The Political Spectrum

posted October 4, 2010 by daniel

People usually talk about the political spectrum in terms of Left and Right. What exactly constitutes Left or Right is not the same for everyone, but most people would agree that at the far Left of the spectrum is Socialism or Communism and the far Right is Fascism. However, Communism and Fascism seem more similar to each other than political systems in the 'middle'.

Communism claims to help the people by creating a central authority that will control the means of production and other aspects of life on behalf of the people. Fascism claims to help the people by giving the most successful leaders of business or the community the authority to make the right decisions which will benefit the people. Both systems give most of the power to a central authority, though each uses different reasons to persuade people why they must give up their power to this authority.

Instead of thinking of politics in terms of Left and Right, perhaps we should think of it in terms of central authority (Authoritarian) and decentralized authority (Democratic). At the extremes of this authority model of politics we have Monarchy as the example of ultimate Authoritarianism and anarchy as the example of pure democracy. Most monarchs that are left today are symbolic heads of democratic states. We can see from the examples of history that monarchs can lead effectively if they make decisions that are genuinely good for the people, but power and authority generally corrupt leaders to make decisions in their own self-interest rather than in the interests of the people. Anarchy doesn't allow people to work together effectively, so it isn't a good system either.

The most effective political system will have a central authority strong enough to organize people so they can work together effectively, but the central authority will not have the power to impose its interests against the self-interests of the people. If you think about politics in terms of the amount of central authority, Left and Right are not useful descriptions.