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POLITICAL COMPASS December 5, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, European Politics, Philosophy, US Politics.

If this result for my position on the Political Compass is correct it is no wonder my enthusiasm for the new, fresh government is muted. My position is to wait to see what happens. It is my sense that after the election, and the same was true in 1996, there is no sense of empowerment following the federal election. The reason is that electoral politics are in some part about clever manipulation, although it is interesting to read that Possum discounts the theory of “me-tooism” arguing that Labor positioned itself those things that would loss it votes and for those things that would win it votes. Despite the attempts to wedge Labor, the Liberals shot themselves in the foot with WorkChoices, the policy that alienated the Howard Battlers.

The problem the Liberal Party, or more generally the Opposition, now have is to find a leader who can position himself to represent a broad consensus. Howards failure was that he wedged his own political coalition through WorkChoices. If that observation is correct it means that ideology triumphed over political pragmatism. The longer a government is in power the more likely that ideology will triumph over pragmatism, and the corollary is the longer in opposition the more likely that pragmatism will overcome ideology.

There is a significant difference between the political systems in the Australia and the US beyond the obvious parliamentary/presidential divide arising from the opportunity for minor parties to be elected. The Australian electoral system institutionalizes the two-party system but since the 1948 changes to Senate voting gives representation to minor parties, whose pragmatic position is ideological. The American system by contrast does not give representation to minor parties and sustain ideological positions. However independents might be in obtaining seats in Congress and minor parties in mounting presidential campaigns, most notably Ross Perot and the Progress Party in 1992 they go nowhere without representation.

Pragmatism both the reflects the political system and the political culture that gave rise to the political system in the first place, and continues to sustain it. The media play a significant role. It is interesting that the seven sisters own the television stations in USA. Now, of course, the commentariat, if Possum is correct, is now attempting to frame the Rudd victory in a way that will be compatible for the enduring interests of their masters. We should not be surprised, I suppose, nor unduly condemn Labor for its successful pragmatism which is shown here on the Political Compass diagram:


I have no independent way of verifying this positioning, except to compare it to EU governments at the last election (Click on for the full image)


Labor would appear to be closer to the governments of France and Germany – the Grand Coalition – than to the Blair/Brown Labour in Britain. The Australia Government, now is closer in its political orientation to the major Europeans than it is to the Bush Administration. It can be expected that following the US Presidential Elections next year that the Americans will move into this general area, with significance for policies on Climate Change.

Michael Nagler at UC Berkeley, Emeritus Professor in Classics and Comparative Literature, interpreting Saint Augustine’s, The City of God (against the Pagans) says Augustine two drives that underly culture. We are either given to self aggrandizement, or helping others. It is of interest that these are drives as distinct from needs, and perhaps the fit on the right-left continuum. Michael Nagler tells the American Indian story of the two wolves, which are identical to Augustine’s two drives. Which will dominant? It depends on which you feed.

Michael Nagler also says, referring to the Gandhian struggle for Swaraj and Indian Independence that hierarchies arise spontaneously in the presence of threat or an emergency. In this view, I suppose, structural violence would not be a surprise. Thus the hypothesis that the higher on the authoritarian-libertarian continuum the greater the likelihood of violence. The purpose of explanation is to suggest theory, and predictions are a test of theory.

That said, my position on the Political Compass seems to be on a different page to that of the new government:


While I hold myself accountable for my views and opinions, which I believe is inherent in democratic citizenship that does not mean that I have necessarily carefully delineated my positions. By contrast political parties, major and minor, act in a culture, and must be pragmatic. I am at least on the same page as Gandhiji:


. . . and that is something.



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