Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Why the Left should be bigots, and the Right liberals.

Posted by Jason O on Nov 8, 2010 in British Politics, Irish Politics, US Politics |

One of the challenges facing modern democratic politics is the need for a crucial realignment in the traditional left/right divide. In the past, the right supported the free market, but because of their desire to protect the established order, including the division of wealth, they sided with the churches and their social conservatism as a means of presenting a coherent bloc against change. The left, which supported state control, broadened to side with other oppressed minorities and began to espouse a tolerant approach to different religious views and lifestyles.

The funny thing is, the whole scenario has now switched over. A substantial number of middle class free marketeers see social liberalism as a logical extension of their “Just leave me alone” beliefs, whilst substantial numbers of working class voters, who gravitate towards the economically left package of the left parties, are repelled by their social liberalism and tolerance of immigration.

In many western countries, Ireland and the US included, a gap in the political market is now opening up for parties of both those persuasions: A free market socially liberal party, and an economically left-wing socially conservative nationalist party. In short, there’s an itch just waiting to be scratched.  


Nov 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I’m not sure how easy it would be to separate the social from the economic such that you could have a coherent, consistent political party which is economically Left and socially Right and vice versa.

I suppose it would depend on whether and to what extent economic policies are logically entailed by social policies or vice versa. It could be the case that some connections hold more strongly than others. But this could also end up being misleading. Right-Libertarians and liberal egalitarians are likely to share the same position on a range of issues but for very different reasons. So you could have ‘agreements’ which are illusory in some sense. (In the same way, for example, in which a pacifist and an isolationist might both find themselves in opposition to an invasion of a foreign country)


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Nov 9, 2010 at 2:16 am

“A free market socially liberal party” – wasn’t a party of this description wound up in Ireland recently? (I don’t say that with any intention to gloat, BTW.)

However, in my experience, there does seem to be a lot more people in Ireland – especially young people – than before who are both economically right-wing and socially liberal.

But I’m not sure of the numbers of working class voters who would be both economically left-wing and socially conservative – so many in this socio-economic group don’t seem to vote for “left” parties to start with.

Jason O
Nov 9, 2010 at 7:51 am

Except, to my shame, the PDs were never as committed to being socially liberal as they were to being economically liberal. The fact is, nearly all the great liberal reforms of recent times have been down to the Labour party or the Greens. In Govt, the PDs bottled it.



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