Political Compass #2: My country, right or wrong.

Many political debates here have included references to The Political Compass, which uses a set of 60 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).
Whenever such a reference is made, there is often dissent regarding whether the assessment it provides is valid, notably by US conservative posters, either because it is “left-biased” (??) or because some questions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory.

Now, the site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions, and I think that even the most poorly conceived questions give some insight into one’s true position, but I think that it is such a useful site that it might be worth exploring the entire thing here in detail.

And so, every so often I will begin a thread in which the premise for debate is one of the 60 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 might 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.

(The above will be footnoted in every new thread in order to introduce it properly. To date, the threads are:
Political Compass #1: Globalisation, Humanity and OmniCorp.)

*Proposition 2: * I’d always support my country, whether it was right or wrong.

SentientMeat ticks Strongly Disagree.

Gosh, where to start? Try substituting the word “child”, “political party” or even “own behaviour” for the word “country” and the utter moral bankruptcy of the statement shines through. If we, or our children, or our favoured politicians do something wrong then the right thing to do is to speak out in protest and try and prevent future instances of the same action or behaviour.

In individual terms, this usually involves a higher authority (such as the courts) to enforce said prevention. Now, although it is questionable whether such a “higher authority” can be said to truly exist with respect to a nation state, its perceived absence surely does not excuse outright immoral actions on a country’s part. Just because one can get away with it does not make it less wrong. Might does not make right; it merely makes so.

Of course, the perception by those who would tick Agree is often that other countries, whose people did ascribe to the proposition, would gain some advantage by having such a loyal populace and so we must compete right back at them. However, there is surely no universal stricture which says that competition or resistance to coercion is in any way wrong - one is merely justifying the forceful or even violent actions of one’s own country by somehow declaring them right. Even the most hawkish attitude is not equivalent to “I support my country when it is wrong”, agreed?

The National Interest is merely Self Interest raised to the level of a sovereign geopolitical entity. While it is absurd to disregard self interest as a valid motivation, when it is unfettered by moral principle it clearly becomes a monster; this is the entire basis of ethics.

I believe that national interest ought never to outweigh moral principle. And so I tick Strongly Disagree, which I believe shows a strong aversion to authoritarianism and adds, say, a -0.25 score to the final Social value.

I find the question, as posed, absurd.

I sometimes disagree with my country when it comes to trade policies which harm the third world; should I stop “supporting” my country altogether? What does “support” mean, anyway? Love it? Work for its growth and improvement? Pay taxes?

Say I substitute “child,” as you suggest. If my child does something wrong, I will punish her, and afterwards I will tell her I still love her. I do both because I “support” her and want the best for her.

Now that, I agree with. But I’m not sure that’s what the question is asking.

The question is attempting to place you on a line between Authoritarianism and Liberalism, and on a second line between economic Left and Right. Do you agree that “supporting your country, right or wrong” is an indication of authoritarianism?

It can be; depending on how one defines “support.” No matter what the government does, I will still love my country (i.e. the land, the people, the culture). Do those who opposed the Iraq war no longer support the nation as a whole by virtue of that? I don’t think so. They did not support a particular decision by a particular administration.

I think “support” can simply be a sign of patriotism: and while I suspect the quiz-writers equate patriotism with authoritarianism, I do not.

Surely “advocate the actions of”, as any English speaker would define “support” in the context of “I support my country, right or wrong”, is sufficient?

“I stand by the actions of my country, right or wrong” is not mere patriotism but blind allegiance, essential to authoritarianism.

Okay, if you put it that way, you have my vote.

Heh heh, thanks furt, but I’m not asking for it!

These threads are purely an attempt at a rigorous exploration of our personal political orientations. As the site itself says, “some of the questions may niggle” and it is all too easy to poke holes in every single question, but I still feel that by ticking with your gut instinct you get an accurate assessment of your views. (What was your score, by the way?)

By putting my own opinions on the line I’m testing their mettle; indeed, they may even change via this very process.

Put like that I find it hard to believe that anyone could “strongly agree” with the proposition - or at least not admit to it on these boards so I tend to fall into the camp that it is a bias set of questions.

My co-ordinates -2.75 economic / -5.44 libertarianism.

+0.75, -5 (or something like that.)

I’d have to check “strongly disagree” here, which I might not have ten years ago. I’ve become somewhat suspicious of all things nationalist.

