Don’t call me libertarian

I took one of those tests of political orientation on the interweb, and it came back with the results and called me a Libertarian Socialist. I am so insulted.

I know, I know, they mean well, but “libertarian” is one of those words that has been poisoned by the dumbasses who apply it to themselves.


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Socialist / Pacifist / Libertarian / Revolutionary

    That “L” is unexpected I guess all the anti-government responses put me in that classification. Sheesh

  2. cartomancer says

    Perhaps we need some new words. Since the Latinate “libertarian” and “authoritarian” have been ruined, how about some Greek-based alternatives?

    Eleutherans and Kratophiles?

  3. Dunc says

    Just because the right-wing libertarians have been trying to push the idea that there’s no such thing as left-wing libertarianism for decades (and fairly successfully, too) is no reason to give up and let them win.

  4. ospalh says

    @Siobhan #1:
    The writers seem to think along similar lines.
    When you look at the code for that test, “Anarchist” is the extreme on the “civil axis”, more so than “Libertarian”.

  5. khms says

    I first started having serious doubts when for one question, I clicked the wrong side – it’s somewhat confusing that they change political directions with the questions, one has to pay constant attention – and then I noticed there is no way to go back and correct. Only at the end could you start over. That’s a bit incompetent.

    And then I found out they think I’m Egalitarian / Dovish / Liberal / Revolutionary

    … say what? Just because I score high on progressive, doesn’t make me revolutionary! In fact, I distinctly recall answering some questions with a strong pro-government bias (just not all of them).

    In the end, of course, it’s Libertarian Socialism again.

    I much prefer the German Wahlomat ( ), which tries to match you against the parties in the coming election. I believe for our coming state election, that will be 38 questions. My experience from past elections is that they are pretty good, but sometimes they produce unexpected alternative matches. Fortunately, there’s enough support you can analyse why you matched a particular party, and you still get to decide how much you want to believe, and how you want to interpret, their platforms. However, I haven’t yet tried the latest one.

  6. Roestigraben says

    It’s strange that they rate you across four dimensions, but then reduce them by half to come up with an ideological label. I got “social libertarian”, but I actually would’ve agreed more with “progressive pacifist” from the other two dimensions. It’s not like the economic and civil liberties dimensions are intrinsically more important than the others.

  7. latsot says

    I scored:

    Egalitarian/Pacifist/Libertarian/Very Progressive.

    I think I’d prefer Anarchist over Libertarian but you can’t have everything.

    I hate these quizzes, though. Half the time I find myself second-guessing the quiz’ intention and picking the answers that will steer me toward the answer I want. The other half of the time I don’t really understand the question or see too many ways to interpret it.

  8. lanir says

    There’s a lot of “can’t get there from here” going on with this sort of test. I also have problems with vague questions that require excessive interpretation. And there were some in there that were so vague I don’t know how anyone could answer them without making random assumptions.

    These sorts of internet classification tests are as useful for how they’re wrong as for how they’re correct. And I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in either end of that.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    there a few questions posed were strongly shaded:

    From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

    agree and disagree, too shaded by being a Rand jingo. So i click [neutral]

    Those with a greater ability to pay should receive better healthcare.

    “should”? wha? I read that as “the poor deserve worse healthcare”

    Wars do not need to be justified to other countries.

    so as long as a war can be justified to themselves, no one else count? I want the question to be “wars need to be justified?”
    Does “other countries” include the one being fought against? Once again [Neutral]
    Another conundrum:

    Military spending is a waste of money.

    it does emply a lot of talent and develops a lot of useful technology, the items they produce are for killing people and the items themselves get destroyed, so the spending is both a waste and productive. flip a coin. [neutal/UNSURE]

    A punch in the gut:

    My nation is the best in the world.

    pretty judgemental don’t you think. I can not [strongly disagree], I actually [strongly agree] with so many reservations I can not click that choice. so I’ll compromise on [agree]


    Even when protesting an authoritarian government, violence is not acceptable.

    I disagree with violence and still sometimes think it is the only significant way to make a point. Like that “alt-right” guy getting punched in the face.

    tricky trick question:

    Law and order should be maintained at all costs.

    “law and order should be maintained”, (NB emphasized word). [strongly agree]
    “… at all costs” ugh [strongly disagree] closes the deal ==> [strongly disagree]

    another tricky question:

    Political elites are necessary, as the general populace makes bad decisions.

    so do elites make bad decisions. yes general populace makes bad decisions (eg 45) elites make bad decisions also (eg 45)
    elites are also necessary when they can correct bad decisions, the general poplace is necessary to overrule bad elites. so I end up clicking on [neutral/unsure]

    muddled question:

    Terrorism is a major threat, and some civil liberties must be sacrificed to prevent it.

    those liberties to be sacrificed need to be more specified for this question to make sense Terrorism is a major threat, both domestic and foreign. so i default to <strongly disagree]

    a little too vague:

    Government surveillance is necessary in the modern world.

    yes and no. sort of, vague answer for a vague question, which could be read many different ways. so [neutral]

    self contradictory:

    The very existence of the state is a threat to our liberty.

