The left often accuses
the right of dishonesty and vice-versa. That is not what this page is
about. The point of this page is to explain that the left-right
relationship in politics is intrinsically
asymmetrical. The right wing is inherently
more dishonest than the left, otherwise
it would not exist.
To exist, a party has to win elections, at least occasionally. To win
elections, the right has to lie: it has to convince at least some
voters to vote against their interests. The situation is different for
the left. The left has a choice: it can win by sticking entirely to the
truth, but it can also lie, as politicians often do.
If you don't believe that this fundamental difference exists between
left- and right-wing parties, you haven't understood how politics
works. Or perhaps you have been listening too much to the media, which
on the whole are owned by rich people. Needless to say, to own
something big, you need to be rich.
Before continuing, I should
make something clear. I am not accusing people on the right side of the
political spectrum of dishonesty, or at least not of deliberate
dishonesty. Rather, I am trying to understand something
fundamental about the difference between left and right -- something
that has always been true and (as far as I can see) always will be
true, as long as we have democracies of that kind. My claim is that
dishonesty is intrinsic to the system, and independent of country
or historical period.
I should also say that although I generally support the left side of
politics, I do acknowledge that politics can be a very individual thing
and sometimes specific right-wing politicians can be preferable or more
electable than their left-wing counterparts for personal reasons. There
are indeed some right-wing politicians whom I admire, at least in some
ways, Angela Merkel and Arnold Schwarzenegger being examples. But that
does not change the fact that right-wing politics is generally and
fundamentally problematic, as I will explain.
Left versus right
The left-right distinction in politics is like this. Most people want
and deserve a better deal for themselves. That can only mean one thing:
distributing wealth more fairly. That in turn can only mean taxing the
rich and improving welfare. That is how wealth is distributed by
governments. Despite persistent claims to the contrary ("trickle down"
and other such nonsense),
that’s the only reliable way to do it. Capitalism
naturally increases the gap between rich and poor (that's why it's
"capitalism") and the only reliable way to reduce that gap is by some
of state intervention.
Put another way: the state creates the money, with which everyone is
free to play. But the state does that on the condition that
it also ultimately controls the distribution of the money (e.g.,
by taxation and welfare). That is necessary to ensure the game remains
within reasonable bounds and the state remains in control. (In today's
globalized world, that control is being undermined, but that is another
politics is called "conservative" because it conserves
hierarchical social structures.
These essentially ensure that the rich stay rich, which often (not
always) means that the poor stay poor. Right-wing politics
is for relatively rich people who want to
stay rich or become richer. On the assumption that we
have constant resources (natural resources and labor) and the
days of economic growth are over (at least in rich countries, given the
threat of climate change and biodiversity loss), there is only one way
rich can become richer, and that is at the expense of everyone else. In
the past, that was usually true; today, it is even more often true.
And the rich are indeed becoming richer. In the past few decades
(following the launch of international neoliberalism by Reagan and
Thatcher), the number of USD-millionaires and billionaires in the world
has been steadily increasing. Needless to say, that is undermining
democracy. During the COVID pandemic, the wealth of the super-rich
increased enormously, at the same time as poverty rates increased.
Even without those modern tendencies, it is generally true that if you
are not rich, and you want to vote in your own interest, you
should avoid voting for the right. Moreover, if you are rich
and want a better and fairer society, you should also avoid
The central importance of lying
The amazing thing is this: If people always voted in their
interest, as they are supposed to do in a democracy, the left would
always win. That's because the left represents a majority of people
that possesses a minority of the country's money, whereas the right
represents a minority of people that possesses a majority of the
country's money. So how does the right side manage to win so often?
There is an easy and rather obvious answer. The right wins
spreading lies. They do that because they cannot win the election any
other way. If the voters voted in their own interests, most would vote
left, because the left represents a majority of people, even if they
possess a minority of the country's money. If the right is to win the
election, it must convince many people to vote against their own
By a "lie". I
simply mean a statement that is untrue or misleading. The
person who lies may or may not know that they are lying, in which
case the word "lie" might be inappropriate. But there are always people
within the system who know that the lies are untrue. They promote the
lies anyway, because they serve their financial interests.
