It is very likely that most Europeans rely on the European definitions of right and left, labor and capitalist, and liberal and conservative when they read about the politics in the United States; and Americans rely on their definitions when trying to understand European politics. The problem is that these terms, for the most part, have completely different meanings on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. So, I thought I might take a stab at defining these terms to the best of my understandings. I would gladly welcome anybody willing to make comments to either give alternatives or further define and clarify sections where my efforts need some assistance. So, here goes nothing.
Let’s get started with definitions of Liberal and Conservative. Liberal is one of the terms where most Europeans and Americans use a similar definition which is based in socialism and heavy Government regulations with extensive safety nets and equalizing programs to bring the top and bottom levels of earnings toward the median level of earnings. The European forms of socialism are more pervasive through their political parties and systems than those in the United States. Currently, the Europeans appear to be at the first stages of moving away from the liberal end of the spectrum while the United States is still moving further into socialist governance under the present administration. Where Europe will likely continue in their implementation, though at varying speeds as they face fluctuating circumstances weighed against populist resistance; the United States will presumably decide in the next national elections whether to continue towards more government and more socialism or join with Europe and begin to initiate austerity measures working for lowering national deficit spending and, in the best of circumstances, actual reduction in levels of national debt.
Conservative is defined differently due to widely varied histories. In the United States, the term Conservative is placed on those who favor limiting government especially when it pertains to regulations upon industry and businesses in general while attempting to limit the levels of taxation even at the expense of limiting the extent of coverage of providing social safety nets. Meanwhile, in Europe, the definition of a conservative is likely to refer to, in the most extreme sense, those wishing to return to a monarchy. Europe actually has monarchists; if any do exist in the United States, they would make an extremely minute minority, a virtual zero on most any polling. This may be due to Europe being a slightly older society which had their period under numerous monarchies mostly in times before the United States even existed. In Europe, the more centrist conservatives would mirror the average conservative in the United States, though the Europeans would still tend to be more favorable towards a strong central government. The real differences in respect to governance in Europe are revealed when one mentions the Euro and the European Union, especially with the current monetary crisis. In response to a stronger European Union power base, the split between liberals and conservatives in Europe would reflect very much the differences between liberals and conservatives in the United States when discussing State’s rights versus a strong central government in Washington DC. Liberals on both sides of the Ocean favor the centralization of power in an all-inclusive governance of Brussels and Washington DC respectively while the conservatives in the United States call for greater respect for States’ rights while the Europeans back nationalism and more power being left with the individual countries. This idea becomes even more pronounced, as we will see, when discussing left and right policies.
Positions between Europe and the United States are quite different in defining Right and somewhat similar defining the Left. In Europe, the Left is defined as international socialists of which Communism is one example. The left in Europe favors the European Union and the United Nations being the centers of power while the individual countries should be submissive yielding control to the international organizations. The leftists in Europe also place a large amount of faith in NGOs and similar international organizations. There is a similarity to the left and the right in that both favor socialism, big governance, and all inclusive government programs and safety nets. Where the left favors international and multi-governmental organizations, the right is nationalistic. The European Right is based on national socialism, but it is still socialism. They still have faith in international organizations, NGO’s and multi-governmental institutions such as the United Nations but only as far as a venue for countries to meet and work together while retaining their own sovereignty. The current monetary difficulties in the European Union is going to set Right and Left in a very energetic struggle for which has the best solutions with the countries in the greatest financial trouble favoring leftist international organizations while those countries with healthy economies will begin to resent being tapped to carry the burden in bailing out the faltering economies and favor the nationalist socialist right. But, no matter which side gains prominence, Europe will remain socialist at heart. Only the kind of socialism is up for debate.
The United States combines both the international socialists and the national socialist by simply defining the left as being those from all forms of socialism. This is easy in the United States as the European right nationalists in the United States would be statists, which are nonexistent. So, since the United States federal government is the equivalence of the European Union in Europe, an internationalist socialist leftist in Europe would favor a socialists system with power invested in Washington DC while the rightist national socialists of Europe would also favor the nation thus the power being in Washington DC. Because the United States is similar in size, power et al to Europe, the American socialists of both stripes end up merging to favor a strong central socialist government in Washington DC. In the United States, that allows for a different definition of those on the right, which become the Capitalists. The right support State and individual rights over the centralized power in Washington DC. In supporting States over the Federal power, the American rightists do pose some similarity to the European nationalists in they want to keep power local. People on the right in the United States support strict interpretation of the Constitution, particularly the limits of Federal powers and the instituting of individual rights and freedoms. The right does not support national style solutions even including any forms of general safety nets run out of Washington DC and prefer either state or local government designing whatever social networks are acceptable independently from the oversight and being overruled by the Federal Government. They will also prefer religious and other non-governmental groups such as Goodwill and AMVETS being the main providers of the social safety net and relying on the goodness of individuals to give charity rather than forced taxation being used to provide for the needy.
Where there is a considerable number of Americans who believe in capitalism, the numbers of the same in Europe are represented as a much smaller percentage of the populace. Where Europeans are cast as being almost universally socialist and their politics divided between national and internationalist, in the United States both the nationalist and internationalist had been very similar in their belief until the last fifty years or so. In the most recent times we have begun to see the left turn into internationalists while the right still retains their nationalist fervor with many who believe in a strong state making for a strong country which will keep its sovereignty and not surrender power to the international organizations. With this new elitists of internationalists, similar to the leftist in Europe, has spawned a new denomination in the United States who believe in the superiority of the international organizations, mostly the United Nations, and are calling for global governance, and we call them post-modernists.
Beyond the Cusp