The Science of Libertarian Morality

A social psychology study explores the formation of the libertarian personality.

Libertarians are often cast as amoral calculating rationalists with an unseemly hedonistic bent. Now new social science research upends that caricature. Libertarians are quite moral, the researchers argue—just not in the same way that conservatives and liberals are. 

The University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done a lot of work in the past probing the different moral attitudes of American liberals and conservatives. With time he realized that a significant proportion of Americans did not fit the simplistic left/right ideological dichotomy that dominates our social discourse. Instead of ignoring the outliers, Haidt and his colleagues chose to dig deeper.

The result: a fascinating new study, “Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology,” that is currently under review at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In probing libertarians’ moral thinking, Haidt and his colleagues—Ravi Iyer and Jesse Graham at the University of Southern California and Spassena Koleva and Peter Ditto at the University of California at Irvine—used the “largest dataset of psychological measures ever compiled on libertarians”: surveys of more than 10,000 self-identified libertarians gathered online at the website yourmorals.org.

In his earlier work, Haidt surveyed the attitudes of conservatives and liberals using what he calls the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, which measures how much a person relies on each of five different moral foundations: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. Typically, conservatives scored lower than liberals on the harm and fairness scales—that is, they gave those issues less weight when making moral judgments—and scored much higher on ingroup, authority, and purity.

In the new study, Haidt and his colleagues note that libertarians score low on all five of these moral dimensions. “Libertarians share with liberals a distaste for the morality of Ingroup, Authority, and Purity characteristic of social conservatives, particularly those on the religious right,” Haidt et al. write. Libertarians scored slightly below conservatives on harm and slightly above on fairness. These results suggest that libertarians are “likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.”

Another survey, the Schwartz Value Scale, measures the degree to which participants regard 10 values as guiding principles for their lives. Libertarians put higher value on hedonism, self-direction, and stimulation than either liberals or conservatives, and they put less value than either on benevolence, conformity, security, and tradition. Like liberals, libertarians put less value on power, but like conservatives they have less esteem for universalism. Taking these results into account, Haidt concludes that “libertarians appear to live in a world where traditional moral concerns (e.g., respect for authority, personal sanctity) are not assigned much importance.”

Haidt and his colleagues eventually recognized that their Moral Foundations Questionnaire was blinkered by liberal academic bias, failing to include a sixth moral foundation, liberty. They developed a liberty scale to probe this moral dimension. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that libertarians dramatically outscored liberals and conservatives when it came to putting a high value on both economic and lifestyle liberty. Haidt and his colleagues conclude, “Libertarians may fear that the moral concerns typically endorsed by liberals or conservatives are claims that can be used to trample upon individual rights—libertarians’ sacred value.”

Next the researchers wondered, “Might libertarians generally be dispositionally more rational and less emotional?” On the standard inventory of personality, libertarians scored lower than conservatives and liberals on agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion. Low scores on agreeableness indicate a lack of compassion and a proud, competitive, and skeptical nature. Like conservatives, libertarians are not generally neurotic, tending to be emotionally hardy. And like liberals, libertarians scored high on openness to new experiences, indicating that they have broad interests.

Libertarians scored lower than both liberals and (especially) conservatives on sensitivity to disgust. The authors suggest this tendency “could help explain why they disagree with conservatives on so many social issues, particularly those related to sexuality. Libertarians may not experience the flash of revulsion that drives moral condemnation in many cases of victimless offenses.”

Some of the more intriguing results involve the empathizer/systemizer scale. Empathizers identify with another person’s emotions, whereas systemizers are driven to understand the underlying rules that govern behavior in nature and society. Libertarians, unlike both liberals and conservatives, scored very high on systemizing. The authors note, “We might say that liberals have the most ‘feminine’ cognitive style, and libertarians the most ‘masculine.’ ”

The researchers also found that libertarians tend to be less flummoxed by various moral dilemmas, such as the famous “trolley problem.” In the trolley problem, five workmen will be killed by a runaway trolley unless you move a track switch which will divert the train but kill one workman—or, in another version, push a fat man off a bridge stopping the trolley. Typically, most people will choose to move the switch, but refuse to push the fat man. Why the difference? The utilitarian moral calculus is the same—save five by killing one. According to the researchers, libertarians are more likely to resolve moral dilemmas by applying this utilitarian calculus.

