• Glen Staples

Left vs. Right, Right vs. Left

The Tragedy of the Commons...

Politics is pathologically polarized.

On one side, which I will call the left, people tend to promote solutions that involve

using the government to do good. The other side, which I will call the right, people tend

to promote traditional values, more individual responsibility along with more individual


For me, I am caught in the middle. I agree with the left on some issues and with the

right on other issues. But I find it is much easier to converse with those on the left and I

am having a very difficult time reaching those on the right. Why?

Back when provincial politics in BC was polarized between the NDP on the left and the

Social Credit on the right I noticed a strange phenomenon. Between elections, Socred

supporters were hard to find. But there were always many very public proponents of

the left proclaiming the need for the government to do good. Some leftists would also

deride the right with adjectives such as “hard hearted” or “mean-spirited”. It seemed as

if most people were on the left. Then, another election would be held, and often the

Socreds would win again. So even though the Socred voters were almost invisible, they

were not convinced by the proclamations from the left; in fact, it seemed to make them


I realized that it was probably because of good lines vs. bad lines. For example, if you

believe that the government should give money to poor people, that makes you sound

kind-hearted or virtuous. If you believe that people should work for their own well-

being that makes you look hard-hearted. It’s like a family where one parent believes in

giving children whatever they want and the other believes in teaching more discipline.

One has the good lines the other has the bad lines. It is much more difficult to deliver

the bad lines than the good lines.

To stereotype and maybe exaggerate; the left believes “Love Conquers All” while the

right believes “You must be Cruel to be Kind” or “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good


So where do I stand?

While I tend to agree with the left on big goals, like the need to address poverty, the

unprecedented inequality and the root causes of crime and drug addiction, I do not

agree with the big government solutions. The government is not good at looking after

people. People need to look after each other at the village level. The primary role of

government should be to engineer our society so that people will look after each other.

I find that often government programs to look after people address a short term need

but cause long-term problems.

The way that politics is played now, it has become a big con game. In order to get

enough votes to gain power the parties make promises. It becomes a contest of

promises. Conmen work by telling us what we want to believe. On some things it is

easy to agree. For example if you believe that you should drive on the left in Canada,

you won’t get far before you will be corrected. But if you wish to believe that all

problems can be solved with kindness you will have no shortage of politicians

promising to pay for everything like free post secondary education, free dental care, free

prescription; in addition to existing rights like education, welfare and healthcare.

If on the other hand you believe that all problems can be solved if we just get

government out of the way then you will have no shortage of politicians promising that

global warming is just a conspiracy of the left or that the best way to help the poor is to

lower taxes on the rich so they will provide jobs for the poor.

In politics today on both left and right, reality and balance have given way to fantasy.

Different fantasies for different parties.

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