Beyond the Cusp

September 7, 2011

Right vs. Left, Liberal vs. Conservative, America vs. Europe

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


  1. Nice post.

    *Americans conservative = European liberal-conservative
    Both meaning free markets, more individual freedom and traditional values.
    Basically these people want to control their own lives as much as possible but in a moral and proper way.

    *American libertarian = European liberal
    Both meaning free markets, more individual freedom and non-traditional values.
    Basically these people want to control their own lives but arent socially constrained.

    *American liberal = European Social Democrat
    Both meaning welfare statism, heavy business control, progressing economic and social justice and non-traditional values.
    Basically these people want the gov;t to control society for equality and environmentalism and arent constrained to social “properness”

    *American Left/Fringe = European Far Left/Right /Socialist/Communist
    Both are anti-capitalist and normally racist or feminist.
    These people want to end capitalism for socialism and end social differences by making all the same or by eugenics of the “unwanted”

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Brian Dunn — October 23, 2011 @ 7:16 AM | Reply

  2. Good effort but absolutely incorrect in the meaning of some words or political and economic systems in a european point of view:
    When you say: “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. ”
    WRONG! Exacly the opposite in Europe. Liberal implies a free market minimizing government intervention. It means privatizing everything. It means depriving people of social welfare or free education in the long run. Your definition is a definition of socialism NOT liberalism in Europe. Right now in Europe we say that the european union is taking the liberal route because is minimizing the state intervention and walking slowly away from welfare, social healthcare and free education.

    When you say: “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.”
    WRONG! It is the exact opposite. The left is against european union because european union has deprived countries of political and economic freedom and turned them into submissive puppets of the international organizations thus removing worker’s rights, promoting more social discrepancies, reducing social welfare and so on.

    One thing americans have to understand is that socialism is NOT the same as comunism. Socialists are not anti capitalism. They believe in a free market and free economy. They do not want to make people “all the same”. This is a ridiculous definition for any european. Socialism in Europe nowadays means that in a free market there is a state intervention and the state should provide for what we consider the minimum: The right to education and to a social health care system. And that the state should regulate some aspects of the free market. Some right wing parties in Europe are in a way socialist because they defend these principles but tend to go against them in the long run.

    And when we speak of freedom and rights we all know that everything is pretty much fucked up all over the world BUT:
    I invite you to come to Europe to see for yourselves if we are constrained, less free, all the same,etc.

    Where i live in Lisbon, Portugal, beautiful city by a huge river, near the sea, with seven hills you go out at night and the bars close at 3:00 am. You can drink on the streets. Small to medium discos close at 6:00 am. Big discos can close at 7:00 am or 8:00 and then you have after hours where you can dance until 12:00 am. There are bars with rock music, punk music, alternative music, commercial, funky, jazz, blues, hip hop, dance music and so on. People smoke joints on the streets, if you do not posess more than a certain quantity it means it’s for personal consumption and you don’t get arrested for it. There are bars for gays, bars for lesbians and everything in between. You can dress with a hugo boss suit or a shirt with holes and everybody meets and talks on the same streets. And we have young people from all over the world here.

    We have public schools and public universities as well as private ones. No one is denied the right for education, even if they have no money.
    If i’m sick i go to hospital and pay 10 euro. And it’s not third world hospitals ok? My daughter was born premature and had to be at the neonatal intensive care that is considered one of the best, even better than private hospitals. How much did i pay? Zero.

    But it’s no bed of roses. The crisis and the fact that we had irresponsible governments that spent more than they could pay, that did not incentive production making my small country dependent on 80% of exports, that were incompetent and corrupt in the management of funds is ruining everything. It was a flawed system before (we have endemic problems that come from many years ago) but now is much worse and it will be even worse. And the problem was not socialism it was corporative lobbys in the state, the absence of regulation in the markets that is making us ALL slaves to the debt and to big corporations that managed to kill our sovereignty. There are no governments anymore. Only corporations and the interest of a few over interests of everybody else. But i’m going on a ramble and in personal views in the last part of my text. What matters is that our definition(Europe) of liberalism is the exact opposite of yours, at least in the economical and political side of things.


    Comment by Miguel Cervini — August 5, 2012 @ 6:40 PM | Reply

  3. Comment 1: Good job.

    Comment 2: A few thoughts; Europe is not more free than the USA in terms of personal liberty. The EU is an unelected supra-authority, and you have limited rights as we define under our Bill of Rights. Americans would find many European states MUCH more restrictive.