    either way is true. The state is necessary to protect our liberty and is also a strong threat to our liberty. [strongly disagree]


    It is important that the government follows the majority opinion, even if it is wrong.

    where is the [will not answer] button. [neutral] not sufficient. I have too many questions from the is question. There are degrees of “wrong”, from “mistaken” to “pure evil”.*sigh* follow “opinions”, if it’s known to be wrong, it’s no longer “opinion”, it’s just wrong. [strongly disagree]


    Democracy is intrinsically valuable as more than a decision-making process.

    democracy is only a decision-making process. ugh so i guess there is not valuable more than that. [disagree]

    on the fence:

    Children should be educated in religious or traditional values.

    as long as they are taught all the relgious values and all the values from all traditions and not focused on a single version. And teach them with a repeated preface of “this is a religios value…” or “…traditional value…”
    so um [neutral/unsure]


    It is important that we stay connected to our past.

    when “connected” means “aware of” (eg Ken Burns) then [strongly agreed]
    when it means “obsessed upon”(eg 45) –> [strongly disagree] [eg 45]
    so I’ll try to lean it to the former with simple [agreed]

    a little too personal:

    Sex outside marriage is immoral.

    I’d rather stay out of judging. It is so dependant on the people involved so uhhh [neutral] ?

    another tricky question:

    Gun ownership should be prohibited for those without a valid reason.

    pretty open phrase “valid reason”. What is criteria of ‘validity’? default to [agreed] based on my personal standard of what is “valid”.

    Communist / Pacifist / Liberal / Revolutionary
    (at least I was consistently “Revolutionary”)

    Closest Match: Libertarian Communism

    apologies for the long critique of this jaded quiz

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Apparently I’m a Libertarian Communist. Who knew, comrades?

    What lanir said.

  11. chigau (違う) says

    Liberarian Socialist, me.
    But I decided the whole thing was a joke when I read this one:
    Climate change is either not real or not man-made.
    That’s more of a Zen Koan, ain’t it?

  12. Alverant says

    I answered “neutral” on some of the questions because I was thinking “it depends”. Like the one about abolishing traditions, I would have liked more clarification because some traditions are pretty harmless and/or voluntary and I can’t see abolishing something silly just because it’s silly.

  13. says

    These surveys always remind me of Galton’s board — you’re a marble bouncing through a succession of pegs, and sometimes your answer is determined more by random processes because the questions are vague or ambiguous or have a couple of different interpretations.

  14. unclefrogy says

    I have not taken the “quiz” and will not. From what has been reported here it is like all the rest I have read and taken (over the phone surveys) it tries to force you into a predefined box, such questions do little but irritate the hell out of me. There is no interest in any kind of understanding at all a pox on the whole idea!
    uncle frogy

  15. The Mellow Monkey says

    I came out as Socialist, Pacifist, Libertarian, and Revolutionary (90.3% revolutionary!), which then got smooshed into Libertarian Socialism. The scales are pretty skewed, though. Desiring an exceedingly anti-authoritarian and equitable state is not the same as desiring a weakened or non-existent state. A weakened or non-existent state ends up simply being a vacuum for some authoritarian to step into, whether as a government entity or a corporate one. In an ideal world we’d all be anarcho-syndicalists working together voluntarily for the common good across the globe with no need for states, but that’s not humanity as it is now.

    I’m more than happy with the revolutionary part, though. Yes, I want to overturn the kyriarchy and break apart the existing system in pursuit of something new, but not by harming people or leaving them unprotected. Revolutionary Pacifist sounds perfectly fine to me.

  16. Alex the Pretty Good says

    “Revolutionary” on societal axis? I’m actually not too unhappy with how our government functions on average. Sure, things would be better if they’d do it my way, but they’re not that far off track that it’d make me raise the barricades.
    Then you realize I live in the EU and this test (like most of those politics tests) was probably wratten using the US as a benchmark. I guess the EU is pretty revolutionary when compared to the States.

  17. khms says

    I guess the EU is pretty revolutionary when compared to the States.

    Which is ironic as hell.

    I’m not entirely certain, though – why would a US-based quiz as if I’m pro-EU? Doesn’t ask that question about any other political entity.

  18. MJP says

    It’s strange that they rate you across four dimensions, but then reduce them by half to come up with an ideological label. I got “social libertarian”, but I actually would’ve agreed more with “progressive pacifist” from the other two dimensions. It’s not like the economic and civil liberties dimensions are intrinsically more important than the others.

    I messed around with the URL parameters a lot yesterday to see what ideological labels they were using, and it seems that only some of the ideologies have two-part labels (e.g. “social libertarian”, “libertarian socialist”). There are others with single labels such as “Liberalism”, “Distributism”, “Nazism”, “Leninism”. So I’d hazard a guess that its ideological labels are single units internally, but it’s drawing from a political vocabulary that includes two-part ideological descriptions.

  19. mikehuben says

    Like all these quizzes, the axes have no experimentally valid description. Nor are the questions validated to yield accurate measures along the axes. Nor are the final categorizations meaningfully described. Nor is there a description of the “theory” behind this test. The whole thing smacks of pseudoscience feeding the beliefs of patsies.

