Political Compass #10: Corporate respect of the environment.

Many political debates here have included references to The Political Compass, which uses a set of 61 questions to assess one’s political orientation in terms of economic left/right and social libertarianism/authoritarianism (rather like the “Libertarian diamond” popular in the US).

And so, every so often I will begin a thread in which the premise for debate is one of the 61 questions. I will give which answer I chose and provide my justification and reasoning. Others are, of course, invited to do the same including those who wish to “question the question”, as it were. I will also suggest what I think is the “weighting” given to the various answers in terms of calculating the final orientation.

It would also be useful when posting in these threads to give your own “compass reading” in your first post, by convention giving the Economic value first. My own is
SentientMeat: Economic: -5.12, Social: -7.28, and so by the above convention my co-ordinates are (-5.12, -7.28). Please also indicate which option you ticked.

Now, I appreciate that there is often dissent regarding whether the assessment the test provides is valid, notably by US conservative posters, either because it is “left-biased” (??) or because some propositions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory. The site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions, and there is also a separate thread: Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading? Read these first and then, if you have an objection to the test in general, please post it there. If your objection is solely to the proposition in hand, post here. If your objection is to other propositions, please wait until I open a thread on them.

The above will be pasted in every new thread in order to introduce it properly, and I’ll try to let each one exhaust itself of useful input before starting the next. Without wanting to “hog the idea”, I would be grateful if others could refrain from starting similar threads. To date, the threads are:
Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading?
Political Compass #1: Globalisation, Humanity and OmniCorp.
#2: My country, right or wrong
#3: Pride in one’s country is foolish.
#4: Superior racial qualities.
#5: My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
#6: Justifying illegal military action.
#7: “Info-tainment” is a worrying trend.
#8: Class division vs. international division. (+ SentientMeat’s economic worldview)
#9: Inflation vs. unemployment.

*Proposition #10: * Corporations cannot be trusted to voluntarily respect the environment.

SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Strongly Agree.

If corporations are simply amoral entities whose actions are dictated by the market, whither “voluntary respect of the environment”? One might argue that the market eventually brings about this respect, since utter destruction of our ecosystem is simply bad for business. However, if corporations are amoral entities, such actions are surely no more “voluntary” than the decision to risk damage to the environment according to market demands in the first place?

If an action is financially profitable and legal, then someone will seek that profit. The only way to ensure its absence is by removing the legal profit, ie. by fining or otherwise punishing those who attempt to profit by such means. And the only way to ensure that everyone is subject to such a system is via enforcement by the state.

Now, we might argue all day about precisely what is and is not “respect” of the environment. I would offer that pollution, overfishing, ozone depletion, smog and species extinction are all undeniably “disrespecting the environment” even if eg. oil drilling in national parks or continuing to push CO[sub]2[/sub] levels way off equilibrium are somehow not.

However my point is that, whenever the furniture/beef/soya markets eat up yet another Wales-worth of rainforest, or I see yet another coastline fouled beyond recognition (after assurances last time that such a thing would not reoccur even with fines and enforced cleanup costs in place), I dread to think what corporations would try to get away with if we simply “trusted” them.

**mr_moonlight ** (+5, -6) ticks Agree.

I said “Agree” because corporations can be counted on doing the profitable thing, and right now disrespecting the environment can be profitable. But I also think corporations would respect the environment, if they had to pay the real costs of their actions.

Companies typically don’t pollute on private property because they’d be quickly sued. Instead, they harm government-managed resources (land, water, and air), because they know they can do so without penalty.

If waterways and federal lands were privatized, corporations would not be able to pollute (or overfish) for free anymore. Property owners tend to protect their own property from such things.

Things might be a little different for air pollution, as you can’t own the air. In that case, perhaps licenses to pollute are in order, with license fees scaled to pollutant output.

(-5.38, -0.15) Strongly agree

The issue is about whether corporations can be trusted to put respect for the envirornment ahead of other concerns, and the answer is no. Corporations often do make efforts to be environmentally friendly when it helps them in other ways. (I 'm thinking of watching a large bin full of the scraps of waxed paper from around the circles used to hold Reese’s peanut butter cups being returned to the paper mill to be included in the next batch of dark waxed paper produced).

Jon the Geek (-3.00/-6.56) ticks Strongly Agree. Corporations simply can’t be expected (let alone trusted) to think about the way-down-the-road consequences of what they do, and that’s what a lot of “respecting the environment” falls into.

No brainer: Agree. But it’s not just “corporations”. Most **people ** wouldn’t protect the environment unless required by law. Generally, property that is owned “in common” is not treated with the same respect as propterty that is owned outright.

Might I ask your score, John? I feel it allows your comments to be placed in some context.

I took the test over a year ago and don’t remember my numerical score, but I landed pretty much right on top of Milton Friedman on the libertarian side of things. Unfortanetly, the graphs on the web site don’t have numbered axes.

dropzone (no score because I haven’t taken the test yet) strongly agrees. As has been explained to me by ardent, devil-take-the-hindmost capitalists, a corporation has no responsibility to anybody but its stockholders and that responsibility is solely financial. It would be a violation of that responsibility to do anything voluntarily that would reduce profits.

