Friday, September 9, 2011

The Political Compass ideology quiz

You can take the quiz here to find out where they place you on economic and social issues.

Based on my scores, I seem to be a moderate libertarian.

Libertarianism is often seen as an extreme ideology, so is "moderate libertarian" an oxymoron? Not according to Tyler Cowen. Writing in 2007, he said that libertarian policies have increased America's economic growth, but added:

The more wealth we have, the more government we can afford. Furthermore, the better government operates, the more government people will demand. That is the fundamental paradox of libertarianism. Many initial victories bring later defeats.

I am not so worried about this paradox of libertarianism. Overall libertarians should embrace these developments. We should embrace a world with growing wealth, growing positive liberty, and yes, growing government. We don’t have to favor the growth in government per se, but we do need to recognize that sometimes it is a package deal.
In short, libertarianism has the seeds of its own destruction.

As with all these kinds of quizzes, I take issue with the premise of some of the questions. The first one is whether you agree with this statement:
If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.
This seems designed to prompt you to think in zero-sum terms about benefitting either "trans-national corporations" or "humanity." I wish there had been an option that would have allowed me to take the position that globalization should benefit both trans-national corporations and humanity at the same time. But the quiz nudges you toward answering that "humanity" should take precedence over "corporations." (The quiz writers should read the section in chapter 1 of Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies about the "zero-sum fallacy" and the chapter on free trade in Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist.)

Also, the quiz results are supposedly about your political views, but several of the social questions don't refer to any role of government. For instance, you could believe that discipline is the most important value to instill in children, and that society has gone too far in allowing people to express sexuality in public (which the quiz would count as "authoritarian" positions), while taking a libertarian position that government should stay out of these issues. You can have a moral objection to the painted nude woman in Times Square the other day without thinking the police should have arrested her. The quiz is supposed to test whether you do have authoritarian political views, but the quiz seems to make an authoritarian assumption that you'll want the government to enforce your morals.