Re: Political Compass

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Tue Aug 28 2001 - 05:44:58 MDT

On Mon, Aug 27, 2001 at 11:23:47PM -0700, Lee Corbin wrote:
> I couldn't take this test! I had to give up after only four questions!
> Here they are: (for each, your only choices are strongly agree, agree,
> disagree, and strongly disagree)
> 1. If globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity
> rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.
> Well, Jesus! The assumption is that the interests of the trans-national
> corporations are antithetical to those of humanity! Good grief!

Corporations are legal entities with many of the rights of human
beings. They have their own interests and agendas which are distinct
from those of the human beings who are members of them. (Corporate
officers are charged with a duty of pursuing the interests of the
corporation and can be fired or even sued if they let their own
preferences get in the way.)

One may argue that in this respect, this question applies equally to
trans-human AIs. "If the singularity is inevitable, it should primarily
serve humanity rather than the interests of non-human AIs." Discuss!

> Was
> the WSPQ (World's Shortest Political Quiz) this loaded, and I simply
> couldn't recognize it because I'm a libertarian? This is scary!
To my (non-American) eyes the answer is "yes, it was". Be scared!

> 2. I'd always support my country, whether it was right or wrong.
> And what does **support** mean? Defend physically, or refuse to
> criticize? Clearly the answer that the test tries very, very hard
> to get out of one is "disagree", or "disagree strongly".

Given the British political experience in the 20th century it means
"blindly sign up to go fight in the trenches and die horribly, in
defense of the national honour".

10% of the menfolk of one generation did just that, and another 20%
came home maimed in one way or another. Ever since then, unthinking
patriotism has left a rather bitter taste in the mouth. (Emphasis
on "unthinking": but anyone with half a brain cell knows that "national
honour" is merely an abstraction, and a really good handle for
scoundrels to use to manipulate people into doing what they want. As
witness the tendency of just about every US president in my lifetime
to wrap themselves in the flag and pray to almightly GAAWWWD publicly
when they want to get someone else to do something unpleasant for

> 3. No one chooses their country of birth, so it's absurd to be
> proud of it.
> Absurd? While this question isn't as absurd as the first two,
> this is hardly the right word here.

It's an assertion I agree with very strongly.

> 4. Our nation has many unique virtues.
> Perhaps not such a bad question.

What makes _your_ nation unique? The people who live in it? Its history?
Or some other factor? (If you leave out the history side of things, the
USA, where you live, is anything but unique -- there are any number of
constitutional democracies in the world today, in fact they're in the
majority among nations.)

> 5. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
> Okay

This quiz, so far, is probing the extent of your patriotism -- with an
emphasis on certain values that are still held by the reactionary right
in the UK, but decried by the internationalists (who are not necessarily
the left; they're just everyone who isn't in the reactionary right,
including the progressive right).

It's going to look rather different to an American, as the USA today has
about the same level of jingoistic rah-rah my-country-right-or-wrong
patriotism that the UK had prior to 1914. (In other words, an unhealthy
amount -- enough to kill a large fraction of the population for no good
reason. I mean, you guys call yourselves libertarians ...?)

> 6. Jews surely have to take some of the responsibility for
> their persecution over the past 2000 years.
> So how can one possibly answer that if he or she believes
> that Jews must take a small share of the responsibility,
> say five or ten percent? Why, one must then *agree*, because
> that's what the word "some" means. But then one is immediately
> implicated, (or self-implicated, depending on one's temperament)
> as an anti-Semite.

Yeah, it's a bad question. I think it's probably aimed at winkling
out the barking fringe of conservative supporters in the UK -- who cross
over with unsavoury groups like the BNP and the NF. (Overt neo-Nazi
parties.) An equivalent question for the US political milieu would be
"Blacks surely have to take some of the responsibility for their own
failure to prosper since the 1860's."

> 6. The growing fusion between information and entertainment
> is a worrying contribution to the public's shrinking attention span.
> So does "worrying" mean that one wishes to regulate it? Luckily,
> I gave up on this quiz two questions back, and don't have to think
> about it.
You're now reading implications into these questions that probably
go beyond their intent. However, I think in this case that the regulatory
urge is _exactly_ what this question is intended to dig out -- remember,
the poll is checking for authoritarian tendencies, right?

> Seriously: I do *not* remember anyone complaining about the
> tendentiousness of the questions on the former quizzes. PLEASE
> say so if you *did* have any problem with those earlier quizzes.

I did. "The world's shortest political quiz", for example, was a biased

Look a year or so ago I (jokingly) came up with a political geek code
for soc.history.what-if (in the wake of some off-topic flame wars over
politics). Here it is! Tell me what you think ...