Taking various measures into account, the researchers report that libertarians “score high on individualism, low on collectivism, and low on all other traits that involved bonding with, loving, or feeling a sense of common identity with others.” Haidt and his fellow researchers suggest that people who are dispositionally low on disgust sensitivity and high on openness to experience will be drawn to classically liberal philosophers who argue for the superordinate value of individual liberty. But also being highly individualistic and low on empathy, they feel little attraction to modern liberals’ emphasis on altruism and coercive social welfare policies. Haidt and his colleagues then speculate that an intellectual feedback loop develops in which such people will find more and more of the libertarian narrative agreeable and begin identifying themselves as libertarian. From Haidt’s social intuitionist perspective, “this process is no different from the psychological comfort that liberals attain in moralizing their empathic responses or that social conservatives attain in moralizing their connection to their groups.”

I find Haidt’s account of the birth of libertarian morality fairly convincing. But as a social psychologist, Haidt fails to discuss what is probably the most important and intriguing fact about libertarian morality: It changed history by enabling at least a portion of humanity to escape our natural state of abject poverty. Libertarian morality, by rising above and rejecting primitive moralities embodied in the universalist collectivism of left-liberals and the tribalist collectivism of conservatives, made the rule of law, freedom of speech, religious tolerance, and modern prosperity possible. Liberals and conservatives may love people more than do libertarians, but love of liberty is what leads to true moral and economic progress. 

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent.

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  • Suki||

    Good morning Ron Bailey!

  • Mango Punch||

    Will someone link other write ups of this study from lib/con (huntington/national) publications?

  • Mango Punch||

    John Haidt - "What Tea Partiers Really Want WSJ Editorial.

    "The passion behind the populist insurgency is less about liberty than a particularly American idea of karma."

  • yonemoto||

    We asked people, for example, to name their price to "Say something bad about your nation (which you don't believe to be true) while calling in, anonymously, to a talk-radio show in a foreign nation."

    What the hell? I wouldn't do that for any price. Why should I lie about my country? But, hell, I would badmouth my own country for free about something I thought was true. But again, I wouldn't do it in a foreign country, because (at least in the USA) I have the balls to do it in a DOMESTIC radio station.

  • cynical||

    Does it have to believable, or can you be doing it to show how gullible people are in other countries by spouting off something negative, false, and easily disproved?

  • AJ||

    It's funny how desperately the left wants to think of themselves as libertarians, and claim common ground. "Hey, we like sex, drugs and rock & roll! We're awesome! Come on over!". Never mind the nationalization of the health care industry...minor issue.

  • Funny nowadays...||

    A lot of the New Left is anal-retentive, authoritarian, anti-pleasure, drug-hating, and sexually puritanical. They can't really enjoy rock n roll very much either.

  • Almanian||

    Why does George Hamilton have horns in the illustration?

  • ||

    I LIKE my "unseemly hedonistic bent."

  • FreeLibertine||

    I know I am a hedonistic libertine.

  • ||

    'cast as amoral calculating rationalists with an unseemly hedonistic bent."

    They say it as if it were a bad thing.

  • yonemoto||

    I feel like I'm none of these, So, I guess, I'm just a socialist that hates government? Will you guys still accept me?

  • JSinAZ||

    How does that work, anyway? Wait for the Millenium with the lions and the lambs sleeping together and all?

  • yonemoto||

    you try to convince people towards "liberal" ends instead of coerce them? And if they don't do it, you exercise your freedom of speech to shame them publically. Other tactics may work, too, like witholding sex, sit-ins, etc.

    Also, I'm really against central planning, so I'm not really a socialist.

  • KD||

    You don't think public shaming is a form of coercion? Either way, that's demanding someone think a certain way. You can try and convince someone sure, but if they won't be convinced, there should be no punishment for not falling in line, which is really what you're advocating.

  • Yonemoto||

    public shaming isn't coercion if it's not government subsidized. You're not holding a gun to the other person's head, and you're not putting a gun to someone's head to pay for your assery.

  • ||

    Yonemoto, of course it is coersion. Examples include the following. If you don't finish your homework, no dessert. If you don't agree with me, no sex. If you don't conform, I'll get everyone to make fun of you.
    Mental cruelty is just an insidious way for you to deny that all socialism is based on coersion, and therefore the opposite of liberty.

