[ExI] Political Relativism (was very informative)

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Wed Dec 30 19:01:52 UTC 2020

Quoting Bill Wallace:

> Sure all of those examples are true, as is very obvious to me and
> everyone,  but that's not what I meant. I mean:  if you take a group of
> extremists of either right or left (and now I am not sure what is meant by
> 'left') will they be more authoritarian than less extreme people?  And/or
> does becoming more extreme make one more authoritarian?  That's the data I
> want.

Unfortunately I don't have any data for that on the level of  
individuals that is not simply anecdotal. The media does tend to paint  
religious zealots, terrorists, white supremacists, and revolutionaries  
as political extremists. But as Anton pointed out, it could just be  
that authoritarian people are attracted to political extremes as a  
route to achieving power over others. And while it is conceivable that  
there are people out there who are willing to keep their fanatical  
devotion to a political ideology to themselves, there are probably  
more who believe that their chosen cause is so righteous that anybody  
who dares disagree should be punished for their insolence.

> We have identified the left as towards socialism and communism, but the
> left is traditionally liberal. There is nothing liberal about China or
> Russia.  'Liberal', I remind you, comes from 'freedom - liberty'.
> I am just confused.  Very.  bill w

I don't blame you for being confused, Bill. Like Orwell said,  
"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder  
respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." The  
meaning of words evolve and shift over time and place. You are right  
that the original meaning of the word liberal was tied to freedom. It  
comes from the Latin adjective liberalis "of or befitting a free  

Over the centuries, it has shifted back and forth between  
complimentary and pejorative. In Rome it was complimentary because it  
meant one did not act like a slave or servant. After the fall of the  
Roman Empire, as Europeans adopted Monarchy in the Middle Ages, it  
came to be regarded as a pejorative for someone who spoke and acted in  
an unrestrained manner offensive to the crown.

Then after the Renaissance, the term liberal was adopted by guys like  
Adam Smith, John Locke, and George Washington to describe  
Enlightenment ideals of egalitarianism, free markets, representative  
democracy, and personal liberty.

These days it seems to be back to being a pejorative again at least in  
America where it is used by conservatives to describe progressives,  
socialists, communists, and other left-wingers. I think in the rest of  
the world, it still has its earlier meaning pertaining to freedom. At  
least it does when Putin speaks ill of liberal democracy.

In contrast, the political use of the terms left and right came about  
much later than the word liberal. The terms originated during the  
French Revolution when the National Assembly would meet to make  
decisions for the people. Those who supported the king would sit on  
the right side of the President of the National Assembly and those  
that opposed the King would sit on his left. Unfortunately once  
liberal democracy became the status quo, the meaning of left shifted  
toward Marxism and the meaning of right shifted toward that of  
capitalism and free markets, i.e. what used to be to the left of the  

So now that I have muddied the waters even further with history, I  
think it best if we simply let people believe what they believe  
without trying to label them as this or that in order to sway public  
opinion regarding them. If one chooses to self-identify with a  
particular set of political beliefs or political party then I suppose  
it permissible to call people what they call themselves.

Stuart LaForge

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