-- Charlie

S++ C--- F+ I++ RS rA@@@? rD@@@@ rE@@ rF@@@@ rG@ rH@@@@ rO%%%%
                   rP@@ rR%%% rS@@@@ rT@@@@ rW@@@ rX@@@ rZ@@/%%

The USENET politics code, draft 0.02:

(NOTE: this code deliberately _avoids_ using any political buzz-words that
I'm familiar with. If you spot any, please let me know so that I can remove

First come five major categories. You probably have a stance on all of
these axes. Pick your positions and separate them with spaces. If you
vary between two (such as S++ and S-), separate them with a slash,
thus: S++/S-.

S Society. You know; they're all around us. But how important is it,

     S++++ The individual only exists as part of a broader human society;
            their goals and aspirations are only valid insofar as they advance
            society's goals
     S+++ Society is important and has a right to override individual
            preferences or wants where appropriate.
     S++ Society is important, but individuals have rights too, and there
            is a balancing point between the two -- although an individuals
            rights stop at the end of their nose, and society has to look after
            everything else.
     S+ Society is just a useful social construct; it's made up of people,
            and people come first.
     S- Society is an emergent phenomenon that arises from interactions
            among people. It has no independent existence without the
            willing participation of individuals.
     S-- Society is all too often used as an excuse to limit individual
            rights; we need to be careful about throwing this term around in
     S--- ... it's spelt "sheeple"
     S---- There is no such thing as society

C Church politics. Should it have any place in government?

     C++++ I am the pope/ayatollah/chief rabbi! You betcha!
     C+++ The [insert holy book] tells us how we should live our lives,
            and we ought to legislate its provisions into law and live by
            them. Religious observation and education should be compulsory.
     C++ In general, the [insert holy book] is a good guide to life,
            though I figure as this is an enlightened age we can replace
            "stoning to death" with five years hard labour. (And that bit
            about not wearing mixed fibres -- drop it.) Religious observance
            should be encouraged, and irreligous education discouraged.
     C+ I believe in [insert holy book] and will live by it, but I
            don't think non-religionists need to be bound by it. (It's their
            soul, right?) Religious education and observance is a personal
     !C I am an atheist.
     ?C I think I might be an agnostic, but I'm not sure.
     C- It's a good idea to keep priests away from the education system
            and government. Separation of church and state.
     C-- Religion, based on prehistoric irrationalism, has no place in
            the running of a modern state. Laws and values should be based
            on introspective ethical scrutiny, not superstition.
     C--- Mandating religious education or observance is a tool of
            oppression! Religion is irrational guff! In fact, we should be
            targeting education to innoculate kids against the virus of
            pernicious superstition. (And close the churches.)
     C---- Kill the priests.

F Force Majeure. Does might make right, at national level?

     F++++ I've got an H-bomb, so bend and spread 'em. (Alternatively:
            "What do we want? Lebensraum! Where do we want it? Ost! When
            do we want it? Now!")
     F+++ There are of course rules of civilized warfare, but if our
            economic or political interests are threatened we reserve the
            right to defend them by sending an aircraft carrier or organizing
            a discreet coup d'etat. And we'll probably exercise that right --
            frequently. If we _don't_ have that kind of arsenal, we'll send
     F++ We have armed forces to defend ourselves against attack, and if
            you can show us a UN resolution we'll lend you a bomber squadron
            or two. But in general we don't invade other countries and we
            don't send terrorists.
     F+ Our constitution forbids us from operating away from home. So
            sorry, UN security council.
     F- We used to have an army, but we caught them planning a coup so
            we took away their guns and loaned them to the UN on peacekeeping
            duties for the next forty years.
     F-- If you invade us we'll all sit down. And hold our breath until we
            turn blue. (You'll be sorry.)
     F--- We don't have an army -- but all independent-minded people pack
            automatic weapons, and some of the neighbours have fully privately
            owned tactical nukes. Invade us at your peril.

I Individuality. You know how important you are. But does everyone else?

     I++++ I am the Quonster's pedigreed consultant. Fear me.
     I+++ Individuals have inviolable rights. If you try to violate my
            rights you are attacking me and I can exercise the right to
     I++ All people have rights, but there are common goods that can be
            degraded by the unhindered exercise of private rights -- for
            example, by polluting a common resource such as the atmosphere.
            We therefore concede that some common goods must override
            individual rights, but we'd rather this was the exception than
            the rule.
     I+ You have rights, but if you abuse them we may have to take them
            away from you.
     I- Rights are just a legalistic construct. If you get in our great
            nation's way, you have only yourself to blame.
     I-- Your body belongs to the state; we know what's best for you. Do
            as you're told and nothing nasty will happen. Or else.
     I--- I am the Quonster.

R Rights. This is a difficult one ...

     R! I believe in absolute, "natural" rights that exist in and of
     RS I believe rights exist by implied social contract; they're a
            legal construct that makes it possible for people to coexist.
     R- I don't believe in rights.
     RA I believe all animals have rights, too.

