Anyone interested in politics should take a good look at the Political Compass website. Here you can read about Left vs Right (economics) and Authoritarianism vs Libertarianism (social attitudes) and see how you fit into the big picture. There’s a relatively simple test to take, and here are my results, shown with the positions of the various UK political parties in the 2015 general election. It seems like I’m a political outsider, although not an extremist.
That’s me in the bottom right corner. No wonder I can never find a political party that I really agree with.
The Political Compass website has a lot of very interesting facts and explanations, some of which I want to share with you here. I would like to thank fellow blogger nannus for bringing this fascinating website to my attention.
The political compass of Europe
You might have the impression that Europe is a kaleidoscope of differing political views, with governments of diverse hues. Wrong.
If you’re American, perhaps you think that Europe is a hotbed of god-damn socialists. Wrong again.
Viewed through the prism of The Political Compass, all European governments are right-wing authoritarian – even the Nordic countries.
It seems that most of the political spectrum is completely off-limits in modern Europe. If you want to get elected in any European country, you’d better be sure to endorse free trade, moderate taxation and be rather restrictive about what people are allowed to do with their free time.
What about America? Here are the results for the 2012 US Presidential elections.
Same thing really, but with an even narrower spread of views (apart from Ron Paul, who seems to live in a world of his own.) If anything, US politicians are rather more right-wing and authoritarian than European leaders.
The other 3 corners
If nearly all Western governments are in the right-wing authoritarian corner, who is in the other parts of the graph?
So Stalin is in the top left, with a clear policy of no freedoms – economic or social – for anyone. Remind me again – who voted for Stalin? Oh yes, absolutely nobody. Also in this corner are Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot. In order to remain in power, Stalin killed between 34 and 49 million people (apologies for the imprecise statistics, but what’s a few million between friends?), Mao killed between 45 and 78 million, and Pol Pot killed a rather paltry 1.7 million. Pol Pot was in power for just 4 years though, so he had only just got started.
We should be in no doubt that left-wing authoritarian governments are seriously bad news, and do everything we can to avoid them.
Left-wing Libertarians like Gandhi are a different matter. They love everyone, and believe in a kind of voluntary collectivism. Good luck with that, you bunch of hippies. No one’s going to vote for you.
In the bottom right we find no political leaders whatsoever, just academics. It seems that the notion that people should be free to do broadly what they like as long as they don’t hurt anyone is never going to win any popular support. We’d much rather tell our neighbours what they can and can’t do, even if that means that they impose restrictions on us too.
The myth of right-wing extremists
The website also examines the idea of right-wing extremism. It points out that this is a complete misnomer. Most fascists are economically left-wing or centrist. Hitler, Mussolini, the British National Party and the French Front National are all to the left of mainstream parties. Indeed, NAZI stands for National Socialists. The bad boys of politics are not right-wing, but Authoritarian.
Economic vs Social restrictions
So nearly all democratic governments can be characterised to some degree as right-wing authoritarian. Furthermore, there appears to be an inverse correlation between economic and social liberty. Countries that lean to the left economically tend to be more socially permissive, while those that allow greater economic freedoms tend to be more socially conservative. In France, you can do whatever you like in the bedroom, but have to obey lots of rules in the boardroom; in the UK, you’d better not frighten the horses, but you are free to buy and sell them at whatever price you like.
Why do we feel the need to impose so many rules on each other? I don’t know. Perhaps we’re all bastards.
But why not combine the best of both worlds – economic freedom and social freedom too? Sounds good to me, but it will probably never catch on.