  • Yonemoto||

    At what point did I deny that all socialism is based on coersion?

    Besides, public shaming is totally okay under libertarianism. Is our treatment of Max/Chony for their stupider comments "un-libertarian"? what about getting on Rather's back for being such a blogwhore?

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    You're talking about social pressure, which should be acceptable to a libertarian (IMO). It's not really coercion since there's no real force involved (hopefully), and it is preferable to the endless laws that government employs- and then backs up with uniformed gunmen.

  • yonemoto||

    thanks, imp.

  • AJ||

    Interestingly, you've actually articulated what I despise most. Groupthink. Conformity. The article focuses on empathy and altruism, but what really divides me from people like you is my utter hostility towards being told what to think, and going along with the crowd to be popular.

  • Poppin' Caps lock||

    I agree.

  • ||

    Yeah, what Poppin' says. Frankly, I don't even understand why "what other people think" is ever a factor in /anyone's/ decisions or actions.

  • ||

    To ascribe Ingroup, Authority, and Purity characteristics to conservatives, particularly coming from a group of well ensconced academics, strikes me as pure projection.

    The Moral Foundations Questionnaire sounds like nothing more that a hammer in search of nails.

  • ||

    I'm plenty moral and ethical. Even civil. But I'm still a libertarian.

  • Bill||

    Excellent, interesting piece. Explains a lot. But I feel I do have empathy. I am agreeable, conscientious and I am something of an extrovert (more so as an adult).

    I would add that perhaps we are able to use reason (pun intended) to over-ride our emotions if we understand that in the long run you are really not making things better.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "I would add that perhaps we are able to use reason (pun intended)..."

    (intent appreciated, however no pun achieved)

  • Dave||

    I think of libertarians as liberals who can do math.

  • ||

    Thank you! I adore finding true wisdom that will fit on a bumper sticker.

    I am very empathetic so when I was younger I assumed I had to be a liberal. . . but I just couldn't get with the program. And I didn't care enough about other people's sex lives to be a conservative. Finding intelligent people who have similar leanings and who don't find my hedonism 'unseemly' has been a real soul saver.

  • ||

    Flip the switch or push the guy to save five people?
    Either act gets me put in prison while doing nothing let's me walk.
    How's that for a sytemic analysis of the rules underlying behavior?

  • ||

    Pretend you're a cop and say that the guy jumped in front of the trolley. The switch flipped on its own.

  • ||

    Switch? What switch? When they go back to look, there's no switch. There never was one.

  • J. Tiberious Kirk||

    Kobayashi Maru bitches

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Why is morality so widely accepted as a study of what people say they would they do with decisions they will never face?

    Usually someone making the decision "Whom shall I sacrifice to save whom" have long since abandoned any interest in morality and are only interested in being in a position of power. For most people, a day to day moral decision looks more like "Should I work hard today or should I be lazy because I feel tired?".

  • Zeb||

    That is a good point. What difference does it make what you would do about the train. That is not a situation that people find themselves in. And when people do find themselves in difficult life-or-death situations, they are often surprised with how they behave.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    The other side of this is why should we tailor all of society, at all times, to be responsive to the least frequent, least likely occurences. The short answer is that we shouldn't.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    And people who pose these types of questions are zero-sum types. They see life as a series of sacrifices and the purpose of morality is to determine who should be sacrificed and who should benefit from these sacrifices. They have no concept of the type of moral choices most of us face every day which look more like "what improvements could I make to my life?". These types see no difference between that question and this one "at whose expense should I make improvements to my life?". These types are what we call politicians.

  • ||

    I agree, to come up with far out scenarios doesnt really help understand anything. Why not talk about moral choices we actually face--such as when we donate to charity we help people who cannot help themselves, but we may also subsidize or enable someone's addiction or dysfunctional lifestyle. Add coercion (e.g. taxation) into the mix and it gets more interesting.

  • Ray Pew||

    Why is morality so widely accepted as a study of what people say they would they do with decisions they will never face?

    Personally, I think such mental games are designed by people who believe that morality is nothing more than cultural and emotional constructs and use such extreme constructs to corner subjects into answering in a utilitarian manner. Either answer demands one to act in a manner that people generally hold as immoral (causing the death of or allowing the death of others).

  • Fiscal Meth||

    I think you're right.

