What is Left-Wing Politics?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Left-wing politics defines a broad spectrum of political beliefs with a few general commonalties. In most cases, the left wing of political ideology represents a belief in a strong central government, which uses its power to help create economic and social equality. People on the left-wing generally believe in taking income from the wealthiest and redistributing it among the poorer part of the population. They also generally believe in enforcing social equality through governmental regulation. Socialism and modern liberalism are both examples of left-wing politics.

In general, a good way to understand the difference between the left and right wing is to look at the way each side views the concept of equality. The right-wing ideology favors creating an equal regulatory environment where everybody has to follow the same rules and then letting people compete in that environment. If one side is more successful than another, the right wing generally doesn’t believe in interfering. Those who favor left-wing politics often think it’s better to help change the outcome in situations where uncontrollable advantages allow one group to have more success than another.

When it comes to economics, believers in left-wing politics sometimes worry that the rich could use their power to dominate the poor and hoard all the wealth for themselves. They believe that without proper controls, the richest people in a society might seek to exploit those who have very little, and they generally believe in making sure that doesn’t happen. The right wing often believes that any attempt by the government to engineer fairness might result in a loss of freedom. They generally prefer to leave things alone and allow everyone to compete in an unregulated environment whenever possible.

In left-wing politics, there is usually a belief that the collective group is more important than the individual, while the right wing believes in a much more individualistic ideology. This results in a wide difference in policy. For example, the right wing often sees taxation as an undue burden on the individual, while the left wing usually sees taxation as a good thing for the collective group.

In American politics, the left wing is generally represented by the Democratic Party, while the right wing is represented by the Republican Party. For some countries, both of these parties might be considered right wing or left wing, and this is because the definitions can be quite variable depending on the politics in a particular place. As a country moves to the left or right over many years, the dividing line between the two political sides will generally move along with the philosophical shift.

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Discussion Comments


@everetra - I don’t know the answer to your question, but I do know these terms evolve over time. For example, political left wing advocates—liberals, by the old lexicon—now have come to refer to themselves as progressives. It’s a pretty relative distinction. I suppose liberals would object to right wing activists calling themselves “Constitutional conservatives”—as if the left doesn’t care about the Constitution.

I honestly don’t care about these milder euphemisms, I just don’t like it when either side starts bashing the other and throwing words like “fascist,” “socialist,” “communist” around. I don’t think there’s a place for this kind of language in civil discourse.


I’ve never understood where the terms “left wing” and “right wing” came from, although I understand what each wing represents ideologically.

What do we mean by wing? Is the metaphor that of an airplane—or a bird? And who determined that liberals should classified left wing while conservatives should be classified right wing? I know these seem like silly questions, but I’ve never understood this.

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