Testing ideology

~by James Hanley

Fellow reader Stillwater, responding to my critique, writes:

you [Hanley] keep insisting there is this significant difference between our theories, our policies, our preferred values, our analytical methods. If there isn’t a category difference captured by all those distinctions, then we’re talking about subtle shading on the edges of things. But if there is a category difference captured by all that, then the lumping seems entirely appropriate since there are clear-cut divisions distinguishing two schools of thought on these matters.

That’s a worthwhile question, and I want to look at it in a round-about way. Consider the image at the top of this post.

It’s the result of a 20 question ideological placement quiz associated with a leading American Government textbook. The flag shows where (the authors say) the general public falls, and the dot is my placement. In response to Stillwater’s objection, I have two questions:

1. Who’s the real libertarian, A, B, C, D, or me?
2. What’s the difference between D and Y?

I’m not going to attempt an answer those questions, but I’m going to make a request. Would League readers please take the quiz the image comes from and send me their results, while self-identifying–regardless of where the quiz places you–as liberal, libertarian, conservative or communitarian? It will be easiest for me if you send me the image of your results, but that requires a screen-capture program (you can’t just right click and save the image), but you could also send me the numerical results that are reported under the image. I will not identify any person’s placement, but I would like to see we find self-identified libertarians clustering distinctly from self-identified liberals and self-identified conservatives. If you have some friends who would be willing to take the quiz, too, please invite them to do so (more data is generally good–at least I don’t anticipate hitting the point where it is not).

Some of you will have criticisms of the quiz. I don’t claim it’s perfect, but I do claim that of all the ideological placement quizzes I’ve found on the ‘net, it’s the best one (methodologically, it’s got the best-written questions).

If you are willing to do this, and I really hope you are, please email your results to james{dawt}e{dawt}hanley{at}gmail.com.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
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371 thoughts on “Testing ideology

  1. Some of you will have criticisms of the quiz.

    I rate 0, 4 (order, equality).  I blame that entirely on the quiz.

    I don’t claim it’s perfect, but I do claim that of all the ideological placement quizzes I’ve found on the ‘net, it’s the best one

    That says something about the ideological placement quizzes found on the ‘net.

    Hm.

    Hmmmmm.

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  2. I’ll take it. But I wanted to mention Mike Schilling’s joke: the conservative’s on first, the (statist) is on second, and the liberal’s on third. The liberal is closest to scoring. The libertarian can only score if he clears the bases!

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  3. It’s been a while since I took a test like this…maybe since freshman year? I’m not terribly impressed by the questions, but it also does show one of the main problems with political discussion over policy discussion. In that there’s substantial gaps between policy ends and means and what the public perceives as ideologically left/right.

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      • That’s what I got, though I did have to compromise for some of the questions. For instance there was one on health insurance. I prefer straightforward taxpayer funding at least for life saving treatments to an insurance model but that wasn’t an option.

        Now why and how did the public move positions between James’s test and Blaise’s?

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        • Matty,

          My graph is from last August, when I found this quiz.  So the movement is not in the matter of a few hours, which may be some comfort.  Beyond that, I don’t really know.  The authors use this in their classes, so I suspect that the “American public” is actually the collective results of their students over time.  But that’s a guess, and I don’t really know.

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        • I decided to go with the “intent” or “obvious implied policy” of the question in the current political/economic context. It would be interesting if instead of A/B questions they had more of a variety to capture nuances. For instance, I would prefer less government with more services. More or less is meaningless to me without the context of what the current state of the government is. It really depends on the quality of the government. It’s not even sensible to talk about government overall because some government departments are more important and efficient than others.

          Less law enforcement, less military, no social security (elder welfare only), death penalty (only voluntary), pro-life but abortion if you really need it, general protection against the power of accumulated pools of money, general freedom except where it harms the public and future Americans. And lawyers and lawsuits are not adequate substitutes for justice and prevention against harm.

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      • How do I self-identify?   I’m in transition just now.   Liberal isn’t a particularly good definition any more.   Say “Liberal” and all sorts of hobgoblins crawl out of the woodwork, welfare statism, Keynesian economics, class warfare and the like — none of which have anything to do with Liberalism as I understand and practice it.   Trouble is, “Conservative” has its own troops of equally-stupid and irrelevant hobgoblins.

        I don’t know what I am.   I came here because I was dissatisfied with my political belief structure.   Nobody’s serious about how this country might effect meaningful reforms on a scientific basis, where we could model proposed reforms as we model weather and other such dynamical systems.   Weather modelling comes in many flavours.   Political and economic modelling should, too.    Most economists use models but they’re mostly unscientific crap.   The Dismal Science is always great at predicting the past.

        See, models can be amended.   Let’s say we took certain Libertarian concerns into a given economic model.   We’d see the motion of money, goods and services would move along the highways and railways, taxes would be collected.   There would be the government like an island in the stream, private sector money moves on one side, public sector money on the other, eventually meeting up where the island ended.    Black markets, tax evasion, subsidies, all sorts of weird economic factors could be pushed into the model.

        Everyone could cobble together a nice Beowulf cluster and play with their models all day long.    Instead of the current babbling and frothing, Cato Institute could have a model which emphasized the benefits of their considerations, over and against a model from Center for American Progress.   Heaven forbid they should now try to integrate their models, using each other’s cautionary rulesets to inform each other’s models.   Can’t have that now, oh no, reasoned debate over the implications of the data?   Nossir.   Too much money to be made shouting and posturing and calling each other idiots.

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  4. I’m Order: 0 Equality: 3 (but those guns and medicare questions skewer things for us Canucks).

    By the way, James, from what post did Stillwater’s comment come? I’m a tad behind on my League reading. This weekend was all about cleaning and dealing with a toddler.

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  5. Order: 0

    Equality: 7

    I probably would have identified myself somewhere close to where I ended up.  I tend to consider myself liberal, though usually with a lowercase, as opposed to uppercase, l.

    FWIW, they gave me a different spot for my flag representing the public.  It is splitting the horizontal dividing line, just to the left of the vertical one.

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  6. One additional trouble with the quiz is that there is a difference between “where you think things ought to be in a perfect world” and “where you think they ought to be now, in our imperfect world”.

    I think what we really ought to do, us bein’ a bunch of reasonably cogent folks, is build one of these quizzes that don’t suck.

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    • That’d be fun. The binary format of the above test dummies it down to such an extent that someone with more nuanced views just sorta throws up their hands at the answer. I think a test which included lots of shading (well, not too much of course) would do a better job of determining someone’s political identity than merely re-affirming it. But we’ll see what James comes up with.

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      • Ha, ha fair enough. It’s looks further away visually pinned up on the border. For about 2/3 of the test, I was in the (0,0) corner, so I was confused, as I don’t typically see myself in the anarchist corner. I think one issue is that it applies a binary solution to questions that are on a 5 point scale (like the gun control question). Aside from the biases of the test-maker there is no reason why being a 3 or a “current laws are fine” should be associated with either the “left” or “right” side of the answer.

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  7. Hey, folks, I have to get back to grading.  A big stack of papers, and exams over the next few days.  But please keep these coming, and I’ll  try to get a post up at the end of the week or early next week.

    Thanks to all!

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  8. The problem with the quiz is that it still requires you to answer each question with a binary. I want an option “C” on almost every question. Do I want the government to be bigger or smaller *how* – in what way? What does “bigger” actually mean? I can’t even take the quiz properly.

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  9. Order: 0, Equality: 1.  I self identify as a libertarian.  To borrow from science fiction writer John Scalzi, “I believe in the right of same-sex married couples to carry concealed weapons.”

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  10. (3,5), with no real pre-self identification.

    Predictably, I had enormous problems with the test, which seemed to ask me to either:

    a. Choose between  false dichotomies (e.g.: “Favor unions or corporations” or “is there too much or too little govt regulation,” as if unions are either Good or Evil, and all government regulation equal and interchangeable.)

    b. Assume motivations for choices that were not there in my case.  (e.g.: The second and last questions both asked in different ways if I though the rich deserved a greater tax burden than the poor [which I do], because I favored wealth distribution and forcing the rich to have less money [not remotely why I favor it].)

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    • Thats what I found; the question about more or less regulation caused me to think of the regulatory capture of the Minerals & Mining Service under GWB; According to the test, my only choices are enlarging or reducing the MMS.

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      • That’s a feature. “We should only have the regulations which improve on laissez-faire” is a statement even many libertarians could endorse. It’s not, however, consistent with the reality of how our system of government works.

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    • Or another example of that type of problem: a question could ask whether you favor welfare for the poorest. Another question could ask you if you favor taxing policies which disproportionately harm the rich. Problem: you cannot answer yes to the first and no to the second. But I’m sure lots of people in fact would do just that.

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    • All these people who are complaining about the test not having enough options are the heart of the current Centrist political class. They are actually Kenyan socialists.

      Seriously, the test is probably designed to prevent weaseling out of tough choices, and the choice you are forced to make  tells a lot.

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      • I’m trying to figure out which part of this response to my answer amuses me more:  That you’re definition of “Kenyan socialists” is people who don’t see the world in only bi-chromatic colors, that you used the phrase “Kenyan socialists” at all, that you went two paragraphs without using any form of the word “statist,” or that your definition of not seeing either Unions or Corporations as “Evil” is “weaseling.”

