Trotter on left vs right

July 15th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

comments on Stephen Franks’ blog:

I once concluded an editorial in the NZ Political Review with the following observation:

“There is a paradox here. Conservative political culture, whose raison d’etre is the preservation of social inequality and economic exploitation (not to mention the institutional violence these things create and upon which ruling class power rests) tends to produce individuals of considerable personal charm and genuine liberality. While radical culture, which sets its face against the violence and injustice of entrenched privilege, all too often produces individuals who are aggressive, intolerant and utterly indifferent to the suffering which their relentless quest for justice causes.

“In short, the Right treats humanity like cattle and individual human-beings like princes, while the Left loves humanity with a passion but treats individuals like shit.”

Somewhere there must be an algorithm that delivers the best of both worlds.

I’m still looking.

I think there is more than an element of truth to this. It should go without saying that the above is a generalisation and of course not true for many many people. But I have observed that while the left does have much greater passion for humanity and the like, on an individual level the same passion and concern does not always come through.

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45 Responses to “Trotter on left vs right”

  1. Daigotsu (465 comments) says:

    Trotter is, as usual, as full of crap as he is full of himself

    The leftist ‘philosophy’ is based on contempt for the human condition. To call it a ‘philosophy’ is really unfair – ‘philosophy’ implies a love of knowledge, and leftism is based on an absence of love AND an absence of knowledge. I should talk about the leftist disorder.

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  2. Manolo (14,026 comments) says:

    For how long do we have to endure the tripe Trotter writes? I always avoid his senseless columns.

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  3. Mobile Michael (459 comments) says:

    Humanity is a group of individuals. We are too different from each other in ability, culture and ambition to be equal. Having a government that recognises this and allows the individual to pursue their own goals without infringing on the others will always suceed over the Government that takes collective control of the population.

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  4. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    Ignoring uncomfortable truths is pretty universal…

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  5. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    I agree Michael, however there are times when the government must act on behalf of the collective.

    Perhaps the ‘spy bill’ is an example of that. Whilst it is easy to complain about the loss of individual rights, when there is a loss of life, the government becomes answerable for not protecting its population.

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  6. peterwn (3,298 comments) says:

    Chris Trotter is worth paying attention to – one problem left wingers in political roles have is they do not pay much attention to what he says. Give me Chris Trotter over Gordon Campbell any day.

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  7. double d (225 comments) says:

    the major issue i have with Trotters musings is this assumption that the “left” care more about our fellow humans.
    i care a lot about people, but because i believe in small government and the ability of the individual to flourish in any modern society, i get bashed for being uncaring.

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  8. Redbaiter (9,502 comments) says:

    Trotter is politically one dimensional. Anyone who can write such narrow ignorant garbage understands very little of Conservatism.

    He clings to his left wing doctrine because it is all he knows, all he has ever studied and all he has ever been told about. Of course he’s not by any means alone in this. Most leftists are the same. It is only through their intellectual and political isolation that they remain leftists and that leftism endures.

    Anyone with a broader education, an inquisitive nature and some degree of worldly experience soon leaves that archaic and delusional state behind them. Some don’t and Trotter is an excellent example of the blinkered ignorant isolated left.

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  9. Ed Snack (1,925 comments) says:

    The big, big, lie of Trotter’s is that the radical culture he apparently esteems has any regard for anything other than their own power and aggrandizement. That, and the left by “identity politics”, a powerful tool but in order to use it you must disregard the individual and treat people as members of groups, groups with grievances to exploit. Those grievances cannot be satisfied though, they must be stoked and maintained otherwise the power you hold over that group by representing (falsely) that you actually care about that grievance, will be lost. Identity politics is thus all about perpetuating grievance and inequality as a means to power.

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  10. MT_Tinman (3,249 comments) says:

    The left is based on negatives – hating, taking, preventing, bringing eveyone down to the same level. According to them no one should ever endeavor to better themselves lest they become better than anyone else.

    The right, the genuine right not the communistic bedwetter “right”, is based on people being encouraged to do whatever they like with the only provisos that they harm no one else while doing so and they clean up their mess after themselves.

