When we hear talk about politics, it is almost always framed as a simple choice: Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative, Big Gummint/Small Gummint, and so on.  Oh, and the only thing in the middle of the road is a dead possum, har har de freakin’ har. This two-sided model is easy to suss, easy to write about, and easy to sell to the voting public.

Unfortunately, said model is also an overly simplistic pile of donkey droppings. Pop quiz: how many sides does a quarter have? (Based on this teacher’s experience, almost all of you said “two”.) Answer: Three. As soon as you look at a coin, you’ll slap your head and say, “duh”, or something along those lines. Here’s the point: if we underestimate the complexity of a single coin, imagine how easily we can be lead into underestimating the complexity of millions of human beings.

The Political Compass is a rather nifty little attempt to add some depth to our understanding of ourselves, and the body politic at large. In addition to the Left/Right Axis, it adds an “Authoritarian/Libertarian” Axis. So after completing the questions, one could be identified as a:

Big Government Conservative
Small Government Liberal
Centrist Libertarian

And so on, all sorts of seemingly contradictory results. But it makes sense, because we are chucking the dumbed-down media stereotypes into the trash can and looking at how people actually think, feel, and act.

Mr. Blunt and Cranky strongly recommends you try this puppy out:  http://www.politicalcompass.org/

It reveals how there can be Lefty Democrats in favor of cutting welfare, and Righty Republicans in favor of  telling people what to do in their bedrooms. These things exist in real life, and are often presented as contradictory, but they aren’t really: they are just too complex for the simple-arsed diagram we have been reading and hearing for far too long.

Full disclosure: this blogger scored bang on the center of the Left/Right line, and about 75% Libertarian on that axis. Hardly surprising, once he thought about it; but without this handy tool, it would never have been thought about in the first place.

Mr. B & C