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Why the two-party system?

Posted by Chance on May 6, 2009

Sometimes I’m puzzled by the two-party system that we have, especially in light of the two dimensional model of politics.  The two dimensional model has an axis for economic freedom and an axis for personal freedom.

I’m going to share two theories on why we have a two party system.  These are not completely exclusive to each other.

#1 It truly reflects our cultural values

As you can see on the left, liberals favor personal freedom but less so economic freedom, and conservatives vice versa.

However, I think where some people who espouse this model get this wrong is the whole freedom vs. government control.  I believe that most people don’t vote the way they do because they way the costs and benefits of government control vs. individual freedom, it’s that they have a certain viewpoint of how the world should be, and their political viewpoint is shaped by this.

In other words, I think political philosophy is not shaped by how they perceive the role of government, but on cultural issues.  Government is a big part of life, and these cultural issues turn into political issues.

For example, some people are free market because they don’t believe in a managed economy.  Many people, however, believe in a free market because of deeply ingrained conservative values, like the Protestant work ethic – people get what they work for, etc.  (I could be off on this one as people are learning from failed experiences of communist countries).  Concerning the issue of gay marriage, it is really split along the lines of what people personally believe.  People who disagree with homosexuality for the most part will oppose gay marriage.  People supporting gay marriage are composed largely of people who really see no problem with homosexuality whatsoever.

I think when someone is more into limited government, they may tend toward the top of this diamond.  For instance, people who may have far different believes concerning religion and social mores may nonetheless share common political beliefs due to belief in limited government.

I’m not saying cultural values don’t have any place in our voting, but that we should also question whether or not government has business getting involved in this or that issue.  If that happens, maybe the two party mold will break. Maybe that will happen as government increasingly gets more and more involved in people’s lives that will happen.

#2 It has to do more with power and not people’s values

Perhaps many people do not fit the two-party mold, but for some reason or another, the two-party system has a stranglehold on America politics.  They got into power at one point in time, and once they are there, it is hard to move them.

This leaves a few questions.  How do we break this stronghold?  Also, if the two-party system does not reflect our values, what would it look like.  In general, are people big government (at the bottom of the diamond) or are we all really libertarians at heart (at the top)?


4 Responses to “Why the two-party system?”

  1. drmyers said

    Hey there
    Enjoyed you blog, and I have read a few of the other ones as well. Take a look at my blog: drmyers.wordpress.com; dealing with Gay Marriage.
    I’d love to dialog with you about perhaps placing a link there so my readers could take a look at what you’re doing.
    Again, keep up the suburb work!
    Aaron Myers

  2. d.eris said

    “How do we break this stronghold?” I think the answer may be very simple. Stop voting for them. Begin actively supporting third parties and their candidates.

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