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Thursday, September 10, 2009

A more realistic political spectrum

One of the people that in the long run has most influenced and impacted my political beliefs is, without a doubt, Matt Mittan: host of the extremely popular show Take A Stand! on the radio and streaming on the Internet every Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. I count myself as a very fortunate person for getting to work under Matt when he was the editor of The Asheville Tribune. And I'll never forget the first time I came into his office and he showed me what his weekly newsmagazine was all about...

"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the Political Spectrum, in which he also argues that the traditional "conservative versus liberal" paradigm is outdated and horribly flawed.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?


jessicaash@aol.com said...

Unfortunately, the problem with most folks who loudly proclaim to be "libertarian is the fact that they aren't willing to offer to others the freedom they want for themselves. Most seem to simply follow the neo-con line, except when it comes to their own personal interests, and the neo-cons are so far to the right of true conservatism it isn't even funny.

Anonymous said...

I was going to add a thoughtful (to me anyway) post but since this is not about Johnny Robertson no one is going to read it so I'll just say, "10-4, Jessica".


Lee Shelton said...

This spectrum might help explain the political Doppler effect: politicians look and sound like conservatives or libertarians when they approach you for support, but then look and sound like liberals or socialists once they move on to Washington.

Anonymous said...

We're all so spoiled that "freedom" is defined as whether we get our way on all these minor conservative and liberal issues while people in Somalia, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. define it as whether they can walk down the street without getting shot. Where do they fit in on the little chart?


Chris Knight said...

AnounaMouse, those countries that you have mentioned are either extreme anarchy or extreme state-run. So they have a place on the chart after all.

Anonymous said...

I still don't get it, Chris. I didn't see anarchy on the chart. I assume it comes after Libertarianism and in the examples cited above would not be free at all. Also, I haven't detected that the socialist democracies of northern Europe lack anything (as compared to the US) in the way of freedom. And one last point, conservatives have been against, either now or in the past, civil rights, women's suffrage, and gay marriage to name but a few issues. How is that "more freedom". Maybe you're defining freedom as it applies to you, not to the population as a whole.