    My first thought might be that this is an ideologically motivated (and biased) quiz like the ones the libertarians put out. See: Nolan Chart And World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

  20. DanDare says

    Law and order are not a thing. Which law? ? Which order style?

    A lot of those questions are not considered positions but dog whistles.

  21. DanDare says

    Interesting game professor. The only way to win is not to play. Would you prefer a nice game of chess?

  22. freemage says

    So, I got the same biases that PZ got, only more extreme each time–wound up Socialist/Pacifist/Libertarian/Revolutionary. If you accept their definition of “Libertarian” (which has at least as much to do with the ACLU as it would with the Cato Institute), that’s probably not far off.

    The biggest limit on these is the ‘agree/disagree’ format, which tends to choke if there’s a specific word in the phrase that’s either undefined or which serves to make the base statement extreme in some fashion (“at any cost”, for instance). A modest improvement could probably be had simply by making these ‘scaling’ answers. FREX:

    “Inheritance is a legitimate form of wealth.”

    Better would be:

    Inheritances should be:
    1: Taxed normally, and more severely past a threshold.
    2: Taxed as if they were normal income.
    3: Unsure/No Opinion.
    4: Taxed at a lower rate than normal income.
    5: Not taxed.

    No worries about what “legitimate” means. Just how you view inter-generational wealth.

  23. colinday says

    I think the graphs should be different. You scored on the equality side of the economic axis, but the divider is much closer to the wealth side.

  24. wzrd1 says

    Came out Libertarian Socialist.

    @12, no, terrorism is not a major problem in the US. I stand a higher chance of being shot and killed in a car accident – at the same time, than I do of even being injured by a terrorist. I actually have a higher risk exposure to terrorism than many, as I work in a secure facility providing governmental networking services, which increases my exposure factor. I still would have an annualized risk of occurrence that is so low as to be negligible. That brings the annualized loss expectancy to be extremely low. A low enough of a risk to barely be worth one law enforcement officer as security and the video monitoring of the property and that, for crime prevention, rather than the risk of terrorism.

    People are frequently extremely bad at risk analysis.

  25. says

    “Might” is the opposite of peace now? Those damn mighty high-horsepower trucks, gonna get someone killed, and the uproar will start a…civil might.

    And those mighty ducks!

  26. iankoro says

    I generally refer to the right wing libertarianism as “American libertarianism”.

    If you speak to people in Europe, they tend to use the much older definitions. “Libertarian” usually refers to the anti-authoritarian left, while “liberal” more often refers to classical liberalism (which is pretty close to the right wing, American “libertarianism”).

    I would be less annoyed at this site (which, frankly, is being pretty accurate), and more annoyed at Americans who have mistakenly co-opted “libertarian” to mean something dramatically different from how it is traditionally used.

  27. latsot says


    I’m not sure where in Europe you mean because I’ve been all over Europe and I don’t recognise that interpretation at all. In my experience, “libertarian” tends these days to refer more or less to the US definition of unbridled knobheadery and “liberal” generally means left wing, socially informed, more or less exactly how we usually talk about it here.

    I’m genuinely surprised, as a resident of Europe (for now) that our understandings are so different.

  28. sff9 says

    @latsot #35: in France, it’s exactly as iankoro said: “libéral” refers to right-wing free-market proponents, whereas “libertaire” refers to (far) left anarchists or hippies.

  29. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Even with four axes – which is much better than the usual two we see in political compass tests – it’s too predictable what you will get and I assume most people around here will get similar results as PZ. Same for me: I’m slightly less Socialist, Dovish, and Liberal but slightly more Progressive, each by just a few percentage points.

  30. cartomancer says

    #s 34, 35, 36,

    Europe is a big place, and it varies considerably how different terminology is used from country to country. In England, for example, the term “libertarian” is not very well known at all – I’ve never heard it used in a British political context, only on the internet to refer to Americans. “Liberal” is more familiar, but not at all specific in its meaning and rarely used as a primary affiliation or identity. We used to have a Liberal Party (which merged with others to become the Liberal Democrats), so older people think of “Liberal” as a party affiliation like Tory or Labour (we’d say “Lib Dem” now) while younger people like me who don’t remember the Liberal Party don’t really have a specific idea what it should refer to. In general parlance over here a “liberal” person would be a generous person or one who over-indulges.

    We tend to use “right-wing” and “left-wing” where Americans would use “conservative” and “liberal”. Or sometimes “small c conservative” and “socialist”.

  31. blbt5 says

    PZ, there is a word for lefties of a “libertarian” bent, largely unknown to survey researchers: anarchist. Anarchism is the simple idea of being committed to non-oppressive relationships and personal responsibility. Libertarianism is at the opposite pole of the freedom dialectic, the freedom (so-called) to impose one’s will on others, as opposed to the anarchist freedom defined as emancipation. Libertarians want to enslave others to their ends, while anarchists want emancipation from libertarian oppression to further their own ends. My socialist group, DSA was formed from the union of two democratic groups, one anarcho-socialist (DSOC) and the other libertarian (democratic centralist) socialist (NAM).