In our age of partisan generalizations, we are accustomed to thinking of the political spectrum as a kind of one-dimensional line, with left on one end, right on the other, and centrist in the middle. The media gives the impression that you are a liberal, conservative or moderate - as if those are the only choices and as if those labels necessarily contain people with largely the exact same ideologies. I contend that this view of the political spectrum is entirely wrong, and is responsible for a huge ideological disorientation. For, if everything is just left and right, we run into huge problems. For, surely both Stalin and Gandhi are "left", yet they are practically diametric opposites. And surely both Hitler and Ron Paul are "right", yet they are practically diametric opposites.The true political spectrum is two-dimensional, and it looks something like this:
This method measures your political views by actually determining how much government interference you are willing to tolerate or promote. One dimension is economic interference, and the other is essentially social interference. It should be clear that the standard view on politics leaves out half of the political spectrum. It should also be clear that even within the realms of "liberal" and "conservative" there is a certain diversity. For example, certainly a "conservative" at X50 and Y20 is quite different then a "conservative" at X100 and Y50. They both may be "rightists", but it is clear that they are extremely different. One believes in much less government then the other does (less than half as much).
The characterization of Hitler as "far right" and Stalin as "far left" is entirely wrong. As a rough estimate, I would place Hitler around X90 Y75, and Stalin at X75 Y90. We should clearly see that Hitler and Stalin have much in common, they are very similar, regardless of one leaning left and the other leaning right. They both are totalitarians, relative partners in action. What defines them is totalitarianism, not left or right. In comparison, a right-leaning libertarian like Ron Paul is quite diametrically opposed to Hitler, and a left-wing Gandhi is by the very least socially diametrically opposed to Stalin. The true diversity of the political spectrum should start to show here.
By thinking solely in terms of left and right, political conflict is only confined to one half of the spectrum, while what is the most important conflict to me is entirely left out - look at the spectrum from up to down. Totalitarian vs. Libertarian, or big government vs.. small government. In a certain way, left and right is a total distraction from this. The farthest "left" you can go is total economic interference and zero social interferences, and the farthest "right" you can go is total social interference and zero economic interference. Such positions can easily be seen as contradictory, to be diametrically opposed in the two realms. It also strikes me as practically impossible for someone to be quite THAT polarized. If we are to re-apply the one-dimensional view of politics to the spectrum, we are presented with a blatant absurdity, because libertarianism, anarchism and totalitarianism are all lumped into "the center". If anything, this best demonstrates the huge error of a one-dimensional spectrum. An anarchist and a totalitarian are diametrically opposed - one wants no government at all, while the other wants total government. In a sense, the general characterization functions to pretty much eradicate knowledge of the existence of these things.
When factional strife is put in terms of left vs.. right, it blurs and obscures the reality of the situation. Many people often make the mistake of only choosing to see one dimension of the spectrum (social for left, economic for right), and therefore are only judging differences based on that one dimension. This produces an entirely misleading picture. Both dimensions have to be combined to produce a more accurate picture.
For example, many rightists seem to be convinced that "liberalism" is the ultimate threat to them, that it is their diametric opposite or enemy. Yet let us return to our "conservative" at X50 and Y20. In truth, to be more specific, the authoritarian section of "the left" around X 50 and Y 80 is their true enemy, while the anti-authoritarian section actually has more in common with them and may actually be a good ally against the authoritarian left. The grass roots "leftist" at X 20 and Y 50 is not their diametric opposite or enemy, yet many conservatives specialize in attacking such people. Furthermore, there are "enemies" within one's own ranks in "the right". An authoritarian "conservative" at X 80 and Y 50 prefers twice as much government interference that the anti-authoritarian "conservative" does - they actually are a greater "threat" to his ways then the anti-authoritarian leftist. Social permissiveness is not the "small C" conservative's true enemy, economic intervention is.
Many leftists seem to be convinced that "conservatism" or "capitalism" is the ultimate threat to them, that it is their diametric opposite or enemy. Yet let us take a "liberal" at X 20 and Y 50. In truth, to be more specific, the authoritarian section of "the right" around X 80 and Y 50 is their true enemy, while the anti-authoritarian section actually has more in common with them and may actually be a good ally against the authoritarian right. The grass roots "rightist" at X 50 and Y 20 is not their diametric opposite or enemy, yet many liberals specialize in attacking such people. Furthermore, there are "enemies" within one's own ranks in "the left". An authoritarian "liberal" at X50 and Y 80 prefers twice as much government interference that the anti-authoritarian "liberal" does - they actually are a greater "threat" to his ways then the anti-authoritarian rightist. Capitalism is not the "small L" leftist's true enemy, social intervention is.
It should be noted that both of the anti-authoritarian leftist and rightist has loads more in common with a libertarian then they do with the authoritarians within their own ranks. It should also be clear that the media characterizations in politics sets up an entirely false debate. Even if I split up the spectrum into two halves of left and right, within those halves I am presented with three basic subsections as well: An anti-authoritarian or libertarian section, a centrist section, and an authoritarian section. A relatively authoritarian "leftist" like Hillary Clinton is worlds apart from the grass-roots pro-civil-liberties, anti-war "liberal". Even figures on the right such as Pat Buchanan is worlds apart from a Neoconservative. However, due to the confusion and disorientation of politics, many people are supportive of people within their own ranks that do not represent them and are even opposed or harmful to them.
So, along with the misplaced oppositions comes misplaced alliances, where peaceniks support war-hawks and fiscally minded people support big spenders. It is my contention that in the process, most of the politicians themselves are basking in power in the center (which includes totalitarianism) while the people are polarized between a "left and right". This polarization serves as a distraction from the general unity of those in the government, the simple fact that most of them are on the side of power overall. In short, it is a dupe. And this dupe is the basis of our modern political situation in America, as well as many places around the world. Politicians will do anything in their power to ensure that the people do not unite against power itself, so they concoct devices to pit people against each other and create straw men.
After all, the greatest threat to political power, even greater than an armed populace, is an informed populace. If the people stopped fighting each other and banded together against their government in general, this would potentially serve as a true check on their power. But so long as everything is done in terms of a misguided battle between the forces of "left and right", the status quo will remain. Left and right, liberal and conservative have become utterly meaningless terms that do nothing but signify certain special interests, and doesn't even do very good of a job of it at that. To Libertarians, Anarchists and Independent minded people, the battle has historically always been and still is between social power and political power (as Franz Oppenheimer put it), or between freedom and oppression. One-dimensional politics obscures this. The vital question is the power and size of government, not left and right or which special interest to give control of the government to.