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Political Relativity

June 13th, 2007 · Posted by Who Knows? · 18 Comments

I notice on Facebook, the more than 13,000 people on the Stellenbosch network mostly consider themselves “liberal”, with respect to politics. (With only 40% filling in the field, 2% chose Conservative, 1% Very Conservative, vs 14% Liberal, 4% Very Liberal. That’s 18% vs 3%. 9% have marked “Other”, 8% “Moderate”, 1% Libertarian.)

Back at the beginning of the year, when I joined Facebook, I took a look at the definitions in American politics, and determined I am quite certainly not a conservative. I was not sure if I was a liberal, I marked myself moderate. (I considered the Libertarian perspective for a while, but I am in favour of a welfare state of some shape or form, as tricky as it may be.) I have since come to the conclusion I do fall in the “liberal” camp, though, of course, I still reserve the right to disagree vehemently with certain typical “liberal” perspectives. (I have no idea what I might disagree with yet, I’m just saying.)

In terms of Facebook classification though? I am now one of the 60% “None Listed”, clearly not because I extend “dinner party etiquette” to my online presence. It just seems rather absurd to use such labels in a global setting, labels simply become too misleading when they cross international borders. My definitions influenced by American politics, I really thought most South Africans would adopt the “conservative” label. I have since concluded that “conservative” implies ties with “apartheid” in too many people’s minds? Give it another couple of decades for the definition pendulum to swing, for the new “conservative” to emerge less ambiguously. (Afrikaans-capable readers: realise “konserwatief” is close to the same thing as “behoudend”, with “liberaal” being related to “progressief”?)

Consider for another example, the Netherlands: there defending the right to smoke Cannabis in coffee shops is considered conservative? I liked the Netherlands, it broadened my horizons. (Of course, the country does seem rather “artificial” in a number of ways, that gets to you if you miss the “wilderness” and outdoor life style of South Africa…) I was relatively young while we lived there, I wonder in what ways my experience would have differed if I had been older?

(Hmm, just to clarify: it is indeed not absurd to pick a label if the people you are communicating with understand it correctly. So, by all means, keep your labels! My definitions are just in chaos with too many inputs and unclear definitions.)

UPDATE: Stéfan sent me a link to a Political Compass Questionnaire. Let’s be civil about this (i.e. let’s not be divisive), but share your results! Different perspectives are welcome in this world, that way we find a better overall solution… I think?

On first quick fill in, in my current frame of mind, never abstaining despite wanting to (don’t know if it is allowed), I ended up on the Libertarian Left. -6, -5.23. I expressed opinions rather strongly. Who knows how my perspectives will differ tomorrow… I expect I will remain in the Libertarian Left category, but with opinions less strongly expressed? I do like to think of myself as a moderate. ;) (A moderate with strong opinions.) Maybe less left…? Hmm, who knows.

Drop yours in a comment! Do so anonymously if you’re a chicken. Chickens have rights too! No discrimination against chickens, please! You can still fill in your email address if you want to share your identity with me only…

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18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve // Jun 14, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    I’m also a libertairian leftie, but closer to the Dalai Lama, while your score seems to be closer to Nelson Mandela…

    I got a -1.63, -4.41, so not as extreme as you, particularly with the socialism thing. (That’s probably what puts you closer to old Nelson…

  • 2 Hugo // Jun 14, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I’ll fill it in again next month, or maybe, uh, when I’m finished with my thesis and earning a salary. Hehe. As well as be less eager to mark “strongly”. I’m sure it is possible to “very much agree” but still mean it as “very much agree but not strongly or extremely so”? Hehe.

  • 3 Pieter // Jun 14, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Economic Left/Right: 0.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.44

    Shocking, I’ve moved since I took the test a few years back.
    I consider myself a liberal because I believe in the right of people to act freely as long as they harm no one. And on that I remain unmoved.

