Political Compass #59: Adult bedroom activity is no business of the state.

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? [size=2]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. (And for heaven’s sake, please don’t quote this entire Opening Post when replying like this sufferer of bandwidth diarrhea.)

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. Finally, I advise you to read the full proposition below, not just the thread title (which is necessarily abbreviated), and request that you debate my entire OP rather than simply respond, “IMHO”-like, to the proposition itself.

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.
#32: Learning discipline is the most important thing.
#33: ‘Savage peoples’ vs. ‘different culture’
#34: Society should not support those who refuse to work.
#35: Keep cheerfully busy when troubled.
#36: First generation immigrants can never be fully integrated.
#37: What’s good for corporations is always good for everyone.
#38: No broadcasting institution should receive public funding.
#39: Our civil rights are being excessively curbed re. terrorism.
#40: One party states avoid delays to progress.
#41: Only wrongdoers need worry about official surveillance.
#42: The death penalty should be an option for serious crimes.
#43: Society must have people above to be obeyed.
#44: Abstract art that doesn’t represent anything isn’t art at all.
#45: Punishment is more important than rehabilitation.
#46: It is a waste of time to try to rehabilitate some criminals.
#47: Businessmen are more important than writers and artists.
#48: A mother’s first duty is to be a homemaker.
#49: Companies exploit the Third World’s plant genetic resources.
#50: Mature people make peace with the establishment.
#51: Astrology accurately explains many things.
#52: You cannot be moral without being religious.
#53: Charity is better than social secuity.
#54: Some people are naturally unlucky
#55: Schools and religious values.
#56: Sex outside marriage is usually immoral.
#57: Gay couples should not be excluded from adoption.
#58: Pornography should be legal.
**Proposition #59: What goes on in a private bedroom between consenting adults is no business of the state.

SentientMeat** (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Strongly Agree.
I started composing my response to this, and realised just how little I had to say. This is so blatantly, obviously true to anyone but the most authoritarian Thought Police officer that I fear that I’d have to build my own opponents out of straw.

Even finding a single example of what might be a little equivocable is tricky - I suppose we could cite extreme examples like those who consent to being maimed or killed and eaten or some such atrocity, but are these really “bedroom” activities? Even then, these indulgences speak more of a mental illness or condition which blurs the line of “consent” such that the state has some business, just as it does in preventing sexual exploitation of children or the developmentally disabled.

Even fundamentalists of any stripe would shy away from state action against the targets of their moralism - surely even they find Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale abhorrent and disturbing? Again, I suppose that one might stretch the interpretation like a veritable condom bungee so that it incorporated sexual health or contraception/abortion issues but even then (and I think the condom tears long before such Reed Richards-like extension!), would anyone really say it was the state’s business whether or not one was worn?

I think the only way I could argue for this proposition is by someone else somehow arguing against it. Do we have anyone here prepared to do so?

I’ll play devil’s advocate if you like.

Mangetout (-4.75, -3.38), ticks strongly agree; provided that the consent mentioned is genuine and arising from sound minds, and extends to all parties who may be significantly affected by the activity.

(-1.88, -3.08), Strongly agrees.

But, who would be an extended party, and of what activity.

Thanks, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this it’s that there is always someone who actually disagrees with everyone else. How else could Brutus, for example, have ended up with a Compass reading (+8, +8) so far away even from his own fellow conservatives?

If you leave the curtains undrawn, it might be the state’s business. But, more likely it’ll be some Interent entepreneur’s business first.

Dunno; any attempt to get into details is likely to be messy; as a rule, I’d say that as long as no non-consenting parties suffer harm, there’s no foul - this is implied by the question, but the wording left open the logical possibility of bedroom activity between consenting parties that might have a subsequent, incidental effect on non-consenting parties.

OK, here’s ahypothetical where I think I genuinely disagree with the statement as presented.