    Only one of these breeds better people and it ain’t the first one.

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  11. Odakyu-sen (732 comments) says:

    As my old Hungarian friend once told me: “Under communism. it was every man for himself.”

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  12. itstricky (1,880 comments) says:

    Humanity is a group of individuals. We are too different from each other in… …A government that recognises this

    Thus is true. We all know, however, that part of the illusion of that Government is to simultaneously promote every one as being equal when they know they aren’t c.f. Trotter’s reference to maintaining inequality.

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  13. torro (14 comments) says:

    Conservative political culture, whose raison d’etre is the preservation of social inequality and economic exploitation (not to mention the institutional violence these things create and upon which ruling class power rests.

    That’s just crap. You could argue social inequality is a consequence of conservative political culture, but you’d be struggling to find many who saw it as the raison d’etre. What about the freedom of the individual to pursue their own objectives without being forced to follow someone else’s…

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  14. unaha-closp (1,179 comments) says:

    Shorter version:

    The right have heard of Chris Trotter as a successful opinion columnist, but have hardly ever read his work so offer vague respect.

    The left have read Chris Trotter’s works for years and are utterly familiar with its whining prose which has earned their contempt.

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  15. burt (8,305 comments) says:

    One day Chris will work out the ideology he has followed for years is a failure then this new algorithm he seeks will smack him in the face… care for your fellow man without trying to make them conform to your ideology…. we are not all the same and ‘the man’ isn’t always someone you fight just because your dad did.

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  16. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    “There is no such thing as society” Maggie Thatcher…and she was correct…there isn’t. Its an abstraction. Individuals exist and have rights and minds….there is no “group mind” or “group entity”.

    The Left focus on groups and collective welfare because to acknowledge the fact that humans ONLY come in individual packages with individual minds and would destroy their whole powerplay game.

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  17. WineOh (630 comments) says:

    What a ridiculous sweeping generalisation.

    I would say that almost each individual on the planet aspires to a better society, outside of sociopaths and those that are a bit f*cked in the head. We just have different ideas of how that should look & how to get there.

    If I had to put myself in a few boxes, I’d consider myself to be fiscally conservative and meritocracy – where people are incentivised to take care of themselves and others rather than forced to by the state. Low taxes to support quality core services, and a level playing field for the business community. Socially I would identify as liberal, verging on libertarian – social equality eg- I support gay marriage, smoke pot if you want to in the privacy of your own home, just not around me. The flip side of being a libertarian is taking personal responsibility for your actions.

    By NZ standards this would put me “centre-right” … by world standards I’d be considered strongly left. After all, I support a free public healthcare system and unemployment benefits.

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” may have been popularised by Karl Marx, but it rings true in a civil society. This daft idea though that we are all equal in all ways is fundamentally false on all levels. Men & women are different, some are smarter, stronger, faster, more motivated etc.

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  18. kowtow (8,730 comments) says:

    Trotsy’s view of the left loving humanity and the right with “institutional violence” is utter crap.

    Leftist ideology is based on conflict. First it was class warfare but now that has failed it has been expanded to identity conflict,be it race,gender and now even sexuality.

    Look at the history of the left.It is full of war, revolution,gulags,exterminations,and misery.Love of humanity! What rot.

    Lenin,Stalin,Mao all great exponents of Trotters’ love.

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  19. Odakyu-sen (732 comments) says:

    If we are unequal, then we are diverse.

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  20. ChardonnayGuy (1,211 comments) says:

    Trotter is a paleolithic remnant, ignorant of any centre-left political tradition outside trade unionism. That’s not all that there is to the left, and he knows it, and is frequently criticised on the pluralist centre-left for his myopia. That said, sure. I don’t have any problems with centre-right social liberals- and there are some centre-left social conservatives and authoritarians whom I have serious problems with. If I were an Aucklander, instead of Wellingtonian, I would not vote for Len Brown, for instance. I think the Auckland Council’s vendetta against (mostly transgender) street sex workers is populist, punitive, insubstantive and potentially grossly destructive. Ditto Su’a William Sio in Mangere. Or back in the day (although he died before I turned 18), certainly not Norman Kirk. I have no problems admitting that Marilyn Waring, Jenny Shipley and Maurice Williamson were and are excellent examples of centre-right liberalism. Fortunately, sexual and gender politics have never solely been the province of the parliamentary centre-left and I treasure and value centre-right social liberal participation in preserving LGBT rights and reproductive freedom.

