Here is my personal view of the political spectrum.
I think there are three axes, which I will outline below;
First is the left/right axis, with left being Liberal and right being Conservative.
Second is the vertical axis, with up being Authoritarian and down being Libertarian.
Thirdly is the near/far axis, with near being Progressive and far being Traditionalist.
Above you see a simple drawing of what I am talking about. You will notice I used circles around the axes, this is because as you get to the extreme on any axis it becomes impossible to claim adherence to other thought patterns. For example, as you become more and more Authoritarian, you can’t really be liberal or conservative, because your authoritarian nature won’t allow you to see perspectives that might mitigate the need for authority. So, you can’t really be at the far end of any two outlooks, for an extreme law and order conservative to also claim to be an extreme libertarian is simply a case of someone lying to themselves.
Often in discussions about politics people lump Liberal and Progressive together, and Traditionalist and Conservative together for several reasons, but primarily it is due to rhetoric. When Republicans defeated Kerry in 2004, it was thought that one of the reasons was that he was branded a Liberal, which was accurate, and they felt that Liberalism wouldn’t sell in the US. So, they proceeded to try to rebrand themselves as Progressives, and in trying to combat the Religious Right, they started equating Conservative with Traditionalist. This has been largely successful, at least until Trump came on the scene. However this is complete hogwash, Traditional and Conservative are two entirely different things, as are Liberal and Progressive.
A severe limiting factor in US politics is our two party system, we tend to think of the Democrats as being Liberal and the Republicans as being Conservative. While the Republican party is more conservative than the Democratic party, they are really coalitions. The Democrats have largely built a coalition of identity groups, and those that sympathize with their concerns, while the Republicans have built a coalition of business interests and religious voters. Libertarians largely vote Republican because restrained government sounds more liberty oriented than the social justice regime put forth by the Democrats. These coalitions are not made up of ideologically consistent voters. For example, opposition to same sex marriage and laws banning it are often staples of Republican politics, but promoting laws restricting personal behavior is in no way conservative, it is the definition of Liberalism.
Getting back to the point, no one is 100% liberal or conservative, and the dictionary definitions are just wrong, mainly because they are written by ‘liberals’ and meant to promote liberalism. Why? because they can. Liberals dominate university faculties, because liberals tend to be people that live in the world of idealism, by that I mean they see the world as they want it to be, and often reject the realities of the world around them. On the other hand conservatives see the world around them and tend to assume the entire world works the way their community does, rejecting the truth that idealism is an important driver for society. I am a conservative and as such I prefer to look at people as they really are, and use terms in ways that describe reality. So to understand what a 3D view of the political spectrum means you need to understand the words as they apply to real people, not ideals.
So, lets look at the terms:
Liberal/Conservative; The difference here is primarily about the role of government in relation to society. Liberals tend to think that government has a responsibility to control society, while conservative tend to think society should control government. One way this plays out is in fiscal decisions. Conservatives think that government’s primary role is one of protector, this leads them to support spending on Defense and law enforcement. Liberals see government as way to mold society, which leads them to be more tolerant of entitlement spending and social justice initiatives. Any functioning society needs both, the question is how much.
Authoritarian/Libertarian; The difference here is primarily about where power resides. Authoritarians want the government to dictate to the individual how they will live and conduct themselves, Libertarians want the government to have no say in how an individual lives. Libertarians will oppose almost any social law, they want society to punish bad behavior, and mostly don’t see the need for laws like the Civil Rights Act. Authoritarians want the government to impose their own ideas of how others should live upon them, and they generally will support any law that forces others to conform to their own way of thinking. Government is inherently authoritarian.
Progressive/Traditionalist; Progressives want change, they don’t like the way things are, or simply think things could be better. Traditionalists like the status quo, or find comfort in knowing how things work, and traditions provide that comfort. Most people like some traditions while wanting others to change, the real issue is what do you want changed, and what do you think is working just fine like it is. The more religious you are the more traditional you will tend to be, this is because religions are based on what the people before you have learned and established.
So you might be wondering where I stand in all this, I am a fiscal conservative, social libertarian, and policy progressive. Right now you are screaming “SYBIL” in your head, let me explain. I think society can only be healthy economically with about a 20% tax rate against GDP (Gross Domestic Product), so government needs to operate within that constraint. Piling up debt against future generations is unfair and ultimately destructive. Hence the fiscal conservatism. I am a strong believer in individual freedom, and people should be able to make their own personal choices in regards to social constructs. I don’t believe the government should be imposing anyone’s views of morality on others, unless what you are doing directly harms someone else, you should be able to do it. Marry who you want, associate with who you like, be a complete jerk if you want, it is on you. So, social libertarian. Lastly, policy progressive. I believe that government policy should foster and promote progress, but not impose it on society. Sometimes this means spending on green initiatives, for example, other times it means the government getting out of the way.
So there you have it ‘Politics in 3D’, I am well aware this is not a conventional view, but it is mine.