    You don’t seem to understand what socialism is either. One is a transitory, evolving process and the other is the theoretical end state of the process. A socialist may ACCEPT free markets and not advocate for all the other planks of the Communist Manifesto – but nevertheless, a single individual does not represent the whole. Socialism as a static model is misleading. It is the pathway to communism, and not intended to be a final form.


    Comment by jonathan8184 — December 25, 2012 @ 11:29 AM | Reply

  4. When you say “Socialism as a static model is misleading. It is the pathway to communism, and not intended to be a final form.” – who told you that? Where did you read this?? This is not correct at all.
    Northern european countries have had a socialist economic model for many many years, meaning that they live in a free market, they pay huge taxes but everyone has the right to absolutely free education and healthcare and NO they don’t have a fascist or communist or totalitarian regime and it is not going that way. And yes they are free and we’re talking about highly developed and civilized countries.

    And when you say “comment 1-Good job” – i’m sorry to say that it was a good effort but when he says “American Left/Fringe = European Far Left/Right /Socialist/Communist
    Both are anti-capitalist and normally racist or feminist.” ??? Yes they may be anti capitalist if we’re talking of far left but racist and feminist??? This is ridiculous. Racism is usually connected with the far right and NOT left. Usually the left wing parties in Europe are the ones that defend immigrants, minorities, gays and lesbian rights, etc. You simply cannot put all the things in the same bag. It seems some people have some kind of a myth in their heads regarding these issues and do not waste time seeking the truth and seeing behind the slogans. If you don’t believe me than come to Europe, read some more, talk to other europeans and see for yourself.


    Comment by Miguel Cervini — December 27, 2012 @ 2:16 PM | Reply

    • “When you say “Socialism as a static model is misleading. It is the pathway to communism, and not intended to be a final form.” – who told you that? Where did you read this?? ”

      Apparently, you must be reading a different Marx than the rest of the world. If you don’t understand this statement, than you aren’t reading Marx… Karl Marx… at all. Go to and read some of their archives. I’m not telling you anything that hasn’t been taught in universities the world over for a century and more. This lack of understanding on your part seems to color your description and analyses of Europe – at least it seems that way from your post.

      Racism being connected with the far-right is only YOUR paradigm of the world. It doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. The cliches of the left generally tend to serve their own internal fantasies. Prejudice isn’t the exclusive domain of any philosophy. Left wing parties defend these groups ONLY because they need their votes. Not necessarily because they really care about them. Once the left wing is in power ANYWHERE, they use race as a manipulation tool, just as they would any other power leverage. Just like any other despots in history who seek to hang on to power.

      You need to do some independent reading and study. You aren’t educated. You’re brainwashed.


      Comment by jonathan8184 — December 28, 2012 @ 12:28 AM | Reply

      • I wish i could write in portuguese to explain myself better since english is not my native language but i will try:
        So your definition of socialism relies only in a book written in 1848? This was a time when industrial revolution was on full blast and middle class was almost inexistent. There were the factory owners and the workers so to speak. Very rich people and very poor and almost nothing in between. Well it seems that the world has evolved since that time don’t you think? And so did the political parties and the economic and social views of the world. So i’m sorry to say that you have an extremely poor and closed approach on this issue. Socialist parties nowadays are not the same of those of the nineteenth century. I have told you about the northern european examples but you don’t seem to care. I think that many years of macarthy and cold war propaganda have brainwashed many americans including yourself. I don’t believe you will find many University professors that say that socialism is only what you read in Karl Marx’s manifesto. It seems that to most americans any sympathy for social welfare, national healthcare, etc are immediately linked with communism and that in the long run people will lose their rights and fall under a tirany. Once again i give you the northern european examples that prove that things don’t have to be that way.

        Furthermore i don’t think you understood what i wrote. When you say “Racism being connected with the far-right is only YOUR paradigm of the world. It doesn’t necessarily reflect reality” I only said that racism is USUALLY connected with the far right and not that this was true for every far right movement. But you do have Hitler’s example and many other far right parties through history that are often against immigrants,minorities, etc. So it is funny that you say “good job” to comment 1 when he uses cliches and his own paradigm of the world when he said “European Far Left/Right /Socialist/Communist. Both are anti-capitalist and normally racist or feminist”. This statement is ridiculous because it puts everything in the same bag and it is simply not true. But for you, such an educated person it is “good job”. Funny really.
        When you say that the left wing parties use minorities to gain votes i can agree with you. This is true in some parties unfortunately. But you don’t want me to talk about fascist regimes through history that implemented tiranny and oppression. And you do know that fascism is far right most of the times don’t you?
        Now do i agree with extreme left wing parties? No i don’t. All i said is that i believe in a free market with state intervention, national healthcare and free education. And this is not necessarily a pathway to communism ok? Any college professor will tell you that.

