The Liberal-Conservative spectrum is phony

When the topic of political ideology comes up, it’s not uncommon to hear folks asking where a person stands in the Liberal-Conservative spectrum.

When I say I don’t align myself with either camp, I’m almost invariably asked if I’m a “centrist” or which side I’d say I lean toward or some such variation on a theme which assumes that these two ideologies represent a natural spectrum.

To me, it’s like asking if I consider myself more Chinese or Nigerian, or somewhere in between.

Many years hence, bored schoolkids will have to study to try to understand what the “liberal” and “conservative” platforms were, just as bored schoolkids today have to learn the difference between Whigs and Tories.

There are many problems with this Liberal-Conservative mindset. On a general level, it dampens truly independent thinking about individual issues. In everyday practice, it contributes to the sad situation we have today, when “news” venues present opposing right and left spokespersons from the politainment industry to bandy words on an issue and most everyone seems to think that something substantive has been done.

Dopers – what say ye?

Yeah, it’s pretty much a perfect schism based on our basic wiring, perfect for politicians, because there’ll never be a clear enough majority to mandate that they do right by us.

This is at least a bit better of a way to look at things. In particular for the US, it shows the clear difference between the Republican and Libertarian idea of being conservative. While they are similar economically, Republicans are socially authoritarian (as in, they want to legislate morality), while Libertarians would be quite content to support gay rights and the legalization of drugs.

As for me, my politics are definitely anarcho-syndicalist. I’m about as marginalized as the Libertarians is the US.

Alternative models have been proposed. I started a GD thread on this queston a while back –

From (click link to see the actual charts):

My initial reaction to the OP was, “Well, duh.”

But I suppose that this sort of thing need to be iterated and reiterated repeatedly in the current political climate. So carry on.

The whole left/right dichotomy is different for every country, at every period in time.
For instance, here in Israel right means “hawk” and left means “dove”, and that’s it. Everything else is secondary.

I hear you. It really bothers me when I take a peticular stance on an issue and all the sudden I’m some kind of hardcore Republican conservative, or a left Liberal Nazi. I prefer to think on my own and take the issues one by one, without taking sides. It’s that whole group mentality thing, it’s hard to shake in this country.

I remember back in 1989-90 – the press referred to the hardline Communists of the Soviet Union as “conservatives,” apparently because they wanted to preserve the system in place, even though that system was based on an ideology that purports to be the opposite of “conservative.”

IMO, your views on social issues tend to be the ones that others define you by.

E.g., I have friends who are way to my left on economic issues but consider me a liberal, mainly because I’m an atheist, favor gay rights and (slightly) favor abortion rights.

In contrast, my friends who agree with me on these social issues tend to consider me a fellow liberal, even if they’re way left of me economically and on national security.

F. U. Shakespeare: I’m in much the same boat. In fact, I’ve been accused of being “inconsistent” by folks on both “sides” because my views on various issues don’t coincide with conservative or liberal laundry lists. Very odd.

In the old USSR, which were on the left, Marxists or Leninists? In the USA today, which are on the right, liberals or conservatives? See what I’m getting at? As a centre-left Canadian, I find both the major US parties lie well to the right of what for me is centre, although the Republicans are futher to the right than the democrats due to their preference for a more intrusive government that resists social equality and dictates personal morality.

Canada is overall to the left of the average in the US. For example, in Canada abolishing national health care would be very unpopular. In the US, even the Dems aren’t pushing for national health care today.

But see, this is where it all breaks down anyway. You got “right wingers” like Bob Barr of Georgia pointing out that Bush’s policies, for example, aren’t “conservative” at all. Foreign intervention, increasing government employment rolls, high deficits, favoring Constitutional amendments, increasing executive power…

On the other hand, I’ve heard self-identified “liberals” call Bush policies “fascist” (usually with vague references to the Patriot Act – which, to be fair to them, is now facing what may turn out to be a serious Constitutional challenge over “secret searches” with gag rules attached).

So not only do the “liberal” and “conservative” camps not define the ends of a natural political spectrum… hell, their own adherents can’t seem to agree on what their platforms really are.