The Political Atlas (2/9) Domestic Policy Spectrum (2 Axis Model)

[The cover image of every post in this series is an apolitical mock flag design of my own creation.The flower overlapping the star is a pansy, which represents Free Thought. I will eventually discuss political symbolism in Part 9.]

Continuing on from last time, let’s look at the first two proper axes of the Political Atlas. Now, remembering from the previous lesson what Rightism and Leftism actually mean (heirarchy and equality, respectively) let’s apply those principles to the question of economic and personal autonomy. Together these two valuations can give us a fairly detailed understanding of a politician’s or country’s domestic policy.

The Economic Axis

Marxism: Extremely simplified, the idea that the proletariat (working class) is being exploited by the bourgeois (the rich, those who own the means of production.) That the modern industrialized economic system created a caste of people alienated from the product of their own labor, while those at the top reap all the benefits without having to do the same manual or menial labor which created that wealth in the first place. These basic principles would form the foundation for a lot of post-industrial Left-wing thought.

Communism: In Marx’s philosophy, the end goal of a revolution and dictatorship by the Proletariat. A classless, money-less, state-less society in which the Proletariat collectively owns and operates the means of production.

Socialism: Social ownership and democratic control of the means of production. There are many varieties, including market socialism which follows a market based economy. Then there’s the dichotomy between reformist and revolutionary socialism: working within the current system for incremental changes or a violent overthrow of capitalism, respectively. There are also various forms of State Socialism (centralized, authoritarian control) and Libertarian Socialism (decentralized, libertarian). Out of all the terms and “isms” in this list, Socialism is by far the hardest to pin down because there are so many conflicting variants and interpretations.

  • Market Socialism: Publicly or cooperatively owned firms operating under the model of a market economy. While it would embrace capital accumulation, this would be used to compensate the workers proportionally (as opposed to fixed wages) or pay for public infrastructure/institutions, rather than go to any private fortunes of the bourgeois. In some forms, the profit of these firms are used to supersede the need for taxes to sustain the government treasury. This is in contrast to State Socialism, in which the government plans the actions of a centralized economy.

  • Guild Socialism: Workers’ control of various industries through the medium of trade guilds in an implied contractual obligation with the public for the greater public good.

  • Revolutionary Socialism: the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. It is used in contrast to the reformism of social democracy, which is not anti-capitalist in form. Revolutionary socialism is opposed to Reform Socialism that seeks to gradually ameliorate the economic and social problems of capitalism through political reform.

Planned Economy: a type of economic system where investment and the allocation of capital goods is performed through economy-wide economic and production plans. A planned economy may be based on centralized, decentralized or participatory forms of economic planning. A command economy or administrative command economy is any of the nominally-planned economies of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, highlighting the central role of hierarchical administration in guiding the allocation of resources in these economic systems as opposed to planned coordination. Planned economies are usually associated with Soviet-type central planning, which involves centralized state planning and administrative decision making. In command economies, important allocation decisions are made by government authorities and are imposed by law.

Mixed Economy: an economic system blending elements of market economies with elements of planned economies. Either free markets with state interventionism, or an economy containing both private enterprise and public enterprise.

Welfare Capitalism: capitalism that includes social welfare policies. Welfare capitalism is also the practice of businesses providing welfare services to their employees. Today, welfare capitalism is most often associated with the models of capitalism found in Central Mainland and Northern Europe, such as the Nordic model, social market economy and Rhine capitalism.

Keynesianism: the various macroeconomic theories about how in the short run — and especially during recessions — economic output is strongly influenced by aggregate demand (total demand in the economy). In the Keynesian view, aggregate demand does not necessarily equal the productive capacity of the economy; instead, it is influenced by a host of factors and sometimes behaves erratically, affecting production, employment, and inflation. Keynesian economists generally argue that, as aggregate demand is volatile and unstable, a market economy will often experience inefficient macroeconomic outcomes in the form of economic recessions (when demand is low) and inflation (when demand is high). These can be mitigated by economic policy responses, in particular, monetary policy actions by the central bank and fiscal policy actions by the government, which can help stabilize output over the business cycle. Keynesian economists generally advocate a managed market economy predominantly private sector, but with an active role for government intervention during recessions and depressions.

Advanced Capitalism: the situation that pertains in a society in which the capitalist model has been integrated and developed deeply and extensively and for a prolonged period.

Supply-side economics is a macroeconomic theory arguing that economic growth can be most effectively created by lowering taxes and decreasing regulation. According to supply- side economics, consumers will then benefit from a greater supply of goods and services at lower prices and employment will increase.

Laissez-faire Capitalism: an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from government intervention such as regulation, privileges, tariffs and subsidies. Unrestrained capitalism, free of social regulations, with low, minimal or no government and operating almost entirely on the profit motive.

A simplified visualization of the Economic Axis.

The Autonomy Axis

Now we will examine a hierarchy vs equality paradigm when applied to the topic of individual freedom. In this axis, variations of humanism (including libertarianism and anarchism) represent the equality end of the binary while variations of statism (including authoritarianism and totalitarianism) represent the hierarchy.

