About the Political Compass

The starting point of the (original) Political Compass was in 2001, when we recognised the inadequacies of the standard political measure:

single left-right axis

It’s certainly fine for discussing economics but to this day is still widely — and wrongly — used to describe social attitudes. France’s National Front, for example, is popularly described as “far right”, yet its economic policies have sometimes been to the left of even the French Socialist Party. The party’s real extremism is in its social attitudes. That’s why we added a social scale.

cartesian plane with horizontal left-right axis and vertical authoritarian-libertarian axis

Nevertheless, the more nationalistic and authoritarian a party or individual is, the more ‘right-wing’ they’re still labelled. This, of course, is absurd. Taken to its logical conclusion, it means that the further left a country sits, the more socially liberal its attitudes are. on that basis, North Korea must be a shining model of human rights and social freedoms!

Conversely, a country may be very right wing (ie libertarian) in its economics, and be authoritarian at the same time. Singapore is a perfect example.

The Index of Economic Freedom produced by the Wall Street Journal and the conservative Heritage Foundation, hails Singapore as the economically freest nation on Earth in 2021. On the social scale, however, it’s a very different story. Human Rights Watch details its reasons for finding Singapore a deeply authoritarian state.

Take a look at a few contrasting nations on this chart:

Uruguay is currently rated the world’s 44 th most free economy, and a leading Latin American light in social freedoms — from gay and lesbian rights to legalisation of cannabis. Switzerland also has a high rating as a libertarian economy, while at the same time providing a wide range of social welfare programmes, in common with the Nordic states and a number of other western countries.

With the exception of its Hong Kong region, China maintains strong economic controls, though fewer than those associated with a more orthodox ruling ‘Communist’ party. In recent years China has shifted closer to the totally repressive social climate of North Korea, where the economy also is under the absolute control of the state. Saudi Arabia has veered futher towards a libertarian economy in recent times, but with no real relaxation of its sweeping authoritarian powers.

Your Political Compass

Economic Left/Right: 1.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 1.33

Show chart in a separate window for printing

Claim your (free) Political Compass Certificate


Milton Friedman

Join 27 caricatures of your most loved and loathed political figures in a personalised colour certificate that you can download and print in moments.

It’s beautifully designed by political cartoonist Malcolm Evans and serves as a permanent record of your position on the Compass, and the political company you keep.

To claim your certificate, use the link above. You will be invited to supply your name, to be printed on the certificate. The certificate will download to your browser as a pdf, which you can save and print at your leisure. You can save the link and re-download it at any time.

Previously we charged £5.00 for issuing the certificate but this became uneconomic in the light of rising costs of our payments provider and bank. We’re now giving it away. If you have paid for a certificate in the past, we thank you for your support.

Malcolm Evans

Our caricatures are drawn by New Zealand cartoonist Malcolm Evans.

If you’d like a caricature of yourself — or someone else — just send:

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to [email protected]. Remember to include your mailing address. If you want your caricature placed in a Political Compass quadrant, indicate which one. Otherwise Malcolm can draw you doing whatever you’d like: graduating, gardening, grilling — or whatever’s uniquely you. You might like a sporting or wedding cartoon, either for yourself or someone else.

Malcolm’s cartoons make great gifts.

Malcolm is not connected financially to The Political Compass. If you wish to donate to The Political Compass, use the donation form below.

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Thanks from the Political Compass team.

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