In today’s US political world, we find most animals with descriptive labels such as “right wing” or “conservative”, and “liberal” or “progressive”. The first group are found on the “Republican” side while the other on the “Democrat” side. This description envisions a line where at one end is the ultra conservative and the other end hosts the ultra liberal.
Why then is it so difficult for Democrats to understand Republicans?
Some say differing views on religion get in the way. Others cite a fear any organized government and therefore seek explicit limits on the government’s reach. Still others question the role of fact and science and prefer to rely on some “expert” who sees life as they do.
There are also those who do not trust the common person with governmental responsibilities. Rather, this group feels that only those insulated from the everyday need to scratch out a living or possess sufficient education can make the unbiased decisions involved in government. And of course there is the opposite group that fears government by the few and firmly believe the long term is in the safest hands if those hands are the common man’s.
It is with this in mind that I recall writings which transpose the typical political map, conservatism running through a supposed neutral position called “moderate” to the opposite directions labeled
liberal or progressive into an x/y system. On the x axis would be conservatism and liberalism at the extremes. On the y-axis would be authoritarianism and libertarianism. Hmmm.
Authoritarian politicians can be either conservative or liberal. What would be similar would be their belief that Government could and should impose authority. For example, authoritarians tend to be dogmatic and would tend to be favorable to policies expressed by religions.
The libertarian pole is quite interesting. Libertarians have a strongly developed view that certain matters are outside the purvey of government. These issues stem from a personal view of personal freedom and reject someone else imposing their views on others. Libertarians typically believe that an individual can do anything unless expressly ruled out by law (while authoritarians believe just the opposite).
Conservatives see the world as inherently difficult to govern. As a consequence, governance should remain fixed and not bounce around due to changes in the external environment. For example, economic boom or bust, scientific brake throughs or failures, and bountiful harvests or famines should not cause changes in basic governance. Any changes to basic governance must be made in small steps and under strict control. Why? Because the people can’t be trusted to perform change properly and will use the opportunity to shift the governance processes to favor them. Hmmm.
Liberals see things quite the opposite. Liberals feel government must change (evolve) with the times. Libertarian liberals see Constitutions as living documents which can be interpreted differently given the needs of the times. Libertarian liberals believe in the good intentions of the common person. Authoritarian liberals believe in their own good intentions but believe the common person needs the authoritarian liberal to set the direction and strategy because the common person is not capable. Conservative libertarians feel more comfortable staying close to the Constitution as originally intended. Hmmm.
When thinking about the political map, we must expect to find politicians at all points of the x/y map and at varying distances from the x and y axes. Our political discourse, however, tends to plot everyone along the x-axis. Senator so and so is a staunch conservative (far out on the x-axis, while Senator blah blah is an arch liberal (far to the left of the mid-point).
Why is the concept of x/y plot useful?
Think about 4 leading GOP Presidential hopefuls, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker. How would you classify (plot) each of them and despite what they say, what policies would expect them to support? This should be a useful exercise since their speeches will be crafted by skilled speech writers determined to mask any non-productive tendencies.