Thursday, June 25, 2015

Inversion of political terms

I have commented a number of times in the past few years about the inversion of values between what are called "liberals/left" and "conservatives/right" from the sixties to today. When I was growing up, if you were for freedom of speech, due process, equal rights under the law, etc., you were a liberal or of the left whereas people concerned about communities and identity and defense, etc. were conservative or of the right.

Those terms have been inverted so that conservatives of the oughts are the liberals of the sixties and seventies. They are the ones for due process and equality under the law, they are the ones for international engagement, they are the ones protecting free speech, rule of law, tolerance, privacy, etc. It is both intriguing and puzzling to me. Robert Tracinski has his own list and issues in Seven Liberal Pieties That Only the Right Still Believes. His list of seven include:
1. The Right to Offend

2. The Value of a Liberal Education

3. Government Should Stay Out of the Bedroom

4. Live and Let Live

5. Support for Israel

6. Support for Human Rights

7. The Dignity of the Working Man
I think number seven is a good catch. The right very much esteems both the work ethic and the inherent dignity of any constructive work in a manner that the left has long lost.

Tracinski observes,
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve increasingly had the experience of saying things that would have been considered pieties in the liberal catechism when I was young—and which now will get you labeled as a howling reactionary.

In retrospect, this is partly because the left didn’t always mean some of the ideals it used to pronounce for itself, or at least it didn’t mean them in the high-minded, principled way they sounded. The left had the reputation of being defenders of free speech, for example, but it was always something of a case of “free speech for me but not for thee.” They were all in favor of “questioning authority”—until they became the authorities.

More important, the left has moved farther to the left, leaving moderate “liberalism” behind and embracing a more consistent, authoritarian collectivism.
An interesting collection. I think commitment to international trade and international engagement are two additional important items where there has been an inversion and which should be part of this list.

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