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  21. Sonny Blount (1,794 comments) says:

    People who are intuitively compassionate and curious about their fellow man tend to come out on the right of the spectrum. They tend to trust in the outcomes of people making their own decisions.

    People who are disgusted by man and intuitively self centred and therefore incurious tend to come out on the left. They fall for the arguments of control and correction.

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  22. ChardonnayGuy (1,211 comments) says:

    Muldoon?

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  23. MT_Tinman (3,249 comments) says:

    ChardonnayGuy (620) Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 9:31 am
    Muldoon?

    The most left wing PM NZ has ever had.

    Your point?

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  24. Nigel Kearney (1,047 comments) says:

    There are extremists on the right who think taxation is equivalent to slavery and on the left who think private property should be abolished, but for most of us the left/right divide is more to do with economic cause and effect – the optimal level of taxation where disincentives to produce and crowding out of private charity cause losses that start to exceed the utility gains from redistribution.

    The suggestion that the left has ‘much greater passion for humanity’ is a strange idea that I didn’t expect to read on this blog. Many of us (and probably more on the right than the left) are happy to fund groups like World Vision that help people in genuine need. We aren’t so happy to provide an income to those who can quite easily solve their own problems by just giving up drugs and getting a job.

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  25. EAD (1,285 comments) says:

    The left/right paradigm is quite possibly the biggest falsehood perpetrated on humanity (fiat money aside). It’s underlying assumption is that government is a benign and and benevolent creature and that the only real debate is how much the politicians should steal from it’s citizens to spend “for the good of humanity”.

    Let’s be clear, at one end of the spectrum there is freedom/anarcho-capitalism and at the other end totalitarianism which includes creeds such as Communism, Fascism, Socialism, Nazism where anything can be done including murder for the betterment of the collective.

    Politicians (especially those of the so called Left) are not earnest care-givers, with such acute powers of compassion that their first instinct is always to give up a little of what they have to help others. For starters, it’s not their cash that they’re eager to give away, it’s everyone else’s; anybody can be generous with other people’s money. To demand that the rest of us sit quietly while the state picks our pockets is really an act of profound arrogance.

    http://bogpaper.com/2013/07/10/russell-taylor-in-praise-of-freedom/

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  26. burt (8,305 comments) says:

    EAD

    The union involvement in Labour most clearly demonstrates this. Their leader with million$ in his of shore accounts thinks nothing of spending money extracted from low paid workers on his election campaign…

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  27. doggone7 (818 comments) says:

    “The left is based on negatives – hating, taking, preventing, bringing eveyone down to the same level. According to them no one should ever endeavor to better themselves lest they become better than anyone else.”

    “The major issue i have with Trotters musings is this assumption that the “left” care more about our fellow humans.”

    Given Trotter’s views and such as these quoted comments, maybe some of the regulars will explain why when an education topic comes up, they invariably use the words “leftist” or “leftie” to describe teachers. A generalisation about a generalisation, but why do those from the Right not become teachers? Why do those from the Right who hate those from the Left being teachers not encourage their own to take up that job?

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  28. PaulL (6,036 comments) says:

    I think Trotter’s underlying misunderstanding is his belief that you can care for people as a group. The left are all about the abstraction, the right are about the individuals.

    For example, the right don’t necessarily think that we need to care about education for all as a human right, the right are focussed on each individual getting the education they need and want. Same outcome, but the right care about each individual getting what they need, the left care about the abstract group all getting the same thing.

    Trotter reads that as not caring, I’d read it as caring about what matters.

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  29. mavxp (491 comments) says:

    I think people are right to critique his premises. He is making assumptions about the state of being left and right that are caricatures and not reality. That being said, we shouldn’t fault him for introspection – merely correct his attempts to do so by pointing out the flaws in his logic.