  • AJ||

    Keep in mind that the people doing the study are on the left, self-admittedly in the article. In other words, this is not so much an accurate picture of libertarians as a picture of what libertarians look like to the left.

  • Gregory Goldmaker||

    How else can you do experiments on people's moral sensibilities? You can't actually put them into situations. You can only ask about how they feel about the rightness/wrongness of things.

  • ||

    Whereupon most will lie, either to preserve their own self images, or to please those who pose the question.

  • yonemoto||

    What the fuck is wrong with libertarians? Clearly the correct solution is to not push the fat man but kill the track worker? Why? Because the worker has implicitly accepted the risks of the job (and the riders have implicitly accepted the risks of the transit). The Fat Man is an innocent bystander.

  • yonemoto||

    besides, I thought utilitarian calculus was the domain of neoliberalism

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Everyone is ignoring one particularly important aspect of this situation: pushing a fat man off a bridge might be really funny.

  • Gary the INTJ||

    Wrong. The fat man was trespassing on railroad property. He assumed the risks of standing on that railroad bridge, where he had clearly had no business being.

  • Robert||

    How fat does someone have to be to stop a trolley?

  • ||

    The true libertarian response is to do nothing at all.

  • Kay||

    Clearly we should push the fat man off the bridge because Obamacare will force us all to pay for his insurance and he's going to cost a crap load. Just keeping it real, folks...

  • Warty||

    This seems like a good place to bust out my favorite idiotic smear of us.

    Libertarianism. A simple-minded right-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic self-regard.

  • ||

    Since I want other people to be free, too, I find it hard to understand that. I suppose if I supported despotic rule with me as the despot, that might be a fair assessment. But I don't.

    I'd prefer a more moral and ethical society--much more--but I don't believe that forcing people to be that way except when absolutely necessary (using force to stop violence, for instance) is a good idea.

  • Brian E||

    Not only is it not a good idea, it's also not moral. Immoral action in the name of creating a more moral society just begets more immorality.

    Also, I don't believe in a world without sin. Conservatives and liberals do plenty.

  • ||

    I would take that one step further:

    You cannot have a relationship of equals when one of the parties is a 'client' (in the Roman sense) of the other. Creating dependency is not the same as loving someone or caring about them. If I want to help someone in a desperate situation, it is because I want to see them as self-sufficient person, not someone under an obligation to me.

  • Bill||

    Yes. Exactly. YOU want them to be free. How self-centered of you.

  • ||

    Busted!

  • Spur||

    Great, we're moral now...what next - successful? - sigh...

  • ||

    ....profit?

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    No, Blow Jobs. Blow jobs for all. 72 blow jobs.

  • ||

    Liberals and conservatives may love people more than do libertarians

    I don't see how that follows from the data presented. In any case, it seems to me that the collectivists "love" people in an abstract way at best--as good little cogs in the collective machine.

  • ||

    I love people.

    20 minutes/pound @ 350. Baste with a wine & mustard marinade.

  • Ray Pew||

    I love people.

    20 minutes/pound @ 350. Baste with a wine & mustard marinade.

    "Cooking with Idi Amin".

  • Warty||

    Mmmmmm, delicious long pig.

  • ||

    "To Serve Man"

  • ||

    "You made Serak the Preparer cry."

  • ||

    Not again.

  • ||

    soylent green is ...people!
    delicious, fat marbled people!

  • ||

    Kind of like roast camel hump. A hot meaty ice cream comes to mind.

  • Mike||

    I think it was talking in the abstract way. The studies on empathy and sympathy generally have more to do with strangers and acquaintances than with close friends.

    It's not "do you feel sad when your wife is sad" it's "do you feel sad when you read that a kid got hit by a car."

  • Fiscal Meth||

    That's where the statist bias sneaks in. If morality is all about hypothetical people I'll never meet or hypothetical situations I'll never find myself in, then the only time I interact in a nontheoretical way with morality is when I vote. Libertarians know morality can only exist in voluntary action and they tend to be more concerned with people they do know and their own actions.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    They love people the way the Walrus loved the Oysters.

  • ||

    Kind of like roast camel hump. A hot meaty ice cream comes to mind.

    Interesting name. Where do you live, Fatty?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "Liberals and conservatives may love people more than do libertarians"

    If love is what makes liberals and conservatives try to rule everyone and collect taxes from them so they can afford to throw them in jail, then all we have to do is make them all hate us and we'll all be free.

