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October 22, 2012

The Psychology of Livid Terriers

Matt Ridley on the psychology of libertarians:

The study collated the results of 16 personality surveys and experiments completed by nearly 12,000 self-identified libertarians who visited YourMorals.org. The researchers compared the libertarians to tens of thousands of self-identified liberals and conservatives. It was hardly surprising that the team found that libertarians strongly value liberty, especially the "negative liberty" of freedom from interference by others. Given the philosophy of their heroes, from John Locke and John Stuart Mill to Ayn Rand and Ron Paul, it also comes as no surprise that libertarians are also individualistic, stressing the right and the need for people to stand on their own two feet, rather than the duty of others, or government, to care for people.

Perhaps more intriguingly, when libertarians reacted to moral dilemmas and in other tests, they displayed less emotion, less empathy and less disgust than either conservatives or liberals. They appeared to use "cold" calculation to reach utilitarian conclusions about whether (for instance) to save lives by sacrificing fewer lives. They reached correct, rather than intuitive, answers to math and logic problems, and they enjoyed "effortful and thoughtful cognitive tasks" more than others do.

The researchers found that libertarians had the most "masculine" psychological profile, while liberals had the most feminine, and these results held up even when they examined each gender separately, which "may explain why libertarianism appeals to men more than women."

All Americans value liberty, but libertarians seem to value it more. For social conservatives, liberty is often a means to the end of rolling back the welfare state, with its lax morals and redistributive taxation, so liberty can be infringed in the bedroom. For liberals, liberty is a way to extend rights to groups perceived to be oppressed, so liberty can be infringed in the boardroom. But for libertarians, liberty is an end in itself, trumping all other moral values.

Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers.

Posted by Cassandra at October 22, 2012 08:27 AM

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Comments

I've always struggled with the question as to whether libertarians consider their views morally superior to those held by liberals. Statements such as this help explain why: "All Americans value liberty, but libertarians seem to value it more." More than anarchists?

Posted by: spd rdr at October 22, 2012 09:44 AM

There is always a Higher Authority to whom one must answer. There has to be a moral basis for a free society, though. Liberty for the sake of liberty alone does not address how one behaves, unless one chooses a moral path. If someone else chooses to be, shall we say, immoral or amoral, what accountability do they have in terms of laws?

Anarchy, I think, is the absence of the ability of the state to punish wrongdoers.

Posted by: Puff at October 22, 2012 10:35 AM

Libertarians, at least that great segment from whom the term 'libertarian' derives its general understanding, seem to have, if they have it at all, so small an interest in human nature that one would think the thing might not exist.
I have always imagined libertarians remarking in defense of liberty, "let the gentlemen have their beer hall putsch – that is what we stand for", all the while oblivious to the notion that the intended consequences of acting freely might be to put an end to it.

How the conservative functions is to be, generally, a skeptic; to resist social change and to hoist the crucifix in the presence of theories calling for it - for the betterment of mankind we are always assured. That, the belief in tradition, and the sure knowledge that social and cultural entropy is our curse is all that defines a conservative. In that traditional vein we have Mr. Frank Greystock to further advise us:

"A huge, living, daily increasing grievance that does one no palpable harm is the happiest possession that a man can have. There is a large body of such men in England, and, personally they are the very salt of the nation. He who said that all Conservatives are stupid did not know them. Stupid Conservatives there may be, — and there certainly are very stupid Radicals. The well-educated, widely-read Conservative, who is well assured that all good things are gradually being brought to an end by the voice of the people, is generally the pleasantest man to be met." - Frank Greystock, (The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope)

Posted by: George Pal at October 22, 2012 11:46 AM

Having just come back from a wonderful vacation with The Lovely Bride, this is a very nice article you posted for me to comment on! I'm sure you did it just for me (:P).

First off, clearly, this was written by a Libertarian. I don't say this because of sour grapes or anything (since it's very flattering towards those with a libertarian bent) but because it's solely positive. And as the previous commenters point out, there are a large segment of Libertarians who seem not to recognize that others WILL NOT accept responsibility for their own lives and actions which Libertarianism is reliant upon.

As long as there are people in this world like the lady who says "I've got 7 kids, someone needs to pay for them!" (and she's NOT talking about herself or the various fathers), then Libertarianism will remain as theoretical as Marxism. Human nature disallows it. Because you're going to have enough folks who AGREE with that woman's idiocy, and want to have "someone" (meaning the rest of us) support her and her brood. And they won't stand for the Libertarian solution (which is correctly portrayed as cold and calculating) that she take responsibility for HER actions (sleeping with multiple men and not taking steps to prevent pregnancies) and either raise her kids as best she can, or give them up for adoption. It is for that reason (and that I'm not quite unsympathetic enough to call for an end to ALL social safety nets) that I am not a "big L" libertarian.

