Where is “The Center”?

I’ve seen a few blogs and stories about how both major parties are drifting (or lurching) to “the right”. After thinking about this it doesn’t really make sense.

Where is the “center” and how is it defined?

Is the political spectrum a fix definition with extremes and a center that you can then place politicians on according to those criteria? Is the spectrum the sum total of current views and the center is the median of those views?

If we are talking about a fixed definition, then where/how does this exist?

If it’s a moving scale, then that would imply that as the politicians move further right, all the people who maintain the same views are naturally going to appear further left of centre.

The Greens have become a much less radicalised party since the Democrats dropped out of the picture and in many instances are now “taken seriously” on many of their policies. They aren’t as extreme, so that implies they have also softened and moved right also. This would further push the centre across more.

Which leads to the next problem. If the centre moves (because it’s a median, not a fixed point) then that would mean the center at any point in history is different. How do you truly compare to the past then? The current LNP may be said to be drifting to the centre right now, but because the lurch of Labor to the centre, that means the centre is actually further right than it was compared to a decade or two ago… so in effect the LNP may actually be further right than they were, but appearing to be closer to centre. (At this point I’m going to stop because my head is going to start to hurt)

So we have this feedback loop of non-sensical definitions about a political leanings that probably never really made much sense in the first place, let alone in todays world.

As for “left and right”, I think it is quite meaningless in the current age. When there were clearer lines between “Communism and Capitalism”, or “Workers and Bosses” perhaps it made more sense. I think that will be a topic for another blog post if I can get the words straight in my head.

(apologies if you see me using “centre” and “center”. I do documentation for US products with “center” in the name and tend to forget which is the correct English version to use 🙂 )

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7 Responses to Where is “The Center”?

  1. I don’t think ‘left and right’ are meaningless, but it is problematic. I think your question comes down to what I call ‘positionism’: declaring ‘sides’ based on where they stand on particular issues rather than the thinking behind those positions: http://onlythesangfroid.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/help-me-make-the-most-of-freedom-and-pleasure-uselection-auspol-and-ozmedia/

    • Scott says:

      If “left and right” were defined on a per topic basis then I’d tend to agree, but they aren’t as I see it. The generalisation that a person is left or right on *everything* is the only way I’m aware of it being used.
      One thing that really irks me is Tony Abbott’s reference to governing from the “Sensible Centre”. What does that even mean?!? It makes even less sense than I can fathom. If the centre is a place between two positions, then if the “right” becomes the centre, it is no longer the right, and the centre would then be moved to the left… repeat ad-finitum.
      Perhaps it is a rhetorical artifact that isn’t supposed to mean anything of itself. In politics of the modern era though, it would appear to have manifested itself as a real thing.
      It’s all very Terry Pratchett… if enough people believe in it does it become real?

  2. Scott says:

    “Not extreme” would make more sense. The complacency point extrapolates to “won’t make a decision”. Is complacency and apathy the same thing in this case? Do we really want a leader whos actual stated position is to never make a decision? It’s one thing to be conservative and resist radical and disruptive change, but even being conservative requires some decisions to be made to maintain that status-quo.
    Being centre implies never taking a stance on any decision.
    Here’s a link that was suggested to me http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/04/21/our-fetish-with-the-political-centre/ that mentions the Centrists position on slavery in the US. If you chose not to take a position on something like slavery (centre), then how could that be considered to be any different to endorsing it? (Yes, that’s an extreme example that hopefully doesn’t draw parallels to Australian politics… oh wait, refugee policies…)

  3. Doc says:

    These are terms that are so general they confuse me too Scott (doesn’t help that I have a dash of dyslexia for L&R anyway, haha). Far right and far left have some meaning i.e extremists, but by themselves I think they’re just left over MSM erms that make for seemingly labelling and accusation. I was talking to a mate about FTTH the other day and he said “Fibre? You’re such a leftie”. Well, no I just happen to see that FTTH os the best solution for Australia, it happens that the ALP is championing that, but IMO a single issue doesn’t make me left or right, it’s just a technical view. Both parties seem to be near the ‘centre’ (which I now define as trying to keep everyone happy by pandering to poll fluctuations and sa
    mall demographic political issues) on a lot of things, probs why we have a hung parliament. Nice post, glad I’m not the only one that oversimplified left and right confuses, haha.

    • Scott says:

      Your point on the support of FTTP making you “a leftie” is like the point I made in this other blog post https://thinkanotherday.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/am-i-a-leftist-or-a-rightist/
      Essentially, it’s not a political position, it’s a technology. I don’t care who proposes it, I support the tech regardless. I find the automatic labeling of people based purely on the policies a party happens to have picked so frustrating. Usually it’s just that one party got the out policy before the other one, so the other just takes the opposite. Very rarely these days do they seem to co-incide with the values that those parties claimed to represent in the past.

  4. Doc says:

    “Essentially, it’s not a political position, it’s a technology” – Indeed. Also upon re-reading my post, apologies for the atrocious typo’s. In my defence my 3yo was using me for a trampoline at the time. I’ll be sure to type in a less distracting space next time 🙂

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