The Political Spectrum Con
August 1, 2005
One of the most important issues in today's world entails a very exasperating fallacy being implanted into the American mind in order to justify the massive centralization of modern government. It is the leftist academic community's warping of the political spectrum so as to smear the concept of a free, capitalist society.
The idea of a political spectrum, is one of the first concepts taught and analyzed in poly-sci and economics courses in college. It is a listing of the world's various political-economic systems on a chart, placing each system on the chart toward the left, middle or right, according to the basic type of government that system upholds. It is a natural way to provide the overall perspective needed in judging the different political and economic forms that exist, and thus a very important tool in teaching what the political world is all about.
To understand why the political spectrum that is taught today is so perniciously false, we must first delve into a bit of Aristotelian philosophy. The notion of a political spectrum with three poles of left, right and center has come to us as a legacy from Aristotle's idea that virtue consists of the "rational course" that lies between two opposite and natural extremes. This rational course he called the Golden Mean. For example:
As Aristotle tells us in his Nicomachean Ethics, if a man is confronted with danger, he meets it in one of three ways. He succumbs to the extreme of cowardice, or to the opposite extreme of rashness; or he chooses the middle course of courage, which is contrary to both. In like fashion, a man can choose liberality, which is midway between the opposite extremes of stinginess and extravagance. He can choose self-control between the extremes of abstemiousness and drunkenness, and he can choose ambition between sloth and greed. 
Aristotle's theory was based upon the fact that in most human action, there is a wide range of intensity, all the way from too little (defect), to too much (excess). In between such defect and excess, there lies an appropriate mean which would be virtue, with the two opposites of defect and excess being vices. In other words, good is the wisdom of balance, and evil is when you stray away from the Golden Mean toward one of the two extremes.
There are, of course, many values of life (other than the ones Aristotle put forth) that can also be placed upon a spectrum to determine a Golden Mean. Human life entails a wide array of desires, actions, traits, conditions and needs, numerous of which can be portrayed in terms of a vice-virtue-vice relationship. Listed below are a few examples that I have put together:
You see here the basic triad that Aristotle defined -- vice, virtue, vice. Midway between the defect of apathy and the excess of zealotry, there lies the rational balance of concern. Between vulgarity and prudery, there is the mean of decency. Between chaos and regimentation, there is order. And the same thing with all the other triads of value listed here.
What is so beautiful about Aristotle's doctrine is that it shows all the noblest and most desired values of our existence to be means -- such as loyalty, faith, love, peace, order, and freedom. All the things we value most in life are "means" between two opposite vices. This is the way reality is constructed. Almost always there is a mean between two evils.
It is this Aristotelian way of thinking then that has led to the concept of a political spectrum. By listing the various ideological systems on a left to right chart, one can find the two opposite extremes and then determine a "mean" which would be the rational course that lies between them. Here is where the danger arises, however. The political spectrum chart has been distorted over the years by most intellectuals throughout Europe and America in order to make their political bias toward a massive centralized welfare state look proper and virtuous. Such a distortion has taken several different forms, but is usually accomplished by portraying fascism as a "dictatorship of the right" and communism as a "dictatorship of the left," and then establishing a false choice between them.
What follows below is an example of the way in which the political-economic spectrum is conceived to be by the great majority of Americans today:
With this picture, students have gotten the idea that both ends of the spectrum are dictatorships (communism on the left and fascism on the right), and that the democratic welfare state of contemporary America is the only possible good, for it is the Golden Mean between two opposite vices. In order to point out the fallacies involved here, we must first define the terms being used. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary says the following (to which I have added clarifying remarks in parentheses):
Communism -- a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state owned means of production with the professed aim of establishing a stateless society; a theory advocating the elimination of private property. (The state holds power not only over property, but over every aspect of life. In practice, communism eventually requires control over all human activities, for all of life is interrelated. If the state is to control one aspect of life, then it must control all aspects to be effective.)
Socialism -- a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state; a system of society or group living in which there is no private property. (There are no differences between socialism and communism, other than superficial ones that are concocted theoretically. In practice, socialism means state ownership and operation of the factors of production, which means rigid control of human beings and all their activities in order to be effective. Socialism and communism are one and the same.)
