Political compass

Thanks to Will Shetterly, I discovered the Political Compass Web quiz. The folks behind this Web quiz contend that the old way of designating people as leftists or rightists just doesn’t work any more — after all, how can you compare two leftists like Stalin and Ghandi?

So they add a second dimension to the left/right scale, creating a graph with left/right on the x-axis, and authoritarian/libertarian on the y-axis. That separates Ghandi and Stalin, because Stalin was an authoritaian, while Ghandi valued the individual conscience.

It’s a useful distinction for religious liberals. There are plenty of religious liberals who would be classified as politically rightist on the old scale, but feel comfortable as religious liberals. Could be that politically rightist, religiously liberal folks would score in the social libertarian side of the y-axis of the political compass — that would be my guess, anyway.

Not that I think the Political Compass Web quiz is particularly well-done (it’s far too U.S.-centric, for example), but it does provide food for thought. By the way, in the interests of full disclosure, I scored as “Economic Left/Right: -9.63; Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.67” — I’m only surprised that I didn’t score much higher on the social libertarian scale. This might reveal a flaw in the Political Compass Web quiz formula, because I suspect they don’t take into account the value of voluntary associations and related institutions in maintaining social libertarian values in a mass democracy.