Archive for October 18, 2007

The Political Compass

October 18, 2007

I began taking the political compass test about five years ago, and I have taken it maybe once every two years.  I think it is official that the test can no longer discern my place on the political spectrum.  I scored a 1.38 to the right, .92 authoritarian (on my last testing, I was 5.13 right and 1.94 authoritarian).  Then, when you look at the political compasses of the candidates for this year’s election cycle, I am further left than most of the democrats, including Hillary Clinton.  And yet, for moral reasons and political reasons, I would never vote for any of these democratic candidates, and while I find some of the Republicans good, most of them are not. 

Here’s the problem:  the more educated I become, the less my way of thinking conforms to the paradigm being proposed by the test.  In other words, I am no longer speaking the same language as the test.  For instance, when the test states, “the freer the market, the freer the people,” I balk at the question.  What kind of freedom are we talking about?  Political freedom?  Economic freedom?  Or moral freedom?  For the first two, one could probably argue that the freer the market is, the freer the people is.  In fact, I would probably agree.  However, in my mind those two freedoms are of lesser importance and ultimately ordered to moral freedom.  Since the definition of freedom is fuzzy, my answer cannot be expounded by merely filling in a bubble.  Do I mark disagree because I balk at their definition of freedom (like I did on this test), or do I mark agree because I think that it is true (a tautology, perhaps) that greater freedom of the market produces greater economic freedom? 

For many of the questions, I wish I could have marked an, “I agree/disagree with qualification” box.  I haven’t changed my opinions so much in the course of the year that I have gone from being a diehard Republican to a Clinton supporter by any stretch of the imagination.  Rather, the differences can be explained by my mindset at the time:  what objection to the question or what qualification to my answer did I have in mind as I marked the particular bubble?   

Of course, this isn’t anything new.  When Pope John Paul II died, I remember several commentators giving a synopsis of his life.  They called him a mystery man, a man of contradiction.  On the one hand, he hated Communism; on the other hand, he criticized democracies.  So where could he possibly stand on the issues, they would ask.  And I’ll bet that those who aren’t engaged in Catholic literature and culture would be confused.  There is no one book that you can read to become fully engaged in the Catholic mindset.  If the test doesn’t speak a person’s language, it cannot assess his position accurately.