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Saturday, February 14, 2015


The use of labels is standard fare in many political discussions.  Such simplifications can be helpful but they can also obscure or confuse things when the labels miss the mark or their use changes over time.  I was recently reading an article at PJMedia and there was a link to an article with the very cute title: The Electric Tea Party Acid Test in which the author offered his own construct:

A necessary precursor to accepting any new worldview is to first jettison the previous worldview. So let’s start at the beginning: for the duration of this essay at least, pretend you’ve never heard of the left/right spectrum. Stick with me on this. As an intellectual exercise, just toss the notions of “left-wing” and “right-wing” out the window and begin your political education anew. Because it is this unnecessary (and now inaccurate) dichotomy between “left” and “right” which prevents most people from clearly conceptualizing the way that political thought is actually arrayed.

OK — is your mind clear? Now look at my newly conceptualized spectrum which schematizes political philosophies in a much more sensible and incisive way:

Later in the article Zombie continues:
People who adhere to the outdated and overly simplistic left/right divide may have trouble grokking this new way of looking at society. Newsweek, for example, recently claimed that the Tea Party has an “anarchist streak.” I find this interesting, because the Newsweek writer understood that both Tea Partiers and anarchists are on the same end of the “Government Control” axis, but couldn’t grasp that, viewed from a different orientation, Tea Partiers are at the opposite end of the “Human Nature” axis from anarchists, who want to construct an (impossible) law-free utopia based on the assumption that people can change and control themselves in the absence of any authority whatsoever.

This brings up a good point: Scroll back up to the chart and think of it in terms of “halves.” Leftists want to highlight the fact the both Tea Partiers and Nazis are in the same “half” of the chart — the bottom half, as it is currently oriented (although of course the way I rotated the chart was completely random — there is no inherent meaning in the up-down-left-right placement, and I just as easily could have designed it to be 90 degrees or 180 degrees a different way). Of course, as mentioned above, the crucial difference is that Nazis and other totalitarians want to use government to enforce their idea of the natural order of things, whereas Tea Partiers have the exact opposite urge — to have no government enforcement at all, and to let the natural order of things play itself out — naturally.

On the other hand, The Tea Partiers (and I) want you to notice that all the “bad” ideologies, including Nazism and communism, also share space on the same half of the chart, in this case the “more government control” half.

So, the chart is viewpoint-neutral; each person can express their pre-existing political bias by pointing out how this-or-that political enemy is at least in the same half as some identifiably bad ideology. It just all depends on what angle from which you choose to view the spectrum.

There are things to quibble over and different points of emphasis someone else might bring to bare, but overall a pretty interesting take on the matter.


Bret said...

I'm a little skeptical, but after reading the whole Zombie article, some of it rings partly true.

I'll have to think about it some more, but thanks for the post.

erp said...

Howard, I had to laugh when I saw that you put hippies in our neighborhood. In 1969, when hippies had been on stage only a short while, we were on the New York Thruway on our way to a wedding in the Buffalo area. With my husband and me were my parents. In front of us waiting to pay the toll was an old VW van full of kids. It was painted with bizarre psychedelic depictions new to us.

They van was pulled over and when we got to the toll taker, we asked why the kids were pulled over. He gave us some nonsense about searching for drugs ...

My husband pulled over and asked what the probable cause for the search was. Since there wasn't any, we paid their toll and they were let go their way.

We looked for the van for next couple of hundred miles, but didn't see them. I never found out if they prudently got off the thruway or were picked up further down the line.

Too bad those kids were turned by the commies leading the anti-war movement and didn't realize they were on the wrong side of the anti-establishment agenda.

Hey Skipper said...

I could swear I've brought this up a couple times already: Left & Right are useless terms; instead we should use Collectivist & Individualist.

To be fair, I never thought of extending the concept to two dimensions: malleable & innate.

Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions" and Stephen Pinker's "Blank Slate" have the territory covered.

erp said...

Good idea. Now try to convince the rest of the world.

Throw back to "Cosmos" TV series string. Today we went on a lark to the local planetarium where the topic was "Tonight's Sky." The lecturer sounded like a breathless airhead in a SNL skit.

The sky tonight was summed up by pointing out that ambient light is making it difficult to see the stars and we should turn out all lights not absolutely necessary.

The main thrust of the lecture was that the ISS program is making the world safer because there are astronauts there from 15 different countries working together for world peace.

I guess we should be grateful she didn't bring up global warming or recycling.

Clovis e Adri said...


So you and your husband were back then enabling hippies and now you complain you are in a world where people dream of world peace?

Haven't you heard of "you get what you pay for"?

erp said...

Clovis, you again miss the point. We were standing up for the process of law by objecting to public officials harassing citizens without due cause.

BTW - Hippies were led around by the nose by commies and dreamed only of avoiding the draft, sex and drugs in that order.

The notion of world peace was and is only for the terminally gullible.

As along as collectivists are able to seduce people into giving over their lives to them in exchange for trinkets they don't have to work for, there can never be world peace.

Howard said...

Hey Skipper,

yes, yes and yes