Friday, July 11, 2008

Another political spectrum

While libertarians are quite familiar with the Nolan Political Science Chart, it isn't the only attempt to more accurately graph the political map. Moreover, as shown in Conservatives Versus the Nolan Chart it doesn't depict the political landscape as accurately as it could, given that modern American conservatism isn't synonymous with Nolan conservatism.

Another chart that is slowly making waves is the Pournelle Chart, another two dimensional representation. He starts his essay with the standard attack on the inconsistencies of the standard one-dimensional spectrum, but proceeds from there to describe his own alternative model.

The first axis of his chart is "liberty", which could be considered the cross-axis of the Nolan chart ranging from statist to libertarian. That is common to many attempts to rectify the political spectrum, but Jerry Pournelle felt that was inadequate. The reason is that it groups fascists and communists on one end as if they are the same, and it groups anarchists and libertarians at the other end as if they are the same. He felt a second axist was necessary to separate out these ideologies.

The axis he came up with is called "attitude towards planned social progress" or "rationalism", the belief that society's problems can be solved by reasoned solutions. After adding this axis he was able to differentiat the communist from the fascist and the libertarian from the anarchist.

On the corner of statist and rationalist one finds Communists and Socialists. The corner of statist and irrationalist one finds Fascists and Theocrats. The corner of rationalist and anti-statist is occupied by the libertarians and objectivists. Finally the corner of irrationalist and anti-statist is Anarcism and counter-culturalism. Conservatives and Liberals are both near the center by having midway opinions of both the state and the ability of planning to achieve social goals.


Nathan said...

Thanks for posting this short commentary. Many people (myself included) have pointed out the great similarities between Jerry's and David's charts, and I used Jerry's for years before I was introduced to David's through the Advocates. It is STILL an important chart because it does differentiate between Anarcho-Capitalists and the black-flag folks. I am glad your comments are getting picked up more quickly than mine were, over the years. The big problem with the Nolan chart over the years has been the cherry-picking of issues to quantify positions; with the Pournelle chart that is a bit harder to do, and people are less likely to mis-classify themselves. Of ocurse, it is MUCH harder to select questions that can be used to quantify Jerry's axes...

Ayn R. Key said...

Both charts have their advantages and their disadvantages. That's part of the problem with Jarry's chart, the inability to easily measure the rationality axis. I've been trying to come up with questions for a while, but so far haven't been able to.

Nathan said...

It would seem that the best way to use questions (similar to "World's Smallest Political Quiz") would be to gage reaction to various situations as being based either on logic, ideology, or some mix. Test it on such distinct political philosophies as the Greens and non-capitalist anarchists. They might need to be in the form of multiple-choice questions rather than yes-no questions, such as "G.W.Bush is evil because..."
a. He does evil things
b. He is the son of G.H.W.Bush
c. He is G.W.Bush
d. He claims to be religious
with "a" being the logical or rational, "b" and "d" being more ideological, and "c" being the irrational response. Of course, the challenge is getting honest answers.

PlanetaryJim said...

Wouldn't it be fun to create a three-dimensional chart? We could use the personal liberty, economic liberty, and rationalism axes. Now we are charting in three dimensions and so we need to use a bit of effort to place dots. But, there are accepted conventions for 3-D charts.

Obviously, politics is a multi-dimensional space, so any 2 or 3 dimensional chart is merely a projection of more complex space onto a chart of smaller dimensions. One could have an axis along any question of political interest.

But, a combo chart pulling Nolan and Pournelle together would be fascinating. Wish I had more time to draft a sample.

Ayn R. Key said...


Actually I've done that, but I was saving it for my next blog entry on the subject of political spectrums. Yes, it combines Nolan and Pournelle.