The state is not inherently left wing

The nation state is inherently aligned with the interests and views of left wing parties.

People still believe this.


I find it astonishing that I still regularly have conversations with people from a variety of political views who continue to believe that the nation state is inherently left wing.

It seems much more convincing to me to argue that various parts of the nation state can be directed in a number of different directions for left or right wing purposes, but that richer people will be better at directing the state than poorer people.

Martin Gilens of Princeton University argues in his new book Economic Inequality and Political Power in the United States that it is a matter of fact that;

when Americans with different income levels differ in their policy preferences, actual policy outcomes strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent but bear virtually no relationship to the preferences of poor or middle-income Americans.


Similarly Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class argue that

Those at the very top of the economic ladder have developed and used political muscle to dramatically cut their taxes, deregulate the financial industry, keep corporate governance lax and labor unions hamstrung.

Given the increasing power and organization of wealthy people and the decreasing power and organization of middle to low income people I only expect this trend to continue.

In fact new research from Robert Putnam’s team has found that wealthy households are spending 8 times as much money as poorer households on “enrichment” activities for their children. One of the effects of these activities is to better equip children to become adults that are adept at influencing the government.

So, I would argue that, given the current power structures in America and Britain, in any given situation, the state will more than likely act to support the interests of wealthy households over the interests of lower income households if there is a conflict between their interests.

Doesn’t sound very left wing to me.


2 thoughts on “The state is not inherently left wing

  1. I could not agree more, Tom. A similarly absurd logic underlies the idea that private companies are “better” than the state in fulfilling public duties Although G4S and other incidents show the opposite this also seems one of these “things that people still believe”, although in fact it supports the interests of the wealthy far more than of those in need. (I liked Polly Toynbee’s article on Work Programm contractors:

  2. Thank Anna, and I agree with you follow up too. In fact many of the centre left continue to believe that private provision is always and inherently better than state provision. Why they have such a broad brush view, I am not so sure.

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