Now let's consider some more clearly defined areas. A right is prefixed
with a lowercase "r", then the right's identifying letter, then a score
from @@@@ to %%%%. A question mark indicates uncertainty; for example,
rA@@@? indicates a broadly positive stance on child destruction, with
some uncertainty. An exclamation mark indicates total disinterest; for
example, rA! indicates "not interested". Two scores separated by a slash
(e.g. @@/%%%%) mean opinion veers between these two extremes.

Note: the use of @ and % is an attempt to get away from any psychological
association between positive and negative attributes which may be ascribed
to some belief. (I switched to it because I caught myself ascribing +/- to
my own pet positions. Let me know if it causes problems.)

You can miss out any of the categories you can't be bothered with.

Here are the categories:

A Abortion.

     @@@@ pro-child destruction
     %%%% anti-freedom

C Communism

    I was going to provide a scale here, but it's virtually impossible to
    get any two socialists, communists, or claret-swilling social democrats
    to agree on what is, or is not, leftism without employing surreal number
    theory to follow the branches and schisms. So just feel free to use this
    one as you will:

    @@@@ I am Karl Marx/Leon Trotsky
    %%%% I am Joe McCarthy/Tony Blair[*]

D Drugs (recreational)

     @@@@ Legalize everything! Heroin, cocaine, you name it! For free!
     %%%% The War on Drugs has gone soft! Mandatory blood tests in shopping
           malls, death penalty for repeat offenders! Ban coffee!!

E Environment.

     @@@@ The environment is more important than us humans. We need to
           minimize our impact by any means necessary.
     %%%% "I drive a 50's gas-guzzler and add tetraethyl lead to my gas 'cuz
           I can't wait for that greenhouse effect to get here! Shot any whales

F Futurism (confidence in the future; transhumanism; belief in the
               positive transforming effects of new technology)

     @@@@ The future's so bright my uploaded transhuman AI's gotta
           wear shades
     %%%% We're all gonna DIE!!!! Of poisoning!!! By genetically modified

G Guns (Personal weapons ownership -- not just firearms)

     @@@@ I want my own SCUD-B! Death to noisy poodles, and their owners!
     %%%% Ban all toothbrushes! They're potentially murderous weapons, in
           the hands of a psychopath!

H Healthcare

     @@@@ Healthcare is a basic right that should be provided by the state.
     %%%% Provision of healthcare is an individual's personal responsibility.

L Libertarianism

     @@@@ I am L. Neil Smith! Get off my land!
     %%%% We know where you live: we know where your dog goes to school.
           Just you wait, there's a black helicopter with your name on the
           pick-up list ...

M Free market economics.

     @@@@ Austrian school
     %%%% Soviet central planning school

O Objectivism

     @@@@ I am Ayn Rand! Worship me!
     %%%% Rand is nearly as funny as Marx. Groucho Marx.

P Pork barrel (Government spending)

    @@@@ Big government spending! Pyramids on the moon! An aircraft
          carrier in every cooking pot!
    %%%% The government should put every penny it receives in a piggy
          bank, for use in event of a really major disaster. Then shoot
          anyone who tries to spend it.

R Racial/Ethnic identity politics.

     @@@@ Adolf Hitler
     %%%% Colour-blind

S Free Speech.

     @@@@ Absolutely no censorship of any kind, ever, under any
     @@@ Opt-out for national security
     @@ Sometimes it's okay to censor pornographers/undesirables
     %%%% State censorship of all media is a good idea. Please read my mail!

T Science/Technology spending

     @@@@ Big science funding is one of those things government is good at;
           let's go back to the moon!
     %%%% The invisible hand will provide. If it won't, who needs it? It's
           obviously useless.

U Union rights

     @@@@ I'm a member of a trades union. Achieve strength through collective
           bargaining! Don't let management trample all over you -- strike if
           necessary, and strike often!
     %%%% Trade unions are gangsters; shoot 'em all and abolish workplace
           safety rules and minimum wage while you're at it.

W Welfare

     @@@@ Cradle-to-grave education, unemployment and disability insurance,
           and pensions, to be provided by the state. (Sod the income tax bill,
           at least I'll never starve.)
     %%%% Why should I pay to support a bunch of feckless workshy layabouts?
           Let 'em buy insurance for themselves! If they're starving, put 'em
           to work!

X Tax

    @@@@ I'm willing to pay more tax -- lots if necessary -- for the
          betterment of my society
    %%%% Tax is an iniquitous abomination that can best be dealt with by
          putting government on a subscription -- charitable -- basis.

Z Evangelism

    How willing are you to share your beliefs with others? (Think of this as
    your "evangelism quotient").

    @@@@ I want to spread the good news around and will do so even if you
          try to shut me up
    %%%% Discussing politics on the net is boring and boorish. Desist.


[*] UK political joke. Foreigners, please ignore.

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