Arnold Kling suggests that Americans usually speak about politics and government using one of three different “languages,” or paradigms:
“My hypothesis is that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians view politics along three different axes:
For progressives, the main axis has oppressors at one end and the oppressed at the other.
For conservatives, the main axis has civilization at one end and barbarism at the other.
For libertarians, the main axis has coercion at one end and free choice at the other.”
According to Kling, progressives view societal problems mainly in terms of oppression of the weak by the strong. Conservatives are most concerned about defending traditional values and institutions. And Libertarians promote individual liberty against governmental encroachments. Failing to appreciate these differences in outlook causes people to talk past and even misjudge each other.