Sunday, August 21, 2005

Right, Left, Authoritarian, Libertarian: The Political Compass

I can't believe I never posted this here. I'm not sure if anyone actually reads this, but for those who do, I urge you to go to politicalcompass.org and take the test.

This is is a fairly intelligent attempt to guage where respondents stand both on a political and on a social spectrum. The idea is that when we refer to people as 'right-wing' or 'left-wing' we are, of necessity, being highly reductive. For example, a Bushie might be socially very authoritarian but economically very libertarian, whereas a lot of people in the United States or other Western countries who identify as 'liberal' are very socially libertarian but less so econonomically, since they are more accepting of government intervention in the economy than libertarianism allows for.

In the Indian context, for example, parties like the CPM tend to be pretty interventionist economically (classic left-wing politics, pro-government, anti-private-sector, etc;, though of course these days the gap between rhetoric and practice is pretty large, think for a moment of the Left Front government in West Bengal), but also quite authoritarian socially, so that they are in fact quite the opposite of any idea of liberalism. The present version of the Congress, on the other hand, is on the whole reasonably right-of-centre economically but continues to have certain left-wing tendewncies (the Rural Employment Guarantee, for example, is pretty interventionist, and it's hard to imagine it having come from a more straightforwardly right-of-centre party like the BJP), but has social politics quite difficult for me to classify offhand (umbrella parties like the Congress usually have space for all shdes of social opinion, from very liberal to very conservative - think for a moment of the guy banning dance bars in Mumbai, who is a classic authoritarian).

Similarly, as the site argues, whatin the UK used to be a classically 'left-wing' party - Labour - is now significantly right-of-centre economically, and also more authoritarian than libertarian (post-7/7, this is clearer than ever before, with Labour's complete nonchalance when it comes to the erosion of civil liberties being typified by its staunch defence of the Metropolitan Police in the case of the Brazilian-who-wasn't-even-behaving-like-a-terrorist...)

In that sense, therefore, categories like 'right-wing' and 'liberal' and 'left-wing' are not entirely satisfactory. Of course, any such attempt to classify people is bound to have some shortcomings, like any summary measure, but this survey is pretty nifty, I think. Take the test, and report your scores! I'm interested to know where people stand...

2 Comments:

Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

As if I'd tell you :)!

Seriously though, I think any result the test shows up would leave me dissatisfied, because these labels are uncomfortable and hard to justify at many levels. I empathize with many feminist causes, am mostly an economic libertarian with a sprinkling of intervention thrown in, an out and out liberal on social issues, and tolerant agnostic on religion. And yet, any such label on it's own is anathema to me.

I'm the micro-equivalent of Indian coalition politics' "issue-based support".

10:40 AM  
Blogger SomeOl'Guy said...

to t_m: i know what you mean, but i actually liked this one. the reason it's two-axis reductiveness works so well, i've realised, is that they've identified the most common cleavage - between economic and social issues. basically, i think that most people who are 'libertarian' on religion are also so on social and other such grounds, andi imagine that agnosticism would fit on the same part of the axis. on the other hand, many social libertarians tend to be fairly pro-state intervention on economic criteria - and by giving you a separate ecomnomic and social score, what this does is that it allows for this most common negative correlation. from your description of yourself, i'd imagine it'd give you a -6-ish or even more negative on social, and 0 to -2 on economic. this would make us twins ;)

4:59 PM  

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