First, the Right tolerates inequalities that the Left hates. …some people have it very easy in our society, others far too hard. The goal of policy should be to correct these inequalities in power. …
Second, I believe that governments succeed more often than they fail. People on the Right are more sceptical of government’s effectiveness. …
Third… People on the Left tend to have a vision of what society could be like, and believe it’s the role of democracy to try to make that a reality. People on the Right are more likely to value the status quo, believing it represents the tested wisdom of previous generations.
But these three may all originate in the same phenomenon: that the right is more inclined to see people’s circumstances as the results of their own choices, and the left is more inclined to see people’s circumstances as the results of factors beyond their own control. (You can see this view in, for instance, Chris Dillow's comment about Open Left.)
From this, it follows that the left desires to reduce the unfair effects of bad luck on people’s lives, whereas the right sees the natural order of things as fairer, and that change would likely be for the worse. The primary candidate to promote such change (by any number of direct or indirect means) is the state, and judgements of the state’s effectiveness tend to be in proportion to judgements of the merits of its aims.
Hence also the differences on the value of the status quo versus change (the Thatcherite revolution was an exception that proves the rule: it was mostly about changing a situation that previous governments had created).
So, is the left-right split just a difference in opinion on the roles of choice and luck? Almost certainly not. But I think there’s something in this.
(And, as I argue in another post today, the arbitrary and unequal role of bad luck is a good reason for the left to be wary of pure meritocracy.)