Political Compass

Update, December 21, 2016: Though I undoubtedly would continue to score something similar to the results documented below, I no longer identify with the political left in the United States.1

Fig. 1. Graton, June 23, 2012

I have taken the Political Compass test on numerous occasions over the years. My score has always been close to the result depicted in figure 2:

Economic Left/Right: -8.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.85

Fig. 2. Political Compass score, July 18, 2012

This is a fairly extreme left-libertarian score, but I am an anarchist, and the Political Compass test, a project of a political scientist and a journalist,2 is a less than ideal instrument for measuring anarchist views. To understand why, consider the following passage from J. Herbert Altschull's Agents of Power:

. . . the underlying belief system expressed in U.S. schools of journalism: that unlimited years of progress lie ahead for the United States and its politicoeconomic system, that the press plays a leadership role in bringing about that glorious future, that the financial structure of the American press assures economic health and political independence for the news media, and that this healthy future can be ensured best of all by following the path of objectivity.3

Altschull makes a point of making the ideology explicit precisely so he can criticize it, which he does, and in the years since he wrote that passage, the decline of the news media should surely have shaken the faith of its adherents. We can probably assume nonetheless that continued faith in this dogma explains in significant part that decline and may very well affect the construction of questions on the Political Compass test.

As to the ideology of political scientists, my exposure to them suggests that, as a rule, they tend to understand anarchism in its dictionary definition, as a sort of violent chaos, and they dismiss the feasibility of anarchism as a system of social organization. To its credit, the Political Compass test seems to make some allowance for anarchist views, but the combination of these world views surely biases the test in favor of what Riane Eisler calls a dominator model of social organization and what Philip Slater calls Control Culture,4 has made it more difficult for me to take, and given this, Peter Frauenglass' suggestion that he "mentally prepend[s] most of the questions with 'If we're not going to make radical changes...'"5 would seem to have merit. The following results reflect my attempt to apply Frauenglass' approach:

Economic Left/Right: -9.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.31

Fig. 3. Political Compass, August 13, 2012

This is an even more radical score, but one which I'm more comfortable with because employing Frauenglass' approach, I was able to answer the Political Compass questions comfortably.

Some qualifications should be noted:

  1. These results come from the test taken at two different times and with probably different moods.
  2. The Political Compass test itself is an ongoing work in progress. It may have changed between my tests.
  3. And, of course, all the usual qualifications that apply to quantitative methodology apply.

Fig. 4. Admiral Janeway, April 6, 2012

  • 1. David Benfell, "Farewell to the left," Not Housebroken, November 28, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9133
  • 2. The Political Compass, http://politicalcompass.org/index
  • 3. J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995), 58-59.
  • 4. Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995); Philip Slater, The Chrysalis Effect: The Metamorphosis of Global Culture (Eastbourne, UK: Sussex, 2009).
  • 5. Peter Frauenglass, in Alien Nesby [on line posting], August 12, 2012, https://friendica.eu/display/benfell/1056992