Welfarism -- a social system based upon the assumption by a political state of primary responsibility for the individual and social welfare of its citizens. (Rather than owning and operating the factors of production, the state merely regulates them and redistributes the results of their productivity according to what is democratically desired. It is a halfway house between communism which is state ownership, and capitalism which is private ownership.)
Capitalism -- an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by state control. (The state is restricted to preserving a free domestic order by punishing force and fraud. It is neither to own nor operate the factors of production, nor to interfere in the peaceful decisions of the marketplace, leaving it to be controlled by the natural laws such as supply and demand that operate within it.)
Fascism -- a political philosophy, movement or regime that exalts nation and race above the individual, and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. (The state has power over every aspect of the economy to plan and regulate its workings. Property is owned privately, but controlled by the governing authorities as to what it is to produce, how and when it is to be disposed of, etc.)
The Fallacies in Today's Teachings
With these definitions in mind, let's now examine the fallacies and distortions involved in the above political spectrum.
Fallacy #1 -- Communism, socialism, and fascism are different fundamental systems deserving separate places on the spectrum. They obviously are not. They are all variants of the same dictatorial philosophy (which is collectivism) and belong together on the same side of the spectrum. Each one advocates total state control and/or ownership of all property through a centralized government and severe economic and social regimentation. None of them recognize the concept of individual rights. And they all declare that man exists to serve the state.
The excuse for terming communism and fascism as opposite systems is that under communism all property is owned by the state, where under fascism the ownership of property is left nominally in the hands of individuals, but ruthlessly controlled by the state, which reserves the right to expropriate the property at any time the owner doesn't abide by state dictates. Since individual ownership without individual control is a farce, fascism is in essence no different from communism (or socialism). All three are systems whereby the individual and his property are subjected to the absolute power of the state.
Fallacy #2 -- Anarchy needs no mention. Observe that there is no representation in the above spectrum for anarchy. There is a place for total government (communism), but no place for the absence of government (anarchy). Is not the absence of government the correct opposite of total government? Would it not be a truer picture with "total government" on one side and "no government" on the other side? If we are trying to depict what the opposite extremes of vice are, and the virtue that lies in between, then it's impossible to get any more opposite or any more extreme than total government and no government. You can't go any further left than communism, or any further right than anarchy.
Fallacy #3 -- Socialism is good so long as it is democratic. Democratic socialism is just another form of dictatorship. It is absolute rule by the "majority will" instead of by one man or by several men on a planning board. The individual has no clear cut rights, only conditional privileges, which are granted and withdrawn according to the arbitrary dictates of the collective. The majority may vote away as much of anyone's wealth as it deems necessary or desirable. Property does not belong to the individual. It belongs to society and is to be democratically apportioned in whatever way the majority wishes. Since the collective is the owner of all property, the collective naturally becomes the sole employer, landlord, manager, banker, and teacher of the individual. There can be no genuine freedom of choice, or action, or thought, or desire under such a system.
Other Forms of Fallacy
The above distortion of the political spectrum is not the only form used. There are others that are equally as crude in their confusion of the truth, and thus just as damaging to capitalism and the concept of freedom. In all the distortions, however, there invariably is one common characteristic. They all endeavor to make welfarism (or some variant of socialism) the middle ground, and capitalism one of the extreme vices.
For example, in The Evolution of Economic Society: An Introduction To Economics, by Martin Gerhard Giesbrecht, the political-economic spectrum is presented as follows: 
This is a slightly altered picture of the more commonly held version just discussed, for there is a gap in the middle. But that ol' devil fascism is again portrayed on the far right, with capitalism adjacent to it so as to convey its "potential evil" to an unsuspecting populace. What possible conclusion could a young student draw from this other than that all those on the political right are at best borderline fascists, and that the only sane policy is to steer a middle course of compromise between socialism and capitalism -- i.e., welfare statism.
