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February 13, 2018


Fact Checker

This article posits a false dichtomy between 'progressives' and 'conservatives'.

I suppose it's there to replace what used to be called 'left' and 'right', which didn't describe Ireland's parties 30 years ago very well either.

Simplistic mental models have their place, but they don't really describe the increasingly diverse politcal landscape in Ireland, or indeed most of Europe, anymore.

Here are a few examples of politcal groups in Ireland today. Which are 'progressive' and which are 'conservative'?

Rural Independent group: fond of public spending, but resist change on social issues.

Fine Gael: increasing PRSI benefits, but cutting labour taxation.

Solidarity/PBP: more tax on wealth, but much reduced tax on residential property.


The false dichotomy claim is interesting. But why is it false? The dichotomy might or even must be a construct formed by social observations and, as such, will not necessarily be defined by a rigid set of variables that conform to every social norm or fit neatly into two columns.

Maybe it's better to ask if there is a discernable difference in a given social sphere - say housing - and see if there is a discernable split in opinion. There seems to be a very noticeable difference in approach to housing by what we call conservative groups who hold a market based ideology and often claim that by not taxing the wealthy we create more wealth versus another broad group (leftists?, progressives?) who see a problem with market ideology and forward different solutions.

That social features or variables we might commonly attribute to any one group don't always jive doesn't negate the broad differences in approaches along a liner spectrum. Rather these shifts and differences might suggest that there are variations or shades of approach other than that of each group at either extreme end of the social spectrum.

Whether what we call conservative are at the extreme end of a spectrum is a matter of debate.


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