There is an important distinction that should be made before we get into the definitions ahead. This is the classification of rights as either negative or positive. Negative Rights oblige inaction from the government (or any other relevant institution). That is, they are functions of an autonomous individual, business or organization which government has pledged not to interfere with. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion are common examples of negative rights. So that means Positive Rights refer to an obligation of action from the government (or any other relevant institution.) These might include right to an attorney during legal proceedings, right to housing, right to healthcare, etc. This concept was developed further by Czech jurist Karel Vasak who proposed three generations of rights. Negative rights were the first, positive rights (subdivided into economic equality and cultural) were second and third. Broadly speaking, right-wing libertarians [see next post] emphasize the importance of negative rights while downplaying or dismissing positive rights entirely. Left-wing libertarians [see next post] guarantee positive rights to various degrees depending on the specific ideology.

Humanism: a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition. Generally, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress.

Libertarianism: Generally speaking, Libertarians value maximizing individual liberty against state authority. This includes political and economic autonomy including the various freedoms in our own (and other countries’) bill of rights.

  • Libertarian Socialism: (or socialist libertarianism) is a group of anti- authoritarian political philosophies inside the socialist movement that rejects socialism as centralized state ownership and control of the economy. Libertarian socialism also rejects the state itself, is close to and overlaps with left-libertarianism and criticizes wage labor relationships within the workplace, instead emphasizing workers’ self-management of the workplace and decentralized structures of political organization. It asserts that a society based on freedom and justice can be achieved through abolishing authoritarian institutions that control certain means of production and subordinate the majority to an owning class or political and economic elite.

Georgism: (also called geoism and single tax,) is an economic philosophy holding that, while people should own the value they produce themselves, economic value derived from land (including natural resources and natural opportunities) should belong equally to all members of society. Closely related to the concept of a land value tax.

Geolibertarianism: An integration of Libertarianism with the aforementioned ideas of Georgism. Geolibertarians hold that geographical space and raw natural resources—any assets that qualify as land by economic definition are rivalrous goods to be considered common property which all individuals should share an equal human right to access, not capital wealth to be privatized fully and absolutely. They endorse the standard right- libertarian view that each individual is naturally entitled to the fruits of his or her labor as exclusive private property, as opposed to produced goods being owned collectively by society or by the government acting to represent society, and that a person’s “labor, wages, and the products of labor” should not be taxed. Also, along with non-Georgists in the libertarian movement, they advocate “full civil liberties, with no crimes unless there are victims who have been invaded.”

  • Cellular Democracy: Developed by geolibertarian political economist Fred E. Foldvary, cellular democracy is a model of democracy based on multi-level bottom-up structure based on either small neighborhood governmental districts or contractual communities. In cellular democracy, a jurisdiction such as a county or city is divided into neighborhood districts with a population of about 500 people, with about 100 to 200 households. The voters in the district would elect a council. The small size of districts would allow for more informed voters at a smaller cost. Representatives, plus one alternate, would be elected to the council. This would be a “level-I council”. A region containing 10 to 20 neighborhood districts would then vote for a “level-2 council” Each level-I council elects a regular representative and an alternate to the level-2 council from its own regular membership. This pattern would continue on throughout the nation-state or world. The level-I councils would collect a land value tax from its constituents, and then the next levels of councils would collect funds from lower-leveled councils below them.

Economic Democracy: (or stakeholder democracy) is a socioeconomic philosophy that proposes to shift decision-making power from corporate managers and corporate shareholders to a larger group of public stakeholders that includes workers, customers, suppliers, neighbors and the broader public. Proponents of economic democracy generally argue that modern capitalism periodically results in economic crises characterized by deficiency of effective demand, as society is unable to earn enough income to purchase its output production. Corporate monopoly of common resources typically creates artificial scarcity, resulting in socio-economic imbalances that restrict workers from access to economic opportunity and diminish consumer purchasing power.

Anarchism: When modern Americans hear the term anarchy, they associate it with chaos, lawlessness and dystopia. On its own terms, Anarchy is a generalized opposition to oppressive State power, and in some cases authority figures as a whole. Depending on the specific interpretation, Anarchists may either advocate for extreme individualism or collectivism. In its most extreme variations, anarchism’s ultimate goal is a state-less society. It is important to understand the difference between Private property (real estate, land) and Personal Property (possessions, items) when discussing certain forms of Anarchism, especially those on the left, as some variations advocate for the repeal of Private Property.

These stand fundamentally opposed to Authoritarianism (powerful centralized government, limited individual freedoms) and Totalitarianism (central government with absolute power). Juan Linz has differentiated them according to several criteria: Totalitarian regimes have low corruption, a charismatic leader who serves as a function, an official ideology, limited pluralism (multiple sources of power), and legitimacy. Authoritarian governments have the opposite in all categories. Generally the Authoritarian will allow for some separate institutions and private life to exist, while Totalitarians would control and remold private life to serve the state’s interest.

Authoritarian regimes (including Totalitarianists) typically have four defining characteristics including: limited political pluralism (number of institutions), manipulating emotions to justify the regimes’ actions (usually via an external or internal “enemy”) minimized ability for social mobilization, and informally defined executive power. Both are variations of the umbrella term Statism, which refers to the belief that the state should exercise both/either economic and social control over the populace to some degree.

A simplified visualization of the Autonomy Axis.


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