The Left-Right Spectrum Doesn’t Make Sense

We can all agree the Democratic Party is left-wing, and the Republican Party is right-wing, but what about third parties? The Greens are to the left of the Democrats, the Constitution Party is to the right of the Republicans, the Reform Party is in the center, and the Libertarian Party is… it’s complicated.

Are Libertarians Left- or Right-Wing?

The LP is pro-choice, supports gay marriage, and opposes the death penalty — so they must be left-wing, right? Well, not so fast; they also support lowering taxes, want to repeal regulation, and are opposed to the minimum wage — so… they’re right-wing?

These views might seem contradictory to the average Democrat or Republican, since they seemingly took a bunch of random positions from both sides, but from the Libertarians’ perspective: the two major parties are contradictory for not being fully committed to freedom.

Trying to place the LP on the left-right spectrum is impossible; you could ignore their economic policy and put them on the left, you could ignore their authority policy and put them on the right, or you could take an average and put them in the center — none of these are good options.

Where is Christian Democracy?

Furthermore, there are a lot of people (14% of Americans), like me, who are socially conservative and economically progressive (the opposite of the LP). Think of the American Solidarity and Prohibition parties, which adhere to Christian Democracy. Are we left-wing, right-wing, or in the center? Again: none of these are good options.

Political Short-Hand

The terms “left-” and “right-wing” are just short-hand for whatever position the two major parties take; whatever the Democrats want is to the left, and whatever the Republicans want is to the right. Most Americans, however, are syncretic, meaning they take positions from both sides (given most of them lean one way or the other).

This short-hand can vary across different countries and cultures. Romania’s left-wing party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), for example: is left-wing on economic issues, but right-wing on social issues.

The Romanian right is generally right-wing on economic issues, but left-wing on social issues — at least relative to the PSD.

While the terms “left-” and “right-wing” can be useful as short-hand, it’s important to understand that not everyone falls neatly into one or the other, and your perception of what’s left- or right-wing might be different from someone else’s.

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View Sources

Amelia May Johnson, “Politics Explained: Romania’s Social Democratic Party: Conservative Socialism” YouTube, 23 May 2021, https://youtu.be/6Xs2L5WknLc. Accessed 8 Aug. 2021.

(Yes, I’m citing my own YouTube video, but I already listed a bunch of sources there, and if you’re interested enough to dig through the sources: you’ll probably like that video anyways.)

“June Verified Voter Omnibus — Quadrants” Echelon Insights, Jun. 2021, https://echeloninsights.com/in-the-news/june-omnibus-quadrants/. Accessed 8 Aug. 2021.

“Platform” Libertarian Party, Jul. 2018, https://www.lp.org/platform/. Accessed 8 Aug. 2021.


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