To declare fascism to be a market economy and place it on the political right is a severe perversion of logic. As Bruntz and Edgerton tell us in Understanding Our Government:
"Under Fascism and Communism, the individual counts as nothing except as he furthers the interests of the State. Freedom to move from place to place, to choose a job, or conduct a business are restricted or do not exist. Every phase of political, economic, and personal activity is regulated by the government. That is why it is called totalitarian.
"Fascists allow private enterprise because it is the most effective system in the production of wealth in the interests of the nation. But it is not FREE enterprise, for capital and labor alike are completely controlled by the state." 
Fascism is a command economy, and belongs on the political left where massive centralized government resides. Adolph Hitler repeatedly termed his system of government "national socialism" or the shortened term of "nazism," knowing full well that it was every bit as collectivist as communism. And Webster's Dictionary defines Nazi as: a member of a German fascist party controlling Germany from 1933 to 1945 under Adolf Hitler. Thus, fascism and socialism are merely variants of the same system, which is collectivism. Declaring them to be opposites is inexcusable.
Sadly, however, this is the type of falsification that we have to endure in today's school system. Whenever the facts of reality are being distorted by authorities in charge of conveying truth to young people, one needs to ask, "Cui bono?" Who benefits? In this case, the beneficiaries are those who seek the regimentation of Americans under a massive centralized government in Washington.
If one is tempted to ask why "rational academics" would create such distortions, the answer is that they do it subconsciously. Very few openly identify such evasions to themselves. Their need is naturally to smear the concept of capitalism (which means smearing the concept of freedom) in the minds of the young in order to make their own collectivist desires appear as proper, or as Aristotle would put it -- the mean. In this way, they hope to establish the validity of a massive welfare state as the true system for man. It is just one of the many examples of self-deception in which men of the mind partake when attempting to promote a certain ideology they have come to worship.
Add to this the steady stream of misinterpretations, evasions, and lies that have been handed down over the past 80 years concerning the nature of capitalism and what took place during the 19th century, and one begins to see quite clearly why the great bulk of intellectuals in our academic community continue to push the massive welfare state upon our youth as the ideal.
The entire distortion is a subtle attempt to make advocates of individualism and capitalism appear as extremists or fascists and convince everyone that the ideal system is our present centralized welfare state. This is certainly not a correct picture. The true political spectrum that properly portrays reality according to Aristotle's doctrine of the mean would be as follows:
The far left of the spectrum is the vice of totalgovernment (whether it calls itself communism, socialism or fascism). The far right is its exact opposite, the vice of no government. The middle is the virtue of limited government (and its economic corollary of capitalism), with welfarism a semi-capitalist, semi-socialist mixture, and the anarcho-capitalism of the radical libertarians a semi-capitalist, semi-anarchist mixture.
This then is the total political-economic spectrum. As stated, there are numerous other variations of it being presented today, some totally reversed to this, and some even in circles -- all of them though very much in error. The whole notion of a political-economic spectrum is senseless unless it is presented precisely along the lines of Aristotle's Golden Mean idea. There have to be two opposite poles beyond which one cannot go and then a virtuous middle, or it's simply not a spectrum. It's then just an arbitrary display of various political-economic systems with no rhyme or reason to it, and no capacity to judge any of the systems as right or wrong, workable or non-workable.
A great deal of today's confusion on this issue can be attributed to the political origin of the terms right and left. Historian Crane Brinton tells us: "These terms grew up out of French parliamentary practice early in the [19th] century, when the conservatives or monarchists took to sitting in a group to the right of the presiding officer, and the constitutionalists and radical reformers grouped themselves on his left." 
If our present day views of the political spectrum did to some degree evolve from the early 19th century custom in France of the conservatives sitting to the right of the presiding officer in parliament and the radicals aligning themselves to the left, then it is time we revised our views. Such a conception is wholly arbitrary, for the two positions can easily be reversed or reassembled to fit any whim. By using this conception, we divest the terms right and left of any real significance. Is it not more rational to conceive of the terms as they have naturally evolved in America where, throughout the 20th century, the political left has advocated a larger and more interventionist government, while the political right has advocated a smaller and less intrusive government? Is not Aristotle closer to the truth than "parliamentary seating arrangements" of the 19th century?
