The Illusion of Opposites

Content Index: PC173

A False Political Spectrum

by Stephen Pratt

Are you left leaning or right leaning? Are you a Democrat or a Republican? Or are you a Progressive or a Neo-Conservative (the new age Democrats or Republicans)? These types of questions have been asked for many decades, but they are meaningless. They offer false labels, and the wrong kinds of questions. They presume that the answer has to be one option or the other and that left or right mean something, and this is the type of illusion that has been pulled over the eyes of the American public for far too long. This is the illusion of the political spectrum. This is the illusion of the opposites.

When someone asks you these kinds of questions they are cornering you into an answer. A similar question would be, "Are you still on drugs?" What kind of question is that?! It assumes that you've taken drugs or are currently taking drugs and is an unfair question for someone who's been clean all their life. This kind of question is no different than ones above and draws a conclusion that you have to be on one side or the other, when it fact there are more options than the questioner assumes.

So how does this all relate to the falsely perceived political spectrum of today? Let us examine the following:

On this typical spectrum, Communism would be on the extreme left and Fascism would be on the extreme right. Examples of Communist governments would be Russia lead by Stalin during WWII and Cuba lead by Castro to this present day (now his brother), and examples of Fascist governments would be Germany lead by Hitler and Italy lead by Mussolini during WWII. Both forms of government have had negative perceptions, but for some reason they are seen as diametrically opposed. Why?!? It's absurd if you think about it. Both forms of government consist of totalitarian control where individuals have no rights. In either form the elite few hold the power and the majority have no freedom. Both forms are evil and have had bad track records. A lot of people see Hitler as the most sinister politician in modern day history. But Stalin's record is even worse if you research his atrocities and the number of his own people he had killed. But since he was our ally, maybe some history books might have glazed over it a bit. It's obvious to most people today why these were terrible forms of government, but how did they come to exist? Why were so many people duped into believing that these rulers would bring great prosperity? The truth was that they were desperate during a time of great crisis (post WWI) and willing to sacrifice freedom for security. Yet when these rulers came to power and people realized they got a bad deal, it was already too late to resist because the government had stripped them of their rights, and most specifically their rights to bare arms which as George Washington put it, is the "peoples' liberty's teeth."

Therefore, if Communism and Fascism are really not that different, what would a true political spectrum look like? Something along the following line:

In this spectrum the extreme left represents total government control, whereas the extreme right represents no government control. It's quite obvious now that the two extremes are diametrically opposed. Another way of defining these two extremes is collectivism versus individualism. The further you go left on this scale, the less freedom each individual has and the more power the government gains. Typical collectivist ideas include the following examples:

  1. Rights are derived from the state;
  2. The group is more important than the individual;
  3. Coercion is the preferred method to bring about reform;
  4. Laws should be applied differently to different classes;
  5. Providing benefits (redistributing wealth) is the proper role of government.

Typical individualist ideas include the following:

  1. Rights are inalienable and don't exist because of the state. Without the state, we still have rights.
  2. The individual is more important than the group. A group is just an abstract idea and represents a bunch of individuals.
  3. Voluntary action is preferable to coercion;
  4. Everyone should be treated equally under the law;
  5. The proper role of government is to protect the rights of the individual and provide for the common defense.

Collectivist ideas run rampant throughout America, and it's pretty clear that our government no longer believes in many ideals of liberty or individualism that our nation was founded upon. If you are concerned, you should be. But the average person isn't because collectivist ideas have been taught for years and have been accepted by our two party system (which is why I grouped Democrats and Republicans on the same part of the spectrum). Some don't have any problem with the UN, or the concept of a New World Order or world government. But if you look at a clause in the UN charter that says "rights, as given by the state, may not be infringed upon unless by law" you will realize this is collectivist idea #1. By being in the UN and/or a world government, we lose our sovereignty, our freedom, and our individualism. Belief that the group, or the greater good, is more important than the individual can be seen as the justification of most government atrocities in history. Why did the Jews have to be put in concentration camps? Well it was for the greater good of the Nazi's Aryan Nation. Why did the Native Americans get removed to reservations? You get the idea; this is an example of collectivist idea #2. If individuals were considered instead of this greater good BS, then these atrocisties would have never been accepted. An example of government coercion, or collectivist idea #3, is the fact that government uses force to make its citizens comply with its laws, even if they are bad laws. What if you don't believe in the welfare state and wealth redistribution? Well, if you don't pay your taxes the IRS will raid your house and sieze your assets, leaving you with no property or rights. What if you think government schools are a failure and don't want to pay for property taxes which are used to fund these programs? Well I hope you like living in a tent after the government takes your house. An example of collectivist idea #4 would be the fact that we have hate crime legislation and affirmative action. For some reason, a black man that is killed by a white man is a worse crime than if a white man killed another white man. For some reason people need to pay reparations for past crimes they had nothing to do with by giving certain people more benefits than others, therefore making it an unfair environment for those who did nothing to be stripped of the benefits. In all these cases laws are applied differently to different classes and not everyone is equal under the same law. An example of collectivist idea #5 would be the fact that we have welfare and social security. Stealing, as long as it's done by the government, is justified as right because the money is going towards those who are less fortunate in order to provide an equal playing field. However, as anyone who's studied history knows, welfare just causes more poverty and does the exact opposite of what it was intended to do at the expense of the taxpayer. At least it's done with good intentions....

