Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Political Compass Test Isn't Very Good, Is It?

You may have seen the political compass test that's been doing the rounds - it looks to find where we are on the spectrum regarding whether we are to the left or right economically, and whether socially we lean more towards authoritarian or liberal. As you can see from the image above, the horizontal line is economically left or right and the vertical line is socially authoritarian or libertarian (meaning socially liberal), with the x and y coordinates (horizontal and vertical respectively) indicating where you fall on that spectrum after you’ve answered all the questions. Incidentally, it would have been better to have been labelled Authoritarian vs. Liberal, & Socialist vs. Economic Libertarian, but we’ll leave that and accept it as it is.

Alas, even aside from that slight quibble, whoever wrote the questions for the political compass test gives the impression that they are not very well informed. I will give a quick run down of the questions (in italic), including my answers/comments in bold (the choices are Strongly disagree , Disagree, Agree and Strongly agree), and also where the questions clearly needed revising.

If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.  Daft Question

Trans-national corporations are made up of human beings, who by definition are also part of humanity.

I'd always support my country, whether it was right or wrong.   Strongly disagree

No one chooses his or her country of birth, so it's foolish to be proud of it.  Daft question

It's not the case of being proud or not proud - one can be proud of some things without being a fool or an extreme nationalist. For example, I'm proud of my country's literature, films and music, and many of its places.

Our race has many superior qualities, compared with other races.  Daft question

Daft by being loaded to the point of being meaningless. Every race/nation/culture (whatever you want to call it) has qualities that others do not have.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.   Strongly disagree

Military action that defies international law is sometimes justified.   Agree

There is now a worrying fusion of information and entertainment.   Hmm …I don't really know what that question precisely means.

People are ultimately divided more by class than by nationality.   Sloppy question

I think the subtleties behind that are too involved to be a simple case of agreeing or disagreeing.

Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment.   Sloppy question

Sloppy for reasons no one surely needs explaining.

Because corporations cannot be trusted to voluntarily protect the environment, they require regulation.   Agree

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a fundamentally good idea.   Agree

It's a sad reflection on our society that something as basic as drinking water is now a bottled, branded consumer product.  Disagree

Land shouldn't be a commodity to be bought and sold.   Strongly disagree

It is regrettable that many personal fortunes are made by people who simply manipulate money and contribute nothing to their society.   Sloppy question

If it were the case then it would be regrettable. However, in the vast majority of cases the biggest indication that your job is contributing to society is if someone is willing to pay you to do it. Crime is an exception, but I get the feeling the questioner thinks some non-criminal jobs contribute nothing to society, which is pretty much always false.

Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.   Strongly disagree

The only social responsibility of a company should be to deliver a profit to its shareholders.   Sloppy question

Technically that's the main purpose of a business - to deliver a profit (delivering a profit shows the company is running well and contributing value to society). However, while that's true, it is *desirable* that companies should be socially responsible.

The rich are too highly taxed.   Agree

I agree if the question is about what is most economically efficient in terms of growth. However, once we factor in what is best for the rich in terms of their behaviour, things get more involved (I'll do a blog on this at some point).

Those with the ability to pay should have the right to higher standards of medical care.   Strongly agree (although Sloppy question)

If by which we are supposed to mean, the right to purchase private health care - but surely hardly anyone denies this.

Governments should penalise businesses that mislead the public.   Agree (although Sloppy question).

It all depends on how they mislead the public - and that is the important point that is never considered.

A genuine free market requires restrictions on the ability of predator multinationals to create monopolies.   Agree

The freer the market, the freer the people.   Agree

At least, the conditions that engender freedom in society are likely to engender a freer market too.

Abortion, when the woman's life is not threatened, should always be illegal.   Strongly disagree

All authority should be questioned.   Strongly agree

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.   Strongly disagree

I'm assuming the questioner doesn't really understand this principle. In the Old Testament an eye for an eye does not mean if you do me wrong to the value of X then I am encouraged to reciprocate also the value of X. What it actually means is if you do me wrong to the value of X, the very most I can do to reciprocate is match the value of X. It's not an encouragement to take an eye for an eye - it's an instruction that the very most you should take is an eye for an eye. Jesus, of course, came up with something better (Matthew 5:38-48).

Taxpayers should not be expected to prop up any theatres or museums that cannot survive on a commercial basis.   Agree

Generally I agree, although government funded projects in the arts and in history can be beneficial.

Schools should not make classroom attendance compulsory.   Strongly disagree


All people have their rights, but it is better for all of us that different sorts of people should keep to their own kind.   Strongly disagree


Good parents sometimes have to spank their children.   Disagree (although poorly phrased question).

I put disagree. Although generally I feel one ought to avoid smacking, I could not put 'agree' because there are times when perhaps a light but very infrequent smack does more good than harm. The question was a bad one though - much better to have asked about people’s preferences for regular smacking.

