Thursday 22 December 2011

Why the Left always beats the secular Right in democracy


Both the Left and the secular Right derive from the same deep root – utilitarianism. The only difference is one of emphasis.


The Left emphasizes transcendental morality/ virtue, the secular Right emphasizes transcendental truth/ honesty.


Because feeling oneself to be virtuous is much more popular than feeling honest, and because people hate wickedness much more than they hate lies, the Left will always beat the secular Right.



The Crow said...

Careful, Bruce...
You decided, did you not, to wander away from politics?
A worthy cause, requiring eternal vigilance :)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow - I did say news/ current affairs, not politics as such.

And the bet with myself still has about 10 months to run...

GFC said...

Also the Left promises material rewards (at others' expense) while the Right tends not to.

JP said...

One might note that the Left would characterize things in precisely the opposite way. They would say that the Right emphasizes morality and virtue (even though they are "really" a bunch of evil hypocrites) while the Left emphasizes truth (i.e., they are pro-science, pro-reality in contrast to the anti-science, anti-reason Right).

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - good point, that is what they would do.

Anonymous said...


Fair enough. But the Left wouldn't surrender "morality" to the Right. Besides claiming truth, they would claim "true morality".

That is, the Left would frame morality as a fulfillment of the left-wing values: non-hypocrisy, tolerance, compassion. They would not say that: they would only imply it.

Then, they would attack the right-wing morality because it is hypocrite, it is not compassionate and it is not tolerant. So it is a false morality and the Left has the moral high ground.

So, in reality, they will destroy morality in name of morality. For example, the breaking of a marriage can be justified out of "being true to oneself" or "freedom".

Of course, for the leftist, about the compassion and the tolerance are only reserved to people who think like them. Non-hypocrisy means "saying one thing and doing another while deluding oneself that one is doing the first thing".


Jasper said...

Viewed in terms of how they apply Utilitarianism, the biggest difference between the Left and the secular Right is that the Left is deliberately undermining the tools of Utilitarianism (especially religious belief), whereas the secular Right "merely" underestimates half of the tools of Utilitarianism.

The Left is systematically going through Bentham's lists of pleasures and pains, and working to obliterate pains. The Left is systematically eliminating legal and social penalties for activities. The Left has undermined religious belief, and harshly criticized guilt, "judgementalism", and "hypocrisy". Where possible, the Left tries to eliminate the direct physical damage from the activities they promote. By undermining the social sanctions, and undermining religion entirely, the Left strips Utilitarianism of ways to encourage good outcomes.

The Left tends to measure progress in terms of political correctness, "women's independence", and "income equality", so it systematically negatively weights the "social privilege" of wealth, marriage, fatherhood, and religiously inspired personal responsibility. The Left also tends to be short-sighted; it systematically underestimates the value of reinvesting profits and letting ordinary people choose whether to adopt improved technologies.

The secular Right emphasizes economics -- the building of material wealth, which can enable good works. Economics has Utilitarian assumptions at its core. It tends to emphasize physical and legal sanctions, and to misunderstand social and religious sanctions. The secular Right (almost by definition) tends to undervalue religious sanctions.

The secular Right tends to measure progress in terms of the amount of potentially taxable "economic activity" per capita, so it systematically underweights children, childcare, "leisure", charity, retirement, and religion. The secular Right tends to systematically overweight work that benefits the rich, and underweight the suffering of the poor.