Saturday, September 15, 2007

Political Compass, For What It's Worth

(I'm working on a bunch of different things right now, including the rest of my Summit commentary -- which is taking forever -- but figured I'd post this in the meantime).

My Political Compass results:

Economic Left/Right: -4.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.26

I've noticed that most of the people whose blogs I read tend to fall along either extreme left/democrat/socialist lines, or along libertarian lines. (I have no idea why that is, it's just the way things seem to have worked out -- but still, I am very surprised that I don't get more comments along the lines of, "Why do you bother with anything so-and-so says? They're one of them!") And all of them occasionally say things I agree with, as well as things I disagree with.

The thing that frustrates me most about politics is the fact that you're almost expected to (a) choose a side, and (b) think of the "other side" as entirely consisting of clueless people. There's almost a kind of alarmism among the strongly partisan, as if somehow, the Other Side is going to destroy the universe with their ideology if it isn't kept in check. I honestly don't know if any particular party is "dangerous" -- I know that there are dangerous ideas, and dangerous precedents, but it's very difficult for me to fully embrace or write off any particular system without understanding it deeply.

I sometimes feel guilty about this, especially since some people are so emphatically convinced of how damaging Viewpoint A is, but until I've fully grokked why, it's difficult for me to get fired up. (And I do get fired up about certain things -- people who think that old people should be denied lifesaving medicine just because they are old, or who think that autistics "lack the essential features of being human", or who are Nazis, will be spared no vitriol from me!)

Whatever my "compass score" says about me, I definitely plan to keep doing things as I have been all along: that is, considering individual issues as they come up and weighing them not in reference to some pre-fab party template, but against the ethical framework I've been developing ever since I started thinking about the world outside my own head. While I do understand the need to take "big picture" views and occasionally align with groups I may not agree with 100% in order to accomplish certain goals, overall, I find most pre-existing systems extremely limiting.

And not only are they limiting, they tend to have these huge, gaping holes that it's difficult to get anyone to acknowledge. Like disability rights -- where does that fit in? Most liberals ignore disability issues, despite being generally supportive of civil rights as they apply to women, minorities, and LGBT individuals. And though conservatives might occasionally pay lip service to "disability rights", the arguments they use (and the bizarro agendas they tie in -- "human exceptionalism" comes to mind) are often simplistic, offensive, and downright embarrassing.

This is one primary reason that the only "isms" I've lately found some utility in are "transhumanism" and "technoprogressivism", because it has been through the study of the topic-space surrounding these terms that I've discovered useful principles like morphological freedom. It's just amusing (and slightly scary) to have people hear some of my views on morphological freedom and assume that I'm either a pro-life wingnut or a product of some lazy, overly permissive, hippie mentality (and obviously a communist).

Granted, this doesn't happen too often anymore, but still, one reason I focus more on specific issues than on partisan stuff is because it's exhausting to have to constantly anticipate (and put forth disclaimers) for every possible little thing that might swing someone's assumption-o-meter in some extreme direction that has practically nothing to do with what I actually think. If you want to know what I actually think, you're probably in for a lot of reading, but hopefully you can at least manage to check your assumptions on the way in!

EDIT: Speaking of politics, I've been greatly enjoying listening to Prof. Courtney Brown's course on 'Science Fiction and Politics lately, which is available at the link in MP3 format (or you can subscribe using iTunes). Though some of the student comments are pretty ridiculous, it's still a decent listen overall.


abfh said...

I followed your link and took the quiz. My results were:

Economic Left/Right: -2.38
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.26

But I wanted to answer a lot of the questions with "well, it depends on the circumstances." So I'm not sure how useful the results are...

I definitely agree with your opinion of the pre-fab party templates. Politicians do not get to do my thinking for me!

JEmerson said...


I quite agree about the partisans as well. It seems, for the most part, that thought about issues tends to end the second a catchall label is unfurled over a person.

Conor said...

Two axis is wimpy. How about this eight axis political compass?

