Political spectrum

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A political spectrum is a way of comparing or visualizing different political positions. It does this by placing them upon one or more geometric axes symbolising political dimensions that it models as being independent of one another.

Many editors of electowiki prefer to think of the political spectrum as a multi-dimensional entity. Few editors agree on the best abstract definition of this spectrum.[1]

Formal definition[edit | edit source]

Mathematically, a political spectrum is defined by:

  • a dimension n, representing the number of independent issues under consideration. Voters are represented by points in V = [0,1]n.
  • a voter density function v: V → ℜ
  • a distance function d: V × V → ℜ that is positive definite and symmetric and satisfies the triangle inequality. Ballots are determined from the assumption that voters prefer candidates which are closer (according to this distance function) to them.

Ultimately, these are projections of a multi-dimensional political space onto a space of fewer dimensions, to generalize and make discussion simpler.

One-dimensional[edit | edit source]

The simplest example of a political spectrum is the uniform linear political spectrum, in which n=1, v(x)=1, and d(x,y)=|x-y|. The directions on this spectrum are normally referred to as left and right.

Two-dimensional[edit | edit source]

There are many two-dimensional political spaces. The Nolan chart and Political Compass are two popular examples, which can be seen as rotated versions of each other. The Pournelle chart is another variation with a different set of axes.

Political Compass.jpg

Higher dimensions[edit | edit source]

Political opinion can be divided into essentially any number of dimensions. Some other examples include the 3-dimensional Sapply Compass, the 4-dimensional 8values space, and the 9Axes space.

One study of German voters found that at least four dimensions were required to adequately represent all political parties.[2]

Three Telos Model[edit | edit source]

The Three Telos Model or Triangle political Map is a way to describe political beliefs based on the core axiom of the philosophy. It is based on the concept of a w:ternary plot where the different underlying philosophies can be mixed but must sum up to the totality of the of the persons ideological position.

A video explanation of this model can be found here.

Politics map triangle1.png

Equity/Equality of outcome[edit | edit source]

  • Justification: Equity can be good because it is fair and reduces harm and abuses of power in many ways
  • Philosophical foundation: Young Hegelians and Marxism
  • Morals: victim culture
  • Economics: marxism/socialism
  • Structure: flat
  • Power holder: government
  • Basic unit: group/collective
  • Truth source: postmodern denial of truth
  • World view: power structures
  • Vision of Nature: Unconstrained Utopian

Freedom/Liberty[edit | edit source]

  • Justification: Freedom can be good because people have a need for self-determination
  • Philosophical foundation: Liberalism and Enlightenment Humanism
  • Morals: dignity culture
  • Economics: free market capitalism
  • Structure: meritocratic/ competence hierarchy
  • Power holder: worthy
  • Basic unit: individual
  • Truth source: scientific method
  • World view: Materialism
  • Vision of Nature: Constrained Emergent

Tradition[edit | edit source]

  • Justification: tradition can be good because people have attachment to the practices that tie them to a community, and changing society rapidly can be destructive.
  • Philosophical foundation: Ancient philosophy and Right Hegelianism
  • Morals: honour culture
  • Economics: mercantile/feudal
  • Structure: inherited cast or class hierarchy
  • Power holder: cast or class
  • Basic unit: family or tribe
  • Truth: divine knowledge
  • World view: Idealism
  • Vision of Nature: Constrained Structured

Ideology Placement[edit | edit source]

As in the two dimensional maps like the political compass, the differing ideologies can be put onto this map.


Nonlinear spaces[edit | edit source]

Not all ways of classifying a political ideology need map to a cube or use the standard p-norm distances.

What is often called horseshoe theory claims that the extreme authoritarian economic left (Communism) is adjacent or close to extreme authoritarian economic right (neo-reactionism/fascism). A classification that follows this thought must then place these two close by or next to each other: either by using dimensions where they naturally fit next to each other, or by making opinion space curved so that going in the direction of fascism leads to Communism.

Different political philosophers also argue that a good political ideology must also incorporate additional constraints. For instance, from the economic right, Milton Friedman advocated for the necessity of putting one of two desired values ahead of the other by stating "A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both". From the economic left, anarchist Mikhail Bakunin argued that a good political ideology must have both significant amounts of freedom and equality, stating that "Freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice; socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality".

Such additional constraints would impose further structure on a political classification chart; however, it may still be useful to represent political ideologies that violate the constraints. Even if they are in some way suboptimal or are inherently self-contradictory, people may still hold them.

Calculations[edit | edit source]

Statistics that can be computed from a political spectrum and a set of candidates include:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Refer to the Electowiki Point of View (EPOV)
  2. Alós-Ferrer, Carlos; Granić, Đura-Georg (2015-09-01). "Political space representations with approval data". Electoral Studies. 39: 56–71. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2015.04.003. hdl:1765/111247. The analysis reveals that the underlying political landscapes ... are inherently multidimensional and cannot be reduced to a single left-right dimension, or even to a two-dimensional space. ... From this representation, lower-dimensional projections can be considered which help with the visualization of the political space as resulting from an aggregation of voters' preferences. ... Even though the method aims to obtain a representation with as few dimensions as possible, we still obtain representations with four dimensions or more.