Bias Check

Confirmation bias

Detecting and overcoming one’s own biases is one of the most important features of being ethical. “Bias makes you stupid,” after all, and stupidity can make you unethical. As the author of an ethics blog, this is of special concern to me, as I am constantly making choices that bias could seriously affect. Some of those choices include what issues and events have ethics components, which are most important to publicize, how should the ethical issues be analyzed, what conclusions are fair and reasonable, even how long a particular post should be, what authorities and references should be included, and what style—scholarly? humorous? bemused? indignant? outraged?—will best illustrate a point.

As regular readers here know, I can be harsh, often too harsh, when a commenter dismisses my commentary as partisan or ideologically motivated. First of all, it isn’t, and I resent the accusation. Second, it’s a cheap shot, essentially attacking my motives, objectivity and integrity rather than presenting substantive arguments. Third, it is a simpleminded approach to the world in general, and democracy in particular, and life, presuming that “there are two kinds of people,” and one type is always wrong, while the other type is always right. There is nobody I agree with all the time, and I am far from alone in that trait. People who agree with the same people all the time are not really thinking. They are just taking the easy route of picking sides, and letting others think for them.

Obviously, my approach to controversies, problems and ethical analysis are influenced by thousands of factors, including my parents,  my upbringing,  where I have lived,  teachers, friends, and family members, experiences, books, plays, movies and popular culture, interests  and passions (like leadership, American history, and baseball), what I’m good or successful at and I’m not, and so much else. These are not biases: once such influences mold your way of looking at the world and passing through life, they are, in fact, who you are. I’m comfortable with who I am. I just don’t want biases making me me stupider than I am.

Thus I am always interested in trying to identify where I stand on a the ideological scale. Some of my conservative friends think I’m liberal; all of my liberal friends think I’m conservative. Two sides again: I am confident that it is their place on the scale that leads to those perceptions. Today I encountered another test that supposedly divides liberals and conservatives sharply.  It comes from political scientist and philosopher James Burnham’s  1964 book “The Suicide of the West.” Burnham was one of those radical leftists who did a complete reversal in middle age and became an influential conservative theorist. You are asked to agree or disagree with these 39 statements, and the result reveals your ideological bent.

Here are the questions:

1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general.
11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.
15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.
16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.
17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.
25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.
26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.
27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.
28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.
29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.
30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Burnham wrote that liberals would agree with all or most of the 39, and conservatives would disagree–remember, by this time, he considered himself a conservative.

The 39 questions—Why 39, I wonder? Was he a fan of Hitchcock? Madeline Carroll? Jack Benny?—obviously show their Cold War genesis, but on the whole they are still useful. Some of the phrasing is sloppy, and affects the meaning, especially on the last question, which is both too absolute and ambiguous for me to answer. By the measure of this test, I’m a solid liberal. Surprised? My immediately reaction is that anyone who would answer no to all or most of these questions would be pretty scary: is this really what conservatives were like in 1964? They are not like that today. So much for today’s claims that the Right has become more extreme.

I voted “no” on just 9 of the 39, abstaining on the last one.  I think that a more up-to-date set of questions would have me closer to an even break, but still, the Burnham test reaffirms my analysis that the readers who accuse me of viewing ethics from a strong rightward bias are wrong.

Whew!

How did you do?

__________________

Pointer: WSJ (James Taranto)

Source: Arma Virumque

44 thoughts on “Bias Check

  1. The phrasing – especially in areas of absolutes – on some questions make it difficult to definitively answer. I scored 14 no’s but that could be because I interpreted the questions regarding rights as either intrinsic – meaning that the right did not impose a specific burden on another, or extrinsic – meaning that to obtain the benefits of that right another would be required to make a sacrifice,

    The first question shows the problem with absolutes: “All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.”

    But, what if I am a person of color and prefer to date only other people of color. If that is my preference and I am discriminating based on color does it make it wrong because it is but one of many forms of discrimination based on racial characteristics. I think not.

