The Political Compass™ has charted the most prominent names in the 2008 US Primaries. They have been evaluated through scrutiny of public statements, manifestos, interviews and, crucially, voting records. Our apologies for those not included.
It is important to recognise that The Political Compass™ is a continuum rather than consisting of hard and fast quadrants. For example, Ron Paul on the social scale is actually closer to Dennis Kucinich than to many figures within his own party. But on the economic scale, they are, of course, far apart.
When examining the chart it's important to note that although most of the candidates seem quite different, in substance they occupy a relatively restricted area within the universal political spectrum. Democracies with a system of proportional representation give expression to a wider range of political views. While Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader are depicted on the extreme left in an American context, they would simply be mainstream social democrats within the wider political landscape of Europe. Similarly, Hillary Clinton is popularly perceived as a leftist in the United States while in any other western democracy her record is that of a mainstream conservative.
Traditionally, political worldviews have been categorised as 'left' or 'right', according to the weight they give to various values. The left-right line was established for the French National Assembly of 1789, and has become simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?
If we recognise that this is essentially an economic line it's fine, as far as it goes. We can show, for example, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot, with their commitment to a totally controlled economy, on the hard left. Socialists like Mahatma Gandhi and Robert Mugabe would occupy a less extreme leftist position. Margaret Thatcher would be well over to the right, but further right still would be someone like that ultimate free marketeer, General Pinochet.
That deals with economics, but the social dimension is also important in politics. That's the one that the mere left-right scale doesn't adequately address. So we've added a perpendicular scale, ranging in positions from extreme authoritarian to extreme libertarian.
Both an economic dimension and a social dimension are important factors for a proper political analysis. By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftist (ie the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. While the former involves state-imposed arbitary collectivism in the extreme top left, on the extreme bottom left is voluntary collectivism at regional level, with no state involved. Hundreds of such anarchist communities exisited in Spain during the civil war period You can also put Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market, on the far right as well as in a hardcore authoritarian position. On the non-socialist side you can distinguish someone like Milton Friedman, who is anti-state for fiscal rather than social reasons, from Hitler, who wanted to make the state stronger, even if he wiped out half of humanity in the process. The chart also makes clear that, despite popular perceptions, the opposite of fascism is not communism but anarchism (ie liberal socialism), and that the opposite of communism ( i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) is neo-liberalism (i.e. extreme deregulated economy).
Note where I sit. I'm rather pleased with my placement far from the Fuhrer and Chief.
What this plot reveals is that I actually vouch for true 'freedom' on both an economic and social scale. Most people speak as if they understand what liberty is - which usually plots them up above - touting their philosophy as the be all end all.
I end with a quote about democracy. By its very principle - it is hypocritical. Please pay attention to Voltairine de Cleyre.
Vain delusion! Government is unreal, as intangible, as unapproachable as God. Try it, if you don’t believe it. […]
“I go to the White House; I say: “Mr. President, are you the government?”
“No, madam, I am its representative.”
“Well where is the principal? – who is the government?”
“The people of the United States.”
“The whole people?”
“I was elected.”
“Elected by whom?” the whole people?”
“Oh no, by some of the people; some of the voters. The majority vote of the whole was for another man, but I had the largest electoral vote.”
“Then you are a representative of the Electoral College, not of the whole people, nor the majority of the people, nor even a majority of the voters. But suppose the largest number of ballots cast had been for you: you would represent the majority of the voters, I suppose. But the majority, sir is not a tangible thing; it is an unknown quantity. An agent is usually held accountable to his principals.
If you do not know the individuals who voted for you, then you do not know for whom you are acting, nor to whom you are accountable. If any body of persons has delegated to you any authority, the disposal of any right or part of a right, (supposing rights are transferable), you must have received it from the individuals composing that body; and you must have some means of learning who those individuals are, or you cannot know for whom you act, and you are utterly irresponsible as an agent.
Furthermore, such a body of voters can not give into your charge any rights but their own; by no possible jugglery of logic can they delegate the exercise of any function which they themselves do not control. If any individual on earth has a right to delegate his powers to whomsoever he chooses, then every other individual has an equal right; and if each has an equal right, then none can choose an agent for another without the other’s consent.
Therefore, if the power of government resides in the whole people, and out of that whole all but one elected you as their agent, you would still have no authority whatever to act for the one. The individuals composing the minority who did not appoint you have just the same rights and powers as those composing the majority who did; and if they prefer not to delegate them at all, then neither you nor any one, has any authority whatever to coerce them into accepting you, or anyone as their agent. Upon your own basis the coercive authority resides not in the majority, not in any proportion of the people, but in the whole people.”
Hence, the necessary “overthrow of government” as a coercive power, thereby denying tyranny in another form.