Are we splitting along authoritarian/libertarian lines rather than left/right?

king portraitby lisby1

Turkey, Brazil, Prism – what is going on? Cultural Global Civil War
[Via Robert Paterson’s Weblog]

I am sure that you , like me, have been wondering what is going on as seemingly small issues such as bus pass prices or a development project seem to spark such massive social movements. 

As I walked the dog this morning it was what filled my mind.

Might it be that many many people have lost faith with the idea and the practice of government?

They don’t want Bread and Circuses as in Brazil. They want government to do what government used to do – operate good schools and healthcare.The government seems bought off by FIFA and the IOC and the developers. The government fails most of the people. 

They don’t want developers to rule in Turkey and urban Turks do not want a theocracy. The traditionalist government is supported by the rural vote. The urban Turks cannot go back but the rural Turks cannot go forward.

In America we also see a split between the Coasts and coastal cities and much of the old Confederacy. Neither side feels that government represents them. No single government can! Instead it seems clear to most now that the US government serves only the elite. 

I think that we are seeing a 3 way split. There is a conflict in values between the new and the old and the Elites have taken the prize.

Might it be that many nations are split in their values between “traditionalists” who look to external authority and to a growing group of people who are “participants” who need to be actors in their own lives. Who look to their internal locus of control?


I think Robert has something here, although I would not use the term traditionalist, as that makes it seem like those people are along the conservative-liberal axis.

I like the Political Compass which introduces a second axis based on social views.It looks like this:

political compass

What Robert calls traditionalists and participants seems to follow the Authoritarian/Libertarian axis – Authoritarians believe that social control should be exerted by traditional authorities who should be obeyed while Libertarians believe individual freedom should be foremost.

The left feels economic control should be exercised by the state while the right feels it  should be controlled only by the free market.

Nation states have always required a strong authoritarian streak. After all, they formed to provide protection for communities from other nation states.

So we saw kings, queens, strong men, etc. If we look at our greatest Presidents, they almost all acted in a strong authoritarian mode. Today, people seem to feel that the President is the ruler of America, responsible for everything.

Our Founders tried to create a sustainable country that worked down towards the Libertarian side of individual freedom while still having a left and a right (Federalists and anti-Federalists).

We seem to be seeing an increasing split amongst both liberals and conservatives regarding the NSA leaks, one that pulls them all along the authoritarian/libertarian axis.

On both the left and right we hear that it was all legal so nothing to worry about. Authoritarian.

And we hear that even if it is legal, it violated the ideas of personal freedoms encapsulated in the Constitution. Libertarian.

This may be the division of the next decade – fear of terrorism driving both the left and right to Authoritarian – while the individual participation of the Information Age drives others in the left and right to Libertarian.

I will not be surprised to see both the GOP and Democratic Party fracture along these lines, reforming coalitions more along the Authoritarian/Libertarian axis.

5 thoughts on “Are we splitting along authoritarian/libertarian lines rather than left/right?

  1. As long as the Constitution is being trampled on by Executive Order, we will be in trouble. Has nothing to do with parties. For that matter, the government was never meant to take over education or charity.

    1. That is what is fascinating. There are large pluralities of both parties that want a strong powerful Executive (the authoritarians). And both parties also have large pluralities that worry about concentration of power in the Executive (libertarian,although that word hardly means anything anymore).

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