        Regardless, it definitely gets a well deserved golf clap.

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        • I think in the last two comments on my posts you have included the word statist twice as a jab toward me while I did not use the word statist at all in the two posts on which you commented. You seem to be a bit desperate in your prodding to see the flaky libertarian go ballistic in a flurry of ranting and raving. I use the word when it’s appropriate, but you seem to want to frame my communications as gratuitously filled with statist this and statist that. Libertarian baiting, are you? I thought my comments regarding Kenyan socialists above were obvious in their light-heartedness, so surely you didn’t take them seriously. Take a few humor pills and call me in the morning.

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  11. I came up with Order:1, Equality:7, and usually describe myself as liberal with libertarian sympathies.  I’m a liberal who thinks the market is a lot smarter than many of my fellow liberals, but I don’t know how to keep corporatism out of it.

    What I mean by that is that I could see a free-market society working, but I’m afraid that the path from here to there would be ripe for gaming by entrenched interests. “Okay, now that I have the reduced regulatory burden I wanted, I’m not so sure about reducing barriers to entry into my market.  Time to have a chat with some Congresscritters!”

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    • What I mean by that is…

      I agree. I wish there was a handy term for that concept (is there?), but it amounts to this: lessening governmental power to permit more economic freedom is directly related to the amount of capture which results. Unfortunately, I’ve gone round and round about this with my libertarian friends here, and we simply disagree about the dynamics. But I agree with what you said. It’s a clear articulation of the basic problem structure: government needs to be powerful enough to coerce compliance by private actors. And that’s the rub, going both ways. My take on it is that a government less powerful than private actors – or more importantly a consortium of private actors – is unable to enforce regulation in any event. (Of course, libertarians have an answer for this. But I disagree with that answer as well….)

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        • Not exactly sure. Ipuzzle over this quite a bit, trying to find a clear articulation. ISTM that more governmental power leads to more powerful capture (point for the libertarian), but less governmental power leads to more complete capture. Problem is, from my pov, there is no way to eliminate capture from the game. Powerful people will always be able to capture legislators, regulators, etc., to some extent.

          So the point I’m obtusely getting at is two-fold: one, that a government which is weaker than a consortium of private interests (which is, I think, in fact the case in certain sectors) cannot effectively regulate; and two, that a weak government is in general less able to regulate. Both of those things come into play in the whole regulatory capture discussion. Which is to say that from my pov, reducing the size of government won’t lessen capture and will probably increase capture. The antidote to this is a more responsive government. And I don’t know how we’re supposed to get that except by having more citizen participation to counterbalance the power of private interests to shape the political landscape.

           

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              • Taking an extreme example; if there was no FDA, the government’s regulatory power over the drug companies would be much diminished. If it’s that diminished, it should be more subject to capture.  But what is there for the companies to capture?

                (FYI, I agree that a government with less power is less able to regulate, but obviously that’s not tremendously upsetting to me.)

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                • FDA is just a department of government. People who want to control policy will go wherever the power is.

                  But! … the FDA was initially instituted to impose regulations on corporate (etc) behavior. That it ended up being completely captured (if that’s the case, I disagree) means that we got a few years of the goodies. (I also think that FDA does a helluva lot of good work, so characterizing it as if it were entirely captured is misleading.)

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                • I agree that a government with less power is less able to regulate, but obviously that’s not tremendously upsetting to me.

                  No, it’s not just not upsetting, for you, it’s the premise by which social-utility-maximizing market equilibrium is established. On your view, it’s a good thing. (I’m not being snide here!)

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      •  lessening governmental power to permit more economic freedom is directly related to the amount of capture which results.

        That’s not what I was getting at, but such a good discussion has cropped up that I almost hate to clarify myself.

        What I meant was that the government as it stands now is big and complex.  It won’t be dismantled in a day, or even a year. What I fear is that some parties are going to be tempted to, for lack of a better metaphor, renege on their part of the bargain.  I’m thinking of things like pharmaceutical companies throwing their weight behind dismantling the FDA, but stopping short of allowing the patent office to be dismantled, that sort of thing.

        Thinking about it more, I’m not sure how likely this is.  Right now, either Big Pharma isn’t trying, or is failing.  Either way, I’m not sure that the danger really increases, as long as everybody is sufficiently suspicious of everybody else. :)

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  12. Order 2, Equality, 10

    I agree it isn’t a perfect test, as others have pointed out. But it is a roughly accurate way of sorting out essentially hard-to-quantify thoughts.

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  13. For those critiquing the questions. I agree, but have you ever tried to structure a meaningful survey along these lines?  It would be an interesting project for some of us to work together on one, but I don’t know that you can make one that won’t be subject to criticism. Tradeoffs between tractability and meaningfulness are inherent–the more sophisticated your questions get, the less tractable your data is.

    But if anyone was up for trying to make a better one, perhaps a project composed of those of us from multiple ideologies, I’d join in the fun.

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      • For some questions, I needed a combination of both and neither.  For instance, on the one about whether we needed the government to do more or less, I felt that the government should do MORE of some things and LESS of others.  I’m sure I could sum that up and come up with whether the aggregate is more or less than the status quo, but that doesn’t REALLY get at the heart of the question, does it?

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      • I was thinking of the feasibilty of using a Likert scale (1-5, or Very Strongly Support …. Very Strongly Oppose), too.

        I think that would be an improvement, but there’s still difficulty in writing the questions.

        Would we use just policy positions or general outlook questions as well?

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        • Dude, you’re not thinking like a social scientist.

          Throw a ton of questions at them with 5 or 7-point Likert scales (I like 7: more variance for the algorithm to work with = less thinking for me), and then using a clustering algorithm to group people together, and place contentious, post hoc labels on all of the clusters when you interpret them.

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        • Dammit, Chris, I can’t have as many categories as I have respondents!  Help out a fellow social scientist here.  Seriously, don’t feel bad if I don’t include you. It won’t be personal.

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            • Actually modern liberalism is meaningless — mostly illiberal when it comes to economic liberty. Because so many reject labels and try to hide in some nuanced position that covers the whole spectrum according to ad hoc expediency, I have no idea what Left and Right even mean. However, and this is amazing, those who reject being labled on the Left have no problem tightly defining rightwing. There’s just not much nuance on the Right, it seems.

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            • I’d plea to turn that around: to a large extent in common parlance, when a person either self-describes or describes someone or something as “liberal,” they are really saying they are left-statist (though not extremely so).

              I want to insist on this.  Equality-seeking statism of the kind the quiz sniffs out is exactly leftism, and little is lost by limiting the definition of leftism to that.  But a great deal is lost if we say that that’s pretty much what liberalism is.  In fact, basically, that is just not what liberalism is.

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                • I wrote quite a bit about this for 5 days 3 weeks ago. Liberalism will be associated with statism as long as liberals support statism and resist economic liberty and limited government. It’s not enough to resist statism from the Right (civil liberties) — if the liberal doesn’t resist statist policies which destroy economic liberty and threaten property rights, then they will be associated with statism, and, thus, will be more illiberal than liberal. This idea that economics is not everything is wrong when we take reality into account — economic activity is practically all activity, and violation of economic freedom restricts liberty in other areas.

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                    • Ha. Well played.

                      This need to reduce everything to economics baffles me. It betrays such an incredible paucity of experience that I almost have no response. IOZ had a nice post about it the other day: http://whoisioz.blogspot.com/2012/04/codified-likeness-unit.html

                      I understand why economists would like us to believe that everything is fundamentally just about economics, but I don’t understand why the rest of us have gotten so keen to let them get away with it.

                      Sure, you can analyze everything using the terms and catch-phrases of a single social science discipline, but unless you’re a sociopath, why would you?

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                    • This need to reduce everything to economics baffles me…Sure, you can analyze everything using the terms and catch-phrases of a single social science discipline, but unless you’re a sociopath, why would you?

                      Ryan, I really don’t think of myself as a sociopath. ;)

                      The often unrecognized truth about economics is that it’s not really about money, business, taxes or “the economy.”  It’s about choice and decisionmaking.  The fundamental nature of the world is scarcity of resources. So the questions of interest are what do people choose, how do they make the decision, and why?

                      I took my daughter to see The Hunger Games last Saturday night. Sure, it was an economic choice in the boring sense of figuring out whether I wanted to spend the money, but it was also an economic choice in the sense that if I did that, there were others things I couldn’t do (time is a scarce resource), attention that I couldn’t give to my other children or my wife (attention is a scarce resource, and one that’s ever more taxed in today’s world), and so on.

                      I don’t see that as “reducing” things to economics.  To me it’s recognizing the fundamental truth that making a choice was unavoidable, and there’s a lot of complexity that goes into that choice. And ultimately, then, it’s not really just a single social-science discipline. The line between economics and political science is indistinguishable (giving daughter #1 that attention and stiffing daughters #2 and #3 that night is a political issue), and economics increasingly draws on the field of psychology (which obviously has a lot of insight to give about decision-making), and of course philosophy and ethics are inevitably intertwined there, too.  Economics as a discipline really doesn’t, can’t, extricate itself from linkages with those other disciplines, but in many ways really is the intersection of all of them.

