Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Political Modeling

The modus operandi for putting people in the right political "box" is to discuss political orientation in terms of "left" and "right". Graphically, this is represented by a single line; a one-dimensional element you may recall from Jr. High Algebra as "X", the X-axis or the X plane. Personally I have always chafed at this. It never really seemed to fit me and, on further reflection, it doesn't see to fit most people.

A few years back, a coworker sent me a link this site. It is called The Political Compass and attempts to describe political thought according to Cartesian coordinate plane by contrasting fiscal beliefs with moral. This seems to hit the nail on the head, at least for a simpleton such as myself.

Before taking the test, I had presumed I would still end up on the far right. Indeed I did not and was amazed at how "centrist" I really am. Taking this test a few years ago is really when I began questioning my current (at that time) political thoughts and assumptions and started to reevaluate them. Here is my current scoring:

I say all this in light of some conversation I had tonight, in which it was asserted that I am part of the "fringe right" and am company to the "kooks" and "conspiracy theorists" that dwell there. I felt the need to clear my name of such ignorant and presumptuous assertions. That being said, I can understand why some people may have that opinion although I disagree fervently. I am a Bible-thumper. Most of my compadres are right wingers after the typical vein of thought. I come from a military family (my dad was a career Marine Corps officer and an angry coder himself: double anal retentive!) and they are typically strong right wingers. I am idealistic, moralistic and still tend to divide everything into clear lines of black and white. Right, right, right!

But in reality, I am not a right winger! It's only in the last few decades that Bible believers have come to be associated with that. Traditionally, they have been very libertarian minded. After the persecutions of old Europe, they had not love or trust for established government. But the problem with the modern Libertarian party is they have no moral compass at all. There has to be a balance! It is the role of government to force morals on its citizens or else there really is no need for government. But what morals? Where do you draw the line? Murder, stealing, rape, speeding, weeds over 10", sodomy, animal cruelty, truancy, littering... Every law imposes some moral value. I felt the Constitution Party was the most libertarian minded group that still had a moral compass. That is why this is the party I will be supporting in this years presidential election.


The Irascible Neufonzola said...

"Left" and "right" work pretty well when constrained to broad philosophies of government, particularly economic ones. Where it gets tricky is when people start stuffing all the other issues that are linked to the current political parties, and assigning them as "left" and "right". The simplest definition of left and right would just be socialist and collectivist philosophy on one side, and free enterprise and liberty on the other. That's why I always chafe at the nonsense suggestion that the extreme end of the "right" is Nazi-ism. The National Socialist party was a brand of socialism, and definitely was far removed from what I would call the true "far right", which would be libertarianism, and at its harsh, unworkable extreme, anarchy. Sure Hitler hated Stalin and vice-versa, but sometimes brothers fight more viciously than strangers.

I find I support broad, wide-reaching liberty at a federal level (gay marriage, even to some degree issues like abortion are better decided by state govt), but slightly more moralist govt on state and local levels. I think this is how the country was initially designed. I'm rereading a book called "The Bill of Rights" by Akhil Reed Amar, an old college text that I didn't pay too much attention to at the time, and it is brilliant. For example, the First Amendment on religion was designed, he claims, much more as a way to keep the federal government out of the individual state's way, than as protection of individual liberty. States each had very established religious cultures at that time, and the 1st Amendment forbidding a national religion was more of a way to ensure states rights. The 1860s and the 14th Amendment was what shifted the American concept of the Bill of Rights from a document prescribing state vs federal roles, to a document ensuring the personal liberty of individuals. Very interesting book.

Where was I?

Oh, and I'm not a purist either. I would be a generally good libertarian, except for several things...No 1 I don't care one whit about the Patriot Act and all the supposed liberty we've lost, No 2 I support more morally specific govt on local levels, and No 3 my ideas on foreign policy verge a bit too much on the hawkish side for most of my true libertarian amigos.

On a mildly related note, I get hives remembering this bit of rhetoric from Bush:

"When somebody hurts, the government has to move."

What a profound contrast from Ronnie's joke about "I'm from the government and I'm here to help".

Percussivity said...

What I would actually like to see is how each question is scored... a graph for each answer to each question as I felt a lot of the questions were ambiguous and difficult to answer.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Me too, I gave up halfway through as most of the questions were somewhat "leading" and half of them, I didn't care enough to agree or disagree...they should have a "no opinion" option.

I think last time I did the test though it placed me somewhere between Bill Buckley and Genghis Khan.

The Angry Coder said...