I love my country (Canada) and really believe it’s perhaps the best country in the world to live in, but being willing to admit we’re wrong about things is one of the reasons it IS such a nice place to live. The Jesuits say an unexamined faith isn’t worth anything; I happen to believe they were right, and that an unexamined patriotism is even worse than useless. Unswerving, blind allegiance to a flag is no difference than unswerving, blind allegiance to a religion or a race, which as we all know are things that make the world, well, so much more exciting.

I wonder if this would not be a more productive thread if we were to rewrite the question; the authors of the test seemed to write it from a very left wing perspective and didn’t ascribe intelligence or subtlety to anyone with different views.

They are not questions, they are propositions; “I support my country right or wrong” is clearly a proposition strongly biased towards authoritarianism, which is why I, a social liberal, Strongly Disagree.

I repeat, these propositions are biased; all the better to assess your personal reaction to them. Because they are propositions, not questions, I still hold that the test is valid.

Strongly disagree. Especially with Shrub as Prez.

Would you say proposition #2 is written from a “very left wing perspective”? I’d say it was written from an authoritarian perspective myself.

Economic -7.38 Social -7.79, strongly disagree

Most Americans won’t give a shit and will remain stuck on the idea that the test is biased. RickJay, although Canadian, represents American mainstream opinion with his criticism of the test. It is extremely biased because strongly agree or disagree responses to many of those propositions would be completely uncontroversial if uttered in the American mass media. However, to a British audience they are clearly meant to be a point of differentiation and British sentiment would indeed vary widely whilst not necessarily straying from the mainstream. For example, the inclusion of #6 (military action in contravention of international law) seems like a sneaky (weasely?) attack on America for taking righteous and brave courses of action. I can picture Nascar dads rolling their eyes and saying, “I just wonder what they’re getting at there. Bias!”

You can use rationality, clearly defined terms and meticulous footnoting all you like but this particular exercise continually places many American communities and conventional wisdoms on the fringe. The economic propositions are particularly no-brainer in nature.

Well duh! America is founded on this and dissent will gain little support outside of a university campus or away from at least some of the learned friends of the SDMB. Outside of America though it is much more divisive and it’s not just the loons who disagree. Outside, it is a useful diagnostic of political leaning. To Americans (hoi polloi not learned friends) dissent is simply the mark of a socialist which is a nicer name for a communist. This is the country where Robin Hood was to be pulled from school bookshelves because he stole from the rich and gave to the poor… and that’s communist!

Proposition #2 will merely upset or just puzzle many Americans. Your arguments against nationalism might make a lot of ground but only on the condition that nationalism on the part of most foreigners is incomprehensible. English people have bad teeth and play soccer. The French smell bad and play soccer. What the fuck do they have to be proud of? OTOH, America saved the world in two world wars and a cold one. It also put men on the moon and, no doubt, the first man into space*. Many Americans look upon these countless achievements with unquestioned personal pride. With patriotism. For a foreigner to question this marks them as jealous and disgruntled, for a compatriot; treacherous.

I agree with RickJay. Rewritten propositions (for Americans) could bring them a little further south-west on the grid and bring us all a lot closer together. What say y’all?

Interesting, Gest (who is, incidentally, even more South Westerly than me - wow!)

However, I will gently suggest that we steer around this talk of rewriting the propositions to be more palatable for “down home” America. The intellectual calibre of this board is hopefully strong enough to see through traditional mischaracterisations and empty blandishments to get at the real meat of the politics behind each proposition, as applied to the world in general, not merely in terms of specific examples.

I will be carrying on regardless - perhaps it would be better to discuss the other propositions as and when they come up. (However, I am considering a thread about the validity of the test on its own - your well-made points would be welcome there also.)

Gosh, no, I think you have it completely reversed. Obviously the phrase “My country, right or wrong!” would be uttered only by a fascist twit. Its use in the test, though, suggests a left-of-center perspective, though, since in this case a positive assertion that increase your right wing/authoritarian score is a ridiculous one. There’s a “when did you stop beating your wife” vibe to it. I mean, I’m no internationalist, but I HAVE to answer Strongly Disagree. I can’t think of anyone I know who could honestly answer otherwise.

