Of course, there have been many attempts to rectify this problem. People have created scales, or 2-D or 3-D charts, in efforts to make a better map of the political world. Of these, the one I know best is the Nolan Chart.
So today, I’m going to begin with the Nolan Chart. Then, following my usual inclination, I’m going to bend it into something all but unrecognizable. And I’m going to claim that my version (which I call the LTPC chart; not to be confused with LGBT) is the best political map since sliced bread.
The Nolan Chart
In the late 1960s, David F. Nolan (1943-2010) was pondering this question, specifically in a US context. At that time, politics in the USA looked, on the surface, like a simple left/right divide. On the right, you had Republicans. They endorsed capitalism and economic freedom. But they were repressive about things like drugs and porn; they were not much interested in personal freedom. On the left, you had Democrats. They didn’t so much object to personal freedom – indeed, they had styled themselves as “liberals.” But in the economic sphere, they tended towards socialist ideas. Economic freedom wasn’t on their agenda.
But David Nolan saw that things weren’t actually as simple as they looked. And he saw that he could plot people’s levels of desire for personal and economic freedom on a two dimensional graph. So in 1969, he came up with this chart (Figure 1):
Figure 1 – The original Nolan Chart
This chart included two political outlooks, beyond left and right. First, in the top right corner, “Libertarian,” originally meaning “an advocate of the doctrine of free will.” This word had also been taken on as a self-description by a new political group, to whom Nolan himself belonged. They desired both personal and economic freedom for all, but felt they could not call themselves “liberals” because the US political left had already appropriated that term. Second, in the bottom left corner, Nolan put “Totalitarian,” meaning someone who doesn’t want to allow others any freedom at all, personal or economic.
There is – literally – a stroke of genius in this chart, which few of Nolan’s followers seem to have appreciated. That diagonal line, from the origin via the long T word to the long L word, is a new axis. And it measures something important; it measures desire for freedom. More on that later.
The standard version
After the first publication of the Nolan Chart in 1971, many different variants of it were made. If there is one version which I feel best encapsulates the whole idea, it is the one below (Figure 2):
Figure 2 – The modern Nolan Chart
This version shows three changes from the original. First, it has been rotated anti-clockwise through 45 degrees. The credit for this goes to Marshall Fritz. (He also bears much of the responsibility for bringing me into the liberty movement back in 1988. But that’s another story).
The second change is the introduction of a new “Centrist” cell. And the third is re-wording. “Left” and “Right” have been supplemented by the more common US political labels, “Liberal” and “Conservative.” And “Totalitarian” has been replaced by the somewhat softer “Authoritarian.”
My version of the Nolan Chart
Idly pondering these ideas – as one does – I came, one day, to appreciate a spark of genius in the chart. If you plot an individual’s scores for personal and economic freedom on Figure 2, you place them at a particular point on the chart. If, instead, you take the average of the two scores and plot that along the top to bottom axis, you are projecting (in the mathematical sense) this point horizontally on to the vertical, Libertarian to Authoritarian scale.
What this means is that horizontal lines on this form of the Nolan chart are lines of constant desire for freedom, whether that desire is for personal freedom, economic freedom, or a mixture of the two. This made me want to create my own version of the chart, in which horizontal lines would play a major part in delineating the cells.
I also wanted to try to make the chart a bit easier to understand for a European or worldwide audience. And I wanted to restore “liberal” to its proper place at the apex. (I’ve never liked the word “libertarian” as a political label. I prefer to identify myself as a true liberal – as opposed to the leftist fake or faux liberals.)
The result was the following (Figure 3):
Figure 3 – My version of the Nolan Chart
How did I come up with this? Well, first I picked a minimum level of desire for freedom of 75% (combined score of 150) as the lower limit of what I would rate as Liberal. My choice of this value wasn’t arbitrary; I picked it because it would allow me to make a chart in which all cells were triangular. This gave me the triangle at the top of the diagram.
Next, I picked a maximum level of 50% (combined score of 100) as the upper limit for the bad boys and girls. The reasoning behind this was that anyone that wants to see more un-freedom than freedom is a bad ‘un. So I drew that horizontal line right across the middle. I then had to decide what to call the bottom cell. No longer feeling restricted to words ending –arian, I at first thought about “statist.” But eventually, I asked myself: What is the opposite of liberty? Tyranny. So what is the opposite of liberal? Tyrannical. Licking my chops at the thought of being able to call my enemies “tyrannicals,” I wrote the word Tyrannical in that bottom cell.
Lastly, I took two of the lines from Figure 2 (one of 50% personal freedom, the other of 50% economic freedom) and used them to join up my two horizontal lines. This divided the portion of the chart between my two lines into three triangles. The left and right cells I called, unsurprisingly, Leftist and Rightist. For the centre cell, I contemplated Moderate; but eventually settled on a word which, I think, describes rather well the mind-set of those whose position lies in this centre cell. That word is “Confused.”
While my version doesn’t change the number of cells, and doesn’t greatly change their positions on the chart, it did prompt a new idea. That is, that the closest people to us true liberals are neither leftists or rightists, but the Confused. And yet, most of us prefer to try our outreach to those already politically conscious, either on the left or right. Perhaps we should be devoting more of our time trying to reach the Confused or uncommitted?
The Liberty/Tyranny Axis
Next, I added to my version of the Nolan Chart an explicit representation of the vertical Liberty/Tyranny axis. The result was Figure 4 below.
