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Going my way? - click opera
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Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 02:40 am
Going my way?

Back in 2005, I wrote an entry entitled Why does it always swing on me? which predicted -- correctly, as it turned out -- that Koizumi would win in Japan and Merkel in Germany. I knew this simply because it always happened to me; I'd arrive in a country, attracted by a relatively liberal government, only to face a swing, a reaction, a rightward re-adjustment. Since this had happened throughout my adult life, I figured the pattern would continue. Governments of the nations I lived in would always be swinging right.

One of the interesting things happening now, though, is that pretty much everyone -- from George "Socialist" Bush downwards -- has suddenly swung left, thanks to the financial crisis and the sudden collapse of neo-liberal free market ideology. I was one of the few Japan-watchers to be against the privatisation of the Japanese postal savings bank, for instance (the issue over which Koizumi called, and won, that 2005 election), but now it's become a new orthodoxy to regret that privatisation -- the current Japanese prime minister, Taro Aso, was vehemently against it, for instance, and the current banking crisis makes his stance look wise.

One of the most extraordinary and heartening things to happen in the last month has been the rehabilitation of two great veterans of British left wing politics, Michael Foot and Tony Benn. Several commentators have noted that Foot (now 95 years old) called for greater state control of the banks in his 1983 Labour Party manifesto, and that this now suddenly looks pretty smart (We're all socialists now, comrade!). Even free market-friendly papers like The Financial Times and The Times are suddenly hailing Mr Foot (whose glasses, too, look a lot more fashionable than they did).

I remember feeling a surge of hope when Foot was elected leader of the Labour Party in the early 80s. He's probably the only leader of a UK political party in my lifetime whose views even remotely resemble mine. He was, unfortunately, slayed at the polls. Even today, with his values and views vindicated, there aren't enough British people buying his old paper Tribune to keep it in business.

So -- in this political season, when the US looks likely to elect its most left-leaning president in a generation -- what are my political views? And which politicians represent them, in which countries? Well, on the Political Compass test I score:

Economic Left/Right: -7.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.03



This makes me solidly left-libertarian. It puts me in a lonely part of the Political Compass, in terms of actual representation in the political process. Only Gandhi somewhat represents my views, amongst the historical figures cited by the Political Compass website. In terms of US politics, Brian Moore, Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney occupy the general area of my views (though I support Obama simply because he has a chance of winning and thereby tilting the US at least in the direction of left-libertarianism).

As The Economist recently pointed out, the UK is generally to the left of the US in its values, and the EUzone is somewhat to the left of the UK. Perhaps surprisingly, that study found that the British were closer to Europeans (and Canadians) than they were to Americans in their political attitudes.

Germany's red-green alliance (in power when I arrived here in 2003) is the closest I've come to living under a government I fundamentally agree with; apart from that, there's still a big gap between my beliefs and the values of most European governments, though Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands come closest. In terms of parties, the New Zealand Greens and the Irish Socialists might be my cup of tea. In the UK only the Greens are thinking my way. In terms of parties in power, Helen Clark's New Zealand Labour Party are heartening (in the Obama way; they actually have power, and somewhat represent my views -- though less than parties too unpopular to govern, like Michael Foot's 1980s Labour). Clark renationalised railways and banks before the current crisis made such things fashionable.

Just as parties out of power usually represent my views better than those in power, so cities probably represent them better than whole nations. My views are closer to those of the average New Yorker than the average American, and the average Berliner than the average German. And if you canvassed people by profession, you'd probably find a lot of artists, writers and musicians at least as left-libertarian as I am, and probably more so.

Now, the question is, have I -- like Michael Foot -- succeeded in living long enough to see the world finally swinging to me rather than swinging on me? Am I about to become gratefully average in my political views? Not just "an average indie musician" or "an average Berliner", but "an average European" or even "an average Westerner"? Sure, my views overlap with Joe "Germlin" Howe's already, and they'll probably never overlap with Joe the Plumber's, but are they about to overlap -- just a bit -- with Joe Sixpack's? And if so, how long is it going to be before we get parties occupying the lonely lower left quadrant of the Political Compass actually in power? Outside of South America, that is?

