[For some time I have been frustrated by the very limited perspective of mainstream political commentary in Australia, and by the difficulty of establishing a longer perspective in the standard 800-word commentary piece. So I decided just to write until the case was made. Hence this 6000-word essay. It refers to the Australian context, but there are parallel stories in other countries.]
The political spectrum is traditionally characterised in terms of Left and Right, but the way these terms are used has changed so much they have become quite misleading. Today they are more about tribal identification, and their use is more of an epithet than a description.
The main reason for these changes is that the Right has shifted to quite extreme positions, compared with a generation or two ago. The modern Right not only espouses free-market fundamentalism, it promotes an extreme individualism that overlooks or dismisses the importance of social relationships and even denies the existence of society. There seems to be no standard of factual basis, sense or consistency required for its claims, so any opinion, however uninformed or misinformed, apparently is to be accorded as much validity in the public domain as any other.