We often use the old left-right spectrum while describing political sympathies. You are on the right if you favour the free market, limited government intervention, and, often, social conservatism. You are on the left if you favour economic safety nets, or progressivism, and social inclusiveness. Simple. Neat. Inadequate.
The Political Compass tries to lend us a few more tools for this endeavour. We can now use the concepts of Authoritarianism and Libertarianism to draw a more detailed description of our political leanings; therefore allowing for more discriminating analysis. For example, both Stalin and Gandhi were leftists because they favoured the coordination of the economy by government bodies. But they obviously were very different as well. One viewed citizens as mere things to be pushed around and controlled by the state; while the other assumed the intrinsic worth of every individual and therefore gave great importance to the notion of personal choice – Gandhi would not force anything on you. So, Stalin is a leftist-authoritarian while Gandhi is a leftist-libertarian. Simple. Neat. A little less inadequate.
Now look below for where the Canadian federal parties place during this election season. I was surprised by the Green party.