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                    • This need to reduce everything to economics baffles me. It betrays such an incredible paucity of experience that I almost have no response.

                      Would you rather talk about how much we care? Here is a poem.

                      Ahem.

                      I saw something bad the other day
                      I raged inside then wept
                      I wished the world were not this way
                      Then I watched a movie starring Johnny Depp

                      At the end of the day, talking about economics is useful because it’s, at least, kinda measurable.

                      (For the record, there’s a *HUGE* chunk of Libertarians who want to break things down into talk about “Rights” rather than economics. Do you find that particularly useful? Preferable?)

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                    • To be fair, this comes off less as sociopathy than pure hubris.

                      The fundamental nature of the world is not scarcity of resources. That resources are scarce is a fundamental truth of the world, but it’s not the only one. We do have to make decisions about how to divvy up or dispose of scarce resources, and I won’t deny that, but it’s just not the only thing we do. Your claim that everything is a part of economics is exactly backward; economics is a tool – one among many – that we can use to analyze the choices we make. But we use lots of tools – economics, psychology, the hard sciences, philosophy. This need to privilege one tool over all the rest is what I find completely insane.

                      You mention your daughter, which is as good a place as any to jump off. Why did you choose to have a child, assuming it wasn’t accidental or something? Was it utility maximization? Did you conclude that having a child was the best use of the scarce resources available to you? (If the answer is yes, did you even bother to consider the surfeit of happiness research that overwhlemingly finds that children don’t make parents happier?) It seems to me that the answer is almost certainly “no”, unless we’re operating in the crudest world of revealed preferences where the transformation of everything into economic concepts is completely unfalsifiable.

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                    • Jay, I find it useful to talk about all of these things. I’m not saying talking about economics doesn’t matter; I’m saying it isn’t the only thing that matters. Sometimes we set goals for other reasons and then use economic concepts to help us get to those goals most efficiently. Sometimes the most efficient way to do something is, for moral reasons, horrifying and unacceptable. Usually, what we’re actually doing is burying a value judgment about which rights are sacrosanct (private property, for instance) underneath a pseudo-scientific conversation about efficiency, without respect to what we’re actually trying to achieve efficiently.

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                    • ,

                      The fundamental nature of the world is not scarcity of resources.

                      I would argue it is. For all species, at all times. The scarcity is a critical factor in evolution. It’s a critical factor in every decision we make. It’s a critical factor in every society’s collective decisionmaking. I would argue that other than matter itself, nothing so fundamentally pervades the world as scarcity.

                      You mention your daughter, which is as good a place as any to jump off. Why did you choose to have a child, assuming it wasn’t accidental or something? Was it utility maximization? Did you conclude that having a child was the best use of the scarce resources available to you? (If the answer is yes, did you even bother to consider the surfeit of happiness research that overwhlemingly finds that children don’t make parents happier?) It seems to me that the answer is almost certainly “no”, unless we’re operating in the crudest world of revealed preferences where the transformation of everything into economic concepts is completely unfalsifiable.

                      Natural selection was a major factor causing me to choose to have a child. Beyond that, the reasons are as fuzzy as the reason I chose to eat out last night and why I chose that particular restaurant.  That’s why economics is increasingly linked to psychology–it needs the psychologists’ tools to explain what motivates a decision. Revealed preference is great (and I disagree that there’s anything crude about it), but it doesn’t explain the why of the preference.

                      But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how I answer the question. The question doesn’t get at the issue of the underlying nature of scarcity.  In fact you incorporate it into your question. You agree that my resources are scarce, so that I couldn’t both have my children and use those resources for other things. You agree that other things might have made me happier.  Whatever question your asking, it doesn’t even question the centrality of choice in a world of scarce resources, but actually assumes it as a necessary feature.  Which I applaud.

                      I don’t think hubris has anything to do with it. As I said, it’s not just about economics in the narrow sense, but the intersection of multiple disciplines that cross at the area of economics (or perhaps it’s best to say they all cross each other at a particular point, and economics is one of those that cross).  But it’s no more hubristic than saying that physics is at the core of the world, or that there is a fundamental mathematics that underlies everything in existence. Certain things are such unavoidable facts of the world that they are necessarily fundamental. We may not like it, no more than we like the fact of gravity when we fall of a ladder, but its there whether we’re comfortable with it or not.

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                    • The fundamental nature of the world is not scarcity of resources.

                      Are you aware that 20% of the world’s population earns under $1.25 per day?  It used to be a lot higher than that, and not even that long ago.

                      Scarcity is losing its bite, to be sure. But we’re a long, long way from a post-scarcity economy, if such a thing can even exist.

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                    • Ryan B: The fundamental nature of the world is not scarcity of resources.

                      James H: I would argue it is.

                      This is, then, a (one) fundamental, categorical difference between liberals and libertarians and how they look at the world. Just above this, Jason K mentions whether we can ever attain a post-scarcity world, and the answer to that – at least on James’ view – is an emphatic ‘no’.

                      But I think – tentatively! – that this misses the point, even on his own terms. And that it may even be incoherent. According to Roger (to take just one example and not imply he’s a definitive voice on this, only that he’s in this board), wealth results from the voluntary exchange (positive sum). If so, then the the premise – that scarcity of resources is the fundamental nature of the world, is undermines the entire libertarian project, unless we distinguish types of values and resources and say that the proper allocation of these resources entails a surplus of those resources. This requires that there be at least to types of resources; two types of values. Which is the liberals position, even tho the means to achieving it are rejected by the libertarian.

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                    • Scarcity still has a role to play but it’s a perceived problem, not a fundamental problem.   When Britain ran low on firewood for Watt’s steam engines it turned to coal.   Bessemer worked out how to make cheap steel and once the metallurgy had improved enough, the internal combustion engine could consume gasoline, once a waste product of petroleum refining.

                      Scarcity is inevitably a problem arising from wastefulness.   And oh, by the way, mathematics is just a route to describing the real world.   Even human nature can be modelled within an inch of its metaphorical life in mathematics:  the ads you see on this or any other page on this site are driven by just such algorithms.

                      If there’s any hubris in the mix here, it’s our prideful and entirely inaccurate summaries of ourselves as wonderfully unique individuals.   The fact is, we’re as predictable as hell and Messrs Markov and Bayes gave us the tool sets to manage that predictability.

                      Jason isn’t merely correct, he’s pointing out the completely obvious.  Combined with Ryan’s excellent point about this absurd need to privilege one tool over all the rest, we can put the whole scarcity argument out the door at once.

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                    • ,

                      This is, then, a (one) fundamental, categorical difference between liberals and libertarians and how they look at the world. Just above this, Jason K mentions whether we can ever attain a post-scarcity world, and the answer to that – at least on James’ view – is an emphatic ‘no’.

                      I need to demur on whether this is a difference between liberals and libertarians. Perhaps it is, but I don’t know that it is.  I do know that my views on scarcity come from my study of economics and evolutionary theory, not from my libertarianism. I also know that most liberal economics professors believe scarcity is fundamental; because they are economists, not because they are liberal.  So whether this works as a defining point between liberals and libertarians, I have absolutely no idea. I would think not, though, since lit seems to me that iberals are, as a group, quite concerned about scarcity of resources, particularly environmental ones. I’m open to correction there, but I would argue that really this is only a defining point between those who have studied economics and those who haven’t.

                      But I think – tentatively! – that this misses the point, even on his own terms. And that it may even be incoherent. According to Roger (to take just one example and not imply he’s a definitive voice on this, only that he’s in this board), wealth results from the voluntary exchange (positive sum). If so, then the the premise – that scarcity of resources is the fundamental nature of the world, is undermines the entire libertarian project, unless we distinguish types of values and resources and say that the proper allocation of these resources entails a surplus of those resources. This requires that there be at least to types of resources; two types of values. Which is the liberals position, even tho the means to achieving it are rejected by the libertarian.

                      No, that doesn’t follow, and forgive me if this comes off as condescending, which I really don’t intend, but I think again this comes from not studying economics.  Scarcity means we have to choose how to use resources, and so to make the most of things we should choose to use them for their highest value (which value is primarily a social construct, the aggregation of individual subjective valuations). By changing resources in certain ways, we increase their value–for example, a nugget of gold has value, but a gold necklace has greater value.  But there’s no issue of surplus of resources involved–the gold used in the necklace cannot be used for teeth fillings.

                      I really don’t think that has much to do with the libertarian project, though. It’s just basic economics.  A liberal can look at that issue of scarcity and come to the conclusion that the market doesn’t maximize the value of resources.

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                    • Scarcity still has a role to play but it’s a perceived problem, not a fundamental problem.   When Britain ran low on firewood for Watt’s steam engines it turned to coal.   Bessemer worked out how to make cheap steel and once the metallurgy had improved enough, the internal combustion engine could consume gasoline, once a waste product of petroleum refining.

                      Again, I don’t want to sound condescending, but it’s obvious, Blaise, that you don’t understand the concept.  If Britain ran low on firewood and had to turn to coal, that’s evidence of scarcity.  If Bessemer profited from making steal more cheap, that’s evidence of scarcity, because in the absence of scarcity there would have been no need, no incentive, to make steel more cheaply.