    Nonetheless, an interesting test that either forces you to truly think or simply show your inherent bias.

    • Did liberals really think Joe McCarthy was that dangerous? His end was preordained—anyone reading history and knowing the US would have seen it, especially by 1964.

      And I guess they didn’t know about Curtis LeMay…

  2. No on two. Too ambiguous to give a straight Yes on another dozen.

    is this really what conservatives were like in 1964? They are not like that today

    Most of the rank and file, yes, you’re correct. Most are not like that.

    A significant proportion of the leadership are though. Cruz and Santorum, though they’d answer yes (at least, in public) to a dozen, would answer no to the rest(though there’d be significant differences on which ones).

    I count 27 that between the two of them they’ve made public statements to the contrary, and 2 others which are obsolete.

  3. 1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
    Yes. Oddly enough, I’m not sure how this qualifies as a conservative/liberal divider… seeing as how it was the Progressives who were originally the most rabid racists around, and clear arguments can be made that modern progressive policies only keep minorities suppressed even further.

    2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
    Yes. Another odd one to consider a “Yes” as liberal and “No” as conservative. Clear arguments can be made that the “Liberal” pursuit of free speech was only because their ideas were crushed on the free market…but now that they have real political power, their actions say “No” even while they pay lip service to the “yes”.

    3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
    Depends. But in general, no, you don’t have a “right” to it in regards to what “political rights” actually means. You may be entitled to it…IF THE STATE CAN AFFORD IT AT THE COST IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL. And clear arguments can be made that at a $’s to results ratio, public education is one of our Republic’s most colossal failures.

    4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
    Yes. Another odd one, given the behavior of so-called “Liberals”.

    5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
    This one is sloppily worded… “physical terror” is the definition of pointing your weapon at the enemy in hopes of scaring him into giving up the war (or killing him when he decides to keep on)…

    But seeing where he’s coming from, the answer is Yes.

    6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA really? Would the so-called “liberals” of the time support a revolt against the Bolsheviks in Russia? Doubtful.

    Come on. Sloppy question and no way a yes means liberal and a no means conservative, just like no way a yes means conservative and no means liberal.

    7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
    Nope. There is no “duty” too. It is a nice gesture is the government can afford it. There used to be a day in age where people knew they were their own masters and did this crazy thing called “SAVING FOR RETIREMENT”.

    The modern version of this question would be “The government has a duty to provide for everyone”.

    8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
    Nope. No form of income taxes will EVER be fair. Ever. Every system of income taxation will be unfair, somehow. This is why our Founding Fathers didn’t approve of it and only approved of excises and foreign trade taxes and some form of sales tax.

    9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
    Only if it promotes the General Welfare AND no other way to achieve that ends is available.

    10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general.
    Whatever this means. What duty?

    11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Here’s probably the most accurately worded question yet. I don’t know any liberal who doesn’t get all hot and bothered thinking about the United Nations despite it record of failure and record of rubber stamping tyrannical regimes.

    Limited in accomplishment, indeed.

    12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
    Yes. Another 1st Amendment Taqiyyah question. The Left only “supported” this because their ideas were soundly rejected on the free market. Now with power? Their actions don’t seem to support this.

    13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
    Only so much as educating them in our value system and helping them kill the people who keep them from achieving stable and productive societies.

    Poor nations aren’t lacking in “wealth”…they are lacking in a Free Market.

    14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.

    Whatever that really means. Just communist buzzwords, it’s sad that so many political discussions are framed in the terminology invented by the Left to try to lump all good things in with some bad things…

    15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.

    This is one of the key issues with the phrases “liberal” and “conservative”, when in the grand scheme of things, this is not an “ideological” defining point.

    16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.

    Depends on what they mean by “ignorance”. As for the rest, no.

    17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
    Yes.

    18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
    Sure.

    19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
    Yes.

    20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
    Yes. But this is another one of those odd questions. Because alot of times those nations “wanted independence”…that is to say a vocal minority merely wanted to overthrow the regime and emplace their own tyranny in turn… So often when a “conservative” opposed some of the “popular” movements, it was for that reason.

