The idea of a political “left” and “right” originated in revolutionary France around the turn of the 19th century when members of the National Assembly who were more supportive of the throne sat on the right, while those who supported revolution sat on the left. Analysts employ the concept of a political left and right every day.
A continuum is often drawn between the political left and right:
Left/Progressive <————————————————> Right/Conservative
Placing the left and the right on a line for analysis is like creating a continuum between kumquats and Volkswagens; it makes no sense and causes confusion. They are very different ideologies in several fundamental ways. Unless one compares those critical differences, not the amalgamation of ideas that comprise each ideology, confusion reigns.
Political analyst David Nolan (among others), frustrated with the inadequacy of this one-dimensional analysis, created a two-dimensional graph to better explain political ideologies. Nolan believed that the amount of government control advocated was the crucial difference between political camps. He further distinguished between government control in the economic and personal realms. The Nolan Chart maps ideologies on a chart with two axes: one measuring economic freedom and the other personal freedom.
The Nolan Chart is a political spectrum diagram created by American libertarian activist David Nolan in 1969. The chart charts political views along two axes, representing economic freedom and personal freedom. It expands political view analysis beyond the traditional one-dimensional left-right/progressive-conservative divide, in order to position libertarianism as outside the traditional spectrum.
As I’ve asserted in my book Newthink: The Hidden Logic of Progressivism and the Usurpation of the Traditional American Worldview, because of the nature of worldviews, the three foundations of progressivism are atheism, group struggle and big government. Likewise, the three foundations of conservatism are God worship, individual struggle and small government. Comparing these three qualities makes the differences between ideologies clear.
Unfortunately, comparing three factors like these requires a three-dimensional graph with three axes that only a geek or a social scientist could love. Luckily, for practicality’s sake, because group/individual struggle and the big/small government factors are highly correlated (ideologies promoting group struggle tend to favor big government), we can eliminate one of them. That leaves us with a manageable graph tracking just two factors: the level of (monotheistic) God worship and the level of government control.
Analyzing political groups or societies by their fundamental features, which I assert are their levels of God worship and government control, rather than worn-out and irrelevant historical labels clarifies the relationship between “left” and “right.” Progressives often regard America of the 1950s, which was more religious and had a smaller government than today’s America, as a prototypical right-wing society. But as the chart above makes clear, it was worlds away from the totalitarian and more secular society of Nazi (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) Germany, which is often, in a manner slanderous to conservatives, characterized as right-wing. This ideology chart also clarifies the direction America is moving as it becomes more progressive over the years.
The notion of political groups having either a leftist or a rightist ideology is less than useless – it obscures the true nature of those groups. Further, this conception causes confusion, doubt and inaction among those on the right because it ignores their principles and unfairly bunches them with repugnant groups with which they have no real affiliation. So, conservatives: Forget left. Forget right. Call yourselves conservatives or traditional Americans. And call the left what they are: secular, victim group-oriented statists.