Friday, October 12, 2007

The "Perfect Match" of politics

Tim Hollo at Greensblog has brought my attention to a bunch of interesting new sites springing up that offer an online test to determine which political party you're most ideological compatible.

I subjected myself to Bryan Palmer's version at OzPolitics. I was a little surprised by the results. I'd expected to be closest to the Democrats, but I came up with a nearly 90% compatibility with the Greens.

A quick look at the 100 most recent results turns up another interesting factoid: it seems that lefties are far more likely to play this game of political "Perfect Match" than conservatives. Maybe Bryan's test skews to the left, but I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be generally true. I wonder what it says about the left, about our need to reaffirm our ideological beliefs in a pseudo-scientific fashion, as though we ourselves weren't as well acquainted with what we stand for than a web-based thermometer. Or do we just like (need?) to have proof that we really are as left as we claim to be?

It's worth putting this all in the context of another site, the Political Compass, which also arrived on Facebook not long ago. The site advocates a two-dimensional model of politics, complementing the traditional left-right economic dimension with a social dimension that has authoritarian and anti-authoritarian positions at its poles. This allows political positions to be divided into four quadrants Authoritarian Right, Authoritarian Left, Libertarian Left and Libertarian Right.

The diagram really does help make sense of a lot of talking at cross-purposes I find I have with supporters of Friedman or Hayek . I think a lot of the time people find a quadrant they like, for example, the Libertarian Right position, and then collapse the rest of the diagram back into a single dimension. I'm thinking of friends of mine who assume that the only way to be a libertarian - i.e. to value human freedom - is to occupy the Libertarian Right position and so be in favour of deregulated markets. Anyone against free markets - i.e. on the left - is clearly an authoritarian (read, Stalinist). But this conveniently neglects the SW quadrant, or Libertarian Left, which is in favour of protecting individuals and communities against the irrational forces of markets, so they can exercise the freedoms in other ways than sleeping under bridges.

But the real reason I bring this site up is because the site maps the parties likely to participate in the 2007 Australian Election on this diagram. It's available here. What is terrifying about this representation is that it clearly shows the push toward the Authoritarian Right. Only two parties are actually located in the Libertarian half of the diagram. It just goes to show how far away from the mainstream many of us are.

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