    21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
    Yes. Another 1st Amendment Taqiyyah move by the Left. Nonsensical question when put in that perspective.

    22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
    No. It should be stopping bad actors on the international stage through whatever means possible that will work.

    23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
    Yes.

    24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.

    What’s being investigated?

    25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.

    Nope…tampering with school funding is precisely why they cost too much nowadays.

    26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.

    Depends.

    27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.

    Wait wait wait wait, what? A liberal says Yes to this?

    28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.

    Yes. Interestingly enough that it was the Progressives who most ardently tried to halt certain people from voting.

    29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.

    No. The college professor was.

    30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
    Yes, there are not. there aer significant differences in the cultures, however.

    31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
    Bwahahahah, finally the 2nd most accurately worded statement. Only a bleary-eyed moron can say yes to this. Idealistically, sure. But bad guys don’t follow these rules, and I’ll never obligate good people to place themselves at the mercy of bad people on the hope that the bad people will miraculously be good.

    32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

    Isn’t this like the 4th time he’s made this statement?

    33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
    Yes. Wait, this guy supposedly converted from a liberal to a conservative based on these standards? I’m very confused.

    34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
    Didn’t he literally just ask this?

    35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
    Yep. This is another nonsensical one. I don’t see how he get’s a “yes is liberal” and “no is conservative” or vice versa from this…even for that day in age.

    36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
    Nope. Didn’t he already ask this one?

    37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
    Sure, but on the ethical balance, more harm is done invading the free market to supposedly “ensure” this occurs than letting individuals and employers negotiate their pay scales.

    This question is steeped in the materialist worldview… so, on the balance I consider it nonsensical.

    38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
    Yes. But another poorly worded one, as we see compulsory membership as a major problem. Just like employers have the right to fire every last union member when they decide to strike and replace them with automation or people who are willing to work.

    39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    Whatever that means.

    Most of these statements are so poorly worded, I can find any dozen nuances for each that would make any statement a useless measure.

    • Yes, I give his wording an interpreter’s pass. There was a lot of redundancy, and yes, I wonder about this guy if he suggests that he would answer all or most of these questions “no.” I think you could pick out maybe 8 and have a better test…say 7, 8, 10, 11, 16, 22, 25, 31…

    • Tex:
      Thanks for taking the time to go through each one. Had I had the time I would have like to do the same. That is why I only picked the first one to discuss. Good analysis.

  4. 12. Is a no. I have the right to decide what my child reads, not someone else. The comic book code and Tipper Gore are two examples of scare mongering in the name of children.

      • No, it’s still wrong. There’s a difference in a parental decision and a governmental one. “For the good of the children” isn’t an acceptable reason to remove books from school libraries.

          • Shame on me. I expected better than the logical fallacy of overwhelming generalization. While it may be accurate there are so many qualifications (Hustler isn’t a children’s publication, show me a school librarian that has subscribe to Hustler for a school, etc.) that it’s really meaningless.

            Let’s discuss the schools that have removed Judy Blume’s Blubber because the bullies don’t get punished; the schools that removed Twilight because (horrors) Bella and Edward had sex after marriage. The attempt to remove The Devil’s Arithmetic because students shouldn’t learn about the Holocaust. Those incidents have actually happened.

            • So what? The statement is “Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.” You seem to think the statement is “Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or when puritanical hysterical wackos, who don’t know that kids are exposed to more “corrupting” things in afternoon commercials, think the speech will corrupt juveniles and can intimidate lily-livered school administrators to collapse like a soaked cardboard box, is wrong.” It’s not.

              The rationalization you seem to have let seep into your RNA is #9. The Reverse Slippery Slope. One doesn’t intentionally interpret a statement to be irrational. Corrupt means objectively harmful for children whom such material was not written or intended for. That would not, I assume you’ll agree, include Judy Bloom. It would include Henry Miller in Middle school…and Hustler. Saying “show me a school librarian that has subscribed to Hustler for a school” is not germane to the point of the question, which is whether free speech is absolute in all cases, with narrow, rational exceptions. I could make the equivalent of your argument by saying “Some people think Lena Dunham’s “Girls” poses immediate danger to the culture.”

