The natural state of affairs
The political Left is widely and reasonably identified as people opposed to the status quo. They sure are. There is virtually nothing at present existing in the world that they would not like to overturn if they could. Such a big overturn can only be attained via a revolution but, ever since the French revolution, Leftists have managed quite a few of those. And the French revolutionaries even wanted to change the calendar.
But the awkward fact is that conservatives don't like the status quo either. In fact nobody does. I have yet to meet anyone who is completely happy with the world about him. I suspect such a person would have to be a hebephrenic or some other sort of mental case.
So how come Leftists are so identified with opposition to the status quo? The easy answer is that they are more passionate about it and more involved over it. They are driven by anger about things that others feel they can live with. The emotional importance of change differentiates and drives them. They are hell-bent (sometimes literally) on change.
While that is all undoubtedly true it doesn't provide a really sharp differentiation of the Left from others. And I think we can improve on it. And to do that I think we have to refer to the natural state of affairs. "The natural state of affairs"? What is that? It is a concept sometimes used in both law and economics but I want to broaden its applicability. I think it is actually quite easy to define in a generally applicable way. It means whatever people would do in the absence of external constraints.
And Leftists are big on external constraints. They are continually trying to make laws and regulations that will move people away from doing what they otherwise would do. There is general agreement that some basic laws are needed -- prohibition against assault, murder, theft etc. but Leftists go far beyond that. In a celebrated case one of them even wanted to forbid you from buying fizzy drinks in a container that was bigger than a certain size. Leftist would regulate EVERYTHING if they could. And in the Soviet Union they went close to achieving it. Leftists are the ultimate authoritarians. They want to STOP people doing what they would do in a natural state of affairs.
So I think we can now make a pretty sharp distinction between the changes Leftists want and the changes that conservatives want. Leftists want change AWAY from the natural state of affairs while conservatives want changes TOWARDS the natural state of affairs -- or at least changes that respect the natural state of affairs.
For instance, in a natural state of affairs people would tend to discriminate in various ways. They would and do tend to give various sorts of preference to people like themselves. And conservatives generally understand that. But to Leftists discrimination is an offence deserving of severe punishment. They want to stop people doing what they are normally and naturally inclined to do. Their need for change and the dreams of utopia that drive them make them the enemy of the natural state of affairs.