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Giving the People What They Want
Do you want political quizzes?

by James Leroy Wilson
August 12, 2004

The World’s Smallest Political Quiz, provided by the Advocates for Self-Government, is a quick ten-question quiz which can help in identifying your “political home.” I recommend taking it if you haven’t already, and it’s been revised recently so you might want to take it again.

The purpose of the quiz is to de-mystify the word “libertarian,” because there are far more among us who are oriented to libertarianism than is generally believed. I have no doubt that many celebrities who identify themselves as libertarians have taken the quiz.

So it is a useful tool. After you answer the questions in the quiz, your answers will place you in one of five categories:

1. Libertarian: government should play little or no role in our economic and personal lives.

2. Left-liberal: government should regulate our economic lives and redistribute wealth, but stay out of our personal lives.

3. Right-conservative: government should regulate our personal lives - that is, “legislate morality“, but have minimal role in our economic affairs.

4. Statist: government should be heavily involved in both our personal and economic lives.

5. Moderate: A person who is undecided most issues, or whose beliefs follow no predictable pattern in discerning government’s role in our personal or economic affairs, who takes things case-by-case.

But there is much that is left out. This reflects only government’s relationship to the individual. At least two more “quizzes” could be created, that could then create a fuller picture. Because the real question is not just the role of government in our individual lives, but the role of the federal government on American society. And I’d suggest that two more quizzes could be created, one based on the federal/national questions, the other based on national security.

This is a work in progress, and I have not asked for permission from the Advocates for Self-Government to piggy-back on their quiz and chart. These are rather suggestions for two additional quizzes which might more fully clarify, or explain, one’s seemingly contradictory political beliefs.

I have, like the original quiz, broken it into two parts, phrased so that the libertarian position would agree with all questions, and the statist position would disagree with all of them. Left-liberals would agree with one part but not the other, with right-conservatives taking the opposite view from the left-liberal. And moderates would, well, be in the middle.


This quiz is about authority. What are your views of local control? National control? For example, did you disagree with local sodomy laws, but also disagreed with the Supreme Court overturning state sodomy laws as a further concentration of national power? Will local control lead to segregation and the deprivation of rights? Will national control lead to a fascist dictatorship? Will local control minimize tyranny and abuse, or is national control benevolent? Are there laws you would allow at the local level but not at the national level? The Quiz would be in two parts:

PART I: State/Local Rights:

State and/or local governments should not have the right to:

1. ban abortions (Agree, Maybe, Disagree)

2. ban pornography (Agree, Maybe, Disagree)

3. ban gay marriages (A,M,D)

4. establish Prayer in Public Schools (A,M,D)

5. enforce color-blind civil-rights laws (A,M,D)

Part II: National Rights:

The branches of the federal government, either individually or collectively, should not have the right to nationalize laws, or overturn state laws on:

1. abortions (A,M,D)

2. pornography (A,M,D)

3. gay marriages (A,M,D)

4. prayer in Public Schools (A,M,D)

5. affirmative Action (A,M,D)

The results would establish a corresponding result with the five outcomes in the original World’s Smallest Political Quiz

1. Libertarian - decentralist (mostly agree on all questions): Opposed to state and local government’s regulation of individual liberty, but also opposed to federal power, whether from the federal courts, Congress, independent regulatory agencies, or the Presidency, to usurp state and local laws, whatever they may be.

2. Left-liberal - civil libertarian (mostly agree with Part I‘s questions, mostly disagree with Part II‘s): Opposed to state and local infringements of liberty and strongly in favor of separation of Church and State on all issues; trusting of federal power to protect liberty.

3. Right-conservative -federalist (mostly disagree with Part I, agree with Part II) In favor of state and local government’s regulations on personal behavior and in favor of preserving traditional community practices, and opposed to nationalizing those state and local powers.

4. Statist-nationalist (mostly disagree on all questions): Unopposed to local government controls, also unopposed to federal control, and federal laws and rulings would be supreme.

5. Moderate: It depends, issue by issue, whether local/state, or national government should be supreme.


What should be America’s sense of itself and its role in the world?

PART I: National Ambitions. The U.S. Government should not:

1. impose tariffs to protect domestic industries.

2. invade other countries or otherwise go to war for domestic economic reasons.

3. engage in arms competition and foreign intervention in order to gain or preserve military supremacy over the world.

4. encourage a mindset of inherent American moral superiority that justifies us taking measures that we would condemn if other countries did them.

5. restrict immigration for the fear of job competition, or for racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural preservation.

PART II: Sovereignty Protection: U.S. Government should not:

1. impose tariffs to punish other nations for their culture, form of government, conduct of their leaders, or behavior toward their neighbors.

2. invade other countries in order to liberate them and establish democracy.

3. sacrifice sovereignty in its own security interests to any other country or multi-national organization such as the United Nations.

4. sacrifice sovereignty in its trade policy to any organization such as the World Trade Organization, or engage in any trade treaty, such as NAFTA, where rules and regulations affecting American industries are out of the hands of the United States’s Congress.

5. allow open immigration at the expense of security.

On the National Security Quiz, there are these five results, all corresponding to the results of the previous two quizzes:

1. Libertarian/non-interventionist (Mostly agree with all questions): “Peace and trade with all, entangling alliances with none” as George Washington put it.

2. Left/Idealist (Mostly agree with Part I‘s questions, disagree with Part II‘s): We live in a global village and must be responsible and compassionate global citizens.

3. Right/Realist (Mostly disagree with Part I’s questions, agree with Part II‘s) We will protect our borders, heritage, and interests, but do not seek global domination for its own sake or try to save the world.

4. Statist/Imperialist: (Mostly disagree with all questions): The USA will dominate the world, both for the USA’s good and for the world’s good.

5. Moderate (Mixed results on questions): Committing money or troops, or surrendering sovereignty, depends on the issue.

These questions are not fixed in stone - as I said, this is a work in progress. And this idea didn’t occur to me in time to get permission from the Advocates for Self-government to add to their quiz or to construct an official quiz here.

But, depending on feedback, (see "e-mail the author" below), we may be able to construct some in-depth quizzes. Please let us know if you’d like to see political quizzes as a feature of the Partial Observer until Election Day. Please sacrifice half a minute now to tell us you’d like to see the Partial Observer create political quizzes, and if you have any suggestions, please offer them now by e-mailing me. Please do this today; the biggest crime would be to not write us today, but then bother to sacrifice the half a minute six weeks from now complaining that we never did any political quizzes. We will only do them if there’s demand for them, and this needs to be known in advance.

The Partial Observer will serve the readers, but not initiate anything that will have little participation.

We will give this idea two weeks (from August 12) for feedback, and then please allow us another two weeks to design the framework for the quizzes and launch the first one.

If you would like to participate in the design of the quizzes, or the content of the questions, your help will be greatly appreciated. To all who want to encourage this project or participate in it, please e-mail me with the Subject heading of “Quiz.”

About the Author:
James Leroy Wilson lives and works in Chicago and has a Masters of Arts in Political Science from Loyola University (Chicago).

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