    My economic stance has changed though. I’m traditionally a supporter of free market system, but I’m drifting left…must be something I’ve read. ;)

  • 4 Hugo // Jun 14, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Yea. I always thought I’m a big fan of the free market system as well, though, apparently I have my reservations about certain aspects? Hehe… Maybe it’s similar to agreeing to any question asked…

    Consider for example this nice little analysis of the results of a recent Gallup poll that has 53% of Americans choosing evolution and 66% choosing Creationism. (Disappointing results, as expected.) Thanks for the links, Steve!

  • 5 Gericke // Jun 15, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Hmmm, my indicators are:
    Economic Left/Right: 2.50
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.38

    I am therefore slightly to the right, and even more slightly towards Libertarian.

    The quiz is obviously limited in what it measures. I personally don’t believe in human rights, nor do I believe that position and authority are the same things. I don’t agree that democracy fundamentally works and neither do I believe that a government is always necessary in society.

    I have answers to my statements above if it seems very radical, but what I believe simply doesn’t fit in with current political thought or spectrum for that matter.

    Interesting quiz though.

  • 6 Hugo // Jun 15, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Yea, I understand! And yes, a quiz always over simplifies. Instead of answering with agree/disagree, I always want to explain…

    “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for everything else invented so far…” Sorry I am unable to provide the source for this quote, cannot remember, just heard it, and it stuck in my head! ;-)

  • 7 Karra // Jun 15, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Spoken wunderkind

  • 8 Hugo // Jun 20, 2007 at 11:15 am

    So here is my double standards then: ideally, I think free schooling is a good thing, and I would have supported it in the quiz if it was asked.

    However, first reaction when I hear the ANC is considering it (for primary school, it seems)? I cringe… Just a reflex reaction. Where does that reflex reaction come from? Peer pressure, maybe, general dissatisfaction with the “one party state”, always expecting the goverment to do something silly?

    I would probably have a similar reflex reaction against anything Bush says or does, even if it aligns with my personal perspectives…? Dunno.

  • 9 Hugo // Sep 26, 2007 at 12:43 am

    The link to the quiz was broken. I have fixed it. For the record, upon filling out the quiz a second time, I scored -5.38 (economic), -5.03 (social), ever so slightly closer to the centre. Not much though. It seems I really am currently this far left. I need to go chat to a strong capitalist evangelist or something, to obtain more balance?

  • 10 gloep // Sep 26, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Economic: -4.25
    Social: -3.03
    Seems I’m lost near the middle somewhere with all the slightly-left-of-centre sufferers of indecision.

    Maybe you should go see your nearset rabbi… ;)

  • 11 Maud // Sep 26, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Economic : -6.00
    Social : -6.05

    Cool quizz…

  • 12 Hugo // Sep 26, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Yay! My friends are joining me! Seems the majority so far are also in the lower left quadrant. Strange how all the political parties and potential presidents seem to be in the top right quadrant. (E.g. US primaries 2007: http://www.politicalcompass.org/usprimaries2007 – all but two.)

  • 13 Maud // Sep 26, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Not so surprising when you see what happened in the new French government where some supposed lefty politicians joined the freshly elected, right wing President…I guess the left/right side concept is not relevant anymore…and now I understand why I struggle so much to make my final decision during elections…

  • 14 gloep // Sep 26, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Yes… the lower left quadrant seems a lovely place to be – but somehow I think in practice it maybe just doesn’t work so well? Seems to me that ideals sort of have to fly out the window when you’re trying to herd millions and millions and millions of sheep, erm, people.

  • 15 Hugo // Sep 26, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Yes, true… so… another blog post idea: analyse which questions I’m answering idealistically but unrealistically. Expect that one in, uh, November?

    Or rather, in some senses, I don’t trust industry enough, maybe I’m specifically being not-idealistic. Hehe. As I said, to be revisited in November.

  • 16 Hugo // Dec 28, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Check the discussion on this blog post for more ideas on why “academics” seems to lean towards the lower-left quadrant:
    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2007/12/my-friends-are-still-left-libertarians.html

  • 17 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 26, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Last time I took it, I scored -2.88, -4.87, right around Ghandi / Nelson Mandela / Dalai Lama.

    http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=26262578

  • 18 Ben-Jammin' // Mar 19, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Took it again and got -5.38, -5.44. I’ve moved left-libertarian, apparently.

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