Political Theory Chart

this is still a work in progress…as people like Natalie have pointed out – It’s pretty obvious which one I am because of the slant the descriptions are written with…I’m still working on that…BUT ANYWAY…

I have seen a lot of attempts to classify people’s beliefs into a political theory chart. One of the most popular ways to do it is the “diamond” style, as show below. (Click the image for bigger version.)

click for bigger image

The problem with the diamond is actually pretty obvious by looking at it. This image is supposed to be the placement (the red dot) for Sen. John McCain. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Sen. John McCain’s placement is not correct (unless you’re an academic liberal who sees everyone who doesn’t agree with you as “far right”.) Sen McCain is not a true conservative. He is a moderate, centrist, populist – the self-proclaimed “maverick” of the Republican party. McCain’s own words and voting record prove that this chart placement is flawed.

But over the years, I’ve struggled to find a chart that accurately framed the way I see the different political theories – because I think such a thing would actually be helpful to people. So I made up one of my own. I originally posted this on FaceBook some time ago, but this one is slightly modified and is posted here with better grahics resolution. Here ya go. (Click the image for a bigger version.)

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18 Comments on “Political Theory Chart”

  1. Eric H Says:

    I like it.

    I somewhat agree with your feelings on the Nolan chart. Basically, I just feel like there isn’t a comprehensive enough quiz to come up with a really proper placement. Most importantly, it doesn’t weight the issues. So, for instance, a pro-choice position might actually be equally weighted with, say, a question about Real ID, drugs, or regulation of consensual sex. Looking solely at these 4 issues I just mentioned, McCain would get a 3 out of 4 toward conservatism on the Nolan chart. But for most conservatives, abortion is a HOT issue, so his wavering puts him further to the left.

    I do rather like both the Nolan chart (despite its shortcomings) and your chart, and might even be willing to admit that I would be inclined to sit pretty close to the line between new federalism and libertarianism.

    I do want to point out for those who are unfamiliar with libertarianism, that it is not as if we want things like drugs and prostitution to be rampant in a society, we just believe that those battles are best fought in the spiritual & familial realms rather than through government & law. The drug war is an especially interesting topic in this regard.

  2. jermtech Says:

    Yes – the drug war would be an interesting topic in this regard. I can somewhat understand the argument, but then I always get tripped up in the “victimless crime” aspect. I don’t believe there is such a thing. Drug abuse, Sexual abuse, Alcohol abuse have MANY victims and casualties – even those who don’t think they are a victim. It breaks up families, the addicitons and abuses tend to repeat generationally, and it erodes our values and desensitizes us to suffering.

    An example would be the porn industry. Read the accounts of the women who have come out of the industry to see how “victimless” it really is. You can do that here:


  3. Eric H Says:

    You might be surprised to learn that I agree with you; I, too, have problems with the victimless crime argument, for the very reason you’ve described. This is an admitted departure from the mainstream of libertarians.

    The reason I tend to be libertarian on those issues is that jailing people doesn’t ever seem to make a dent in the problem, but instead crowds our prisons, which in some cases, may even shorten terms for violent criminals. I truly believe that treating these things as addictions rather than crimes would be more beneficial, and would be a niche that the church and community outreaches could fill rather gracefully in the absence of coercive disincentives via government. In short, the real solutions to these problems are solid support networks.

    I admit, these are hard issues for me personally. I won’t attempt to downplay your arguments, as they are very much worth consideration.

  4. jermtech Says:

    Woah…you are tripping me out, bro!

    We’re actually pretty close. I lean Libert. side of conservative, and you lean conservative side of Libert. Let’s meet in the middle at New Federalsim and have a party! (We won’t invite Joel, though – he still thinks I’m a war monger.)

  5. jermtech Says:

    I am totally there with you on the concept of addictions vs. crimes. And I am TOTALLY there with you that the Church should be pulling more on this. We have stigmatized addictions by concentrating too much on people’s behaviors and not enough on loving them to Jesus. The state is horrible at rehabilitation. Again, we shouldn’t be doing each other’s jobs. The church should be caring for orphans and widows and the poor and oppressed…not the State. And the State should be building bars and gates and catching bad guys and patching roads and putting out fires, etc.

  6. jermtech Says:

    You might also be surprised to learn that my candidate of choice was a self-admitted New Federalist…Fred Thompson.

  7. jermtech Says:

    LOL just had a funny epiphany. If you look at my political chart, John McCain is 2 categories away from my preferred position. But Ron Paul is only one category away…hmmmmmmmm

    Don’t get too excited, Ron Paul zealots, his stance on the war is enough for me not to pull the lever.

