We had a spirited discussion around the breakfast table yesterday morning. Topic: politics. Always good for some heated debate. And if you followed my Facebook profile yesterday, you saw the evidence of the progression of that discussion. At the beginning of the day I listed my political viewpoint as libertarian. Part way through the day it flipped to moderate. And it's now back to libertarian.
It began with Janice questioning my choice to label myself as having libertarian views. She's not the only one either. A few times recently friends have asked what libertarian on my profile means. The problem is that declared libertarians are frequently perceived to be a little nutty. In fact, that was the source of today's discussion. Janice pointed out the platform of the Libertarian Party of Canada, which mostly stands for abolishing everything supported by government, including items like abolishing universal education. Of course I don't believe in those things. And the Wikipedia entry on libertarianism is also full of similar radical views.
Most political parties today are really about two things — economics and personal freedoms. They tend to define themselves on axes that range from controlled economies to free markets (left to right wing), and individual liberty (or libertarian) to authoritarianism. Traditional conservatives are authoritarian free marketers, for example, which explains the trend in recent years to a loss of civil liberties accompanied by less regulated markets.
There's a fabulous survey tool at http://www.politicalcompass.org/ that you can take to see where you stand. I scored slightly left on the right vs left scale (-1), and feel deeply about personal liberty (-6.5) on the authoritarians vs libertarian scale. Makes sense, although I was surprised to see myself on the left side of the scale. While I prefer open markets, I do not believe in the benevolence of corporations. They exist to serve their shareholders, not society. And while I accept authority as a necessary requirement for society to function, I have a deep belief in civil liberties, individual rights and freedom of thought. If there's one thing that makes me irrational it's the Orwellian idea that we should do or think something for no other reason than "it's the right thing to do".
So that's me — a small L libertarian. An economically moderate guy with a knee-jerk reaction to the arbitrary application of authority.
Political Compass also shows where the parties in many countries would chart at various different elections. Here, for instance, is Canada in 2005. The chart also helps to explain why I had such difficulty in making a voting choice in the last election. The Liberals and Conservatives were not that different, and both were much more authoritarian than I find comfortable. The NDP, too far to the left. The Libertarian Party of Canada would be deeply libertarian and far right. The Greens, while not shown on this chart, were shown on the UK chart… as deeply libertarian and slightly left, and that's where I placed my vote.