Wednesday, September 01, 2004


I am afraid I have to get a bit academic here:

The idea that political orientation needs to be described in terms of two dimensions instead of a single Left-Right dimension is an old one -- going at least as far back as the factor-analytic work of Ferguson in the 1940s. It also seems to be something of an article of faith for most libertarians -- though the usual 1% of the vote gained by the U.S. Libertarian Party in national elections tends to show how far the theory is from reality. The latest attempt at a two-dimensional description is some work by Lightfoot. I took the Lightfoot quiz myself and you can see my results here. Note that according to Lightfoot, Stalin was a Rightist! Black might as well be white.

I have no idea of Lightfoot's political orientation but it does rather look like the attempt made by Leftist psychologists to claim that all political baddies are conservatives. They have falsely claimed for years that the socialist Hitler was a Rightist, so why not Stalin too? For a quick treatment of why two-dimensional descriptions of politics don't work, see here. My own statistical research into the dimensionality question goes back over 30 years and my reply to the claim that Communists are conservatives is here.

Putting it at its briefest, the Left/Right division is so pervasive because that IS how the great majority of people think. There are of course varieties of conservatism --- with religious conservatives and economic conservatives having least in common -- but they all do have SOME things in common: Principally a respect for the individual. Leftists, by contrast, talk in terms of groups and say that the individual must bow down and conform to some largely mythical "community'. And both the Communists and Hitler were very good at that.

See here for some statistical evidence that economic and religious conservatism do combine in the general population. And that is why (to be very technical) the first eigenvalue is always large relative to subsequent ones.


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