Political Spectrums and Typologies

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Libertarians are fond of misrepresentations such as the Nolan Chart, The Political Compass, and The World's Smallest Political Quiz. These are primarily propaganda tools, with essentially no academic support. In the US, the left-right axis is all that is really needed for understanding government. Within the US, surveys reveal a typology of 8 primary political groups, none of them libertarian.

The Nolan Chart and World's Smallest Political Quiz are pretend political science classifications that look only at two bogus conceptions of "liberty" for their axes. They are propaganda tools used for outreach by The Advocates for Self-Government and others.

The Political Compass is very weak model of political beliefs that is suitable only for propaganda memes. "Fill in the 4 spaces and you have a meme!" The obvious thing wrong with it is that almost everybody is in the center, where there isn't a space, and the memes ignore that. There are much better models of what people believe.

The Worlds Smallest Political Quiz, or "The Quiz" as it is popularly known, is a carefully planned piece of pseudoscientific recruiting propaganda. It qualifies people not as libertarians, but as people susceptible to becoming libertarians (a MUCH larger class, containing people of many different viewpoints.)

The World's Smallester Political Quiz
Are you an asshole?

  • Yes: Libertarian
  • No: Something else.


Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology [More...] (2 links)
The Pew Research Center statistically identifies seven cohesive political clusters. None of them are libertarian because libertarianism is plutocratic capitalist astroturf. Includes a 23 question placement quiz. A vastly better methodology than the pseudoscientific The Worlds Smallest Political Quiz. 179 pages.
Libertarians are neither right wing nor left wing. (5 links)
Libertarians are simply pragmatic conservatives who have a moral focus on non-interference by the government, according to George Lakoff. That makes them solid right wingers.
2013 American Values Survey: In Search of Libertarians in America [More...]
Americans are about equally libertarian and communalist, about 7% each. Quite different than the Nolan Chart would leave you to believe. And surprise! Most are young, while males who favor legalizing marijuana, but oppose same-sex marriage.
Political spectrum (Wikipedia) [More...]
A survey of the long history and mulitudinous variations on this idea, with one, two, or more axes of widely varying types.
In search of libertarians [More...]
"In some cases, the political views of self-described libertarians differ modestly from those of the general public; in others there are no differences at all [...] None of the seven groups identified by the 2014 political typology closely resembled libertarians, and, in fact, self-described libertarians can be found in all seven."
Models, Maps and Visions of Tomorrow [More...]
A discussion of political axes and why most (including the Nolan Chart) are wrong. Part 1/4 of David Brin's Political Totemism and the Danger of Metaphors.
Poll: 43 Percent Of Libertarians Don’t Understand The Term [More...]
"About 11 percent of Americans self-identify as libertarians and know what the term means" according to a Pew Research Center poll.
RationalWiki : Nolan chart [More...]
The RationalWiki article on the Nolan Chart, especially criticizing the The Worlds Smallest Political Quiz.
RationalWiki : Political Compass [More...]
The RationalWiki article on the Political Compass, with four significant criticisms.
The Tilted Political Compass, Part 1: Left and Right [More...]
An excellent criticism of the methodology of the Political Compass and a good derivation of an alternative.
The Tilted Political Compass, Part 2: Up and Down [More...]
Completion of the alternative, and comparison to some already-existing alternatives.
Variations on the Tilted Political Compass [More...]
"I’ve been thinking about riffing on the tilted political compass as well over the last year, and here’s my collection. I want to point out that 1) they’re not jokes, more like serious variations and 2) these alternate versions aren’t always meant to map onto the four quadrants of the titled political compass particularly tightly." You have to see the Harry Potter version.
XKCD: Nolan Chart [More...]
A more realistic diagram.


Without coming out and saying it, it’s easy to see how libertarianism, despite all the heavy-handed rhetoric about freedom, is fundamentally a right wing authoritarian philosophy... Getting the government out isn’t about rejecting authority, but making individuals of the proper sex (male), proper race (white), and proper socio-economic status (property owners and independent businessmen) the ruling classes of a series of small societies.
Amanda Marcotte, "A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing"
People seem to be faintly drawn to the idea that there might be more political dimensions than just "left" and "right". Bullshit. Being in favour of allowing other people to take drugs, shag each other or read what they want isn't a political position; it's what we call "manners", "civilisation" or "humanity", depending on the calibre of yokel you're trying to educate. The political question of interest splits fair and square down a Left/Right axis: either you think that it is more important to provide a decent life for everyone in the world, or you think it is more important to preserve the rights of people who own property. You can hum and haw as much as you like about whether the two are necessarily incompatible, or whether the one is instrumental to the other, or what constitutes a "decent life" anyway, but when you've finished humming and hawing, I'm still gonna be asking you the question, and your answer to it will determine whether or not we're gonna have an argument.
Daniel Davies, http://d-squareddigest.blogspot.com, December 31, 2002
For most of American history only two dimensions are required to account for the fourteen million choices of the twelve thousand members who served in Congress. In fact, one dimension suffices except in two periods, roughly 1829-1851 and 1937-1970, when race-related issues introduced a second dimension.
Keith Poole, "Ideology and Congress: A Political Economic History of Roll Call Voting", 2008.