Left and Right Abroad

Mark Steyn writes:

If Obama is elected in November, at G7 meetings, for the first time since time they began, America will have a more left-wing leader than any other member of the group — Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Britain (and that’s before Gordon Brown loses to David Cameron). Right-of-center government throughout the western world — except Washington.

This is all well and good if you don’t actually know anything about foreign political parties. In the real world, here was France’s Nicholas Sarkozy on March 24:

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, called on world leaders yesterday to hold a summit this year aimed at rebuilding a “regulated capitalism” to replace a world financial system that had become unhinged. […]


Mr Sarkozy gave no new formula, but said it should be one where “whole swaths of financial activity are not left to the sole judgment of markets operators”.

Banks, he said, should finance development, and not engage in speculation. Executive pay should not drive them towards unreasonable risks and those who jeopardised people’s savings should be punished.

And of course leaders like Sarkozy, Merkel, and Cameron are all supportive of health care systems far more socialistic than anything Barack Obama would dare propose. Within the community of Anglophone nations, it makes some sense to think of the Democrats as analogous to Canada’s Liberals or British Labour while the GOP is like the Canadian or UK Conservatives. But even here the Conservatives are more like the marginalized moderate Republicans and the parties of the center-left generally put forward much more ambitious plans than the Democrats. Once you shift to the continent, things look completely different. I would probably find myself “on the right” of a lot of political issues in France or Germany, but that’s simply because they’re debating very different issues from the ones we’re looking at in the United States.