Centerfold

How Do Left and Right Compare?

Economics America recently embarked on a seven-year effort to make the work of both the political Left and the Right more widely available by publishing two guides, The Left Guide and The Right Guide. These guides contain hundreds of organizations broken down by each organization’s world view. When viewed as a whole, the organizations show how the political Right and Left stack up in terms of revenues, lobbying expenditures, government funding, assests held by philanthropies and compensation for top executives.The distinction between the Left and the Right began as a reference to seating arrangements of the French Assembly in the 1790s. The monarchists sat on the right, the republicans on the left. Modern usage usually breaks down into conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, reactionaries and radicals, capitalists and socialists.

The Left

The world view usually called "progressive" holds that human nature is malleable and that society can be engineered based on a plan developed by experts—then instituted and maintained with political will. Organizations on the Left are usually referred to as civil libertarians, progressives, leftists, socialists and radicals. The Left relies heavily on coalition building, grassroots involvement and political power. It is not uncommon for an organization on the Left to produce no academic style studies, but to use political power as its sole means of influence. Through grassroots organizations, labor unions, religious groups, college students, community activists and coalitions of these components, the Left influences policy. A new trend is the increasing output of Left-oriented economic and social studies to advance its agenda.

The Right

The traditional core of conservatism is that human nature is fixed. Society is a gradually evolving system, and resists planned attempts to substantially alter economic, familial, class and other social structures. According to this view, humans act economically in their own self-interest and individuals and families make up the basic building blocks of society. History, religion and tradition provide the best guides to improvement. Organizations listed on the Right tend to be dominated by policy organizations that rely on analytic, economic and social studies. They promote their agenda via these studies, focusing on lobbyists, spokesmen, friendly media outlets and to a much smaller extent the general public. With the notable exceptions of the religious right and the gun lobby, the Right does not rely on coalition building, grassroots involvement

Philanthropy Assets

Lobbying Expenditures

Lobbying & Government-Funded Organizations

Net Revenues

Salaries

Government Grants

Philanthropy Assets
The research and educational organizations of both the Left and the Right receive approximately 85-90 percent of their revenue from philanthropic grants. A large majority of these grants come from philanthropic foundations. A few of these foundations fund both the Left and the Right, but the majority fund one or the other. The foundations that fund the Left have assets of $27.5 billion. The foundations that fund the Right have assets of $5.1 billion. However, more than half of the Right’s figure ($2.8 billion) comes from the Lilly Endowment, and the Endowment only awards 3 percent of its grants to conservative organizations.

The Foundations that fund the Left have 439 percent greater assets than those that fund the Right. However, if you remove the Lilly Endowment, the assets available to the Left are 1,095 percent greater than the assets available to the Right, almost 12 times as much.

Lobbying Expenditures
The amount spent on lobbying comes from two types of organizations, organizations set up specifically to lobby [(501(c )(4)], and research and education organizations [501(c )(3)] that can spend a certain percentage of their expenses on lobbying. The Left spent $674,328,612 on lobbying while the Right spent $265,498,432.

The Left spent 154 percent more than the Right on lobbying, over 2 times as much.

Lobbying & Government-Funded Organizations
On the Left, 20 percent (147 out of 731) of 501(c)(3) organizations engage in lobbying. However, of the 501(c )(3) organizations that receive government funding, 33 percent (51 out of 155) engage in lobbying. Organizations on the Left that receive government funding are 64 percent more likely to engage in lobbying than Leftist organizations that do not receive government funding.

On the Right, 11 percent (32 out of 295) of 501(c)(3) organizations engage in lobbying. Of those that receive government funding, 7 percent (1 out of 14) engage in lobbying. Organizations on the Right that receive government funding are 34 percent less likely to engage in lobbying than their counterparts that do not receive this funding.

Overall, 501(c )(3) organizations on the Left are 86 percent more likely to engage in lobbying than the organizations on the Right, almost twice as likely. Of organizations that receive government funding, on the Left they are 363 percent more likely to engage in lobbying than those on the Right, almost five times as likely.

Net Revenues
Nonprofit lobbying, research and education (this excludes grant-making foundations) organizations on the Left have net revenues of $2,979,971349, almost $3 billion a year. Comparable organizations on the Right have $822,115,566, or $0.8 billion.

The Left has 262 percent more revenue than the Right,

almost three times as much.

Salaries
One area where the Right comes out ahead of the Left is in the compensation of the top executives at its research and education organizations. On the Right, the top executive receives an average compensation package of $67,359, or 3.2 percent of the organization’s revenue. On the Left it is $59,925, or 1.4 percent of the organization’s revenue. The same is true for the 10 largest organizations. The top executive at the 10 largest organizations on the Right receive an average of $257,668, or 2.6% percent of the organization’s net revenue. On the Left, it is $248,910, or 0.6 percent of the organization’s revenue.

The Right pays more compensation to the top executives at its research and education organizations, on average, 12 percent more.

Government Grants
Many nonprofit research and lobbying organizations receive money from the federal government and other taxpayer-funded sources. On the Left 155 groups receive $803,128,970. On the Right, 14 groups receive $17,821,257.

The Left receives 4,407 percent more than the Right, over 45 times as much.


How were the organizations selected?

Both The Left Guide and The Right Guide were produced with the help and cooperation of most of the listed organizations. Most organizations take positions on current issues and it is relatively easy to match positions with their place on the political spectrum. When in doubt, the authors referred to published material from the American Conservative Union and the Americans for Democratic Action. Both organizations monitor votes in Congress, and scale the votes on what most people would call the Left and Right.

All figures are taken from The Right Guide and The Left Guide


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