political compass

Two Interesting Takes On The Political Spectrum

Back in February I compared an assortment of political spectrums and questionnaires. Here are two more I had not seen:

The Thomas Knapp Political Spectrum

This is Thomas L. Knapp’s political bell curve. You can read what he has to say about it at the Center for a Stateless Society. I think that this is one of the better conceptions of a political spectrum in that it accounts for anarchism and movements such as anarcho-capitalism or right-libertarianism. It is also correct in distinguishing classical anarchists, classical liberals, and market anarchists from modern right-libertarians such as Ron Paul or anarcho-capitalists such as Murray Rothbard:

On the far Left (market anarchism) and the far Right (anarcho-capitalism), appetite for political government trails off to zero (which is why “Left” and “Right” libertarians have so much in common).

As we move toward the political center, that appetite grows. The “Left” and “Right” disagree on ends, but closer to that center, both see government as an acceptable means to their desired ends. And the center is a corrupting influence. As you get closer to it, you grow less willing to give up the means and more willing to give up the ends.

It is also spot-on in that it accounts for the similarity between left-wing authoritarian ideologies, such as those of Stalin and Mao, and right-wing authoritarian ideologies such as the fascism of Mussolini. Rothbard and Thoreau are questionable placements on this chart; arguably Rothbard should be further to the right, squarely within the anarcho-capitalists instead of the Paul/Rand libertarians, while Thoreau should be further to the left on the very fringes of classical liberalism.

Here is a chart by Jesus Huerta de Soto that plots political ideologies on an axis of pro-state/anti-state and pro-private property/anti-private property:

The Political Chart of Jesus Huerta de Soto

This bucks typical the right-left paradigm, which is good. The left-right paradigm is relevant only in the context of the internal party politics of any given state. It has never been an accurate way to contrast ideologies and regimes across history. This, like Knapp’s bell curve, helps to explain the similarities in the authoritarian left (e.g. Stalinists) and the authoritarian right (e.g. Nazis, fascists). It may show too much sympathy to classical liberals, some of whom placed limits on private property (Locke’s provisos) and most of whom believed in states and social contracts. That is, it is questionable if “classical liberals” should be almost straddling the line between statists and anti-statists.

Political Questionnaires – Where Are You?

I have been playing with some of the more popular political questionnaires on the Internet. Here are some results and thoughts:

Pew Score - LibertarianThe Pew Research Center for the People & The Press has a Political Typology Quiz that groups you into one category: Staunch Conservatives, Main Street Republicans, Libertarians, Disaffecteds, Post-Moderns, New Coalition Democrats, Hard-Pressed Democrats, Solid Liberals and a final category of Bystanders.

This is a survey that seems to be focused on American partisan politics, despite its inclusion of non-partisan categories. Apparently I would be a Libertarian, along with 9% of the American population.

Libertarian Description PewI do not necessarily consider myself a libertarian per se, although I share many libertarian beliefs. I would definitely not consider myself aligned with the Libertarian Party of the United States, which I find has a very different definition of libertarianism from Joseph Déjacque’s initial use of the term as a synonym with anarchism, the small government philosophy of Milton Friedman, or the use of the term in the context of Austrian economics. Many of these individuals may be better described as pot-smoking Republicans, although they are certainly a lesser evil than the mainstream Democrat and Republican parties.

The descriptions of the Pew’s typologies reinforces some American stereotypes. The Disaffected typology is financially unstable, religious, has more children and enjoys NASCAR. Libertarians are male, affluent and tech-oriented. Staunch conservatives are old, white and oppose both same-sex marriage and abortion. The New Coalition Democrats are an even mix of white (34%), black (30%) and Latino (26%). They are strongly pro-government, pro-immigration, socially conservative and very religious.

To see this group of Democrats described as “socially conservative” or “very religious” may surprise many Americans. In the American psyche, the Republican and the Democrat parties are perceived as opposite ends of the political spectrum. We will see this is not the case when Republicans and Democrats are contrasted with political positions outside the US mainstream.