52CommentReplyShare


(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)

Economic Left/Right: -8.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.79



Wow, wasn't really expecting to be so far into the negative numbers. I don't feel that out of touch with the world :o


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)

Could it be that the strategy is always in the top right quadrant and the tactic always in the bottom left one (in Certeau's terms)? In other words, could it simply be our powerlessness as individuals that makes our attitudes what they are, and could it be that if we were suddenly political parties in power, we'd drift up to the upper right quadrant? Maybe we don't expect politicians to follow us down into the lower left quadrant, just as we wouldn't expect actors to jump off the stage and join us in the audience.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)

While I love your writing on culture/arts/etc, you're fairly clueless when it comes to politics. Yes, Koizumi went overboard with postal privitization, but that was a relatively small error compared to the enormous good he did for the Japanese economy. From this excellent article http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=0fd35b90-4e86-46fc-91cd-2426a0a658ff:

"That's what ultimately made the difference in Japan. In 2001, the country's maverick prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, slashed government spending and forced banks to cut nonperforming loans by creating a government body that allowed them to admit the loans had failed and still sell them off, thereby giving government more say in how banks were run. Koizumi's strategy "subjected [the banks] to more rigorous loan write-offs and forced changes in management," notes one study of Koizumi's first term, published in Asian Perspective. This changed the way Japanese banks operated, forcing them to scrutinize borrowers, even companies with which they had been cozy, and prompting them to overhaul their business models. For good measure, Koizumi's leading economic adviser declared in a high-profile interview that no bank was too big to fail--a warning to everyone in Japan's financial sector. By the first quarter of 2004, Japan's economy was growing at over 6 percent, one of the fastest rates in the industrialized world, and the stock market had risen by 50 percent over the previous year."


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 07:50 am (UTC)

But how long did that little miracle -- which was nothing more than neo-liberal orthodoxy -- last? Four, five years?


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georgesdelatour
georgesdelatour
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 06:26 am (UTC)

Michael Foot believed in massive expansion of state control (anti-libertarian) and in closed shops even for writers and journalists (anti-libertarian). The one truly libertarian cause he espoused was his opposition to the EU - because it was so top-down and unaccountable.


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barnacle
barnacle
The Plain People of Ireland
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 08:30 am (UTC)

What you call a closed shop others would call sensible unionization to protect the workforce from short-termist policies of exploitation and neglect. Your choice of vocabulary gives the lie to any objective validity of what you're saying.


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)

There's nothing Socialist about giving banks loads of taxpayers' money (especially while the public are being asked to take pay cuts). This is not the end of capitalism, just the beginning of a new stage of it.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 10:58 am (UTC)

While I agree that "this is... just the beginning of a new stage of capitalism", I think it's undeniable that taking banks into public ownership is more socialist than leaving them in private ownership.

Here's Tomasky in today's Guardian: "McCain, now openly using the word "socialist" to describe Obama's proposals (the week after his friend George W Bush took federal control of nine major banks!)..."


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trufflesniffer
trufflesniffer
trufflesniffer
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 07:45 am (UTC)

Isn't a belief in increased state control of the banks and other aspects of the economy an (almost archetypal) example of Left-Authoritarianism rather than Left-Libertarianism?


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craig_pulsar
craig_pulsar
craig_pulsar
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 08:32 am (UTC)

I don't know anyone who has scored in the positive numbers in that Political Compass. Either everyone I know is a hippy at heart, or there is something flawed about their scoring methodology. Mind you, as most musicians and artists are skint, it is entirely predictable that most are socialists.


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barnacle
barnacle
The Plain People of Ireland
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 08:40 am (UTC)

What I find interesting about the political compass is that more and more these days it gives a misleading answer, and doesn't even answer the right question.

I don't want to bang on about how the axis of left-right seems to be of little worth to my own political stance these days, especially as it's still a useful terminology for my own upbringing. But being raised a socialist, educated a liberal, and now turning deeper and deeper green by the day: I would never in my life vote for the Tories, yet have some admiration for Merkel, owing to her encouragement of the green tech industry in Germany, and her greenness generally. She might not be as verdant as Callmedave claims to be, but she's certainly delivering more than he's ever likely to do.

