The Political Compass

If you haven’t taken the Political Compass test, you really should. For those unfamiliar with the working theory, basically this measure sees the standard left/right dichotomy as being woefully inadequate for explaining the realities of American political life. In their view, you really have to consider both economic and social scales to get a true read on somebody’s orientation. For instance, if you’re an economic conservative but you think the GOP spends way too much time trying to make restrictive social policies, you’re going to be really conflicted by both major parties. In this view, such a person would be a Libertarian Conservative – economically right, socially liberal. And so on.

Both an economic dimension and a social dimension are important factors for a proper political analysis. By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftist (ie the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. While the former involves state-imposed arbitary collectivism in the extreme top left, on the extreme bottom left is voluntary collectivism at regional level, with no state involved. Hundreds of such anarchist communities exisited in Spain during the civil war period

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).

Here’s their graphic illustrating the four quadrants:

As you roll through the results page, you see that they have placed various historical figures in their respective boxes, thusly:

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, let me show you where I am, with a hitch.

The hitch is this. The red dot is where the test says I am, and in practice it’s probably about right. However, my sense is that this describes a snapshot of me at this moment, and that it reflects my reactions against various excesses of power more than it does who I actually am at a theoretical level. My best guess is that if I were freed from being pissed off by a few particular factors, the blue dot better represents who I am in a vacuum. Of course, I could be wrong, and we’ll never know, because there will never be a time when our politics are free from the influences of context.

At any rate, I imagine that theoretically I’m more conservative economically and socially more liberal in a perfect world where people behave theirdamnedselves. I can say with certainty that the dot has moved since the Clinton years, so there’s ample reason to see our place on the compass as changeable.

So take the test and report back, huh?


7 thoughts on “The Political Compass

  1. Today:
    Economic Left/Right: -6.25
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.64
    6 Months ago, pre-election:
    Economic Left/Right: -6.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.23

  2. political compass
    I find myself where I thought I would be…lower left corner among the other anarchists. I am proud to be there. Paul Wieland

  3. Thank you. Not all of us evil conservatives are mysognistic, racist, thieves who want your firstborn. Most conservatives who have any intellectual bent at all, are far more tolerant of opposing views than people on the left could ever imagine.

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