If I seem to be accusing the right of lying, please note that I am
doing only that
and nothing else. If it sounds like I am angry, so be it. Perhaps I am,
perhaps I am not. But that is not relevant. I am trying to talk
in an objective way about lying, as something that many people do, but
in particular the
The negative feeling created by the word "lie" is an interesting thing
in itself. We avoid accusing people of lying because we feel that it is
somehow not correct to do so. People will not
respect us if we accuse others of lying. Perhaps it is even more
socially acceptable to lie than to accuse someone of lying! If so,
where does this negative feeling come from? The answer lies in
sociological theory of power relationships. Often, the rich and
powerful determine what we think is true, on any topic. If lying
is the Achilles heel of the rich, the rich will of course try to stop
us from realizing that. That can explain the
social taboo on accusing others of lying, especially if those
people are higher in the hierarchy. Everyone knows
intuitively that one simply does not do that. It is not the done thing.
This taboo makes it possible for the rich to lie constantly. That is
essential for their survival, because if they stopped lying, they would
lose much of their wealth. Politics would drift toward the left and
make taxation increasingly fair. That is what most of the the rich fear
the most. Of course, there are many exceptions.
A favorite tactic of the rich is to lie about economics,
while pretending to present sophisticated economic theory. A popular
narrative is that we need economic growth, to alleviate or even end
poverty, because economic growth makes
everyone richer. In fact what usually happens is that only the
rich get richer and the environment is destroyed. The best way
to alleviate or end poverty is the Robin Hood method: take from the
rich and give to the poor. It boils down to simple arithmetic.
Chaos and economic mismanagement
Another popular lie is that the left/green politicians (those who
actually want to redistribute wealth, and could actually do it if
elected) are “chaotic” or "fiscally irresponsible": Or
is fundamentally wrong with them — but not with the
conservatives and paranoid xenophobes, who are seen as ok and
The truth is this. If one side of politics
is promoting chaos
and fiscal irresponsibility more than the other, it's the right. The
right is more commonly linked
(in reality, rather than in the distorted public imagination) with corruption,
waste or misuse of public money,
overspending on the military (rather than infrastructure, welfare,
public services), risking or provoking international conflict, subsidizing
and bailing out big companies (corporate welfare), and
allowing individuals and corporations to evade mind-boggling
amounts of tax. Pages of examples could
be given, but perhaps just one
will suffice: In the past few decades in the US, Republican governments
have usually increased the national debt whereas Democrat governments
The right don't want people to realize that their
extravagance is destroying the economy, so they tell the public the
opposite: the left wing is extravagant, which
is destroying the economy. They pay the media to publish that and other
bad stories about the left. The media know that if
they toe the line there will be financial benefits, either direct
or indirect. So they go along with it, while pretending to be neutral,
promoting freedom of speech and balanced coverage of all ideas.
Defining right versus left
Discussions of this kind depend on how left-wing and right-wing are
defined. If you look in different places, you will find different
definitions. Perhaps the simplest and clearest definition is this: The
political right is more selfish,
whereas the left is more altruistic. Of course, the right would feel
insulted by such an honest definition. In
any case, the right is intrinsically less honest than the left,
and has more power than the left. For these reasons, you
won’t find this simple definition in Wikipedia under
“Left–right political spectrum”. If someone typed it
into Wikipedia, right-wing Wikipedians would immediately delete
it. Instead, you read that the left promotes “social
equality” and the right promotes “social
hierarchy”. Well, it’s almost the same thing.
Important conclusion: The left/right
distinction is not symmetrical.
It’s misleading to say there are “good arguments on
both sides”. That’s a myth created by the right,
which has more influence than the left due to its wealth.
