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Does Humanism = Left Wing?

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Botfield
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Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#1 Post by Botfield » July 16th, 2008, 3:12 pm

A lot of the people I have met who are Humanists tend to be on the left of the political spectrum. So I got to thinking, does Humanism = Left Wing, or are there right wing Humanists, and does your Humanism influence your political viewpoint?
Let me dance till my shoes cry

Nick
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#2 Post by Nick » July 16th, 2008, 5:10 pm

The trouble with "Left" and "Right" is that politics is not a one dimensional matter and , as such, not particularly useful. For example, there is an Authoritarian/Libertarian spectrum too. I would suggest, however, that many humanists tend to be radical. After all, rejecting eternal life is not a small matter!

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#3 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 16th, 2008, 5:41 pm

And you might be interested in reading another moribund thread (sorry, Botfield, I won't make a habit of this :) ) about the Political Compass. You can take the test here.

Although I agree with Nick, I think I'd stick my neck out and say that all humanists are at least socially liberal (or libertarian). I have come across quite a few humanists who might be described as "right wing", in terms of their economic views, but who are very hot on civil liberties.

Emma

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Botfield
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#4 Post by Botfield » July 16th, 2008, 7:02 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:And you might be interested in reading another moribund thread (sorry, Botfield, I won't make a habit of this :) ) about the Political Compass. You can take the test here.

Although I agree with Nick, I think I'd stick my neck out and say that all humanists are at least socially liberal (or libertarian). I have come across quite a few humanists who might be described as "right wing", in terms of their economic views, but who are very hot on civil liberties.

Emma
That's okay Emma! :) Will take the test and let you all know where I come out.
Let me dance till my shoes cry

Occam
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#5 Post by Occam » July 17th, 2008, 4:23 am

As I see it, those on the right are strongly in favor of self-reliance, economic survival of the fittest, competition, and keeping whatever one can acquire. Those on the left are in favor of cooperation, supporting the disabled, elderly, those in financial or other straits, all contributing to the general welfare of the society, avoidance of exploitation of the weak and poor by the powerful and wealthy.

If you agree with the above description, it would seem reaonable that humanists would fit more comfortably toward the left side of the spectrum.

Occam

Maria Mac
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#6 Post by Maria Mac » July 18th, 2008, 5:30 pm

Because I'm anal and like to keep this forum tidy, I've shifted all the posts giving political compass results over to the political compass thread. :D

Ted Harvey
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#7 Post by Ted Harvey » July 18th, 2008, 7:03 pm

Occam you very helpfully define the dilemma in my mind about answering the original question. The descriptions of what you offer for 'left' and 'right' no longer apply in UK party politics for me.

For example:
those on the right are strongly in favor of self-reliance, economic survival of the fittest, competition, and keeping whatever one can acquire. Those on the left are in favor of cooperation, supporting the disabled, elderly, those in financial or other straits
IMO the Blair-Brown Government would fail that test because, for example, (especially in England) they have brought competition and profit making into the NHS - certainly there are some international and multi-national companies who have done pretty ruddy well out of predatory swooping in on the enforced disposal of NHS assets and practicing "keeping whatever one can acquire". More than that, the Labour Government's enforced out-sourcing of public services has caused many ex-public sector employees into poorer grade work and pay that over the long term is injurious to their health.

Meantime, I have been increasingly impressed with the quiet, incremental learning and now dissemination journey that arch Tory Ian Duncan Smith has been on with regard to how do we 'reach the unreacheable' trapped in poverty and deprivation in our society. I must admit I have found this a difficult lesson to accept, given where I was coming from politically. But I have for some time followed the guy's activities.

Moreover, I have to say that I would have been happier to hear the kind of thoughts being articulated by Ian Duncan Smith coming from some now-rich Labour Party MPs who have long presided over constituencies of enduring deprivation such as, say, Michael Martin in North Glasgow or Tommy McAvoy in South Lanarkshire (or indeed members of their family political dynasties)

For me this type of Labour MP fails your description of :
contributing to the general welfare of the society, avoidance of exploitation of the weak and poor by the powerful and wealthy
Two points of clarification I should make. First I am not contesting your description of left and right – it’s just that I don't know that they can any longer be applied to the political institutions in the UK. Secondly, I’m not making party political points here… no honest I’m not, because I long ago despaired of the whole UK political-media-entertainment elite as it became.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#8 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 18th, 2008, 7:45 pm

The tidying up was sensible, but I just wanted to extract a comment that Angel made that was relevant to this thread.
Electric Angel wrote:I would imagine that those identifying as humanist would be more liberal in that they would be more tolerant.
I do agree that humanists are (almost) bound to be socially liberal, which does suggest that they are more tolerant than those who are socially conservative. However, the word "liberal" is a very tricky one. It often seems to be used, especially in the US, as synonymous with left-wing, or "progressive". But classical liberalism refers more to economic and political liberalism. Classical liberalism is partly about the freedom of the individual, but it's also about free enterprise, free trade, individual property rights, limited or minimal government. It is sometimes seen as being in opposition to socialism, but it is compatible with social democracy. So it may not necessarily be right-wing, but it's never particularly left-wing. The British Liberal Democrat party is a classical liberal party but it's also a social democratic party. That's why it's so hard to place it on the left-right spectrum.
Occam wrote:As I see it, those on the right are strongly in favor of self-reliance, economic survival of the fittest, competition, and keeping whatever one can acquire. Those on the left are in favor of cooperation, supporting the disabled, elderly, those in financial or other straits, all contributing to the general welfare of the society, avoidance of exploitation of the weak and poor by the powerful and wealthy.

