Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Profiling the Canadian electorate

If you like to think you’re hard to read and can’t imagine being pigeonholed, stay away from Vote Compass, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s election quiz. In less than ten minutes, it will figure you out. All you have to do is check off thirty simple questions. The Compass questionnaire will assign you a party label and leave you feeling a little better informed about your politics and partisan home.
The CBC reports that more than 400,000 people have played already. Although there must be a lot of repeaters—if your first innocent ten minutes leave you lost or embarrassed, you can go at it again.  Each question offers six responses (strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree, don’t know.) Without turning yourself inside out, you can move along the continuum or duck the issue with a “don’t know.”
If “don’t know” leaves you feeling stupid after a while and your problem is with the questions not your general knowledge, you can click on “neither agree nor disagree.” Try that on every question and you’ll be told—surprise, surprise—that you’re a Canadian Liberal.
Yet, some of the questions are assertions of fact that have only one intelligent answer. For instance, “When there is an economic problem, government spending usually makes matters worse.” A serious person, whether on the right or left, would have to strongly disagree. You may think economic hardship is somehow good for people, but you can’t deny that providing money helps relieve economic problems. Conversely, if they’d asked whether there are any limits to what governments can do most everyone would have to strongly agree.
Furthermore, the government in the questions isn’t identified. In a federal state this is negligent. For instance, the questionnaire proposes, “The government should fund daycare instead of giving money directly to parents.” How do you reply if you believe that federal governments shouldn’t be in the daycare business but that provinces and communities most definitely should?   
Initially, it’s pleasant to find out where you fit—when you’re using a real compass, it’s a relief to discover that it does get you out of the woods.  However, after two tries, two fellow malcontents and I are still not ready to accept that were big L-Liberals.  
According to Vote Compass designers at the CBC, would you have to be an economic illiterate or social reactionary to be closer to the New Democrats or Conservatives?

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