    Of course anyone who's not a behavioral psychologist knows that the root of such attitudes is not "Love of people" but "Hatred of the individual"

  • Eric||

    How did the various groups do in the sheep-fucking portion of the study?

  • ||

    Cons: they do it but pretend they don't. Libs: they do it but always want the sheep to enjoy it too. Libertarians: they always share their reefer with the sheep.

  • Kay||

    Reefer is expensive. Sheep prefers grass. I guess you could say they are a sheep date...

  • deluded1||

    http://www.centerforpolitics.o.....010020402/

    Yeah, and he columned this claptrap just a few months ago. I find his objectivity questionable, and the realization of his "liberal bias" even more so.

  • deluded1||

    meh, almost a year...i blame the lack of coffee IV

  • BakedPenguin||

    That he has enough insight to recognize that he might even have a bias puts him ahead of, say, 96% of social researchers out there.

    And about an equal number of climate researchers.

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    gonna go out on a limb and predict lots of trolling on this thread

  • Ray Pew||

    Ughh....psychologists delving into morality can't end well. The research doesn't show who is or isn't "moral", it merely quantifies attitudes people characterize as "moral".

    Moral theory goes far beyond just claiming "fairness" or "like/dislike" and attempts to understand if moral propositions can be objectively known.

    I would love to hear Tibor Machan's take on this study.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Moral survey:
    Would you rather be a good person or a really horrible one?

    Results:
    100% of people are moral!!

    New Information:
    N/A

  • ||

    Well, it depends on who's making the judgement. If it's Pat Robertson, I'd prefer horrible.

  • Tibor R. Machan||

    Mr. Pew anticipates my response correctly. This attempt to make what amounts to moral or ethical all just one school of morality, namely, altruism, is dubious scholarship, to say the least. For more on this, please check my book Classical Individualism (Routledge, 1998).

  • Eric||

    This seems errant to me: in day-to-day life, I do not see a propensity among liberals to buck authority or to help more people, ditto conservatives and being less giving to the poor. IMO, what this study is actually measuring is the self-perception of individuals in a political context: i.e., what one will tell others about his own morality when his political orientation is center stage. This may be why libertarians scored so poorly: in the context of politics, has much good resulted from decision-making based on "fairness", "authority", "ingroup", or "purity"?

  • Cecil||

    This study is nothing more than a series of questions designed to confirm the author's opinions regarding the moral superiority of his own political views.

  • yonemoto||

    libertarians like to say "technology will solve our problems" but I don't see any libertarians contributing out of their pocket to basic science funds, et cetera. They're perfectly happy to have government-run science.

  • yonemoto||

    of course it doesn't help that basic science funds don't exist =)

  • ||

    ---"but I don't see any libertarians contributing out of their pocket to basic science funds"---

    I suppose, then, that you have reviewed tax returns and donation records for all Libertarians and feel confident enough to make this comment.

    Dick

  • yonemoto||

    I'm confident enough to make this comment, because, as I said, basic science funds don't exist.

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    I contribute to science all the time. I am constantly purchasing the goods that scientific progress has delivered, thereby making it profitable for the science to continue. Why do you assume that the science most beneficial to mankind could not turn a profit, thereby requiring a donation?

  • Old Mexican||

    The utilitarian moral calculus is the same — save five by killing one. According to the researchers, libertarians are more likely to resolve moral dilemmas by applying this utilitarian calculus.

    Some libertarians may thik this, but I find it highoy doubtfull. The utilitarian ethic is entirely flawed as it purports to know the future. In the case of the trolley, you cannot know it will kill the person in question if you throw the switch, you can just know that not throwing the switch will kill five. What if the other workman sees the same thing that one sees, and moves away? What if he's Clark Kent? You can't know this at that very moment. However, utilitarians assure us that these results can be known a priori so as to make a determination - Really?

    Actually, utilitarianism relies on HINDSIGHT, that is, in Monday morning quarterbacking. They will say that this or that decision was the result of some cost analysis, but that is unadulterated bullshit - costs can only be known AFTER THE FACT. When people do costing analysis, they based them on PAST EXPERIENCES we call PRICES, not on things that have NOT HAPPENED YET.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Especially, since unlike desert island scenarios, it's been shown over and over that people have more to gain from cooperation in tough situations than they do from fucking each other over.

