Go down, not left !
Bob’s post about liberty reminded to to finish a post I started about 3 years ago.
Most people think of politics in terms of left and right. In America, there are liberals and conservatives and anyone in the middle is a moderate.
This is a gross over-simplification and distorts the political discourse in many ways but the most assidious is the assumption that, if you are one side, people on the opposite side will have the opposite view.
For example, Andrew Sullivan considers himself a conservative and at least once a week he points to some policy of the Bushies that he does not like and claims that if it is this bad under the Republicans, imagine how much worse it would be under the Democrats.
I consider myself a liberal but I find myself agreeing with Sullivan’s political views rather more often than the simplistic left/right model of politics might predict.
The ideas at the Political Compass help resolve the paradox. The Political Compass posits two axes – the usual left/right one plus an up/down axis that represents authority/liberty.
I took their test and it put me at [-6.13, -6.82] in the bottom left quadrant along with Mandela, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama – in the opposite quadrant to Bush & Thatcher. I’d guess that Sullivan is in the bottom right quadrant so it wouldn’t be surprising to find that we often agree on matters of liberty.
So here’s the thing. Almost everyone I know who thinks about politics is below that line. Even two friends who consider themselves conservatives are below that line (they were both closer to the vertical axis than they expected too).
I understand that I live in an odd part of the country – people are more educated here, more liberal and more individualistic than the country as a whole – but my hunch is that there are rather a lot of us around. If you believe the myths about the country’s founding, being below that line is what made America in the first place.
The Dems have had a helluva time in the last few elections distinguishing themselves from the Pubbies. Whenever a democrat speaks up for social justice, they are slammed as Tax and Spend liberals. Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed small-government conservatives are in open revolt as this Congress and this Administration are headed so far up the chart they are getting nose bleeds.
So, here’s my free advice to Howard Dean and the gang –
Go down! Not Left!
For completeness, here are some prominent international figures on the same axes. Go take the quiz. Let us know where you end up.