Politics by AD&D Alignment

This is a rewrite of an old post from a couple of years ago that got accidentally deleted from the archives. The Internet Wayback Machine does not seem to have saved a copy, so this is a reconstruction of sorts.

Does the AD&D alignment system help explain present-day politics rather better than “Left” and “Right”?

For those of you not familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, the Alignment chart is a three-by-three grid giving nine possible values, which serve as a shorthand for a character’s moral and philosophical values. One axis is Law vs. Chaos, more or less as defined by Michael Moorcock in his Eternal Champion series. The other is Good vs. Evil, which ought to be self-explanatory.

Both old-fashioned social conservatism and old-fashioned socialism are probably Lawful Neutral. Both like to think of themselves as Lawful Good, so the two are opponents when the truth is that both have a lot in common. Both believe that social order and the solidarity of the community trumps the freedom of the individual, and take a paternalistic attitude towards those considered weaker than themselves.

Liberals are more Neutral Good in theory tending towards True Neutral in practice, believing that the greatest benefit for the greatest number comes from finding the right balance between individual freedom and collective welfare.

Libertarians are Chaotic Neutral. They believe individual freedom is everything, and the consequence of that are somebody else’s problem. The fundamental split in the Tory party is between the Chaotic Neutral libertarians and the Lawful Neutral social conservatives.

When it comes to Evil, I would have hesitated to use that word for any mainstream political ideology, at least in the west. Lawful Evil or any other flavour of Evil ought to belong to things like the Nazis or Islamic State. But then I look at the rise and rise of Donald Trump and wonder…

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One Response to Politics by AD&D Alignment

  1. Murali says:

    No, you’ve got it wrong.

    Radical socialism is chaotic good. It conceives of some good (the equalisation of material shares and abolishment of capitalism) and is fairly explicitly comfortable with subverting legal norms or using extra legal measures to achieve this if such measures would be effective. The rule of law, after all is just more bourgeois ideology. Ultimately, the state is supposed to wither away, so there is no way they are any form of lawful.

    Slightly more orthodox Marxists might be chaotic or true neutral since they are sceptical of all ideology. They don’t see communism as necessarily good, just inevitable.

    Libertarianism cannot be lumped under one umbrella. Anarcho capitalists are plausibly chaotic neutral because of the anarchism. But dnd rules allow that the lawful component can be fulfilled by adhering strictly to non-legal codes. So, since anarcho capitalists claim adherance to the non-agression principle, they can be put under lawful neutral if such a move is available. (it would be a mistake, I think to split the difference and make them true neutral)

    Rawlsian (or for that matter any other anti-perfectionist) liberalism is especially lawful neutral. It very explicitly eschews appeals to any conception of the good and tries to stay neutral between all conceptions of the good.

    Movement conservatism and movement progressivism on the other hand all conceive of themselves as using the law to achieve certain substantive goods. As do all other perfectionist accounts of justice. (e.g various forms of communitarianism, forms of liberalism and (non-anarchic) libertarianism that view autonomy as a substantive good to be realised) Depending on how you evaluate their goals, you have to place them either in the Lawful good or Lawful evil category. If you allow that the ideology gets to define what is good, then all of the rest go under the lawful good heading.