Tuesday, March 27, 2007

[the political spectrum] any ideas

Have you ever had to explain the western political spectrum to a foreigner? I was found sadly wanting at this today. If you start with Left, Centre, Right, what exactly do they mean? Where do you put the BNP, the Communists, the Finance [monopolists] and other extremists?

Then the term Classic Liberal [e.g. Tim Worstall]. What does that mean? John Stuart Mill type free or Libertarian? And what is a Libertarian? Does that mean licentious, as in indiscriminate sex with anything that moves, with Stern Moralists at the other end or does it mean 'believing in Freedom of Association, Trade, Religion' and all that?

Where do you put the average small to medium businessmen? I already know where to put the big ones - behind bars. Where does a truly charitable Christian go? Or a 'regulate everyone and tax the hell out of them' PC devotee? I've devised a working model which might work:

Centrists: Believe in family, small business, free trade, value system etc.

State altruists: State regulates people's altruism e.g. there must be 50% women on all football teams.

What do you think?


Winfred Mann said...

I believe the true problem rises from the use of labels. Every situation has its own unique circumstances and often politicians usually on either side of things end up supporting each other.
In the end “no one viewpoint” can solve all the problems, which begs the question, “Should government attempt to solve all problems.”

By your description, I'm a centrist. However, I've been called a Liberal, a Conservative, and other things not printable.


james higham said...

Ah, Winfred, if there were any lingering doubts before, they are now dispelled:

...and other things not printable...

All fine achievers achieve this distinction.

Delicolor said...

It isn't a one dimensional axis- it is a two dimensional grid with the axes being personal and economic freedom. It makes a lot more sense when drawn that way.


CityUnslicker said...

right and left is more of a circle if you ask me. the extremes meet each other, hence the circularity.

ThunderDragon said...

The problem with defining a political spectrum is that it is not possible to fit all beliefs within one graph. Each and every context requires a readjustment.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Even the two dimensional spectrum can be misleading. I consider myself socially liberal, economically liberal and yet am certainly not a libertarian.

I'm a conservative because that implies a philosophical position which isn't captured by a spectrum. In particular, the idea that defending liberty is hard and being a purist might not help. I think libertarianism can be to liberty what pacifism is to peace.

Explaining the spectrum to a foreigner is difficult even among Westerners. French political divisions are subtly but importantly different to our own. The same is true with the US.

Politics isn't a spectrum whether circular, two dimensional or whatever. Trying to define someone's politics on a spectrum always ends in tears.

james higham said...

Good takes, each and every one of them, gentlemen. Just goes to show the morass that is political categorization. I tried the 'circle' too but various things didn't fit into it.