the “not left-wing” claim

Since I frequently get praise and attention from conservatives and libertarians for my pieces critiquing the current state of progressive argumentative and political practice, I am also frequently accused by more partisan progressives of not being left-wing. The funny thing is that these people are frequently incapable of naming a single substantive policy on which we disagree. Well, let me go through the perennial activity of laying it out for all of you.

I am a socialist who believes in the short term in instituting a dramatically more progressive tax system in order to fund a far more redistributive and robust social state, and in the long term in a system of market socialism whereby a guaranteed minimum income is paid to all citizens in order to ensure minimal material security and comfort. I’m in favor of nationalizing the banking industry, or failing to do that, enforcing far more limiting and vigorous regulations on speculative financial trades and rent-seeking. I believe in universal health care partially funded by taxpayers, with something like a one third/two thirds individual/government split on routine care and caps on individual payouts for catastrophic or perpetual care. I believe in free tuition at state-built and controlled public universities, in a system similar to our K-12 system. I support robust protections for teachers and wages that reflect their effort. I advocate for government funding for the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. I think that despite decades of merciless attacks from the moneyed, unions represent one of the most essential and powerful systems for positive progressive change, and I call for enforcement of existing labor laws that benefit unions and the passage of more powerful legislation besides. I believe in the need for an empowered, activist regulatory state to ensure consumer protections and public safety. I am opposed to all forms of sexual conservatism, and regard all consenting, adult sexual and romantic relationships between freely choosing partners to be of perfectly equal legitimacy. I believe in addressing historical inequality and oppression along racial, gender, ethnic, and similar lines. I support race-based and gender-based affirmative action where necessary in colleges and in governmental jobs. I support reparations for slavery and for our aggression and atrocities against Native American tribes. I support an Equal Rights Amendment to ensure gender equity. I believe in abortion rights without restriction, complication, or prior review. I advocate for access to birth control for all people of sexual maturity and comprehensive sexual education in middle and high school. I am a strict believer in civil rights and civil liberties and call for robust government enforcement of equal access to housing and employment, strong protections of free speech, practical freedom both of religion and from religion, and powerful rights for the accused. I am opposed to the Drug War and to the incarceration state. I am against all forms of the death penalty in all cases and without exception. I support vast reforms of our corrupt, violent, and inhumane prisons. I recognize the existence of patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, Western cultural and military hegemony, and neocolonialism, and believe in a moral duty to end them. I support comprehensive gun control. I support immigration without restriction. I am antiwar in almost all cases. I call for an immediate cessation of hostilities against the Muslim world, the closure of vast numbers of American overseas military bases, and drastic cuts in our defense budget. I advocate for a comprehensive dismantling of the NSA and CIA and the end of all programs of mass electronic espionage on the citizens of this country and those abroad. I believe in the need for prosecution of America’s large body of war criminals who have wrought ceaseless devastation on innocent, defenseless people. I call for the immediate, comprehensive, and permanent dismantling of our nuclear arsenal. I support strong environmental regulations and robust efforts to reverse global warming, end the depletion of our natural resources, and save endangered plant and animal species and their habitats. I believe that the most profound moral task of the 21st century is to redress a world of terrible inequality and oppression, a task which can only be completed with a vast effort to dismantle systems of human inequality and to close the vast material gulf between those who enjoy historic, economic, demographic, social, cultural, political, and practical privilege over those who don’t.

But, yeah. Other than that I’m a regular William F. Buckley.


  1. “I support immigration without restriction.”

    Aha! So you were a secret libertarian all along! Now the Sanders/Warren fanclub can toss you out without any hesitation!

  2. As catechisms go, that’s a good attempt. Unfortunately, Freddie, you believe in a particular set of things, and what the partisans were after was an open-ended oath to agree with them on everything.

  3. Devil’s Advocate:

    Do you support Democratic Party candidates in almost all cases, since even the worst Democrat is almost certainly going to be better than even the best Republican?

    Do you support strategic alliances with conservatives and/or libertarians on given issues, and if so, does that make you a “useful idiot”?

    Is your above list tantamount to Purity Politics, and does your advocacy for some of these positions render you irrelevant?

  4. Interesting that you enabled comments for this but disabled them for the previous post. All I wanted was to ask which War and Peace translation you thought was best, and now I’m forced to bust your chops about politics!

    1. Yeah, but then we’d get sucked into a pointless, horrible debate about whether the Crawleys are just English Rostovs

    2. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have been working through the big Russian books over the past few decades and probably have the most modern, readable translations. I can’t speak to War and Peace specifically, but they’ve done well with Anna Karenina and the Dostoevsky that I’ve read.

      Constance Garnett was the standard prior to these two. The nice thing about her translations is that they’re all public domain.

      Reasonable people can disagree, of course.

  5. Yes yes, that’s all well and good, but now for something important: do you now, or have you ever in the past, failed to put the asterisk at the end of the word “trans*”? Think carefully, comrade.

  6. I’ve been reading through some of your stuff lately and found it interesting – except all the time you spend chewing on other people.

    But, then you come out with this manifesto. There’s about 20% where we agree. I guess you should work up a budget for all the things you want to do, and then figure out how to pay for it all.

    Some kind of a flat tax with no loopholes and a high refundable credit, which would include a tax on investment income net of inflation might help to alleviate the coming problem of people having nothing of economic value to contribute.

    But reparations and all that other stuff, well, not enough space is available.

    I’ll just keep reading you to see if I can figure out what makes you think the way you do – and whether you keep thinking that way as life rolls over you.

    Regards, really, KBK

  7. It’s funny, I think of myself as being overall moderate, but I’d say we have about 70% overlap. In general, I reject the idea of tribalism, and avoid labels (I vote).

