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The Political Litmus test: Determining one’s place on the political spectrum.

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“The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” Robert A. Heinlein

It’s to the advantage of some groups to deliberately confuse the issue as to where one fits in the scheme of politics. Baffling political spectrum models or false labels are used to make this a daunting task. It’s the political version of the old saying that those who believe in nothing will fall for anything. Muddy the political waters to the point of absolute chaos and people will accept whatever they are told is their political ideology.

This is seen with various nonsensical political spectrum models that result in ridiculous political combinations such as an Anarchist-Communist. This incongruous juxtaposition of the complete absence of government control with complete government control is akin to the physical impossibility of Antimatter-Matter. Or there are the more commonplace attempts to make the slavery of socialism the natural extension of ‘Liberalism’. One being of the collectivist or left side of the political spectrum while the other is of the individualist or right side. In both cases, these phenomenon cannot logically exist due to the incongruity of the two concepts.

Simplifying the process to let people determine their ideology for themselves.

The point of this discussion is to end the confusion using fundamental principles in combination with the practical application of the ideological definitions. This will let everyone determine their place in the political universe for themselves instead of having it done for them with some biased questions or confusing graphics.

The engineering fields provide us with the best analytical model for making this determination. This begins with looking to basic principles to develop a ‘rough calculation’ of the answer. Then one proceeds to a more sophisticated analysis of the issue to develop more refined solutions. The first step in grounding the analysis in the fundamentals insures that the results of each stage will be in overall agreement.

The basic principle determining who is on which side of the Political Spectrum.

Author and Engineer Robert A. Heinlein set forth this fundamental principle of the political realm as the first step in this analysis:

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

Robert A. Heinlein

This provides the underlying precept for the rest of this analysis. It is a ‘rough calculation’ giving a very good approximation on where one might fall on the political spectrum. This is most likely objected to by those who would prefer a confused electorate, but its a superb way of making this determination. We will label this the ‘Heinlein line’ in honour of the man articulated this rule.

It should be readily apparent that those who clamour for wealth redistribution, Liberty control and tight regulation of business would fall on the ‘want people to be controlled’ side of the equation. One cannot have these ‘benefits’ without the strict control of the people as well as their property. It should also be obvious that those who want limited government would fall on the ‘no such desire’ side of the line.

We can also refine the determination with a few additional questions along the same lines:
What is the purpose of the government? Is it to impose fairness and equality or is it to let everyone live in peace with minimal interference?

Should government have virtually unlimited power for ‘the common good’ or should it be constrained?

Those on the political Left tend towards the control side of the line. Although they prefer to dress up their control fetish in terms of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’, their ruling over the population is always seems to be the final result. This is contrasted with those on the political Right who want to be left alone, with strict limitations on governmental power.

Developing the metrics of a True Political Spectrum.

Now that we’ve done the ‘rough calculation’ indicating which side someone is situated on the Right-Left divide. We can refine where someone might be on the scale based on the definitions of the various common ideologies.

A political spectrum model is only is good as it’s underlying metric. Utilising nonsensical measurements such as ‘reaction to change’ are only useful to those with a certain political agenda that presumes an inexorable movement of history towards the Left. These only serve to reinforce these agendas without having any logical usefulness.

First principles would indicate that political power translates to governmental power, therefore that should be the generalised metric for any political spectrum model. While there are those who prefer to confuse the issue with 2 or even 3 dimensional constructs, the point here is to array the various ideologies in a logical manner instead of trying to foster a particular agenda. A quick search on the topic will yield a dizzying array of Lines, Squares, Diamonds, Cubes and other indescribable constructs that only serve to bewilder those trying understand the subject. Most often, these are set-up to convince the reader they are of a certain ideological bent when this is nothing of the kind.

Constructing the True Political Spectrum.

A basic two-dimensional graphic is the best illustration of the political spectrum. The y-axis indicates the percentage of government control while the x-axis is the Left-Right specrum line. The Right endpoint indicates 0% Government, while the Left endpoint indicates 100% Government. Definitionally speaking, the Right end will represent Anarchy – or no government control. While the Left end will represent Totalitarianism – Total government control. Please note that this corresponds directly with the ‘rough calculation’ of the Heinlein rule.

As one moves from the Right to the Left, government control increases. Libertarians are a short distance in from the Right end desirous of minimal government. Conservatives are a little further along in wanting a little more, followed by the Liberals desirous of ‘moderate political and social reform’ but still ‘favouring individual liberty’ and ‘free trade’.

Keep in mind that we are still on the Right side of the political spectrum, the side that favours the individual and individualism.

Over on the Left side of the political spectrum past the ‘Heinlein line’ the ideological terms are often used interchangeably. Moving Leftward there are the ever vaguely defined progressives who believe in ‘moderate political change and especially social improvement by governmental action’. Then there are the Socialists, Fascists, Communists or one of the myriad of synonyms for these ideologies. These ideologies are all of the collectivist mindset that necessitates expansive government control in order to operate.

The Takeaway.

It should be clear that instead of a complicated graphical models or a set of biased questions, one can easily determine their place on the political spectrum with some basic logical reasoning. Along with a check on the actual meaning of certain ideological terms.

One can easily surmise that most people would be of the ‘no such desire’ in controlling others on the Right side of the political spectrum. Which most likely would explain why things are not taught this way, there would be far fewer Leftists as a result.


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