Figure 4 – My version of the Nolan Chart with Liberty/Tyranny Axis
The axis at the right represents the horizontal projection of an individual’s position on the chart on to a scale, whose ends are Liberty and Tyranny. And the numbers at the extreme right measure the average of the two scores, the overall level of desire for freedom, on a scale of 0% to 100%.
I then divided this new axis into three segments, corresponding to the two horizontal lines on my version of the chart. The 75% to 100% segment, obviously, I labelled Liberal. and the 0% to 50% segment Tyrannical. For the 50% to 75% segment, though, I had a decision to make. Thinking that anyone who doesn’t know whether they are liberal or tyrannical has got to be a bit confused, I eventually settled on the easy option; Confused.
Et voilȁ! I had created the Liberty/Tyranny Axis. So now, our political map is back to a single axis, one which measures desire for freedom.
Constraint and Freedom
A brief digression. There is a schism between the liberal and tyrannical world-views. In the liberal view, there are areas of life in which each individual must be constrained by social norms; but all other decisions are for the individual to make. On the other hand, the tyrannical view sees each individual having a, larger or smaller, sphere of freedom, in which decisions are up to the individual. But outside this, all decisions are to be made by central authority. I created the following diagram (Figure 5) to show this.
Figure 5 – Spheres and Universes of Constraint and Freedom
Starting at the very top of the scale, radical anarchists posit a Sphere of Constraint which is vanishingly small. Next come “thin” libertarians, who put into the sphere of constraint just one single ethical obligation, the so called non-aggression principle. A little further down are minarchists like myself, who seek the minimum constraint consistent with civilized behaviour. For example, upholding objective justice and the rule of law; keeping to contracts you have freely entered into; respect for the human rights and freedom of other human beings; truthfulness and honesty. And further down still, in the Confused area of the axis, are very many well-meaning people. who have not yet seen through the façade of “democracy” to the moral maelstrom that lies beneath.
As you pass the 50% point, an inversion, or what I call a “philosophical flip-flop,” takes place. It’s like a glass turning from half full to half empty. Below the 50%, the individual’s sphere of freedom, though it starts fairly large, steadily shrinks. Until, near the bottom, you reach ideologies like socialism, communism and nazism, which are authoritarian verging on totalitarian.
Progressive and Conservative
To return to my main theme. Looking back and comparing Figure 4 with Figure 2, I’ve (by design) eliminated Left and Right. I’ve moved Liberal to its rightful place. I’ve replaced Authoritarian by Tyrannical, and Centrist (with a small upward shimmy) by Confused. But there is one word on Figure 2 I haven’t yet dealt with. That word is Conservative.
What is the opposite of Conservative? I think the answer is Progressive. Indeed, many on the US political right use this word as a pejorative synonym for left-liberal. And what are the main differences in viewpoint between progressives and conservatives? I see four:
- Progressives are oriented towards the future. Conservatives seek their inspirations in the past.
- Progressives tend to favour globalization and cultural diversity. Conservatives cling to the nation state and to monoculture.
- Progressives are usually comfortable with change, except when it adversely affects them as individuals. Conservatives usually dislike change, except when it benefits them.
- Progressives think they know where they’re going; they like to move from theory to practice. Conservatives are not so sure; they like to stick to the tried and tested, and they mistrust theory.
Lastly, I divided the new chart into six boxes, according to the labels on the two axes. Liberal, Confused and Tyrannical on the vertical axis, and Progressive and Conservative on the horizontal. The result was Figure 6:
Figure 6 – The “LTPC” (Liberty, Tyranny, Progressive, Conservative) chart
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my “LTPC” chart. So now, it’s over to you. You can have lots of fun classifying yourself and your friends. And even more fun classifying your enemies.
The UK political scene
I will conclude by trying to paint, on my LTPC chart, my (cynical and jaundiced) view of the current state of party politics in the UK – since that’s what I’m familiar with. I’ve ignored the nationalist parties, since I live in England. My effort is Figure 7 below. But, if you want to, you can do the same for any other country in the world.
Figure 7 – My view of the UK political scene (2015)
Some things to note:
- Except possibly for UKIP, who have not yet been tested, all the mainstream political parties are seriously Tyrannical – well below 25% on my scale. For example: All of them are hot on “political correctness,” the cornerstone of the Tyrannical world view. All favour re-distribution of wealth from productive and honest people to the lazy, dishonest and politically connected. All want to film us everywhere we go, to intercept our e-mails and to capture our financial transactions down to the micro level. And all support the human caused catastrophic climate change claptrap.
- My impression is that Lib Dems and Tories are (very) slightly less tyrannical than Greens, Labour and the BNP. But I may be wrong.
- When founded, UKIP was probably nearer to Confused Conservative than it is now. But recently it has become more tyrannical. It’s almost as if, in order to be allowed to play with the political ball, UKIP have had to make themselves more like the other parties.
- The left versus right scale is back, but as Progressive versus Conservative this time. On this scale, Labour are the centre party (which may be one reason why they are far more successful than they deserve).
- My guess at the centre of gravity of the UK population may be too far left and too high?
- As a moderate Liberal Progressive, my own position is roughly equidistant from the Lib Dems and UKIP. Strange bedfellows! But I’m so far away from any of the parties, that it’s hardly surprising that I haven’t voted at all in 27+ years now.