AnneC said...

abfh: I don't think the results of many multiple-choice scales like this one are really super-useful; hence the inclusion of "For what it's worth" in my blog post title. When I took the quiz, I tried to use the "agree/strongly agree" and "disagree/strongly disagree" to express the fact that I was more certain of some items than others.

jemerson: Yeah, the catchall label thing is a constant irritant for me. I am regularly shocked at the degree to which things tend to get assumed just because someone didn't cover all the standard disclaimers in their initial communication. I figure that I'll probably just have to accept the fact that only people who are willing to read lots and lots and lots of text will ever really understand what I'm going on about. :)

conor: Holy crap, that's a lot of axes. At that point, I don't know what the utility of tacking on more labels actually is, unless you're trying to sort demographics in such a way so as to perform a computer-based analysis on them.

Conor said...

At that point, I don't know what the utility of tacking on more labels actually is
Bragging rights. More is better. Always. More seriously, you can only tell which axis have utility once you've compared every axis for the utility it gives. There is a problem noted in the link in that not all the axis are completely orthogonal. If you know a radical Burkean, I'd be surprised. But you could be surprised where you might find yourself with regard to others.
seul contre tous

Conor said...

A few more links you might be interested in (I just started reading your blog, otherwise I might have posted these in more relevant threads): John Storrs Hall has written a piece called Ethics For Machines on finding rules for machines intellectually superior to us that is an easier and less in-depth read than the CFAI one I mentioned before. The other link is to one of my favorite blogs, which is by a transhumanist who places all below his goal of persisting forever (a real life version of your Voldemort post).

Conor said...

Whoops, the second link was same as the first. Here is what I meant to link to.

Okie said...

Economic Left/Right: -9.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.31

Wow, I'm further to the left than Mandela! I guess I should be leading some sort of revolution or something. On second thought, I'll just settle for making everyone immortal and we can argue about socio-economics later.
The interesting thing about this test is that it doesn't really tell you that much about a person. Sure, now you know that I've got the opinions of a flaming anarcho-communist. What you don't know is that I don't *really* care about these convictions very much. While I may think that socialism is a good idea, fundamentally if I can achieve my goals under capitalism I'm not going to make too much noise about it.

IConrad said...

I'll dive in:
Economic Left/Right: 3.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.49

I have to say that the questions on the test seemed in most cases highly loaded. I mean, I scored as a borderline centrist? I'm a dyed-in-the-wool minarchist; on the Nolan chart I score 90/100.

"I know that there are dangerous ideas, and dangerous precedents, but it's very difficult for me to fully embrace or write off any particular system without understanding it deeply."

The one caveat I would advise in the face of this idea is that the sole unifying ideal of either the Republican or Democratic parties these days seems to be that they are the opposition to the other: there seems, in all honesty, to be no such thing as a "Democrat" ideology nor a "Republican" ideology.

I tend to be rather rabid in my hatred of government-socialists; I tend to view H.L. Mencken as having uttered absolute truth when he said, "The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it." If people want to establish individual voluntary collectives -- more power to them. I doubt they'll succeed. But I also recognize that "market" isn't the only kind of economy; and freedom requires that people choose what economies they desire: this means that "Free Marketeer" isn't synonymous with "Libertarian" -- and I've gotten in trouble with that from time to time.

I'm rambling here.

"I sometimes feel guilty about this, especially since some people are so emphatically convinced of how damaging Viewpoint A is, but until I've fully grokked why, it's difficult for me to get fired up."

If political discourse was more rational and less emotional, the world would be a better place. That being said; rational does /not/ equate to 'compromising' or 'bipartisan'.

Conor said...

I want politicians to spend as much time on silly issues like Terri Schiavo as possible so they have less time to spend screwing us all over. If they were rational, they wouldn't be doing nearly as much screwing over in the first place, but they are that way because they are elected by voters, who would be playing the lottery rather than voting if they were rational. Politics (and religion along with it) is inherently irrational and I see no reason to expect it to change.

Dr.G said...

anne, do you have an email address I could use. I prefer to write to you regarding shared interests and concerns, e.g. neurdiversity, neuropolitics, transhumanism, etc.