    I realise he is doing so to set up an apparent paradox, and it is written to make those readers of his on the *hard left* more introspective. They *believe* his premise is correct and will not hear anyone say otherwise – it is an ideological, bordering on religious belief. He then goes on to present his observation that left vs. right is the opposite to what you would expect based on that premise.

    Personally I think ideological beliefs (left, right, authoritarian or libertarian) can be similar to religious beliefs – they set one up to have delusions of superiority and self-righteousness, and hold the cause and their efforts to be more important than mere fellow human beings who stand in their way of achieving some kind of Utopia. Holding on to the notion of heaven on earth/ utopia and ‘perfection’ is also religious – ‘teleological’. It is the basis of totalitarianism.

    The holder is also often blind to these attitudes. They tend to form groups that suffer group-think, with echo-chambers of opinions that become more extreme, and less humanitarian. So, that is why I think perhaps Mr. Trotter is trying to open the eyes of his fellow travellers on the Left.

    For me I think it is best not to subscribe wholly to any ideology. Be willing to make up your own mind objectively, issue by issue.

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  30. SPC (5,770 comments) says:

    This is so interesting. Possibly the only one posting here who has met a few MP’s over the years gets Trotter’s point … . While the rest just want to diss the leftist view or justify the right wing line.

    The leftist advocacy for social justice is in the abstract, in their politics, it’s how they care. Thus they rationalise they are a good person. They rest from this by being a shit in inter-personal relations – righteousness needing no charm. Whereas those who advocate self reliance and self interest, may be more likely to connect their concern for others at a more personal level – play nice to have nice relations with those they choose to do so with (libertarian freedom). They may believe in a Randian order of society but they don’t want to socialise with another Randian.

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  31. OneTrack (3,213 comments) says:

    doggone – “Why do those from the Right who hate those from the Left being teachers not encourage their own to take up that job?”

    I think there are many people from the “Right” already in teaching – they just don’t dare even hint they think “that” way in the staffroom.

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  32. seanmaitland (501 comments) says:

    This is just a completely outdated view of the world. The people and families I know who vote left these days do so because (a) they think that their Working For Families and DPBs will get taken away by a right government, or (b) they are rich enough that they don’t need to worry about anything and think that by simply ticking a box on an election form, it consitutes them caring for their fellow man and ‘doing the right thing’. – and their charity stops there.

    On the same token, most of the people I know who vote right (including myself) do so because we think it is going to benefit us and our families in the future – whether it be through supposed downstream economic benefits or immediate tax relief, its still based on what will benefit us.

    Trying to pretend that people vote left because they care for their fellow men is an absolute piss-take. Similarly trying to claim that people vote right because they want to suppress others and protect their wealth is also an absolute piss-take.

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  33. Odakyu-sen (732 comments) says:

    My grandfather once told me: “When you’ve got nothing, you vote for the party (the Left) that’ll give you something. When you’ve got something, you vote for the part (the Right) that’ll let you keep it.” It made me think that maybe the Left appears on the surface to be compassionate, but actually benefits from permanent poverty.

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  34. burt (8,305 comments) says:

    It made me think that maybe the Left appears on the surface to be compassionate, but actually benefits from permanent poverty.

    Absolutely. There is a reason the parties of the left concentrate on welfare rather than reform.

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  35. SPC (5,770 comments) says:

    Odakyu-sen, that explanation applies whether there is poverty or not. If half the population are middle class and the other half are wealthy the same dynamic applies.

    burt, the right cites welfare, the left cites the right’s use of a pool of unemployment as a mechanism to keep wage rates low.

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  36. Odakyu-sen (732 comments) says:

    If half the population are middle class and the other half are wealthy the same dynamic applies.

    If they were “middle class,” then they would “have something.” (Or did I miss something?)

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  37. burt (8,305 comments) says:

    doggone7

    they invariably use the words “leftist” or “leftie” to describe teachers.

    Because they train for years to accommodate the disparity of ability and aptitude in a classroom then turn around and claim they themselves are exactly the same as their teacher colleagues and must all be treated the same via a collective.

