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Thread by @GMSarli: "An observation: Most Americans are so woefully politically illiterate that they genuinely think "leftist" and "liberal" and "socialism" and […]" #nerdlife

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An observation:

Most Americans are so woefully politically illiterate that they genuinely think "leftist" and "liberal" and "socialism" and "communism" are synonyms.

Left-right is one dimension of ideology.

Liberal-conservative is a completely different dimension.
Intellectualist-Populist is the other big ideological dimension. There are more, of course, but these three allow you to visualize a three-dimensional ideological space that is far more meaningful than the compressed one-dimensional left-right spectrum.
In other words, most people have trouble conceptualizing more than three dimensions, so let's stick to three.

And, let's be frank, some people have trouble with three. Or two.
When you think about it, a single-issue voter essentially has a zero-dimensional ideological space; you either match this one position or you don't.

This is one reason you should never, ever be a single-issue voter. It makes you do dumb things.
OK, back to the three-dimensional ideological model:


Let's look at each one in turn to see what they really represent.
The liberal-conservative dimension represents the degree of personal equality.

At the liberal end, you believe all people deserve equal rights, liberties, & basic dignity. All-in on human rights.

At the conservative end, you have hierarchy, autocracy, and subjugation.
What's that, conservatives? That's not what conservatism is about?


You're confusing the liberal-conservative dimension for the left-right dimension.
Traditional conservatism is essentially the embodiment of illiberal and anti-democratic thought; i.e. God rules over the King, King rules over Noble, Noble rules over Commoner, Husband rules over Wife, Master rules over Slave.

Sorry to burst your bubble.
So, to be 100% clear, if you think "liberal" is a bad word, it means YOU ARE A BAD PERSON.

It means you think people don't deserve rights & slavery is a fun idea that was poorly executed.
Now, the next dimension -- left-right -- is what most people are actually thinking of when they "liberal" or "conservative."

Left-right is about the degree of economic equality & central control of the economy.

Broadly, LEFT = socialist, RIGHT = capitalist.
Now, again, we're dealing with words that most Americans have only the vaguest of ideas of how to define.

"Socialist" includes any and all social safety nets -- unemployment insurance, food stamps, housing vouchers -- that are intended to prevent subsistence failure.
"Socialist" does NOT necessarily mean a command economy or communism.

Similarly, "capitalist" does NOT necessarily mean laissez-faire radical free market monopolies.

It's a continuum, and every single country on Earth is a mixture of the two.
Now, just to finish out our three-dimensional model, let's look at the Intellectualist-Populist axis.

I've seen this one described many different ways and there is no agreed-upon terminology yet (e.g. "rationalist vs. irrational" is too judgmental for my tastes).
If you think of liberal-conservative as personal equality, and left-right as economic equality, then you can think of intellectualist-populatist as informational equality.

Broadly, intellectualists favor transparency, open debate, empirical rigor, and process.
Populists, meanwhile, favor arguments based on emotion (pride, entitlement, outrage, fear), and rather than selling arguments on the merits, they tend to depend on vapid (but emotionally resonant) slogans.

Ideological space created.

Picture it in your mind, rotate it around, imagine it from different orientations.

If you're into geometry or trigonometry (#nerdlife), you might think of it as a "unit sphere."
If you've ever played Dungeons & Dragons (shoutout to @Wizards_DnD), you might think of this ideological space as being the equivalent of alignment: lawful-chaotic axis, good-evil axis, a bunch of possible combinations (Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil, Neutral Good, etc.).
It's just like that, but with three dimensions instead of two.

A person can be Liberal-Leftist-Intellectualist, for example. (That's me.)

A person can also be Conservative-Rightist-Populist -- that's a Nazi.
Now, here's a tricky one: Where does a communist land?

I'd characterize Marx himself as Leftist-Intellectualist. On liberal-conservative, he would be neutral (i.e. opposed to hierarchy, but also opposed to personal right to property).
Stalin, meanwhile, would be Leftist-Conservative-Intellectualist; he basically saw himself as the equivalent of a czar, which is inherently illiberal.

Also, there's that whole killing millions of your own citizens thing, which puts him firmly in illiberal territory.
So, let's be perfectly clear:


They are literally inherently incompatible ideological positions because pure liberalism has to include enough freedom for personal property and communism inherently does not provide it.
However, liberals can be socialists, and the two positions dovetail nicely. (Personal equality and economic equality are complementary narratives.)

By the same token, liberals can be capitalists.

Again, please stop treating "liberal" as an economic position.
So, looking at this ideological space, you can see how you can orient yourself in the political landscape.

In your own mind, try to position the following:

1) movement conservatives
2) Evangelicals
3) Tea Party
4) libertarians

(Keep trying until you can visualize it.)
Similarly, you should be able to understand the divide between the Bernie Sanders/Our Revolution populist leftists and the more mainstream Democratic Party intellectualist liberals.
Once you start thinking of ideology this way, you can orient yourself in a way that lets you find common ground with most people -- something that's kind of important in a pluralistic democratic society.

e.g. Don't agree on left-right? Maybe you agree on good governance.
And that's how you build coalitions to pass bills -- find the axis that a majority of members of Congress actually agree on, and then work on that axis.

On the occasion you get more than one aligned, you can pass something big (e.g. Voting Rights Act, Social Security, ACA).
But if you insist that someone must agree with you in EVERY ideological dimension before you'll tolerate working with them?

Well, that's how you lose.

If you hold out for a unicorn, you'll most likely get nothing but a donkey with an upside-down ice cream cone on its head.
(It's getting late and I may expand on this thread later, but I think I'll let this sit overnight before adding any more.)
EDIT: Stalin should be Leftist-Conservative, NOT Intellectualist. I neglected to delete the last word when copy-pasting from Marx.

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