The meaning of the terms "left" and "right" in a political context has changed radically over time. The Right is generally against intentional political, economic and social change, the Left is in favour of it. The Left broadly identifies itself with the interests of the masses, while the Right is seen to favour the interests of the established propertied classes.
Some commentators, such as Norberto Bobbio, have argued that the central difference between left and right is that the left prioritises social equality, while the right prioritises individual responsibility and the maintenance of natural and inherent inequalities between people. Bobbio also makes clear, however, that "left" and "right" are not absolute terms, but vary between different countries and different periods.
economic interventionism laissez-faire In general, the political debate is about the extent to which the government should (interventionism) or should not (laissez-faire) intervene in the economy in order to effect desired social outcomes. The Nolan chart proposes this as one of its axes of distinction between left and right. This is a reversal of the situation of the late 18th century, when the left favored laissez-faire and the right favored mercantilism.
"larger" government preference "smaller" government preference Large and small here refer to policies and attitudes - although the number of government employees is often used as an indicator - and to social and economic policy rather than to military, police and judicial institutions and activity. This definition is most common in American politics, where the mainstream right has been most heavily influenced by free market economics and the mainstream left most influenced by Keynesian economics. Some, however, cite the existence of factions that may serve as counter examples to this definition -- libertarians, the authoritarian right, libertarian socialists, anarchists and the old right -- and see the above definition as an entirely distinct political dichotomy.
equality of outcome equality of opportunity Two writers who characterise the distinction along these lines are Norberto Bobbio and Danielle Allen. In his book Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction, Bobbio argues that the only valid difference between left and right is people's attitude to the ideal of equality. Left-wingers and right-wingers alike tend to speak in favour of both equality and liberty, but they have different interpretations of each of the two terms.
secular government religious government This distinction has deep roots in Europe's early modern period when the left-right distinction first emerged, as the Ancien Régime associated with the right was closely connected to the Catholic church and the left was thus often anti-clerical. It remains relevant in the United States, India and the Catholic countries in Europe, but there are now many examples of religious movements associated with the left (such as liberation theology or certain forms of Islamic radicalism) as well as many atheist or secular people on the right.
innovation conservatism Although in some countries 'right' and 'conservative' are used loosely as synonyms, this aspect gets little attention in discussion of the left-right axis. The American left writer Eric Hoffer was one of those who emphasised it.
culture dictates law law dictates culture This formulation was put forward by US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but is prefigured by Edmund Burke.
human nature and society are malleable human nature and society are fixed This is an example of the "nature versus nurture" argument. It was proposed as a definition of the left-right dichotomy by Thomas Sowell, and later endorsed by George Lakoff in his book Moral Politics. Many leftists, however, do believe in human nature, some, such as Noam Chomsky, even making it central to their political philosophies.
Writers have also been known to use the term more loosely and perhaps anachronistically, as did H. G. Wells when, writing of the Jews of the Roman Empire, he refers to the Pharisees as "on the right" and Hellenised Jews such as the Sadducees as "of the left."
i copied this right out of wikipedia.