Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Political Spectrum: How Perception Shapes Bias

     With this article, I intend to show how one's politicoeconomic motives and values affect the way one perceives which issue or division to be the most important distinction in political economy. In doing so, I will utilize a two-dimensional (planar) political spectrum, commonly known as the Nolan chart, developed by Libertarian Party co-founder David F. Nolan in the early 1970s. The image-file of the spectrum was taken from the website It depicts the geometrically-plotted politicoeconomic leanings of the major candidates for the U.S. Presidential nomination in the year of 2008. Authoritarian capitalism (or protectionism) is shown in blue, anarchistic capitalism (or libertarianism) is shown in purple, state socialism is shown in red, and anarchistic socialism is shown in green.

     The images below are all variations of the same image, but rotated in different directions. To each, I have added a superimposed black line which shows where a person of a given political persuasion perceives the major division between the parties to be located.

     Let us begin by assuming that I am a dedicated socialist (or collectivist) who holds authoritarian (or statist, or communitarian, or Communistic) socialism to be of equal value to anarcho- (or stateless) socialism. This would mean that my enemy is capitalism, regardless of whether it comes in a statist (protectionistic or corporate-controlled) or anarchistic (or libertarian) form. The diagram below shows my values at the bottom and that which I perceive as an oppressing or opposing force as coming from above. The horizontal black line is the closest approximation I have regarding where the most important division between the Democratic and Republican parties lies.

     If I resolved to vote in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, then, among the candidates depicted, I would be most likely to vote for the lowest candidate, Ralph Nader, because it appears to me that he would be the best defender of leftist economics, or socialism. If I did not feel that Nader were a sufficiently viable candidate, I would vote for Dennis Kucinich, followed by John Edwards, then Joe Biden, then Barack Obama, and so on. I would be least likely to vote for Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, and Newt Gingrich (sidenote: Gingrich was not a candidate in the 2008 U.S. presidential election; there is no reason for him to have been included on this chart), due to my perception of capitalism as an oppressive force. In addition, I would likely perceive Mike Gravel as a traitor due to the fact that, although he is a Democrat, he embraces rightist economics (capitalism) at least as much as many of the mainstream Republican candidates.

     Thus, the effect of my ardent socialism causes me to perceive the more socialistic the politician, the better, and the more capitalistic the politician, the worse. I see everything through the lens of economic systems; any and all forms of socialism are better than any and all forms of capitalism. Whether a politician supports more concentration of power versus more separation of power, or authoritarianism versus anarchism, usually escapes me as I simply select the most socialistic viable candidate.

     Let us now assume that I am an anarcho-socialist (or anarcho-collectivist, or anarcho-syndicalist). This would make authoritarian capitalism (or state capitalism, corporate statist, or protectionistic) my least-liked adversary. Holding such a view would cause me to see the political spectrum from the perspective shown below.

     Were I to vote in the election, I would still be most likely to support Ralph Nader, followed by Dennis Kucinich, but there would be a crucial difference: I would support any Democrat over any Republican. I would be equally as likely to lend my support and my vote to a state-socialist as I would to a libertarian because I would consider building a coalition against authoritarian capitalists with either group. I would be least likely to support Tom Tancredo, followed by Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

     We shall now suppose that I am an anarchist (for the separation of political powers and decentralization of authority) who supports leftist economics (socialism) as much as I support rightist economics (capitalism). If my beliefs are so, then my greatest opponent would be authoritarianism (or concentration of power), regardless of what economic beliefs it espouses. This would result in my perceiving the world in such a way which is depicted below.

     I would be most likely to support Ralph Nader, followed by Mike Gravel, then Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, John Edwards, and so on. I would be least likely to support Alan Keyes, Mitt Romney, and Tom Tancredo. Overall, I would be likely to see the Republicans as more authoritarian than Democrats, and I would probably see Ron Paul as the only good Republican, or at least as the Republican candidate least hostile to my views.

     Now, let us suppose that I am a libertarian or an anarcho-capitalist. I would espouse a vision of capitalism which opposes the centralization of power, and which holds state (or authoritarian) socialism as the enemy. This belief structure would result in a worldview as seen below.


     I would then, as a libertarian, be most likely to support Mike Gravel (an odd choice as a highly capitalistic Democrat), followed by Ron Paul, then Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain. I would see the Democratic and Republican parties as equally oppressive and hostile to my own beliefs, so I would probably register to vote as an independent rather than as a member of either party. I would be least likely to support Alan Keyes, followed by Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. In order to build a coalition against state-socialists, I would be as likely to embrace anarcho-socialism as I would state capitalism.

     Lastly, we shall assume that I am an ardent capitalist with no inherent hostilities towards either the authoritarian or the anarchistic conceptions of that economic philosophy. This would render socialism my opponent, resulting in a worldview like the one shown below.

     I would be most likely to vote for Ron Paul, followed by Tom Tancredo, then Newt Gingrich, Mike Gravel, and Fred Thompson, since they are, in that order, the most capitalistic candidates available from which to choose. I would see Republicans as overwhelmingly favorable to Democrats. I would see Mike Gravel as the only good Democrat, or at least as the most acceptable Democratic candidate in the running. I would be least likely to support Ralph Nader, followed by Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards.

     In summation, you can't know where you want to go until you have begun to understood where you're coming from. People placed at opposite corners or in the middle of opposite sides of the political spectrum would see one another as the biggest impediment to advancing their own agendas. It is for these reasons that we must understand which economic system we support more, and whether we favor centralization of power, limited government, or no government at all, so that we may strategically plan with whom it would be most useful to build our alliances in order to defeat that which is ideologically abhorrent to us.

For more entries on the political spectrum, please visit:

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