Terms "left-wing" and "right-wing" were introduced
into politics in late 18th century France. Parties who favoured radical change
of the political system sat on the left side of the Assembly and came to be
called progressive or left. Likewise, the parties who favored sticking with
tradition, came to be called conservative or right.
This distinction served the purpose in 19th century France, but it
ceased to do so since. For instance, were the parties that favored abolition of
the 70-year long tradition of communism in Russia progressive or conservative,
left-wing or right-wing? Even if we concede that terms should retain the
centuries-old general ideological connotations (socialist = left, conservative
= right), what of the liberals? Some would say they're centrist, but are they
really in between socialists and conservatives? And why is every party (at
least in Europe) claiming to be centrist or at least center-left or
center-right? Isn't it all a bit arbitrary?
QUANTIFICATION AND CLASSIFICATION
The left-right view is clearly extremely simplistic. The other extreme
would be to claim that political beliefs can't be classified and quantified,
yet that would be to claim that they aren't graded. Anybody who's ever had a
political discussion can certify to the opposite - when talking about an issue
you can agree with one person more than with another. Quantification also
facilitates statistics, which is the one major tool of social science.
So let's try to invent a system to classify political beliefs. Of course
everybody has a stand on countless issues, from gun control to the exact size
of police batons, but we're talking about their core beliefs here, so
day-to-day issues don't really matter. What we should be looking at is what
kind of society they want and try to classify their beliefs with the smallest
meaningful set of variables. In my opinion people's political preferences
differ in three major variables, namely:
Some people believe that people are born or at least raised different. They
believe that some people deserve to have access to more resources and power
than others. Other people think that all the differences in wealth and status
are caused by long-standing injustices that should be corrected, thus making
all people more or less equal.
I will call this variable E and put it on a scale from 1 to 5,
with 1 being the most elitist and 5 being the most egalitarian.
Some people believe that there is the correct way of doing things and that
everybody should be doing them that way. These people also believe that some
acts, even when nobody is hurt by them, are wrong and should be abhorred and
punished. Other people think that everybody should be free to do whatever they
want and that it's nobody's business what they do.
I will call this variable P and put it on a scale from 1 to 5,
with 1 being the most authoritarian and 5 being the most permissive.
Some people think that in order to have a
working society you must have elaborate legal, judicial, economic, healthcare,
welfare and/or other systems. Others believe that no social structures are necessary and that the only social unit should be an individual - any
co-operation should be entirely self-organized.
I will call this variable O and put it on a scale 1 to 5, with 1
being the most regulated and 5 being the most deregulated.
E and P tell us what kind of society somebody
wants and O tells us what do they think is the correct way to run it.
Let's invent a combined variable called "EPO rating",
made up of three values from 1 to 5. With this number we should be able to
classify political beliefs and/or ideologies.
- Nazism: Nazis
believe that some people are clearly superior, that everybody should think and
do what they think. All aspects of life should be organized by the state. EPO = 111
- Maoism: Maoists
think all people should be equal, that they should all have correct thoughts. As with nazism, all aspects of life should be organized by the state. EPO = 511
Anarchist think everybody's equal, everybody's free to think what they want and
that this can come through only through abolishment of the state. EPO = 555
Libertarians think that everybody has what they deserve, that you have the
right to say and do whatever you want, and that all this will become true once
government ceases to exist. EPO = 155
Other extreme EPO's would be:
Conservative capitalism of 19th century - there's a clear elite,
morality of the day is vigorously enforced, there's no social structures apart
from the system of control.
Enlightened communism - everybody's equal, they're free to think and do what
they want, yet society is highly organized and provides for its citizens.
151: The modern Eastern-European states, many of the Western countries - you can say and do whatever you want, there are complex social
structures and loads of bureaucracy and rampant inequality.
515: A system
where everybody is equal, no one is allowed to dissent, yet there are no social
structures apart from the coercive apparatus. Anybody have a name for this?
Some of the other EPO's:
Classical conservatism, EPO = 123
Classical European liberalism, EPO = 254
Classical socialism, EPO = 532
The "third way" (Tony Blair et al.),
EPO = 243
Notice that EPO ratings have some clear resemblances to the left-right
dichotomy. 11* is clearly right-wing and 55* is clearly left-wing. (the O
value doesn't really tell us much about left-right in the classical sense -
notice that Maoism and nazism both have O values of 1, but are
diametrically opposite on the classical left to right scale.)
If we look at it that way, then, according to EPO numbers, anarchists and socialists are clearly
left-wing. Conservatives and nazis are clearly right-wing. But what about
liberals, libertarians, Maoist, third-wayers? Some of them would call themselves
centrist, others would swear to be either left-wing or right-wing. These seem
to be examples where the left-right scale just doesn't work, but EPO ratings
seem to tell us where they belong.
SO, TELL ME...
What's the EPO rating of political
options in your country? What's your EPO rating? Do you think other variables
should be included? Which and why?