Political Compass #32: Learning discipline is the most important thing.

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.

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. I might suggest what I think is the “weighting” given to the various answers in terms of calculating the final orientation, but seeing for yourself what kind of answers are given by those with a certain score might be more useful than second-guessing the test’s scoring system.

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.
#15: Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.
#16: Shareholder profit is a company’s only responsibility.
#17: The rich are too highly taxed.
#18: Better healthcare for those who can pay for it.
#19: Penalising businesses which mislead the public.
#20: The freer the market, the freer the people.
#21: Abortion should be illegal.
#22: All authority must be questioned.
#23: An eye for an eye.
#24: Taxpayers should not prop up theatres or museums.
#25: Schools shouldn’t make attendance compulsory.
#26: Different kinds of people should keep to their own.
#27: Good parents sometimes have to spank their children.
#28: It’s natural for children to keep secrets.
#29: Marijuana should be legalised.
#30: School’s prime function is equipping kids to find jobs.
#31: Seriously disabled people should not reproduce.

**Proposition #32: The most important thing for children to learn is to accept discipline.

SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Disagree.
Any proposition which asks us to choose a “most important” thing from a number of options will likely be a little tricky to justify in anything but subjective terms, but let us continue regardless. What else is it important for a child to learn? To speak, or walk, or read? That they are loved, and to love back? To avoid lethally harmful hazards?

I suppose that one who agreed with #32 might argue that the only way children do learn these things is by first “accepting discipline”. However, I would suggest that discipline is only one of many means to these desirable ends. It would seem entirely possible for a child to learn to accept discipline but not learn to speak, read, love or avoid harm if their learning program was somehow deficient, or conversely for a child to learn all this without necessarily accepting discipline. The question would then be which of these two scenarios would be preferable:[ul][li]A child who has not learned to accept discipline (ie. who is wilful and disobedient regardless of the punishment meted out) who has nevertheless learned all the usual necessary life skills, or;[/li]A child who has learned to accept discipline (ie. who obeys every instruction immediately and fully) but who is dumb, unloved and prone to drinking bleach unless explicitly told not to.[/ul]Now, of course, I am not proposing that #32 is entirely equivalent to this dichotomy. I merely suggest that there are some things which are ultimately more important than accepting discipline, and that a little disobedience is a healthy sign of independent thought and personality compared to mindlessly obeying unexplained rules and regulations which must be accepted without question. I am not suggesting that accepting discipline is unimportant, rather that #32 is a rather overly authoritarian view of things.

I disagree.

I also have to say that of all the political compass topics this one seems kind of silly.


I agree that it is not a topic in which I hold strong views, Marc. Still, it is surely a useful means to find the genuine authoritarians amongst us.

7.15, -2.15

Disagree. Important: yes. Most important: no.

Are you going to come up with some kind of brilliant conclusion when we reach the end of the questions?

“Brilliant”? Hardly! I’ll provide a little statistical analysis of Straight Dope member’s scores, and some general reflection on the whole endeavour. I might invite the writers of the test to register as Guests so that they can make and receive comments.

But the conclusion, as ever, for anything, will likely be this: There are no easy answers. Understanding politics, like understanding any other field, requires patience and rigour.

My motto is “It’s always more complicated than it first appears - deal with it.

Disagree. Another one of the oddballs of the test. It seems to me that this is much more an indicator of the culture in which you live than any insight into your personal political orientation.

Hm. You know, once again, this is a gotcha question. I’d agree. The most important thing I can teach my children is how to discipline themselves. How to focus their thoughts and their bodies. How to apply critical thinking, and how to be a healthy human being. Speaking as someone with ADD, without discipline, I’d be a worthless wreck.

It’s the biggest gift I could give them. An expression of love. On the other hand, discipline sounds like spanking and behaving in public and so on, but those are only outward motivations. The inner discipline is what matters… makes no sense, but I’m sick, so my brain’s a bit fogged. So, yes. Most important thing a child can learn, the thing that will follow them through life, is discipline.

Once you have mastered yourself, you can master the world. On the other hand, to counter someone’s earlier content, the disciplined mind is more prone to curiosity, asking questions, and generally unpredictable behavior. Where do you think scientists come from? They have the ability to detect wonder, and act on it, instead of simply accepting it.

Uhm… anyhow, this test is complete pants. Questions are ambigious, wrongly worded, and far too absolute for the subjects they cover.



these words pretty much sum up my sentiments.

(1.62, -4.92). disagree.

there are many ways the question could be interpreted. each has his own definition of discipline. for some, it could mean coloring inside the lines and putting the toilet seat down. for others, it could mean not speaking unless spoken to, or learning how to accept punishment no matter how unfounded it seems.

personally, i’d prefer some lack of discipline and a little more independence, and it’s nigh impossible to name a most important thing for a child to learn.

Disagree. The most important thing for a child to learn is to learn how to learn. :slight_smile:


I can’t remember what I clicked on this, but I think it was one of those ones that I felt was a biased question so I just answered with an extreme.

This question shouldn’t even be on the political compass, and is one of the worst ones on the entire test. If you say you disagree it that’s one mark to the left, if you agree it’s one mark to the right.

But just because you disagree doesn’t mean you’re one of the people that doesn’t think discipline is important. You can still find discipline extremely important without thinking it is the most important thing in the world.

Also, of course, it can be rhetorically argued that learning doesn’t happen without discipline. Depending on how far you want to stretch that definition.

Actually Martin, I think this proposition has very little economic significance: it is in the test in order to find those with a more authoritarian stance on child-rearing, and thus is almost exclusively an up/down marker.

And yes, if we can all agree that its pretty bland we can move onto the next few (which I find have a little more meat on them).

Lets move on then. I can’t wait to see your final analysis of all this. Its been an interesting (for the most part) series of posts SM.


Economic Left/Right: 8.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 8.08

Strongly Agree. (Shocked gasps from the audience!)

Discipline is simply a means to an end, but without it, a person is not going to go far in life.

When the word ‘discipline’ is mentioned, people shouldn’t instantly think of some Prussian-like ‘military discipline’. Discipline need not be harsh; a child that cleans up after themselves is showing a measure of discipline. The mundane tasks of going to bed on time and waking up on time are signs of discipline. Living a healthy life takes discipline (as in, not packing ones’ face full of twinkies on a regular basis, eating a generally healthy diet, getting some exercise, et cetera) Discipline is what gets us to do all those crappy little things in life that we don’t want to do, but have to do. (Or should do.)

Teaching our precious little demons discipline does much to prepare them for the rest of their lives; I am hard pressed to think of a single more important ‘virtue’ for a young ankle-biter to learn.

Just out of curiosity, I took the test to the extremes:

If you always choose “Strongly Disagree” you score 0.00/-4.36

If you always choose “Strongly Agree” you score 0.00/4.36

If you always choose “Disagree” you score -0.25/-2.41

If you always choose “Agree” you score 0.38/2.41

I’m not sure why there is a slight assymetry between Disagree and Agree, but it would seem to shift the “neutral” position on the economic scale to slightly positive, assuming there is no weighting factor for the different questions.