            • More than one school has removed ‘Catcher In The Rye’ and I have heard of a couple removing Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’. My Aunt, who passed away a couple of years ago (she was a librarian her entire life. Lived to be 92) told me that Librarians were no different from other people…sometimes given to excess in both directions. I am, of course, against censorship, especially censorship that prevents the dissemination of classics.

  5. Given the awkwardly phrased questions and my own interpretation of them I’m surprisingly liberal. 22Yes 17 No.
    Question 30 is particularly perplexing in the way it’s phrased and I agree with texaggo4’s analysis.

  6. The wording isn’t so much sloppy as steeped in generalizations without any meaningful context, e.g., #10’s “duty to mankind, #16’s “peace”, This is a built-in problem with Yes/No questions. Most of them are unanswerable as written. But then, so are poll questions; people answer them all the time so poll-takers can turn over the results to statisticians to formulate the will of these randomly chosen people all of whom are idiotic enough to believe that a generalization without any meaningful context will translate into demographic breakdowns that will add something good to their lives – rather than do nothing but provide further opportunities for more Y/N poll questions.

    odd comments, though, starting with breaking Jack’s rule: “No fair combining answers.”

    #2, #33, #34 inclusive of #17 are essentially the same statement, usually made in a self-righteous tone. “Well, everybody has a right to their opinion” = the most common excuse that I know of for not having an informed opinion nor anything substantive to say. Today’s shortcut is a checkmark on the word Like or Dislike.

    #7 It may not be a government duty (presumably at any level of government) to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves — and it may be selfish of me — but I just don’t like that squishy feeling of stepping on rotting corpses.

    #8 As texagg04 noted, no form of taxation can ever be considered fair … “but” … there is that great jump between having as much as you need to as much as you want — but only a tiny sliver of difference between, say, getting as much as you want (really), and accumulating as much as you can. The latter by a very few to the detriment of very many. The pyramid is becoming a pancake with a needle sticking up in the middle. Which makes no difference to taxation in the end, since the accumulations are virtually untouchable.

    #11 Well, that’s clear enough. Yes. Of course the United Nations is swell. Great Christmas cards. And W.H.O.

    #16 No. Cause(s) of delinquency (shades of James Dean) are unknown or at least unproven, though there has been some advancement. We know that phrenology is not a reliable diagnostic.

    #25 & #27 are identical in my mind as requiring a No answer. Merit would be the primary cause for admission in both cases. These statements refer, I think, to admission to schools for learning, not equine dressage, possibly requiring SCHOLARships, which should automatically bar any non-academic students. If the school finds it desirable to have competitive sports on campus, they should hire the athletes to perform. The athletes would come from situations such as the erstwhile vocational schools, educated only insofar as required for physical performance. In fact, if it weren’t for the stigma attached (apart from schools for the arts), voluntary vocational school options would solve a lot of the present disparity-of-interest-and-ability problems in our education systems from high school on.

    Note: Texagg04 on #27 may have confused the word “quotas” (made to keep minority percentages down & out, by definition NEVER a liberal ideal), with the later and opposite intention of “affirmative action” (to pull certain ones in ahead of others – albeit with unfortunate side effects).

    #31 “Steps toward disarmament”: sure. You first.

    #32. Just wondered how many respondents would have changed their minds if the question had contained the phrase “sexual orientation.”

