There are those who would have us believe that there are two types of political thought in this world, conservative and liberal. Black and white, very simple. However if you ask for a definition of either word you will get many different answers. To say that there is only two option on any topic is obviously an over simplification. Take for example public education. There are people who want to eliminate public education all together, there are those who believe we should significantly increase all teachers salaries, there are those who think we should allow vouchers and keep the pay the same, there are those who think the status quo is just fine.
I’m a big fan of the site Political Compass because it ranks people on a scale. Both an economic and a civil liberties scale. This helps people realize that things are as simple as they often think they are.
Speaking of graphs. Several years ago in a political science class the professor drew a graph. When I think about it now, it just seems so obvious, but at the time it was completely new to me.
I know his graph was different than mine, but I believe I am being faithful to the idea. What this graph suggests is that some government involvement is good for the economy, but that too much is bad. Think about the government protecting shipping, building roads, enforcing truth in advertising, and clean food. There are anarchist who would argue there should be no government, and there are communist who argue that the government should control everything. This graph is for everyone in the middle, which is most people.
The devil is in the details. You probably noticed that there’s no marks on the graph indicating what the “ideal” government involvement level is. That’s where the disagreement is, and you can have a disagreement about that on every single political topic.
I for one welcome those debates and think they are healthy for a democracy. The problem is too many people think the other side is full of either anarchist or communist that will push this country into economic destruction. So we fight and argue with each other over things that very few of us actually believe, because we have been convinced by people on our own side that everyone on the other side is an extremist and we are the moderates, and there are no other options.