Assuming democracy is working (which unfortunately it is not), it
that the left and right have different political strategies, and the
difference is not what is normally thought or stated:
main strategy of the left is to develop
rational approaches to current problems and try to convince voters on
main strategy of the right is to
convince voters that the left is problematic. That is the only way the
right can win elections.
follows that if the gap between rich and
poor is too big (and today it is surely much, much too big), no one
except the rich, the crazy, or the misled would vote for the right.
ideas can explain why politicians attack each other so aggressively.
The right have no choice but to lie, if they want to win elections. The
left is justifiably insulted by being lied to, and so it goes on.
The left-right seesaw
Why does politics often go back and forth between
left and right, instead of tending toward one side or the other for
long periods? Look at it this way: Every government, left or right,
makes mistakes when
in power, and they
also have to accept the blame for things beyond their control, or
problems that the previous government created. That's why they tend to
lose the next election. But the process is not symmetrical:
the left is in power, the right starts to worry that the rich might
lose money when the government starts enforcing normal levels of tax.
The wealth gap between rich and poor, instead of being absurdly wide, as it is in most
countries today, might become smaller, that is, merely extremely
wide. The rich are terrified of sharing anything at all (they have not
the slightest idea about happiness and how to achieve it, or so it
seems), so to protect
the wealth of the rich, right-wing politicians step up their generously
campaign of public lying. That ensures that the left loses at the next
election. It's cheaper to do that than pay normal levels of
the right is in power, the left has a special chance to expose their
lies. That is their official task as political opposition, and they
have little else to do. It's a difficult task,
given the constant distortions in the media, financed by rich
supporters of the right. But the cost of losing an election is
for those living below the poverty line and those who feel generally
powerless due to the wealth gap. When the left tries really hard, with
a large number of supporters but not much money, usually just enough
people realise what is really going on for the left to get back
Money and motivation
Still not convinced? Think
of it this way. Would you like to be a politician? Yes? No? Politics
can be hard work. You are only going to do it if it is in some way
rewarding for you. Politicians are motivated by something, and there
are two main categories: Either they want to make money or they want to
do something for the world. If they manage to do both, so much the
better. Those who are more interested in money tend to be more
who want to do something for the world tend to be more honest.
In financial terms, everyone wants more money. Both the rich and the
poor want more money, and both right- and left-wing politicians want
more money. That's often what politics boils down to. When right-wing
parties succeed in making the rich richer,
only a small percentage of the population benefits. When left-wing
parties succeed, most of the population benefits. So why doesn't the
left wing always win? Because every time the government does something
good for the people, the right wing comes along with a
sophisticated, misleading economic
theory to convince the majority that the government is spending too
An objective conclusion
This is not a rant. I may be biased in many ways, as everyone is -- but
not with respect to the main claims in this text, which are simple
The right have no
but to lie to voters to ensure their political survival. That is a
and neutral conclusion drawn from simple, obvious premises. The system
cannot work any other way. Only the left enjoys the
luxury of telling the truth consistently and
still getting elected. Of course the left doesn’t always do
that, but they are generally more honest than the right. If that was
not the case, the right would never get into power. Put another way:
right-wing politics is intrinsically dishonest.
Allow me to revise the main points. We start
from the assumption that some people have more money than others. That
means that half of the wealth is owned by a minority. We may also
confidently assume that the average person wants more money, regardless
of whether s/he is
rich or poor. Of course there are exceptions, but on average that is
true. If in this scenario, the rich minority wants more money, and to
get that it needs political power. Given that
every adult has one vote at the election, the rich minority can only
win if it convinces a large proportion of the poorer majority
to vote for them, against their
interests. That can only be
done by lying, because (given how left- and right-wing politics are
normally defined) it is never in the interest of the poorer
majority to vote for the right.
