Sunday, August 17, 2008

Political Alignment

In my introduction, I talked about the fact that I feel the left versus right meta concept that pervades current political discussion is inadequate. And the main focus is on left versus right, even though these terms are generally undefined and don't provide for a good, solid understanding of someone's general political stance. I think a new system is in order, and it will be one I will be using in the future. First though, let me be clear about something. I am not making this alignment system up out of whole cloth. It is very similar to the political compass found at The Advocates for Self Government. A quick plug, take their test and see where you show up. It will be close to the system I'm about to outline below.
The other influence on this system comes from the original fantasy role playing game, none other than Dungeon and Dragons. In D&D characters have a moral/social alignment system that runs on two axises, Good versus Evil, and Lawful versus Chaotic. I'm not going to outline their system here, suffice to say that each axis has three 'settings'. These are 'Good, Neutral, and Evil' and 'Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic'. This makes for nine possible alignments, and gives any player a good, if rough, idea of how their character approaches moral choices.
Therefore, I suggest a similar approach to determine a person's political alignment. In this system, we're actually going to separate social views from governmental views, allowing us to closely examine someones over-all political ideals. Again, I'm going to use two axises, one for social views and one for governmental. Each axis will have three settings. The social axis is 'Conservative, Moderate, and Liberal' while the governmental axis will be 'Libertarian, Moderate, and Progressive'. For maximum precision, we should define these terms.
Libertarians are those who believe in small government, under correct Federalist structure. They will be strong supports of individual and state's rights. They will believe that the maximum amount of freedom comes when the state is as uninvolved as possible, and will general look to private action to handle most, if not all, of society's needs.
Progressives are those who believe that correct government policy can create for a better society. They will support large, intrusive government which makes many decisions. They will be strong supports of the federal over state and local government, and will generally believe that government is the only reasonable way to provide for society's needs.
Conservatives will believe in maintaining traditional values and institutions. They will tend towards being religious, and believe in strong religious institutions to provide for a stable society. They will also take the view of Man as a flawed creature, born into imperfection and thus needing strong social structure to curb man's greater tendencies to harm each other.
Liberals will support the use of reason and thought over traditional values and institutions. They will tend towards the secular, and will generally view religious organizations as suspect if not down-right dangerous. They will view Man as being born perfect, and that it is social values being impressed upon this otherwise perfect being being the source of man's troubles.
Moderates along either axis will have attributes of both in some mix. For purposes of ease, I will always put moderate first if someone falls along those lines, and refer to someone who is moderate on both axises as 'total moderate'. Otherwise, I will put the social alignment before the governmental.
As I have said before, I would self identify on this system as a conservative-libertarian. Though not particularly religious, I do believe that strong social structure provides for a better society, that Man is inherently flawed, and that religious institutions have a place in society. I also believe that our government should be primarily in the realm of the individual, and in a proper Federalist structure with strict adherence of the enumerated powers as listed in the Constitution.
So, what about some famous politicians? I'll do the presidential candidates:
John McCain – Moderate-Conservative. Sen. McCain has always spoken as a religious, if not particularly devout, man. He's generally supported conservative social positions and has a consistent voting record to support that. He's often spoken as being a Federalist, and has often supported positions and actions that would confirm this. He usually suggests that some things belong with States, and that the Federal government shouldn't get involved. However, he has also supported laws and actions that increase the influence and power of the government, and tends to speak and act as though government can create for a better society. While I think he does lean towards the Libertarian stance, he's still a little too Progressive to really count.
Barak Obama – Liberal-Progressive. Sen. Obama also tends to speak as a man of faith, but his record and actions suggest that he doesn't allow his faith to influence his political views. With support of increased abortion freedom, same sex marriage, and many other similar positions he demonstrates a weak, if non-existent, support for traditional social structure. As a supporter of greater welfare, Medicade, Medicare, and Social Security spending, coupled with an increase involvement of government in energy production and over-all higher taxes (especially on business and capital), he is clearly a Progressive.

If you disagree with these, let me know. I know the system has its flaws. For one, the terms could be unwieldy, especially in spoken conversation. However, it is precise, and precision is my goal here. So, tell me, do you think my identification of the presidential candidates is wrong? If so, please tell me why, and tell me where you think they would fall on this two-axis system.

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