Left v. Right

The fundamental difference between a left-wing political economy and a right-wing political economy is not the difference between big government and small government. There are plenty of left-wing political economies that have boasted relatively lean governments (see Switzerland in particular) and plenty of right-wing political economies that have suffered relatively bloated and intrusive governments (see Reagan’s America or Pinochet’s Chile). Rather, the difference concerns what is valued as a net investment and what is valued as a net cost. Left-wing political economies, for example, tend to invest in labor, worker and consumer coops or other democratic workplaces, green corporations and initiatives, universal education, universal healthcare, research and development, infrastructure, arts and culture, and an overall middle-class standard of living because its proponents see these expenditures as well worth their investment. Right-wing political economies, however, tend to see these things as more costs than investments. Instead, they are inclined to invest in the military, domestic policing and surveillance, prisons, financial speculation, multinational corporations (especially those specializing in nonrenewable energy), pharmaceutical companies, privatized educational or training services, and any other industry or effort that eventuates in the upward redistribution of wealth and power. Of course, all of this is obscured by the convenient right-wing rhetoric of “freedom,” “personal responsibility,” “deregulation,” etc… but this doesn’t make it any less the case.

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