bell curve

Two Interesting Takes On The Political Spectrum

Back in February I compared an assortment of political spectrums and questionnaires. Here are two more I had not seen:

The Thomas Knapp Political Spectrum

This is Thomas L. Knapp’s political bell curve. You can read what he has to say about it at the Center for a Stateless Society. I think that this is one of the better conceptions of a political spectrum in that it accounts for anarchism and movements such as anarcho-capitalism or right-libertarianism. It is also correct in distinguishing classical anarchists, classical liberals, and market anarchists from modern right-libertarians such as Ron Paul or anarcho-capitalists such as Murray Rothbard:

On the far Left (market anarchism) and the far Right (anarcho-capitalism), appetite for political government trails off to zero (which is why “Left” and “Right” libertarians have so much in common).

As we move toward the political center, that appetite grows. The “Left” and “Right” disagree on ends, but closer to that center, both see government as an acceptable means to their desired ends. And the center is a corrupting influence. As you get closer to it, you grow less willing to give up the means and more willing to give up the ends.

It is also spot-on in that it accounts for the similarity between left-wing authoritarian ideologies, such as those of Stalin and Mao, and right-wing authoritarian ideologies such as the fascism of Mussolini. Rothbard and Thoreau are questionable placements on this chart; arguably Rothbard should be further to the right, squarely within the anarcho-capitalists instead of the Paul/Rand libertarians, while Thoreau should be further to the left on the very fringes of classical liberalism.

Here is a chart by Jesus Huerta de Soto that plots political ideologies on an axis of pro-state/anti-state and pro-private property/anti-private property:

The Political Chart of Jesus Huerta de Soto

This bucks typical the right-left paradigm, which is good. The left-right paradigm is relevant only in the context of the internal party politics of any given state. It has never been an accurate way to contrast ideologies and regimes across history. This, like Knapp’s bell curve, helps to explain the similarities in the authoritarian left (e.g. Stalinists) and the authoritarian right (e.g. Nazis, fascists). It may show too much sympathy to classical liberals, some of whom placed limits on private property (Locke’s provisos) and most of whom believed in states and social contracts. That is, it is questionable if “classical liberals” should be almost straddling the line between statists and anti-statists.