You'll often see a pair of Cartesian coordinates listed on an E2 user's homenode, describing their "political compass" scores given by a multiple-choice survey available online at It's actually quite an innovative concept, making the one-dimensional political spectrum obsolete.

Political positions have traditionally been distinguished from one another on a left-right scale. The trouble is that left and right in this context are vague, qualitative descriptions. Often the same label is applied to politicians with drastically different policies; certainly Barry Goldwater's libertarianism can't be equated with Francisco Franco's totalitarianism or the theocratic rhetoric of the Iranian Ayatollahs and the U.S.'s Religious Right, though all are "right-wing" in the public eye.

The Political Compass attempts to remedy this by assigning two numerical values to each person's politics, each spanning a continuous range from -10 to +10:

  1. Economic left-right. A score of -10 corresponds to an entirely regulated economy; the Marxist ideal. At the opposite end of the scale, a score of +10 corresponds to pure, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism.

  2. Social authoritarian-libertarian. A -10 score on this scale is anarchy, with personal freedoms decreasing continuously until absolute fascism is reached at +10.

So we have two variables, which can be plotted in a plane. As you would suspect, the economic left-right scale forms the horizontal axis, while the social-freedom scale becomes the vertical axis. The four quadrants are then

  1. Authoritarian Right
  2. Authoritarian Left
  3. Libertarian Left
  4. Libertarian Right

          II      |       I
          III     |       IV

Authoritarian right-wing politics were seen in the German Nazi regime and (with lesser severity, fortunately)in the 1980's administrations of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the UK and the US, respectively.

Left-wing authoritarianism is basically Communism as it is practiced; it's occurred in the Soviet Union and in China under Mao Zedong and his successors.

Left-libertarian politics were advanced in India by Mahatma Gandhi; taking leftist libertarian goals to their theoretical limit we have anarcho-syndicalism, which seems to be inordinately difficult to put into practice.

Right-libertarianism seems to be the least popular in practice; the Compass didn't give any actual political figures as examples here, though Goldwater would certainly qualify. In this quadrant we have, at the extreme, the ideals of Ayn Rand, and more moderately, the platforms of the American Libertarian Party.

See the website for more information, or to take the test yourself. Also, Blush Response has collected Political Compass scores of many noders at E2 Political Compass.

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