even if not explicity have a simialr enough epsitemlogical langayge they see ethics and politcs as different from objective terirotry at least in theory, although they tend to also distort the truth while saying onlyt the othe side distrorts the truth.

What a lot ofpeople meant by this is that while they are seemingly so divded,they were bothultimatleysubserent to instituions and sturtures thta had evolvedwhich there power dependend on. Neither side would challenge certain fundamentsa stuff.

That has changed more and more as time went on. But it was deifnitelt a feeling as the neoliberals and neoconservatives would always fundamentally supprtany expansion of state power even givinglip servive to why the others were bad-there were well defined wallsof the overton window.

When Ron paul was a candaidte the media and talking heads told us he wasnt a serious candidate. That because there is a conscious prcces through various think tanks to frame the naratvie around the party.

If Ron paul had been treated as legit,how many morempeople would have at least consideered him as better alternative then two party monopoly? its not a selffulflinngprophecy,its part of the machiner of power. peopke can say "hey, this isnt the overton window I accept"

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America has two pro-corporate parties. Social issues are a different axes.

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Your most extreme imaginable right/left scenarios are interesting. I was gonna say that your profit-seeking nanobot swarm scenario lacks any semblance of conservatism, but just realized that that pretty well characterizes Earth’s biosphere for most of its history. So it’s maximally conservative!

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Czech it out, by the way. They have been relaxed about sex there even in socialist times and now they also produce much meth. Sodom or Gomorrha? Very nice people there with a fine old beer culture.

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on the "both recieve half votes" thing, I'd like to note that a lot of left-wing people in weimar germany voted for the conservative monarchist hindenburg in an attempt to stop hitler from taking power, while many people from hindenburg's own party voted for hitler, that is to say, a man from a right-wing party (by the standards of the nation in which said party exists) can absolutely be elected by people largely from left-wing parties, that is to say, stategic voting can cause people to vote for people they agree with on few issues, to avoid "the bad person" being elected.

combine this with the fact that a) people don't vote for the candidates, they vote for the people they think those candidates are(or againt the monster they consider the other candidate to be), which may be distorted and b) "Left" and "right" are nebulous concepts in the first place, and you have a framework where groups of people will vote for candidates they do not agree with.

many of the people who voted for hindenburg were mostly trying to keep him out of power.

and given that he then proceeded to make hitler chancelor...

well, I wouldn't call that being in touch with/loyal to one's voters.

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Jun 9, 2022·edited Jun 9, 2022

Maximum left being an insectoid hive-mind is a really weird intuition, for any definition of "left" other than Cold War era propaganda (even the present-day Right isn't exactly using that caricature). For that matter, the 'maximum right' example is also not my intuition, and I think most right-wingers would agree.

Of course it's debatable as to what qualifies as left-wing and right-wing. If we go with a general utopianism / belief in social progress, maximum left is a permanent revolution (the specifics of how it works depend on one's own political position); maximum right is any society that doesn't change and is incapable of it, probably a monarchy of some sort. The connection to the French Revolution is obvious. OTOH, this places anarcho-primitivism on the right and anarcho-capitalism on the left.

Though really left-right is probably better-described as, as said above, a first principal component than any sort of coherent worldview divide (even though such divides absolutely exist and contribute to this first principal component). Probably an egalitarian hive-mind is to the left of Earth-average on this component, and an expanding sphere of Moloch on the right, but realistically both are fringe political positions that are more extreme on other components.

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So, I haven't checked all the comments yet to see if anyone else has brought this up, but I'm extremely confused by the last table. A majority of both Democrats and Republicans consider alcohol use morally unacceptable? More Republicans consider contraceptive use acceptable than Democrats, and about half of both are opposed? Less than a third of Democrats consider homosexuality morally acceptable? These don't seem to track with other polling results I've seen on these subjects, or with what seems like a common sense understanding of where the Overton window lies.

