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The Leftist Worldview in 40 Points

Here are some common statements voiced by many leftists I know, and hear from in the media, along with my personal observations. It's an intense and never-ending subject.
Please understand, this is a direct and incisive essay, condensed and to the point, and done without much diplomacy. (If you're easily upset, you might as well skip it.)

A) To keep this article timely, I shall list these points without any living names, and not referencing any current events. I'll just skim over the hottest issues of the day. Few organizations are named, except for 'Democrat' and 'Republican,' etc., in the broadest sense.

B) We'll start with the fundamentals, then follow each resulting step. This is all about ideas, and deep beliefs.

C) Always remember, every individual person is different, in their background and understanding and opinions and more. Readers cannot expect to 'see themselves' in these points, certainly not matched up with all of them! Still, most people do apply familiar descriptives to themselves, while many will join sympathetic 'well matched' activist groups and political parties, and join favored Facebook groups.

D) I haven't found any thorough list of all the 'types of leftist,' or of every left-wing ideology. Here, I've covered the three largest branches: the Humanist (atheistic), Naturalist (environmentalist), and Panentheist (religious) categories.This includes virtually all leftists, as their own prominent scholars describe them. Devout Roman Catholics (both traditionalist and liberal), fundamentalist Creationists, radical Libertarians, and dedicated Anarchists have some crossover (and probably familiar) ideas. However, those are distinct ideological categories, not directly addressed in this essay.

E) This essay focuses on consequential people. Many individuals belong to a political party or interest group because they grew up that way, or since their friends all do, or because it just seems cool and trendy. Here I am speaking of people who've thought carefully about their beliefs and goals, and who are purposeful about their ideology and activities.

F) Linguistic note: I've sometimes capitalized Leftist and Conservative, etc., not as with political parties, but to present these ideologies as distinct American political traditions.

The 40 Points:

    * Leftists are deeply concerned about the human condition, and are determined to help improve it. How people enact such concerns is influenced by their worldview, and that includes the several varieties of Leftist thought and organization.

  1. Secular Leftists view humans as material beings, 'economic creatures' that are mainly a product of their financial situation. Religious Leftists, who emerged in the late 1800s from a Christian background, sought to remedy social ills as one way to improve humanity. Radical Environmentalists see people as wholly a product of nature, and subservient to their role in the ecosystem.
    In our modern times, all of these types virtually always support the same causes and candidates, which makes these varieties of leftism a distinction without a large-scale difference.
    (Meanwhile, almost all conservatives see humans as bearers of an immortal soul, a special creation of God, but with divine and fallen natures deeply embedded. Many younger conservatives have personally divorced themselves from organized religion, however recognize the JudeoChristian heritage which gave them freedom and prosperity.)

    * A material universe, by definition, means no God. In the religious-leftist case, God is seen as expecting (even commanding) people to become liberals, and then urge the government to enact secular liberal programs. In the environmentalist's view, the functioning biosphere is indifferent to human concerns.

  2. Secular Leftists perceive no divine or higher power. They see humans as evolving from small beleaguered tribes, thus developing a cooperative in-group altruism, which is the basis of a flexible Situational Ethics. Religious Leftists understand universal morality, but don't emphasize God's strict standards or stern judgments. The Radical Environmentalist's sacred Gaia remains enigmatic.
    (A Conservative might lie or cheat, but knows it's not only illegal and unethical, but also a mortal sin. Modern young, secularized, conservatives likely do suspect it!)

    * Without an effective universal morality, calculating brains are all we get to depend on.

  3. Secular Leftists place a high value on formal education, though not on standardized testing of its results. Doctorate degrees are often conflated with wisdom, and those scholar's declarations on popular topics are widely seen as gospel. Religious Leftists have scholars too, though not as well known. Environmentalist scholars are known for almost always reaching conclusions which support the Left's familiar 150-year-old agenda.
    (A Conservative looks toward long tradition, and divine scriptures, a range of founding authors, proven sources of prosperity, and key scientific findings, for abundant wellsprings.)