Arguably for me the questions in the political-compass survey are more interesting than the answer. "Land should not be a commodity to be bought and sold." Never mind my answer to that one: my reasoning is what counts for my political stance.


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ohayo_sakura
ohayo_sakura
sleepy chan
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 08:55 am (UTC)

I did that political leanings test a while ago, and my result is situated exactly where you are, on the lonely left.
As you've expressed, it will definitely be interested to see what impact the financial crisis has on the collective political leanings of nations,....


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 09:32 am (UTC)

I think it's a massive misreading of events to describe the great bank bailout as a leftward turn. It's using the reserves of the state to prop up the neoliberal financial system. Agreeing to buy equity in the banks was an absolute last resort when other bail-out plans failed, and it is very much part of the plan to sell off the shares once the market recovers. So this is almost the reverse of a leftward turn, it's more like a right-wing coup d'état: raid the state in bad times, return to the status quo when the storm is over.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 11:32 am (UTC)
Surely proof that banks 'own' the government, if anything.

Pouring work-money into a black hole created by fantasy-value is an intervention I can do without.

If the world turns socialist it is as likely to be National Socialist as the Green party. "Who do you blame for the problems?" Tick A for foreigners, B for the bourgeoisie, C for errors in fiscal regulation since the 1970s. Let's hope people don't vote with their 'psychogeography'.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 10:08 am (UTC)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic (http://tinypic.com)

from joe x


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 10:41 am (UTC)

Ha, I'm way to the right of you!


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kineticfactory
kineticfactory
this is not your sawtooth wave
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 10:27 am (UTC)
Political Compass

Isn't the Political Compass a loaded test which divides the world into two groups: Libertarians (in the American guns-dope-and-Ayn-Rand sense) and evil authoritarians who probably strangle kittens for fun?


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robinsonner
robinsonner
the maven
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC)

So. No fence sitting ?


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)

governments only reflect the character of the population therefore you, as a suppressed right winger, must be tipping the balance when you arrive in a country.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)

you, as a suppressed right winger

I suppress my right wing side, and that makes me heavy, right? Or heavy-right? Heavy! Right!


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thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)

I think the Left as we define it has been been pretty much left to cry in the wilderness since the Thatcher/Reagan era.
So yes, after almost a quarter century one does feel frisson of delight at what seems to be a palpable change in air, a sense that Classical/Libertarian Marxism is being re-evaluated whilst meanwhile Capitalism is being defibrillated by state intervention.

As an aside it is curious how Libertarianism has in the U.S. been commandeered by the economic right to define an anarcho-capitalist manifesto.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
Sir Oswald Mosely condemns Wall Street, oil, globalization, sweatshops to service capitalism



Let's hope victims of the Crunch say "Damn, I need some Libertarianism!" and not "Damn, I need to help my nice foreign landlord go home!"


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vinylboy20
vinylboy20
Rupert Pupkin
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)

Five of my friends and I took that same test, and we all ended up in the same sector, pretty close to your score. I don't think it's a lonely sector at all.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 20th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)

But if we're all over here, why are the politicians all over there?


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 21st, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
More stats

a little of topic but with your love of stats and japan... maybe this can be helpful in frame what a certain sometimes utopia is thinking >
@
http://www.xoxosoma.com/tokyo-tuesday/


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Tue, Oct. 21st, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)

Hmm, that compass is quite misleading in my opinion. We have the "Alliance" (Alliansen) who is a mix of the moderate party, the christian party (with anti abortion and anti homosexual marriage), the center party and the liberal peoples party.

However, ever since they come in power they have lost many voters to the socialdemocrats.


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bokmala
Junger Schwede
Wed, Oct. 22nd, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)

"Am I about to become gratefully average in my political views?"

Could that really be the case for anyone that far to the left? I suspect our hopes of ever relating to politicians all concern the possibility of resurrection as a head-in-a-jar in a socialist utopia.


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