I think it is time to move beyond the old "left/right" or liberal/conservative paradigm that has dominated much political discussion over the past few decades. These terms have been in use for a very long time, and their intended use was to help political scientinsts to catagorize political ideologies. But through overuse and changing times the words have ceased to have any real meaning. These labels have begun to get in the way of progress. We no longer debate issues and make compromises. It is now all about being right and forcing one ideology down the throats of everyone. So much emotional baggage has been attached to the words that it in not uncommon to see them hurled around on discussion boards and in the media like hand grenades, and unfortunatly much of the rhetoric that comes from our elected leaders is not much better.
I recently found a website that I think offers an alternative. I'd like to hear what other people think of this as well.
The Political Compass
To summarize, instead of our overly simplistic one dimensional political spectrum, they use a two dimensional spectrum, or "compass." The horizontal position on this compass is called the economic scale, and it retains the traditional left/right labels. At the extreme left end of that axis is collectivism and the extreme right end is Neo-liberalism (unfettered free markets). The vertical axis is referred to as the social scale. The upper end of this axis is referred to as authoritarianism and the lower end is labeled libertarianism. Fascism lies at the extreme upward end of the spectrum while anarchism lies at the extreme lower end.
You can take a test on this webpage that will tell you where you lie on the compass. It will also tell you where some of todays prominent politicians lie, as well as important figures throughout history. I think it is interesting to note that, on this compass, Communism is not diametrically opposed to Fascism, as it is often described. They actually aren't that far from each other on the compass. Fascism is extremely authoritarian, but on economic matters it is generally fairly moderate.