Throughout my time as a political opinion writer, I’ve said many controversial things about many different subjects. I’ve made more groups angry than I can count on eight hands – and some of those groups I even belong to. That said, I feel as if I’ve never said anything more controversial than when I tweeted: “There’s no such thing as a leftist libertarian.”
Before I go on, I want to mention that I’m not speaking with authority granted unto me by all political experts and that the following is one man’s understanding and beliefs. You can disagree with these beliefs, as many of you will, and that’s okay. All comments are welcome. Secondly, I understand that many beliefs about the right/left spectrum diverge due to factors such as geographical location, upbringing, education and level of political involvement. To save time, and because I don’t understand the reasoning behind other country’s political labeling (for example, how is “far right” considered Nazism when socialist is right there in the descriptor?), we will be taking examples and ideas using the political situations and events in the United States of America.
Finally, I admittedly like to keep things simple. I tend not to have too much patience for minutia of any kind and I think the old adage “the devil is in the details” is more true than we give it credit for. If I had a dime for every instance where someone attempted to dance his or her way out of a logical conclusion using trivial details, I’d be able to afford the expensive toilet paper. This isn’t to say that I don’t consider nuances or variables in any given situation, and elements important to drawing a conclusion should be adhered to. But when it comes to a great many things, keeping it free of gray areas saves us all from an endless parade of triteness and exhaustive circular arguments.
With that in mind, I could only draw the conclusion that on the American political spectrum there are only two directions you can go: right and left. It’s a very simplistic line segment where you can easily place one’s political leanings based on their beliefs.
I’ve seen so many visual aids to describe political alignments that I feel I could fill a shelf’s worth of books with them and not type a word. Most of them are complete nonsense, while others are relatively decent but still don’t really make a lot of sense.
Some have been subscribing to a political alignment graph that looks like this:
Not only do I find this graph more complicated that it needs to be, I also find a lot of its terminology misleading and even oxymoronical.
Let’s take Anarcho-Communism for instance. You can have one or the other but definitely not both. Communism concerns itself with complete centralization. Everything is owned and operated under the governing authority and private ownership is more or less out of the question. Everything belongs to “the people,” which is usually window dressing for whatever oligarchy ends up in charge. Anarchism is no centralization, no government control, everything is private property to those who can claim it and keep it and there is no state. One utilizes a set of strict and often despotic laws, the other one is completely devoid of law. They cannot be mixed. They are oil and water. So we can toss that out.
Then there are redundant terms that I feel were added into the chart just to have something opposite of something else. Every instance of Ultra-Capitalism I found on dictionary sites reverted to “capitalism,” and the only one I found with any kind of solid definition was from a Star Trek wiki. Also, we can throw out Ultra-Anarchism, because you can’t get more anarchic than “anarchism.”
Why is Progressivism nestled between Conservatism and Libertarianism when it clearly stands opposed to both? Why is Activism up there? It’s not a political philosophy; it’s an action you take on behalf of your political beliefs. Why does it stand opposite to Authoritarianism? I feel like Libertarianism should be in that spot. Liberalism is dead center? It’s a word pertaining to freedom. Shouldn’t it be further to the right?
All in all, this chart seems a bit nonsensical. It’s verbiage is all over the place and trying to figure out where you sit on it would is nigh impossible. So let’s throw it out, along with “Anarcho-Communism” which sounds like something cooked up by a ’90s kid who listened to too much Rage Against the Machine, desperately trying to sound deeply philosophical.
A more simplistic chart would be the one favored by the consumer revolt movement, GamerGate, which featured only four labels on each side and left it up to distance on which square you placed to help you see where you fell in on the political spectrum.
By Traced by User:Stannered (en:Image:Political chart.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
While I do appreciate the simplicity of the chart, right off the bat I’m having trouble getting behind the terminology being used here. Specifically, that of “Libertarian Left.” I have a problem with it because, like Anarcho-Communism, I can’t see how it exists.
I realize the hair on the back of a lot of necks just rose enough to now mimic Sonic the Hedgehog, but my reasoning is pretty solid.
See, the American political left has always had a sordid history in the U.S. when it came to the advancement of freedom. It was the Democrats who primarily voted for slavery, and it was Democrats who had strong ties to the Ku Klux Klan – even having a member of it in their party until 2010. In fact, the American left’s history is so pocked with racism and its attempts to restrict the rights of different races that it completely omitted a massive chunk of its history when speaking about its past during the 2008 elections.