A woman is convicted of seriously abusing all her children, one after another. Most of them she drowned shortly after birth. She also takes drastic steps to ensure that all children are born physically or mentally damaged. She suffers form no metal illness and never has. She’s just a criminal.

Should she be prevented from engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse? Does the state have a right to take steps to prevent her doing so?

Or alternatively, should income from (legal) prostitution be taxable? If so then doesn’t the state have a right to know what two consenting people did in the bedroom and for how much?

I actually think this may be a big issue. Almost anything becomes state’s busines when it is taxed.

If she has committed a serious crime, then the consequences are such that she forfeits all kinds of liberties, up to and including male company in a female penal institution, but this is getting way distant of the original proposition. I suggest it’s another Reed-Richardsing of the proposition just so that a debate can be had, which is fair enough, I suppose.

Ah, I didn’t consider the prostitution angle (although, again, it’s quite a stretch of #59). Nevertheless, my Strongly Agree stands since I strongly believe that it should be legal and taxed.

Yes, by convicting her of murder and locking her up.

But does the state have the specific right to deny her conjugal visits? After all incarceration isn’t there primarily to stop someone having sex. So under those circumstances does the state have a right to know if she has sex?

You call this stretching the definition, yet I don’t see it that way. I see it as well within the scope. Let’s suppose it had stated “What goes on in a private bank between consenting adults is no business of the state”. Would you still agree? And if not why not?

To me it seems that any question of this type has to be specifically directed at the consequences of the action, otherwise it’s just a restatement of a basic “does the state have the right to dictate “victimless” crimes question. Whether the setting is a bedroom or a bank or a bakery if we have to confine the scenario to consenting adults with no possible non-consenting third parties then the answer is the same.

You say for example that prostitution should be essentially treated like any other business. I agree. But other businesses become the business of the government even when only consenting adults are involved. There are tomes of consumer protection laws, taxation laws etc. that all mean that any business activity is very closely scrutinised by the state even when only consenting adults are involved. So why shouldn’t a bordello be treated the same as a bakery? Even if my baker and I are consenting adults the state has a say in what he sells me, how much it weighs, what it contains, when I bought it, how much I pay, what training he has had, who he was trained under and many other things. What goes on in a private bakery between consenting adults is state business if it involves a financial transaction. Why shouldn’t what goes on in private bedroom?

And if you believe the state should regulate prostitution as heavily as baking then isn’t that at least one fairly mundane case where the sate has aright to know what goes down in a private bedroom between consenting adults?

Taking note of the keywords “consenting” and “adults”, I see no logical alternative to Strongly Agree.

Well, OK, seeing as this train is already well and truly redirected, I’ll say that conjugal visits in a penal institution are a privilege that the institution can grant on certain conditions (perhaps dependant on the nature of the crime) rather than a right which all inmates should expect.

In following this train out of the station, I suggest that the difference is in the fiscal/property nature of the “activity”, which is state business in that property can itself become tyrannical without democratic interference to prevent plutocracy. Consenting adult private bedroom activity, on the other hand, is not tyrannical in any way I can think of which requires government intervention.

It should, financially.

To conflate the social aspect with the financial aspect is to conflate the two axes of the Compass itself.

But again, this is a financial aspect: if #59 were about bakeries it would say something like “people preparing whatever pastries or sweetmeats they like the taste of is no business of the state”. If your argument is effectively that #59 should lie on the horizontal axis, I can only disagree.

Then isn’t this an example of the state having a right to know what goes on in private bedroom, even to the point of deciding who goes in there?

The problem I’m having with this position is that you have effective rephrased the statement into a tautology. You are reading it as “Adult bedroom activity that is no business of the state is no business of the state”. You seem to have decided ahead of time that the statement doesn’t pertain to the financial, to the effect on non-consenting parties, to the effect on state property and so on. Haven’t you just effectively ruled out all possible state interests and read the statement as a tautology?