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I will note that that figure you included shows America as slightly more conservative than average on all the sexual issues, even in a reference class that isn't just OECD.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again. The US does not have a liberal party and a conservative party. It has a party that claims to be liberal but in practice is somewhat conservative and a party that claims to be conservative but in practice is batshit insane.

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> Whose standards for center are you using? The objective standard? Are you sure that exists?

I think taxation offers a pretty good example for at least the economic axis: at either end is either 0% of GDP collected as taxation or 100%. The absolute centrist position is therefore 50%.

Boom! Laffer curve solved.

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Jun 10, 2022·edited Jun 21, 2022

The problem is that you can't reduce politics to Right versus Left.

It seems so, most strongly in the US, where the first-past-the post system means that there can only ever be two parties and no more. This flattens all politics into a two-ideologies paradigm. Here in Italy, where multiple parties exist, people also think like that, but a little less.

In my opinion:

1 - political ideologies are multi-dimensional.

2 - the political axes of your time and place don't apply to other times and places.

I'll prove the above, bear with me.

There is in Italy the Partito Radicale (Radical party? which doesn’t sound right). A party that's never had a massive presence in parliament, and from the outside you may underestimate its historical importance, but it has long been a greater influence on Italian politics than its size would suggest. Its positions:

- They are the greatest supporter of social freedoms, from abortion and divorce decades ago, to assisted suicide and gay rights more recently.

- They tend to support American wars.

- They are very right-wing on the economy.

And then there is Italy’s political Catholicism, which is not a party as much as a political area. It used to have a party, of course - the enormous Christian Democracy. But since end of that party and the reshuffling of Italian politics in the early 90’s, political Catholicism has rather become an identifiable ideology, channelled either into a plethora of centrist parties or into centrist currents within rightist or leftist parties.

- They are the most hardcore conservatives on all the social issues the Radicali champion.

- They oppose all American wars, or any war; they are pacifists.

- They love immigrants.

- They are middle of the ground on the economy (in a tradition related to what has been described on this blog as Distributism).

As you can see, both Radicali and Catholics are centrists in the left-right spectrum, even the Italian left-right-spectrum. And yet, they have little in common and are each other’s mortal enemies! Which points to the existance of other axes.

I can think of other examples. The fascist-ish far right fringe in Italy has always been much more pro-welfare than the mainstream right. For years they have advocated universal basic income, since long before it was mainstream here.

Also, free-market globalism made a complete U-turn over the course of my lifetime. It was right-wing and now the left embraced it, while opposition to it was left-wing and now it’s right wing.

And the more you go back in time, the more present day concept of right and left cease to apply. Example: Ethno-nationalism used to be left-wing in 19th century Europe.

Judging from online discussions of politics and history it has always seemed to me that Americans don’t know widely about 19th century European left-wing ethno-nationalism.

Compare the map of Europe drawn by the Congress of Vienna, with the one after the Treaty of Versailles 100 years later. What changed? Borders everywhere have been redrawn to match perceived ethnicity. The countries of Italy, Germany, and every country in Eastern Europe form Greece all the way to Finland, have been created to match a pre-existent perceived identity, while the trans-ethnic Hapsburg, Romanov and Ottoman empires have vanished. It wasn’t just ww1, it was a whole century of political and ideological pressure and struggle. I’m saying “ethnicity”, even though people back then spoke rather of “nations”, because this is what “nation” back then meant: an ethnic group.

And it all went together with leftism! These people, the same ethno-nationalists who wrote patriotic poems about how Italians are all brothers united by blood and soil, these people were pro-democracy, anti-aristocracy, anti-clerical, and supported having a liberal Constitution. They were the left of their times. Which violates today's understanding of what left and right are.

Another examples: Guelphs and Ghibellines, the opposing political ideologies in 13th century Italy.

They disagreed on who should be the supreme political authority in the HRE. One side said the Pope, the other side the Emperor. Which was right wing and which was left wing?