Today, many Americans view the right as the side who wants to stop people from marrying who they choose. While there are politicians on the right who do have this divergence from liberty, they don’t speak for the whole. Sixty-one percent of Republicans aged 18-29 are pro-gay marriage, and with the older generation who disapproves literally dying off, it’s only a matter of time before resistance to it becomes a minority. On top of that, there are gay Republican groups out there such as GOProud and The Log Cabin Republicans. However, as much as the left would like to claim they’re for gay rights, many of its frontrunners only switched to this view not very long ago after having “evolved.” Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton changed their views to support gay marriage very recently in 2012 and 2013, respectively. It was Clinton’s husband, Bill, who signed DADT and DOMA into law, and told a whale of a tale when it came to their defense of it. Obama hardly lifted a finger to advance the rights of gays but seemed to like to take credit for it whenever something good did happen. When it comes to homosexuals, political leftists only seem to care when it’s convenient, and will likely revert should it ever become inconvenient again. All in all, the left is just as guilty as the right when it comes to things the right is typically vilified for.
Meanwhile, those on the right tend to uphold liberty and smaller government as its primary qualities, which stands in complete contrast from the progressive left who wants to limit liberties such as free speech and gun ownership, while expanding government programs and taxes. The right fought for the freedom of slaves, promoted civil rights and seeks to reduce government, sometimes to the point of eliminating entire longtime government institutions. It stands behind these things solidly to the point where when it’s most influential party, the Republicans, grow government or cave to the Democrats too often, they will push them out of office in favor of candidates who take more hardline stances. The tea party’s 2010 purge of the GOP establishment is a good example of this.
Sometimes, even the conservative movement doesn’t reach far enough for liberty as many would like and so you have many going further, describing themselves as something further to the right. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone – or even myself – say, “I’m a libertarian when talking to conservatives. I’m a conservative when I’m talking to libertarians.” It’s even spawned the term “conservatarian,” about which National Review writer Charles C.W. Cooke authored a very enjoyable book.
The reason for the slow but steady adoption of the label isn’t arbitrary. With the advancement of liberty being a primary concern to many on the right, and those who are right-wing moving further and further toward liberty, it’s only natural for a fusion to begin with the party who has the term directly in its name and supported many of these stances all along. All conservatives had to do was advance further to the right to get there, where their libertarian cousins waited. But the overall point here is that traveling further right gets you to libertarianism and my liberty, while traveling further left takes you to those places where liberty is reduced, such as socialism. (See Bernie Sanders for that.)
Many on the left do resist, and outright reject, the narratives and collectivism of their far left cousins. In fact, a good term was coined by the mighty Allum Bokhari called “cultural libertarianism” to describe this love of individual freedom of expression and choice. However, many of these same people who support this personal freedom back further government centralization such as higher taxes, expansion of welfare or even repealing of the Second Amendment. In fact, libertarian YouTuber, “That Guy T,” had a very good video speaking on this very subject, saying “…being a cultural libertarian does not equate to you being anti-authoritarian.”
Long story short, being anti-SJW, wanting to smoke pot legally and supporting gay marriage does not necessarily a libertarian make. You’re still having to contend with the very anti-libertarian views of government expansion of power. This is why I come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a “Leftist Libertarian.” Like Anarcho-Communism, you can have one or the other but not both.
So with all of this in mind, I and many others don’t view the political spectrum as a graph, but as a line. The further right you go, the more free you become, until you hit anarchy. The further left you go, the more control you fall under, until you hit despotism. Depending on your beliefs, I can easily adjust the Overton window to find out where you fall on the right/left spectrum. It’s simple, easy and I don’t have to spend hours pointlessly debating about where someone belongs on a graph that seems to mislead people with improper, or just flat out weird, terminology.
Many reject this view for various reasons. For some it’s not nuanced enough. Some outright refuse the idea of being considered right or left. Some would be horrified to learn that they don’t fall on the wing they thought they did. As I stated before, you’re more than welcome not to see things how I do, but I’ve noticed with some humor that my simplistic line has often been more accurate than the most complicated chart.
You are now free to proceed to the comments section and lose your damn mind.
Top photo by Pablographix / Getty Images
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Brandon Morse has been writing about politics and culture across many websites for the last six years, with a heavy emphasis on anti-authoritarianism. Aside from writing articles, he is also known for voice acting and authoring scripts. He is an avid gamer, dog person, and has a bad habit of making vague references to things no one has heard about or seen. Follow him at @TheBrandonMorse on Twitter.
Click through the gallery below to read more from Morse in his previous EveryJoe columns:
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