    #36 No. At best, Social Security is predicated on one’s employment history … and only a bit of that. Then there are those who draw both Social Security benefits and a full pension from a private employer. After that, there are Ficks. If no overhaul is made to the system soon, or a new one developed (e.g. mandatory savings?), someBody is going to go bankrupt.

    post-reworking: 18 yes, 17 no, 4 abstensions

    • By “no combining,” you do realize I was referring to Zoe’s attempt to combine the answers of Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz to create Uber Conservative, right? You could do the same with Rand Paul and Mitt Romney…

    • “Note: Texagg04 on #27 may have confused the word “quotas” (made to keep minority percentages down & out, by definition NEVER a liberal ideal), with the later and opposite intention of “affirmative action” (to pull certain ones in ahead of others – albeit with unfortunate side effects).

      But that’s just it. It IS the same thing. The government CANNOT favor members of one group, without disfavoring non-members of that group. It’s simply impossible, no matter how well worded and euphemistically it is worded. Likewise, the government CANNOT disfavor members of one group, without favoring non-members of that group.

      Quotas to keep blacks out IS the same injustice as Affirmative Action to put blacks in – In one case you disfavor the blacks (which has a secondary effect), in the other case you favor the blacks (which has secondary effects). Which logically speaking, are exactly the same thing as saying, respectively, in the first case, quotas – show favoritism towards whites, and affirmative actions show disfavoritism towards whites.

      • Of course, this is why I have been trying to champion productions of old, great plays for the last 20 years. This isn’t dated, it’s fascinating and illuminating, and obviously has relevance. Think how much most of these questions have shifted in meaning, and why, and who has abandoned the core American principles involved.

      • I was really confused, so I will go back to the original response and answer that one.

        Texagg04: In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.

        Wait wait wait wait, what? A liberal says Yes to this?”

        Yes, of course. To my knowledge, they always have.

        As for the “disfavoring” (aka reverse discrimination as well?), I agree completely that this is the ultimate result of either quota or affirmative action systems or, for that matter, the children of large contributors or alumni given admission preference. Or for any reason other than merit. I believe in equal opportunity (minus the political connotations, please; it seemed the best way to say it) of competition as well as school records and reports to prove that merit.

        My definitions were superficial and personal.
        On the wall of a doctor’s office — this is a long time ago — was a framed letter from Columbia University, circa 193_ that read, as closely as I can recall: You are hereby given notice that our Jewish quota has been filled. We are apprized of your position as second in your undergraduate class, magna cum laude, at this University. Should you make formal request, we will note your standing [blahblah to the Admissions Office?] at a medical school other than Columbia as the quota is expected to remain as it is for some years. (something-something sentences) It is strongly advised that you seek acceptance to medical school outside this country if you wish to continue your education. (no closing).

        The affirmative action side of my conclusion was based on another letter from a former student asking for a third reference from me. Under affirmative action, he had been admitted first to a local community college, then to a prestigious private school, and was currently applying to a graduate program at Stanford. He was white, raised in foster homes, devoid of social graces and virtually self-taught with the expected knowledge gaps when I first encountered him, He has his own thriving business today, contributes annual scholarships to each of the schools where he earned a diploma or degree, and supports and votes people and issues rather than party lines (including “nay” on affirmative action – he is the first person whom I know who used the word “unethical” to describe it).

  7. Everything about the answers depends on word choice and definitions. Many of which are NOT universally agreed upon, such as ‘rights’. I can’t find it, but I saw something recently that argued that all discussions eventually become arguments about definition of words. There is a lot of truth to that. For any given question, my answer would have numerous caveats.

    As Chris pointed out, the absolute nature is a problem as well. Beyond dating, the belief that it is absolutely wrong means it’s difficult to get approval for research into differences in why blacks and whites react differently to various medical treatments. Given that they do in fact react differently, until we have a way of perfectly evaluating the individual, it makes sense to consider race when deciding on a course of treatment. An individualized approach would still have a disparate impact, which according to some people is automatically proof of racism. Of course, as above, the definition of ‘race’ is part of the issue.

  8. Everyone has a right to his own opinion and all public institutions including Congressional committees should be watched and limited. Nearly all the other questions are in a form that can’t be agreed to without qualification, so that the answers should be “no.”

