When we talk about political parties, invariably we do so referring to 'left wing' and 'right wing'. A party is either left wing or right wing, and we then base our opinion of them on this fact as well as their policies. In most countries there is a predominant left wing party and predominant right wing party. In the US it's the democrats and the republicans respectively, while in the UK it's labour and conservative. Thus most people think of left wing and they think immediately of the policies of that particular party. The truth is however, that most left wing parties today and most right wing parties do not really stick to the policies that their allegiance would dictate but instead gravitate towards a 'middle ground' in order to avoid alienating too many potential voters. So much is this the case that most parties are slightly more left or right wing, but few are particularly one way or the other. Thus the true meaning of left and right wing has become lost and this can make politics very confusing for voters.
While we will each have a political leaning – towards either the left or the right, this is entirely a matter of preference and both are designed in order to benefit humanity. That is to say that regardless of what side you sit on, the other is not 'wrong'. It is just a matter of perspective, and both have been designed with the best of intentions. Interestingly this perspective then, of left or right wing, can help us to make our decisions on almost all of our philosophical and theoretical questions.
Essentially left wing means distributing the cash amongst the population as equally as possible and as fairly as possible. This means that the wealthy will be taxed more highly in order to help pay for the poorer and the idea here is that no one thereby has to suffer and that no one ends up with nothing. This aims to get rid of the class divide and thereby hopefully combat the problems of poverty etc.
Right wing on the other hand though believes that this takes away our ability to achieve and succeed. If you are taxed for your success then this takes away the desire to strive to achieve and this results in society stagnating and people losing their sense of freedom and their aspirations of freedom.
Of course neither of these ideas is right or wrong; of course it is wrong to take away people's freedom and their right to earn money, but at the same time it is wrong to let those who are struggling to live in absolute poverty. In either scenario there are draw backs, it just depends on a matter of perspective – whether you value freedom more, or safety and equality; individuality, or the 'greater' good.
As mentioned most parties today don't take either of these points to the extreme. Right wing parties will tax the wealthier portion of the population slightly less and will privatise more businesses meaning they will be run by private business rather than the state. Left wing meanwhile will offer more benefits at the cost of more taxes and will also provide more state run services. As such, as a rule the poorer population will vote for the lefter-wing parties in order to get more benefits and more free services, while the wealthier portion will vote right wing to get fewer taxes and to create an environment more conducive to business. However parties on either side in the West will do all these things and simply offer differing compromises. Right wing in its milder form is capitalism, and this is what most of us in the West are familiar with. This is what the 'American dream' represents – that you can have a dream and then achieve it through hard work or a great idea. At the same time though this has the risk of failure.
Of course either of these concepts taken to their extremes can be dangerous and history has demonstrated this many times. Extreme right wing philosophies for example result in fascism or Nazism. Here the policy can be summed up as 'survival of the fittest' with failure being punished with few concessions. In Nazism the survival of the fittest concept was taken to an extreme resulting in eugenics where those individuals and races deemed 'inferior' (using no scientific or theoretical basis other than Hitler's own prejudices) were terminated in order to create one stronger society.
Extreme left wing parties however subscribe to communism. Here everything is tightly controlled by the state, people are assigned jobs and given allowances. There is no room here for freedom or creativity, and everything goes directly to the state in order to improve the national wealth. There is no freedom of speech and in the extremes individuals will even wear uniforms and have their procreation limited.
Both of these examples are extreme versions of a political view, but also warped and twisted in many ways. The original Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx was well meaning and did not contain many of the harsher policies of communist parties – rather being a simple critique of capitalism. Meanwhile, the philosopher Nietzsche was the inspiration for many of Hitler's ideas who twisted a lot of his positive emphasis on the power of the individual to become an 'ubermensch' into racist slander.
A true extreme left party would do away with any 'state' in order to control the masses where instead the population would simply willingly share their wealth evenly and carry out the specific tasks. Meanwhile a true extreme right wing party would have no interest in creating a 'superior race' as the emphasis would be placed squarely on the individual.
Divisions and Associations
Interestingly it seems that the left wing is a far more Eastern philosophy, and the further you travel East the more likely you are to encounter communism. Meanwhile the US is more capitalist than even the UK, as can be seen by the lower taxes and privatised health service. Over time other aspects of left and right wing policy has been associated with other political agendas that have little to do with the concept of left wing or right wing. For example, the religious voters tend to vote for right wing parties who are historically more likely to oppose IV and genetic research. In this sense, left wing parties can be seen (in the West) as being more progressive, while right wing parties are seen as more cautious and traditional. In reality though this has nothing to do with what it actually means to be either left wing or right wing, but is instead a matter of those parties trying to appeal to specific portions of the voting population.
When you are voting then it's important to understand what left and right wing really means, but also to try and separate the concepts from their parties and their policies. You need to consider both when making a decision. At the end of the day either way it is just a matter of preference and a matter of perspective.