Some maintain that conservatives believe in limited government while progressives believe in expanding government, but this simply isn’t true. Those called conservatives today generally want more government when it comes to military spending, promoting morality, punishing crime, and enforcing immigration law, while those called progressives today want less government involvement when it comes to reproductive choices, domestic surveillance, and the military.4 And if ‘right-wing’ means less government, what are we to do with fascists like Mussolini who declared, “Everything in the state, nothing against the state, nothing outside the state”?
Others claim that the right wing is defined by foreign policy “hawkishness” while the left wing is defined by foreign policy “dovishness.” But those on the American Left were far more hawkish than those on the Right until the 1960s.5 The view that ‘right-wing’ is synonymous with hawkishness is a fairly recent development and looks to be changing again with the growing influence of “America First” sentiments in the Republican Party.
Every proposed essence for right or left is easily falsified, leading to the conclusion that ideologies are evolving social constructs.6 Yet those who cling to the spectrum make their theories of right-left immune from falsification through creative ex-post storytelling. The test of truth is not storytelling, but prediction; those clinging to the political spectrum make no predictions, but they do tell plenty of stories.7 With enough creativity anyone can turn the random noise of politics into signals of coherent ideologies.