The True Political Spectrum
Thus, there is no such thing as a "dictatorship of the right" as so frequently declared by our intellectuals in the universities and the media. ALL DICTATORSHIPS ARE OF THE LEFT! The farther we go to the right on the spectrum, the less government we will have, not more. The usage of such philosophically fraudulent terminology as a "totalitarianism of the right" can only further confuse this already snarled issue, by creating a phony association of capitalism and fascism in the people's minds and causing them to fear all attempts to move to the right on the political spectrum toward less government and more freedom.
The fact that such confusions are created so frequently by those of academic prowess is indicative of one of two factors: 1) the affliction of intellectual error on their part, or 2) the perpetration of intellectual deceit on their part. A much clearer and more realistic picture of the spectrum would be its division into the following five basic political philosophies:
1) Totalitarianism. This form of government is totally dictatorial, whether it calls itself communist, fascist or socialist. The state either controls or has the power to control every avenue of life (political, economic, sociological and personal).
2) Welfarism. This is the form of government utilized in all the Western democracies today where the state arbitrarily controls the economy, attempting to assume the responsibility for the people's welfare through expropriation and redistribution of personal wealth and regulation of their business activities. Such a political system is supposed to be the great middle way, or the "vital center." But as we have seen, it is not really the true middle ground (or Golden Mean) at all. It is an attempt to move closer to totalitarianism on the far left, and partially utilize the milder tenets of socialism and fascism so as to somehow form a caretaker state of half government controls and half personal freedom. Since there are no specific constitutional limits placed upon how much government intervention there is to be, however, the caretaker state continues to move further leftward and grow larger and larger each decade.
3) Constitutional Republicanism. This is the political-economic system of strictly limited government and a free marketplace. It does not leave the role of government up to the whims of the majority will as our present day welfare state does. It declares in a written Constitution what basic areas the government is going to be allowed to function in, and then leaves all the rest up to the individual through voluntary interaction and initiative.
Its primary underlying principles are: The individual is to rule and sustain his own life. Any government laws and services that need to be enacted must always be implemented within the constraints of federalism, which means first on the local level, then on the state level, and then on the federal level. And all such laws must be objective.
In other words, the law must be close to the people that it concerns, and it must not be used as a provider of special privileges -- e.g., corporation subsidies, price controls, monopolistic protection for unions, welfare services, affirmative action programs, non-uniform tax rates, etc. Government is to be limited in its scope to the three basic functions necessary for the preservation of domestic order (military defense, police forces and courts of law) and the performance of those few public services that cannot be functionally handled through the marketplace (such as city streets, fire departments, communicable disease control, etc.).
Anything that can be handled privately should be handled privately. No government has the right to coerce people into producing services that they could perform on their own, but choose not to. In this way freedom of choice is preserved, efficiency is maintained, men remain their own rulers, and pay for the values of life in direct proportion to their usage of them. This is the standard defining principle of government that guided Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of the Founding Fathers in their formation of the Republic. It has remained down to the modern day the undergirding support for all champions of liberty and domestic order.
For example, most of today's constitutionalists and free-market advocates would feel comfortable with the following Statement of Principles by the American Conservative Union in 1964: "We remark the inherent tendency of government to tyranny. The prudent commonwealth will therefore labor tirelessly, by means agreeable to its peculiar genius and traditions, to limit and disperse the power of government. No task should be confided to a higher authority that can be performed at a subsidiary level; and whatever the people can do for themselves should not be confided to government at all." 
4) Anarcho-Capitalism. This is the political system advocated by the followers of Murray N. Rothbard (For a New Liberty) and Bruce L. Benson (The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State). It declares the Constitution to be invalid, and all organized state functions to be immoral. According to these theorists, all functions of the state should be abolished -- not only the tyrannical functions such as redistribution of income and social engineering, but also the protectivefunctions such as the military, police and courts of law. They insist that everything should be privatized and provided by the marketplace. Thus, anarcho-capitalists do not really want to eliminate the "protective" government functions; they just want to change them from state provided to privately provided institutions.