        And please come to Europe and you will see that we are every bit as free or more than you. If you think otherwise you are misinformed.

        Best regards


        Comment by Miguel Cervini — December 29, 2012 @ 3:41 PM | Reply

        • Hello Miguel. Our definition of socialism does not rely only in a book written in 1848. It is much, much worse than that. Our understanding chiefly relies on the sick twists that right-wing pundits put onto a few quotes pulled from an 1848 book in order to bash with agenda-filled fear-mongering any consideration of moving toward a social democracy. You were absolutely right when you said there are no governments anymore, only the rule of the interests of the few over the many. Some of us are desperately trying to wake up and do something about that. But politically-speaking you are talking laser technology with people who haven’t yet figured out how to smelt iron. Obrigado por tentar, As pessoas devem se unir.


          Comment by thepyat — February 13, 2016 @ 12:15 PM | Reply

          • Social Democracy is NOT socialism. The right wingers whom you hear saying it is socialism are mistaken, primarily because they hear uninformed liberals in the USA calling social democracy in Europe by the label of “socialism”. Kind of like Bernie Sanders does. Leftists who are not uniinformed but are trying to fool Americans also refer to social democracy as “socialism”. And America is ALREADY just as social democratic as Europe, in many ways… BTW.


            Comment by Albert H — October 28, 2017 @ 10:25 AM

        • Then essentially what you are saying is that socialism is anything and everything, as long as it includes entitlements that are free for all. This is NOT the standard definition of sociialism, and yes… the definition of Marx is pretty much the overwhelmingly dominant definition of socialism now in the world.

          So… in other words… whatever you’re doing in Europe is NOT socialism. If it were, then the USA would be socialist too, as would pretty much the entire world, except for the communist countries.


          Comment by Albert H — October 28, 2017 @ 10:22 AM | Reply

      • And if you have two minutes please read this summary i took from the web. I think it will help you think in a broader definition of socialism so that you understand that it is not ONLY what you read in Marx’s manifesto :

        Socialism –
        System of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control; also, the political movements aimed at putting that system into practice. Because “social control” may be interpreted in widely diverging ways, socialism ranges from statist to libertarian, from Marxist to liberal. The term was first used to describe the doctrines of Charles Fourier, Henri de Saint-Simon, and Robert Owen, who emphasized noncoercive communities of people working noncompetitively for the spiritual and physical well-being of all (see utopian socialism). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, seeing socialism as a transition state between capitalism and communism, appropriated what they found useful in socialist movements to develop their “scientific socialism.” In the 20th century, the Soviet Union was the principal model of strictly centralized socialism, while Sweden and Denmark were well-known for their non-communist socialism.

        Communism –
        In its broadest meaning communism describes a society in which all its members jointly (communally) own its resources and in which the society’s wealth and products are distributed equally to everyone. The term has been applied to premodern social and political constructs, such as communal societies propounded in Plato’s Republic and in Thomas More’s Utopia; to proposals of some radicals in the French Revolution of 1787; and to ideal communities advocated by nineteenth-century reformers such as Charles Fourier and Robert Owen, but none of these systems corresponded fully with the principles of communism.

        Most often, communism designates the ultimate good society espoused by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their Communist Manifesto of 1848 and the ideas and Soviet system in twentieth-century Russia associated with Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. The latter usage is a misnomer: Neither Lenin nor later Soviet leaders ever claimed that communism had been established in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, they willingly adopted the label, since it furthered their revolutionary and propagandistic purposes. As a result, in general discussion and writing, the Soviet state and its post-World War II offshoots in Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba were generally called “communist.” Correspondingly, leaders of the Soviet Union, of other similarly constituted states, and of revolutionary parties worldwide that adhered to Marxist-Leninist doctrine were known as “communists.”


