Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Beyond Left and Right

Here's one way to add a third dimension to the political picture. Check out the Political Compass.

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers,' yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

Off the hook, indeed. So you can answer their six-page questionnaire, and plot your position on the big grid. Not perfect, but it makes for an amusing waste of 15 minutes.

I always dislike these kinds of "agree/disagree" questions, by the way. The questions themselves, to my frustration, allow only linear answers, even though the whole purpose of the test is to break out of linear political definitions.

People are ultimately divided more by class than by nationality.

In some places, yes, but not everywhere.

Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment.

Can I answer "sometimes," rather than "agree/disagree?"

A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.

"Well, yes, that's true, BUT ..."

In a civilised society, one must always have people above to be obeyed and people below to be commanded.

"Disagree," on the basis of the words "must always." But does that mean I'm committing myself to the notion that a "civilised" society is based on total social levelling?

OK, enough of that. What was my score?

Economic: Left/Right: -0.75
Social: Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.77

That won't mean much to you until you've taken the test yourself, but I was interested to learn that my nearest neighbors on the chart seem to be the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mozart, and Gandhi.