It's natural for children to keep some secrets from their parents.   Agree

Possessing marijuana for personal use should not be a criminal offence.   Disagree

Although I'm almost 50/50 on this, I can see the pros and cons, but there's just something about me that disfavours drug use just enough to not want to legalise them. Only just though (in the case of cannabis).

The prime function of schooling should be to equip the future generation to find jobs.   Daft question

The prime function of schooling is education, which does equip the future generation to find jobs, but does so much more too.

People with serious inheritable disabilities should not be allowed to reproduce.   Strongly disagree


The most important thing for children to learn is to accept discipline.  Daft question

Children need to learn so much, of which discipline is a key part. It's daft to try to separate those qualities into a hierarchy as they all play vital, but different roles.

There are no savage and civilised peoples; there are only different cultures.   Sloppy question by being a false dichotomy.

We are all a heady mix of savage and civilised, and we all belong to varying cultures.

Those who are able to work, and refuse the opportunity, should not expect society's support.   Disagree

We must support them, but help them to be more dynamic and get to the root of why they are refusing opportunities.

When you are troubled, it's better not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things.  Disagree

Psychological indicators suggest that in doing this those troubles come back stronger. Experience backs this up.

First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country.   Strongly disagree


What's good for the most successful corporations is always, ultimately, good for all of us.   Sloppy question

Given that 'always' is far too general, choosing either agree or disagree paints an inaccurate representation of the view. For example, technically I'd have to say 'disagree' because what's good for the most successful corporations is not, of course, *always* good for all of us. But generally it is - however, choosing 'disagree' is supposed to give the impression that generally it isn't, which distorts things.

No broadcasting institution, however independent its content, should receive public funding.   Agree.


Our civil liberties are being excessively curbed in the name of counter-terrorism.   Disagree (that is, I disagree specifically in terms of counter-terrorism rather than as a general statement)


A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.   Strongly disagree

Although the electronic age makes official surveillance easier, only wrongdoers need to be worried.   Disagree

The death penalty should be an option for the most serious crimes.   Disagree

In a civilised society, one must always have people above to be obeyed and people below to be commanded.  Agree

Well, yes to laws and regulations, if that's what is meant.

Abstract art that doesn't represent anything shouldn't be considered art at all.   Sloppy question

Ah, this question is presumably intended as being one to tease out the authoritarians who want a critical monopoly on what art is. However, this is sloppy questioning - I think a lot of so-called art involves cases of Emperor's New Clothes critiquing, but I wouldn't want to say what should and shouldn't be art outside of my own personal subjectivism. There are some things I don't consider art that others do, but we each reserve the right to our opinions.

In criminal justice, punishment should be more important than rehabilitation.   Strongly disagree

Obviously to agree with that would be barbarism. Read Dostoyevsky's House Of The Dead if you're not convinced.

It is a waste of time to try to rehabilitate some criminals.   Strongly disagree

(see above comment)

The businessperson and the manufacturer are more important than the writer and the artist.   Sloppy question

Important for what, and for whom? They need to say. For human progression why separate the businessperson and the manufacturer from the writer – they need each other at various inextricable levels. To ask who is more important is a bit like asking which blade on a pair of scissors is more important. A much better question would have been: Which is more important for human progression, living standards and well-being, business and manufacturing or art? To which the answer would be business and manufacturing.

Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers.   Agree

That is, once you become a mother then until your child is old enough your primary duty (along with the father) is to look after and care for him/her.

Multinational companies are unethically exploiting the plant genetic resources of developing countries.    Agree

Another sloppily blunt question, but no question that is true in several cases.

Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity.  Daft question

Could they really not think of better questions than this?

Astrology accurately explains many things.   Strongly disagree

The one accurate thing astrology explains is that anyone who subscribes to it is gullible and uneducated about astronomy.

You cannot be moral without being religious.   Strongly disagree

Charity is better than social security as a means of helping the genuinely disadvantaged.  Disagree

Charity is great, but less reliable (I’m presuming the questioner does not mean government aid).

Some people are naturally unlucky.   Agree

I don't subscribe to luck generally, except to say that one's place of birth can be considered on a scale of lucky (England, for example) or unlucky (Somalia, for example) in terms of how your life will likely play out.

It is important that my child's school instils religious values.  Sloppy question

It's important my child learns facts about what religious people believe.

 Sex outside marriage is usually immoral.   Disagree

In the Christian sense, chastity is encouraged, but in terms of how the survey is framing the question, it would not be considered immoral.

A same sex couple in a stable, loving relationship should not be excluded from the possibility of child adoption.   Agree


Pornography, depicting consenting adults, should be legal for the adult population.   Agree

I don't like it, but making it illegal is a bit much.

What goes on in a private bedroom between consenting adults is no business of the state.   Strongly agree

No one can feel naturally homosexual.   Strongly disagree


These days openness about sex has gone too far.   Sloppy question

In some cases yes, in some no.

The End

FINAL COMMENT: Alas, could have been an interesting and pretty informative survey if the questions weren’t composed so sloppily.