Posted by: Cortillaen | 05/19/2009


I’m still hashing this out, but I figure input from others can’t hurt.

Today’s political lingo is wholly inept at actually representing a person’s ideology.  Rather, it seems almost intended to simply antagonize a two-party war of words.  “Liberal” and “conservative” are probably the best examples of the problem. Nobody’s entirely sure how to define them anymore due to their continued application to certain groups that have changed their ideals tremendously since popularization of the terms.

The classical definition of a “liberal”, for instance, is one who favors the maximum possible amount of personal freedom and liberty. This is the exact opposite of a “statist”, one who supports placing extensive economic, social, and political control in the hands of a powerful, highly-centralized government. The founding fathers of the United States were most certainly liberals, as evidenced by the Declaration of Independence, and founded this nation upon the principles of personal liberty.

As for “conservatives”, the classical definition thereof is people who support the status quo and oppose reform and changes to current institutions. In the classical senses, comparing conservatism to liberalism is impossible because the two are not part of the same spectrum. Rather, classical conservatism is counterbalanced by “progressivism”. One’s position within this spectrum is primarily determined by how much the current government aligns with your personal views.

Most Democrats are in no way “liberal”, just like most Republicans are in no way “conservative”. In reality, both have become progressive and statist, seeking to build ever-larger government for their own ideals, greed, and/or power. We need either to come up with new labels or just start defining politicians on a series of spectra such as Liberal vs Statist, Progressive vs Conservative, Rural vs Urban, etc. Remembering the Reagan Coalition gave me a pretty good sample of some of the likely areas: Fiscal policy, foreign policy, and social policy. I would add personal liberties and government size. Given five scales, I threw together a pentagonal radar graph just to give an idea of how I envisioned a 2D form:

Readable at a glance, and far more informative than a single word.

That’s just a quick example, and I’ve already decided that some of those categories need changed or removed outright. As for the actual scale, I’m thinking of smaller being better (for us, anyway); kind of having larger values indicative of larger government.  “Liberals” can claim “bigger is better” while “conservatives” get the small government imagery.

If anyone has ideas or suggestions, I’m open to them.  No matter what, we need a better way to quickly show someone’s political leanings than just a few labels with massive variation in meaning.  Maybe a group with funding could even start keeping a collection of graphs on all our congresscritters someday for easy reference.



  1. Here’s the new set of categories I’ve come up with. Any suggestions (changes, clarifications, whatever) are appreciated. Also, can anyone come up with a better name for the whole thing? The thread title seems dorkier every time I read it.

    Isolationism – involvement in extra-national affairs

    Government spending/taxation – regardless of the programs’ purposes and means, the level of support for greater levels of tax-and-spend policies

    Nationalism vs. globalism – Emphasis on the US operating by its own principles vs those of “the world” (taken as a whole or any given nation/region)

    Personal rights – Support for rights of speech, arms ownership, etc.

    Morality (rural/religious vs. urban/secular) – Support or opposition to things like abortion, homosexual marriage,

    Federal vs state/local – Emphasis on putting power in the hands of states and local governments or the federal government

    Military – Desired military funding as a percentage of total government spending, visits, rhetoric, and support (or lack thereof) in any political capacity

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