They purposely term themselves "anarcho-capitalists" so as to distinguish themselves from total anarchy. The basic premise of the Rothbardians is that if left alone in the absence of a mandatory state apparatus, men would form their own necessary armies and police forces privately via the profit motive, and by so doing, would avoid the chaotic Hobbesian war of all against all that pure anarchy would be.
Rothbardians will dispute it, but in an anarcho-capitalist society, all mega-corporations would inevitably develop their own armies and police forces. So also would the AFL-CIO, the Mafia, the NAACP, the Catholic Church, and Donald Trump. Any person, group, business, labor union, or religious sect could and would form their own private defense agencies to protect their interests and their constituents, all according to their concept of what is right.
I think it is fair to say that less government is certainly needed in the modern world, but the anarchist libertarians go far beyond the pale. In trying to link capitalism to a privatized military, police, and court system, they diminish the credibility of free enterprise in the eyes of all rational intellects. Unthinkingly they lend strength to the collectivist claim that capitalism is the "rule of the jungle." This is no way to launch a freedom movement to challenge the tyranny of modern statism.
This writer sees in such a political philosophy the same impossible utopianism that devoured the far left socialists of the early 20th century. At that time, the collectivist theme was: "As soon as the Utopia is realized, the State will wither away." Today, anarcho-capitalists sing the opposite tune: "As soon as the State withers away, the Utopia will be realized." Both proclamations fail to grasp the true nature of human beings and the necessary essentials for a society of law. Both are attempts to convert an evil into a workable ideal through the evasion of reality.
5) Anarchism. This is a pre-civilizational "anti-social system" where there are no organized state institutions (voluntary or otherwise), no legal framework, no army for defense, no police forces, and no courts of law -- just the rule of the jungle in the nomadic manner of our Cro-Magnon period of history. In such a society, anything would go if you were strong enough or brutal enough, or if you had a large enough clan of marauders and were willing to live outside the communal bonds that motivate most human beings.
* * * *
Hopefully the reader can now see that what is being taught as the political spectrum in today's world is a briar patch of fallacies. Aristotle's "doctrine of the mean" must be employed in order to grasp what the truth is on this issue. But to thoroughly validate the above portrayal of the political spectrum as the truth we also have to demonstrate why the mean in this case is the ideal? Granted, Aristotelian logic shows us that a Constitutional Republic (i.e., strictly limited-government) is the mean; but why does this make it the ideal form of political organization?
The answer is that a limited government Constitutional Republic is the only form of political organization that is based upon objective law -- in other words, law that is applied equally to everyone, rather than law that is applied arbitrarily to citizens by the conveyance of privileges. The fundamental fount of America was: Equal rights for all, privileges for none. The Founding Fathers were striving for such a society even though they were not able to fashion its perfect manifestation.
To fully and logically demonstrate this ideal aspect of a Constitutional Republic, however, is beyond the scope of this essay. But in my forthcoming book, The Golden Mean: The Case for Libertarian Politics and Conservative Values (from which this essay is excerpted), I expand upon this theme of "objective law" versus "arbitrary law" and demonstrate why the mean of a Constitutional Republic is the ideal. I show why objective law can only be found at the center of the spectrum and why objective law is the fundamental requisite of a free society. In addition, I show why arbitrary law will dominate all systems to the left of the mean, as well as all systems to the right of the mean, and why arbitrary law is the fundamental characteristic of both tyranny and anarchy, and all their variants.
Ignoring Half of Reality
To understand how irrational modern intellectuals are on this issue of the political spectrum, we now need to investigate how they "ignore the right half of reality." Below is another view of the correct spectrum whereby the mean is republicanism midway between the opposite extremes of statism and anarchism.
On the statist left, there are two categories -- the extreme of totalitarianism and its modified version of authoritarianism (i.e., the welfare state), which is what all the Western political systems of the world have become. On the anarchist right, there are two categories -- the extreme of total anarchy and its modified version of anarcho-capitalism, which is what many of today's libertarians espouse. In the center lies the mean of a Constitutional Republic, which the Founding Fathers espoused. These fundamental categories represent the entirety of political reality.