Another way of looking at the political spectrum is by looking at it in more dimensions instead of just left and right. Political scientist David Nolan suggested a new spectrum that appears as the following:

In this "Nolan Chart" the Left is Liberal, the Right is Conservative, up in Libertarian, down is Statism (or those in favor of Big Government), and as always, the indecisive ones are stuck in the middle as Centrist. The higher you go on the scale the more freedom an individual has, the lower you go on the scale the more power government gains. Dr. Nolan also created the world's smallest political quiz for determining what part of this political spectrum someone would fall, and the following quiz is just 10 short questions that can be answered as agree, maybe, or disagree (click here to take the actual quiz):

Personal Issues:

  • Government should not censor speech, press, media or Internet.
  • Military service should be voluntary. There should be no draft.
  • There should be no laws regarding sex for consenting adults.
  • Repeal laws prohibiting adult possession and use of drugs.
  • There should be no National ID card.

Economic Issues:

  • End "corporate welfare." No government handouts to business.
  • End government barriers to international free trade.
  • Let people control their own retirement; privatize Social Security.
  • Replace government welfare with private charity.
  • Cut taxes and government spending by 50% or more.

If you don't want a spoiler on how answering each of these questions will result in your score, then read no further. However, if you are curious how these questions will determine your outcome, then keep reading. The basic premise of this quiz is that if you disagree with all of the above, then you are a statist and believe in Big Government. If you only agree with the Personal Issues but disagree with the Economic Issues then you are a liberal. You feel like people should live life how they please and be taken care of by Big Brother. If you agree with all the Economic Issues and disagree with all the Personal Issues then you are a conservative. You only accept certain lifestyles you view as "traditional," want the government out of your pocket, and believe that the government should control people's behavior. If you agree with all of the above issues, then you are a libertarian and believe in maximum freedom in personal and economic matters. You don't believe in controlling others in one form or another and respect other people's choices to live how they choose.

Dr. Nolan also setup a handy website, Nolan, where you can read political articles that are grouped by their particular area of this political spectrum. The largest amount of content is probably from Libertarian authors, but you can't really complain. If you want a bunch of collectivist political articles then you can go to any one of the mainstream media news sites :-P.

I hope you now realize how silly it is to ask someone if they are left or right. The true question is whether you believe in collectivism or individualism (ie. Freedom)? My chart and the Nolan Chart are both true ways of viewing the political spectrum (Nolan's vertical axis is the same as my chart's horizontal axis), and the only difference is that Nolan differentiates liberals and conservatives, while I group them into the same category. Both groups are collectivists. Both want to control people and limit freedom. This fact is becoming more apparent to this day as our Republicans have turned into Neo-Conservatives and now believe in more government control and more spending. The Democrats have become Neo-Liberals as they no longer defend civil liberties or fight against war. Because of this fact, people are having a harder and harder time differentiating between our two main political parties. It's become so ridiculous that many are referring to them as the Republicrats because it's becoming more clear that was are basically a one party system.

But the mainstream media won't accept this fact because it doesn't fit their model. There always has to be strife between the so-called left and right because this type of drama sells. So they will continue to perpetrate the illusion of opposites to their benefit. They'll continue to act like the presidential race represented a dichotomy in ideals between Obama and McCain. But if you look them, both are really just hand picked, corporate candidates who are collectivist as they come. And the American public will keep getting duped into thinking that they have to accept one candidate's ideas over the other. Should we stay in Iraq fighting for 100 years or should we focus on Afghanistan or Pakistan? Sadly no one will hear the individualist argument of whether we should change our foreign policy to be non-interventionist. Should we focus more government spending on health care, or should we focus more spending on defense? Where's the individualist argument about whether we need to stop spending so much money on all these government programs? So keep your eyes open, and don't let them pull the wool over them. There are more choices out there. Things aren't just black and white, right versus left. Look beyond…


My current blog:

Liberty Portal

What does this essay bring to mind? Please login to add your own relationship or click view to read and score other's association to the essay.

Associations (0)

Please login to vote, add an association, sign up as a coach, or add a private comment for the betterment of the essay.


Creative Commons License
The Do Good Gauge is licensed to Scott Nesler under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

Add to iGoogle     Get the Do Good Gauge Quote Randomizer Gadget by clicking on the Google Icon