As a libertarian, I see the traditional left right divide as unhelpful and confusing. It is arguable if these distinctions are even relevant at all today. What is perceived as left or right has changed back and forth considerably since the terms came into usage during the French Revolution. A position that was once radical becomes conservative when it becomes public policy.
Where does a libertarian fit on the scale between far-left and far-right? If we place moderates in the middle, communists on the far-left and fascists on the far-right as in the traditional placing, I’ve nowhere to go.
The Nolan chart helps to resolve this dilemma, and I would argue, gives a much more accurate portrayl of political ideas.
As you can see, this image from Wikipedia has two axes – economic freedom and social freedom, giving rise to four general quadrants. Whilst a generalisation, typically the left supports more personal freedom, and less economic freedom, whilst the right would support more economic freedom and less personal freedom. In current politics, such divisions are highly blurred with both Labour and Conservatives (or Democrats and Republicans for US readers) crossing over these boundaries frequently.
For me, this chart helps to demonstrate the fact that libertarians oppose government intervention across the board, rather than using government coercion to impose our preferred set of ideas on everybody else. I haven’t quite resolved whether I’m a minarchist (very small government) or a full on anarchist (no government) as I change my mind each day, but I’m somewhere in the top right quadrant. Considering the march to ever greater and more intrusive government across the Western world these days, I’ll be happy with any reduction in both the size and scope of government, and await the day when we have anarchist and minarchist parties arguing across the House of Commons. Well, we can all dream can’t we?
Lastly, here’s a nice satire of the chart from XKCD:
Posted from WordPress for Android