                      Yes, gasoline was once a waste product of petroleum refining. We can thank that evil Rockefeller, he of Standard Oil, for finding a use for it. Before humans had any need for gasoline, it wasn’t a scarce resource because it wasn’t a resource for humans; once it became a resource it became scarce in the sense that any use for it other than for internal combustion engines took away from its use for internal combustion engines.

                      This is standard introductory microeconomics.  For a long long time now non-economists have thought they’ve come up with refuting arguments. None have. All such arguments are based on misunderstanding the concept of scarcity.

                       

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                    • It just amazes me that anyone can look at our world and say “scarcity isn’t a fundamental problem.”

                      Poverty is the natural state of things.  By which I mean:  Left to its own devices, nature makes precious little that’s both fit and ready for human consumption. The balance — virtually all of virtually everything — comes from work, not from nature.  Even hunter-gatherers actually have to hunt and gather (and cook, and sew, and build shelters, and…).

                      So:  How do we choose where to allocate our working time?  We only have a limited number of hours, and we can only really do one thing at at time with any serious attention.

                      We’ll have scarcity as long as our time is finite, and as long as we can only do one thing at a time, and as long as full, ice-cold mugs of beer don’t physically walk up to us, begging to be consumed.

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                    • I probably wasn’t as clear as I could have been in that comment.

                      The point is this: if someone takes as the premise of their view of political economy that scarcity of resources is the fundamental feature of the world, then it follows that there is never a surplus of any resource (free time, say). But according to some versions of libertarianism, maximizing the allocation of a specific type of resource along certain market-oriented lines actually increases some other resources.

                      The point is that the proper allocation of some resources (values) leads to a surplus of other resources (values) – otherwise the project has no justification. But if so, then scarcity of all resources cannot be the fundamental nature of the world.

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                    • It just amazes me that anyone can look at our world and say “scarcity isn’t a fundamental problem.”

                      Yes, that is amazing, since no has actually said that. Not Ryan. He conceded that scarcity is a fundamental problem but rejected that scarcity is the fundamental problem. I’m merely echoing that view and challenging James’ suggestion that it is.

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                    • The point is that the proper allocation of some resources (values) leads to a surplus of other resources (values) – otherwise the project has no justification. But if so, then scarcity of all resources cannot be the fundamental nature of the world.

                      But why did you undertake the project, then? Why did you allocate some resources toward the creation of a surplus of other resources?

                      Because you perceived a scarcity, one that you could partially alleviate through economic activity.  If there were no perceived scarcity, you would never have bothered.

                      A similar inference applies to the entire economy; all of its productive parts are chipping away at the great universal scarcity, while all of its nonproductive parts — fraud, theft, and the like — aim to alleviate one local scarcity while creating another.

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                    • The point is this: if someone takes as the premise of their view of political economy that scarcity of resources is the fundamental feature of the world, then it follows that there is never a surplus of any resource (free time, say).

                      Hmm, I don’t think that follows. My analogy to physics was misleading. To say it’s fundamental doesn’t mean that there can never be anything that’s in surplus, just that there is always and unavoidably real scarcity impinging on our decisions.

                      E.g., If we’re a small hunter-gatherer society living on the banks of Lake Superior, we don’t have a scarcity of fresh water.  But that doesn’t mean our lives aren’t impinged all around by scarcity.

                      In today’s world some argue don’t have a scarcity of television networks (I would argue that, since there’s still no all-wilderness-boating channel), but nonetheless we have a scarcity of time, and in relation to the amount of television available, that scarcity of time has increased.

                      But according to some versions of libertarianism, maximizing the allocation of a specific type of resource along certain market-oriented lines actually increases some other resources.

                      I’m not sure I’m following, but let me go with this as I’ve hesitantly interpreted it.  In fact let me use a specific example, the humble beer can. It used to be made with a heavy tin wall.  Allocating metal resources along market-oriented lines led to a shift to aluminum (and progressively less aluminum being used per can). Effectively that increased the supply of tin.  If that’s what these libertarians are arguing, they’re correct. But it doesn’t mean tin isn’t still a scarce resource.  If you meant something else, I’m sorry for not following.

                      The point is that the proper allocation of some resources (values) leads to a surplus of other resources (values) – otherwise the project has no justification.

                      No, a surplus isn’t necessary. Enabling those other resources to be used for other purposes allows us to do more in total—allows us to create more value, which means we’re satisfying more human wants and needs.  That’s justification enough for the project, isn’t it?  We could say it makes those resources relatively less scarce, but that is not the same as creating a surplus of it.  Nonetheless, I don’t think there’s any way to argue it’s not a sufficient justification for a project that would (assuming it actually does) accomplish it.

                      If we have a population where 10% of the population starves to death because of a desperately scarce food supply, and someone invents a process that will add enough more food that only 5% starves to death (and we don’t have any other method that will do better), then that process is justified, despite the fact that our food supply is still desperately scarce.

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                    • Tod,

                      The economic definition, paraphrased slightly from Investopedia.

                      The basic economic problem that arises because people have unlimited wants but resources are limited. Because of scarcity, various economic decisions must be made to allocate resources…People must make choices between different items because the resources necessary to fulfill their wants are limited. These decisions are made by giving up (trading off) one want to satisfy another.

                       

                       

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                    • I agree with James on scarcity and choice, but let me introduce a parallel or additional paradigm.

                      Free markets are about a particular type of problem solving. In a world of scarcity and choice, markets relate to a particular way of solving and choosing how to best solve problems for consumers. We create institutions of property rights and exchange and allow voluntary interactions of employment, investment and purchase to create, deliver and solve consumer problems.

                      Markets work because people can solve problems better cooperatively better than they can alone. Markets tap economy of scale, power of specialization and the magic of comparative advantage to create unimaginable — indeed unlimited- prosperity. By assuring every exchange is voluntary and non fraudulent between rational, self interested adults, markets naturally lead to positive sum activities, as only parties that expect to gain enter into the activity. It is a trillion win win activities squared.

                      That said, some problems do not lend themselves to market solutions. Science is another system operating under different rules, but similar principles. Politics, in my opinion would gain by working under similar principles but different details as well.

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                    • Scarcity is the foundation of power. Power is what matters in all relationships. In so far as scarcity is therefore the universal principle in an organizing political economy, I’m willing to cop to that.

                      I don’t think I’m a sociopath, but I of course could be wrong.

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                    • Stillwater,

                      Allow me to jump in on this comment…

                      “The point is this: if someone takes as the premise of their view of political economy that scarcity of resources is the fundamental feature of the world, then it follows that there is never a surplus of any resource (free time, say). But according to some versions of libertarianism, maximizing the allocation of a specific type of resource along certain market-oriented lines actually increases some other resources.”

                      I would add that the point of economic problem solving is Utility. Resources and energy are conserved per thermodynamics and all. Utility is not conserved.

                      There is no fundamental limit to utility or value. 3.8 billion years ago there was no life and no value on earth. Now earth is filled with both. Economics is about converting scarce resources into increasing value.

                      Two weeks ago there was a killer blog discussion where a physicist debates an economists on the limits of growth. Highly recommended.

                      http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

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                    • Re: Roger,

                      I am in full agreement, but please allow me to riff off you.

                      Free markets are about a particular type of problem solving [i]n a world of scarcity and choice,

                      Exactly, and so is politics. They are largely (although not totally) competing systems of problem solving the issue of scarcity.  In a world absent scarcity, government would hardly need exist, or only to deal with people who are actual psychopaths. Because who would bother to steal in a world of non-scarcity? And if someone did, why would the victim be bothered?  Could we actually call such a person a victim?

                      So the emphasis on government decision-making about resource allocation is itself necessarily dependent on the unavoidable reality of scarcity.

                      Every liberal bumper sticker that says something like “1 stealth bomber would provide 5 gazillion school lunches” is–correctly–recognizing the unfortunate reality of scarcity.

                       

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                    • Nob,

                      “Power is what matters in all relationships.”

                      Power matters, yea, but that is not all that matters nor are relationships fundamentally about power. Bees don’t go to flowers for power. They go for nectar. The only way your statement is correct is if you define power as utility or value, in which case I would agree.

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                    • Roger:

                      When I say power, I mean it as a differential between two parties, not necessarily a resource in it of itself.

                      So the flower has power over the bee, because it has an attribute the bee does not. Scarcity allows the flower to have power. Determining the amount of power differential in a relationship tells us how exploitative it will be.

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                    • James,

                      I agree completely. That is part of what I was hinting at with:
                      “Politics, in my opinion would gain by working under similar principles but different details as well.”

                      In some cases, problems that progressives try to solve via politics would be better solved by markets. In other cases, politics could work better by learning from the voluntary aspect of markets. This tends to make progressives puke though.

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                    • Now it’s Humpty Dumpty Hanley, graduated from Panglossitude to the dizzying heights of lexicographer.   Gosh.   Whenever someone shoots down some particularly idiotic thing you’ve said, it’s them what doesn’t understand the word you’re attempting to define.  Viz: monopoly above.  There’s glory for you.

                      I would call you condescending but I’m not sure you’ve even reached that level yet.  Condescending would imply you actually think you have a working definition.   Of course the apparent scarcity of wood drove Britain to start digging coal.   That was why I started out by saying both real and perceived problems are both problems.  Bessemer’s forge emerges from the transition to coal and that would lead to the coke-making process.

