In American politics today, right and left are often just labels -- Democrats and Republicans alike believe that their stance should be whatever does most damage to the other side. Forget having any political principles. For example, the principles behind "Obamacare" began in conservative think tanks like the Heritage foundation and were loved by the Republican party. Until those principles became Obama's, and then they became a socialist world plot. On the other hand, it was Clinton who make possible the lax finance-regulation environment that yielded the financial crisis of 2008. Whatever happened to consumer advocacy, and a check on big business?
Amid all that confusion, it's useful to remember what each side is supposed to stand for, and David McCandless has attempted to lay it all out in an infographic.[Click image to enlarge]
Created with data-viz phenom Stefanie Posavec, the chart is actually McCandless's second stab at the challenge; he acknowledges that the early versions displayed a slight liberal bias, owing to his own beliefs, which painted the left in a slightly better light. So he endeavored to correct that. Here is a detail of the left side:
And the right:
It all seems fairly accurate, at least in regards to the basic political principles. (The survey data, however, seems a bit baffling to me -- and its not clear what the source is.) But maybe the most subtle argument within the chart -- and perhaps the most controversial -- lies in the connection between political beliefs and child-rearing. As McCandless thinks of it, the right-leaning parenting style is based on "respect and fear": Stern discipline that produces a self-reliant child. On the left, it's "respect and trust," which lead to a nurturing environment that's about self-expression.
There's a nugget of anecdotal truth behind these simplifications. Anyone who grew up in the South can attest to the child-rearing style there. And anyone who grew up in the Northeast or California can attest to the PC, anything-goes mores you'd find in your standard top-shelf Montessori school. (The major flaw with this sort of thinking, of course, is that it reflects not just a liberal view, a high-income liberal outlook; I'd guess that parenting is probably more of a function of income than politics.)
But then again, the idea of nurturing your child and treating them as something of an equal seems to dominate parenting books these days; you'd be hard-pressed to find a parenting book about the right way to dole out spankings. But we're awash in books about making a kid creative. Assuming that this reflects an underlying reality of parenting, the present age of parenting wisdom would seem to imply two things: 1. Liberals won the parenting debate. 2. The next generation of kids should be liberal as hell. The latter actually seems to be true. Could parenting be the cause? Studies consistently show that your political beliefs are largely inherited from your parents. So would a kid with conservative parents who believed in liberal parenting mores grow up to be a Democrat or a Republican? Makes for an interesting thought experiment; too bad we can't actually run a real experiment.