I’ve always taken the Libertarian Political Compass to be a bit interesting, like fortune cookies and tarot readings. Along with other tests like MBTI and IQ tests, it feels like it might be useful. In fact, it is. It facilitates signals tribal affiliation. Whenever I take the test, I always trend to the lower-left corner, so I can smugly reaffirm my Leftist leanings—if you interpret leanings as up against the wall and on the floor.
When I commented on a forum that I felt that (presuming the X-Y axes of this scale without even mentioning it) Liberals and Conservatives in the United States are each Right of Centre and Conservative—they just want to Conserve different things, someone replied with a link to this video by Halim Alrah. Whilst I won’t comment on his class materialism claim—at least not now—, I do feel it makes me not only double down on my claim but to toss more into the Conservative bucket list.
Besides noting that each aspect is defined in the abstract, he tacitly makes a point with which I agree: all professional and most amateur politics are Conservative: Conservatives want to conserve the 1950s; Liberals want to conserve the 1960s and some of the 1930s and ’40s; Leftist Marxists want to conserve the missed opportunities of the 19-teens, and I suppose the Progressives want to conserve the 19-teens as well. Bully!
Politics are inherently backwards-looking and fraught with appeals to tradition, each cherry-picking which traditional narrative fits their bill whilst suffering from selective blindness in areas that didn’t quite work out or fit the narrative. Or they want to cash in a mulligan and try again. Or they feel with 20/20 hindsight, they can Groundhog Day the hell out of it. In some hundreds of generations, we’ll be bound to get it right. Even Libertarians and Anarchists cling to ideas of the past. As I’ve mentioned before, I am an anarchosyndicalist, and though that has never been instantiated to scale, it is nonetheless an idea almost two hundred years old. Hardly novel.
I am not a traditionalist, but neither I am not claiming that every tradition is rubbish. But what worked in the past may not actually work in the present or in the future. As the title of a book that I am fond of reminds us, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, so these political armchair quarterbacks are operating on bad assumptions. All are operating on nostalgia and historical reconstructions of what might have been. Perhaps they excel at Risk or Sid Meyer’s Civilisation. Whatever the mindset, it’s taking a rearview mirrored approach.
So, what’s in a name anyway? If Conservatism doesn’t denote anything and only connotes a bunch of old white guys as a synonym for Tories in the UK and Republicans in the US; and where the Republicans and Democrats could both merge into a single Oligarchy Party (or Kleptocratic Party depending on one’s mood)?
In the end, we need a new way to describe the political sphere if we wish to promote discussion and build alliances, but perhaps that’s never been the goal.