What’s YOUR political compass heading?

"On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook." So the introduction to Political Compass goes. The old left-right continuum you learned in high school (or should have) is not enough, according to the creators of Political Compass (Pace News Limited, about which Google turns up nothing, pity). It's more accurate to place political positions on a quadrant: the x-axis is the old left-right continuum and the y-axis is authoritarian at the top and libertarian at the bottom. Like so:


The authors have this to say about the chart above:
"Both an economic dimension and a social dimension are important factors for a proper poltical analysis. By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftiist (ie the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. You can also put Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market, on the far right as well as in a hardcore authoritarian position. On the non-socialist side you can distinguish someone like Milton Friedman, who is anti-state for fiscal rather than social reasons, from Hitler, who wanted to make the state stronger, even if he wiped out half of humanity in the process.

"The chart also makes clear that, despite popular perceptions, the opposite of fascism is not communism but anarchism (ie liberal socialism), and that the opposite of communism ( i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) is neo-liberalism (i.e. extreme deregulated economy)"

To determine where YOU fit, they offer a test. A very crude, flawed test, but I suppose it puts you in the right quadrant? Or maybe not. At any rate, the problem with the test is that many of the terms are ambiguous. You answer the questions from "Strongly Agree" to "Strongly Disagree," with no qualifying available. There is one question, for example, "Education should involve enabling children to develop their own personality." What does this mean? It reads like a good thing at first glance, but think about it: does this means schools should focus on things like self esteem or psychological development, or does it mean NOT focusing on these things? A huge difference.

Or how about this one: "The most important lesson for all children is discipline and respect for authority." What is meant by "discipline" and what is meant by "authority?" Does discipline mean self discipline, or the discipline needed to learn, or does it mean following all the rules? Does authority mean parental and governmental authority, or does it mean respect for facts, such as authority imposed by the laws of physics or, if you're inclined this way, authority imposed by god or the gods?

One more example, then you should go take the test for yourself. "No broadcasting institutions should receive public funding." Well, what KIND of public funding? Contributions? Taxpayer dollars? Are there conditions attached to the funding and if so, could they compromise the broadcaster's independence?

While the test, and the results, are extremely interesting, the real world involves way, way too many conditions for this test to lead to a truly accurate representation of one's political compass bearing.

The other thing that bothers me about this is the lack of information about the test developers. It's a pity, since it has a LOT of potential.

By the way, I was so not surprised to find myself in the Libertarian Left quadrant. Less left than Stanley (who led me to this test), but more libertarian.
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/26/03 at 06:05 PM
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