A few years ago I volunteered to take a survey on the subject of domestic violence. The purpose of the survey was to gauge people’s attitudes towards domestic violence issues. Respondents were to use a number between 1 (strong agree) and 7 (Strongly disagree) to respond to each of several dozen propositions. When I opened up the survey I figured there would be propositions like “The massacre at Ecole Polytechnique was an isolated case” or “the government should spend more money on building shelters for women.” Instead, however, the propositions were as such:

  • “A man should be allowed to beat his wife into unconsciousness.”
  • “A man should be allowed to hit his wife with a bat, baton, or other blunt instrument.”
  • “No man should ever be prosecuted for any act he takes in his own home.”
  • “Men should beat their wives if they burn dinner.”

Of course I answered 7 to every question, except the proposition “A man’s home is his castle,” which I left blank because it means nothing. My survey was an uninterrupted string of 7s. As I look at the test afterwards it occurred to me how utterly useless the results would be; EVERY test would be all 7s. By failing to place the middle range of expected responses in the middle score of the test, the scores would lack meaning.

Aeschines asserts he strongly disagrees “Especially with Bush as President.” But when you think about it, even a rabid Bush fan must logically disagree with the proposition, since he would surely have opposed many things the Clinton administration did. All but the most partisan Republican or Democrat party hacks would even disagree with what their country was doing under friendly administrations, since it’s the nature of the beast that some legislation coming out of Congress will not be to everyone’s liking.

I think it would be interesting to find someone who AGREED with this statement, but I don’t think we’ll get many of them.

I didn’t mean to say the question should be reworded because it’s an Evil Liberal Conspiracy. I just don’t think the way it’s worded you have very many possible answers. I like this exercise - it just happens that I think Question #2 is a total dog. Please do continue with these threads, some good questions are right around the corner.

Agreed, RickJay, I also think that this particular proposition is so incredibly authoritarian that very few would Strongly Agree. But surely some of these are necessary in order to find the genuine authoritarians? Proposition #3, when I come to it, has I feel far more scope for different answers amongst reasonable and non-radical people.

We two are similarly Southerly in our Social score - I happen to think that this board in general will be overwhelmingly so - and so perhaps it is not surprising that we feel that the Social propositions do not differentiate “real people” very much.

But this test is designed to be as valid as possible worldwide, indeed history-wide, in order to be able to compare the political zeigtheist in different countries and periods. Rewriting the propositions in order to shift the central needle-hub is somewhat myopic in this context.

As you say, there will be propositions entailing genuine debate, especially regarding economics (else, how could we have such different Economic scores?!). The less time we spend attacking the more radical propositions for being too far in one direction for most people to wander from one of the responses, the quicker we will get to them.

Well, that was a fun test. I got Economic -5.62 and Social -3.90, which looks to put me slightly left of Nelson Mandela and The Dali Lama <lol>. I’d say that this test is not particularly accurate, but what the hay.

btw: I believe that one should stand up and not be afraid to criticize your country when you believe it is on the wrong path. I also believe the death penalty is useful and valid, some criminals can’t be rehabilitated, gays should be able to marry and woman should be able to have an abortion if they so choose.

I think, as has been mentioned already, most posters here will agree with all that, as do I (eco: -7.5, social: -4.31).
Is everyone happy with where they lie on the chart?

On to the proposition – Yeah, it’s a little bit too absolute a position. Of course the most common version of the phrase originates as: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” This was a toast by a naval officer, so an act of affirmation of loyalty, with the hope that the fulfilled would be righteous, would be the expected and honourable position. Heck, for an officer, even suggesting that your country may not always be in the right is a bit daring.

(BTW, Bartleby’s indicates that this common version is possibly a cleaned-up, edited retelling, and that contemporary accounts indicate an even stronger nationalistic statement.)

However, it’s not perforce mandatory to “strongly disagree” – people who believe in choosing their battles and issues may stay at just plain “disagree”, because they may conceive of a situation in which they’s rather hold their nose and stay the course because the choice available is not between right and wrong, but between wrong and just as wrong, or wrong and worse.

BTW – the test:
economic -2.00, social -3.28

And for a while there I was almost certain it would tag me as a right-winger economics-wise. Guess I’m a die-hard moderate?

The amusing thing about that is that in debates within my own real-world community, I have been often tagged as center*-right*. I must be doing something right, then, to get tagged left and right alike :smiley:

(economic -1.88, social -5.23)

Proposition #2: Strongly disagree.

Can we have someone who ticked Agree or Strongly Agree please post their reasoning, as I cannot put forward a sensible devil’s advocate argument for it myself.