But I will say, there is a vast difference between Anarchists (who for the most part are idiot kids rebelling against authority) and Libertarians. I can understand (somewhat) the confusion, but the big difference is the concept of "property". Anarchists buy into the Marxist nonsense that "property is theft" (an oxymoronic statement since without the concept of "property", "theft" cannot exist as a crime). And that "stuff" belongs to everyone. A childish notion which is incompatible with liberty. Without property rights, liberty is meaningless.

Posted by: MikeD at October 22, 2012 12:41 PM

Libertarianism is how I prefer the government to relate to me. How I relate to the people in my life is another matter.

Posted by: Texan99 at October 22, 2012 05:24 PM

[T]here are a large segment of Libertarians who seem not to recognize that others WILL NOT accept responsibility for their own lives and actions which Libertarianism is reliant upon. As long as there are people in this world like the lady who says "I've got 7 kids, someone needs to pay for them!" (and she's NOT talking about herself or the various fathers), then Libertarianism will remain as theoretical as Marxism...

No part of this is true. Libertarians (and I have been one myself, and still lean strongly that way on domestic issues) are very, very well aware that there are people like this; but they think the State should not oblige them by paying them to be irresponsible.

What I found interesting -- I clicked on the link to the underlying paper -- is the findings that Libertarians were more individualistic, and less attached to others, in their personal lives -- because I don't see this as necessarily tied to Libertarian ideology. But, if that's how they are, then that's how they are.

Posted by: Joseph W. at October 22, 2012 11:00 PM

"Libertarians (and I have been one myself, and still lean strongly that way on domestic issues) are very, very well aware that there are people like this; but they think the State should not oblige them by paying them to be irresponsible."
-- Joseph W.

Yes! With one small caveat, if I may:
I have no problem with the "safety net" per se, as it was originally intended. (Roads, paved...yada yada yada) Everyone, at some point in their life, needs help in times of trouble. However, what I object to is the "in perpetuity" monster it has become. I have friends and family who have availed themselves of federal assistance until they no longer needed it at which time they removed themselves from the programs. That's how the programs were intended to function in the first place. But that's not what we have in reality. How many stories do we really need to hear about generations of families living on every sort public assistance available before we name it for the resource hog that it is?
That is neither cold nor calculating. It's reality, and it comes courtesy of Louisville Slugger.

Posted by: DL Sly at October 22, 2012 11:55 PM

DL - then the question becomes, how do you stop the one from turning into the other? Particularly in a country like ours?

The British used to have an answer of sorts - the workhouses. Part of their purpose was to separate the beneficiary from his "usual companions" and vicious habits, but the real point was that the state provided a large disincentive to take benefits in the first place - namely, that if you took them, you had to go to the workhouse, where by law the conditions were supposed to be worse than those enjoyed by the poorest free laborer. A system like that has a check to prevent it from growing out of control; but it didn't last.

Posted by: Joseph W. at October 23, 2012 09:13 AM

Joseph, please don't misunderstand, I consider myself a libertarian as well (if perhaps more of a conservative one). But the problem with a system where the State should not oblige them by paying them to be irresponsible, is that it requires consent of the governed. I AGREE that the State should not pay (or more accurately, the State should not seize property from its citizens to pay the moochers), but i also recognize that short of my becoming benevolent dictator (and ignoring the consent of the governed) such a system will simply not happen.

And you are right that I did not use the best word when I said "recognize", that's unclear. Libertarians are quite aware moochers and parasites on the system exist. The failing is that they do not accept is that those people and their enablers will not consent to a Libertarian form of government. And unlike the Communists (who were more than willing to use force to compel their fellow man to conform to Marxism), I for one (and no Libertarians I know) are willing to do so. Mostly because to do so flies in the face of Libertarianism itself. Without buy in from the vast majority of citizens, Libertarianism will remain a theoretical ideal, just like Marxism.

Posted by: MikeD at October 23, 2012 09:27 AM

Oh, okay. I'm afraid you and de Tocqueville may be right about that one. But I think it's a good idea to be out there advocating for the right ideas, even if they don't have a chance of dominating a major party anytime soon. And if the Entitlement State takes us over a Greek cliff - maybe the people who were against it, A to Z, will get a better hearing, and gain some influence.

Posted by: Joseph W. at October 23, 2012 11:05 AM

Joseph, I think that the changes instigated by the '96 Congress and the Clinton administration were a good start. What it lacked was enforcement and strong penalties for those who broke the rules. Now, of course, the entire thing has been gutted by executive order.
However, as long as those in government think that *everyone else's money* is their's to spend, there will never be a program that does only what it's supposed to do.

Posted by: DL Sly at October 23, 2012 11:15 AM

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