There is a fascinating site online called The Political Compass. The basic premise behind it is the traditional left-right view of politics is very limiting, and therefore quite inaccurate.
Rather than going along this single line, it fixes Left and Right in terms of economic policy (collectivism vs free market) and introduces a 2nd dimension in the form of Authoritarian and Anarchistic/Libertarian.
What this means is, while Stalin and Margaret Thatcher, for example, were at opposite ends in their approach to the economy, they were pretty close in their ideas that the masses were not to be trusted and needed to be controlled by the state.
For those interested in the UK political system, Political Compass plotted the parties based on their policies in the 2010 elections, on to their grid (they also have ones for the most recent US, Canadian, Australian, Irish and New Zealand elections)
As you can see, the traditional, left wing party of British politics, Labour, has moved so far to the right over the past couple of decades that it now sits in almost exactly the same place occupied by Thatcher back in the 1980s.
However, the real fun part of this site is you can take the test yourself to see where your outlook fits in the grand scheme of things.* It’s completely anonymous, unless you decide to blog about it afterwards.
I first did this test when a friend emailed it to me about 8 or 9 years ago. I then rediscovered it about 3 years back and did it again. And in the interests of this post, I have just gone through it a 3rd time. However, while my score has shifted by a degree here or there, it seems my politics are pretty well entrenched. Fundamentally I still occupy exactly the same region on the grid as I did a decade back - Economic Left/Right: -7.75 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.49.
It turns out I’m an extremist – it’s difficult to move further to the left, or more towards anarchism. I’ve discovered over the years that even people I was convinced had far more radical outlooks than I do are right-wing, authoritarians compared to me. Hell, Ghandi was more of a right-wing, authoritarian compared to me (it'll be interesting to see how many Followers I lose after this post).
Yet to me, my outlook is perfectly reasonable. I don’t feel like an extremist, and I certainly don’t act like an extremist.
But perhaps that last sentence gives a clue to the limitations of The Political Compass – it is lacking a 3rd axis – pacifist-activist.
Ideologically I am a collectivist-anarchist, but I am not an activist.
Over a cup of tea I will debate with you until I get tired or it becomes clear you’re never going to be convinced by my reasonableness, and I will write the occasional blog post expressing my views. But you won’t find me on demonstration marches, writing letters to newspapers or making bombs.
If there were a 3rd axis, I’d be at the extreme end of that one too.
*Feel free to leave your results in the comments if you wish, but I’m not an authoritarian so it’s not compulsory...