I was considering the weighting of the questions afterwards as well. I think they should focus more on "what would you do" rather than "what do you think" type of questions. For example, while I believe certain acts are wrong, that doesn't necessarily mean I believe there should be laws against them. I, and most people (foolishly I hope...), are able to separate our personal values from the system. So my thought is that I should have been somewhere below the left-right axis and probably a little further to the right.

Also, considering the "far left" to be socialism/communism, that would make it impossible for anyone to exist in the far end of the left, bottom quadrant. You simply cannot have 100% redistributivism and 100% personal liberty- they are necessarily contradictory! So in the end, maybe this model is no better than a UN climate model. But it was at least a fulcrum for thought and discussion.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing looking at the graph. They say that one access is libertarian to authoritarian, and the other is "left" and "right". But "left and right" must be defined in some vastly different way than I define it, because as you say, a complete libertarian cannot be a complete leftist. Leftist political philosophies (communism, socialism, Western European socialism, modern American "liberalism", etc) all depend on collectivist, centralized government power, and are by definition authoritarian, from universal health care to welfare. Where it gets confusing is when certain aspects of libertarianism are accepted by the American left and rejected by the American right, like the legalization of drugs, prostitution, etc. I think those are more exceptions than the rule, and I'd still say leftism is generally tied to authoritarianism, by definition, and true "rightist" political philosophy is more closely linked with personal liberty and restricted governmental powers.

It is such a hard question though...the "what would you do" would be a better format, but even then, context would probably be left out. What would I do as a voter, what would I do as a state lawmaker, what would I do as a federal lawmaker, all of those might be slightly different.

And it gets even more confusing with the terms liberal and conservative, which really do not mean what they say any more. "Liberals" in America are generally of a leftist persuasion and believe much more strongly in the liberty of government than the liberty of the individual. "Conservatives" is a messy moniker as well because it implies defense of the status quo, whatever that status quo may be. Right now, the status quo is the New Deal, the Great Society, and half a decade of expanding federal power as we march inch by inch towards a Westernized socialism. The Democrats/liberals/leftists are a bit more of the conservatives in this case as they would fight tooth and claw to defend every one of their pet bureaucracies that control the people. The libertarians and "rightists" could be considered conservative in a very broad spectrum (wanting to return to the original American model of limited federal powers, and heightened states rights), but in the current context, they are the "radicals" and the leftists are the conservatives, defending the status quo of a corpulent nanny state.

Nic, who is venting frustrations that BATFE regulations insist on at least a 16" barrel for his sweet folding-stock Kel-Tec project... ;)

The Unabashed Blogger said...

THe test said that I was "unlikely to vote". Hmm...actually it didn't. I didn't even go to the site.

I draw the line when the weed is 10' tall. It's a felony fer cryin' out loud! People are GOING to notice those aren't tomatoes!

Just kidding. I didn't read the post. Or the comments. ToO mUch content with not enough time in the day.

The Angry Coder said...

It would be a shame to detract from those donuts.

The Unabashed Blogger said...

I completely agree...or I would..if I had any donuts..hhhhhhh

A Pilgrim's Porridge said...

I agree with Neuf as far as the skewing of definitions is concerned. It is hard to understand what someone means by the term "conservative" anymore. I think the "softening" and "graying" of terms is going to be more and more detrimental to our faith and society. Most terms of importance mean only a fraction of what they use to.

I mentioned to a friend of mine the other day that I was a fundamentalist Christian. If he would have understood what that really meant he would have probably thought nothing of it. But this befuddled him, he instantly asked if I hated homosexuals. It took a few minutes of explaining before he realized that all that I meant was that the bible is my ultimate authority.

Anyway, I am straying from the topic. I too took the test and discovered many of the same issues. Particularly with questions like do you prefer abstract vs. realist artwork. They really reached for a stereotype there.

As I said to Coder the other day, I am very interested in learning more about the Constitutionalist Party. I have given up on compromising with my vote. Some may call it throwing away a vote by not voting "lesser of two evils" but I am done with bowing to that train of thought. Nothing can change, party-wise, unless people start changing there voting habits - on the local and national level.

If anything it will help my conscious a bit to know that I didn't vote for another Bush.

I really like what Coder said the other night though, "in the end, we get what we deserve."

By the way, listen to this - a taste:

The Angry Coder said...

It was funny the other night, Porridge- I could overhear the conversation you were having when you brought up the Constitution Party, and it's the exact same conversation I've had several times. I tried my best to stay out of it because I do tend to get passionate and that's not always received well. There was a time when the Republican Party was a third party, and God used them mightily to free the slaves. So it's not like a party has never turned over before. At any rate, welcome to the journey!