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Political spectrum

From dKosopedia

The political spectrum is a concept for representing different political stances in relation to one another.

At its most basic, the political spectrum consists of a line or continuum from left to right, with varying shades of opinion in between.


The left-right axis

The terms "left-wing" and "right-wing" originated in the years following the French Revolution of 1789, when the nobility were seated on the right side in parliament meeting, and representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie sat on the left. Thus, the term "right-wing" became associated with maintaining the status quo and protecting the interests of the established elites, like the nobility, clergy and the wealthy. The "left-wing" is associated with demanding progress and equality, although the extent can vary from liberals who seek change through economic reform (while retaining a market-based system) to socialists, who advocate the destruction of capitalism and collective ownership of the means of production.

The following is the mainstream left-to-right political spectrum. Included in this basic linear political spectrum are examples of western ideologies and where they would fit:

Communism ---- Social Democracy ----- Liberalism ----- Centrism ----- Conservatism ----- Reactionism ----- Fascism

Conservatives like to claim that Fascists belong on the left side. Their ability to believe this is explained by the exclamation point political spectrum (see below).

Problems with the Political Spectrum

However, today's policy questions aren't quite the same as those of France more than 200 years ago. Some problems with the the left-to-right spectrum:

Alternatives to the Political Spectrum

The Political Compass

The Political Compass ads a second dimension, separating social issues from economic ones. Same problems as above, but now libertarians and "middle-American radicals" have their own spots.

The spectrum according to republicans: the Exclamation Point Political Spectrum

Republicans tend to have their own, never-explained spectrum, which I will call the "Exclamation point political spectrum." On top is Reagan, at the bottom of the line are Republicans-In-Name-Only. Under that is a small dot called "liberal", which is defined as anything outside the GOP tribe. This is why they can call Obama an atheist-islamist-communist-fascist-hippie-totalitarian all at once. Because all are foreign "others" outside the political tribe, there's no difference between them.

The Horseshoe Theory

The horseshoe theory in political science stipulates that the far-left and far-right are more similar to each other in essentials than either are to the political center. Read the rationalwiki page, especially the comparison between the GOP and Russian Communist Party.

Authoritarians leaders and followers, VS everyone else

Bob Altemeyer divides authoritarians into leaders and followers:

Leaders tend to be aggressive and individualistic, while followers tend towards a somewhat fatalistic but principled acceptance as their status as cogs in a machine, generally condemning those not seen to be in conformance with the leaders' wishes. Read the whole book here.

Survive VS Thrive

Scott Alexander writes "My hypothesis is that rightism is what happens when you’re optimizing for surviving an unsafe environment, leftism is what happens when you’re optimized for thriving in a safe environment. (…)

I propose that the best way for leftists to get themselves in a rightist frame of mind is to imagine there is a zombie apocalypse tomorrow."

A more scientific (and less entertaining) look at this divide is half of the World Values Survey (see below).

World Values Survey

The World Values Survey moves into 2 dimensions, with "left" being at top right and "right" at bottom left. The 2 dimensions are:

1) Traditional values versus Secular-rational values and

2) Survival values versus Self-expression values.

Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child ties, deference to authority and traditional family values. People who embrace these values also reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride and a nationalistic outlook.

Secular-rational values have the opposite preferences to the traditional values. These societies place less emphasis on religion, traditional family values and authority. Divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide are seen as relatively acceptable.

Survival values place emphasis on economic and physical security. It is linked with a relatively ethnocentric outlook and low levels of trust and tolerance.

Self-expression values give high priority to environmental protection, growing tolerance of foreigners, gays and lesbians and gender equality, and rising demands for participation in decision-making in economic and political life.

Looking at the end result, it looks like the best way to promote progressive politics is through economic growth and technological advancement, while preventing or limiting the destructiveness of wars, disasters, crime and suffering in general. (In short, what we're already doing.) It also suggests that we need to increase the perception of security and prosperity (see: Position: progressives should spread optimism and positivity).

It also suggests that it's a bad idea to think you can advance social liberalism while being indifferent to the working class. A society with lots of economically insecure people is not a fertile place for (your socially liberal pet cause here).

Modernism VS Romanticism

David Brin, in The Real Culture War, lists the beliefs of romanticism:

(…) alienation against tomorrow can span any spectrum, from ignorance to intelligencia, from postmodern left to neocon right. (..) The real issue is confidence in human ability and common sense. The rift is about whether to believe in the modern world(..)'

It's part of a series, The Radical Notion of Modernism, and it's really worth reading the whole thing.

War-Mode VS Peace-Mode

Combine the character traits seen in authoritarian followers and the survival values from the World Values Survey, and the policy choices of the zombie survivors in Survive VS Thrive. Add the fact that thought is being lead around by emotion, resulting in the beliefs of romanticism.

Now, account for the fact that people, and entire cultures can turn on a dime. You saw this on 9/11. It also happened the other way with German and Japan after WW2, who went from shocking the world with as-yet-unimagined barbarities, to the among the most progressive and emulation-worthy civilizations in all of history.

Now think of your own attitudes, and how they changed over time. When you were an insecure adolescent, you probably had some "right-wing" traits - cliquishness, homophobia, a thuggish, blustering form of presentation, or a respect for those who did. At the peak of our strength and confidence we tend to be liberal, then as we age anxiety increases, and we become a little bit more conservative. Oh, and by some coincidence people become more conservative the moment they get into the non-stop anxiety-fest that is parenting.

Consider your attitudes when you're angry. Anger is a primeval instinct for dealing with threats. It's when your body is getting ready to club something to death, and then your mind gets to work coming up with excuses. It works in groups too, and if you can look past the flags and the fancy rhetoric it hasn't changed since Cave 1 decided to club the crap out of Cave 2.

I propose that human nature has two "modes", a "war-mode" optimized for physical and cultural survival in brutal times, and a "peace-mode", optimized for peace and prosperity.

If things seem safe enough, our personalities gear themselves for diplomacy, economic and technological growth, and just plain living better. When threatened, by violence or unemployment, our personalities enter "war mode", which focuses on the traits that make us better (in the short term) at making war: unity, unquestioning obedience, immunity to doubt, willingness to violently lash out at strangers on command, lack of pity for casualities, generosity and hard work for the in-group.

More on this in Essay: Human nature has a war mode and a peace mode


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This page was last modified 17:19, 18 December 2013 by dKosopedia user PatriotismOverProfits. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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