  9. 17 No, 21 Yes, 1 abstention (the McCardthy question).
    Here is a typical problem I had with the absolute nature of these questions:

    32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
    If a Mexican (national origin) is not a citizen (other status) is living here in the U.S., he is not entitled to vote (political rights).

    So, I could agree with 99.99% of the statement, but it was written so broadly that a small counterexample turns it into a “No.”

    -Jut

    • Then you’d just love this quiz, which has bothered me time immemorial:

      http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz/quiz.php

      Created by well intentioned libertarians when first trying to really reach out and communicate their “third way”, it unfortunately was rife with needless questions or poorly worded questions devoid of nuance, which generally tried to skew people into Libertarianism or thinking they were closet libertarians.

      The problem with “Left” vs “Right” is this means completely different things in different cultures.

      “Liberal” vs “Conservative” which notionally are opposite of each other suffer from temporal variations as well as definitional. Does Liberal mean someone who wants “More Freedom” in the classical sense or does it mean someone who wants to “Change the Status Quo” to something else? What if the Status Quo actually is More Freedom…then the term “Liberal” is contradictory. Does Conservative mean “Keep things the Same”, does it mean “Individuals Maintain Personal Standards of Propriety”, or does it mean “Impose State Sanctioned Standards of Propriety”? None of these definitions place it automatically in opposition to “Liberal” without seeing the times. What if “State Sanctioned Standards of Propriety” happen to be exactly what the “Liberals” want to change the Status Quo to? Then all the Terms are simultaneously the same AND contradictory…

      So, some braniacs back in the 60s and 70s derived the notion that politics isn’t on a continuum. Of course. I think their motivation was more they were tired of their sacred cows being lumped in the same general direction as Statist regimes such as Communism, Socialism and Fascism, but they brought up valid points that politics isn’t a simple Left/Right. On every topic, man, as a political creature, must decide “Do I think the State should Compel this conduct or Ban this conduct or leave this conduct for individuals to decide?” If the answer is “Yes this is the business of the State”, the next question is “Just how far does the State get to go in Compelling or Banning this conduct?”. And THEN! In American politics especially with our brilliantly devised Federal system – we get to ask – “At what level of Government is this State business if it is State business?”

      You see, I am completely 100% opposed to the National government making ANY pronouncements on Abortion – banning it OR allowing it. However, I will always vote for Texas to ban it, while not caring one iota what kind of hell California or New York wishes to consign itself to in the murder of the unborn. I will fervently hope those States do go the right direction eventually, but understand that it isn’t a national issue, and they are completely wrong when they do decide that the massacre of the innocents is hunky-dory.

      I find it amusing that people don’t realize that Murder isn’t against Federal Law (except on Federal Property)…it does so happen to be against the law separately in all 50 States however…

      So, in all the complexities of political “questionnaires”, we get to the oddity of the “Moderates” or “Centrists”.

      Let’s take 4 statements. I understand these statements are wholly simplistic, but as an analogy to the simplistic quizzes anyway, they will work –
      Government should skew life in favor of minority groups that have historically been shut out of the free market.
      The government should be very involved in regulating and controlling commerce.
      Fire arms should be heavily regulated.
      Abortion should be completely legal.

      Now, a hyper “conservative” would say No to all 4, and a hyper “liberal” would say Yes to all 4. Theoretically a moderate would say yes to 2 of them and no to 2 of them. But what if person X says yes to #1 & #2, but no to #3 & #4. They’re a “moderate” right? Of course, so is person Y who says no to #1 & #2, but yes to #3 & #4… Two moderates who have *completely* opposite views of each other.

      So this shows a fundamental flaw in even the 2 dimensional political charts. It is too complex to reduce to these kinds of questions. The 2 dimensional chart thinks that there are only 2 “flavors” of governmental involvement – personal choices and economic choices. Yet you see so much internal confusion in the “parties” and strange bed fellows across the aisle when questions like Foreign Policy arise or at what level of government a question needs to be answered if at all. Other veins or “flavors” of political question can throw the chart into further confusion.