Political Compass Elections 2012

This is the popular multi-axis model known as The Political Compass. The group behind this has plotted the positions and statements of politicians around the world on two axes. The Left and Right are economic in nature. The Authoritarian and Libertarian are social in nature.

Most of the world’s politicians are right authoritarian. This is especially true for mainstream political parties such as the Republicans and Democrats in the United States. In this model they are practically twins. Most individual politicians mirror Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on The Political Compass. Politicians such as Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are exceptions who win very few votes in the United States, but seem to be included here for the contrast in policy.

My Political Compass

This is where I am on the Political Compass. I assume my rejection of anything state has moved me almost as far away from the authoritarian side as possible. This seems fairly accurate and reflects how I would identify myself. It is important to remember that the left and the right axes in this model are economic in nature. This is in contrast to how we usually use the terms Left and Right in most political discourse. Left/Right terminology has been replaced by the vertical Libertarian versus Authoritarian axis.

To help illustrate:

Beasts Org SurveyThis is the multi-axis model from beasts.org. Beasts.org developed this in response to The Political Compass:

Politicalcompass.org is a web site which asks a number of opinion questions of its visitors, and then places them in a two-dimensional space which is supposed to characterise their political views. Unfortunately, politicalcompass.org has a poor reputation; in particular, there is a suspicion that its questions are designed to make respondents lean towards an economically right-wing, socially liberal (“right libertarian”) position, and the two axes of variation on which results are plotted are opaque in their derivation and may not be tremendously relevant.”

These suspicions are compounded by the problem that politicalcompass.org’s methods are not open and, therefore, it is not possible to determine whether their selection of questions carries a bias which its operators are using to further their own ends.

The purpose of this site is to do a survey of this type properly and openly, so that the methods and data in use are open to inspection.

The methodology is different, but so are the axes chosen here. The Authoritarian and Libertarian axes revert partially back to the Left and Right axes, while two new measures of Pragmatism and Idealism are introduced. As per my results above, I am now the pragmatic left. Even further left, as well as less pragmatic, is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy. Beasts.org does caution not to read too much into the labels.

Part of the utility of these measures is not to give you an objective label in a vacuum, but to compare your position to those around you. To say I am Left or Right is so vague as to be almost meaningless, but to say that I am to the left of Tony Blair and to the right of Charles Kennedy would give more information to someone unfamiliar with my political beliefs.

It is interesting to see how closely together Margaret Thatcher and Adolf Hitler are in this model.

Liberal Democratic Party SurveyHere we have a quiz from the website of the Liberal Democratic Party in Australia. From the home page it asks: Is the Liberal Democratic Party for you? Given that I am against states, my response would be no.

There I am way down in the bottom right hand corner – close to the maximum for Social Freedom and Economic Freedom. I find it odd that this would not be the default position for the entire world. After all, who doesn’t want to maximize both the social and economic freedom of all individuals?

The Nolan ChartThis next one is The Nolan Chart. David Nolan, one of the founders of the Libertarian Party of the United States, created this model. It is similar to both the chart of the Liberal Democratic Party and The Political Compass in that it uses two axes of economic freedom and personal freedom.

My results here closely mirror those of The Political Compass as well. Again I am in the center, but opposite authoritarian/statist. I think this is a very good place to be.

GotoQuiz Results

I took this quiz because it was one of the most popular that kept showing up in searches. It is the Political Spectrum Quiz from GoToQuiz.com. It gives a comparison versus the average of all others who have taken the test. I think we are starting to see a consensus here.

A final test I took was the California F-scale, which can be found at Anesi.com. This was a personality test developed by Theodor Adorno in 1947. The scale was designed to measure the degree to which an individual has an authoritarian personality or, as the F in the F-scale indicates, a tendency towards fascism. A few of the questions from the F-scale were actually incorporated into the model from The Political Compass we have seen previously. My score was a 2. According to the website, the average American score in 1947 was a 3.8.

The F-scale is still used today in research on the authoritarian personality. However, more people are familiar with Robert Altemeyer’s RWA (Right-Wing Authoritarianism) Scale, the progeny of Adorno’s F-scale.

Take a test and let me know what you think. Are you where you thought you would be? Are you close to the politician you support?