                      As for Rockefeller and Standard Oil, he didn’t have anything to do with improvements to the internal combustion engine or the transition to gasoline from alcohol.  Rockefeller was using gasoline to heat his cracking towers, again, reinforcing my point about scarcity being a perceived problem associated with waste.  By 1876, Daimler and Benz were manufacturing Nicholas Otto’s four-stroke gasoline powered engine, finally providing an actual market for the frugal Rockefeller’s gasoline.

                      Dude, I’ve had more than a few economics courses over time.  I’m acutely aware of how standard microeconomics works.  When I say scarcity isn’t the problem it seems to be, that there’s always another resource to utilize in its stead, there’s only one meaningful exception to that rule, that’s farmland.   But even with farmland, we’ve now got hydroponic solutions to part of that problem.   And I’m not alone in pointing this out to you.

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                    • Just wanted to say I’m not abandoning the thread. Lots to think about here. (Also, I agree with Roger, v Nob, Roger on what markets solve, James on the tension between politics and markets, and Jason way up thread.)

                      I have problems with the definition of scarcity James provided as an operational principle. That is, I tentatively think it’s vacuous. But if a person subscribed to it, and I do at a trivial level, then I can see why someone would conclude that scarcity is the fundamental feature of social arrangements since individuals will always want more. The problem is that on this view, a hunger-relief operation distributing food to the malnourished in Namibia won’t actually eliminate scarcity of food in the region! Only scarcity of X for person Y. But that, I think, gets us right back to the problems I mentioned above.

                      But I’ll think about it some more (while I’m changing my daughters timing belt!)

                       

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                    • Now it’s Humpty Dumpty Hanley, graduated from Panglossitude to the dizzying heights of lexicographer.

                      Hmm, this from the guy who said;

                      Heh.  Call anyone an arrogant dick online and you might as well have said “You win”

                      Your double-standard on insults is noted.

                      Whenever someone shoots down some particularly idiotic thing you’ve said, it’s them what doesn’t understand the word you’re attempting to define

                      I’m not attempting to define it. I’m using the accepted definitions.  It’s a bit rich to criticize me when you’re the one who is using definitions of convenience.

                      I think I’ve had enough of trying to talk to you, Blaise.  I don’t wish you any ill, but I’m going to try to discipline myself not waste anytime with you.

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                    • “For a long long time now non-economists have thought they’ve come up with refuting arguments. None have.”

                      To continue with the physics analogies, this is like how non-physicists always think they’ve come up with perfect arguments refuting special relativity.

                      *******

                      “This need to reduce everything to economics baffles me.”

                      This insistence that “economics is only about number-of-dollars” baffles me.

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                    • Btw, when I say that the definition is vacuous, what I mean is that I could plug in any value into the definition and come up with the right answer. Eg. as a liberal, I could say that there is a scarcity of social justice in the world according to metric M, while the libertarian says there’s a scarcity of liberty in the same domain. So at that point we might as well just drop talk about scarcity completely.

                      (Just starting to unbolt the cover plate…)

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                    • I have problems with the definition of scarcity James provided as an operational principle. That is, I tentatively think it’s vacuous.

                      I personally would be very tentative about dismissing any specialized definition that’s of long standing and is widely accepted by the experts in that field as “vacuous.”

                      The problem is that on this view, a hunger-relief operation distributing food to the malnourished in Namibia won’t actually eliminate scarcity of food in the region!

                      Well, let’s be careful here in how we apply this.  If the distribution effort provided more food than the people could actually consume, it would eliminate food scarcity in that region.  But it would only do so temporarily, of course. And of course the reality is that more likely than distributing more than they could consume, enough is distributed to keep them alive, but not so much that it doesn’t still have to be rationed.*  And that food would have been diverted from other uses, so on the broader scale food remains a scarce resource.

                      I think there’s confusion here about the distinction between the economic definition of scarcity and our everyday understanding of the word. In economics, scarce doesn’t mean rare or hard to come by. It means that collectively we don’t have enough of something to satisfy our collective wants. So in your example, whether food remains scarce or not in that region depends on just how much we give them.  It’s technologically possible to eliminate scarcity of a particular resource at a particular place at a particular point in time.  But doing so will almost certainly have increased scarcity elsewhere, even if only marginally, because those resources had to come from somewhere.

                      *Markets, in fact, are actually a method of rationing; a necessary corollary to their being a process for making decisions about how to use scarce resources.

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                    • It’s technologically possible to eliminate scarcity of a particular resource at a particular place at a particular point in time.

                      My point is that is’t conceptually impossible to eliminate scarcity unless you eliminate people’s desires for things. But since you can’t, you can’t. So scarcity is endemic.

                      But when we talk about scarcity, we’re usually not talking about peoplepsychological desires to have more, or even their psychological desire to in any event. We’re often talking objectively about the absence of a resource in a certain area.

                      Also, see my explanation of the concepts vacuity. If scarcity is defined in terms of individual desire, then I don’t see – right now, anyway! – why my analysis of it doesn’t hold.

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                    • Stillwater,

                      Eeeh, I’m not sure the definition was ever intended to go that direction.  That’s a tough call and I don’t really know how to answer.

                      Primarily the definition is about the material world, material resources.  But some economists will also tack in human ingenuity as a resource, so it’s clearly not absolutely exclusively limited to the material realm.

                      There’s an important question about whether liberty and social justice are resources or whether they’re ends in and of themselves.  Liberty seems to be used both ways (which I find problematic); I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of social justice being described as a resource, but generally as an end.

                      I think it’s incautious to jump to problematic extensions of the definition before being sure we’re clear on the normal uses of it.

                      By the way, on the issue of whether I claimed scarcity was “the fundamental problem,” what I actually said is “I would argue that other than matter itself, nothing so fundamentally pervades the world as scarcity.” That’s not quite the same thing.  But I would argue that it’s this fundamental pervasiveness of scarcity that underlies almost all other problems about which you’re concerned. In a sense it may (tentatively suggested) be the most basic cause of almost all our other problems, in which case it perhaps would be accurately described as the “fundamental” problem, the one that is the foundation of other problems. (I almost wrote “the fundament,” but it seems the first definition for that, before “foundation” is “anus”!)

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                    • ,

                      My point is that is’t conceptually impossible to eliminate scarcity unless you eliminate people’s desires for things. But since you can’t, you can’t. So scarcity is endemic.

                      Yes. 100% yes. That is precisely what economists mean.  And so–to take this back to where the discussion actually began–it means that we always have to exercise choice.  So economics is the study of choice in a world where choice is unavoidable, so economics really is about all of life.  And that’s not “reducing’ life to economics; it’s just a recognition that life is in fact always about making choices.

                      But when we talk about scarcity, we’re usually not talking about peoplepsychological desires to have more, or even their psychological desire to in any event. We’re often talking objectively about the absence of a resource in a certain area.

                      We’re talking about both their psychological desire and the availability of the resource.  That is, we’re making an objective statement about subjective valuation. I.e., the resource is scarce in a certain area because there’s not as much as people want. If nobody wants dog turds, the (blessed) absence of dog turds would not be called a scarcity of turds. The scarcity is a combination of subjective valuation and objective availability.

                      – If we want X and can have as much X as we want, it’s not scarce (although what we give up to get it is);

                      – If we don’t want X and can have as much as we want, it’s not scarce.

                      – If we don’t want X and can’t have any anyway because there is none, it’s not scarce.

                      – If we want X and can’t have as much as we want, it is scarce.

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                  • Ahhh, yes! Progress has been made! Going back to Ryan’s initial question about reducing all value to monetary value and the subsequent discussion about scarcity, I got confused about what you meant. Which was clarified to a great degree. I’m not as opposed to all this now as much as I was initially.

                    Also when you say

                    Primarily the definition is about the material world, material resources. 

                    I think that rather confirms Ryan’s initial point, or what I took to be Ryan’s initial point, as well as my initial take on what you meant by it: that scarcity of material resources is the fundamental problem. Of course, you clarify what you meant in that series of comments when you say

                    I would argue that it’s this fundamental pervasiveness of scarcity that underlies almost all other problems about which you’re concerned. In a sense it may (tentatively suggested) be the most basic cause of almost all our other problems, in which case it perhaps would be accurately described as the “fundamental” problem, the one that is the foundation of other problems.

                    which I am much more inclined to agree with, tho perhaps not for precisely the same reasons you do.

                    Which gets me, at the last, to Roger’s comment about market’s being good at certain things and government being good at other things. I have less confidence in the ability of market activity to actually solve lots of big problems than you do (I think that’s fair to say at this point). But I also think that as culture changes (evolves?) into both accepting (on one side) and requiring (on the other) greater transparency and as other regulatory mechanisms become intrinsic to market activities themselves, then the need for coercive state intervention becomes increasingly less. I’m pretty confident however that it will never go to zero.

                     

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                    • Ryan’s initial question about reducing all value to monetary value

                      Just to be clear, Ryan said “economics,” by which I took him to mean “monetary value,” and tried to emphasize that economics is about a lot more than monetary value.

