The Problem with the Left-Right Spectrum

In political discussion if one wants to quickly identify a person they describe them as ‘left’ or ‘right’. However this scale is woefully inadequate in properly discussing the array of ideologies. For one people will describe Donald Trump as “far right.” However he supports ideas that would not be described as right traditionally. He supports ‘fair trade’, a protectionist economic policy that runs contrary to previous norms of the Republican Party. He supports LGBT rights, breaking years of social norms within the Republican Party. He wants to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act. If he was ‘far right’ he would only go with repeal and not implement a replacement.

When the phrase “far left” is used Communism or Socialism is inferred. When “far right” is used Nazism and Fascism is inferred. However how could two opposite ends of a spectrum both result in authoritarian styles of government? If it were to be sensible Nazism and Communism would be at one end and Anarchism at the other.

The current mode of describing political positions needs to be replaced with one that can more properly take into account various positions.

The above chart is a far better one to go off. It takes into the account the various forms of authoritarianism and liberty based angles. It judges your overall position by your views on social and economic questions. It is possible to be socially liberal and authoritarian while being economically liberal and socially authoritarian.

It is important to remember the true meaning of the word ‘liberal.’ Liberal derives from the political school of thought classical liberalism. It is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as the following.

  1. a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard
  2. a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy (see autonomy 2) of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (such as those involving race, gender, or class)

In both we see that it advocates both economic and social freedom. The modern use of the world liberal then is a degradation to its original meaning. This just shows the laziness of the left-right spectrum that fails to take into the account all aspects of a belief system.

The above chart displays where I fall on the political spectrum after taking a test on . We should strive to broaden our understanding of political identity so we can have better discussion. These tests may not be perfect, but it’s a start.


Try for yourself and post your results!