If you agree with the above description, it would seem reaonable that humanists would fit more comfortably toward the left side of the spectrum.
I don't quite agree with the above description. I think there are plenty of individuals, and political parties, that might, by that description, be both left-wing and right-wing. The current British Labour party, for a start. :wink: Of course, the meanings of left and right shift over time and vary geographically. But for me, it's much more to do with attitudes towards property, and equality. The more left-wing you are, the more you believe in an equal distribution of property. There are plenty of conservatives (and Conservatives) who are in favour of supporting the disabled, the elderly, etc. [---][/---] not only through private charities, but also through a Welfare State, funded by taxation [---][/---] but who otherwise want to preserve existing social hierarchies, who don't want a thoroughgoing redistribution of wealth and privilege. Such people aren't heartless Social Darwinists. They don't want to see people starve. They believe in human rights, but for them a very important right is the right to own private property, and to pass that property on to their children. Now, admittedly there are some people who do fit Occam's description, people for whom the only rights worth fighting for are property rights. And yes, I'd characterise them as right-wing. But they're only a small part of the right wing [---][/---] they're the free-market libertarians, or even anarcho-capitalists. And I've come across quite a few of them who call themselves humanists, as it happens. They do tend to be rather obnoxious, but even they are not in favour of letting people starve.

Anyway, I don't want to sound like an apologist for the right, here. But I do think there's a danger for some socially liberal people to see themselves as left-wing, when in fact they're really quite centrist, and therefore to push the definition of right-wing too far to the right, in order to accommodate a new centre, which is really moderately right-wing. If you get my drift. So while it may well be that the average humanist is left of centre, I suspect that it's not that far to the left.

Emma

Occam
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#9 Post by Occam » July 19th, 2008, 3:11 am

I very carefully avoided talking about political parties or even social organizations. And since I'm in the U.S., I quite definitely wouldn't be trying to match my description of the spectrum to the British parties. Yet, some of you attacked the description within that framework.

Possibly, my use of the common "left" and "right" was the problem. I could have called the spectrum "up" and "down", "fore" and "aft", or similar.

I further agree that people are seldom monolithic or completely consistent. However, I prefer to write succinct posts which require the reader to think through and understand the general views expressed, rather that presenting exhaustive and exhausting prolix dissertations that cover every nit-picking condition and microscopic exception.

Occam

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#10 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 19th, 2008, 12:54 pm

Occam wrote:I very carefully avoided talking about political parties or even social organizations. And since I'm in the U.S., I quite definitely wouldn't be trying to match my description of the spectrum to the British parties. Yet, some of you attacked the description within that framework.
I am very sorry, Occam, that you saw my comment (and presumably Ted Harvey's as well) as an "attack" on your description. I said that I didn't quite agree with it. Meaning that I almost did. My own comments were not from within a "framework" of British party politics; I merely gave British political parties as examples. But I should perhaps have made it clearer that my response was a kind of musing prompted by your own comment, which I found interesting, rather than an out-and-out contradiction. Ted's response did make that clear, I thought.
I further agree that people are seldom monolithic or completely consistent. However, I prefer to write succinct posts which require the reader to think through and understand the general views expressed, rather that presenting exhaustive and exhausting prolix dissertations that cover every nit-picking condition and microscopic exception.
Again, I'm sorry if my response (and Ted's) exhausted you. It's a subject I'm very interested in, and I was thinking things through as I wrote. Some of us are enviably good at writing succinct posts; some of us prefer to meander a little. I rather hope that we all feel comfortable enough in this forum to express ourselves in a way that comes naturally [---][/---] within sensible limits, of course. I enjoy your posts, Occam, and I don't want to feel that I can't engage with you for fear of pissing you off.

Emma

Ted Harvey
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Re: Does Humanism = Left Wing?

#11 Post by Ted Harvey » July 19th, 2008, 6:51 pm

Yes ocam, like Emma I was not 'attacking' what you said. In fact I took care to end with one of my points being that "I am not contesting your description of left and right".

Emma, I thouhgt you did neatly sum up part of the dilemma for me:
But I do think there's a danger for some socially liberal people to see themselves as left-wing, when in fact they're really quite centrist, and therefore to push the definition of right-wing too far to the right, in order to accommodate a new centre, which is really moderately right-wing. If you get my drift.
Emma I do get your drift and I relate it to some difficult exchanges I have had in the recent past here in Scotland with practising Roman Catholics who hold great sway over the Labour Party ih the West of Scotland. It is quite impossible to move them from their self-perception as really quite radical left-wingers who all all for the people... whilst in reality they at the same time uphold really quite reactionary and anti-egalitarian social views and values.

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