What Is Left-Wing Politics?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Left-wing politics defines a broad spectrum of political beliefs with a few general commonalties. In most cases, the left wing of political ideology represents a belief in a strong central government, which uses its power to help create economic and social equality. People on the left-wing generally believe in taking income from the wealthiest and redistributing it among the poorer part of the population. They also generally believe in enforcing social equality through governmental regulation. Socialism and modern liberalism are both examples of left-wing politics.

In general, a good way to understand the difference between the left and right wing is to look at the way each side views the concept of equality. The right-wing ideology favors creating an equal regulatory environment where everybody has to follow the same rules and then letting people compete in that environment. If one side is more successful than another, the right wing generally doesn’t believe in interfering. Those who favor left-wing politics often think it’s better to help change the outcome in situations where uncontrollable advantages allow one group to have more success than another.

When it comes to economics, believers in left-wing politics sometimes worry that the rich could use their power to dominate the poor and hoard all the wealth for themselves. They believe that without proper controls, the richest people in a society might seek to exploit those who have very little, and they generally believe in making sure that doesn’t happen. The right wing often believes that any attempt by the government to engineer fairness might result in a loss of freedom. They generally prefer to leave things alone and allow everyone to compete in an unregulated environment whenever possible.

In left-wing politics, there is usually a belief that the collective group is more important than the individual, while the right wing believes in a much more individualistic ideology. This results in a wide difference in policy. For example, the right wing often sees taxation as an undue burden on the individual, while the left wing usually sees taxation as a good thing for the collective group.

In American politics, the left wing is generally represented by the Democratic Party, while the right wing is represented by the Republican Party. For some countries, both of these parties might be considered right wing or left wing, and this is because the definitions can be quite variable depending on the politics in a particular place. As a country moves to the left or right over many years, the dividing line between the two political sides will generally move along with the philosophical shift.

What Is Far Left Wing Politics?

In the U.S. today, there are two major political parties: Republicans and Democrats. However, there are more than just the two parties. Other groups exist to the right of the Republicans and to the left of the Democrats. These are referred to as the far right and the far left.

Far left wing political groups include democratic socialists, social populists and communists. Here are some key differences between these parties.

Democratic socialists believe in a democratic political system within a socially owned economy. They want to abolish the exploitative capitalist economy where some privileged few individuals control the majority of the wealth by granting ownership of any surplus work product to either the people who created it or to society as a whole. They believe that capitalism is at odds with the American principles of freedom and equality. They actively reject Marxist–Leninist states

Social Populists apply populism to their left-wing ideology, lauding the people while vilifying the elite. They are probably best known for the worldwide Occupy movement. Different definitions of “the people” exist, but the definition of “the elite” is fairly standardized: a homogenous politically- and socioeconomically-aligned group accused of putting their own interests, and the interests of other groups such as large corporations or foreign nations, above the interests of the people.

Communism is a separate, very distinct form of socialism. It’s a political, ideological and economic system where there are no classes, no money, no private ownership and eventually, as the people learn to self-govern, no state. The two most notable means of minimizing the state are to develop a libertarian government, emphasizing individual freedoms, or a Marxism–Leninism state, such as that of the Soviet Union or modern-day China.

What Does Left Wing Mean in US Politics?

There is a broad spectrum of politics in the U.S. from the far right to the far left. Anything that’s on the more liberal side is on the left, and anything more conservative is on the right. The left wing generally refers to Democrats, though it can include anarchists, left-libertarians and progressives.

What Are Left Wing Political Views?

By and large, left wing political views emphasize spending on national social and educational programs that will improve society as a whole, including welfare and healthcare. This is in sharp contrast to the right wing’s desire to minimize the role of the federal government and increase states’ rights. Some on the right characterize the left’s desire for social improvements as akin to bringing about a “mommy state.”

One major example from recent years is college education. Many on the political left want college to be free, or at least as cheap as possible. They also want to forgive existing student loan debt to reduce the burden on the working class.

Another example is abortion. Liberals on the left want women to have free access to abortion for any reason. It was the left that celebrated when Roe v. Wade was decided in the Supreme Court, allowing women to receive safe, legal abortions.

Gun rights have become hotly contested of late between the left and the right. Those on the left respect the Second Amendment to the Constitution, but believe that society’s need to be safe from gun violence is more important than John Q. Public’s right to own as many guns as will fit in his garage. Guns, they say, are designed for one purpose: to kill; there is no place for such machines in this day and age.

Universal health care is another cause championed by the left. Our close allies on the world stage have universal healthcare and are appalled by healthcare costs in the U.S. For example, in the U.S., an emergency appendectomy costs between $10,000 and $35,000 if you are uninsured. In the UK, it’s the equivalent of 4,547.

Discussion Comments

SkyWhisperer

@everetra - I don’t know the answer to your question, but I do know these terms evolve over time. For example, political left wing advocates—liberals, by the old lexicon—now have come to refer to themselves as progressives. It’s a pretty relative distinction. I suppose liberals would object to right wing activists calling themselves “Constitutional conservatives”—as if the left doesn’t care about the Constitution.

I honestly don’t care about these milder euphemisms, I just don’t like it when either side starts bashing the other and throwing words like “fascist,” “socialist,” “communist” around. I don’t think there’s a place for this kind of language in civil discourse.

everetra

I’ve never understood where the terms “left wing” and “right wing” came from, although I understand what each wing represents ideologically.

What do we mean by wing? Is the metaphor that of an airplane—or a bird? And who determined that liberals should classified left wing while conservatives should be classified right wing? I know these seem like silly questions, but I’ve never understood this.

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