                      Because even though the concept of scarcity is primarily about material things, as I noted it’s not solely about that.  Time and attention are scarce resources–I cannot avoid making choices about how I divvy them up, and how I do so affects the various members of my family, and not all in the same way.  That’s scarcity, but it’s not material and it’s not monetary, but it is economic.

                      Anyone who doesn’t think scarcity of time and attention isn’t a fundamental problem in maintaining a healthy marriage and raising one’s kids is clearly single and childless! ;)  So even that non-material scarcity is truly, unavoidably, fundamental.

                      And so in summary of all this, my point is that talking about these things in economic terms is not “reducing” them, but helping to explain and understand them. We can talk in moral terms about how much attention I should give each child, but ultimately I still have to make choices about how to divvy up my time/attention among them–whatever the moral requirements, or to draw from another field, whatever is social-psychologically beneficial to them–my ability to do that is constrained by scarcity.

                      Looking at things economically is in no way mean to degrade or devalue them or suck the meaning out of them. Unfortunately economics is usually taught as money first, and  only at the higher levels do students learn it’s about a lot more than that. The required introductory econ course, I think, should not be micro and/or macro, but “the economics of all those things that matter in your life.”  It should not consist of a textbook, but books like Freakonomics, The Undercover Economist, and The Economics of Everyday Life. #1 daughter is a high school frosh, and I was prepared to have to correct her understanding of economics when she took the class this year; but lo and behold her teacher began by telling them economics is about choice in all walks of life.  God bless that man, he learned it the right way.

                       

                       

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  14. The real question is, of course, whether believing that there is truth in the statement “a heirarchical structure for allocation of political power will invariably form in any society” means that you’re a statist.

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  15. I suspect also that the people at the League are the worst possible audience for this test.  Everyone here spends way more time thinking about ideological self-placement than the average person, let alone the average high-schooler.  The quiz may work better for its intended audience than for a bunch of people who know what each question “means” better.

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  16. I got 1 order, 7 equality

    I self-identify as liberal with strong libertarian leanings. If I had placed myself before the quiz I would have said more like 1,5 and thought some of the questions that were a bit of a false dichotomy pushed me a up some.

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  17. Order: 1 Equality: 2

    The Freedom/equality ratio was about right but I thought that I was closer to conservative than I actually am.

    However, the union/company question was really a “none of the above”  and a few others could have done with clarification.  (Defining “government program” as an example) so I would imagine that there is a +/- 1 margin of error.

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  18. I got Order 2, Equality 9. Self identify as liberal.

    I agree with the criticisms of the questions upthread, but it just seems really difficult to create one of these tests that gives anything but an impression of where you are – and to the test’s credit the commenters here who I nod along to got similar scores to me, the commenters who I tend to disagree with have scores more distant from mine. But another wrench into the works, foreign policy. I wonder if liberal interventionism, pacifism, or realism fit into this picture, or is that just another domain entirely?

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    • I wonder if liberal interventionism, pacifism, or realism fit into this picture, or is that just another domain entirely?

      I’ve been wondering if that’s a separate axis, too.  But damn it starts getting hard to model as we start adding axes.  My gut, though, tells me liberals and libertarians will tend to fall in line along an interventionism axis, even though libertarians probably lean more realist in foreign policy while liberals probably lean more neo-liberal.

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      • The thing I’m stuck on is the pacifism bent of some liberals. Maybe it’s better put as interventionist vs. non-interventionist. Some liberals are all about the global human rights promotion, with force if necessary (Samantha Power and Anne Marie-Slaughter come to mind, though I’m not really familiar with their domestic policy positions), and other liberals are against what they perceive as an imperialistic bent to US foreign policy – I think someone hereabouts put it as a penchant for bombing brown people. I’m not sure how that disagreement maps onto the axes we have there without adding another.

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        • Some liberals [Hi — waves hand] like multi-national intervention, especially as led by nation(s) in the region — by the Arab League, or African Joint Force (whatever it’s called).  The type of response to the revolt in Libya was just right — support, air cover, but the locals led the way.

          Should another Rwanda occur, it would be imperative to act, but we can do so without being imperialistic.  That’s what I’d like to see.

          So even “intervention vs non-intervention” is shaded…

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            • Not from my point of view. 

              Put it this way:  If there was a crisis in Oklahoma that required participation of several states’ National Guard units, none of those states would see Oklahoma as its “subject”.  In the same manner, if the US is one of several countries to fight a common enemy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we see the enemy as a subject.  I think that Libya was a good test of that — we’re not the “winner”, the Libyans are.  We’re not forced to clean up a mess like we are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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              • We have the same UN and NATO imprimatur (and approval of the GCC and no African Union opposition) to do what we are doing in Afghanistan as we did in Libya.  At 40+ contributing members, ISAF is a larger coalition that the 10 contributing members of Odyssey Dawn and the approximately 18-20 that contribute to Unified Protector forces.

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  19. I was waiting to see if anyone else scored the same as me.
    Then I could call them an A-hole.
    Order 4, Equality 4.
    The smiley is right on the flag, and directly below it. The smiley is wearing the flag on his forehead, like a chuco.
    Self-identify as “conservative,” but I’m really more of a displaced blue dog.

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  20. Sent email. Diversion were 3 for equality (though I would obviously consider the implication that more labor power = less freedom to be utter bullshrimp), zilch for order.  Self ID of the 4 is libertarian.

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  21. I will take the quiz, but I have a couple of questions.

    1) Is there a link to whatever the discussion was where Stillwater made the comment?

    2) Why?  As general social research, I think I can see the value in this (though I’m not completely sure I can), but why the particular interest in applying it to the League?  What are we proposing to learn?

    As others have said, it probably will be hard to answer for one’s politics with binary responses to policy preference questions, but I can understand that being necessary for the structure of the test (though in a test seeking to assign numbers along axes, wouldn’t offering scaled responses to the questions be entirely consistent with that representation structure?).  More problematic for me is something fundamental that the test can’t resolve – trying to relate those specific preferences, for which there is a common understanding of meaning, to political labels, which have different basic meanings for different people (particularly liberal and conservative).

    I have always thought that what i understood to be the commonest understanding of “liberal” to be the term that best applies to me from the candidates, though it doesn’t apply particularly well.  To me, that is not me identifying with it, but just allowing that it likely applies to me best of the candidates.  At the same time, I do identify with a meaning of term that I don’t believe is the most commonly understood one, so in that sense I do identify with it.  I’m sure that this test would like me to simply say I identify as a liberal, but I suspect that the test will then use that information to register a false thing about me: that I identify with the most common meaning of the term.  So I guess I’d have to know more about what specific thing the test is attempting to relate my policy preferences to in order to know whether I should say I identify as a liberal in the sense the test wants to know whether I do or not.

    I’ll take the test now.

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    • Result: Order 3, Equality 7.

      The test basically equates liberalism with Leftism and conservatism with Rightism, which I think is incorrect.  It also actually adjusts one’s view of what the terms mean, so I’m not clear what it’s testing – it’s certainly not testing how the result relate to a person’s pre-existing inclination to label herself.  I guess it tests a person’s ability to locate oneself along a scale that the test itself defines for the person against it’s own algorithm’s placement along that scale.

      The test also defines politics purely using a ‘departure from freedom’ function, both by its own description of itself, and by the fact that the face only moves away from freedom – i.e. no answers that you can give can move the face back toward origin.  It’s basically a test of how libertarian you aren’t, in other words.  Additionally, the binary questions, as discussed, are a problem.  In one case it actually divides what was meant to be a scaled-response question (on a scale of 1-5) into a binary one (1, 2 the freedom response, 3, 4, 5 the anti-freedom).  In another, it arbitrarily assigns the “right amount” response to a “too much,” “right amount,” “not enough” question on regulation to the anti-freedom response (i.e. the one that moves the needle).

      Perhaps it’s the best test available, but I don’t see what value it has.

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  22. Michael, Stillwater’s comment is in this thread.

    The League is in part what we call a convenience sample: y’all are readily available.  But I also want to say something about the folks at the League, collectively.  I’ll explain more when I do my followup post.

    The test doesn’t actually care how you self-identify.  I do, for comparison purposes.

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    • Come to think of it, maybe I should just take a tip from all you on the non-conservative, non-libertarian side of the political spectrum, and start saying that I’m not really a libertarian, but I guess other people could sort of define me as closer to that than anything else, but I don’t really like that label, and I sorta kinda self-identify as something that’s not really quite that.

      Maybe that’s the key to where we misunderstand each other.  Maybe those I think of as liberals struggle with the concept that libertarianism contains a broad range because they’ve chopped their own quadrant up into a bunch of fine distinctions, none of which they really want to identify with, and they think that the quadrant I call libertarianism must be the same, so that only a small portion of it actually counts as libertarian?

      Or have you all just let conservatives scare you away from the word liberal?

      I know, I’m being ungenerous, but take it as tongue-in-cheek, please.  But the truth is, I don’t understand this penchant for splitting.  We should think of these ideological alignments as we think of the classification of animals–at the bottom you have species, and above that you have more inclusive groups.  We can focus just on the species level, but it’s not always enlightening to do so.

