Saturday, January 12, 2019

Political Compass 2019: Where Do I Stand?

Happy New Year! 

To start off what I'm sure is going to be a rollicking 2019 (thanks in large part to our now divided government), I'm going to steal an idea from Sargon of Akkad and share with you my current standing on the popular Political Compass Test: 

This test, in my opinion, has several profound weaknesses. For one thing, I don't think it adequately captures the leftist authoritarianism of Current Year. To really get a good measure of that phenomenon, the test would have to make propositions such as:

  • Hate speech should not be permitted in public spaces.
  • Respect for a person's preferred pronouns should be legally enforced.
  • If a person claims a certain gender identity, any services or public spaces designed for that gender should be made open to said person under penalty of law.
  • It is sometimes necessary to turn down a highly qualified white or male candidate for a job in order to foster diversity and inclusion.
Etc., etc. I think you get the idea.

The other thing this test sorely needs is a "Not Sure" button for those of us who wobble between weak agreement and weak disagreement. In the absence of such respect for nuance, I often split the difference between related questions just to complicate the picture. I'm also going to follow Sargon's lead and explain my answers below the jump.

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

I don't believe the interests of trans-national corporations and the interests of humanity more broadly are necessarily in conflict. Much of the time, corporations rise in wealth and power precisely because they offer products or services that do serve humanity by reducing our labor, say, or by allowing us to stay connected. But does that mean I trust these businesses completely? As you'll see below, no.

I’d always support my country, whether it was right or wrong. Disagree

I'm not going to blindly support everything the United States does on a policy level. Although I think we've generally been a force for good in the world, that doesn't mean our every decision has been perfectly sensible.

No one chooses his or her country of birth, so it’s foolish to be proud of it. Disagree

Though it can sometimes go too far, patriotism is a natural and usually benign human impulse. Not only that, I believe it is essential to human flourishing to develop a loyalty to your homeland. Without that loyalty - without that unifying sense of purpose - we inevitably rupture into warring tribes, and our safety and stability are consequently threatened.

I think patriotism is especially important in a creed-based nation like the United States. That's why I don't agree with my libertarian friends who argue that the Pledge of Allegiance is stupid. We all came from other places and thus don't have a common national history to rely on for our identity. The only binding force we can possibly deploy is America's "weird" civic religion.

My personal feelings? I love the United States. I love the land, and I love the people. Watching the Discovery Channel's North America documentary mini-series, I have several intense - indeed, almost religious - emotional responses. The same holds true for any U.S.-based natural disaster documentary, which invariably features ordinary Americans from all over the country coming together to help the suffering and clean up the damage. 

Americans, quite frankly, are awesome. We are awesomely stubborn, awesomely generous, and awesomely ingenious. And America the territory? The patriotic hymn is absolutely right: it is beautiful. I refuse to believe that recognizing and reveling in these facts is foolish. 

Our race has many superior qualities, compared with other races. Strongly disagree

I don't think this needs much explaining. 

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Disagree

He's an ally-of-the-moment, not a friend. See also: the Soviet Union during WWII, or Saudi Arabia currently.  

Military action that defies international law is sometimes justified. Agree

Ideally, I don't want our leaders jumping into a conflict without backing from our allies. But I also want them to put our national interests first, and if that means defying the "international community" as embodied by, say, the UN (that wretched hive of pikers and despots), then so be it. 

There is now a worrying fusion of information and entertainment. Strongly agree

I don't think this needs much explaining either.

People are ultimately divided more by class than by nationality. Disagree

On the global stage, nationality, race, tribe, culture, and religion are all more powerful centrifugal forces than class. Despite internationalist Marxist fantasies, I don't think a British soccer lad would agree that he has much in common with a working-class Muslim in Indonesia.

However, I do think class is increasing in political importance within advanced Western democracies. The populist movements arising in said sphere are driven, it seems to me, by working-class frustration with our transnational leadership set -- and the push-back against these movements reeks of class-based arrogance.

Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment. Disagree

I feel like they are equally important. Obviously, we want to control inflation to preserve the purchasing power of the common man's dollar. But I think we should also work to increase employment opportunities for the able. There's dignity in working for a living; I want as many people as possible to have access to that ennobling enterprise. 

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

Simmer down, my libertarian friends. I'm not saying I'm in love with the EPA or our current byzantine system of regulations. I agree that our government, at the moment, is overreaching. I'm just saying that setting a baseline standard for environmental cleanliness makes sense to me in light of how filthy our water and air used to be.

“from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is a fundamentally good idea. Strongly disagree

To the exquisitely sensitive in the audience: Relax. It's a joke. I really hate communists, though.

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

I'm only sad I didn't think of it first.

In all seriousness: Where tap water is perfectly safe to drink, bottled water is a frivolous product -- but so are many other products that are bought and sold daily in the free market. If we say that the sale of bottled water is morally terrible, exactly how far does that line of reasoning go?

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

This is a no-brainer. Land that is owned is better cared for.

