My glossary for understanding leftspeak
In the interest of helping out some of our foreign friends, as well as the young people who are just learning about rhetoric, persuasion and propaganda, and critical analysis of argumentation techniques, I thought I would offer a few definitions of current buzzwords in the U.S. political arena. I call them buzzwords because the words themselves mean something entirely different from what they seem to mean on the surface. Hence they are more or less stealth signifiers, so I thought I'd put out a little context on them.
"progressive" -- as in "progressive values," "progressive causes," "progressive places." Liberals and/or leftists use this adjective to denote something enlightened, a political or social goal thoughtfully constructed by superior thinkers, and use it to describe "social action" at its best, as they see it. Those on the right, however, recognize this buzzword to mean "socialist" (or "collectivist" or even "Communist"). Since the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the left in our country tries not to label its ideas as being outright socialist anymore (since socialism is, in many parts of the U.S., at least, recognized as a failed philosophy). Calling a socialist value, program, or goal "progressive" avoids the immediate stigma of truthfully identifying it for what it really is.
"progressive taxation" -- This means, in the context of the U.S. income taxes, taxing those with more income a higher rate of tax. So, under "progressive taxation," a person who earns, say $10 an hour, will be taxed at the rate of say, 15%, and pay an actual tax amount of $1.50, while the person who earns $20 an hour will not be taxed at the same 15% rate (which would yield $3.00 to the government coffers), but would be taxed at an arbitrarily-set higher rate (say, 25%, yielding $5.00 to the government). Many people (most notably, Democrats) think (or rather, feel in some inchoate manner) that this is the "fairest" system of raising money to fund the government. It needs to be noted and recognized that a heavy progressive or graduated income tax was central to the way in which Karl Marx proposed to bring down "bourgeoise" societies and institute Communism in their stead. Meanwhile, others on the right argue that a "flat tax" (same percentage rate of taxation on the income of everyone) or a "fair tax" (a universal rate of tax on all sales in place of any tax on income) would actually be more fair (and incidentally, provide less of a disincentive to creating wealth, investments, and savings).
"social justice" -- as opposed to just plain, old-fashioned, impartial, blind justice, means to a liberal or a leftist, the engineering of desireable social outcomes instituted by elite ("progressive") thinkers or groups through governmental force. When someone on the right hears the words "social justice," he or she immediately knows there is a collectivist activist talking--otherwise, why say "social justice" when plain "justice" would do? Usually the only way "social justice" can be brought about is by ignoring some established rights of individuals in order to gain the desired benefits for favored groups. In this sense, attempts to achieve "social justice" usually smack of "the ends justify the means" affairs, with "social justice" concerns seeking to trump ordinary impartial justice by law and through the courts. Abolition of slavery in the U.S. and the civil rights movement of the 1960s could be seen as "social justice" movements and are forever afterwards being held up as models to excuse all sorts of failed social engineering schemes, such as socialized medicine, forced school busing and affirmative action/quota programs intended to bring about ends that in many cases are never realized. The hallmarks of "social justice" actions are a collectivist outlook, an abrogration of established rights of certain individuals, and an disinterest in actual proof of whether or not the policies sought will actually do what is claimed, or will have unintended consequences. As Ayn Rand said, "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." What the left refuses to acknowledge is that "capitalism is the system of genuine 'social justice.'"
"environmentalist" -- This is one of those buzzwords that is a shortcut to two opposite meanings; for those on the left "environmentalist" equals "good" and for those on the right it signifies "watch out, anti-capitalist idealogue is probably about to spew." For those on the left, environmentalist concerns include the standard roster of accepted faddish and/or radical ideas over which the left can bond, including the deliciously self-righteous idea that all Republicans, in opposing some environmentalist policies, must hate clean air and rain forests and want to pollute the world. Those on the right don't exclude themselves from environmental concerns as the leftists think they do--they are just more skeptical of popular received opinions (they need more proof that policies and regulations actually work as they are meant to), are more willing to do cost-benefit and risk analyses, and to look outside the box for non-kneejerk, non-collectivist solutions (as they generally see collectivism as a failed and unproductive concept anyway).
"living wages" -- to the left, this means arbitrary wage levels and rates as determined by leftist or union activists (or Communist Politburos or other central management agencies), enacted and enforced by government regulations--intrusive governmental laws and regulations as viewed on the right, which considers a free market the ultimate best way to empower all people, the United States economic system being Exhibit A.
"sprawl" -- to the left, this means the aesthetically "ugly," spiritually empty, and economically repugnant spread of large and small businesses and private homes developing outward from U.S. inner cities that cries out to be regulated by those who know better (central managers and elite thinkers with better taste). To the right, this means freedom to choose where and how one lives, works, starts a business, and develops an infrastructure to support a community of voluntary settler-citizens regulating themselves, thank-you.
These are just a few words that came to mind while I was reading this article praising the "courage" of Salt Lake City's 'forward-thinking' mayor. As I come across more buzzwords, I will add them to my list.