The Political Spectrum
Updated: Oct 3, 2021
By: Choong Yi Xeng
Image source: Thoughtful Ideas
Jimmy recently wanted to get into politics, he wanted to do his part for his country and vote responsibly. However, when he started researching about politics, he ran into a roadblock. HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT THOSE BIG COMPLICATED WORDS MEANT! Words like Left leaning libertarians or Right Conservatives and the very confusing party names and acronyms! Jimmy felt discouraged. And he’s not alone.
A lot of teenagers and young adults that want to get into politics find it tedious and difficult to do so. If it’s not jargon it’s the boring speeches, or the biased news or whatever. Therefore, we at the Wakeuplah.com website wanted to create a place where people who are new to politics can have an easy and quick introduction to the basics of politics.
(note this is a very basic summary and will not go to in-depth. Maybe we will do so in the future but for now we just sticking to the basics)
Let’s start with the definition of politics.
“The activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.”
This is the Oxford definition of what politics is. There are a lot of things we can say about this sentence, like what do activities include or what does the “or area” mean exactly. However, the best place to start would be exploring what the phrase “Parties having Power” mean. After all if you don’t even know who is running your country and what they want then you might as well vote randomly.
Basically, parties are groups of influential people that banded together in to push their way of thinking on how politics should be done. So, when people say vote for the Democrats or Republicans, they mean the parties. They are many, many, different parties, with varying sizes and influence and with their own different goals and ideas but in general, they can be arranged via the political spectrum. (also called the political compass)
Image source: Wikidata
So, what is the political spectrum? It is a SIMPLIFIED method of categorizing political alignments in relation to one and another. It is an extremely simplified method of categorization, so that means that even with parties that share the same general ideas and are therefore categorized together, there will still be many disagreements in the detail of their ideas.
For example, In the category of Left Libertarianism there are multiple schools of thoughts. There's Anarchism, Green politics, Libertarian Socialism, and a lot more. And you bet your sweet behind they argue with each other just as much as they argue with parties that aren’t Left or Liberal.
Ok, enough with the terms, let me actually start explaining them.
On the X axis it is how a party think that economies should be ran. While on the Y axis it describes how that party think the government should be ran. The more extreme their views the further away they are from the center.
Image source: Future learn
I’ll start by explaining the X axis.
The Left side means that the economy should have more controlled. It doesn’t have to be by the government, as long as there is a system of regulation. For example, The FDA (Food and Drug Association) prevents shifty scammers from selling rotting fruit and passing it off as fresh. At least out in the open. However, this also means it is harder for private companies to do what they want to do, and that is not always good. Take for example, SpaceX. If there were large amounts of restrictions in the economy, let’s say that private business cannot buy oil, then Space X would have never existed, and their innovations would have all gone poof.
On the other hand, the Right side mean that the economy should have more freedom with less restrictions. Generally, this would allow private companies to grow and innovate with less hassle, however, with less restrictions, it would mean that there would be less safeguards and private companies will have an easier time selling off harmful products or forming Monopolies.
Now let’s move on to the Y axis.
On the graph above, it can be seen that the top part is labeled Authoritarian, and the bottom part is labeled Libertarian.
Authoritarian means that the government should be more controlling. In other words, the Government have more power over individuals and over freedoms. This may not seem like a good thing, but some authoritarian measures like mandatory mask usage, vaccination or tackling income gap are needed for a functioning society.
As for Libertarianism, well I assume you should be able to guess it by now. It is the opposite of Authoritarianism, where the idea is that the government should have less power over individuals and the freedom and rights of the people should be more respected. Now obviously caring about the rights of the people is a good thing, prevention of tyranny and free speech is very nice, but what are the draw backs? Well, sometimes when a government needs to do something to protect the nation, it will not be able to do because it may impede on some rights.
For example, if a drug raid was about to happen the innocent people are supposed to be moved to safety, but what if those people refuse? If they were not moved but were hurt during the raid the government will still be in hot water.
Now that I have explained the left and the right, I’ll explain the Center. That’s right there is a Third Option! The center also known as moderates are parties that take methods from both sides. They do not lean to heavily to either side. There are Center Left Leaning and Center Right Leaning but even then they try not to be extreme.
Keep in mind the examples and descriptions I gave are really, really, short. A topic like this requires way more detail to truly understand. However, if this article was too long you wouldn’t read it so that is why I encourage you to do your own research and look further into the differences and nuances between the different spectrums.
Also, if you want to see where YOU lie on the political spectrum (yes it works for people) then you can take this quiz https://www.politicalcompass.org/test. Try to not think about the questions and just go with gut instincts. Its how the test was meant to be taken.