The Political Compass Revisited


May 7, 2006
Everyone familiar with this dev team is probably aware of the Political Compass, a site that replaces the innacurate one-dimensional Right-Left polical scale with one that also includes the Authoritarian-Libertarian spectrum. Still, this is still not an accurate depiction of politics, and I think we should have a three dimensional scale.

My problem with PC lies in its considering of Libertarian and Authoritarian to be polar opposites, whereas they really are not. Its surveys reflect its misconceptions. Questions are asked both about large a federal government should be, how important religion is, and how many rights a citizen should have. These leave many holes in judging authoritarian a country is.

For example, that system cannot clearly answer who was more authoritarian in the Civil War, the North or the South. Under the survey, the North would qualify as more authoritarian answering only questions related to the size of the federal government, but the South would qualify as more authoritarian answering only questions relevent to Civil Liberties. With both taking the whole survey, the answer is unclear.

Likewise, the Political Compass website exemplifies questions it can clear up with a response to the issue of who is further left, Stalin or Ghandi. They explain that economics are not where the difference lies; rather, Stalin is an authoritarian leftist, while Ghandi is a liberal leftist. However, the survey will not determine, accurately, whether Stalin or Osama Bin Laden is more authoritarian. Osama would qualify as libertarian in terms of opinions on federal government, but authoritarian in terms of opinions on religion, whereas Stalin would be the opposite, authoritatian if asked about government, but libertarian if asked about religion.

Finally, the issue of whether Iraq is freer now. Under Saddam, as well as now, under no clear authority, people are shot in the streets in Iraq. So was Saddam's Iraq or modern Iraq more authoritarian? Paying attention only to government, the political compass would hold Saddam's reign as authoritarian, and modern Iraq as libertarian, but if only regarding civil liberties, there would be little change.

Hence, to truly be accurate, the Political Compass needs a third dimension and some changes. "Authoritarian" and "Libertarian" (Up and Down) should be changed to something like "Federalist" and "AntiFederalist." Meanwhile, another dimension, depth, should be added, with "Repressive" at one side and "Permissive" at the other.

Revisited under the suggested new system, the Civil War would be easier to examine. Leaving out economics for the sake of simplicity, the North would score as Federalist-Permissive and the South would score as AntiFederalist-Repressive. The other examples could be examined in kind.

Perhaps even a fourth spectrum could be added: Traditionalist vs. Reformer. This wouldn't position well, but it could be indicated with color-coding. With Economics, Government Size, Civil Liberties, and Culture scored in that order, then, the USA would score as Center-Right, Center Federalist, Permissive, Centrist, the USSR would score as Far-Left, Far-Federalist, Repressive, Far-Reformer, Nazi Germany would score as Centrist, Far-Federalist, Repressive, Far-Traditionalist, and Al Qaeda would score as Centrist, Far-Antifederalist, Repressive, Far-Tradionalist.

That, in a nutshell, is what it would take for the political compass to be accurate.

Dead Flag

Oct 22, 2007
Already one step ahead of you, my friend. I've been working on a similar theory for months. Virtually the same categories, but a different classification system.

I prefer the categories of attitude towards authority, economic perspective, moral perspective and preference of the speed of change.
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