I’ve spoken often of my belief that conventional attempts to describe politics in terms of left/right and conservative/liberal or conservative/socialist just don’t work any more.
So we need to replace these outmoded terms, but what do we replace them with? Some years ago it became briefly fashionable to use a two-axis system, with one axis describing a person’s position on economic issues (ranging from untrammeled free-market capitalism to communism) and the other being the authoritarian/libertarian axis. The big problem is that today in order to describe the political views of a person or party we need to place them on the correct points on multiple axes.
The first axis would have to deal with beliefs on social issues, ranging from social conservatism to social libertarianism. I personally would prefer to describe the latter position as social radicalism since libertarianism has other connotations which tend to cloud the issue.
The second axis would deal with opinions on domestic economic issues, ranging from laissez-faire capitalism to complete state control of the economy.
The third axis would deal with views on international economic issues, ranging from complete free trade to rigid protectionism.
The fourth axis would describe views on international relations in broader terms, ranging from extreme interventionism (the best way to solve problems in foreign countries is by invading them and imposing “regime change”) to extreme isolationism (the best way to solve problems in foreign countries is to let those foreign countries sort out their own problems).
We would also need a fifth axis, ranging from a belief in open borders to a belief in strong immigration restrictionism.
To make things even more complicated yet another axis would be required, this one ranging from a belief that environmental threats are so severe that drastic action is required to combat them to a belief that environmental threats are wildly overstated and that no serious action is required.
To describe a person’s political views we would need to know if they are social conservatives or social radicals, if they are economic interventionists or non-interventionists, if they are globalists or economic nationalists, if they are imperialists or isolationists, if they are open borders supporters or immigration restrictionists and lastly if they are environmentalist catastrophists or environmentalist sceptics.
This scheme might sound fiendishly complex but it has the virtue that at least it tells us what a politician or political party actually stands for. There may be a simpler way ofd doing this – if you can think of one let me know!