    * Many leftist's high regard for rationality affects personal and social relationships.

  4. Someone with intellectual certainty and a lot of materialist skepticism tends to regard those with a different opinion (viewpoint, ideology, belief) as ignorant and uninformed, or lamentably foolish, or very wrong, or perilously evil. Speech codes and attitude/thought crimes and the whole gamut of political correctness are the Left's familiar response.
    (By comparison, Conservatives feel more comfortable with, and are more likely to keep, liberal friends; in person and online.)

    * This materialist standard influences dedicated leftists.

  5. Without a strict moral standard, Secular Leftist leaders are often held to expedient standards, and are less affected by behavioral scandals. Meanwhile, except for antiwar protests, Religious Leftists aren't often seen in the political limelight. Environmentalist rhetoric often sounds religious, but minus God.
    All types of Leftist will excuse the failings of a favored politician. (While Conservatives are readily accused of hypocrisy, from both ends of the ideological spectrum, often with quick and devastating results.)

    * Leftists express great concern for suffering humans, however with exceptions.

  6. With no universal morals, Secular Leftists can regard the unborn as "unviable tissue" to be extracted. Even, in practice, for convenience. Religious Leftists tend to ally with their secular cousins, on this issue, while Environmentalists focus on endangered non-human beings.
    (Conservatives are divided on this issue, yet they respect unborn babies, and thus will expect a stated need for an abortion.)

    * Such a viewpoint affects adults, too.

  7. Because Secular Leftists have long seen people as "blank slates" written upon by economics and society, those external factors get most of the blame for any common individual's behavior. Religious Leftists concentrate on social wrongs and depravation, having much sympathy for criminals. Environmentalists see humans, at best, as equal cogs within the biosphere. Thus many personal crimes are excused, and the death penalty always opposed.
    (While Conservatives dislike excuses, and hold each sovereign individual accountable, sometimes harshly.)

    * There is genuine compassion for individuals in need.

  8. Leftists feel tremendous concern for the weak and underprivileged, who are regarded as victims. Specific favors and privileges (as with college admissions), and unending 'cradle to grave' government assistance, are advocated, and granted whenever possible.
    (Conservatives insist on checking the actual results of well-intentioned federal aid, as with the half-century-long long War on Poverty.)

    * This concern for victims is widely applied.

  9. The familiar list of victims is long indeed, and by including women, grows to encompass a large portion of the population. In the aggregate, those who are most unlike white, wealthy, Christian, heterosexual males are seen as worst-victimized. Factors such as attitude and behavior are minimized. (Conservatives acknowledge lingering prejudices, however would rather judge each individual by merit, while applauding every gain they'll make. Also, Conservatives worry about violent radicals getting an "oh you poor victim" free pass.)

    * A materialist belief system, or a fervent social viewpoint, also affects one's view of children.

  10. Nearly all Leftists prefer some type of collective, as with the oft-referenced "it takes a village," in theory and also in practice. Children are seen as a primary responsibility of each community, and of the State; above each child's sometimes-unreliable parents, especially immature fathers. Government-run schools are always supported, and regarded as best.
    (Conservatives know that modern-day "village elders" will often be government bureaucrats, with their typical indifference and political agendas, not to mention educational failures.)

    * Which readily expands into a distinct view of larger groups.

  11. Secular Leftists tend to view people as categories, sharply divided by external appearance (race, etc.) and social circumstances (poverty, etc.), more than as unique or assertive individuals. Their large programs, from government or foundations, address whole groups. Religious Leftists acknowledge individual souls, yet have adopted an economics-based platform. Radical Environmentalists distinguish societies by 'level of industrial development' -- and (except for certain heavily subsidized "green industries") -- the greater, the worse.
    (Conservatives observe that large programs are clumsy when dealing with individuals, holding that long-term personal improvement, and the uplifting of each family's next generation, is the best way to solve social problems.

