"Most people think of the political spectrum like this," he said, drawing a horizontal line on a dry erase board and labeling the ends "liberal" and "conservative". "But that's wrong," Matt went on. "It's really like this!" And he then drew another line: this one going up and down, with the state/government at the top and the individual at the bottom.
"It's really about the state having the power versus the one person having the power." And Matt continued to talk about how at one far end there is totalitarianism and fascism, and at the other wild extreme there is total anarchy.
And that's when I realized, for the very first time in my life, that the whole "conservative and liberal" thing is a con job. It's a fraud, that regardless of which "party" is in control of Washington or the states its only real purpose is to give more and more power to government. I don't want a totalitarian state and neither do I desire a completely lawless land. But in between, Matt suggested, there can indeed be a "happy medium" that upholds personal liberty while avoiding reckless abandon.
That's never going to be a cut-and-dried thing. But ever since then I have come to still believe in it enough to pursue it, with whatever talents and devices I might ever have on hand. Matt opened my eyes wider than he ever knew that day, and I've been praying since that others might come to realize it as well on their own.
Maybe that's starting to finally happen. David G. Muller Jr. has written an article for American Thinker called Rethinking the Political Spectrum, in which he also argues that the traditional "conservative versus liberal" paradigm is outdated and horribly flawed. And while he doesn't abandon the "left/right" model, Muller's model is quite similar to what Matt Mittan showed me in 2000...
Personally, I think this is a much greater and more accurate take on modern politics. It squarely places both liberalism and conservatism as less free mindsets than libertarianism: a school of thought which is enjoying considerable growth even if the party bearing its name has not of late. However, I would extend this range a bit further to the right and put "anarchy" on that fringe. In my mind, that is the ideal: personal liberty that stops short of all-out chaos. "Voluntary order", as V puts it in the graphic novel V for Vendetta.
Regardless of minor details, this is still a much better portrait of political reality than is the tired and obsolete version that most of our politicians and media and too many businesses (and more than a few religious folks) expect us to buy into.
But then: most of them have a vested interest in keeping the status quo going, aye?