Political Compass #1
Posted on December 14th, 2015
In which we analyze the popular “political compass" quiz.
I struggle with this quiz, for a number of reasons that will become apparent as we go through them. In this series, you’ll get to see how I think about politics (both from state and non-state perspectives), understand my concerns with how some of these questions are framed, and have a chance to challenge & sharpen each other as we consider these items.
“If economic globalization is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of transnational companies"
Issue: The Premise
Many people will not think that globalization is inevitable, and will have trouble grappling with this question. I suspect this will create an overall bias towards agree, as the folks who would tend to reject the premise would also buy in to the implied fight herein (more below).
This is the first (but far from being the last) question where it is not clear how much we are supposed to accept the current-state-of-things when answering, versus answering with our other wishes(/answers) also fulfilled. Those who are considering the long-term answer (and those with a more idealist bent) will answer more like the latter, which will be my tendency.
Issue: False Contrast
This is a type of categorization error, and others like it will likely come up again. This framing presupposes that corporations are separate from “humanity", but of course, corporations are made up of humans, so the reality is more complex than that. This presupposition serves to shunt people left and right by signaling that it is a war between these two things, but it is not so clear cut. What if, for example, we are talking about corporations that are worker-owned syndicates? That answer gets a lot muddier then, doesn’t it?
This false dichotomy also, then, artificially rules out the possibility that their fates could be intertwined. In economic theory, globalization improves economic prosperity everywhere in the long run, with painful transition for those whose work is displaced in the short run. But in practice, globalization is often combined with tariffs, subsidies, and other political protections that in effect serve to further advantage the politically-connected and economically-powerful. Further, without a system of justice around shared resources (i.e. air, water, etc.), globalization can exacerbate environmental issues. In the long view, these political protections are removed, economic interactions take into account environmental costs, and globalization helps all peoples (including those who choose to arrange their work in transnational corporations (which would likely approach 0, for reasons we will probably get into later)).
What they are probably trying to code with this question is “do you care more about the many or the few", which is a much clearer “left/right" question, but which would probably not get as honest of answers. I hope I have shown why that coding is not accurate (or at least as strongly-coded as they suspect).
How It Should Count
Agreeing should be a minor left shift.
Since it asks nothing about what governments should do about it, it should have no bearing on the other axis (authoritarian vs. libertarian).