The problem is that you are insisting that something must always and inevitably be always either social or financial. That they can never be a combination of the two. That’s nonsense. Most activities are a combination of the two. That to me is the very essence of this question as well as its major problem. What to you is a strictly social activity like sex is oft times not. I am not saying that the question should lie on the horizontal axis, but that in reality it should contribute to both.

The idea that this question can be validly attributed to only one axis is clearly not true. For a many people sex is primarily a financial enterprise and recreational secondarily. The idea that we have to exclude financial sex, sex that affects third parties and so on from the analysis is a gross simplification reality and renders the question a pointless tautology IMO.

If this question is intended to address only the social issue the that is a major flaw in this question since quite clearly bedroom activities are by no means an exclusively social affair with no financial input whatsoever. Maybe you know that the question is intended to address only the social, but the average compass user like myself doesn’t know that and it is never explicitly stated.

But not in terms of workplace health and safety or training or consumer protection? Because any of those things will require the state have some idea of what’s going on in there even when only consenting adults are concerned.

Well, I’m not sure a bedroom in a penal institution is necessarily “private” as such. However, I’ve already admitted that you might well find a tiny number of examples of what might be equivocable in #59 by stretching it beyond breaking point IMO. As I’ve said throughout these threads, a some/all caveat can always be presented, although I’d question the utility of actively straining to find one since the proposition itself usually offers enough scope for debate.

Well, I’m offering a principle whereby social and financial activities differ in an important aspect (that of possible tyranny if government made no intervention). This is my argument, not my decree. If you disagree, so be it.

Of course I agree. In this case, I would suggest that #59 is a solely vertical marker for one’s political orientation, since including a financial aspect would be rather misleading given its overridingly social nature. You might well disagree, and may even be right: the Test’s writers might actually score this on both axes (you can rather cumbersomely determine this yourself by answering the whole thing identically twice except for that one question). If the whole question of the axes at all is your bugbear, it sounds like the thread you really seek is this one.

Many as in how many? 50+% of the population? We must read the propositions from as reasonable a perspective as we can, and answer as honestly as we can. As I say, you can always think of a reason to refuse to answer because the proposition is imperfect.

Well, again, this strains the phrase “private bedroom” like the veritable condom bungee of my OP and so such examples do not overturn either my response nor my belief that it is entirely appropriate to score this solely socially (since all questions could be similarly nitpicked, rendering the entire Test worthless. In which case, why contribute to these threads at all?)

So what about the german cannibal case where one man consented to be cut up and eaten by another? Should the state have buisness in the affairs of those two men?

You could argue that the notion of consent does not apply in this case because clearly both of the people were not mentally capable of giving consent but this seems to be a rather convenient sort of out to avoid answering the question. Your okay with anything but it has to involve consent and consent is only the stuff your okay with. I think cannibalism is a particularly wierd and extreme type of fetish but it doesn’t neccesarily indicate mental illness and it doesn’t neccesarily indicate a lack of consent either.

You could argue that such a procedure is alread covered under existing laws, namely murder. But the very notion of using laws to preclude behavoir is the state interfering with private affairs. Of course, it may be possible to distinguish between laws specifically designed to interfere with private activities such as anti-sodom laws and laws which only affect private activitites incidentally like murder laws, but I don’t think this is correct either. Much of what we do in private is implicitly outside of the law unless one party chooses to involve it. What would be domestic abuse in one situation is simply kinky S&M under another.

From the Family Research Council: Crimes Against The Law of Nature: In Defense of Sodomy Laws.

Also, from Tony Perkins’ Washington Update (July 14, 2005):


An 18-year-old crack addict, desperate to feed her addiction, will accept $50 to provide vaginal and anal sex to a paying 60-year-old man.

I cannot agree that this behavior is consensual.

It clearly falls within the ambit of legal consent, however.

Would you strongly agree if the proposition involed wages for work done (not sex)? If not, why not?

As for the proposition itself, I’d say I agree. “Strongly” is a bit much as the proposition is rather vague.