Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Placement in the political/economic spectrum

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-07-31


Given recent comments from (some) righty readers (1, 2), it seems the some self-indentifying libertarian righties confuse liberalism for people with liberalism for economics.  To interpret what I say, I’ll give some indicators of my position.  Freedom for persons is an objective, constraints (and some command) of economic activity, the distribution of resources is a means to the objective.  I’m highly unlikely to change my freedom-for-persons stance, but I’m open to discussion, on a case-by-case basis, about means.

You can see my profile from the "OzPolitics test".

Two other tests (thanks for the links Ann), "The World’s Smallest Political Quiz" and "The Political Compass", put me in the same ballpark as the OzPolitics test.

On freedoms of persons I’m pretty strong, (as briefly outlined in the preamble of a proposed Bill of Rights for Australia), and find a lot of merit in the writings of John Stuart Mill.

On economic matters, I’m markedly different.  I see libertarian economists as happy to jettison Mill’s moral qualifiers on freedom as soon as the actions involve monetary transactions.  I see no distinction between personal actions (with a knife, say) and commercial actions.

So philosophically I’m more centrist in economic matters, though still a lefty.  Many lefty/geeky friends (I’m a lefty geek) are surprised at first that I’m a fan of the The Economist which advocates free trade, but as a means of helping achieve human outcomes.  It advocates strong controls on "economic good behaviour" like Sarbanes-Oxley to enable free markets to be free rather than twisted by dishonest strongmen.

Putting the two spheres together, I admire the human and economic outcomes of the Nordic Nanny States, so advocate adoption of policies that are shown to lead to good outcomes.

That said, I feel that "civilization" is an emergent phenomenon that can lead to beauty or ugliness, just as personality is an emergent phenomenon of a collection of cells, and can lead to beautiful or ugly acts.  This makes me, I suppose, having "collectivist" tendencies that I see as a desirable end humans should work towards, replacing the more primitive objective when society was under the yoke of the churches of creating souls and worshipping a deity.  Perhaps this would be a "progressive Confucianist" position.


  • Actually, I feel a post coming on about the constraints imposed by SarbOx in the name of freedoms in the market as equivalent to the obligations imposed by the New Matilda draft Human Rights act as necessary for freedoms of person.
  • I’m pretty sure that a call for participatory democracy at the Australian Libertarian Society prompted the visits to Balneus by libertarians.  It’s worth noting that such intermediate objectives have the support of some from both left and right, and dismissed as pointless by others I assume are extreme libertarians.
  • Though generally attractive to economic libertarians and shunned by the left, organizations such as the Australian Libertarian Society espouse general values I can agree with, such as many of the ideas behind the ALS Quotable Quotes page
  • Just about to publish this post (previewing first), I noticed a just-published Club Troppo post on the issues of social v economic liberalism which has attracted harsh criticism from the same types who railed at the Preamble of New Matilda’s draft Human Rights Act. Synchronicity!
  • Followup post: I’m swinging from unripe greens 2007-10-12

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5 Responses to “Placement in the political/economic spectrum”

  1. Do you think there is any relationship between economic freedom and personal freedom? Can you separate the two?

    On freedoms of persons I’m pretty strong,

    What’s your view on private gun ownership? How about having a male only, or whites only, private club or association? What about the freedom of a hotel owner to decide is premises is going to permit smoking? What about smoking in general, does the individual have the right to decide? What about prostitution, should it be legal? What about the freedom of a church to ban gay marriage, or even gays, on it’s premises?

    What if someone doesn’t want to fully participate in society according to the norm, perhaps like Yobbo, should they have the freedom to do that?

  2. Dave Bath said

    Michael: You are asking some very good questions. On most of them, I’d grant a qualified yes, and will probably post on each issue at some time.

    Actually, the smoking question is one that involves tricky economic modelling more than anything else: do smokers – (who do not give others unwelcome secondary smoke – thats a no-no) contribute positively to economic well-being by not drawing a pension for long and paying extra taxes while they live, or by demanding lots of expensive medical care?

    Private clubs and associations are their own concern.

    Prostitution in ways that are sensitive to others (e.g. not out on the street in front of kindergartens) and are transactions between equals should be legal.

    The church is an interesting one, because of their own objectives and assumptions are more universal than a mere private club.

  3. I’d say you’re very much in the moderate club but, in my opinion, your freedom credentials are definitely there as claimed!

  4. Leon said

    You should check out “Moral Politics”. It’s by far my favorite political metric on the internet.

  5. Dave Bath said

    That “Moral Politics” quiz is here.

    I really thought some of the questions were bereft of choice, although it put me as an international socialist. It confuses means with ends. I wonder where they’d put Confucius?

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