Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Making distinctions

Here's the Ozconservative outline of the political spectrum.

a) The spectrum is about differences in liberal politics. When we speak about the left-wing and the right-wing of the spectrum we're really talking about a difference between the liberal left and the liberal right.

There's a reason for this. All forms of liberalism have to answer a very significant question. If you have an individualistic picture of society, in which millions of individuals each act unimpeded to follow their own will and reason, then you have to explain how a society will hold together.

The answer given by right-wing liberals is that individuals can act selfishly, but to the benefit of society, if the hidden hand of the market is allowed to regulate their activity.

Left-liberals, in contrast, look less to the free market, and more to the state to regulate society and to "harmonise wills".

b) Therefore a spectrum will go roughly as follows:

anarchists - Marxists - social democrats - mainstream right liberals - libertarians

If you start in the middle, you have the distinction between left-liberal social democrats (like the Australian Labor Party) and the mainstream right-liberal parties (like the Australian Liberal Party).

The distinction is clearest if you compare the left-wing of the Labor Party to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is very clearly more in favour of privatisation and deregulation than the Labor left.

If we go leftward, we find more "radical" versions of left-liberalism. They're more radical in the sense of being more violent in the means they're willing to use, not that they are necessarily more statist. The Marxists want to smash capitalism and establish a coercive workers' state (but this state is then supposed to wither away). The anarchists believe in direct action, but want to replace capitalism not so much with a central state as with local forms of organisation.

If we go back to the middle and turn rightward, we find a more "radical" form of right-liberalism in libertarianism. It's more radical not because it's more violent, but because libertarians want to more strictly limit the role of the state in regulating society in favour of a freer market system.

The spectrum is no doubt crude in the way it describes politics, but it does seem to broadly work.

The point for traditionalist conservatives is not to find a place within this spectrum but to open up a political position outside of it.

1 comment:

  1. I made the point on a Telegraph blog thread yesterday that on its front page politicalcompass.org praises the "groundbreaking research" of Theodor Adorno and Wilhelm Reich. Adorno, of course, is famous for "proving" Conservatism to be authoritarian and pathological, so the compass is scarcely likely to treat non-liberals in a fair and productive way.

    This Telegraph comment followed on from my attempt to find some founding principles not for a Conservative compass particularly but for a nationalist one here:-


    It seems to me that Conservatism would require a different treatment, possibly testing the respondee's traditionalism (in a purely secular, Western sense) and then, on the other axis, maybe his individualism <> patriotism, if that dynamic isn't too libertarian in tone.