Jun 03 2007

What don’t you know about yourself?

Published by at 12:07 am under Economic systems,Politics

What I didn’t know about myself was that I was a “libertarian leftist”. I had always considered myself a liberal, which I had been told meant I was so-called “left of center”. Where the terms left and right came from, I really didn’t know before now. It’s always bothered me that we describe our politicians, our economists, our professors, our teachers, our historic figures as either “left wing” or “right wing”; is the socioeconomic spectrum really only one dimension? Turns out it’s not, and now there’s a new tool for measuring your social/economic position in two dimensions.

Welcome to the Political Compass

According to the homepage of the Political Compass:

The old one-dimensional categories of ‘right’ and ‘left’, established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today’s complex political landscape. For example, who are the ‘conservatives’ in today’s Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It’s not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can’t explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as ‘right-wingers’, yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

Take this test, see where you fall in the social and economic spectra. Personally, I thought that as a teacher of Economics, a science dominated by a neo-classical, free market perspective, that I would have ended up in the quadrant of the libertarian right. I guess those old left-wing ideals of my college years are more ingrained than I thought!

Hat tip to Gregory Mankiw for the link!

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About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

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