A little political philosophy in case you all had absolutely nothing better to do.
Somehow in my surfing around the web, I ran across this political poll.
This isn’t the worst political matrix ever, but hopefully it’s not the definitive one, although if you look at the press coverage, you would think it was.
Now having a Masters Degree means I have been properly trained in the school of thought that ANYTHING can be shoved into a 2X2 matrix. However, these guys have missed something. Possibly their political science training tells them that if you take the “social” and the “economic” and separate them on a matrix, then you get a better picture than if you just use the one-dimensional “Left to right” spectrum.
Well possibly, but one challenge is the nature of the questions. (try the poll and tell me if you think some of the questions are a little unclear).
A couple of examples followed by my commentary on why they’re useless questions. (If you’re going to try the poll, do it before reading on):
a) No one chooses his or her country of birth, so it’s foolish to be proud of it. Agree or disagree? Is this a measure of nationalism to determine whether you’re a fascist or not? What is foolish about nationalism? Fascism and Nationalism are not synonymous, and they never have been.
b) All people have their rights, but it is better for all of us that different sorts of people should keep to their own kind. Agree or Disagree? Who would say yes today? Even the most radical right-wing nut-job with enough intelligence to make it through a political questionnaire would not say yes to any question with the words “should keep to their own kind.” If NOONE is going to say yes to it but a member of the KKK, then it’s PROBABLY a bad question. The better and more relevant question here could be “…but it is OK for different sorts of people to associate mostly with those of their own kind.” However, a yes to that would be a Libertarian answer and not an Authoritarian one.
c) It is regrettable that many personal fortunes are made by people who simply manipulate money and contribute nothing to their society. Agree or Disagree? Define “manipulate money”? Are you talking about people who invest money, those who participate in arbitrage? Win the lottery? If investing is the answer, then the argument is that investors in businesses do not contribute to society.
d) A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system. Agree or disagree? Bad question. It IS a significant advantage, but is just outweighed by tons of other disadvantages.
e) Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers. Agree or disagree? If homemaker means “making a home”, then the answer should always be yes, but if homemaker means staying at home and only working part-time, because their careers aren’t as important as the father’s then the answer would probably be no.
f) It is important that my child’s school instills religious values. Agree or disagree? Not an effective measure of Libertarianism. A religious person could indeed say yes and thus would register as “Authoritarian.” The same religious person could say no, because they believe THEY should instill those values and not the school. Measuring someone’s religious values and their thoughts on who should dictate those values cannot be measured simultaneously.
WHICH brings me to my main point. These guys just have the wrong matrix.
Oddly enough, I’ve thought about this before, but it never occured to me my finely-tuned, everything-in-the-world-can-be-shoved-into-a-2X2 skills would come in handy. It was when I saw this that I suspected something could be improved:
First, I wondered whether we really know exactly how Thatcher would answer the question: Should Marijuana be legalized? And wouldn’t Gandhi be considered fairly libertarian on economic issues? Maybe I missed something there.
Second, I thought, hmmm Friedman (and apparently yours truly) is a libertarian, um…libertarian. Then I looked back at Thatcher and saw that she was apparently a major authoritarian. Then I scrolled down to the next graph:
So George Bush is the most NeoLiberal Authoritarian on the Planet, and Mahmoud Abbas is a Collectivist Authoritarian (think about that for a second). Looking back at the color-coded chart, I noticed the two left quadrants had been labeled but the two right quandrants had not. (I suppose “State-imposed Free-Markets”, and “Voluntary Regional Free-Markets” didn’t make a lot of sense.) Actually every Western leader in the known world from Chirac to Prodi to Blair is essentially a right-wing fascist. I just do not consider this a very “nuanced” tool for measuring political thought. It’s essentially a great tool for pidgeonholing anyone in the world who a) believes in individual property rights and b) lives in a country with a Judeo/Christian background, in one huge pile (look at how the EU governments come out on the Political Compass).
I consider that pretty useless. Who’s with me?!!
So I’m working on a new one, and it’s obviously much better. First it’ll take getting rid of a couple of myths:
Myth 1: Fascism is far-right, and Communism is far-left. (Hitler was just an Uber-Conservative, and Stalin an Uber-Liberal.)
Truth: Fascism and Communism are both Totalitarian Regimes designed to bring power to the State and subdue the masses. The rhetoric that disquises the intent of these regimes might possibly be considered “right” or “left” but the regimes themselves are identical. Or put differently: if the men in black hats which come to your front door and take you into custody say they are doing so for the sake of “the State” or “the Party,” in which instance are you any less oppressed?
Myth 2: Authoritarianism is only illustrated by military and law enforcement. (The Government’s control of schools, press, religion, etc., are less important).
Truth: Every modern regime has only become a violent and repressive regime once things like schools, the press, and religion, were either vanquished or under state control. Classically, oppression has always started with “revolutionary” thought–and simply makes itself known with repression of NON-revolutionary thought. To watch this in slow motion one need look no further than Venezuela.
Myth 3: Socialism means more “freedom” for the individual.
Truth: Socialism by definition REQUIRES Government control and enforcement. George Will just a couple of weeks ago defined this very well as the struggle between Freedom and Equality. The only way Socialism can operate without strict Government enforcement is in a small community where there is: a) plenty of resources, and complete independence from the outside world, b) No external threats from the outside world (who might desire said resources), c) strong natural immigration limitations, and d) homogeneity of culture and religion, OR absence of any religion that is proselytical and legalistic in nature (i.e.: Christianity and Islam are out).
Myth 4: Religious views must be enforced by the state. (All Social Conservatives want Government to administer a theocracy).
Truth: In the U.S. many Social Conservatives are more concerned with the State enforcing social constructs that they consider ANTI-Religious. They consider themselves on the DEFENSIVE from the state enforcing a SECULAR or NON-religious stance. Others indeed believe that God’s law should be the State’s law, and that their religion should be enforced by the State. However, again, this belief would exclude most of Modern Western Civilization.
These myths have encompassed (I think inappropriately) modern political discussions to the point where everyone just assumes they are a part of life, and thus if the “Political Compass” is any indication, have framed differences in political opinion. (Actually, the Political Compass has gone a long way toward eliminating Myth 1…illustrating Hitler and Stalin as both very simply Authoritarian, with Stalin simply being more “Socialistic.”)
Regardless, what I propose is a new matrix which encompasses the spectrum of political thought more accurately. My attempt to do this only effectively changes one of the axes. Keeping the vertical axis as is simply means that the spectrum of political thought regarding the extent of Government control includes the social AND the economic. Instead of economics, the horizontal axis will measure the role of religion/values. The most extreme right being the most Religious/Spiritual and the extreme left being “Humanist/Secularist”:
There is a big chance, of course, that I’m simply bowing to my prejudices as a Western, Christian, property-holder, and simply trying to find nuance within my own single-minded boundaries. If that’s the case, then so be it, but I believe you’ll find that those outside the realm of the West are also appropriately (and perhaps more accurately) labeled in this new matrix.
More to come…