This article was written in response to the question: What are my politics and why?
“Compassion and empathy are not traits unique to the left wing, they are traits unique to humanity. “
As young people begin to encounter the politics and current affairs that surround the world we live in today, they may also encounter terms like “right wing” or “left wing” bandied about in newspapers and suchlike. What do these terms actually mean? Why are they important? Frankly, I believe nowadays people often are too focused on labelling things. We have lost sight of the true ideals and values represented by these terms.
Using incredibly broad strokes, right wing basically includes a belief in free markets with minimal to no regulation (capitalism), and that you should get to keep as much of the money you make for yourself. Most importantly, they believe in preserving personal freedom. This includes the freedom to succeed, freedom to fail, and the resulting “survival of the fittest“ system. Examples of this in the UK are the Conservative Party, and UKIP, who advocate free markets and generally lower tax rates.
On the other hand, left wing believes in equality and equity. They want an ideal world in which there is low to no inequality of opportunity or wealth. Their preferred way is by redistributive taxes, taxing the rich heavily and giving the money to the poor using a large welfare state. The best examples of this in the UK are the Labour Party, and the Green Party.
Increasingly, I find myself in agreement with values held by both sides, and I have come to the conclusion that I am simply an individual, free human being, not a right winger or left winger.
I believe the idea of the rational individual who reaps the fruits of their labour is fundamental. Essentially this means everyone receives what their efforts deserved. The right-wing argue it is unfair to take the hard earned money of the rich and “redistribute” it to the poor, and lazy who have not worked for the money. This fosters a culture of inherent laziness, and the belief that it is acceptable to continue their current inertia knowing the state’s welfare will support them. Theoretically, I fully side with this argument, and am against “benefit scroungers” who just live off the system. However, like all economic or political theories and arguments, it must be examined in a socially relevant context.
I have no intention of taking anything away from the increasingly meritocratic class of plutocrats in the UK’s economy, or across a global context. These people who are the top 1% of the world in wealth are part of a new trend, as explained by Chrystia Freeland in “Plutocrats”, who have mostly earned their money by merit, not receiving large inheritances. The truth is however, the majority of Britain’s poor are just as hard working and/or talented. They simply are not getting out as much as they put in, unlike the rich, evident in depressed wages and income inequality. Many people work full 40 hour weeks, at minimum wage, and their annual income amounts to a paltry £10,000, Many people, us young readers included, work at a wage of £6.70 an hour. To give some sort of comparison, the Living Wage (the minimum wage rate required to have a decent standard of living) in London is £9.40.
As a capitalist and believer in personal liberty, to defend one wo/man’s right to reap the fruits of their labour is to defend ANY wo/man’s right, be they rich or poor.
In reality, the minority of the poor who are lazy has become an overarching generalisation for ALL poor people. This allows victimisation of the lower classes. Meanwhile there has been no such similar victimisation of any other class. It is unquestionable though that there are undeserving people of every class, so why do the poor get the most media attention and branded as lazy?
The rich equivalent to the poor people who are also lazy are those with inherited money. To avoid double standards, I also support the idea of an inheritance tax for those rich people, as society should not allow a step up for those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, and likewise for those who wait for the government to spoon feed them due to their idleness.
The welfare state in UK is the system that redistributes money to the poor in the form of benefits and allowances. There are two possible types of welfare states though: One props up a dependent lower class of poor people with hard earned money of the rich. The other ensures the provision of opportunities to those, rich or poor, who are willing to work. The second type provides the security of knowing that any person will earn what they deserve, so long as they put the work in.
Compassion and empathy are not traits unique to the left wing, they are traits unique to humanity. We cannot allow ourselves to be blinded by the “Right Wing” v “Left Wing” battle that media outlets like to make out as polar opposites, there is such thing as a middle ground. Perhaps call this “compassionate capitalism”. Call it what you will, the values behind it are where the true importance lies. That is why, as human beings, who care about the opportunities for ourselves and others, we cannot deny any person’s opportunity to a better and deserved future, just as we would not expect the opportunity denied to us.