Hey, I’ve taken this test before. And as consistency is the bugaboo of small minds mine must be dinky 'cause I ended up in about the same place, with Gandhi’s bony ass in my lap.

dropzone -5.25/-5.59

OK, I took the test again, and I think my score was about the same as the first time:

Economic Left/Right: 6.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.97

I have a tendancy rarely to check “strongly” on either the agree or disagree side of things since so many of the questions appear suspiciously loaded. A few (like the question about astrology) are no brainers in that area, but those are unusual.

BTW, I’m looking forward to the thread about the next question on the list…:slight_smile:

-5.75,-1.79 . Strongly agree. Corporations exist to make a profit. If being environmentally friendly hurts the bottom line, they will do so only under government direction and monitoring.

Indeed, they are deliberately loaded. I try to “react” proportionally, sometimes even allowing myself to be led along by the conservative bias I perceive in the test.

Proposition #10: Corporations cannot be trusted to voluntarily respect the environment.

Shodan (5.00, 0.77 IIRC) ticks Agree.

For basically the same reasons as John Mace. The problem of the commons is one that is appropriately addressed by government. Air, water, and other aspects of the environment are owned by all, and should be managed and protected by representative government.

I can’t agree that there is much by way of conservative bias in the Compass.

Consider, for example, what kind of answers would be received if the question read:

Proposition #10A: Environmental activist groups cannot be trusted to make responsible decisions on the environment.

I would agree with that. Just as corporations cannot be expected always to act responsibly towards the environment , environmentalists cannot be expected to act responsibly towards corporate interests such as employment and long-term profitability.


(-2.50, -0.26) Strongly agree


It would be nice if the question was worded in such a way that anyone would actually disagree with it. I suspect conservative types like Shodan, John Mace and myself have much different opinions on how much corporations need to be regulated regarding the environment than the typical liberal poster on the SDMB.

However, since the question was worded to be such a no-brainer, I suspect any sane person would agree or stongly agree with it. This makes is pretty much useless as a barometer of any political leanings of the test taker.

Again, there are such people - someone even came up with a justification for Disagree in the thread discussing the Compass’s accuracy. And if it’s so useless, how come we get such different final scores?

(0.75, -5)


In fact, many corporations DO voluntarily engage in programs designed to reduce pollution, such as ISO 14000 certification, sustainable forestry programs, and the like. BobLibDem’s claim is provably false; if you’d all like a list of corporations that have vokluntarily undertaken ISO 14000 certification I would be happy to supply it. I sincerely doubt many people in this thread even know what I’m referring to, because this stuff doesn’t make the fear-laden U.S. press. But they’re very popular programs that a great many major corporations are engaged in, and they’re effective. It’s absurd to respond “Strongly agree” when thousands of companies are paying thousands (and in the cases of the big ones, many tens of thousands) of dollars to be audited to environmental compliance in a VOLUNTARY program.

However, economic reality being what it is, you always need some enforcement mechanism to address externalities, because while some people will be conscientious, some will not, and most companies don’t pursue voluntary programs and don’t really put much effort into it. So “agree” is my answer.

Since no one else is willing to do so, I’d like to make an argument in favor of disagreeing with this statement. It’s late and this is off the top of my head, so take it for what its worth. The statement “Corporations cannot be trusted to voluntarily respect the environment”, does not contain the absolute term “All” in the front. Also, it merely says respect, not maintain or improve, or protect. So, logically, the opposite of this (or what you are agreeing to if you disagree with the stement as presented) might be “Some corporations can be trusted to voluntarily respect the environtment.” If that is what is meant by “disagree”, then I think it is surprising that more people do not disagree with the statement as written.

However, I suspect (correct me if I am wrong) that this is not what most people take as the meaning for disagree. Am I correct in assuming that most of you read some sort of maintenance, protection, or improvement concept into the idea of respecting the environment? That is did most of you read disagreement more like agreement with: “All (or most perhaps) corporations can be trusted to damage the environment.”?

I’m not sure how the question is used to shift a respondant’s score. That is, I am not sure how the scoring algorithm interprets disagreement. But it seems from your responses that most people thing disagreement with this statement means agreement with some form of the idea that most corporations will damage the environment if they can. I’m not sure that such a position is strictly warranted. either from the wording of the statement (all is not included and they only ask about respecting), nor from the nature of corporations.

Certainly some corporations have damaged our environment. However, I would require some good data before I believed that most do. I would even hesitate to believe that many do. And since we are talking about voluntary actions as opposed to accidents, we should probably limit such damaging corporations to those who knowingly do so. I am very reluctant indeed to believe that most or many corporations knowingly damamge the environment. Such a position seems out of touch with reality.

Just for the record, I’m not sure where I voted on this one. I know I went back and forth between agree and disagree. I can’t remember how I ended up.

(-5, -3.4) Strongly Agree

I think this society has created a socialpsychology that is not in tune with the environment. Our cities are technological traps that ignore the environment. These houses facing Cartesian grids of streets make no use of potential solar power. How much gas and oil could south facing houses have saved since the 1970s? How many architectural schools teach passive solar design?

Dal Timgar

I didn’t say the test was useless. I said this particular question was useless.