Monday, February 03, 2014

No More Simplistic Left and Right

Via Conrad Tribble on Twitter (who you should follow if you're interested in U.S.-Cuban relations), Roberta Jacobson (Asst Sec State for Western Hemisphere Affairs) wrote this letter to the Washington Post:

The old left vs. right framework is no longer an accurate or meaningful way to look at Latin America, and attempts to sort the region’s governments by that dated rubric lead one down a confused path to contorted conclusions. 
There are indeed some lines of difference in the region with respect to open markets, global economic engagement and strengthening democratic institutions. I am confident that the positive returns for those choosing more open and globally engaged economies will create a self-reinforcing trend over time. But amid those differences is, perhaps as importantly, a consensus emerging across the political spectrum on the need for more inclusive, opportunity-oriented agendas. 
This has become a central organizing principle for virtually all the governments in the region and mirrors a similar discussion that the United States is having among our own citizens on how best to spread the benefits of prosperity to all citizens and how to expand educational opportunity more wisely and ensure that our people have the right skills for the 21st-century workforce. The exact answers may vary, but we see this new consensus in Latin America not as cause for concern but rather as an opportunity to work together on shared challenges.
How nice to hear that from a senior policy maker for Latin America. This had come up just today because of the media attention on El Salvador, where there is an obsession with labeling the candidates in narrow ideological terms.

The left-right labeling puts leaders and even entire countries in boxes that just don't reflect reality. This blog is now 8 years old, and not long after starting I had already complained about the rigid "good" and "bad" lefts, among other silly labels.

I know they will persist because they offer very easy ways to show whether you approve or not of a given person/country and/or want to project a certain image of them. "Contorted conclusions" is a nice way of putting it. We should have more concerted effort to avoid the simple labels.


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