Monday, September 25, 2006

Metapolitics Go-meme

This is a political map invented by Richard Chappell at Philosophy, et cetera. I've tried to plot my positions on the scales, but I'm not quite convinced that the scales have unambiguous meanings.

a) Liberalism - X - - - - - Radicalism (2/7)
Do the ends justify the means? Procedural liberals insist on the primacy of fair play and democratic process. Radicals care less about method, and more about getting the desired result.

b) Rationalism - - - X - - - Subjectivism (4/7)
Is there ever a "right answer" to political questions? Rationalists think that reasoned debate could, ideally, lead to consensus about the common good. Subjectivists see politics as a mere contest of wills, all rhetoric and power plays, where the goal is simply to have your individual preferences win through.

c) Direct - - - X - - - Representative Democracy (4/7)
Should power rest more with citizens or elected representatives?

d) Aggregation - - - - - X - Deliberation (6/7)
Should political decisions be reached by simply aggregating individuals' prior preferences, or by submitting reasons for deliberation and critical scrutiny?

e) Federalist - - - X - - - Globalist (4/7)
What's the most appropriate level for political decisions? Federalists favor local-level decision-making (which may vary across localities), in contrast to Globalists.

f) Libertarian - - - X - - - Authoritarian (4/7)
How much discretionary power should be allowed in politics? Libertarians favor greater (e.g. constitutional) constraints on the exercise of political power. Authoritarians (may include populists and paternalists) are the opposite.

g) Economic Left - X - - - - - Right (2/7)
How favorably do you view redistributive taxation and other typically "Left-wing" economic policies?
I find the problem with these surveys is that it's difficult to define the appropriate scope or time horizon for the question. For example, is scale (d) asking whether people should think about political decisions before voting on them? Is it asking whether they ought to prove that they have thought about them before they can vote? Is it asking whether it is presently practical to do so? Indeed, scales (c) and (d) seem closely related. We might feel better about direct democracy if voters were actually going to consider the issues in detail. Scale (b) is also related to (c) and (d), since reasoned debate is only going to achieve consensus if the voters are paying attention to the details (which they don't).

Maybe it would be better to grade how a person feels about individual involvement in the political process. Should (or can) individual citizens maintain enough interest and understanding of political issues to make informed decisions? If not, what mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that the system isn't radicalized by special interest groups?

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