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      • Actually, I’m quite happy to identify as liberal. I don’t particularly like being identified as ‘Democratic’ (but I’ll roll with that too because it’s functionally accurate), and I tend to think lots of self-identified liberals are whacko. But I also think we share enough for the name to accurately apply. Also, I don’t think any people who’ve identified as liberal have done so with shame or reluctance. Rush scared politicians and pundits from using the word, but not us plebes.

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          • Whiggism as a general term was used to coin parliamentary supremacy over the monarchy. (Hence even Billy Pitt considered himself an “independent Whig” rather than a Tory, even if posterity has remembered him as a Tory)

            In general, I take Whig as a descriptor as much for the Whig Theory of history, and my general aversion to extreme concentrations of power (whether this be monarchs or presidents)

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      • Right, well, identification really has to be volitional, otherwise it’s just actegorization.

        Here are my views: ‘lilberal’ is a word that is being fundamentally misused in common parlance.  I don want to call myself a liberal, but it means nothing like what I think you use it to mean.

        Basically, I’m open to arguments that policy should be the thing you use the word liberal to describe, and which I’d prefer to call leftist or progressive or social-democrat.  But I don’t have an affirmative view that that’s what policy should be.  My fundamental political stance is that openness, and a belief in public debate as the way to ultimately determine what will happen, with limits being set on outcomes that will be implemented, and that, in a nutshell, is wha liberalism is to me.  And it’s just not what Stillwater or you want to call liberal, so I’m not willing to say I’m liberal for these purposes – because I don’t think the word is being used correctly in a categorical way, and I don’t consciously identify as thinking policy should come out to be how Stillwater affirmatively says it should (though I’m open to arguments that it should, and open to it actually doing so).  Not because, hey, I’m for 90% top marginal tax rates, and that’s liberal, but I’m not for nationalization of the oil fields.

        Now, if that actually is how you feel about libertariansim – that you don’t actually identify with it but that it roughly describes you, or that you identify with what you think it rightly is, but that for the purposes of the present conversation it is being fundamentally misconstrued, so for the purposes of this conversation you’re not going to identify with it, then that is exactly what you should do!  I would applaud that.  As I mentioned at your blog, I think it would be good to drop these labels.  But I think you do in fact identify with the label (but I’ll let you speak for yourself), and that you don’t think it’s being  fundamentally misconstrued in conversations like this.  So the fact that I’m resisting the label represents a real difference in our actual dispositions with respect to the respective labels we’re considering, and indeed the idea sets they name.  I’d ask you to recognize and respect that. It seems a bit as though instead you’ve already decided what I am and you’re just trying to get me to say it.

         

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        •  I don want to call myself a liberal, but it means nothing like what I think you use it to mean.

          Sorry, that was supposed to be –  I do want to call myself a liberal, but by doing so I mean to be describing myself in a way that is nothing like what I think you (and in common American parlance about politics, most commentators generally and in this discussion) use it to mean here.  So for these purposes, I am not willing to call myself a liberal.

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        • Michael,

          I think I get what you’re saying, and I respect it.  But it does mean I’ll probably drop you from my data set as my fundamental question is in significant part about self-identification. But that’s not a knock on you. One of the difficulties of survey research is that there are always people who don’t (or won’t, *grin*) put themselves in the categories we define. So we’re back to the tradeoff between tractability of data and meaning/validity of the data. It’s an unavoidable methodological problem, unfortunately.

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          • That’s all good.  If I identified the thing that is being meant by liberal – economic interventionist, social libertarian – I’d tell you to put me in that way despite my problem with the use of the word.  But i actually don’t have broad commitments like that.  My test results will show me to have those preferences, but those are really preferences that respond to the questions once given, and I view them as dependent on my current leans, i.e. not fundamental to an identity that I have.  My identity is more with the evaluative process, which I take to be part of liberalism.  So, while from my perspective not changing identities as a liberal, I could change significantly around those particular policy preferences.  Those, again, are a matter of present leanings (what I happen to be more persuaded will create results I want at this time), which in my view can change within liberalism, not of commitments fundamental to a political identification I hold.

            All that being said, for the purposes of what you’re doing, I’m willing to go in as liberal.  Just not for the purposes of conversations about it.

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  23. Better axes:

    1) You hear that there’s going to be a new policy to address (social issue). Is your first thought:

    A) This is great! This is likely to fix things and the sky’s the limit!

    B) Ah, crap. They’re going to screw everything up and it will all end in tears. We’ll be worse off, at the end of the day.

     

    2) You see a bunch of people who are being irritating. Is your first thought:

    A) There ought to be a law.

    B) It’s a free country.

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          • Just because of you guys, for the first time in my life I’m tempted to visit Austin, despite the fact that A) it has hipsters, and B) I’d actually have to go to Texas to get there.  But I think you’ve effectively deterred me now. Don’t you guys know a nice dive that’s kind of dim and dingy, where the newest song on the jukebox is something by Skynyrd?

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                • Because you need a place to go in between the bar you just left and the next bar you’re going to. 6th Street’s existence was constructed for vagabonds. Enter bar, say “this bar is lame let’s go”, leave bar, repeat process. You stick around if there are girls hot enough to overlook the fact that they’re Longhorns or Longhorn-hangers-on.

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            • You should know that Austin is not Texas. Austin is a lot of things, but Texas it is not. I once heard one of the Car Talk guys suggest that aliens dropped Austin in the middle of Texas, not knowing what they were doing.

              And if you’re ever in town, I’ll buy you a beer at a distinctly non-hipster bar.

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              • But I can’t get to Austin without going through Texas.

                And for christ’s sake Austin is damned out of the way; it’s not even on the way to any place unless you’re driving from Dallas to San Antonio or vice versa, and why the hell anyone would want to do that is beyond me.

                I sincerely doubt I’ll ever actually make it to Austin, but if somehow I get lost on my way from Michigan to Los Angeles and find myself there, I’ll hit you up for a drink.  Maybe we need a leaguefest south, in, say, Belize.

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    • 2) You see a bunch of people who are being irritating. Is your first thought:

      A) There ought to be a law.

      B) It’s a free country. 

      No, no.

      2) You see a bunch of people who are being irritating. Is your first thought:

      A) Damn liberals.

      B) Damn conservatives.

      Answer A and you’re conservative.  Answer B and you’re liberal.

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  24. I found question 8 fascinating.  It said:

    “Please tell me which statement you agree with more:

    A) Government programs have helped me and my family

    B) Government programs have not helped me and my family

     

    A moves you up towards fairness.  B doesn’t move you at all.

    First off, the question deals with a perception of reality as opposed to reality itself.  As we’ve seen in many of the recent conversations about government handouts, leaches, welfare states, etc., many people greatly benefit from government programs and don’t realize it or don’t consider themselves to be benefit from government programs.

    Second, why would someone’s reality or perception thereof indicate their political leanings?  Someone might have greatly benefited from government programs but heartily disagree with these programs and their pursuit of “equality”.

    Third, from my specific perspective, my hunch is that folks who have benefited most from government programs (using the most macro and broad definition of “government programs” possible, as I am want to do) are more likely to be conservative.

    Again, fascinating….

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    • why would someone’s reality or perception thereof indicate their political leanings?

      I’m inclined to think that their perception of reality is probably a very good proxy for their political leanings.  Without disputing that they have in fact benefited from government programs, are those conservatives likely to say so?

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      • Ya know, seriously, if we allow that someone’s reality or perception thereof might indicate to them which direction they’re facing, or whether it might rain or not, we shouldn’t have so much of an issue with allowing the self-reflections of a person to determine their political leanings.

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    • I’m glad yo mentioned that question. I answered that one, against my gut-level truthy instincts, by saying ‘yes, government programs have helped me’.

      My reason? The federal highway system. Ahhhh well. Reality, liberal bias, all that…

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    • I’m not at all sure that it’s accurate to say that acknowleding having obtained a personal benefit from government programs means that one favors “fairness” over “freedom.” Perhaps the authors are attaching different meanings to those terms than I do. When I think “fairness,” I think of people getting what they deserve, with desert defined in sort of a fuzzy, gestalt sense.

      I attended college at a public university and the minimal, subsidized tuition I was obligated to pay was actually paid for by a scholarship funded at public expense. I benefitted greatly from that functionally free college education (I still paid for my own books and room and board, with help from mom and dad; but I paid for my own beer with the proceeds of part-time jobs). I use government-provided infrastructure like roads, sewer lines, airports, and waterworks daily, benefitting tremendously from them. My home mortgage and student loans are guaranteed by the government, permitting the lenders to charge me significantly lower interest rates than the private market would bear. I was raised in a family in which the primary breadwinner was employed by a military defense contractor; my entire pre-adult and early adult existence were paid for indirectly by governmental defense spending. I depend for my livelihood today on the existence of a judicial system paid for at taxpayer expense and powered by the compulsory civil process enforced by several layers of the government. I receive compensation for my work through a financial exchange infrastructure created and administered by the Federal Reserve (as do you, if you are employed in the United States). My job, in turn, is heavily dependent upon the functioning of the United States Postal Service to work.

      This ought to suggest a very high degree of reliance upon the government, or at least a high degree of personal benefit. But none of this means that I think government programs exist for, create, or ought to be aimed at implementing, “fairness” in the sense of economic justice, redistribution of the goods and services produced by the economy, or even (necessarily) equality between different kinds of people. Despite my acknowledgement of the many, many good things the government does, not a one of them refers to social welfare programs, even the benign and popular ones like Social Security and Medicare. Are those sorts of things “equality” questions on this scale?