    * Those large social categories are assumed to have distinct relationships.

  12. Groups are further seen as 'classes,' nearly permanent economic categories, which are always in conflict. Hard-core Secular Leftists see violent conflict as inevitable and necessary, as taught by Dialectical Materialism, while most Religious Leftists see enough greed and resentment to expect violence. Radical Environmentalists place all blame upon industrialists, and their best customers.
    (Conservatives note that people often move between economic categories; and how everyone seeks, and many know they can gain, a higher level. Also, that wealthy societies tend to be environmentally cleaner.)

    * More categorical distinctions are made.

  13. All Leftists despise for-profit corporations as predatory and unaccountable entities. Financial ambition is seen as greed, and condemned as a horrible thing. Opposite this, government bureaus are seldom criticized, or weighed for their actual effectiveness.
    (Discounting the widespread beneficial relationships found in most private companies.)

    * Then why are businesses so bad?

  14. Business people are seen as inherently selfish and avaricious, as is the entire capitalist system, with its 'private property' and amassing of wealth. However, few leftists will take business risks, thus seldom gain commensurate rewards. Many on the Left prefer a government sinecure, and to grant themselves tax and foundation money. Famous leftist CEOs (including some billionaires) act rather capitalist when on the job, and wealthy leftist celebrities aren't always generous.
    (Conservatives admire business people, and their genuine successes; while populist-type Conservative activists oppose corporate-welfare bailouts and crony-capitalism.)

    * Leftists feel tremendous indignation at the widespread inequality in wealth distribution, and are determined to bring about Economic Justice.

  15. Leftists speak as if the economy were a zero sum game, where "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer," and little additional wealth is generated, except by the unjust servitude of the working class.
    (Instead of realizing that the economic pie does grow, and "a rising tide lifts all boats," often rather quickly.)

    * In order to expediently help all those people, that poorer group is dealt with all at once.

  16. All Leftists equate socialism and liberal-run governments with compassion, and see myriad welfare programs as sufficient care for the poor. This help is done by heavily taxing (thus punishing) the "One Percent" rich.
    (Overall, Conservatives are personally quite generous in raising up poor families, and have accomplished this with proven a track record.)

    * For such large programs, taxes are much relied upon.

  17. Leftists, when addressing the economy (of the USA and similar nations) see things as on the left-hand/rising slope of the Laffer Curve. Virtually all tax increases are seen as certain to open a gusher of new revenue, untapped since the vaunted 90% top rates of the 1950s.
    (Opposite this, Conservatives fear the economy is on the curve's downhill edge, so that higher taxes would hamper business and depress revenues.)

    * As a group, the downtrodden receive much attention.

  18. All Leftists look for fairness in people's situations, and for equality of opportunity, and even of outcomes. This usually involves preferential grants and contracts for certain groups, including dedicated 'set asides' for favored categories.
    (While Conservatives explain that people will usually respond to higher expectations.)

    * What is the goal of Leftist aid, their hoped-for ideal?

  19. Leftists inevitably quote Marx, giving some variation of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Intrinsically assuming that people will offer their best efforts, and not have excessive needs.
    (Conservatives note that only a totalitarian government, with severe coercive powers, could ever hope to accomplish such complete wealth redistribution.)

    * Leftists are enamored those who act boldly for Social Justice.

  20. Almost all Leftists admire, praise, and proudly defend dictatorial leaders (who act based upon socialist theories). Left-wing intellectuals, celebrities, and others will visit Cuba and other nations with like-minded strongman leaders, then return with glowing praise.
    (Conservatives remember Stalin's Russia and Mao's China, and took a lesson from the revealing of those actual realities.)

    * That same high praise isn't always granted to those who rule strongly but nearer to home.