Observe, however, how the above depiction of political reality is distorted to serve the advocates of statism and their goals. The primary categories of republicanism and anarchism are basically ignored in all orthodox portrayals of the political spectrum. Our professors in the colleges and our talking heads in the media promote a spectrum that entails only positions within the category of statism on the left. The entire right side of the spectrum, one-half to two-thirds of reality, is simply ignored.
For example, we are presented over and over again on all the TV talk shows with representatives supposedly from the "left" and from the "right," and often from someone who attempts to carve out a "middle ground." This makes it appear as if the presenter is unbiased, attempting to present all sides, searching for the truth. But all three of these representatives (let's say for example, Albert Gore on the left, Rudy Giuliani in the middle ground, and Newt Gingrich on the right) subscribe to the concept of a highly centralized mega-state running the lives of Americans from Washington. All three advocate the violation of individual rights in order to convey group privileges. All three shy away from any allegiance to Jefferson's original vision of America as a Republic of States -- instead maintaining that America is a "mass democracy." All three support a progressive income tax and substantial redistribution of wealth. All three are philosophical statists despite their harmonious paeans to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.
Observe also that all strict constitutionalists and libertarians are omitted from debates in the media with their ideas either suppressed or caricatured in academic circles. As a result, the media and our schools are able to present a totally false picture of political reality because their left-center-right portrayal of politics is nothing but a division of the category of statism into meaningless sub-categories of liberals, moderates, and me-too conservatives. The category of anarchism is totally ignored, while the category of republicanism is seldom acknowledged, and then only to smear it as "out there in the fever swamps of right-wing extremism" where fascists, terrorists, wacko militia groups, and the KKK reside.
In this way, the statist establishment can convey to an unsuspecting populace that our only basic choice is between three different versions of statism rather than between statism, republicanism, and anarchism. Who wins in this kind of contest? Only the statist mentalities who wish for larger and larger government. If the reader has ever wondered why government grows relentlessly more mastodonic every decade, it is because the American people during the past 80 years have been taught that such largesse is our only choice.
We have shrunk our view of political reality down to one category -- STATISM -- and have declared the political spectrum to be solely within its parameters. We should, therefore, not be surprised when the citizens of America vote in lockstep for more and more government programs every year, or when our young people usher forth from their educational years ignorant of the great philosophical issues that ignited the American revolution.
It is a horrifying indictment upon the distortion of our times and our minds when we condemn those who are preaching ideological adherence to the Golden Mean as "fanatical" and "extreme." But that is precisely what the welfare state authoritarians of today are doing when they proclaim all those on the "far political right" to be wild eyed extremists. Actually it is the welfare state authoritarians who are the extremists. It is they who are relentlessly pushing America out toward the left end of the spectrum and the regimentation of total government. And in like manner, Rothbard's anarchist libertarians are trying to push America out toward the right end of the spectrum and the chaos of no government. It is we, the laissez-faire capitalists, the advocates of a strict constitutional government, who are solidly rooted in the center of reality firmly fixed upon truth and the ideal.
In conclusion, a Constitutional Republic (strictly limited government and laissez-faire capitalism), operating within the constraints of federalism, is the true VITAL CENTER if the "entirety of reality" is taken into consideration. The fact that our establishment intellectuals and media pundits today choose to blot out a great chunk of reality in their explanations is indicative of a society that has lost its crucial philosophical moorings. In such a society, freedom and sanity are headed for extinction.
1. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Translated by Martin Ostwald
(New York: Liberal Arts Press, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1962), Book II,
Chapters 7 & 8.
2. Martin Gerhard Giesbrecht, The Evolution of Economic Society: An Introduction To Economics (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman & Co., 1972), p. 179.
3. George G. Bruntz and Ronald B. Edgerton, Understanding Our Government (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1971), p. 17.
4. Crane Brinton, Ideas and Men: The Story of Western Thought (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963), p. 354.
5. Cited by Frank S. Meyer in Left, Right and Center: Essays on Liberalism and Conservatism in the United States, Robert A. Goldwin, ed. (Chicago: Rand McNally& Co., 1965), p. 9. Emphasis added.