The last sentence is a truism. It follows logically from the normal
definition of left- and right-wing politics. If you don't believe it,
or you merely have the feeling that it cannot be correct, it is
because you have been brainwashed by privately owned or
influenced media. Don't worry, we are all constantly being influenced
by distortions of the truth. Don't underestimate the power of social
Here is how social manipulation works. If you can afford to buy a
newspaper, TV station, or social media platform, you are rich. You
probably, therefore, vote
on the right side of politics. That automatically creates a bias toward
the right in your newspaper. Since newspapers always need finance, they
are generally biased toward the right. An exception is only
possible if the owners of the newspaper are genuinely altruistic.
It does happen in exceptional cases. For example, the Guardian has a
long leftist tradition. It is now owned by a trust that exists to
secure the financial and editorial independence of the newspaper in
perpetuity. That's why it is one of the relatively few newspapers in
today's world that reliably publishes the truth. Not always, of course.
So you see: I am not expressing an opinion here. I am presenting a
simple argument — so simple that it can hardly be wrong. The
indisputable conclusion is that right-wing
have to be dishonest to surviveas politicians.
That doesn’t mean they always lie, of course. But those that
refuse to lie presumably go under and we don’t hear from them
again, unless they emerge on the left (which sometimes happens).
Please note also that I am not promoting extreme left ideologies.
this is an argument for moderate or centre-left politics. That is
because dishonesty also increases toward the extreme ends of the
political spectrum. In addition, fascist ideologies (the extreme right)
tend to be been more dangerous ("evil") than communist
ideologies (the extreme left): whereas communist ideologies are
typically only partly wrong, fascist ideologies tend to be more
completely wrong, and more dangerous. In this way, left-right asymmetry
is valid both for
centrist and extremist politics. The left is generally more honest, the
right less honest.
role of religion
In this context, it is
interesting to take a new look at the paradoxical link between
right-wing politics and religion. Why do conservative parties call
themselves “Christian” and so on when in fact they
are quite the opposite?
Assuming that right-wingers need to lie to survive, an effective
is to pretend to take the moral high ground, while at the same time
acting immorally. Religion makes this possible. In fact, this could be
the reason religions (as powerful institutions) exist at all! Further
info from a Christian or Jewish perspective is here.
Religions are compatible with dishonest right-wing politics for another
reason. They are dishonest themselves. If fact, dishonesty is the
foundation of religion. Supernatural agents simply do not exist, and
proclaiming that they do, especially today given our scientific
knowledge, is lying — pure and simple. Honest people do not
do that kind of thing.
Please note: I am not opposed to religion.
Religions fill important functions. I live in
Austria where the churches make
enormous social contributions both nationally and internationally. From a
spirituality certainly exists. From a social perspective, the need for
exists. Religions fulfill these needs. It fine and honest to talk about
individual and collective spirituality in general terms, without
putting people under pressure to proclaim arbitrary beliefs. Religious
morality and ethics are important and necessary — today
perhaps more than ever.
But if right-wingers claim to be religious, they should study the good
aspects of religious morality, and implement them. To do that, they
would have to cross the floor to the left side of politics. In
Christianity, for example, the story of Jesus as presented in the
gospels is one of a socialist, defending the rights of the poor, sick,
discriminated, and downtrodden. Nothing could be more obvious than
If the right wing claims to be "Christian", it can only be lying -- as
The luxury of freedom of speech
I can only write these things because I have the luxury of a good,
secure income that will not be affected by political changes in the
foreseeable future (although climate change could indeed cause
unprecedented financial crises). That security gives me freedom of
my relatively secure position, I also have the luxury of
saying that the truth is more important to me than money.
Others don't have the luxury of freedom of speech, or at least not at
the same level. So it is understandable that they do not share opinions
of this kind, and do not understand some basic things about political
Imagine a world in which everyone understood that right-wing politics
is inherently dishonest, because otherwise it would not exist. In that
world, only the rich would vote for the right, so the right would never
win elections. Instead, elections would be competitions among different
kinds of left-wing politics. The world would be a better place. People
would care about each other, poverty would be eliminated, and so on.
That's why honesty is important! Have I made my point?
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