  21. Secular Leftists have little respect for direct authority, except (just in passing) for fellow leftists who gain power. Comparatively few Religious Leftists or Radical Environmentalists gain political office, thus cede this field to the Secular faction. Most Leftists have little respect for 'the office,' even demonizing the office holder.
    (Conservatives recognize 'duly constituted' authority as worthy of cautious respect. Instead of praising "artistic" assassination movies, they're keen on the safety and dignity of every President.)

    * Some manifestations of authority are seen as worse.

  22. Secular Leftists frequently describe the municipal police and national military in horrid terms. Expensive wastes of money, which only harass demonstrators and create more global enemies. Many Religious Leftists follow along, often as formal pacifists. Radical Environmentalists tend to dislike all human power.
    (Perhaps unaware of the actual nature of evil, and the need for meeting it with force, when necessary.)

    * Many levels of authority are blurred together.

  23. Leftists rarely distinguish between the benefits provided by local and state and federal governments, and their ongoing functions and funding. Nor between the services, permits, entitlements, etc. granted by those different levels of government. Local community functions are often characterized as socialism. Dedicated environmentalists (along with fraternal Anarchists) will sometimes build small, sustainable communities -- often via large, outside monetary grants.
    (Conservatives appreciate that traditional local governments are inherently more efficient and accountable.)

    * As for social progress, the federal government is emphasized, strongly over the 50 states, and it can never do enough.

  24. Leftists always and quickly reference the long-ago federally enforced desegregation of southern schools, and more recently, mandates to implement numerous liberal social changes. (Conservatives answer that a future right-wing government could then force their own top-down changes, and that a meticulous citizen-based process is almost always better.)

    * By now, the federal government is on a solid course of endless growth and social reach.

  25. No Leftist sees any value in shrinking the American federal government, except for the military and intelligence services. They assume that such an intention equates to "hating the government," and all of its functions. Politicians who advocate smaller government are seen as heartless, since government is assumed to be the wellspring of most people's sustenance.
    (Not recognizing the actual fount of tax monies, and the heavy burdens placed upon those who pay it.)

    * Revenue sources are regarded as a sort of immortal golden goose.

  26. All Leftists don't worry much about budget deficits or national debts, deeming it vitally important to spend the same amounts, then even more. Spurning comparisons to family or company budgets, Leftist economists proclaim that, with 'macroeconomics,' debts are not a problem.
    (Conservatives recall the painful histories of hyperinflation and currency collapse, and realize that nobody could 'bail out' the United States.)

    * And they sure do want more revenue.

  27. All Leftists act as though blind to the difference between tax rates and tax revenues, while the real economic effect of any new tax policy is usually ignored. They do understand that taxation is an instrument of power, enabling the forced extraction of "unjust" wealth.
    (Conservatives understand that unburdening the free enterprise system adds to the number of steady private-sector careers, and thus of net-tax-payers, and how this enriches far more people.)

    * Thus empowered, the federal government will, almost by definition, end up functioning in a familiar ham-fisted way.

  28. Leftists usually act by creating government mandates, now including thousands of very personal ones, for everything from transfats and sodas to light bulbs and toilets. Agency enforcers, with the power to exact fines and even make armed raids, are inevitably released upon the populace.
    (While individual choices and voluntary service are better, and in countless ways.)

    * Any suggestion of 'cutting government,' even via reducing its growth by a small percentage, is met with a furious response.

  29. Leftists will not admit that a 'smaller' government doesn't mean, no government or services at all. They never acknowledge the federal government's proper constitutional functions, including the enforcement of laws against fraud and harmful actions, as sufficient.
    (The literal opposite of the Founder's dictum, "The government that governs best, governs least.")

    * This creates a sharp, but weird, confrontation with people who see things differently.

