I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of using a "Liberty, Equality, Order" spectrum for analysing political idology, in contrast to a simplistic left/right divide. I ran into this spectrum early on at university, and so I found a political scientist's attempt, at The LEO Test
, to create a program which could automatically analyse the ideology of political writing very interesting when I ran across it a year or so ago. This spectrum sees the political landscape as populated by (some combination of) three distinct ideologies which can be reflected in moderate or radical positions - Liberty (libertarians, anarchists), Equality (progressives, communists) and Order (Conservatives, fascists).
Cam over at the fairly new (and quite good) group blog, Polemica
, recently wrote a post
expressing his dissatisfaction at the traditional left/right divide and in the ensuing discussion I brought up the LEO test. One commentor there thought that the spectrum wouldn't properly capture the ideology of post-left/right divide, community-values based parties like People Power
so I decided to give the program supplied by Jonathon York another try (my last attempt
at doing this showed the limits of the test as applied to judicial writings, more than disproving it more comprehensively I think). So I went to their web site and collated all the relevant text I could find, from their "about" and policies documents. Just to give an overview, here's what the party has to say for themselves (in broken html on the site):
- families: the foundation of society but unrepresented by any broad, mainstream movement
- consumers: our two main parties represent employers and employees, but not consumers
- people with disabilities, chronic and mental illnesses and their families/carers: the most invisible and vulnerable Australians
- the aged: regarded as not glamorous, important or productive in our culture
- volunteers in communities: who are the glue in society but are unrepresented in any of our halls of power
- small businesses and independent owners: the backbone of our economy and employment but overlooked by governments
- individuals and communities who practice self-help: whose voices are rarely heard
Now, just looking at that you get the strong underlying message of "society is only as strong as its weakest member" which is a paradigm Equality value. This impression is borne out in a textual analysis of the 5000-odd words I put together from the web site:
The bars represent percentages of ideological keywords (ie 55% of keywords used reflected Equality values). Now, it's a relatively small sample of words but I think the analysis has hit on the essential ideology of the party. It's strongly egalitarian with no secondary preference for either order or liberty, given that order/conservative values of "family" and "regulation" co-exist with a respect for the dynamism and freedom of small enterprise.
One of the Polemica bloggers suggested I try the analysis on the Labor
party platforms, these being the two dominant political parties in Australia. The Liberal party likes to identify itself with small-l liberalism values, but also has a strong socially/traditionally conservative element in it which is in tension with these values. The Labor party has historical roots in the union movement although moved away from those roots somewhat when it was in power in the 80s and 90s by governing in a style in some way foreshadowed the "Third Way" of Clinton/Blair.
These platform documents aren't ideal source material for two reasons. First, while the Labor platform is very large (100,000) which is good, the Liberal one is quite small (4,000). In addition, potential nuances in the party's policies in different areas such as law and order, social areas, welfare, economic regulation, industrial relations etc. aren't reflected in such a broad brush analysis. Still, given that I don't have time to do a full analysis I decided to see what the numbers brought up. I excluded one of the data source files from the analsyis because the word "Liberal" was included as an ideological key word, which is obviously inappropriate in assessing the Liberal party. This left me with three source files, and these are the averages of the results.
Some might be surprised that these aren't exactly the same, but I do think that these graphs are reasonably
reflective of reality. The Liberal party, if you read its platform (I didn't, I just scanned, but you know what I mean) likes to fancy itself as a bastion of traditional liberalism and that preference is very strongly captured. The document also emphasises the "Australian" value of egalitarianim in its emphasis on "opportunity for all", which I think explains the relatively high E score. Now, the Liberal party's actions frequently belie their rhetoric, but I do think the simple test here is picking up the ideological flavour of their rhetoric quite well.
Likewise for Labor. The emphasis is much more clearly on Equality, with no strong secondary preference, although a slight leaning towards order which is not at all incosistent with the Labor party (it has only weak committment to civil liberties issues, for instance, and is unafraid to regulate private business quite heavily in some areas). I think it's also pertinant that neither party had particularly strong ideological preferences for their primary value (the highest marker was about 47% each) which is to be expected from relatively moderate mainstream parties. All in all, I think these rough analysis confirm the usefulness of the blunt textual analysis of The LEO Test in analysing the ideological content of political writing.