Saturday, 25 November 2006

Slightly less authoritarian than the Dalai Lama

I have been looking at the Political Compass website again. For those of you unaware of this interesting site, it asks the reader 64 politically-oriented questions and then tries to place him/her on a grid where the x-axis is a line between “left” and “right” (by which I expect they mean collectivism verses the market) and the y-axis represents liberty verses authoritarianism.

Jock Coats says in his blog that he feels that “some of the questions are a little awkward.” I think this is if anything an understatement, though having done quite a few of these questionnaires in my time (on occasions when I have been tempted to enter the Government bureaucracy) I recognise that they are always rather poorly phrased, and I suspect that they are difficult to get right.

· The very first statement one must assess is “If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.” There is no option to point out that thriving trans-national corporations are our means of generating the wealth and jobs and transmitting the goods and services necessary to serve humanity.
· My favourite, however, is that “"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a fundamentally good idea.” to which I always reply that I Strongly Agree. It’s a brilliant idea, but totally impractical in the real world. Thus the Compass erroneously pushes me slightly more towards the Marxist camp than I deserve.
· An even more extreme example is “A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.” I strongly agree, but I also strongly believe that the negatives far outweigh the positives. However, I am now pushed towards the Fascist camp. I see myself landing next to Stalin at this rate.
· “Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers.” This is true. It is also true of fathers, but nobody asks about them!
· “Astrology accurately explains many things.” Yep! But not in the way they mean!
· “No one can feel naturally homosexual.” No matter what one thinks of this, it is irrelevant. What matters is whether you think those who feel homosexual (naturally or not) should be treated equally within society.

Nonetheless, I think overall the test works okay. In the end I appear to be a true liberal – as the Libertarians say, people should be free of Government both in the bedroom and the boardroom. Rather than rubbing shoulders with Stalin or Ghandi, I’m nearer Murray Rothbard. Readers may not consider this a good thing!

I think my wife got the best result, though. She turned out to be slightly less authoritarian than the Dalai Lama!

I urge you to give the test a go. It’s fun and enlightening at the same time, and that’s a rare and valuable combination.

3 comments:

Duncan Borrowman said...

I took it a few weeks ago exchanging emails with PragueTory - this was my comment:
No problem (have you done the political compass test at http://www.politicalcompass.org ? It is a bit of fun, that puts me close to the Dalai Lama (though those who know me may question that!) on a score of Economic Left/Right: -6.25 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.67

Jock Coats said...

Yes, one tends to want to answer "agree/disagree because..."

So on your first problematic one I answered "Strongly agree"...but only because the ultimate end of corporations and trade is the benefit of people. But there's another twist there too - globalization will, I believe, be the undoing of trans-national and multi-national corporations in a way - in that we have more freedom to do more local deals on a global scale. In particular commodities based multi-nationals could suffer significantly with this levelling of the playing field in favour of the individual.

I'm not sure that the homosexuality one is as irrelevant as you think. In a similar vein to the mothers should raise children one it reveals an attitude. But I do agree it seems out of place.

I once plotted a whole bunch of people's scores from this on a website I am a member of - nearly everyone was in the bottom left and none was lower or lefter than I!

I presume Hayek's "liberal" would ideally be in the far bottom right maybe? It would be interesting to see if his triangle mapped onto Political Compass successfully or not.

Tom Papworth said...

Hell! I'm commenting on myself!

Jock, I find your last comment particularly interesting. I'm fascinated by the Liberal-Socialist-Conservative three-way divide, rather than the crass Left-Right nonsense that is too often spouted.

As Hayek notes, being liberal is both about being a progressive but also respecting the individual against the perceived will of the collective. We can believe in progress without the Government having to drive it!