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

I have no love for the big banks, but stock markets and banks do contribute to our economy, whether you understand the nature of that contribution or not. Further, the financiers who make great fortunes "manipulating money" aren't simply squirreling wealth away from the rest of us. That's not how wealth works. Like everyone else, financiers buy things and seek the services of others, thereby dumping money back into the "great river." 

Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade. Disagree

My position on this has weakened a little. I still believe free trade is generally the best policy in the long run, but that doesn't mean I'm insensitive to the problems international competition can cause in the short term. Thus, when we strike trade deals with other nations, I agree we should be mindful of our workers and their needs. 

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

We shouldn't hold up profit as an idol. A company should deliver profit to its shareholders, yes, but by selling a product or service that people feel will improve their lives -- and it should do so while treating its employees and customers with respect. 

At the same time, companies shouldn't go beyond the remit outlined above to start dabbling in social activism as corporate entities. When I go to Burger King, I want a Whopper -- not a lecture on the supposed "pink tax". When I sign up with Mastercard, I want a line of credit -- not a high sparrow monitoring my purchases for wrongthink.

The rich are too highly taxed. Agree

I honestly don't give two damns about the rich. I selected "Agree" because I believe everyone is too highly taxed.

Those with the ability to pay should have access to higher standards of medical care. Agree

Don't get me wrong: I believe those without the ability to pay should have access to high standards of medical care. I just don't think that should come at the expense of others' rights to shop around if they have the means.

Governments should penalise businesses that mislead the public. Strongly agree 

I don't think anyone opposes this.

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

A free market doesn't exist without competition. The recent activities of the tech giants makes that perfectly clear. 

The freer the market, the freer the people. Agree 

Free markets are necessary but not sufficient. An institutional apparatus that preserves our human rights is also required.

Abortion, when the woman’s life is not threatened, should always be illegal. Agree
That's a human life, scientifically and ethically. We have a duty to protect it, especially since it is innocent and did not choose to be where it is. Frankly, it disgusts me that there are folks out there who regard the unborn child as a wart or a tumor with no moral claim on our consciences whatsoever. 

Of course, we also have a duty to surround the mother with compassion and care. And within the civil sphere, I understand that I have to strike compromises with those who are less certain of the unborn child's moral status -- or those who worry about women in certain edge cases. If allowing a rape and incest exception, for example, will move us forward in developing an overall culture of life, then I will accept it -- even though I think a child conceived in rape is no more guilty than other unborn children and would strongly prefer not to sentence it to death for the sins of its father.

All authority should be questioned. Agree

You shouldn't doubt it endlessly, but you should examine it. 

As a Catholic, I respect the authority of the Church -- but I don't respect it blindly. I came to recognize its wisdom after years of searching and interrogation.  

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Disagree

Cycles of vengeance are fruitless. Indeed, that's one of the major issues I have with the social justice left: they seem focused on exacting revenge for injustices committed in the past, even if it means punishing innocent people in the present. "For every one of ours who was denied equal treatment, we will do the same to one of yours." Basically, they're fighting a blood feud -- just with institutional power instead of literal weapons.

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

In the era of crowdfunding, there's no excuse for the government to be wasting my taxes on art that, in my opinion, doesn't deserve my monetary support. Let every individual choose for himself which art he wishes to finance.

Schools should not make classroom attendance compulsory. Agree

I like how my state does it currently. If you wish to pull your child out of institutional schooling, you just need to send a letter to the superintendent stating what you will be doing for an alternative.

Society does have an interest in ensuring that every child is educated somehow. A traditional classroom education, however, shouldn't be forced on everyone. I strongly support every parent's right to choose something else if that's what he or she feels will best suit a particular child. I even support giving high-school-aged teenagers the latitude to opt out if they want to pursue an apprenticeship instead.

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 

As long as we have an overarching structure of common core beliefs, there's no reason why many different kinds of people can't live and work together.

Good parents sometimes have to spank their children. Agree

If, in disobeying you, a child puts himself in imminent danger of being injured or killed, then one swat across the backside may be appropriate. Overall, though, spanking shouldn't be our first resort.

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

Yes, it's natural. Do I think it's always right? No.

Generally speaking, I think parents should trust their children and grant them their privacy as long as they continue to earn that trust. But as soon as a child gets mixed up with something that puts him in danger, a parent's intervention and active supervision is required.

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

I'm still going to tell kids not to smoke it, though. The stoners at my high school weren't exactly high achievers; obviously the stuff deadens your motivation.

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

Schooling should develop a child's moral character so that he will be prepared for responsible citizenship. Equipping a child to find a job is the secondary purpose of schooling -- not unimportant, but certainly not the most important goal.

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

Who are we to pronounce judgment on which lives are worth living?

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

The most important thing for children to learn is how to be good. This involves accepting discipline, yes, but it also involves positively developing the cardinal and spiritual virtues.

There are no savage and civilised peoples; there are only different cultures.  Disagree

I reject cultural relativism. Cultures that respect the human rights of all of their members are superior to cultures that don't. I think, however, that we should be circumspect when evangelizing other societies and not just run roughshod over their deeply held beliefs. Do as many of the Catholic missionaries did: live with such people, listen to them, understand where they are coming from, respect what they have gotten right, and then explain what they're missing.

