I really enjoyed this post by Noah Millman at the American Scene where he tries to develop a political taxonomy slightly more informative than our current ‘left-right’ binary choice. Let’s face it, while that distinction may be pretty good for our political parties (and elected officials who seem intent on becoming caricatures of themselves) it really begins to break down the further you get from the center and is pretty worthless by the time you get to the extremes. This is why you had a brief dust up in the wake of Joe Stack crashing his plane into the Austin I.R.S. building over whether the dude was a left wing radical or a right wing crazy.
So, Noah divides the political spectrum into three categories:
- Liberal – Conservative
- Left – Right
- Progressive – Reactionary
Read his whole explanation but the short version is:
1. Liberal vs. Conservative
Put simply: a liberal outlook trusts individuals and questions authority; a conservative outlook distrusts individuals and defers to authority.
2. Left vs. Right
Put simply: a right-wing perspective is animated by an affinity for the winners and their interests, while a left-wing perspective is animated by an affinity for the losers and their interests.
3. Progressive vs. Reactionary
The progressive is future-oriented. Things will – or could – be better in the future than they are now. The reactionary, by contrast, is past-oriented. Things will – likely – be worse in the future than they are now, just as they were better in the past.
Now, as you’ll see in the comments, there’s plenty to nitpick over this but it’s still an interesting way to look at things. Noah doesn’t like political compass but, similarly, it’s another data point and another jumping off point for discussions about political orientation (besides, I’m a sucker for graphics).
So, on Noah’s scale I suspect I’m a ‘liberal-progressive’ and not strongly affiliated along his ‘left-right’ spectrum. I decided to take the political compass test to see how they said I fit along their left/right and libertarian/authoritarian axises. So, here are the results of that…
Allow me to say I’m in pretty good company with people like the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. Although I’m guessing my career choices given my beliefs are a bit odd. Let me also say that if I was in an actual position of power I’m pretty sure my little dot would shoot up to the authoritarian axis like a rocket. While powerless I’m an anarchist. With power I become a despot (but I benign one, I swear!).
I asked my father to take the test as well and he came up with this…
Although I have to admit I’m highly dubious as this would make him (at least according to the PoliticalCompass folks who I suspect may have skewed their estimates some) both more leftist and libertarian than Barrack Obama. My friends, you’ll just have to take my word for it, if my father is to the left of Barrack Obama the universe would collapse in on itself and the space-time continuum would be destroyed.
I’d like to try to figure out how to overlay Myers-Briggs results over these to see if that provides any additional insight into political outlook but I’m not sure how that would work.
So, why am I engaging in this blogging navel gazing? Well, first because I can and second I figured this sort of information might give you, dear readers, a better understanding about the lens I look through when writing on various topics.