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.
#10: Corporate respect of the environment.
#11: From each according to his ability, to each according to need.
#12: Sad reflections in branded drinking water.
#13: Land should not be bought and sold.
#14: Many personal fortunes contribute nothing to society.
*Proposition #15: * Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.
SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Disagree.
For all my pragmatic welfarism, here I must side with the arch-capitalist: Protectionism is myopic and, ultimately, mutually disadvantageous.
Now, all my prior talk of Popperian utilitarianism, wherein the minimisation of suffering is the ultimate goal, might smell a little fishy here. After all, if poor farmers’ livelihoods are at risk in “too free” a market, surely some protection would prevent such suffering?
Tempting, but ultimately misguided, I feel. Tariffs set without World Trade Organisation approval are subject to retaliatory measures which raise the spectre of Trade War. Even poor countries, where a loss of trade might genuinely mean a loss of life, must realise that banning foreign imports are not the way to stay friends with the world, who will often provide aid to ameliorate the worst effects of economic collapse. Whether such aid is “enough” is an important question, but unlike welfare for bankrupt farmers in a rich country there is no way to ensure that the rest of the world contributes. Protectionism on the part of a poor country is an enormous gamble - if it doesn’t make your country “self-sufficient”, then the world will be wary of ever giving you any more money in case you pull the same stunt again. (And, unlike the farmer, you cannot file for bankruptcy; your debts are never written off even though they kill vast numbers of your people year on year.)
However, protectionist acts by poor countries might at least be sympathised with since they are currently at an enormous disadvantage. Their markets could hardly be more free after decades of World Bank and IMF diktats which saw eg. cash crops replace those which could actually feed their people. On the other hand, protectionism is alive and well in the West. We subsidise, we artificially prop-up, we even place tariffs on our friends’ exports (the US steel scam, anyone?), and woe betide any Third Worlder trying to enter our labour markets; they are not so much “protected” as enclosed in electrified fence and defended by machine-gun turrets.
Since no World Government yet exists which might ensure enough investment to tackle Third World countries’ suffering, we in industrialised democracies must try and convince them that protectionism, which looks beneficial in the short term, is ultimately harmful. Doing this while our own markets are so protected is sheer breathtaking hypocrisy.