I know that some will give the knee-jerk answer that the Guelphs were right-wing because they wanted theocracy. But think it through. The Pope was the only authority preventing the assertion of imperial power over the free republics of Italy. Republicanism is to the left of monarchy, right? Also, the office of Emperor tended towards dinasticism, that of Pope did not. The Emperor’s power was backed more by force, the Pope’s more by belief.

The arguments on either side of that debate, anyways, are incomprehensibly alien to us. My point is: I don’t think you can apply modern categories of right and left there.

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When people on the left say both American parties are liberal and both are right-wing, they're using precise definitions rather than relative ones. In that context, "liberalism" is a specific worldview that sees the dominance of markets in our lives as both inevitable and desirable; most parties in most of the world are liberal, but 400 years ago *nobody* was. Right in this context refers to a desire to maintain the current economic system, which in the United States means liberal capitalism; a left-wing party would believe in at least eventually replacing this with a non-capitalist system. The Chinese Communist Party is nominally leftist in this sense, the Soviet one was more so. (These are not, obviously, examples which put the left in a good light.)

The US government has had a policy of stamping out anti-capitalist movements both here and abroad for decades, sometimes through extrajudicial violence. That's why there is no paradox about there being one right-wing party that's a little more right than the median voter and another that's a little closer to the left than the median voter, without a true left party being viable (unlike in Europe, where such parties don't win overall but they get some votes).

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Jun 10, 2022·edited Jun 14, 2022

I find that "America has two right-wing parties" expresses the reality better than “America is to the right of other OECD countries on most issues", when expressed by someone from one of these other OECD countries, to non-Republican Americans or other people from these OECD countries. It’s a matter of context.

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If you center your political map with the current status quo; that is, treat ideology as directional, and then go to a two dimensional political map, it is possible to find extended periods of bias.

For example, in one dimension, the Left was characterized by wanting more equality at the expense of bigger government which the Right was characterizing itself as the opposite. But if you separate these values, for a long period of time the Democrats mostly fit in one quadrant, which the Republicans were a mix of more inequality with the benefit of smaller government and those who just tolerated more inequality. The quadrant of advocating for smaller government and less inequality was largely unoccupied by the mainstream parties. (Jimmy Carter was a notable exception; he was as big a deregulator as Reagan.) Those who did consciously occupy this quadrant tended to be fringe figures: Georgists, conspiracy theorists, and those who actually read Adam Smith.

This bias was broken with Trump. Rhetorically, at least, Trump has pushed the Republican Party kicking and screaming into being a smaller government pro workers party.

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Wait, only 20-30% of US Democrats believe homosexuality and premarital sex are morally acceptable? Am I reading the graphic wrong?

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I’ve never heard the idea that America has two left wing parties, it sounds like someone on the right heard the much more common claim that america has two right wing parties and just instinctively said the opposite because…well that’s all political discourse is nowadays.

The more common claim of both parties being right wing is much more defensible, given both parties shift rightward post new deal, and specifically with the increase in “triangulation” since the Clinton years where the democrats increasingly suck up to Wall Street banks and monopolist donors.

Thus if both parties are fighting to increase monopoly power, increase the concentration of wealth, and increase deregulation of the banking and finance sectors, etc. And no party is fighting to Decrease those things, then how can either party be said to be left wing on finance issues?

This analysis can be repeated in most areas of government policy.

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Can I say “damn, the Czech Republic is Killing It”? Is that true, kind, and important, or 2 of the 3?

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I note Czech republic is looking pretty liberal in that graphics, so to provide context for foreigners: this is not because of especial wokeness (few things are further from our national spirit), but a culture of true laissez faire - essentially, the mentality is "as long as it doesn't directly impact my life or the price of beer, IDGAF what people do".

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Good read.

My only comment would be, that, instead of the median voter, we should consider the US voting system to "set the midpoint" at *the modal voter*; and also that we don't have a national "average" vote - but the accumulation of modal voters at the local and state levels.

Which means nationally we're multimodal, and several of the loca election pools are multimodal as well

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