Models of Political Ideology Political ideology in American Society can get a little confusing. This is due partially to the fact that the most commonly used model to explain political ideology is too simple. The linear model, as it is sometimes called, puts the ideological spectrum on a straight line. This model often leaves researcher’s wondering about ideologies because it ties groups together that may have absolutely different ideas. Also, the linear model does not perfectly predict each point.
A better way to explain the ideological spectrum is with the square model. This model puts the ideological spectrum in five dimensions, giving it a better representation of the ideological spectrum. First, however, to explain the importance of the square model verses the linear model, the understanding of the different elements involved in these models must be explained. There are five main elements/political philosophies in most American political ideology models: left-liberal, right-conservative, authoritarian, libertarian, and moderate. The first, left-liberals, believe in governing themselves on personal matters, but they want government to control economics.
The left-liberals “want government to serve the disadvantaged in the name of fairness. Leftists tolerate social diversity, but work for economic equality” (Libertarian 1). The opposite of the left-liberals is the right-conservatives. This group believes in free-markets with government putting a check on personal freedom. “Right-conservatives prefer self-government on economic issues, but want official standards in personal matters. They want the government to defend the community from threats to its moral fiber” (Libertarian 1).
The next group is the libertarians. The libertarians want little government help or control. “Libertarians are self-governors in both personal and economic matters. They believe government’s only purpose is to protect people from coercion and violence. They value individual responsibility, and tolerate economic and social diversity” (Libertarian 1). The opposite of the libertarian is the authoritarian.
Authoritarians believe that government should have control, that people should get equality through government. “Authoritarians want government to advance society and individuals through expert central planning. They often doubt whether self-government is practical. Left-authoritarians are also called socialists, while fascists are right-authoritarians” (Libertarian 2). The last main group and probably the largest are the moderates. The moderates are the mediators, and they often accept new ideas about how things should be ran.
“Moderates favor selective government intervention and emphasize practical solutions to current problems. They tend to keep an open mind on new issues. Many moderates feel that government serves as a check on excessive liberty” (Libertarian 1). In definition these five elements to the ideological spectrum sound simple, but when you start to place them in a model to things begin to get blurred up. The first model discussed was the linear model.
The linear model is good at showing the difference between two opposites, but gets extremely difficult when discussing four different categories. To start, when placing left-liberal and right-conservative on the linear model it is obvious that left-liberal will go on the left side and right-conservative will go on the right. Then it is also fair to say that the moderates are somewhere in the middle. The problem, however, is when another element is added such as libertarians. Libertarians can not go in the middle because that is where the moderates are. Libertarians, also, can not go on the left or right because they are equally connected to both conservatives and liberals.
The liberals believe in social freedom just like the libertarians, but the liberals do not believe in economic freedom like the libertarians. And just the opposite, the conservatives believe in economic freedom like the libertarians, but do not believe in social freedom like the libertarians. So, where should the libertarians be placed on the linear model? They cannot be, despite undying measures used to place them somewhere. Also the same problem arises when the authoritarians are placed on the model. Then another problem arises, authoritarians and libertarians are not equal, yet it on a linear model they both must be placed in the same spot. This spot of course is where the confusion arises. It is that the libertarians and authoritarians either do not get placed on the linear model or they are incorrectly placed with the conservatives being connected to the right authoritarians and libertarians and the liberals connected to the left authoritarians and libertarians.
This leads people to believe that the left-authoritarians, socialists/communists, are connected to the liberals and the right-authoritarians, nationalists/fascists, are connected to the conservatives. This is wrong, and only leads to confusion of the true meaning of these ideologies. A better model to show these political ideologies is the square model. The square model, shown on the libertarian web page, is quite simple, consisting of two squares placed on top of the other (1). The outer square is turned so two points are directly up and down and the other two points are left and right. The inner square is smaller, with two sides left and right and the other two sides up and down.
The inner square consists completely of moderates. On the right side are the right-conservatives, with the left side being the left-liberals. The upper section of the outer square is the libertarians, and the lower section is the authoritarians. Also, added to the square model is a percent scale moving upward on both sides. These percents start with zero at the authoritarian point and end with one-hundred at the point of right-conservative and left-liberal.
The scale up the left side is the personal percent and on the right the economic percent. The reason these lines end at the point of left-liberal and right-conservative is because the extreme left-liberals believe in one-hundred percent personal freedom and the extreme right-conservatives believe in one-hundred percent economic freedom. The model easily displays the location of the libertarian as being opposite the authoritarian, and the right-conservative as being opposite the left-liberal. This model, also, adds a place for borderline ideologies that may or may not already exist by drawling clear lines between the five ideologies. The better of the two models for the ideological spectrum is the square model verses the linear model.
The linear model can get confusing because it leaves many gray areas as to where an ideology can be placed. The linear model also places ideologies together that have similar qualities, but these qualities are also equally similar to the opposite side of the spectrum. The linear model splits ideologies such as authoritarian into smaller parts such as communism and fascism, and separates them into left and right parts. This is a problem because it does not accurately depict the relationship between the two, nor does it acknowledge that they are similar. The square model shows equal proportions of this by dividing the spectrum up into five parts.
The five parts of the square model are the left-liberals, right-conservatives, authoritarian, libertarian, and moderate. These parts are divide so that what is opposite, left-liberal and right-conservative, is also opposite the other, libertarian and authoritarian, and these ideologies do not confuse one another. This allows for the different ideologies to be dived even further to show the connection between groups without getting them mixed up, and this is why the square model is the better model for showing political ideologies. Works Cited Libertarian Party. “Worlds Smallest Political Quiz” [http://www.self-gov.org] October 1999.