      Because the definition of “moderate” quite frankly is meaningless as I’ve demonstrated, this leads to the general reason why I find Jack’s self-identification as “moderate” from an ethical standpoint, to be both wrong and right. If political party X has a platform that by all objective standards is Ethically correct, but they politically fall on X side of the political spectrum, then an individual can say “I’m am being ethically objective, I am a centrist” while simultaneously evaluating so much of politics as seeming to skew one direction. Especially since ethics is meant to observe conduct, it’s easy to judge ALL political players on both sides from an objective standpoint. But since ethics does observe conduct, it must also evaluate policies that may Compel / Ban conduct as well.

      • “Now, a hyper “conservative” would say No to all 4, and a hyper “liberal” would say Yes to all 4. Theoretically a moderate would say yes to 2 of them and no to 2 of them. But what if person X says yes to #1 & #2, but no to #3 & #4. They’re a “moderate” right? Of course, so is person Y who says no to #1 & #2, but yes to #3 & #4… Two moderates who have *completely* opposite views of each other.”

        See, sometimes we can agree Tex. I read the quiz that Jack posted and I would require essay answers to most of the questions.

        By the way, the quiz you posted labeled me as a Centrist. About as accurate as my Cosmo results. 🙂

        • Texagg04: “The problem with “Left” vs “Right” is this means completely different things in different cultures.”
          … Closer to home: Left and Right can mean different things to different people under different circumstances in this column of responses. Whatever those meanings are, they are attention-grabbers that are capable of overshadowing any ethical points.

          Phlinn suggested: “all discussions eventually become arguments about definition of words.”
          … Not necessarily, if the discussions don’t deteriorate into arguments. One way to keep a discussion, debate or even an all-out argument on track is to not bring in the ill-defined loaded words in the first place. They have a tendency to go off and kill the conversation.

  10. Agreed on 21, including a “no” on #39 (rights to standard of living and security) after going “no” on #36 (right to social security) and #37 (right to equal pay for equal work). Sometimes, I am stingy about what I consider “rights.”

    I chuckled at how #15 is a kind of “carbon dating” of when this batch of questions was first put together. Not only because of the use of “Negroes,” but because of the general discrimination issues alluded to.

    Today’s revised batch of questions might be carbon-dated via a #15 more like: “Any persons who want to call any of their relationships a “marriage” have the right to ceremonialize such relationships without impediment from anyone, and the right to have those relationships protected under the law as equal to any other relationships which any other persons have who also consider any of their relationships a marriage.” (Good bait.)

  11. During the 2014 election cycles, The Young Turk’s Cenk Uguyr made a point of saying something in the order of “We lost damn near every seat we were fighting for, but we won on almost every ballot measure. Obviously people agree with the Democrat’s policies, but the republicans did a better job at campaigning.”

    I just shook my head. This is the soup that political bobbleheads swim in, and the pitfalls of a two party system. Who do you vote for when you don’t agree on either party? Is the economy more important than social issues? Is the military more important than education? Who does an unemployed, black, male 30 year old atheist vote for? An employed, Hispanic, female, Christian single mother? It’s not so cut and dry. But what Cenk didn’t get was that people who voted republican voted in favor of gay marriage and pot legalisation, that those issues aren’t necessarily left vs. right, but a minority view of people who also tend to vote republican, that those aren’t necessarily “Liberal” policies, at the expense of “Conservative” policies, because if they were, they wouldn’t have passed, that there aren’t just two different types of people out there.

    Those 39 questions were infuriating. They read like someone who is trying to convince someone that they are a liberal. “Do you support equal pay for equal work?” Who doesn’t? But define equal work. And 27: “In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.” I don’t know if a majority of either side likes the idea of a quota program, but if you were in favor of affirmative action, you’re probably a Liberal. Go figure. Someone who answers no to a majority of these questions is probably an ogre of a person, but I don’t see how a yes answer there leans you Liberal in a whole lot of these.

    • “This is the soup that political bobbleheads swim in, and the pitfalls of a two party system.”