        Comment by Miguel Cervini — December 29, 2012 @ 4:03 PM | Reply

        • Miguel, Hitler was a Left winger. I know that the Left likes to disdain fascism now, because it has such a bad reputaition. But the important thing to know is that the Left DIDN’T reject fascism when it was developing during the 30s. Now, I’m not going to argue with you about this. You are wrong and that’s all there is to it. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, etc…. all of them were fascists. And all of them were Leftists.

          Fascists are what socialists become when they become disillusioned and angry.

          My view of you is that you are closed minded and have a self-serving definition of history.

          As for your further explanation of communism and socialism… they are merely more examples of a self-serving view of history. Socialism always reinvents itself to gloss over the failures and present a whitewashed face to the next generation of useful idiots.

          Northern Europe isn’t socialist, by the way.


          Comment by jonathan8184 — December 30, 2012 @ 4:24 PM | Reply

  5. In continental Europe , the left is conservative, wants to defend family values and religion with a nanny state. the right is more libertarian. it varies from country to country. (sorry for my poor english) . originally , in the 19th century Europe, conservatives = church + family + king + nobility + no free market. liberals= no church + no king + no nobility + free market, small government and civil rights .


    Comment by alex — March 24, 2013 @ 6:22 AM | Reply

    • No. You’ve described the Left in Europe completely wrong. Nowhere in the world at all is anyone of the Left conservative in relation to the conservatism of their country. That’s the essence of the Left everywhere – Anti-conservative. Revolutionary. Anti-status quo.
      Only the right wing has a fringe minority that are truly, in every sense of the word as it relates to Europe, conservative/. However, you did peg the liberal label of Europe pretty well. They are the equivalent of American libertarians.


      Comment by Albert H — October 28, 2017 @ 10:32 AM | Reply

  6. […] figure. You can’t be a ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ in the European sense and then start fawning before a would-be-dictator. The President is not empowered by the […]


    Pingback by WoW Ruins Careers | Fist of Retribution — October 31, 2015 @ 5:42 PM | Reply

  7. Unfortunately, it is clear you have done absolutely no real research. Starting with an encyclopedia would have been a good start (here: Try also reading Locke and Jefferson, both Liberals. For future reference, here’s a better source:


    Comment by LibertyIsFTW — October 27, 2017 @ 1:58 PM | Reply

    • Today’s Liberal has virtually nothing in common with Jeffersonian Liberal, also known as a Classical Liberal. The moniker Liberal was used by the Progressives as their new title after Progressivism was discredited. Now that the left has tainted the moniker of Liberal, some are turning back to using the title Progressive. This was about modern politics and not dictionary terms, but you probably knew that and are a Leftist who runs interference just to throw bricks at people just to get them to fall for your discrediting hoping to muddy the waters.


      Comment by qwertster — October 27, 2017 @ 8:09 PM | Reply

      • Excellent post.


        Comment by Albert H — October 28, 2017 @ 10:34 AM | Reply

      • That’s one way to look at it, but it’s also what has been tried for 100 years and failed. Let me put it another way. What makes you think you can retake the entire culture when you can’t even retake a single word? You don’t seem to understand what is at stake. Once again, outside the United States, Liberalism is the same as it’s always been. American Progressives took over the word SPECIFICALLY to cut off Americans from their ideological heritage, and you advocate letting them do so. How is what you are suggesting a novel way of addressing the problem? It sounds like you’re just parroting the partisan line to me. I can turn the channel to a hundreds of Pop Con Pundits screaming angrily about “evil liberals”. How has that worked out for us so far?

        Not me. I’m done letting the Left hold the ideology of the Founders hostage. #TakeBackOurWord


        Comment by LibertyIsFTW — October 28, 2017 @ 11:05 AM | Reply

        • I am not trying to do anything in the United States, I do not reside in the United States and even did I still live there, I did try and went as far as running for office. No one person can retake a nation, but it starts when one tries and perhaps influences others to try. There I have done my part and have retired to the Mediterranean coast. Now I just throw words as I prefer words to bricks.


          Comment by qwertster — October 28, 2017 @ 8:34 PM | Reply

  8. Both sides are full of crap.


    Comment by Jeffrey Liakos — February 15, 2018 @ 11:39 AM | Reply

  9. I share this link in appreciation, but it is regrettable that the time context is absent. “This administration” is no longer “this administration” that was present in 2011. Don’t know why “Obama administration” wasn’t chosen for clarity.


    Comment by James Hall — May 26, 2019 @ 8:23 PM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: