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Politics in a Third Dimension

By 3ebnut in Politics
Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 01:57:28 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

So where you fall on the political spectrum? Have you or anyone else you know been "moving to a different end" of the spectrum lately? The answer isn't just left or right anymore -- someone moving between ends could get there by moving up or down, forward or back, west or east, north or south -- by walking, climbing, walking backwards on the tiptoes like a physical, climbing back down, or even crabwalking.

As things grow more complicated and politics takes more and new unexpected turns, even everyday discourse and Net-based political self-quizzes find themselves unable to do without a political vocabulary that no longer stops at liberal, conservative, moderate and the occasional reference to communism. The dichotomous choice between liberal (e.g. voting for Kennedy) and conservative (e.g. voting for Eisenhower) offered in the 1950s has given way to a whole brigade of labels used to describe political factions -- "paleo-conservative", "libertarian", "left-libertarian", "neocon", "paleo-libertarian", "Third Way" -- attached to political personalities within and outside the system. With the Vosem Chart, you can find out exactly where you stand and why, and how similar or different other people with their political views are from you.

Politics in one dimension

The political spectrum has traditionally been thought of as a simple line from left to right, with views becoming more and more leftist ( = liberal) to one end, and more and more rightist ( = conservative) to the other:

Farthest left ------------------------------------------------------- Farthest right

This paradigm of the political spectrum uses what is basically a one-dimensional chart. At the left end were traditionally placed Stalin, Marx, Gandhi, Black Panthers, long-haired Vietnam War protestors, the Sandinistas and present-day Communists in Russia, while the right end was traditionally associated with Hitler, John Birchers, segregationists, Mussolini, Joseph McCarthy and the people who were trying to topple Communism in Russia.

Then came the idea to use the spectrum in a different way. The defining difference between liberals and conservatives was change. "Liberal" could now be redefined as supporting new progress, while "conservative" meant someone who opposed change, and those who wanted to change things yet only back to the way they were instead of supporting progressive change were reactionaries. This conception of the political spectrum looks like this:  

|          |          |          |          |          |          |          |
|          |          |          |          |          |          |          |
|        Radical   Liberal   Centrist  Conservative  Standpat Reactionary  Revolutionary
|                                                                          reactionary

Standpats were defined as those who absolutely opposed any change in either direction, be it progressive or reactionary. Conservatives accepted change, albeit grudgingly and only after much societal discussion and soul-searching, and in small amounts, but those at the standpat point of the new spectrum wanted only the exact status quo of the day to be preserved for the rest of eternity. 1963 today, 1963 forever. Those who pushed for progressive change more aggressively and unremittingly than the pro-change liberals, doing whatever it took to bring about the change, were radicals, to the left of even the liberals. Those who started revolutions Lenin-style and would stop at nothing to achieve their goals were placed at the very ends of the spectrum, extreme left or extreme right depending on the direction of the change they sought.

Using these new definitions, those Soviets who supported the long-established status quo of Communism would be called conservatives, while those who opposed this so-called leftist government would actually be the liberals (they would be reactionaries only if they wanted to oppose it by bringing back the czar).

This new chart could be expanded from its one-dimensional form to form a circle, or more strictly, the circumference of a circle, as if a one-dimensional line could be curved rather than straight:

     Revolutionary     Revolutionary reactionary
        radical   xxxxxx  
               xx        xx  Reactionary
     Radical  x            x
             x              x  Standpat
             x              x
    Liberal  x              x
             x              x Conservative
              x            x
               xx        xx


This was done to reflect the argument that the farther one goes to the right on the one-dimensional spectrum one eventually ends up on the left, and vice versa. Tying up the ends of the straight line was now a revolutionary anti-center -- a radical center -- where extreme right and extreme left had become so violently committed to forcing the new regime on people that they melded into one at a point "between" revolutionary radical and revolutionary reactionary. The circle was moving in a more two-dimensional direction.

Politics in two dimensions

In 1970, David Nolan created a new innovation in the political spectrum. Nolan defined the labeling of ideology in terms of government involvement. He drew a line across the x-axis to represent government involvement in economic matters, in commerce and taxation. The farther to the left one moved on the line, the more one supported involvement of the government in economic life. The farther one moved to the right, the more one believed that individuals should be left alone in any pursuit measurable in money . . . and that they should not be handed out freebies by government. Then he drew another line, across the y-axis, to represent the involvement of the government in personal behavior -- matters that were not measurable in dollars. The more one moved down the y-axis, the more one believed the government should make decisions about what people do, such as whether people could smoke marijuana, have sex with another man (or another woman), or be drafted. The more one moved up on the y-axis, the more one believed in the personal freedom of the individual. He then obtained a two-dimensional chart that looked like this:

|                |                |
|                |                |
|    Liberal     |  Libertarian   |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|   Populist     |  Conservative  |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|                |                |

Those who had traditionally been viewed as "conservative" supported giving freedom to individuals in the economic sector, but not in non-economic matters. Those who fit the traditional definition of "liberal", on the other hand, supported individual freedom in the social sphere, but not in the economic sphere. If you imagine a slash-shaped line / running from the bottom left to the top right of this two-dimensional chart, you see the increasing presence of government in general as you approach the bottom left of the line and the increasing choice of the individual as you approach the top right. At the top right quadrant of this chart is libertarianism, espoused by David Nolan's own party, the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party, which he founded, emphasized liberty for individuals without intrusion from the government either personally or financially, while the Democratic Party had practiced a line of government involvement in spending money by and for people but not in people's personal lives, and the Republican Party wanted government involvement in moral issues, but not when it came to dollars (with a belief that good old laissez-faire economics was the traditional American way and an important American value). Opposite his own ideology is the bottom-left quadrant, which he labeled "populist" -- maximum power to the government to make people's decisions for them.

What was named the Nolan Chart caught on with amazing and rapid success. The four categories of liberal, conservative, libertarian and populist became widespread in political discourse and the diagram Nolan drew was widely drawn and adapted. One of the most popular adaptations of the Nolan Chart on the Internet is the Political Compass site, which includes one of the many political self-tests you can take to place yourself. Similar self-tests inspired by the Nolan Chart have been numerous, reflecting the widespread popularity of Nolan's idea. The tests come with many different interpretations as to the nature of the differences between libertarian and anti-libertarian ideals of government, one of which is David Boaz's "Who Should Decide?" interpretation of the spectrum.

 You may also see it with up and down differently identified:

|                |                |
|                |                |
|   Populist     |  Conservative  |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|    Liberal     |  Libertarian   |
|                |                |
|                |                |
|                |                |

or in a rhomboid form, with up strictly identified as libertarian and down as populist. Only liberal and conservative are classed as left or right, an improvement that keeps one from having to classify Falwell-adhering "populists" as left-wing and hippieish-looking Libertarian Party card-carriers at Million Marijuana March rallies as right-wing:

            /  \
/    \
          /      \
         /        \
        /          \
       / Libertarian\
      /\            /\
     /  \          /  \
    /    \        /    \
   /      \      /      \
  /        \    /        \
 /          \  /          \
/   Liberal  \/Conservative\
/\            /
/  \          /
/    \        /
/      \      /
/        \    /
/          \  /
      \/  Populist  \/
        \          /
          \      /
            \  /

At the very top of this chart would be anarchy, and at the very bottom would be a dictatorship with Big Brother technology that watches what you choose to eat for breakfast.

Some political scientists adapting the Nolan Chart have also decided to change the name of "populist" to "authoritarian", since many famous authoritarian dictators such as Mao were definitely not promoting the well-being of the common people (as the word "populist" really means).

Politics in three dimensions

To represent politics on a model with three dimensions, we use a Vosem Chart. Vosem, from the Russian word for "eight", refers to the chart's measuring of political ideology through three dichotomies, giving us 2 x 2 x 2 different political camps.

This three-dimensional figure's camps are based on three different spheres (no pun intended). Here are the three different dichotomies that determine a person's placement on the Vosem Chart.


CLASS 1: A person belonging to the first camp in the cultural sphere supports cultural freedom. People in this camp believe in the right to have sex in any position or with any gender you want (assuming it's not rape), drug legalization, the right to burn the flag, the right to request one's life ended (suicide or euthanasia) and government non-regulation of things like prostitution, gambling and pornography. They welcome diversity in dress, means of expressive speech, language (including foreign languages being spoken in public), living arrangements, art, and ethnic varieties of food, recreation and religious ritual. Since they hold the view that activities that don't hurt anyone (except possibly the people engaging or requesting the activity themselves) should not be punished by the law, this means they believe such activity should not be punished regardless of who does it, and therefore they are strongly in favor of civil rights. Believe in equality regardless to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, nativity, socioeconomic class . . . Characteristic catchwords: government out of our bedrooms, tolerance, intolerance, consensual, victimless crime, do your own thing, born free, chains of society, fascist police state, gestapo.

CLASS 2: The second cultural camp is much more puritanical. People in this camp call for repression (both through an individual's self-control and through government enactment and enforcement of laws) of personal urges. A person with these cultural views will call for said repression in the name of "tradition", or of "law and order", or perhaps will summon both. Sex "between consenting adults" is just not good enough if it violates from some social convention, religious dictum or other moral belief. While people in the other cultural camp are militant supporters of the equality of demographic groups, people in this cultural camp will sometimes sacrifice equality in the name of tradition or other causes, such as believing, perhaps, that a man should have authority over his wife. They will be much less likely to condemn racial profiling, and will even often unapologetically support it if they feel it is in the name of national security. Youth are viewed not to have the same capacity or deserve the same rights as adults, and such policies as curfews and a punitive drinking age are strongly backed. They believe parents should be given maximum power to enforce rules on their children, as the concept of authority is very important to them, people in positions of authority never to be disobeyed, questioned or mocked, even when they are in the wrong. Investment in the military is crucial and they shudder at the thought of what any cut in defense, relative to whatever has traditionally been spent for the military of their country, could do to the security of their nation. They have a strong emphasis on patriotism and accepting the nation and its laws as they are; remarks that condemn the country or acts of civil disobedience are never OK and flag-burning is out of the question. Some idealize a national homogeneity based on a modern conception of "mainstream" culture (mainstream-American, or mainstream-Canadian, or mainstream-Australian, or what-have-you) in standards for lifestyle, while others' views on proper lifestyle and rites of passage in life come from ethnic tradition. Social conventions, including restraint of emotions and traditional rules of dating and roles of the sexes, are very important to them. People and practices that are eccentric or new to them are seen as not simply "weird", but as scary, and something to be deeply alarmed by and suspicious about. Characteristic catchwords: tradition, law and order, chaos, protect people from their own stupidity, people who know better, honor and duty, these laws exist for a reason, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.


CLASS 1: People in the first of the two fiscal camps believe in activist government in the fiscal sphere of life. They dream of a government that provides money for social security, welfare, and college tuition, as well as offering free universal health care. Some will even go so far as to make college free and universal, just as grades K-12 are. Prescription drugs would be given to seniors for free, and Medicare and Medicaid would be under the arm of the government. Many also believe in funding for the arts, although some who are also conservatives in the cultural sphere will oppose funding certain art if they find it to be pornographic, or may even support strict legal control over what can be painted or sculpted, so that they will not have to pay any tax money to a state that will monetarily redeem the painting of art they object to. People in the first fiscal camp are in favor of government-funded charities. They do not mind paying and levying higher taxes for all of this. Down inside, they believe in the power of government to take on grand projects. They believe that if people worked together with their government, great things could happen and we could build a better tomorrow. Characteristic catchwords: compassionate, free and universal, support, invest in our country's future, cold-hearted, stingy, wants to rob our children.

CLASS 2: The other fiscal camp consists of people who oppose more government in such spending. They oppose social programs, and are readily willing to cut them or other government projects in the name of lower taxes. They push for the privatization of social security, and believe that medical plans would be best served by being privatized and left to businesses (rather than provided by the government) as well. Those in Europe work hard to have the high tax rates lowered considerably, and are often "drained" out of the country in search of lower taxes; and if those in North America, already calling for a lower tax rate in their own country, moved to Europe, they would find the tax rates absolutely scandalous and so insane as to warrant a certification of mental illness on the part of government. Generally, the more cut from taxes, the better. They are more likely to support a flat tax than people in the opposite school of thought on fiscal issues. Reasons for their views on monetarily activist government are varied and some are just primarily concerned with the rich, but generally all people in the second camp believe in responsibility. They believe that to be respected as a mature adult, a person should be able to handle his own financial affairs and not lean on support for governmental teats. For many it is an opposition to government interference in anything, anywhere, as a matter of principle. Some conservatives in the U.S., a nation founded through immigration, exploration, grueling migrations through wilderness, and rough harnessing and taming of the landscape, believe strongly that doing your own work and keeping your own rewards are important traditionally American values. People from some religious denominations find those values to be an important part of Christian conduct. Others refuse to give anything to or take anything from a government they find oppressive. Characteristic catchwords: personal responsibility, big government, tax-and-spend, welfare state, privatization, welfare cheats, rugged individualism, hard-working Americans, save you millions of dollars.


CLASS 1: People who are in the first camp on this final dichotomy are, all around, pro-corporate. The way they see it, corporations should be treated and protected with the same rights as individuals. They want businesses to have the power to hire and discriminate against whom they want -- if an employer doesn't want an immigrant or a member of an ethnic minority working for him, he shouldn't be required by hire any people in that group, even if they are indisputably qualified. They also want everyone's business to be protected by private property rights -- the owner paid to keep the space and he can insist in anyone he wants leaving the business, including using the police to enforce this wish. Anyone walking on a business' premises against the wishes of the owner is viewed as trespassing. They oppose the right of people to strike or otherwise rebel against a business, and will favor laws that allow a corporate head to have his employees arrested for striking. They can be very strongly anti-union and view management as knowing best. Corporate monopolies are just seen as part of the game. As they see it, pure freedom of the market will take care of any injustices or inequities, and will promise diversity and creativity. If something done by a business is unethical and/or harmful, people will make the right choice by choosing another business, thereby regulating themselves. They trust the patron public will know and decide what is right. Some even support reversing government restrictions on dishonestly mislabeling or misrepresenting your advertised product. They are not quite as concerned with or offended by Enron/WorldCom type corporate dishonesty as their opponents. Strongly pro-copyright, they favor punishing Napster and want to hunt down other music site offenders on the Internet. Characteristic catchwords: it's their business, free enterprise, the magic of the market, property rights, intellectual property violator.

CLASS 2: Someone in the second camp opposes corporate power and rule of the business over the individual. They believe that a corporation is not a person and cannot be a person, and therefore does not deserve the same rights as a person. Businesses are viewed as a form of authority, akin to government authority, that can be oppressive. The major heads behind huge corporations, furthermore, are viewed as greedy rich folks who will do anything to make even more and keep the oil flowing to them. Many of these people are anti-WTO, anti-IMF, etc. If you see someone engaged in a protest against "corporate goons", taking it to the streets like the Seattle protestors of 1999, they no doubt belong to this camp. They consider discriminatory or otherwise unethical behavior by a business owner or manager completely inexcusable. They consider it unacceptable to have to watch anyone -- even one person -- be legally hurt by a business' practices in order to get people to finally bring the business down with their own boycott. They do not trust the common people alone to be able to drive every and any immoral business into the ground with their purchasing choices. They fail to see any flourishing of diversity or creativity of products due to the market; rather, they view increasingly richer cannibal companies as having homogenized the market and given us too few different companies and too few products. The overwhelming power of a few names over radio stations has likewise ruined the diversity of music. Some even turn to Internet file-sharing. They are opposed to the concept of "intellectual property". Characteristic catchwords: corporate greed, people before profits, Naderism, sell-out, monolithic corporate culture, pigs, Micro$oft.

Now, to make a Vosem Chart out of these three spheres -- cultural, fiscal and corporate, we'll need to map them to the three dimensions. Nolan placed libertarians on the right and populists/authoritarians on the left when he drew his chart. Our dilemma is whether to do this, or to place all people from the permissive cultural group (Group 1) on the left side and all people from the restrictive cultural group (Group 2) on the right side. Consider that people view Adolf Hitler, or even Jean Le Pen, as clearly being right-wing rather than left-wing -- even though they called for constructive government programs that spent a lot of money. In 2002 Le Pen campaigned for a government that did far more for people than people are were used to. Yet we consider Le Pen to be clearly on the far right -- a real right-winger -- because of the racism aspect (as we do with Hitler). The issue of racism seems to trump fiscal issues when judging this man's placement on the political spectrum. Likewise, if you ask people what the most conservative part of the United States is, most will answer with the Bible-Belt South (quite a pro-welfare, have-more-pity-for-the-poor part of the nation compared with the Midwest, in which all-around conservatives are strongest, or even much more libertarian parts). For this reason, the cultural sphere (corresponding to Nolan's "personal freedom" scale) will be mapped on the x-axis. On the left we have Group 1 from the cultural sector, and on the right we have Group 2.

Now add the y-axis and we can add the fiscal sphere. Since people in the activist, higher-taxing government group want to take care of financial matters from the top and want higher taxes, we'll put them at the top. Lower down will be the people who want to cut out the social services.

Finally, comes the corporate sphere. If you draw one square for people from Group 1 of the corporate dichotomy and one square for people from Group 2 of the corporate dichotomy, you can fit a left-right cultural dichotomy and an up-down fiscal dichotomy on each of the two squares:

 ----------------|----------------       ----------------|----------------      
|                |                |     |                |                |
|                |                |     |                |                |
|   New Labour   | Authoritarian  |     |    Liberal     |  Totalitarian  |
|                |                |     |                |                |
|                |                |     |                |                |
|----------------|----------------|     |----------------|----------------|
|                |                |     |                |                |
|                |                |     |                |                |
|  Libertarian   |  Conservative  |     |    Anarcho-    |    Paleo-      |
|                |                |     |   syndicalist  |  conservative  |
|                |                |     |                |                |
|                |                |     |                |                |
 ----------------|----------------       ----------------|----------------

Cut two squares like these out and place one on top of the other and you can see the three dimensions needed for a Vosem Chart. Your two layer "cube" will look something like this:

   |                |                |
 --+-------------|--+-------------   |
|  |             |  |             |  |
|  |             |  |             |  |
|  |             |  |             |  |
|  |-------------+--+-------------+--|
|  |             |  |             |  |
|--+-------------|--+-------------|  |
|  |             |  |             |  |
|  |             |  |             |  |
|  |             |  |             |  |
|  |             |  |             |  |
|  --------------+----------------+--
|                |                |

Making the corporate sphere into your z-axis, we can now place each of the eight permutations of cultural, fiscal and corporate views into one of the eight boxes, completing a Vosem chart. Placing the big business side (Group 1) behind the anti-corporate side (Group 2), we can fill all eight camps in:

            |   New Labour   |  Authoritarian |
          --+-------------|--+-------------   |
         |  |             |  |             |  |
Liberal -+- |             | Totalitarian   |  |
         |  |             |  |             |  |
         |  |-------------+--+-------------+--|
         |  |             |  |             |  |
         |--+-------------|--+-------------|  |
         |  |             |  |             | -+- Conservative
         |  |             |  |             |  |
         |  |    Libertarian |             |  |
         |  |             |  |             |  |
         |  --------------+----------------+--
         |                |                |
             |                        |
       Anarcho-syndicalist     Paleo-conservative

Looking at this complete Vosem Chart, we see:

Left, upper, anterior: Cultural freedom, a government that provides plenty of social services, and brakes on the power of business. This is your prototypical, all-around liberalism, including socialism or true communism.

Left, upper, posterior: Cultural freedom, fiscally active government, and pro-big business. This is similar to the ideology, in a nutshell, of the British New Labour Party, so New Labour is what we're going to call it. This ideology has acquired some popularity in several European countries. People of this group have a positive, upbeat view towards the value of work and the power of corporations to do benevolent and fulfilling things. They believe that with just the right corporate leadership, the working man or woman can produce and be paid for commodities that can be enjoyed by all. Be it the Farmer, the Artist, the Engineer, or even the Bishop, their archetypical worker, as they see it, can create socially redeeming goods and services for which they will be paid by the state and/or industry, able to enjoy the fruits of the labors of others working in their ideal society. Unlike totalitarians, those in the New Labour camp believe in the freedom of businesses to innovate and choose what to produce.

Left, lower, anterior: Personal freedom, elimination of services such as welfare, social security and student money from the government, and anti-corporate ideology. This is the combination of anarcho-syndicalism. It's what many people call the "left-libertarians". More liberal than the libertarians, anarcho-syndialists are anti-government, but they find business to be behaving in too oppressive and authoritarian a manner. Your stereotypical anti-corporate, anti-WTO, anti-anything protestors.

Left, lower, posterior: Personal freedom, opposition to government spending, and free enterprise. Libertarianism, just as David Nolan, Harry Browne, and their co-partisans know it, fit here. When libertarians describe themselves as being "economically conservative", they mean they fit in the conservative group in both fiscal and corporate issues, being at the bottom and at the back of a Vosem Chart. Libertarians believe in the primacy of the individual, and hold the fiscal political views they do because of their belief in responsibility and independence from government. What goes on in someone's bedroom is nobody's business.

Right, upper, anterior: Government intervention in cultural life, a strong activist central government, and brakes on the power of business. The opposite of libertarianism, this is the category of strongest power of government. This is the totalitarian end of the spectrum. Government conforming to this ideology will regulate all spheres of your life, including serving as the power to keep business under check. Businesses will be controlled under this system by being told by the government what to produce and sell, how much, and how to sell it. Similar to communism, except without the social freedom important to communist and socialist ideology.

Right, upper, posterior: Social restrictions, lots of government involvement in fiscal services, and focus on the rights of businesses. The true authoritarians, emphasizing the upholding of authority, be it of government or of business. Being a member of society and abiding by its rules is very important to them, and they hold the views they do on fiscal issues because they consider government an important central guiding force in society. You abide by your society's restrictions and contribute to your society, you get government entitlements in exchange for your sacrifices. Neocons, who, although far to the right, do not oppose "big government" in the typical conservative way and have unseverable ties to big business and faith in the power of the military, belong to this group.

Right, lower, anterior: Low freedom in moral issues (social tradition), no services or entitlements from the government or taxes paid to the government, corporations not endorsed as having human rights. This comes closest to the pattern of traditional societies (i.e. static cultures without social or technological change from era to era). Sex roles and the rituals of birth, dating, marriage and procreation were heavily ritualized and preserved from generation to generation. Government had not expanded to include services like welfare to people, and big business had not been created yet. Unlimited authority to business owners was not recognized by whatever governments existed, and the social contract prevented it. It's not surprising that such an old system would match up with an ideology that in the United States is popularly called paleo-conservatism (from the Greek root paleo, meaning "old"). American paleo-conservatives, typically rural and living in traditional communities, often Old World European in character, are the most likely of the eight political groups on the Vosem Chart to support States' Rights. By the criteria of the "Change" spectrum, they would be the most reactionary out of the eight and therefore represent the right of the spectrum.

Right, lower, posterior: Low social freedom, small government in fiscal spheres, and big business. This is the party-line combination for such parties considered to be "conservative" as Conservative, Republican and Tory.

These eight ideologies are not just the sum of three criteria, differing only from each other by the package of beliefs in one or two or three spheres that makes the distinction. Each eighth of the Vosem Chart is also unique and has a character and a way of synthesizing the different components of ideology all of its own. For instance, a conservative and an authoritarian would probably be in favor of having the police used to arrest people for holding a strike, while a libertarian, although also at the back on the corporate dimension of the chart, would have more qualms about the idea. Someone in the New Labour slot would be less strongly to the left on social issues than would a libertarian or an anarcho-syndicalist. An American paleo-conservatives of course are much more likely to support Dixie secessionist ideas than an American from any of the other groups on the cultural right. Although they are both on the anterior half of the chart on corporate issues, a totalitarian would focus on developing government programs and policies that would dictate what a business was supposed to produce and serve, while a paleo-conservative would be more concerned with pressuring government to abolish laws that enforce power granted to businesses. A libertarian's stance on fiscal issues stems from objections to government interfering with your life and using your money without your permission, while a conservative would be more likely to believe that you must prove yourself as responsible and hard-working in this tough world, being strong by being able to stand on your own two feet.

Looking at the Vosem Chart, we can find the opposite of any of the eight ideologies by locating the box across from it on all three axes. The opposite of libertarian (left, lower, posterior), the most anti-government of the eight, for instance, is totalitarian (right, upper, anterior) -- total government. Likewise, the opposite of anarcho-syndicalist is authoritarian, the opposite of New Labour is paleo-conservative, and, of course, the opposite of conservative is liberal.

One can find out how close people of other ideologies are to oneself by counting the number of axes that are different and the same. For example, suppose you are an anarcho-syndicalist. You obviously have a lot in common with other individuals in your own category, lower left, at the front of the chart. Your closest allies from other political groups (differing in only one sector each), would be paleo-conservative (cultural), liberal (fiscal) and libertarian (corporate). You would feel more distant from those who differ from you on two out of three axes (having only one sector in common): New Labour (cultural), conservative (fiscal) and totalitarian (corporate). You would be the most unlike of all your antithesis, authoritarian, unlike you in any way. No wonder think-tankers up in their editors' buildings, giving invariable praise to George W. Bush while writing articles for neocon mags, and pierced kids, holding protests where there's somebody you can find to be against just about anything (from Nike to the police to the captivity of Tibet), hate each other so vehemently.

So when trying to figure out how like or unlike another a political candidate is when people are throwing around terms like "paleocon" or "left-libertarian" to label the candidate, or to see where a political figure really fits amidst all the hype and labeling, or to understand the real nature of the differences between you and your co-workers of different ideologies, or if you just want to see how relatively compatible you are with that Gemini libertarian, the Vosem Chart provides a multifactorial, three-dimensional method for a three-dimensional world. It can't help with the Gemini, but it can help in understanding the new world around you in the 2000s.


Voxel dot net
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Which category would you fall into on the Vosem Chart?
o Paleo-conservative 0%
o Totalitarian 4%
o Anarcho-syndicalist 24%
o Liberal 38%
o Party-line Conservative/Republican 0%
o Authoritarian 3%
o Libertarian 22%
o New Labour 5%

Votes: 144
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o David Nolan
o Political Compass
o David Boaz
o Million Marijuana March
o WorldCom
o intellectu al property
o Also by 3ebnut

Display: Sort:
Politics in a Third Dimension | 324 comments (295 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
I am ???-??? /nt. (1.00 / 4) (#1)
by Soviet Russian on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 05:02:47 AM EST

Left, upper, posterior - Corporatism (4.71 / 7) (#4)
by Scrymarch on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 06:34:09 AM EST

Left, upper, posterior: Cultural freedom, fiscally active government, and pro-big business. I don't know what you'd call the people who fit into this eighth, or who really falls into it. Any ideas?

Corporate democrat - Third Way - New Labour - One Nation Tory.  Similar to the current social compact in France.  Welfare corporatism?  Corporate socialism?  How about just - Corporatist.  People in that slot believe in the goodness of collectives headed by benevolent and accountable executive power.  They believe those collectives should be actively directed towards the personal fulfilment and enjoyment of their members.  The Farmer, the Artist, the Engineer, even the Bishop, are all paid by big government or big industry, but with a surprising amount of personal choice in what they produce.  Once they leave work and become a consumer they pursue their personal fulfilment in their own way, though inevitably by choosing between produce from the collective.  The BBC, a state-funded corporation for producing independent cultural content, is paradigmatic.

wow (2.00 / 4) (#10)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 08:53:16 AM EST

very, very cool

+1 fp

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

it's more like (3.66 / 3) (#11)
by auraslip on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 08:54:22 AM EST

change + or -
view of humanity + or -

++ = liberal
-- = conservitive

Re: Populist vs Authoritarian (4.20 / 5) (#13)
by Kasreyn on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 10:44:21 AM EST

IMO, Authoritarian is a much more accurate term for the opposite of Libertarian than Populist is. After all, from some (many?) people's points of view, including my own, the Libertarians are definitely "promoting the well-being of the common people", and thus they could be defined as populists. So could a truly benevolent dictatorship (which hasn't been seen yet on Earth, but I suppose is theoretically possible).

Authoritarian is a much better logical opposite to Libertarian; it means the person believes that power should be consolidated or centralized in a smaller group (or individual), who will then tell everyone else what to do. The opposite, Libertarian, believes that power should be decentralized and spread among the people, and they they should not tell each other what to do. At the far Authoritarian end, you have extreme efficiency, and utter misery for all but a very few. At the far Libertarian end, you have extreme inefficiency (no committee can do anything as well as a single person can), and nearly maximised happiness for all but a very few (those who can't be happy unless they are bossing others around).

I appear to fit well into the left-upper-anterior slot in this method of description. I would describe myself variously as a Leftist, Libertarian Humanist, and also a Freethinker who harbors a soft spot for socialism. If I believed socialism could actually work, I'd be a devoted socialist; as it is, I just like to every once in a while take socialism down from a shelf, dust it off, admire its beauty, and put it back on the shelf with the other beautiful, failed political theories. I consider myself an American patriot simply because I think our government comes as close to my ideal government as any has come yet, though if I could I would move it farther toward a direct democracy with fewer needlessly restrictive laws on personal behavior (as long as it is not harmful to others).


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
pointless (4.61 / 13) (#15)
by by on on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 12:23:27 PM EST

Nobody even close to western mainstream believes that the government should regulate gay sex. This political belief is now an outlier - we should not expect it to fit in a categorisation system like yours. The way you have set up your cultural 'dimension" (more like boolean choice), >90% of people fall into `liberal', because it's the status quo. What good is this division if it tells us nothing new?

You mix up so many different concepts in your explanations. I suggest you reduce it to a *one* sentence description for each, so it doesn't sound so much like "silly them vs. logical us".

Finally, all political category systems like yours are useless. The only possible use is to twist peoples' beliefs: "I'm a libertarian, so I'll change my beliefs so I am in the libertarian zone of this graph!" People might stop thinking about individual issues and more about "does this fit into my zone?"

I think we should have a king (4.40 / 20) (#16)
by Tex Bigballs on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 02:21:34 PM EST

with a long white beard, green tights, gold boots and a purple glittery cape. And he should have a sceptre that shoots out lightning bolts if anyone is caught misbehaving. And he should have a parrot sit on his shoulder that constantly whispers Adam Smith's book of The Wealth of Nations into his ear so that he doesn't forget to be fiscally responsible. And on his other shoulder he should have one of those spinny radar things like you see on aircraft carriers so that he constantly knows what's going on in the world.

So anyway what category would I fall into on that fancy chart of yours?

a similar point of view (4.75 / 8) (#19)
by khallow on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 04:23:32 PM EST

From the weblog "USS Clueless" we have a simiar discussion. Here's my response to that (long time K5ers might recall my fondness for singular value decomposition particularly as a tool to analyze belief systems):

I was reading your article on political axes, of coordinates not the kind you grind. A common problem I see here is that everyone is shoehorned into a space on an axis before the fundamental question is asked. Namely, what are the beliefs of the subjects?

Instead of creating a set of possibly redundant political belief axes, one should first collect some data on people's beliefs. Even a skewed poll has information hidden in it. Generally, for the following purposes, a poll that asks the pollee to assign a positive or negative weight to a particular statement (eg, "Do you think the US has too many people on welfare?", give a score of -5 to 5 from strongly disagree to strongly agree with the statement). One can process the data to better reveal coordinate axes. Eg, transform the values from each poll question so that the mean is zero and the length of the answers to each poll question is a vector of fixed length. If data is missing, then either stricken the pollee or come up with a method for guessing the missing data (imputation). The final data set can be expressed as a matrix with the rows corresponding to pollees and the columns to specific questions in the poll. The element corresponding to the pollee and question is the adjusted value of the pollee's answer to the question.

Singular Value Decomposition or SVD is IMHO the ideal tool for discovering the optimal coordinate axes. It finds a complete set of pairs of coordinates one each from the row space (pollees) and column space (questions) and an associated nonnegative singular value which is the relative weight of that coordinate pairing. As you usually get in a coordinate system, the coordinates over pollees and questions are orthogonal in their respective spaces. It's called SVD because the original matrix has been decomposed in a set of singular values and two sets of coordinate systems over the row and column space respectively.

Then you can begin to answer the question of how to rationally categorize peoples' beliefs by a position on one or more axes. The coordinate pair associated with the highest weight pair is the best way to describe the beliefs (as revealed in your poll, flawed or not) as a single coordinate axis. If you wish to find the four best coordinates, then use the four highest weight singular values.

In summary, you should poll first (or use an existing poll), and then use singular value decomposition to rationally determine the coordinate axes. Having said this, often the initial stereotypes are right. I suspect you will find that the conservative/revolutionary axis is very close to the axis associated with the largest singular value.

However, you may find some surprises as well. I speculate that conservative/revoluntionary and other ideological axis splits are associated with the demographics of the believers and with the perceived personal benefits of these beliefs. Eg, if I'm a young person with a considerable debt burden, then I might both be a revolutionary and see more perceived benefits to me from any successful increase in the influence of my revolutionary beliefs. Ie, people identify with beliefs that benefit them or similar people (or at least have that perception).

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Ultimately useless (3.85 / 7) (#20)
by sinexoverx on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 04:24:49 PM EST

This takes a complex subject and oversimplifies it to the point that it is no longer useful. As a classification method it will work for some politicians, but mainly for idealists that identify themselves with a type aready. But for many it will not. For many, how they are classified depends on the biases of the classifier. For instance, if a politician is liberal on abortion and authoritatian on marijuana, a given person will classify them based on which issue they find most important and relative to their own stance. And some will ignore both issues and just go with some other metric. Classification schemes are about as useful as astrology or Myers-Briggs personality index.

differ on some points (4.50 / 8) (#21)
by khallow on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 04:51:26 PM EST

I think the circle chart is just wrong:

This was done to reflect the fact that the farther one goes to the right on the one-dimensional spectrum one eventually ends up on the left, and vice versa.

A better way to understand of what's going on here is to realize that far left and far right aren't the same set of beliefs. Instead, they are currently experiencing very similar circumstances. Ie, the political extremes are being marginalized by the current US political system and hence have common cause in breaking up the current political oligopoly. Hence, they appear to be the same because the largest issues facing each group are the same. Expect them to diverge when the prime issue of marginalization is addressed.

Another example is the opposition to human cloning. Both conservative religious and feminist groups came out in opposition. Obviously, there are other issues in which they disagree. But if you measured only the support or opposition to cloning, you could easily miss the differences between these two groups.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Abstract vs Concrete Politics (4.00 / 7) (#31)
by SanSeveroPrince on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 09:44:29 PM EST

I love the article which, apart from some formatting issues, is excellent and thought provoking. It does not mention Iraq or Bush, but I guess that nothing's perfect.

I find the ideas contained within very interesting, and they will certainly be fodder for much rumination once I've slept over the whole thing.

The comment I want to make is that while it's all good to discuss policies in this way, with so much precision and flexibility amongst ourselves, it saddens me that no politician today could fit in the above categories.

Unfortunately, once you bring politics out in the world of sweat flesh and blood, you really only have two kinds of ideologies: those who think that power should stay right where it is, in their own hands, and those who think that power should be taken from the old farts who've been playing with it so far, to be dropped in their own enlightened laps.

Can you imagine the progress we could make if the higher echelons of world governement could be made to care about actual politics? Right now it's only  the weak and those in trouble that do...


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

I am chaotic good (nt) (4.47 / 21) (#34)
by lazloToth on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 10:28:52 PM EST

Hmm. (4.62 / 8) (#38)
by reklaw on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 11:21:44 PM EST

It seems quite strange to draw an extra, third dimension around whether you're pro or anti-corporate -- surely this is more of a specific of the fiscal side of things?

A more useful 3D classification at the moment, in my opinion, would be one that takes into account social, fiscal and foreign policy beliefs -- but that's just a sign of an issue dominating a bit, as the corporate one seems to be in this article.

I reckon that the (slightly) more traditional economic/social 'rhomboid' comes closest to showing a clear spectrum of political beliefs, with most other beliefs being derived from your position on it -- although there are always exceptions.

Heh (3.88 / 9) (#44)
by wrinkledshirt on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 12:12:51 AM EST

So long as we're doing politics by origami, I think the best model is the swan that doesn't flap its wings properly.

Ha ha! Get it?!? I said WINGS. Thanks! I'm here all week!

I really didn't see the point. (3.42 / 7) (#48)
by RareHeintz on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 01:24:11 AM EST

I don't see where the world needs a more complex taxonomy of ideology than it already has. Labels generally do more harm than good in that they oversimplify what can be complex positions and encourage unsophisticated thinkers to dismiss arguments with terms like "whiny liberal" or "asshole conservative", without applying any real thought to the arguments presented.

Thus, -1. Sounds like a good sophomore Poli Sci term paper, though.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

Vosem (4.00 / 7) (#58)
by 3ebnut on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 07:19:50 AM EST

I decided to name this the Vosem Chart because of its eight slots. Here are 4,500 other things I could have called it.

Vosem (1.66 / 6) (#59)
by 3ebnut on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 07:20:34 AM EST

I decided to name this the Vosem Chart because of its eight slots. Here are 4,500 other things I could have called it.

Now I know what you americans mean by 'liberals' (3.66 / 3) (#62)
by freestylefiend on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 09:04:43 AM EST

Interesting article, but (4.40 / 5) (#63)
by Grognard on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 01:25:31 PM EST

people aren't boolean in nature (not even when it's 2 to the third power).  That's the ultimate weakness of any system which tries to classify people/history by some scientific means.

I, like many, find myself on both sides of each of the three dimensions.  Part of it comes down to trying to put issues in a single category:  where you see the regulation of prostitution as a matter of cultural freedom, I see it as a public health issue.  Is either view "wrong"?  Doubtful, at least from my point of view.  It is multi-dimensional - just like people.

On Political Classification (2.00 / 5) (#64)
by rmg on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 02:29:40 PM EST

You have presumably made a study of how important it is for the people - the people and not the oil plutocrats, the people and not the fantasists in right wing think tanks, the people and not the virulent lockstep gasbags of Sunday morning talk shows and editorial pages and all-Nazi all-the-time radio ranting marathons, the thinking people and not the crazy people, the rich and multivarious multicultural people and not the pale pale greyish-white cranky grim greedy people, the secular pluralist people and not the theocrats, the metaphorical imaginative expansive generous sensual rational people and not the sexual hysterics, the misogynists, Muslim and Christian and Jewish fundamentalists, the hard-working people and not the people whose only real exertion ever in their whole parasite lives has been the effort if takes to slash a trillion plus dollars in tax revenue and then stuff it in their already overfull pockets - whatever your degree, you have presumably read history and thought about justice and freedom and the relationship between ideas and action and you know how important it is for the sizable community of decent sane just egalitarian people, comprising many minority communities constituting if not a majority then a plurality, a substantial smart let's- say-40% plurality community (more than large enough in a pluralist democracy) (which for the time being the United States still is) if it uses its brains and works together, to wield decisive power, power for enfranchisement and economic as well as racial justice and gender justice and sexual political justice and environmental sanity and in the name of a real globalism, a real internationalism, a real solidarity with all the peoples of the world, to wield power infused with the knowledge that democracy is created not by military machines, not by MOAB bombs and smart bombs but by smart peaceable people, fed people, educated people - democracy is created by making an aggressive determined and longterm effort at eradicating the real axis of evil: poverty, homelessness, no health care.

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks

What about crazies like me ... (3.00 / 4) (#65)
by theElectron on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 02:54:21 PM EST

...who would vote for a Communist Fundamentalist-Christian Lesbian Investment Banker if she were sufficiently pro-Second Amendment?

Join the NRA!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! (4.30 / 13) (#68)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 03:29:15 PM EST

I'm know this is going to change the way I see the world, just as soon as I'm finished with my studies of the Enneagram, the Horoscope, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Chinese astrology, the Keirsy Temperament Sorter, Evolutionary Psychology, the science of Phrenology, Blood Type personality determination, the typology of Auras produced by the seven Chakras, and all the other elaborate classification systems out there that promise to answer, once and for all, the burning question of how to figure out which category a particular person belongs to.

I'll add your compellingly complicated system to my reading list, I promise. My spirit animal told me to.

I think all this new way of catigorizing is due to (4.50 / 2) (#69)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 03:43:42 PM EST

I think this is all due to the fact that a great majority are a mix of ideas that can lean in one direction or the other.

take me.

I like tax breaks, I also think that we need to help lift people up.

now when it comes to other things, I tend to totaly lean left.

I want strong regulation of large business, not just monopolies.

but then I have a mixture of leanings when it comes to the environment....I am practicle when it comes to energy...we need oil right now....but I also want agressive research and investment in renewable energy....like this:

or a larger investment in nuclear power to generate H2 for hydrogen fuel cells.

but on the converse I think it would be better to use ethanol powered fuel cells in conjunction with co2 scrubbers (perhaps some research into that can reduce costs)

all in all, when it comes to energy and the environment, I am scheptical of many fanatical assertions and hopeful for new tech and do not favor imposing expensive solutions to replace cheaper ones. but I want to see some strong investment in green products.

Nice ASCII (4.00 / 7) (#71)
by debacle on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 03:57:39 PM EST

What are you, some sort of weird CAD drafter who uses Notepad?

It tastes sweet.
Yaaaawn (4.66 / 6) (#80)
by dead pixel on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 06:46:30 PM EST

To simplify all of the above there are 4 kinds of people in the world:

1. Those who believe Pro Wrestling is real.
2. Those who believe Pro Wrestling is fake, and argue with those who believe it's real.
3. Those who believe Pro Wrestling is fake, yet humor those who believe it's real.
4. Trekkies

Hey, you guys! (3.80 / 5) (#82)
by Sesquipundalian on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 06:49:27 PM EST

Check this out!

Take the above chart, now for each member of humanity, plot their political points of view on your chart there, and color code according to correctness of world view.

I call it the _subjective_Sesquipundalian_set_, aint it a 'beaut? This graph looks exactly the same from all worldviews**.

       /  ..++@#**$$+..              /|
      / >+$#**#*&#*$$........    / |
     /__$%$%###%$%$%_____/  |
     |   THEM                         |   |
     |  ...+..                           |   |
     |  ..                                |   |
     |  .                                 |   |
     | ..                +++            |   |
     | .               ++ US +        |   |
     | .                ...+.            |   |
     | .                  .++           |   |
     |  .                                 |   |
     |   .                                |   /
     |   .              RESOURCES   |  /

***You may have to correct for rotation, skew, scale, color assignment, rendering medium and translation.

Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?

thank god 20% of us are Libertarian (1.62 / 8) (#85)
by dh003i on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 07:32:40 PM EST

At least that many people have some common sense.

Social Security is a pyramid scam.

Vector Voting... (4.00 / 2) (#90)
by curunir on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 08:58:06 PM EST

While all this was interesting, I think adding a third dimension seems kind of arbitrary. Why stop at 3? Our political viewpoints are far more complicated. But adding more dimensions raised an interesting idea for me...an idea that I'd call vector voting.

What if our votes weren't cast for a single individual, but we simply registered our political opinions in the form of a vector? Every major issue could be assigned as a dimension within that vector. That vector could then be compared with the vectors of the candidates (I won't go into the methods for comparison here, but it would be very similar to how vector-based search engines retrieve their results).

The advantage to such a system for voting would be that people would be less prone to evaluating a candidate based on media/propaganda (at least based on the candidate themselves, the individual issues could still be influenced). It would also allow the data to be analyzed to show politicians what parts of their platform were the least popular. For example, if my political views were identical to a candidate in every way except one in which our belief was in direct opposition, my vote would most likely be for that candidate while still registering my dissatisfaction with the candidate on that issue.

The disadvantages, as I see it, would be increased complexity of the voting process and a less-empowering feeling when casting our votes.

So, does this sound like it would work?

Trotskyism and neo-conservatism (3.60 / 5) (#92)
by srichman on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 09:47:51 PM EST

And in related news, Canada's National Post reports on the theory that Trotskyism is linked (ideologically and causally) to the Bush administration's neo-conservative foreign policy. Put that on your circular* spectrum and smoke it.

* Or, use higher dimensionality for a more comfortable burn.

Utility Of Classification (4.66 / 3) (#99)
by n8f8 on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 11:07:22 PM EST

Once you turn classification into an elaborate science it loses much of its utility value. A more practical approach (and the one adopted by the majority of the voting public) is to align with a party plank.

Under the modern US political system Conservative and Liberal have been redefined as catchphrases to describe broad political planks. In that regard Noland does come closer  to describing/defining political reality.

But I see really big flaws nonetheless. Especially in the Corporate Sphere. Class 1 talks of how the corporation is treated and Class 2 how the corporation treats people. Seems to me you should either address both angles (Society-Corporation and Corporation-Society) or be consistent (Corporation-Society, Corporation-Society). For instance make Class 2 the viewpoint where corporations exist to serve the will of the people and meet the needs of the people.

Another potential flaw I see in this scale it that it seems to ignore or at least fail to address the fact that certain Fiscal approaches can be quantitatively analyzed. For instance, at a certain GDP universal healthcare may be fiscally impossible. So even if a person "believed" in universal healthcare, recognition of reality may temper the response.

Great article by the way. Very informative.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

Too Concrete (4.75 / 4) (#101)
by bodrius on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 11:29:35 PM EST

You invalidate your abstraction by being too concrete in your explanations.

Now, it could be possible to have extremely concrete explanations for your system that don't do this, but this was not the case. All the "Classes" have too many examples for specific issues and I'm afraid your personal bias leaks into these examples.

As a result when I read the article and get to your system, even though I have the Nolan chart very clear in my mind, and think I have a clear idea of where you're going, my mental model is thrown off by confusions, perhaps contradictions.

You define your classes by issues instead of "modes of thought". I can see in the traditional axes or in the Nolan chart how the Left and the Right have moved and changed roles (who supports big government? who supports ritualistic traditions? who supports industrialization?) through history because specific issues matched or didn't match their "modes of thought" at that particular moment.

Perhaps you intended to eliminate this dynamic by tying the classification to issues, but by lumping issues together you are still classifying by such "modes of thought"; only they're now implicit, and have more to do with the way you see people grouped together in your vision of the world. Since they're implicit, the issues cannot be divorced from this, and we have to assume the agendas will remain pretty much static.

Worse is that the way the issues are linked together is a very subjective thing. How you decided that the right of euthanasia is metaphysically linked to legalized prostitution is beyond me.

Other instances of personal bias appear in other categories, particularly where you make a difficult and contradictory case for your corporation axis: you can't be pro-copyright without being pro-corporations? being pro-corporations is anti-strikes (even though unions are corporations)?

The way issues are grouped along this axis seems circumstantial, limited to recent events, and perhaps even to the discourse of a particular side of the conflict. This is not just the mark of a personal bias, but of an excess of concreteness which makes this system non-general, unusable outside of a time-and-geographical frame.

It would be very hard to avoid this, which is why the first exposition of a generalization should restrict itself to more carefully studied, polished examples. First set up the theoretical base, then show by examples, carefully, step by step. That way, if an example is problematic, erroneous, or contaminated by biases not accounted for in the theory, it won't invalidate your whole concept unless the theory itself has shaky foundations.

As it is, I don't know if that was the case or not. I do know a lot of people would find themselves stretched over many opposite sectors, and lacking a more general "feeling" of where to put themselves in your system. They will locate themselves along the familiar axes, mostly due to inertia and the assumption that they are the same from the Nolan system.

There is no such frame of reference for them on the Third Axis, though, unless they're already in one of the groups that circumstantially group the issues in the way you have chosen. A system for political classification should be more general than that.

It seems what you actually wanted was a Business-axis, or perhaps a Capital-axis, but wanted to avoid the marxist terminology for aesthetic or political reasons.

The case for the Corporate axis being replaced by a Capital-axis is interesting, because many of the flaws of the marxist model were due to the obsession with a 1-axis abstraction. The fact that they can go so far with that axis means there's substance there. By incorporating their explorations on that axis on your system, I think it would match reality a bit more.

Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...

Isn't this a job for factor analysis? (5.00 / 5) (#104)
by goonie on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 12:35:01 AM EST

IIRC, there's a statistical technique called factor analysis where you've got a population which have measurements on a whole set of possibility related things (for instance, their opinions on a wide range of political issues, quantified), and then you crunch numbers to find out which sets of factors correlate well with each other until you have a small number of axes which allows predictions to be made fairly accurately.

This kind of things has been used to develop personality classification tools. Surely the same thing could be applied to "political personality".

Machine Learning (4.66 / 3) (#105)
by freality on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 12:47:40 AM EST

Why stop at 3 dimensions?  It's quite possible that the ideal surface for describing political classes exists in a high dimensional space.  Use machine learning.  Each political instance is allowed to have an arbitrary degree of characteristics, and the model for all instances measures all instances according to all characteristics.  For simplicity, consider a comma-separated value listing:


Ok, so that's not very useful.. All you can really model out of this is basic statistics such as mean, mode, etc.

but consider this:

well, from this you could get very interesting results.  Not only could you compare among your chosen characteristics, but you could use analytical techniques, such as regression, k-means, bayesian networks, etc. to probe deeper and more substantial relationships between the instances.  Perhaps you'll find that if you're young and not a liberal, you don't have a heart, and if you're old and not conservative, you don't have a brain ;)

Such methods have been applied in many domains and can (if conditions allow) out-perform human classification capabilities, esp. for high-dimensionality problems.

Third dimension not significant (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by splitpeasoup on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 01:44:40 AM EST

I'm not quite convinced that there needs to be a separate 'corporate' axis in addition to the fiscal/economic one. It adds much complexity without adding much value to the classification.


"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

Too complex (3.66 / 3) (#108)
by Fantastic Lad on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 01:54:22 AM EST

Here's how I'd populate that cube;

Self Serving - Other Serving
Afraid - Expansive
Denying - Aware
Wishful - Realistic

All political aspirations, views and human actions boil down to these fundamental building blocks of the spirit.

Have a nice day.

Universal axes too ambitious (4.85 / 7) (#110)
by BCoates on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 02:34:19 AM EST

The Nolan chart is useful for libertarians, because it gives them a classification system that puts all libertarians in a distinct place (something the left-right system is particularly bad at) as well as grouping the intellectual opponents of libertarianism into sane categories:

Social conservatives, prohibitionists, and "PC thug" types, who disagree with the libertarian attitude towards government control over personal freedoms;

"Labor" groups, collectivists, central planners, and promoters of a welfare state for individuals or corporations, who disagree with the libertarian goal of laissez-faire government economic policy;

and the many populist/authoritarian/totalitarian advocates who object to both.

My point, however, is that a member of one of these groups will often not regard someone else in the same group as being on their side at all, with the only thing they have in common being the reason they're not libertarians.  The Nolan chart is generally useless among non-libertarians as a tool for political description.

I think this problem will extend to any political category system created in the same way, that is, taking your position as the zero point and finding orthogonal opposition positions (positions with one unique difference from yours) and using them as axes.  The result may be useful for the like-minded to find each other and clarify their political opposition, but it leaves a lot to be desired as a general tool.

For example, the Vosem chart puts libertarians in class 1 corporate, presumably along with those that advocate outlawing unions, "bailing out" failing businesses, local government subsidies to encourage businesses to move, using the police as publicly funded security guards for private property, etc. even though (i assume) libertarians are generally opposed to those things, and would consider roughly big-business republican types that advocate them their political enemies--but they're opposed to their class 2 "opposites" as well.

Benjamin Coates

PS.  I'm slightly more optimistic about the factor analysis/singular value decomposition algorithmic method of grouping actual people's views, assuming you could get sufficently good question lists and sample groups.

Some important subtleties missing (5.00 / 2) (#111)
by ocrow on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 03:17:58 AM EST

I like the Vosem chart analysis, because it brings depth to an otherwise over-simplified debate. However I think it fails to distinguish some criteria that I would consider important. The fiscal axis lumps together the management of common good (socialism) with the size of central government spending (state). It therefore fails to distinguish "state socialism" from "libertarian socialism".

To solve this we can add a new distinction: pro-state vs. anti-state. This is different from the fiscal axis because it makes a distinction between large scale government (the state) and small scale government (local, or community based leadership).

Libertarian Socialists and Anarcho-communists are anti-state, anti-corporate, pro-welfare and pro-cultural freedom. If you're having a hard time reconciling 'anti-state' and 'pro-welfare', try "management of the common good" in place of "welfare", and see if that makes more sense.

I'm not entirely sure who fits in the other seven boxes, with this new criteria. Ignoring for the moment the 'cultural' and 'corporate' axes, let's consider just the 'state' and 'welfare' axes. We then have:

             |  anti-state   | pro-state
anti-welfare |  libertarian  | conservative
             |               |
 pro-welfare |  libertarian  |  liberal
             |  -socialist   |

Those in the conservative camp are for government spending on military, police and generally controlling the stability and security of the state, but otherwise against taxation to support social programs. Libertarians are against government and also have little interest in strong social dependencies. Libertarian socialists are against big government, but look for other ways to build strong social fabrics. Local organizing, volutary governance, participatory decision making, communal liberty are some of the catchphrases for libertarian socialists.

Corporate vs Naderist doesn't span far enough (5.00 / 3) (#121)
by Julian Morrison on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 08:12:45 AM EST

Your "corporate" category is a mistake because some libertarian anarchists (including eg: myself) consider the "corporation" a legislated, government derived construct (specifically, a license to ignore the debt responsibility and damages liability that comes with part-ownership). Similarly "intellectual property" is considered a governmentally imposed artificial monopoly. So such a libertarian anarchist would oppose corporations and I.P. as an imposition on the free market, and view corporate/I.P. advocates as subtly contaminated by the naderist tendency to muck with the market in the name of "the peepul".

Shifting this endpoint further across to "free trader" captures the span of dichotomy better.

Fascinating, yet an irrelevant. waste of time. (4.00 / 3) (#122)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 08:36:11 AM EST

This sort of drivel is what happens when college faculty searching for a justification for their departments attempt to create a "science" out of nothing.

All of this stuff that you talk about is trivia and subject to change. I got a chuckle when you referred to JFK as a liberal... if you read the text of a Kennedy speech he's more like Ronald Reagan than a modern liberal.

American politics is not driven by ideaology, but by the influence of voter, state and special interests on members of Congress (or the President). The nations political agenda changes with the fortunes of individual politicans.

Recent developments in American society, like well-funded national campaigns and a powerful Federal Bueracracy (the 4th branch of gov't) have changed the dynamics a bit, but government basically works the same way it did in the 19th century.

When someone is throwing around labels like "left-wing", "neo-conservative", etc., they are revealing their ignorance of the political process. Politicians always owe debts and favors to people, and this "political capital" takes precedence over ideaology.

A republican Senator from the midwest supports big beef and pro-life policy because they got him elected. A democrat from Florida will fight "for Social Security" and a get tough on Cuba stance because the people who elect him are old and hate Castro.

I have one issue with this... (4.33 / 3) (#130)
by poopi on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:51:32 AM EST

...you analysis seems to assume that individuals are points with your three dimensional space. I suggest that we are "areas" - at once occupying many positions. The most enlightened of us are the ones that can expand their sphere of understanding to include the maximum amount of this "mental space". They see the merits of all positions, and use cost/benefit-risk assessment type analysis to arrive at the most suitable solution to a specific issue. My 2c.


"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - Oh and one other thing... by poopi, 06/16/2003 12:38:05 PM EST (none / 0)

  • sounds like totalitarianism by BCoates, 06/16/2003 10:27:09 PM EST (none / 0)
  • There's Another Dimension... (4.66 / 3) (#131)
    by composer777 on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:59:20 AM EST

    Noam  Chomsky
    In the academic social sciences, in the United States at least, these questions scarcely exist. When this year's Nobel Prize winner in economics [MIT economist Paul Samuelson] considers the range of possible economic systems, he sees a spectrum with complete laissez faire at one extreme and "totalitarian dictatorship of production" at the other. Assuming this framework, "the relevant choice for policy today" is to determine where along this spectrum our economy should properly lie.10 No doubt one can place economic systems along this scale. There are other dimensions, however, along which Samuelson's polar opposites fall at the same extreme: for example, the spectrum that places direct democratic control of production at one pole and autocratic control, whether by state or private capital, at the other. In this case, as so often, the formulation of the range of alternatives narrowly constrains "the relevant choice for policy." 10. Paul Samuelson, Economics, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964), p.39

    Using the dimension above, the US and the former USSR would have been at the same end of the spectrum.  This dimension actually increases our understanding, unlike the dimension of Liberals being pro-change (what kind of change?) and Conservatives being against "change".  Does this even reflect reality?  It seems that Dubya has changed alot of things if you ask me.  

    One question I would like to ask is why you are inventing (or using) all this extra terminology?  Does it really increase our understanding, or merely obfuscate what we are trying to understand?  I would say that you can remove at least one of the dimensions, the "pro-change" vs "against-change" is nothing more than taking neutral terminology and trying to give it a positive connotation.  Are conservatives really against all kinds of change?  This is used in propaganda to confuse the issue.  It's kind of like talking about "free" trade, whose freedom? for what purposes?  See how they use freedom, which is really a neutral term(i.e. "freedom" to kill obviously is not a good thing), to give a positive conotation to lowering our standard of living?  After all, freedom for only one group translates to power, not freedom.  Or, using the word "optimist".  My brother is conservative.  He used that as a label to describe himself, as if that meant that his viewpoint was better.  Optimistic about what?  That others will fix the problems his beliefs cause?  We can talk about welfare "reform" which basicly is a way of removing the last remnant of social programs, but see how the word "reform" makes it sound good?  Beware of someone taking a neutral word and using it for propaganda.  

    Here's my advice, before using extra terminology, first make sure that it reflects reality, and second, make sure that it actually increases our understanding of the issues.  

    Like all such charts badly flawed. (4.66 / 3) (#134)
    by CENGEL3 on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 11:15:20 AM EST

    You would need a chart in about 175 different dimensions to begin to accurately describe any individuals political tendencies.

    Like all such charts it makes too many assumptions, too many simplifications and lumps too many unrelated items together.

    For instance, I'll just use myself as an example.

    Cultural - While I very strongly believe that the government has no right to interfere in anyones life (even when it believes it is acting in thier benefit) as long as they are not harming anyone else.

            I also happen to believe in a very strong national defense (the only way to protect such freedoms). While I believe in "equal protection under the law", I certainly don't believe in "equality" in the manner you seem to be defining and am strongly opposed to things like Affirimitive Action, Hate Crime laws and discrimination lawsuits. I am also strongly opposed to any sort of official bi-lingualism.

           While I believe in the right to burn the flag.... If I witnessed some-one doing it I would probably punch them in the nose.  I don't believe that the government has any right to dictate traditions but I strongly value traditions on a personal level... and look and dress about as straight laced as you can imagine and tend not to associate with people who look "wierd".

    Corporate - I strongly believe that businesses should have the right to disciminate against anyone they want....to hire and fire anyone they want for any reason...and to serve or refuse to serve anyone they want for any reason. I also believe that they have the right to have anyone removed from thier property for any reason.
    I also believe that they have the right to fire strikers.

    On the other hand, I strongly believe in anti-trust laws and the ability of consumers to boycott corporations who they feel are behaving irresponsibly. I'm strongly in support of many environmental laws and I strongly feel that the protections given intellectual property have been blown far beyond thier origional intent and strayed into the realm of protectionism and anti-competitive practices.

    Fiscal - Is about the only Axis on which I seem to fit well into your chart being solidly in the Class 2 camp.

    I don't think I fit very well into your 3 dimensional model.... and I suspect that is true of very many people. Like most such models... it is far too simplistic a way to measure peoples political attitudes. It seems to me the equivalent of trying to describe some-ones genetic code in terms chocolate, vanilla or strawberry....simply doubling the number of flavours doesn't do a much better job.

    One more dimension? (none / 0) (#138)
    by jared on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 11:37:35 AM EST

    The SB IQ test is innacurate because it only has one diemension. The SAT is more correcter because it has two. My NewFangledTest has THREE! THREE! It is the most correctest. sigh.

    Um... no (4.80 / 5) (#141)
    by trhurler on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 12:11:25 PM EST

    Your third dimension, which is "attitude towards corporations," is not a spectrum measuring the same kind of thing as "economic liberty" or "social liberty." It measures one's opinion on one specific social structure - admittedly a common one, but one without the overarching power of government, and which can only appear to have that power by (ab)using the government for its own ends. Rich individuals can do this as well as a corporation, so I don't think your classification makes any sense. It may describe the way a lot of people think about themselves, but that's because a lot of peoples' political thinking is shallow and shortsighted. One's attitude towards corporations is or should be a consequence of one's other political belief - not a motivator of it.

    I could just as easily make a chart that had a third dimension labelled "attitude towards liability law" and it would be just as silly. If you're going to start including every single political stance a person takes as a dimension on your chart, your chart will end up being n-dimensional, where n is a measure more of the amount of time you spent identifying possible axes than it is an accurate measure of the amount of useful information such a chart can hope to convey.

    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    Too narrow (5.00 / 2) (#142)
    by The Writer on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 12:16:45 PM EST

    Like many others have pointed out, there is no one classification scheme that works for everybody. For example, I think that the entirety of politics is doomed to fail and therefore not worth the energy to debate about. How would you classify me? Skeptic, perhaps? I don't see that anywhere on the chart.

    For example, I believe in marital morality, but I do not believe that government regulation will ever work, and therefore I disagree with getting the government involved. Where do I fit on that axis then? Furthermore, while I believe that authority should be respected, I also believe that the individual must be given freedoms within which to develop, and that micro-management is evil because it stifles creativity. I do not support blind patriotism, because I believe that it causes people to be close-minded to foreign countries. However, I also believe patriotism is proper, because if one does not support his own country, then he is disloyal and is detrimental to society.

    This is the problem with classification schemes: they are too broad, and they lump things together that some people would regard as not belonging together. Some of my views are firmly in the "puritinical" cultural axis, but others are firmly in the "freedom" camp. The problem is that the chosen axes do not match up nicely with my outlook, and therefore do not accurately describe my views. But if you adapt the classification scheme to me, it would no longer fit some others. This is doomed to fail, unless we introduce an axis on every single issue there is, in which case it's over-complex and of little practical use.

    While classification schemes may be useful to some people, it should always come with a big disclaimer that says "this only works given assumptions X, Y, Z". You cannot classify people into neat little boxes, unless you have one box per person. Human beings are much, much, more diverse than can be this easily classified.

    If you're going to add a 3rd dimension... (5.00 / 3) (#147)
    by Shimmer on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 12:54:19 PM EST

    I would suggest something that captures foreign policy preference: inter-dependent vs. isolationist, for example.

    One's attitude towards corporation is an important issue, but not a generic political axis.

    -- Brian

    Wizard needs food badly.

    How about a link? (5.00 / 1) (#149)
    by Rojareyn on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 01:13:40 PM EST

    An excellent article.

    I had tried to google for more information on the Vosem chart but that was unsuccessful (mainly sites in foreign languages). Perhaps if you could post some additional links?

    Also, I'm always a big fan of online-quiz type sites. Are there any online Vosem Chart quizzes available? If not, perhaps you can create one using something like Quizilla?

    I find myself getting more conservative... (none / 0) (#152)
    by dipierro on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 02:02:25 PM EST

    And it scares me. Actually, if it wasn't for environmental issues, I'd be a hard core conservative, even slightly libertarian. But I wouldn't like it. Liberals seem so much nicer. And both parties spout out nonsense that I can't figure out if it's bullshit or idiocy.

    And after all that, I voted for Nader. I don't know, I'm all over the place.

    Right completely utterly down the middle (3.00 / 2) (#161)
    by Silent Chris on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 02:55:31 PM EST

    I hate all politics.  I hate when a conservative tells me to cut down trees in my backyard for firewood.  I hate when a liberal tells me to save the whales.  I just want to be left alone when it comes to politics (which, increasingly, is very difficult on K5).

    10 kinds of people in this world... (3.00 / 3) (#180)
    by loteck on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 06:49:26 PM EST

    those who understand binary and those who dont.
    "You're in tune to the musical sound of loteck hi-fi, the musical sound that moves right round. Keep on moving ya'll." -Mylakovich

    So - do you charge for this or what? (2.00 / 2) (#202)
    by mami on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:56:22 PM EST

    People should get paid for reading this article.

    If you can't distinguish left from right and therefore have to try your chances with up and down, and if still don't know where you stand, does that mean you have lost your balance or your marbles or does it mean, you simply are the center of the world, where your position is always right in the middle of all of it and therefore completely irrelevant anyhow?  

    Well, down the drain I go. Who told me to respond? Must be the devil.

    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#215)
    by mindstrm on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 12:06:52 AM EST

    It's great to know all the choices are laid out for us like this.

    But tell me, where do I fit.. I think that we need more common sense in government, and more honour. And less party-line shit. I am both socialist, in that I think government control is necessary in some aspects of society, and an anarchist, believing that in most things, the government should stay completely out of it.

    Am I a neo-radical-left-right-up-converativ-downist?

    Imagine it 3D rounded... (4.00 / 1) (#225)
    by chanio on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 03:13:22 AM EST

    I like diagrams. And I think that it should be like a socker ball (rounded) since people is something in relation to a group.

    And then, I think that time should also be taken into account when organizing the possitions.

    I am not saying that the order is not ok, but that if 3D possitions where exact, we would have a perfect tool to organize things with!
    Farenheit Binman:
    This worlds culture is throwing away-burning thousands of useful concepts because they don't fit in their commercial frame.
    My chance of becoming intelligent!

    my political direction (5.00 / 3) (#227)
    by jolt rush soon on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 05:24:03 AM EST

    left up right up right down right up right down right down left head for the fruit then finish up the dots.
    Subosc — free electronic music.
    line between culture categories isn't middle (5.00 / 2) (#246)
    by Laiquendi on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 02:00:27 PM EST

    Since they hold the view that activities that don't hurt anyone (except possibly the people engaging or requesting the activity themselves) should not be punished by the law...(Culture class 1)

    I know both rigidly moral christians and flagrant hedonists who think this way (also matching up as pro-welfare anti-corporate), and agree on nothing. A detailed political analysis must take into account exactly which acts are believed as damaging to society, and also whether or not consensual participation in such acts is legal.

    It could be that I just hang around too many liberals (go Canada!), but your culture categories seem highly lopsided to me.

    Thank you! (4.00 / 1) (#250)
    by UltraNurd on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 04:03:47 PM EST

    Your story has helped provide some of the terms I need to properly define my own political ideology. I suppose I could actually go out and read some books on the subject, but you and I both know that that is complete crazy talk.

    Unfortuantely, I still don't know where I am in your cube. This is mainly because on each of the three axes, I split about half and half on the various issues. I guess that means that I'm a moderate, with some Libertarion, New Labor, or Liberal leanings? I'd probably be labeled "conservative" by many students here at Swarthmore, but there are a lot of Anarcho-Syndicalists or something here. Crazy/scary liberals, at any rate.

    "Your Mint Mountain Dew idea is hideous and wrong."
    -Hide The Hamster

    Line-in images petition (4.50 / 2) (#257)
    by Anonymous Brave on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 09:00:37 PM EST

    I think this article shows clearly that kuro5hin.org really needs to support the inclusion of in-line images within the articles, instead of links to images or ASCII art.

    correspondente.net - reflectir e discutir em português
    • Hrm by TheOnlyCoolTim, 06/18/2003 06:31:30 AM EST (none / 0)
    3rd Dimension? (4.00 / 2) (#263)
    by MuteWinter on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 12:32:36 AM EST

    It seems that dividing everything up into left or right is quite a benefit for those in control in a two party system (assuming your in the US.)

    How many times have I heard someone say both parties are no different from each other? Then there are those people that see it as hard right and hard left -- the Democrats and Republicans are polar opposites of each other, like Communism and capitalism.

    Coke and Pepsi. So close, yet so far apart. Macs and PCs. There both computers.. they look the same, but are they really? Its all relative.

    Here in America we really do live in a Coke and Pepsi political system. The average person doesn't have time to keep up with politics -- or at least the attention span to. In some respects, they aren't missing out on a whole lot. They have two choices. Heres my political test for you: Which do you prefer greater: Certain personal freedoms, government controlled market or personal pseudo-Freedom, and well.. shit, government controlled market? There just isn't much choice (obviously.)

    Third dimensional politics? Well lets move beyond 0 and 1 politics first.

    I have a better idea (3.00 / 2) (#266)
    by wji on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 01:33:26 AM EST

    Why don't we talk about our political beliefs instead of trying to find a co-ordinate system.

    In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
    Coordinates (5.00 / 4) (#269)
    by ssyreeni on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 07:59:00 AM EST

    The previous poster put it best: why argue over categories, when the meat in politics isn't in the labels? Minding that, let's look at these charts a bit more carefully. Why those precise axes?

    I don't think there's any essential reason why we should elevate opinions on governmental intrusion above, say, opinions on the environment or on women's rights. On the contrary, those have been defining issues for two recent, widely influential political movements. If we look at it from this perspective, we see that every political question defines its own axis, and that a truly selective coordinate system would have immense dimension.

    Okay. But are some political distinctions more important than others? Arguably they are -- religion would be a nice example in some countries -- but that's not because the subject is by itself somehow more important than others. It's because there's more disagreement about it, and this disagreement has polarized the political field. "With us or with them?" This is particularly true of the US, with its voting system conducive to a two party state.

    Understandably the hot topic might change at any time. Originally the left-right axis came from the seating arrangement of the French parliament, where progressive forces were seated on the left and conservative/aristocratic ones on the right. Guess where the historical libertarians (they were called liberals at the time) sat? Yup, firmly on the left. Nowadays they would be seated on the right because economics has become a bigger question than hereditary privileges, and in that debate libertarians mostly side with (what are now called) conservatives. A few decades from now it might be that hardcore communists and paleo-conservatives sit side by side on the right, with greens of all varieties populating the left.

    Somebody might argue that certain beliefs go together, and that ideological labels should make distinctions between major political movements. Perhaps. But there's also a danger here: if we think of politics in terms of parties opposed to one another, with uniform attitudes about everything, we lose sight of the fact that isolated political decisions shouldn't unnecessarily be bound together. If I believe in privatisation, it does not follow that I'm a conservative and also believe in creationism. Also, when I vote for privatisation, I'm certainly not voting for the state proselytizing to my children. This is one of the worst problems with representative democracy, then: you only get to vote on the single big issue, and then the thousands of little issues which more or less define your life are set arbitrarily by whoever gets into power.

    Labels, spectra and charts can serve to perpetuate the myth that political decisions somehow intrinsically go together, and they also help justify outcomes of the political process which are irrational.

    Now, we do need words, distinctions and classifications. Some views do go together, and form coherent ideologies. If we want to assign labels and draw charts, by all means let's. Let's also do it sensibly. One good idea would be to quiz people about a wide range of subjects, apply factor analysis and pick our political axes in order of decreasing variance. Or build the axes on historical grounds. But when we do something like this we should always keep in mind that the labels are descriptive, not prescriptive. They're just words, and they don't make a privatiser into a creationist. They shouldn't be used to convert people, or circumscribe what is okay to think. (This is one of the most important criticisms directed towards the Nolan chart.) Labels should be a mere conceptual tool in real political discussion, revolving around concrete issues.

    • It's a feature! by BCoates, 06/19/2003 05:20:34 AM EST (none / 0)
      • No, a bug. by ssyreeni, 06/19/2003 07:21:29 AM EST (5.00 / 1)
    Keep it simple, stupid (4.00 / 3) (#292)
    by wrr523 on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 07:09:43 PM EST

    The left-right political is intellectually bankrupt. Go too far either way, and you run into totalitarianism. The only valid 'political' spectrum is one which deals only with how much 'power' government is allowed to exert over citizens. At the top, put no government, or anarchy. At the bottom, but total governmental control of every aspect of a citizen's life, or tyranny. Where are you on this scale? Well, how much control over people's lives do you think a government should have? The 'libertarian' or 'classical liberal' would fall somewhere just short of anarchy, wanting just enough government to protect the rights of citizens from criminals. Want free health care? You're closer to tyranny. Want to regulate private sexual behavior? Move further down the scale towards tyranny. On today's spectrum, you'll find people in favor of tyranny on both sides. On the left, people who want liberty in regards to 'moral' matters, such as sexual behavior, but want tyranny in regards to economic matters, such as income redistribution. On the right, you have people who want freedom in economic matters, yet want tyranny in moral matters. Either way, if you want liberty, you're screwed either way. In fact, the only real benefit to the current power structure of the left/right political spectrum is to exclude the libertarian position altogether.

    Some Reservations (5.00 / 1) (#293)
    by artsygeek on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 08:38:29 PM EST

    I'm pretty lefty.  And pretty much a peacenik, and pretty much as untrusting of government as business.  I'd say I fit into the borderland of three categories by your measure.  A little anarcho-syndicalist, a little New Labour (why don't we call it what it is "The Third Way"? Oh, that's right, because Blair's abandonded that label, like UPS going for a more "Swoosh"-like logo), and a little traditional left sums me up well.  I don't hate neocons (I hate their policies), card-carrying libertarian party members (I used to be one, myself), or general lefties.  On the first two spheres, I'm definitely in Class 1....but in the corporate sphere, I find both classes leaving me cold.  But then again, it may just be the language used to describe that sphere.

    But then again, categories and charts make politics damn near impossible to figure out.  For example, I'm a lefty Quaker against gun control.  I also think that corporations have been created by market climates (as do many of the right-wing variety of Libertarians).  I also think that corporations have created homogenized gruel in substitute for bread, beans, and potatoes.  I believe that people should get their fair share for the work they produce, but shouldn't hold copyright in perpetuity.  I believe that government should spend money on the people, and business should enable government (and government enable business).

    I frequently shoot the bull on politics with friends across the political spectrum, from "Hillary Clinton Liberals" (In your bedroom, in your pocket, but more than willing to give you money when you need it)to right-wing Libertarians, from "The South's Gonna Rise Again" conservatives to Third Wayers, to "End the WTO, end the IMF" 'protest anything' lefties and I frequently find myself in agreement with all of them.

    Government can strangle the people, be corporations can become de facto governments of their own.  Government should use its resources (by way of the people's collective resources) to better the world, but ordinary people should be willing to take it on individually, too.  Business should flourish, but it should give back to the stabilizing force that made its growth possible, allowing for the funding of opportunities for more start-ups.  The true cost of a product should be paid, either through taxes, or the the price of the product (example: the production of product X causes Y amount of harm to workers and the environment, taking Z dollars to pay for the damage it incurs. Z should be paid for, either by a tax on the product, or by directly passing on the cost to the consumer of that particular product).

    A look at the poll responses (5.00 / 1) (#302)
    by Adam Tarr on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 04:57:42 PM EST

    The poll responses have stabilized some, so it gives us a decent snapshot of the political leanings of k5, at least those willing to respond:

    CULTURAL: not surprisingly, a total blow-out.  107-11 at the moment, or over 90% culturally permissive.

    FISCAL: the closest of the three.  Fiscal conservatism wins a close one 61-57.  A 52%-48% split is really too close to draw any conclusions from.

    CORPORATE: Anti corporate beats out free enterprise 78-40, or a comfortable two-thirds majority.

    So, the "average" respondent is on the fence between anarcho-syndicalism and classic liberalism.  This makes sense from what I've seen of k5.

    Thinking about US politics through the lens of a Vosem Chart gives me the feeling that the Republican party is really a schizoid party.  I'd guess the two strongest cores of Republican support are libertarians (posterior bottom left) and Christian conservatives (roughly, posterior middle right).  The only thing these two groups consistently agree on is a free market.  Both are closer to the party line Republican position than the Democratic one.  The democratic party seems to have more of a single core of supporters, rather than the dual cores of the Republicans.

    This seems to suggest (to me, anyway) that the best strategy for the Democrats would be to move their policies toward a more fiscally conservative position.  They would lose some totalitarian (old-school socialist) support, but this would be more than made up for by stealing away libertarian votes from the Republicans.


    Another axis choice (none / 0) (#304)
    by mymantra on Sun Jun 22, 2003 at 12:58:12 PM EST

    These new axis seems extremely temporal and culture-centric (even the "culture" axis is too US-culture centric in terms of how the extrema are identified - would this work in Burma or Iraq? Not really.).

    If you are going to add new axes it would seem more appropriate to add axis that cut universally across humanity and national boundaries. For me the most insightful was described by Virginia Postrel as "Dynamism" described in her book "Enemies of the Future".

    In summary, the axis embodies people's intrinsic comfort with change. As Postrel relates, in the last decade there have been a number of "odd bedfellows" tie-ups of "liberals" and "conservatives" supporting causes against other "liberals" and "conservatives".

    The common thread is that the former group are uncomfortable with change while the latter thrive or at least tolerate far better. Much of this is tied to innate abilities and (un)learned strategies of grieving. This even helps to explain why people often become "more conservative" with age: as people gain experience with life, they learn to cope with grief from life's normal ups and down either acceptance or avoidance. Becoming conservative amounts to primarily adopting an avoidance strategy, which without good coping skills is a lower energy solution. If you have good coping skills, biological or learned, you tend to accept unfamiliar or unusual situations more readily without the emotional hardship of grief that these changes to your environment invoke.

    So say you're white and have lived in a lilly-white neighborhood which now has new asian and african-american neighbors. Your environment is changed: your assumptions of appearance, culture, values, behavior, tastes and interaction with your neighbors changes. Your new neighbors like rap music while your old white neighbors liked what you liked. Your new neighbors like to cook smelly dried fish or curries while you like hamburgers. Your new neighbors celebrate different holidays or have different expectation of their children's education or behavior. You've lost your comfortable, predictable, cohesive group. You will naturally and inevitably grieve this loss.

    If you have poor coping skills (again by nature or by nurture), you will have a prolonged and painful reaction to this. Fight or flight: fighting to allow you to avoid that negative experience of grief again, or fleeing or avoiding the possible exposure to grief again. The reaction may take the form of political behavior or may even define your political identity. Conversely, if change just rolls off your back or if you even thrive and seek out change, this same situation may well have a different reaction.

    But isn't this just the same as the liberal-conservative axis? Well, not really. You may have a strong rational belief in the intellectual underpinnings of economics which make you a free-trade "conservative", or you may have the emotional temperment to make you a social services "liberal". Yet your comfort with change could alter those perspectives.


    • Interesting by CENGEL3, 06/24/2003 11:25:19 AM EST (none / 0)
    Politics in a Third Dimension | 324 comments (295 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
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