I had every good intention of picking up on a reader’s suggestion that I create a Frequently Asked Questions section of Troppo, to which new-ish commenters could be referred whenever they raised topics that had already been debated ad nauseum, either here or in the blogosphere generally.
Christopher Sheil asserted recently that the irritating raising of repetitive themes was possibly one of the major causes of comment box incivility, and someone else suggested that a FAQ section might help to deal with it constructively. So I thought I’d have a go at writing a rant about the interminable left-right labelling contest which seems to be the blogosphere’s most ubiquitous and irritating recurrent theme. Commenters could then be referred to it for an explanation of why others couldn’t be bothered discussing the topic with them in those terms. But even I found it so tiresome from so many repetitous discussions that I couldn’t bear to write it.
Instead, I’ve decided to refer readers to the Political Compass, an online quizz that measures people’s political viewpoints along two separate axes. One is the tradtional left-right economic continuum, with communism/collectivism at the left end of the axis and neo-liberalism (i.e. extreme market-based approach, minimalist government, low taxation etc) at the right end. The other is a vertical axis measuring social attitudes, with fascism/authoritarianism at one end and anarchism or social libertarianism at the other.
It seems to me that this sort of approach yields much more useful results than a simplistic attempt to label anyone as “left” or “right”. Of course, it’s still subject to a range of objections and qualifications, but so is any classificatory system.
Numerous bloggers and commenters tackled the Political Compass quiz a couple of years ago, and Robert Corr even attempted to maintain a graph of other bloggers’ scores where they submitted them to him (although he never bothered to graph mine). It occurred to me that it might be interesting to encourage today’s “new” generation of bloggers and commenters to have a go at the Political Compass and post their results here. I won’t undertake to graph them, but if someone else can be bothered (once the results are in), I’ll certainly post the image here.
Incidentally, my own result when I tackled the test again yesterday was -2 on the left/right axis (i.e. very slightly towards the left end of the axis, with -10 being the extreme left position), and -2.26 on the authoritarian/libertarian social axis (i.e. very slightly towards the libertarian end of the spectrum, again with -10 being the extreme libertarian position). With all its inevitable imperfections, the Political Compass seems a quite reliable method of measuring individual political orientation. In my case at least, the result confirms my own self-assessment as a fairly “centrist” classical liberal with a very slight social democratic bent and modestly libertarian social attitudes. See how you go.
Of course, even applying the label “centrist” can irritate some people, because they interpret it as a claim to some sort of superior wisdom or virtue. In my case at least, it simply reflects my self-assessment as being fairly near the mid-point on both axes of quizzes like Political Compass.
BTW From memory, my score on the authoritarian/libertarian social axis hasn’t changed at all from 2 years ago, but my left/right economic score has shifted a couple of points to the left.
Update – Tim Lambert has created a facility here that allows you to enter your Political Compass score and see it graphically represented along with any other Australian bloggers who choose to participate.