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  25. James, I sincerely tried my best to take this quiz, but I don’t think it’s built for hippie-raised Canadians.

    Fwiw, I come out as either 1/4 over, 3/4 up, or 1/2 over, 1/4 up, depending on how I answer their stupid stupid false dichotomy questions (which is AN AWFULLY BIG DIFFERENCE). I mean, “Do you believe Health Insurance should be mandatory?” Well, no. I also believe in sliding-scale government-paid healthcare for everybody, which kinda renders the insurance question moot, and I find the idea of health insurance kind of offensive. “Should there be more government programs?” Not in this country, since the most popular goverment programs involve blowing shit up.  And so on and so forth. And not a single question about speech that didn’t have to do with sex! Sheesh.

    (Yeah, yeah, fifth column jokes, Jaybird’s made ’em all already.)

    As is probably obvious, I identify more often than not as a socialist, or an anarcho-socialist, which I guess for the value of this dumb quiz would make me a libertarian-liberal??

     

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      • M. Farmer was cracking wise, but apparently discerned that the test was geared to sophomores, if not composed by some.

        As for Lady Maribou’s intriguing self-ID as an “anarcho-socialist,” which must fit in here somewheres

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_anarchism

        as an American, I find the tension between voluntarism and coercion unbearable here.  In the olden days they called it Christian charity, but in this more Enlightened age, I have no idea what she means.

        Unless you’re a Rothbardian, Maribou?  Perhaps I have you all wrong.

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              • “I find the tension between voluntarism and coercion unbearable here”.  My experience is that most of us live in a heightened state of tension between voluntarism and coercion most of the time – so why not run with, deconstruct, and otherwise do our best to live well in it, instead of building frameworks to hide our illusion-making from ourselves?

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                • PS LIke Chris below, in practice it mostly works out to socialism for me, mostly because I think violent overthrow is counterrevolutionary ;). So, you work with what you have. FWIW, Canadian socialism (at least the East Coast strain I was raised in) doesn’t tend to find private property offensive – just embarrassing, unless it’s based on an ethic of stewardship and safety.

                  I told a history professor once that I think Marxists have historically fallen down by hating on the middle class. If they stuck to hating rich people, and allied themselves with the middle class (and got rid of their perverse hierarchical / dogmatic tendencies), they’d be running the world by now.

                  So I guess my stupid idealist philosophy is that everyone we can look out for without killing people except in immediate self-defense should a) get to live a healthy-by-their-own-standards and reasonably enjoyable life (oh, those middle-class values) and b) be left the hell alone unless they seem to be hurting other people? And I think if we stopped putting the military-industrial complex at the center of the world (it’s worth noting that Harper is a wartime prime minister, as weird as that sounds), and as a corollary stopped subsidizing megacorporations, we could do that pretty well.

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                • Thx, Maribou.  Canada strikes me as more a consensus-type society [their French problem notwithstanding], so I can see a mellow collectivism working there, the “anarcho-” part working as long as nobody actually exercises it.

                  Property rights and speech rights aren’t constitutionally guaranteed in Canada, of course, 2 things that quite make America America.  America isn’t as much a “consensus” society; push often comes to shove and such basic rights are defended only by their constitutional enshrinement.

                  [Why the Conservative Harper admin kept Canada out of the fiscal soup where Obama’s did not is worth a look, but I haven’t had the time to dig deeper, just heard some chatter.]

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                  • I think you’d need to read a lot more about Canadian politics to be able to say Harpers Conservative admin has “kept Canada out of the fiscal soup” Tom. Harper was born on second, thought he hit a double and then proceeded to steal first base.

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                    • Don’t go trying to use whatever you use to tweak your inlaws to tweak me Jaybird me lad. I give credit where it’s due to both liberals and conservatives: the old Mulrooney conservatives (for raising taxes) and also the liberals (for cutting spending). But it’s been mostly under Harpers Bush lite administration that the budget has plummetted back into deficits (he picked up the reins during economic slow times mind). But he’s been quite a borrow and spender along the lines of the Bush model. Very intent on buying military jets too, Canada does have to worry about the Greenland Menace I suppose. Their seagulls could overwhelm our front at any moment and Canada could lose Labrador!

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                    • I was opening the question, Mr. North, and Obama’s stewardship is question in 2012.

                      One response:

                      http://www.nationalpost.com/Canada+fiscal+advantage+Parliament+itself/6383164/story.html

                      “In Canada, especially under a majority government, things work differently: The government tables a budget. The opposition robotically bitches about how it will penalize “ordinary working families” and “seniors” – and then, usually, the budget becomes law. Within a few days, the media goes back to fronting stories about Justin Bieber’s rogue tweets.

                      Compare this to the United States, where, a few months back, Washington whipped itself into an epic, all-consuming, weeks-long partisan battle over – extending a 2% payroll tax cut. By process of extrapolation from that one example, just imagine how difficult it would be for an American leader to push through even the sort of relatively modest reforms in yesterday’s Canadian budget – including raising the retirement age and cutting the federal work force by 19,200.

                      And yet, by Monday, I promise that we Canadians will be back to Bieber.”

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                    • Um, it wasn’t that hard for Obama to pass a budget when he had a majority too. If Harper had to deal with say, an instragent NDP majority in the Senate who had the ability to block everything he wanted to do, it’d probably be a bit more difficult for Harper to do what we wanted.

                      That’s not even getting into the difference of political cultures between America, where every politician is his own mind and Canada, where going against the whip can get you kicked out of the party.

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                    • Well, I said it was an open question.  However, Clinton and Reagan passed budgets with opposing Congresses, so BHO is not in the clear.

                      I did like the observation that in Canada “The opposition robotically bitches about how it will penalize “ordinary working families” and “seniors” – and then, usually, the budget becomes law.”

                      Whereas in the US, the most minor of proposed reforms brings Armageddon.

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                    • I dare say you can lay much of that at the feet of the filibuster Tom. But also of course because in Canada the politicians still behave like managers of the public fisc first and idealists second (and yes that’s a blanket indictment of both sides though of course I do think currently the right wing side is a touch more intransigent).

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                    • Um, on Clinton. Gingrich, budget shutdown, etcetera, etcetera. On Reagan, that was a whole other time and to be blunt, Democrats always compromise. Tip O’Neill could’ve been an ass like Gingrich and the Tea Party, but it was a different time and he actually believed in a working government, not gridlock for the sake of gridlock.

                       

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                    • Clinton and Reagan passed budgets.  Obama didn’t even get one done for 2011, w/ a Dem Congress.

                      Mostly this was a bleg about Harper and Canada, which has done well fiscally where much of the western world has not.  Mostly all I find on the internet is lefty bleat

                      http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1156725–bob-rae-speech-stephen-harper-should-resign

                      and I can get that here with far less trouble.

                      ;-}

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                    • Building on what Jesse said (and, yes, let’s definitely not forget the multiple government shutdowns when Clinton first face a Republican Congress), Reagan had an easier time because he had a working majority of conservatives, between the Republicans and the Southern Democrats.  That all changed in the 90s, when the conservative Southern Dems finally all switched to the Republican Party (in part a cause of, and in part a consequence of, the Republicans taking control of Congress in the ’94 elections).

                      What Reagan faced does not compare to what presidents today face (regardless of party). Both parties have become more ideologically coherent since then, with less ideological space internally, and so for the future any president facing an opposition controlled Congress will have a rougher time than Reagan.

                      It’s time to put the comparisons to Reagan on the shelf.  In terms of budget-passing, they’re no longer meaningful.

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                    • Tom, Harper has done a smaller version of what Obama did for the most part. Martin handed government over to a Harper led minority with the economy on a distinct slow down. Harper has run up government debt and generally managed the recession. If he didn’t have a Conservative label before his name right wingers would have little trouble finding things to indict him for. Both Obama and Harper even ran up spending impressively on non-recession related expenses Obama on healthcare (conservaticves assert overpaying on healthcare) and Harper on overpaying for jets that the country doesn’t need.

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                  • Why the Conservative Harper admin kept Canada out of the fiscal soup where Obama’s did

                    It’s disingenuous to critique Obama for not “keeping” us out of the soup when we were already in it when he took office.

                    If you want to critique him for not “getting” us out of the soup, that’s fine.  But as written, it smacks of cheap team-red/team-blue partisanship.

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            • I agree, Tom, Political Compass is a much less irritating survey.  At least the questions aren’t lifted directly from the broken political discourse of the U.S. and there is a way to shade the answers some.  I retook it just now to make sure I am not losing my mind.  It looks like I have moved from Gandhi’s dot to the Dalai Lama’s over the last 5 years.  Also, I think that makes me a Libertarian Democratic Socialist (like Noam Chmoksky???) or a Communitarian Anarchist.

              FWIW,  I think I know what Communitarian Anarchy must look like as an org model for a company.  Check out the Employee Manual for Valve some good sould put on the web:  http://boingboing.net/2012/04/22/valve-employee-manual-describe.html  The full pdf is linked to from the boing boing article.  Brilliant.

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