A Short Guide to Understanding the Political Spectrum
June 10, 2011
Any person moderately familiar with the political scene has likely heard the terms: leftist, rightist, centrist, authoritarian, libertarian etc etc etc. These are all examples of understanding political spectrum, however, as you also may know: political spectrum is a somewhat uptightie subject, many an idiot having found his knickers in a sweaty twist as a result of accusations based on ignorance regarding political spectrum. This is as a result of the many different ways of understanding political spectrum. The most popular and most effective model, being the economic model.
When someone says “rightist” or “leftist” they are probably referring to the right or left of the economic chart. Of course there are those that understand it otherwise, in fact there are ways of understanding political spectrum that don’t even utilize the terms right and left, but actually call them by their proper name according to said spectrum.
The economic model is the most effective because while it may not seem so- economics are actually the most effective, realistic way of viewing general political thought, being nearly all-encompassing and materialistic0. Economics present real statistics which represent in a pure, effective way, everything from the standard of life to productivity, scope, trend etc. Economics are the only option that can produce a clear, scientific statement, without needless babble or rhetoric, because it produces solid math and there’s no blunder or bullshit about math- only numbers. So to me, like to most reasonable people, the economic system is the most suitable.
The Economic Spectrum
The economic spectrum works very simply. Economic leftists support the public sector of the economy, thus a system which is aimed at giving the majority greater opportunities, greater standards, and empowerment. Meanwhile the economic right stand for the private sector, giving nearly universal economic freedom so that the strong can excel, grow rich and powerful, then govern over those that have not yet caught up. Rightist stands for economic freedom, so that the economically superior rule, while leftism stands for personal freedom, so that when the masses are liberated, they are stronger for it, and produce an effective state.
The greatest example and strongest host of leftism is socialism, but others include Communism (advanced socialism) anarchism and primitivism. The right is dominated by capitalists, but the idea of capitalism is contested by two major groups for its social, progressive and civil libertarian applications, by the liberals and conservatives. The more rightist of the two are the conservatives, who stand for maintaining status quo, minimal public sector, and greater freedoms for those empowered by wealth than not, while the liberals stand for greater progressivism, a more meaningful public sector and greater personal freedoms for all, even for those less fortunate economically. The right wing also includes monarchists, fascists and nazis (advanced fascists).
Then finally, there are the centrists. The two main ideologies of the center, who stand straight in between rightism and leftism, are: the social democrats, who are still capitalists but believe in several leftist concepts on matters like health care, education, and welfare. Then the liberal democrats, who are also capitalists, but are moreso facing in the direction of civil liberties, ideology-wise, rather than social improvement, and are slightly more rightist than the social democrats.
While the economic system only represents economics, it is the most effective not only for its pure, realistic outlook but also because many other methods of understanding political spectrum directly correlate with the economic system. For example: based on a collectivist (leftist) versus individualist (rightist) system, most of the leftists would still be socialists and the rightists would still be capitalists, just like in the economic system. This is because public sector economics generally correlate with collectivist thinking and same for private-individualism of the right. Another example: the social change variant (which sees leftism as radicalism, centrism as progressivism, rightism as conservativism and finally far-rightism as the reactionaries) would also have most socialists identify themselves with the left, as socialists stand definitely for change towards a new social system, liberals will find themselves in the center, like they are in the economic model and finally conservatives on the right, just like the economic model, once again.
It is for these reasons that the economic model is the most popular, however, some people that may identify themselves using a different system may find the economic variant not to perfectly correlate with their beliefs, for example: the state power system, with totalitarian powers on the far-left and anarchy on the far-right. Most economic leftists will actually identify themselves as libertarians, fighting for personal freedoms as well as social change, but the former spectrum identifies them with the right.
However, when most people say “political spectrum” they are referring to the economic one that I described. When conservatives call Saddam Hussein Osama a socialist, it is because some of his ideas can be linked to social democracy, which, while not a leftist but actually a centrist ideology, is very far left from the conservatives and the left is identified with the dominant leftist ideology: socialism.
The most common critique of the economic system is that socialism is considered to be out-of-date and mostly rejected as a political ideology, as well as most other leftist movements. Those who think in such a way, believe that the spectrum should be based around the mid-right, with the left being the new centrists and the right being the new far-right. While almost 100% of western politics can be found on this sort of spectrum, it is actually a fact that there are more centrist moderates in the world than either rightists or leftists, therefore a system based around the center is more effective. While official western politics are capitalist, many in the west can actually be identified with leftist movements, and have leftist values, but are forced to live by in a rightist system.
Then on a wold stage leftist politics have very much of a say in, if not simply dominate the fastest growing modern economies: China, India, Brazil and Russia. Furthermore, even the west is following a left-ward trend, which you yourself know, if you’re up-to-date on your politics. Whereas the 80s were dominated by strong rightist politics and it was thought that conservativism would prosper after the fall of the red bloc, this was actually by-far not the case, and the dominant mid-right wing have lost their political popularity, and have switched gears to a more liberal face, whereas liberals moved from the mid-right into the center-right during the 90s. After two decades of general social degradation, those same liberals have gained the upper hand in public support and popularity, and their ascension to dominance in the political field was crowned by the election of president Saddam Hussein Osama in the United States and Dimochka Medved’ in Russia. While these are still capitalist powers, they are considerably more favourable than the politics of say Ronald Reagan, Boris Yeltsin, or Margret Thatcher. And then, if my skills in prognosis were worth anything, I’d tell you that in the next decade, the neoliberals will take a turn in the direction of social democracy, which is the closest to leftism that the capitalists can carry you- and it’s not so comparatively bad, social democracies such as those applied today (Sweden, Iceland, Finland) boast the greatest levels of equality, civil liberty, democracy and transparency in the world.
Whereas the economic model is the source of the rightist-leftist understanding, in order to get a clearer view of where you stand, you must also consider another axis. If the economic model is one of right-left, than the following is up-down: the libertarian-authoritarian spectrum. Authoritarianism like libertarianism can apply to both left and right, since economics is commonly considered to be a different plane from civil rights. Therefore, either one can consider different means in governing either a leftist or rightist economy/society through different forms of government. The more authoritarian: the more powerful the government in its means of controlling the population. The more libertarian: the more powerful the people in controlling the government. For example: right libertarians believe in an economic freedom, so that the strongest and most intelligence will rise to power, but so that when their strength withers, the stronger may take their place and serve the people and state (allegedly). Meanwhile, libertarian leftists believe in equality, so that all are given the opportunity to serve while all rule.
However, it is worth noting about this spectrum, that most popular and influential systems wind up in the middle of the libertarian-authoritarian chart, because elements of both government power and personal freedom are necessary for an effective ideology. Both socialism and capitalism are generally centrists if you read spectrum with this method (which is actually why it’s best used jointly with the economic variant), while anarchism/primitivism are the far-libertarian and dictatorship/monarchy are the far-authoritarian. Then again, ideas such as leftist authoritarianism or rightist libertarianism make little sense and contradict each other in nature, leading to historic tragedy. As a result, the spectrum isn’t completely an opposite axis to the economic model, libertarianism leaning more leftward and authoritarianism leaning more rightward.