    FYI, I really enjoy reading your blog – excellent, excellent stuff. You express a lot of things that I agree with (current state of left-wing discourse), but you’ve thought them through more deeply than I have, so reading your work helps me clarify my own ideas. Thanks!

  8. In the face of all that, *we* still recognize you as a fellow traveler and *they* don’t. What’s with that?

  9. Out of curiosity, who labels you “not left wing”? Maybe I just dont read the right blogs or follow the right twitter handles or whatever.

  10. Nice try, Freddie, but I see you’ve conveniently left out your position on the most important issue; Beyonce’s Grammy snub.

  11. I support a lot of the things you are talking about, but how do you manage both “a far more redistributive and robust social state” and “immigration without restriction”? There are literally billions of people in the world who would have a higher standard of living in such a welfare state than living as old people, or even employed people, in their home countries. Probably, hundreds of millions of people would want to immigrate to the United States if we offered robust welfare benefits + open borders.

    1. Having a strongly redistributive social state doesn’t mean you have to make that redistribution accessible to immigrants as soon as they arrive in the country.

      Secondly, if hundreds of millions of people from all over the world want to live in a country that takes care of it’s people, then that is actually a pretty strong argument for creating such a society. It’s no more evidence of the unfeasibility of a welfare state than the tens of millions that fled the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War were evidence of capitalism being unfeasible.

      1. So you end up with a two-tier society where a generous welfare state is available to some people but not others?

        I guess it’s not reasonable to expect DeBoer to game out all the consequences of his worldview in a single blog post. But I am curious how he sees this working.

  12. In the abstract you seem like a fairly orthodox European style social democrat.

    But abstract political laundry lists are always more like wish lists than anything else. We don’t have an NDP or a Labor Party, or any other practical vehicle that could retool the state to serve the people.

    We have two neoliberal parties. We have the Republicans, a more or less white supremacist neoliberal party. And we have the Democrats, a non-racialist neoliberal party.

    Then we have Sanders and Warren, two right wing social democrats who are OK on a few domestic issues, horrible on foreign policy, and likely to suck leftists back into the Democrats.

    We basically have a desert political desert where people, in despair, argue about TV shows.

    You spend a lot of time pointing out the stupidities of the cultural left. I agree with you on most. You also strike me as far too smart to become a right winger. The danger, I think, is going down the Michelle Goldberg/Todd Gitlin road and letting the good protester/bad protester narrative drive you into the Democrats with all the Sanders/Warren supporters.

  13. I enjoyed reading this, and I wish more people would write down their beliefs like this.

    Question: does “abortion without restriction” include the hour before the mother goes into labor? (Sorry for the reductio ad absurdum; just trying to clarify things.) Or is there some standard I’m missing where the phrase is not meant literally? In many European countries they’re pretty non-restrictive in the first trimester and very restrictive after that.

  14. Freddie…the reason people on the left say you aren’t one is because so often, you serve the role of useful idiot to the right. Post after post whining about how the left is this or that awful thing, and you are pure and holy. Never actually taking on the right. So that’s why conservatives and libertarians love you.

    Instead of attacking the power structures, you attack other people who are attacking them, with a pity “you’re doing it wrong”. And then, when you get called out on it, you do this…a list of things you believe in. Well, congrats on that. You believe in a lot of great things. Too bad you don’t actually post much about them, instead looking for another hippie to punch, so…you could be Mickey Kaus 2.0? I’m not exactly sure what your goal is, but it certainly isn’t affecting any sort of real change.

    1. A claim made only by people like you who come here to do nothing but complain about my politics and don’t read the stuff I post that is unmistakably left-wing, such as everything I write about education, or everything I write about foreign policy, people who don’t know or bother to know my history as an activist, people who ignore the literally thousands of left-wing blog posts I’ve written, and people who ignore that to me, my complaints about identity politics are left-wing engagement precisely because the left-wing is meant to recognize material, economic politics as inherently more progressive and meaningful than affective, moral politics. The fact that you don’t agree with that stance is not an indictment of my ideological position. It’s just disagreement. That’s all. So you’re in no position to lecture to me.

  15. I gather you’re referring to LGM and/or Crooked Timber and their ilk? I’m usually a fan of their respective stuff, but yeah I dunno why they’ve gone all loony over what you write and they’ve been behaving a little (well a lot) douchey.

    Oh well, keep up the writing and best of luck with your job search!

    1. I don’t think Crooked Timber bashed him. LGM and the commenters at Balloon Juice are genuinely weird on the subject of our host. I read Freddie at irregular intervals and the attacks on him don’t make sense, unless there are some truly ghastly DeBoer posts somewhere that I’ve never seen.

      But I think he just rubs them the wrong way, so they demonize him.

  16. Hi Freddie. I just found you via a re-tweet of your post on Fury Road. I should have guessed from that article that we had similar world-views, but I was still surprised to read this post. I think I agree with all of it. (I could quibble about whether the most profound moral obligation was addressing climate change instead of inequality – but I’m not adamant about that one). I mentioned at a party recently that I was in favor of a universal minimal income and “even the liberals” were shocked.

  17. A useful list. And also:

    “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… .” –Walt Whitman

  18. I disagree with much of your politics, but I enjoy reading your thoughts. Why? Because you clearly state what you think and how, at least in your view, leftist views should be put into play. Too often both sides debate in codewords without saying anything. One of the worst moments in recent politics was Romney’s 47% comment. Not necessarily because he was wrong. But because he didn’t have the guts to stand up walk through why he thinks it’s a problem and what he would do about it. The left shouted him down, and he shut up. If the establishment left every uttered the word socialism they’d feel the same effect. But we’re only going to get through this political quagmire if we talk through real ideas and their real implications.

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