In the old days, it was assumed that ideology ran on a linear spectrum of left and right, with moderates in the centre. In the public consciousness politics generally came down to “conservatives” versus “liberals”, with conservatives on the right end of the spectrum and liberals on the left. From my observations, this was particularly pronounced in the culture war of the 2000’s. If you supported the government, supported religion (particularly Christianity) and favoured interventionist foreign policy, you were a conservative, while if you opposed war, favoured the separation of church and state, and distrusted the government, you were a liberal. Ah, those were simpler times.
However, now this would prove to be inaccurate, as the new culture war of the current decade has unravelled. Now it’s the “liberals” who are supporting bigger government and pushing for ever greater levels of political correctness, while the “conservatives” sound more like classical liberals. In the establishment at large, both sides in the traditional spectrum seem to want the same thing – bigger government on behalf of large corporations. Today’s leftists across the world have alienated themselves further and further from the common man, proving the inevitable backlash from the extreme right, which often proves just as bad as the social justice warriors, both of which quickly prove the validity of horseshoe theory (which I fervently subscribe too).
For those who may not be aware, horseshoe theory is a theory of ideology in political science which argues that left and right are like the ends of a horseshoe, in that the further along the left or right you go, the more closely similar they are. In the end, those in the far-left and the far-right both arrive at the same point, saying much of the same things but employing different rhetoric as they do it. In other words, when taken to their extremes, both the left and the right are exactly the same.
For a more nuanced take on the left-right spectrum, the horseshoe model is ideal. However, I would like to suggest another model. Allow me to introduce you to the political compass, which has been around since 2001. It was coined by the British-based Political Compass Organisation with the intention of helping people to better understand where they stand politically, and the kind of company they might keep. Simply put, it’s a multi-axis grid that is split by two axes. The left-right axis represents the traditional left-right spectrum, which is a measure of economic policy rather than social policy. In this sense, those on the left wing of the spectrum favour greater government regulation of the economy, which they feel should be run by a collective body. By contrast, those on the right wing of the spectrum feel that the economy should be left in the hands of competing individuals, organisations and market forces. At the very far end of the left wing is where you’ll run into communism, a system where the state has total control of the economy. At the very far end of the right wing is where you’ll find laissez-faire capitalism, which is essentially capitalism without any regulation from the state whatsoever.
Social policy is measured by the up-down axis, which, in my opinion, reflects the current culture war we are witnessing – the conflict between libertarianism and authoritarianism, or as I might put it, individualism and collectivism. Those on the upper half of the spectrum are authoritarians, as they believe that rules and traditions should be obeyed. Authoritarians believe that the state should have more power, and that the state has a right to intervene in people’s lives. I have reason to suspect that some of them believe that this power can be used for good, but an authoritarian always believes that he or she will be wielding that power. At the very top end of the authoritarian side is fascism, a system led by a dictator with absolute power, and I must stress that you will find fascists on both the left and the right of the spectrum (as I explained with horseshoe theory). Those on the lower half of the spectrum are libertarians, as they believe in the sanctity of personal freedom and individual rights. Libertarians believe the power of the state should be reduced, and that government should have little involvement in our lives. At the very bottom end of the libertarian side is anarchism, a system wherein the state is completely abolished. Now that that’s out of the way, I can go on to explain the four quadrants in more depth.
On the top left you have the authoritarian left. A left-wing authoritarian typically believes in a planned economy controlled by the state (sometimes called a command economy), and that states should control businesses and industries. This is where you’ll find the communists, Marxists, socialists, progressives, neofeminists, proponents of Keynesian economics, and of course the social justice warriors. Famous examples would include Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Bernie Sanders, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. I would personally count Anita Sarkeesian here as well because of how her brand of feminism, in terms of narrative, is very much akin to Marxism, same goes with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. A debatable example of a left-wing authoritarian would be Adolf Hitler, who, despite the popular misconception that he was far-right, was essentially a socialist who believed in a command economy. Speaking of Germany, I believe that the anti-fascist movement in Germany is becoming a left-wing authoritarian movement, as they have placed racist anti-white posters on public property, and have been known to threaten anyone who disagrees with them, ironically becoming the very thing they have set out to fight against (I’ll talk more about that in a future post).