  30. Leftists refuse to acknowledge that Republicans and Conservatives differ from each other, much less, to see any difference between elite business Republicans and populist Tea Party activists. Instead, the Left lumps everyone who's not sufficiently left-wing into one big opposing camp, and is certain they all "march in lockstep" on many issues
    (Never noticing that ideological Conservatives, but not establishment Republicans, are for smaller government and grassroots initiatives.)

    * Yet the Left seldom lumps their own (more familiar) people together.

  31. Leftists seldom see any office-holding, left-of-center politician; or functioning radical organization, as liberal/leftist/progressive/Marxist enough. Instead, left-wing groups squabble and splinter with more gusto than any religious denomination. Political third parties will emerge, sometimes growing enough to influence elections. Leftist alliances are largely expedient, and can lead to some rather strange bedfellows, such as construction worker's unions and anti-growth environmentalists. (Rather than finding harmony across many types of difference, including economic classes, ideological spectrums, and various belief systems.)

    * Speaking of beliefs, left-wing materialists don't want religion entering the equation.

  32. Secular Leftists often reference the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and always conflate it with Jefferson's 'wall of separation' Danbury Letter. Also, they apply these strictures to governments at every level. Religious Leftists may vary on this issue, however in practice, strongly oppose religious Conservatives. Radical Environmentalists reject most religions, especially "patriarchal" ones, as harmful.
    (A huge distinction from celebrating the 'free exercise of religion,' which primarily restricts the federal government.)

    * It's not just religion, but all sorts of tradition.

  33. When speaking about American history and traditions, most Leftists immediately refer to its worst elements, such as slavery and Jim Crow laws. They go on to describe several current forms of discrimination, centered upon lifestyles and such.
    (Conservatives recall that it was religious people who fought slavery and spearheaded the Civil Rights movement, and prefer to discern the actual situation of various lifestyles.)

    * The nation and its people and government and bureaucracies get blurred together.

  34. Leftists rarely distinguish the American nation or people (their full history and great traditions and positive ideals) from the federal government, expecting that respect for the nation requires grateful acquiescence to the whole mechanism of government.
    (While attending a Fourth of July parade is justly said to inspire Conservative idealism.)

    * This Statist mindset also applies to practical matters, such as the economy.

  35. No Leftist ever credits Republican Presidents for economic prosperity. Instead, they'll credit Democrats who held any sort power during a prosperous time period. But they do give Democratic Presidents full credit for a good economy, and even a balanced national budget, no matter how brief it was. (While Conservatives emphasize the actual effective mechanisms of job and wealth and revenue creation.)

    * While upholding their causes, many Leftists attempt to color their present reality differently.

  36. Most Leftists bristle at being called socialists, much less Marxists, preferring the modern-version term Progressives, or non-ideological 'pragmatists.' However, they seldom offer any clear or functional distinction between those terms; while their solutions, however titled, are notably left-wing.
    (Conservatives recognize the whole Left as being big-government Statists, which offers little that's proven as helpful.)

    * How far will the Left go, to secure its ideals?

  37. Most Leftists overlook much of the 20th century, and dismiss the Soviet Union and Red China as "not genuinely Marxist," while blaming their atrocities on a few errant leaders. However, they're more than willing to empower the American federal government in every sphere of life, in order to promote the common good.
    (Opposite this, Conservatives understand: The End Does Not Justify the Means. Rather, the Means Build the Ends.)

    * Where is this supposed to lead?

  38. All Leftists hope for a better lot in their own life, and for an improved society and civilization. But, they'll seldom admit that anyone else, such as conservatives (business or military people especially) can and do share these hopes, while having have much to contribute.
    (A few conservatives can bring themselves to admit that liberalism has some great ideas and positive functions, but mutual bashing is vastly more common, and perhaps more enjoyable.)

    * How long is this supposed to take?

