Originally published: 13.12.17
The Political Compass is a model of two axes, one running horizontally from left to right, the other vertically down through the middle. One represents a spectrum of ideas concerning economic organisation: the far left of tightly controlled state economics running across to the deregulation and free markets of the right; the other of social control: a hard, top line of extreme authoritarianism sliding down into anarchy.
It is useful, this compass, in that it highlights well our preoccupation with left and right, to the extent that we tend not only to lose sight of the equally important vertical axis, but also to confuse the two; leading, among other things, to the often lazy conflation of the socially liberal with the left. It was in this way that a neo-liberal free marketeer such as Emmanuel Macron, was able in the French presidential election to be presented as somehow a candidate of the left, when in fact it was his libertarian, not leftist, values that held him in such stark contrast to Le Pen’s hateful authoritarianism.