On the top right you have the authoritarian right. A right-wing authoritarian typically believes in the legitimacy of the state, but is in favour of the free market. You’ll typically find them placing emphasis on social and religious norms, whereas many left-wing dictatorships attempted to excise religion altogether (such as in the Cultural Revolution of communist China). They are usually sceptical of social change, and believe in maintaining the status quo, which is why they are so reviled in the mainstream media. This is where you’ll find the neo-liberals, neo-conservatives, traditional conservatives, paleo-conservatives, oligarchists, religious fundamentalists of all persuasions (but especially Christianity and Islam), monarchists, reactionaries, neo-Nazis, nationalists, and the alt-right. Famous example would include Margaret Thatcher, Augusto Pinochet, Lee Kuan Yew, Richard Nixon, David Cameron, Hillary Clinton, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush (and his father), and Donald Trump. Pretty much all the Republican nominees except Rand Paul fit into this category, and this is especially true of Ted Cruz, a hardline conservative who fits in perfectly with the GOP. You’ll also find corporatism thrives here, because for the neo-cons, the “free market” allows them to subsidise the military-industrial complex and grant corporate welfare to the multi-national entities. The extreme racists of Stormfront, televangelists, Islamic terrorists, as well as the neo-con sock puppets at Fox News, could be found here as well.
On the bottom left you have the libertarian left. A left-wing libertarian believes in individual rights, but is still concerned with society at large. They promote personal freedom with emphasis on also promoting equality, and they typically advocate for reducing the power of large corporations and protecting worker’s rights. This is where you’ll find the social liberals, libertarian socialists, anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-communists, and choice feminists. Famous examples include Emma Goldman, Christina Hoff Sommers, Noam Chomsky, Nelson Mandela, Bill Maher, Jill Stein (from the US Green Party), Thomas Paine, and Carl Benjamin (the YouTuber better known as Sargon of Akkad). Some of the more moderate socialists and progressives may be found here as well.
Finally, on the bottom right, you have the libertarian right. A right-wing libertarian is the definition of “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”, as they advocate capitalist economics and have a generally liberal stance on social issues (for example, they ardently defend the right to free speech). They stress the importance of individual rights, and do not trust a large government to protect them at all. They also believe that state regulation hinders the ability of a free market to grow. This is where you’ll find the mainstream libertarians, free market capitalists, classical liberals, objectivists, anarcho-capitalists, and a new phenomenon described as “cultural libertarians”. Famous examples include Rand Paul (and his father Ron Paul), Gary Johnson, Austin Peterson, Ayn Rand, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises, and debatably Milo Yiannopoulos. You may find some disaffected Republicans, such as those in the Tea Party movement, in this quadrant.
This is a vastly superior model that addresses the inadequacies of the old-fashioned left-right narrative and I feel it reflects the real culture war between individualism and collectivism. But, of course, the mainstream media doesn’t like nuance, so they just use the old system so they can get people to choose a side and fight each other to the bitter end. They’re duping people into accepting a grossly oversimplified ideological narrative, and the result is senseless, especially when you consider that anyone can use the political compass. I took the test on the Political Compass site myself (and if you want to, you can too if you click here), and here is the result.
As you can see, I qualify as a right-wing libertarian, but I’m so close to the left that I tend to consider myself a centrist. You could call me a moderate libertarian if you want, because I tend to focus on issues rather than ideology. In days gone by I would have been a left-wing libertarian, and I was certainly this as a teenager (by which point I leaned pretty far to the left). However, over the years I’ve been growing very tired of the insanity exhibited by the political left, and ultimately jumped ship to the other side, mainly because it turned out their arguments were more rational. As a right-wing libertarian, I invariably fall under the same category as the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who is more of a moderate than the two mainstream candidates (one of them a neo-liberal and the other a neo-conservative).
Of course, I fall under this category chiefly because I believe in individual rights and the responsibility and agency of the individual. I don’t care about race, gender and sexual orientation as the left does. In fact, I reject identity politics as a whole. I also believe that socialism is a very bad idea, and it only serves to take responsibility away from individuals. Therefore, in my opinion, socialism goes against the core values of libertarianism. That’s why I prefer capitalism, because it creates the conditions in which we have the advanced society that we have at all.
I know that this been a very drawn out post, but I think I’ve illustrated my point quite well. The culture war we know is now very different to what it was a generation ago, and the battle lines have been redrawn. Yet the mainstream media and the political establishment would much rather remove complexity from political debate, because it’s much easier to control a population that does not understand the big picture than it is for them to present a reasoned argument to the public. For those who argue that ideology does not matter, I say that it in fact does matter, but only if you can understand your ideological position can you wield it effectively in the world of politics.