Am I a ‘conservative?’


in Daily updates, Economics, Politics

The other day, a friend of mine somewhat surprised me by referring to me as a ‘conservative.’ Pressed to define myself, I would say that I am a pragmatic libertarian who is willing to recognize that our freedoms need to be constrained in many ways in order to live decently together.

The Political Compass test categorizes me as follows: moderately left wing on economics (-3.00) and strongly slanted towards libertarianism rather than authoritarianism (-6.67).

I do object to some of the questions they pose. For instance:

  1. If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations – It is a bit silly to say that globalization serves one or the other, or that corporations are purely abstract entities whose welfare has nothing to do with individual people.
  2. The only social responsibility of a company should be to deliver a profit to its shareholders – This seems like an oversimplification of a complex question. Clearly, corporations have a general obligation to obey the law (though those in them may sometimes be morally obliged to break unjust laws). It certainly isn’t clear that the directors of corporations should undertake charity using shareholder wealth.
  3. First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country – This clearly depends on what constitutes integration. For instance, when there are societies that have multiculturalism and inclusiveness as important features, people can be integrated without being assimilated.

The test also features a number of confusingly worded multiple-negative items. “Is X not true? No.” There are also a few questions seemingly designed to establish whether you are a racist. It seems to me that there have probably been racists of all possible political affiliations.

Personally, I would say my political philosophy is a combination of some classically liberal ways of viewing the world coupled with a libertarian concern for the individual and a utilitarian concern for group welfare. I would say that I am also unusually aware of the extent to which seemingly private decisions (what to eat, how to travel, etc) have significant and morally relevant impacts on other people.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. September 24, 2008 at 7:32 pm

You can only be ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ in relation to someone else, and there will always be people more conservative and more liberal than you.

Given that each side uses the opposite title as an insult, it isn’t surprising that someone out there would call you one or the other.

Tristan September 24, 2008 at 11:39 pm

Did you get a chance to watch that short Chomsky film on economic integration?

. September 25, 2008 at 9:35 am

The Daily Show with John Stewart
September 23, 2008

Clip 1 of 4

John Stewart: After Katrina, after Iraq … I didn’t think there was another area that these guys could screw up.

John Oliver: It wasn’t easy. It was like finding a vein on a failure junkie.

JS: You’re saying the president here won’t be satisfied until American children are eating roadkill?

JO: Until they’re fighting over roadkill. Until roadkill is the prize for the strongest American children.

JS: But why?

JO: Legacy, John. We all know he’ll never be ranked as the best president. But he could still, if he works hard enough…

JS: Be the worst?

JO: The last.

. September 25, 2008 at 10:28 am
. September 25, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Region Specific Political Compass Results:

Canadian General Election 2008

US Presidential Election 2008

. September 25, 2008 at 2:20 pm


Hopefully, you’re happy with the personalities that The Political Compass has placed you closest to; but how well do you really know the famous figures that you love or love to hate?
This little wrap-up quiz offers some important facts that were barely, if ever, reported. It may raise your eyebrows and adjust the pedestals on which you placed some of your favourite icons. The chasm may be greater than you’d imagined.

. September 26, 2008 at 7:44 pm

But while the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party have all accepted the international benchmark date of 1990, the Conservatives have chosen a baseline of 2006. Because Canadian emissions rose between 1990 and 2006 by nearly one-third, that means that – even if successful – the Harper Conservatives would reduce emissions by only three per cent from 1990 levels.

Even that, however, is too optimistic, according to the Jaccard report’s conclusioin:

“… it is highly unlikely that the policies of the government of Canada will achieve the target of reducing national emissions 20% below 2006 levels by 2020. The lack of an economy-wide emissions price and the allowance for 100% offsets for industrial emitters make it highly likely that emissions will be significantly higher than target levels in 2020 and indeed might even be close to today’s levels. Since the government claims that it is intent on achieving its 2020 emissions reduction target, it is difficult to understand why it does not immediately convert the intensity cap to an absolute cap and eliminate or severely reduce the offset provision. It also needs to extend its cap to cover all emissions in the economy.”

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