    Right wing people would train the same, then accept that there are good teachers and bad teachers and not cry into their cornflakes and go on strike if some other teacher was paid more than them.

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  38. Sam Buchanan (501 comments) says:

    Dunno – Trotter often appears to be miffed with the left because most leftists don’t like him very much. Seems to me people lose compassion when they become obsessed with an ideology – regardless of whether it’s a left or right ideology.

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  39. SPC (5,770 comments) says:

    Odakyu-sen, the premise is different groups being catered to. The middle class would prefer a progressive tax system and maybe universal support systems (health and retirement), whereas the rich would favour a flat tax rate and personal health insurance and private super saving.

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  40. Rightandleft (669 comments) says:

    Actually I know many teachers who are centre-right and quite open about that in the staff room. I’d say half the staff at my school openly state that they vote National. I know of high-level unionists who are National or Conservative voters as well. Supporting the union because it assures good wages and working conditions for your profession does not mean you have to hold any other left wing beliefs. I have friends in the US who are die-hard Republicans but belong to the teacher union nonetheless.

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  41. hj (7,060 comments) says:

    Left and right are convenient ways of describing opposing positions. Peoples positions seem to be based on paradigms which they are rewarded in some way or another for holding.
    For example “I care about everybody and by thriving in business I carry the rest of the world on my shoulders (even when I’m a property investor riding capital gains)” – Atlas shrugged. See I’m a greedy bugger and caring bugger at the same time.

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  42. Danny-boy (102 comments) says:

    The point people are missing I think is a big admission by Trotter:

    Conservative political culture … tends to produce individuals of considerable personal charm and genuine liberality. While radical culture … all too often produces individuals who are aggressive, intolerant and utterly indifferent to the suffering which their relentless quest for justice causes.

    In short, the Right treats humanity like cattle and individual human-beings like princes, while the Left loves humanity with a passion but treats individuals like shit.

    In my experience, I’ve found the first part to be true: many left-wingers/radicals have tended to be intolerant, misanthropic, mean-spirited, and petty. They have a view of the world as being a fundamentally unjust place. This makes them angry (anger being the typical emotional response to perceived injustice) and this anger disrupts their ability to deal with people on a day to day basis as decent human beings. (In this regard, caricatures like Redbaiter are more “radical” in their outlook than conservative, explaining why he’s such as ass.) Many leftists claim to love humanity in the abstract, but don’t have much time for people in the particular (almost as if their politics gives them a free pass on being decent human beings.)

    On the other hand, right-wingers/conservatives (those who seek to “conserve” the status quo) are generally more happy, gregarious, sunny, and optimistic in their outlook, and have a more benevolent view of individuals. Naturally, a lefty like Trotter sees rightist politics as “treating humanity like cattle”. Maybe rather than looking for algorithms, he needs to look at his definitions.

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  43. hj (7,060 comments) says:

    This discussion needs work. We seem to be focused on a dichotomy of type. Left and right appear to be genetic traits for one thing (according to studies of identical twins separated at birth). Is the left leaning person here a well healed liberal or where are they on the food chain. I see (wonder) if there is a dichotomy of type of those who see people as a resource and those who see them as competition and I would put the well-heeled left and right in the former category… and both constitute the political class (Helen Clarke, John Campbell… etc… Winston Peters)

    Also, we liked to feel oh, so superior to the bewildered people – usually in the poorest parts of Britain – who found their neighbourhoods suddenly transformed into supposedly ‘vibrant communities’.

    If they dared to express the mildest objections, we called them bigots.
    http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2013/04/how-i-am-partly-to-blame-for-mass-immigration.html

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  44. hj (7,060 comments) says:

    Edit:
    everyday in our left-leaning media we see open arms to foreigners and indifference to the ordinary (less well off) New Zealander being priced out of his /her own country (because they are well rewarded and up the food chain).

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  45. hj (7,060 comments) says:

    Wineoh:
    Men & women are different, some are smarter, stronger, faster, more motivated etc.
    …………..
    the problem is that you have a first movers, networkers, collusion and sandbagging of political systems.
    “90% of millionaires get there by investing in property”?

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