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

2 Thessalonians 3:10

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

You shouldn't dwell on your problems, but you shouldn't avoid confronting them either. That's the major error inherent in safe space culture.

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

I know first generation immigrants who absolutely have integrated. They key, though, is that they wanted to be Americans, not hyphenated Americans. They admired our institutions and accepted our creed wholeheartedly; they didn't just choose to live here for the jobs and social services.

What’s good for the most successful corporations is always, ultimately, good for all of us. Disagree

No, not always. The fact that Google, Apple, Twitter, et. al. are massively successful has turned out not to be good for people who dissent from elite orthodoxy. While corporations often become successful by doing things that are good for the mass of humanity, I'm not going to naively trust in them to always be a positive force. Like any other center of power, they should be checked.

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

See my remarks above on funding the arts. I'm pretty sure Big Bird can survive without the government's help.

Our civil liberties are being excessively curbed in the name of counter-terrorism. Strongly agree
The security theater in our airports is especially absurd.

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
Yeah, it's such a pain to have to persuade people that you're right. It's so much better to be California. 

What? What's that you say? Poop and dirty needles in the streets? Nonsense. You're imagining things.

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

Innocent people are already getting screwed by corporations and foreign governments taking advantage of their new surveillance capabilities, so don't tell me not to worry. 

The death penalty should be an option for the most serious crimes. Disagree
I think it's too risky to give the government the power to decide who lives and who dies. But that doesn't mean I don't sympathize with the opposing position, especially in extreme cases. 

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

Hierarchies are inevitable, but functional hierarchies shouldn't be based on a paradigm of command and obedience. Those at the top should lead with noblesse oblige, and those below should be granted the freedom to question their superiors when necessary -- and to rebel when those superiors don't hold up their end of the bargain. 

Abstract art that doesn’t represent anything shouldn’t be considered art at all. Disagree

There is some abstract art that is quite beautiful and technically complex. 

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

I think they're equally important. Prisons shouldn't be resorts; they should feel restrictive. But we should also be working to redeem the inmates. They're people too, even if they have made rotten life choices.

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

Here, I was splitting the difference with the previous question. I was also attempting to acknowledge that many prisoners, despite our best efforts, never convert because they're simply too broken or too psychopathic to be saved. I'm no naif.  

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

As long as they are all serving their proper function in society, they are equally important.

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

If you have children, then yes, family should come first. But lest you protest, I also believe this applies to fathers too.

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

Those companies are doing important work that will help us feed more people, including those who live in developing countries.

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

I'm not suggesting you should lie down and surrender before the establishment, but yes: you can't spend your life in a state of permanent revolutionary fervor. That mode of being leads nowhere good.

Astrology accurately explains many things. Strongly disagree

You cannot be moral without being religious. Disagree

I've met many individuals who don't subscribe to a particular religious creed and yet remain morally upstanding citizens. However, I think it's extremely hard - if not impossible - for a society to transmit moral beliefs to the next generation without religious frameworks. So while it's obvious particular people don't need religion to be righteous, I think entire cultures do.

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

To a government bureaucracy, you're just a set of statistics. A charity is more likely to know you personally. Charity is also more local and thus more attuned to the peculiar needs of your area. And lastly, charity is more likely to deliver a kick in the pants to anyone who's trying to sponge off others.

Some people are naturally unlucky. Disagree

Of course, not everyone is born endowed with the same talents and resources to succeed. But if we tell people who are saddled with crappy hands that they're naturally unlucky and thus can't do anything on their own to improve their disadvantaged states in life, we will do active harm.

It is important that my child’s school instills religious values. Agree

I want my children to be good. Grounding them in a religious framework is, in my observation, an excellent way to form their consciences.

Sex outside marriage is usually immoral. Strongly agree

It's always immoral, actually. 

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

The world isn't perfect, alas. There are a lot of kids out there who need good homes, and I do think a gay couple can provide such a home in a pinch. All other things being equal, though, I'm always going to choose the straight couple over the gay couple because I think having both a mother and a father matters to the long term healthy development of a child.

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

Doesn't mean I like it, or that I'm not going to encourage people to steer away from it for their own well being.

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

I don't think the state has the competence needed to adjudicate matters of sexual morality. That is the purview of religion.

No one can feel naturally homosexual. Disagree

I know too many gay people to agree with this notion. The science is unsettled when it comes to the causes of same-sex attraction; still, I personally suspect such causes arise so early in the development of an individual that homosexuality might as well be considered innate, even if it isn't strictly genetic or congenital in origin (an unlikely possibility for any psychological trait).

This doesn't mean, of course, that I think the expression of same-sex attraction is completely outside the control of the gay individual. I know too many gay celibates to accept that the homosexual will always be completely done in by his urges. Is it a terrible cross to bear to live as a faithful Christian while also being gay? Sure, and I have deep sympathy for my gay friends because of their unique struggle.

These days openness about sex has gone too far. Strongly agree

I think #MeToo is, at base, an expression of deep dissatisfaction with the results of the sexual revolution. But instead of punishing all men to give vent to that dissatisfaction, why not rehabilitate chaste living? 

Hey, it's just a thought.

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