  8. Eric H Says:

    You might look into Bob Barr. I don’t know much about him yet, so I’m not prepared to endorse him, and of course there’s the question of whether or not a vote for a 3rd party candidate is a vote for the party furthest from it (I hate this about partisan politics…immensely). But anyway, he’s a Republican who stepped out of the party in 2006 in response to the Bush administration trampling on civil liberties. From what I heard, he sounds like more of a libertarian-leaning conservative than a typical LP candidate. For instance, I saw where he was quoted as saying that just walking away from Iraq would be chaotic. I’m also not sure if I can vote for a guy with a Hitler-stache. ; )


    FYI, Fred Thompson would have been my second pick. I would have lined up behind him much more readily than McCain.

  9. Eric H Says:

    I should qualify that last statement — in a world where the foreign policy choices are so narrow and mostly lip service anyway, what’s a non-interventionist to do?

    You should read The Revolution, just so you get a taste of what the foreign policy is really about. I was not on-board with Paul’s views on foreign policy until I started doing a lot of reading and thinking.

  10. jermtech Says:

    I look forward to your new post about foreign policy.

  11. Eric H Says:

    Thinking about it, your model does have some deficiencies due to bias (descriptions) and more importantly the fact that it is linear. I still like it as a starting point.

    The key criticism due to the linear nature of it is that direct democracy and anarchy do not advance personal freedom past libertarianism because they don’t protect individual rights, thus the weak are enslaved to the strong.

  12. jermtech Says:

    Anarchy means I can do whatever I want without any governmental or punitive consequences. That is total personal freedom.

    Although it does have indirect consequences (if I steal something of value from someone who is bigger than me, than I may get beaten or killed.)

  13. jermtech Says:

    Simple democracy would be akin to the Old West, would it not? You stake your claim to a piece of ground, and it’s up to you to defend it. There is a Sherrif or Marshall that represents the “government” but you’re ptretty much on your own.

  14. Eric H Says:

    Under mob rule in direct/simple democracy, if the majority elects to violate the rights of a minority, then that minority is hardly free.

    As for anarchy, it would really depend on the institutions and values that rose out of such a system in order to envision it. If a reliable (and possibly even better) system of rights protection grew from the free market it might not be so bad. But if anyone can do anything he wants, then that includes violating my natural rights. If my natural rights are easily violated, I would consider myself less free.

  15. jermtech Says:

    so your argument is the point of the chart. There is such a thing as “too much” freedom – because it results in oppression. But according to whose values? Where is that line? Maybe your line is different than my line. Who is to say that your line is the “baseline?”

    People often refer to “right wing extremists” when what they mean is christian fundamentalists. A true right wing extremist would actually be one the most extreme libertarians.

    I created the chart to show that conservatism must be in the middle of any chart, because its guiding standard is a literal interpretation of our founding documents – a home base – a ground zero. To be “left” of that is by definition, increasing socialism. To be “right” of that is libertarianism.

  16. Eric H Says:

    It depends on whether you are measuring personal freedom, or personal freedom from government. In the latter (from government), your chart would be correct.

  17. I have problems with this linear depiction. It makes the assumption that people who want the government to control more, want that control in all areas. However, there are two distinct realms of government control preferences in today’s society: moral and fiscal. The realms are opposite of each other. On the popular left, you have those who want less government “interference” in sexual matters (thus, no regulation of abortion, death, and marriage), but more government involvement in things like health care and the environment. On the popular right, you have those who want more government involvement in protecting traditional morals, particularly in terms of right-to-life issues and marriage, but want to keep the government out of business, health care, the environment and other such things as much as possible. To simply say that more left means more government control and more right means less government control inaccurately describes the bulk of today’s voters.

    Then there are the new evangelicals who are distancing themselves from the Christian Right and have values that don’t even fit the two scenarios above. They are socially conservative, and as such support some government control on things like abortion, marriage, and other societal moral issues, yet do not want to make those make-or-break issues. They have more concern for “justice issues,” and as such want government involvement in health care, the environment, and taming business excesses. They do not fit in with the popular left because of their social conservatism; they do not fit in with the popular right because of their fiscal views. Actually, this group better fits your linear chart because of their more consistent view of more government control. Yet they are a minority; your linear depiction doesn’t describe the majority.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    This whole discussion and analysis is interesting. The problem is that conservatism is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. It could be argued that Barry Goldwater is the father of modern conservatism and yet he supported pro-choice and gay rights. I don’t think we could call him a moderate, centrist, populist, could we? I think a chart that addresses and scales a candidate in the following areas might be most appropriate:

    Personal Freedom

    Assign 10 points in each area. 10 for most conservative, 1 for least conservative. Assign a multiplier of 2 for the area that is most important to you.

    For example:

    I would give McCain a 7 on Fiscal, 4 on Social, 9 on Defense, 8 on Personal Freedom (28 points) My multiplier would be in the Defense area so his final point total would be 37 Points out of 50.

    Someone who was focused on pro-life issues would come up with a total of 32 Points out of 50. (Perhaps they might rate him lower than a 4)

    This is interesting

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