Prior to the last federal election I warned my Labor supporting friends and work colleagues that I did not think the newly elected Labor party would stand for issues I hoped my friends believed in, such as relaxing of drug laws, equal legal treatment for homosexuals, relaxing of anti-prostitution laws in Australia, right to euthanasia, free speech – the personal freedoms that the right typically clamps down upon.
I was right.
But Australia’s state and federal Labor party’s attacks on social freedoms have not impacted their popularity to any great extent. Why not?
Example: Conroy’s internet censorship plan.
Example: Under a Labour government in South Australia we have seen the draconian bikie gang laws introduced. http://www.ministers.sa.gov.au/news.php?id=3097&print=1 These vaguely defined laws violate individual rights because they treat entire bikie organisations as criminal. Surely individuals and not collectives should be prosecuted for criminal acts. Obviously guilt by association is unjust. And of course, if our government actually respected an individual’s right to his life and legalised recreational drugs, the problems of drug related crime would greatly diminish.
(NB/ I am actually open to the possibility that some organisations such as terrorist groups that are based on anti human life ideology and have links to Islamic totalitarianism should be outlawed. I think the line is crossed when a condition of membership means the acceptance of facilitating terrorist activity. But I cannot see how bikie gangs fall into this category.)
Another example: We have witnessed a toughening of drug laws in SA, to the point that SA has some of the strictest drug laws in Australia. It is illegal to sell drug “paraphenalia” in South Australia. (I think glow sticks are still legal though 🙂 )
What’s going on?
Yet another example: This news just in for gay marriage:
Australia has a history of shameful legal treatment of homosexuals. There was a time of course when homosexuality itself was punished serverly by the law. This situation has vastly improved – often thanks to Labor politicians such as the SA premier Don Dunstan. But now it seems the Labour party don’t want to touch this issue.
Now I’m not exactly sure of the political, legal and religious details of granting the status “married” to a homosexual couple. But I do currently support gay marriage – although I’m not an activist in this area.
What I definitely support and what I regard as more important is equal rights for homosexual couples. While Australia has improved vastly in this area, legal equality has not been achieved across Australia yet and there are still problems in areas such as inheritances in some states.
Anyway, back to my original point.
Historically, I think most people would agree that the left have favoured business regulation and the right favoured personal regulation.
ie: The Christian right want to tell you how to live your personal life and the lefties want to control your business life. This was perhaps more obvious in US politics.
I’m new to Objecitivism, but as I understand it, the Objectivist interpretation of this phenomena is at root epistemological which then impacts the ethical ideas and therefore the political ideas:
Generally, religious right leaning folk are intrinsicists (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrinsicism). Therefore when it comes to ethics, their belief in intrinsic value leads them to think morality is independent of the moral agent – it’s a dogma to be followed. In addition, Christian ethics treats immorality as metaphysically potent. By that I mean that being evil is seen to benefit you on this earth. Jesus was taken to the top of the mountain and the Devil offered him the world. Under this belief system, you can see why many Christian people would feel that it is necessary to force morality onto others.
Whereas, traditionally left leaning folk were subjectivists, post modernists and pragmatists. However they absorb the moral codes of the culture and are often highly egalitarian in politics believing in equality in terms of material possessions. Their egalitarianism leads them to equate inequality with injustice. Their pragmatism and subjectivism can mean they don’t recognise objective reality in the business world. Lefties often don’t fully realise that money represents capital in the real world. They are then prone to blatant fallacies such as the “piece of the pie” idea. They forget the real world causes for human productivity and prosperity and start believing that social planning and economic regulation are beneficial. It should be noted that some on the left are aware socialism leads to poorer outcomes overall, however they are willing to accept this by erroneously believing that the poor will still be better off. There are also some on the left that are highly morally driven. They think egalitarianism in politics is moral and will simply keep trying socialism over and over even when it’s not working – because it’s better than being immoral.
Quoting from “Capitalism, the Unkown Ideal”, by Ayn Rand:
“The subjectivist theory holds that the good bears no relation to the facts of reality, that it is the product of a man’s consciousness, created by his feelings, desires, “intuitions,” or whims, and that it is merely an “arbitrary postulate” or an “emotional commitment.””
“The intrinsic theory holds that the good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man’s consciousness; the subjectivist theory holds that the good resides in man’s consciousness, independent of reality.”
However as the last decade of politics has demonstrated, the left and the right seem to be moving on from this philosophical categorization. So what’s going on?
Part of the reason for Labor’s popularity is that they are satisfying the ethical beliefs of traditional right wing supporters. They are degrading business world freedoms and at the same time they have now moved to degrading social freedoms.
Rudd even looks like a conservative geek – the traditional Liberal party politician. The lines are very blurry.
The Right’s defence of capitalism was often based on flimsy arguments such as the argument from tradition (not a convincing logical argument). The right wing think tanks did at least have economic theory on their side, and the growth of these groups did temporarily relieve the harm of socialism during the 80s and 90s- but I don’t believe economics alone is enough.
Many Christian right commentators and politicians have tried to argue for capitalism based on their epistemological and ethical beliefs but as we see, this isn’t currently working.
Ayn Rand said:
Consider a few rules about the working of principles in practice and about the relationship of principles to goals . . . .
- In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.
- In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.
- When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.
Points 1 is the relevant points here. In terms of ethics, the left and right are both altruists, and it is the left (openly socialist) which is therefore the more consistent.
The prevailing ethical principles of our society are not conducive to free markets or freedom generally. (something I won’t go into here).
The right cannot therefore provide an ethical defence of capitalism but the public view them (erroneously) as pro-capitalist. So the right are suffering – even though ironically they are very similar to the Left. The only coherent defense they have for capitalism is economics, but they do not even pursue this with any rigor. Most politicians are ignorant of economics. And afterall, the public are ignorant of economics, and politics these days is all about popularity. In addition, the public are pragmatists. Even in the face of proven economic principles, the public will always find a compromise and willingly jump on the slippery slope to socialism – because this satisfies and is more consistent with their unavoidable ethical beliefs and resulting emotions.
In the meantime the state of freedom as a whole is suffering and in Australia we have two political parties that are IMO basically identical. Altruistic, pragmatic and anti-freedom.
So there’s no real alternative to the Labor party. And now that they are clamping down on social freedoms as well as their usual attacks on business, they are perceived to be more consistent from an ethical stand point.
This is a highly depressing conclusion but if you do not have moral principles to defend individual rights, these rights will continually be eroded away.