Saturday, October 04, 2008

Political Compass

I'm told so often that I'm an evil far-right fascist that I occasionally take a moment or two to re-take the Political Compass test. It's like checking my pulse or blood pressure because people keep telling me I look pale and wan.

Of course, every time I take it, I get the same result. I get "moderate conservative". Less "authoritarian" than Mrs. Thatcher.

But taking the test is a good way to give some thought to various aspects of the political and social realm.

I've noticed that my economic answers have grown more towards the rightist side, but they remain pretty wishywashy in general. There's a good reason for this: I really don't know enough about the current economic state of things to have an opinion. I realise that this is a huge gap, but at least it has the effect of allowing me to keep a relatively open mind. But what I have seen is that governments trying to take over the running of people's daily lives, and taking their money by force, is nothing but destructive to society. Socialism is bad. Government isn't bad, in theory, but government that thinks it can tell people what to do with their money seems inevitably to become very bad.

But I remain somewhat softer on these things than most of the evilrightwingfascists of my acquaintance. I guess I'm just not trusting enough of the private sector to look after the poor, any more than the government. At least not the "private sector" of our times and in our current economic condition, in which it appears there is not a great deal of difference between these heavily subsidized mega-corporations and the governments propping them up.

As I've said, being pretty mystified by contemporary economics, my opinions are developing only very slowly and tentatively. I wish I knew more but it seems nearly impossible; even the people called experts by the press can't agree. But I do have a few basic principles: the rights of private property, subsidiarity, and a firm conviction that government paying for everything with money they take by force from private citizens to redistribute to officially sanctioned "needs groups" has worked very badly.

Over the years, I've developed a method of figuring out complex and difficult things that I like to call the "Laws of Rational Thought". I've applied it pretty succesfully to religion and philosophy and various areas of politics and it has stood me pretty well. Principles and evidence. I'm betting that starting with a few principles that we know are true, and examining the evidence and data available to us, we could probably figure out more or less the arcane economic mysteries as well.

I suspect that the reason none of the experts seem to know what is going on is that most modern academics don't have principles. They, being in the postmodern academic world where there cannot be anything certainly true (except the idea that nothing is certainly true...) don't have a solid idea about human nature, about how the world is supposed to work, about what is good for people. But again, that is simply an extrapolation from a combination of principles and the available data. I've never met an academic economist, so maybe I'm wrong. It is certainly true of the political class. At least the ones I've met. The Laws of Rational Thought are nowhere more scorned than in Houses of Parliament. (Which is why their speeches are so dull).

I suppose that in today's parlance, being against socialism; thinking that "the poor" are a largely imaginary subclass invented by social workers and politicians; that people should be responsible for themselves and their families; that the state, if it has anything to do with the private lives of its citizens should concern itself with bolstering and protecting the family and should thereafter leave them alone; that all attempts to have government seize private property for redistribution in order to "eliminate poverty" have failed to eliminate anything but social stability...

makes me economically firmly on the right.

But what qualifies as "far right"?

Obviously it is unwise to expect journalistic slogans and bafflegab like "far right" to hold up to rigorous examination, but perhaps it is useful to explore the question a bit.

Anyway, here is today's outcome for my Political Compass test:

slightly higher on the authoritarian scale than the last time, but still pretty firmly "moderate conservative".

Oh well. I suppose much depends also upon whom one is standing next to. In Britain, with a population so completely brainwashed and it having been such a long time since anyone has actually met one, I might look like a "fascist".

To give a little perspective, and to give you an idea whose company one is keeping, the P.C. site gives us an estimate of some public figures:

Next up: more on Socialism


Anonymous said...

I tended to be on the right, and probably about a quarter/third of the way down on the libertarian side of things.

I still consider myself more of a libertarian than that though.


Mark S. Abeln said...

This leads me to want to write a quiz on the social teachings of the Church. I suspect that paleconservatives would do significantly better on this quiz than either neoconservatives or liberals.

Not sure what categories to use. Perhaps the final score would be merely somewhere between 'orthodox' and 'heretic'.

Anonymous said...

Austrian economists reason from first principles. You can even listen to Hans-Hermann Hoppe doing it out loud, in front of undergraduates, here:

- Karen

J D Carriere said...

Economic Left/Right: 2.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 1.49

Anonymous said...

Last time I did this I was ever so slightly to the Left of centre, but basically centrist.

I might take it again.

I wonder if everyone with a clear idea of Catholic Social Teaching would come out more or less in the centre, even though in different quadrants?

Anonymous said...

Some economic principles:

Economics is really about the "stuff" that people need to live. I eventually includes the stuff we want, but in the first place we just need to consider the sustenance of human life:

1. Air (free at this point in time)
2. Water
3. Food
4. Clothing
5. Shelter

These can be hard to obtain where there is a lack of security (eg during war time) and during natural disasters.

They can be obtained directly by living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, or indirectly in exchange for more specialised work, usually via money (tokens).

It ought to be obvious that things (eg food, clothing) are more important than tokens, because you cannot consume the tokens directly; they are just a medium of exchange.

So, what would we say of an economy almost totally focussed on tokens rather than things? I'd go for "insane."

Also, you can see from the list above that cheap plastic crap from China is not high on the list of things that people really need.

Other thoughts include the idea that if people lived close to where they worked, less of their labour (in the form of money) and time would need to be spent on travel. This would probably be a good thing.

Because babies, the sick and elderly cannot go out to plough the fields, obviously the best way to care for those who cannot obtain their own stuff by their own labour is to arrange things around the family, and only around the individual where they have no family.

The concept "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs" is perfectly sound within the family or a religious community, or other family-like structure, but is not sound (as we know from observation) in the state.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"It eventually includes the stuff we want..."

Anonymous said...

Kevin Rudd's position surprises me. For a start, it's too close to where I am: he's further 'right' and more 'authoritarian' than me. Ha! I'm flummoxed.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be about where Pope Benedict XVI is. Quite a surprise. I think of myself as quite right-wing as do most of those I know, but apparently not so.


PS Hilary, you are back blogging to the masses it seems.