      And yet it is still better than the morass you see in those quagmires of the old world.

      The problem that people from “multiple parties” complain about the American system is “what if you don’t like X, X, X from the platform while agreeing with 90% of the rest of it? You see, here in Europe, we have so many parties, you eventually can find one you like.”

      But that doesn’t address the so-called “problem” at all. In EVERY country, you inevitably have 2 party systems in practice anyway or at most 3 party systems. In America, we form our parties BEFORE elections. In the other countries, they form their parties AFTER elections.

      Why then is the American system better? Because in the non-American system, you end up, in the multitude of parties, you really have single-interest or small-scope-multi-interest Lobbying groups, which singularly will never wield overwhelming vote power. So, after elections, the plethora of parties have to form “Coalitions” of ruling governments.

      Well, what if I’ve voted for Party X because it 97% represents my issues, then suddenly it allies with Party Y to gain a ruling Coalition, but Party Y happens to espouse 2 or 3 issues that are utterly anathema to my issues. I’ve been betrayed.

      In the American system, you know what the parties stand for first, so if Party X happens to espouse 97% of your views but holds 2 or 3 issues that are utterly anathema to your viewpoint, you get to decide BEFORE they are in power if you really want to make that personal trade off.

      • Perhaps I should have said the pitfalls of a first-past-the-post system, because even multi party systems tend to reduce the number of parties towards two over time.

        Regardless, I feel that as the Canadian Flavour around here I should point out that Canada has 5 parties nationally that hold seats, and there has only been one coalition government in the last 150 years. (1950-54). So while your European examples are pertinent, they aren’t the rule.

        • I know exceptions can be found in still developing nations, especially largely homogeneous ones.

          I’m not too up to date on Canadian politics, but a quick perusal of sources would indicate Canada is a 2 party system in practice – I should have also been clearer in my usage of “Coalition”, I consider caucusing or consistently voting with a dominant party, though short of formal agreements, to be a de facto Coalition.

          You see, by your standards, America is a 3 party system… if Bloc Quebecois and Green, at 4 and 1 seats, respectively, matter for this analysis, then our “Independents” count.

          Do not the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party not generally vote extremely similarly.

          I’ll grant Canada is more like a 3 party system in practice… but trends across the century would imply it’s shaping up to be a 2 party system or a typical Coalition forming – either formal or informal – system…

  12. Actually, most of my answers were “What?”. For the record, and coming as no surprise to any commenter here, I’m sure, I am a conservative. I have neither the time nor the interest in taking a test to prove it.

  13. No to 16 of them, mostly because of technicalities. MOST of these are core conservative principles: right to expression, equal opportunity, etc. Civil rights in Congress were backed more by Republicans than by Democrats.

    And why would a conservative be against a popular revolt against a dictator? Supporting popular revolts against statists is what cold war conservatives did.

    I’m as socially conservative as they come these days, and I still voted Yes on all the “censorship is wrong, duh” ones, because just because you hate some stupid corrupting ideas, doesn’t mean idiots don’t have the right to say them. That is also a core libertarian/right wing principle. Sam Harris types are the majority of the intelligent people advocating silencing minority opinions these days.

    I voted against “nations have a duty to help mankind” type statements because…are you talking about governments? Then no. Individuals humans? Then yes. The statements are so poorly worded that I couldn’t help but vote NO if my answers could be used to support totalitarianism.

    This quiz does not do what it’s intended to. I am using myself as the litmus- I should not be that far left of center on this thing.

    • “And why would a conservative be against a popular revolt against a dictator? Supporting popular revolts against statists is what cold war conservatives did.”

      Because now you have to define “popular”. Often times they weren’t popular, just a loud group of rabble rousers ready to overthrow one tyrant to put in place their own favored tyrant, and never truly being a popular movement.

      By abstract definitions, yes, one should support the overthrow of dictators (if they are actually dictators) by a popular movement (if it is actually popular) to establish a more republican government (if it will actually be republican).

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