  39. Most people wish that great social improvements would happen soon, and smoothly! Hard core Secular Leftists often speak of "The Revolution," a sudden uproar that will right all wrongs, and settle a few scores. Milder liberals often predict a dramatic technological Singularity.
    Religious Leftists have varying ideas, but many hope that Jesus will directly (if gently) impose a better lifestyle and society.
    Radical Environmentalists hope for the establishment of an Ecotopia, with a much-more-humble humanity living in harmony with Gaia and the physical Earth, while owning far less property.
    (Many Conservatives also hope for a fast transformation, but from a divine and judgmental Second Coming; while a few others see a more gradual uplift, based upon voluntary improvement of our human nature and relationships and civilization.)

    * The Left's commitment and determination, and even sheer desperation, varies.

  40. Some Leftists really are bloody-minded Bolshevik or Maoist types, of the sort which killed 100,000,000 innocent victims in the previous century (plus war casualties). Also, some contemporary Leftists are fierce no-holds-barred activists, such as the cruel men depicted in John Steinbeck's novel In Dubious Battle. (Conservatives realize that modern radicals prefer the ballot box, however reject their awful utopianism, whether it arrives fast and involuntarily, or slowly via temptation.)

    Afterword:

    I) Reading this list is sure to inspire a response. Some Leftists have been strongly emotional, knowing their like-minded friends are truly kind and good people, hence (ostensibly) above criticism. However, this essay is not about individual personalities, or friendly small groups, but about potent ideologies and large trends.

    II) Similarly, various supporters and activists have told me, why not just let Leftists speak for themselves? I respond, of course! And I can listen carefully when they do. Glean some insights, and distill them without needing to put everything in the best possible light. (Obviously, I'm more sympathetic to modern conservatism. And yes, I'm often pointing out flaws in that sphere -- just not in this essay.)

    III) All of these points have countless examples. They pour forth every day, in the news and online and in personal encounters. It helps to recognize them, in order to address each one more effectively. (I deliberately haven't listed many of those here, because most will quickly become outdated, or forgotten. Anyhow, new examples pop up hourly.)

    IV) Some people will object to, even become upset and defensive, at the very notion of "categorizing people." Still, in reality, everyone does this, both consciously and subconsciously. (Tall or short? Fast or slow? Wealthy or poor?) However, we humans can deliberately reassess our observations, and examine our own basic criteria.

    V) Readers will note that I haven't made any personal descriptions, but kept things general. Even so, in keeping with the old saying "If the shoe fits, wear it," some people have rushed forward to declare this essay applies directly to them, and/or to their best friends. Then so be it, and please be honest (with yourself and others) about where you're really at.

    VI) As stated at the beginning, this essay refers mainly to hard-core Leftists, and less to ordinary just-follow-along liberals. Most of whom support liberty, or hope to; while accomplishing great works.
    Even so, those people who only follow, and offer habitual or uninformed support to radical leftists, are culpable too, in an important sense.
    The majority of Conservatives understand the historical origin of their own beliefs and loyalties, refer to specific intellectual sources, and proudly deem themselves as such.

    Everyone is welcome to create a similar list, in praise of Leftism and/or countering this one. Especially if it can be done via 'first principles,' and without personalized 'ad hominem' slams.

    by Paul Carlson


    Wondering where you actually stand, from an objective viewpoint? Here's a respected quiz, to help you evaluate:

    World's Smallest Political Quiz

    Here's an essay by Michael Schwalbe , a university professor in North Carolina, which candidly describes Progressive beliefs. It dovetails nicely with my essay, and from a mirror-image perspective.

    The Definition of a Progressive

    These now-infamous Rules are from a master radical. (Commentary is included.)

    Alinsky's Twelve Rules

    On the flip side, here's a classic essay by a founder of modern conservatism, Russell Kirk:

    Ten Conservative Principles

    I originally posted this essay on my Facebook page, where it made quite a splash. Two or three leftists went beyond their visceral reactions, and did engage the detailed content of my writing. (I've moved the updated content to this 'cuebon' web site, and left the comments thread there on Facebook.

    Original 25 Points essay


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