    And the best way to gain cooperation is to respect each other's rights. Now, where does that leave us, politically?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: BakedPenguin,

    And the best way to gain cooperation is to respect each other's rights. Now, where does that leave us, politically?

    As racist haters who do not worship roads, it seems....

  • Jordan Elliot||

    I love this line.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Somalia must be racist...

  • ||

    It is. You ever see a white guy there? RACIST!

  • ||

    Well there's the important flaw of secretly relying on hindsight, then there's the equally or more important part about libertarians' belief in not murdering people, no matter what "good" might result from murder.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Also, morality is about "How should one live ones life" not "What does one predict one would do in a dire situation that almost everyone will live their entire life without encountering".

    It's also not representative of everyday choices. Inconveniencing one for the convenience of others is not morally similar to killing one to save others. Death is one of a kind.

  • ||

    OM: Aren't current prices really predictions about the future?

  • ||

    Yes, but prices don't determine morality.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Ron Bailey,

    OM: Aren't current prices really predictions about the future?

    Which prices, Ron?

  • ||

    Based on trends of the past, no?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: generic Brand,

    Based on trends of the past, no?

    Exactly - that was the point.

  • ||

    I've always thought this.

    What if the 1 person is on the track he is on specifically because he knows the train isn't coming?

    I think yelling "GET OFF THE FUCKING TRACK! A TRAIN IS COMING!" Would be the best course of action.

  • ||

    I've been to the site, taken all the tests. It's interesting.

    One thing about the moral dilemma tests - the ones involving harming one person to save multiple people. I invariably chose to sacrifice the single person to save the greater number. However, the tests also ask HOW SURE you are that you made the "right" decision. I usually gave myself a very low score on that question. If I had to make a decision like that, I'd NEVER really know if it was "right." That's part of being human - sometimes you have to roll the dice and worry about the moral implications later.

  • ||

    A consistent libertarian wouldn't use the supposed ends to justify the means. Murdering an innocent is always a violation of that person's liberty, no matter how many lives might be saved by it.

  • robc||

    I agree with this. Weirdly, when I think thru it (who knows what I do if actually in those situations, probably nothing) I would throw the switch but not push the fat guy.

    The difference is that in the switch case involves workers both ways, who knew there was some risk of the job, so minimizing it seems reasonable. However, the fat guy is an innocent bystander, that would just be murder.

  • ||

    So if a bunch of terrorists are firing rockets at a building with thousands of people trapped in it, but they have an innocent hostage tied up in the middle of their rocket launcher configuration, would you support destroying the configuration or not?

  • AlmightyJB||

    How pretty are the explosions?

  • ||

    No. Failing to save lives is not equivalent to murder. There's an old Talmudic saying: "There is no arithmetic of souls."

  • ||

    So, you're a pacifist then. (btw, I'm not Jewish so I don't give two jots and tittles about what the Talmud says)

  • ||

    i might have used dropping the atomic bomb as an example...but thats just me.
    Taken to the logical conclusion, we could not have dropped bombs during WW2 because some of the people in Berlin were not supporters of the regime, or even fired at German solders because some of them might not have supported the regime.
    We would neve give vaccines because we don't know who would have an adverse reaction...
    and so on.

  • ||

    The atomic bomb is a perfect example. How many innocents is it acceptable to sacrifice? It's almost certain that the detonation of the atomic bomb accelerated the end of the war, but most experts agree that the end of the war was already coming. Can a utilitarian tell me the numbers here? How many innocents did the atomic bomb save vs how many it killed? This is just another problem with utilitarianism. Not only does it allow any action to be justified by its ends, but it requires perfect knowledge of the future that we can't possibly have.

    The vaccine example on the other hand, makes no sense here. People CHOOSE whether they want a vaccine or not. Just like the fat man has to CHOOSE whether he wants to put himself in harms way to save those people. It is not up to you to decide for him.

  • ||

    I am a pacifist in the sense that I adhere to non-aggression. I am not a pacifist in the sense that I am opposed to all violence.

    And what I said has nothing to do with Judaism. The saying is just an elegant way of expressing the philosophical point.

  • ||

    Well, since those 'innocents' had no problem manufacturing the weapons of war necessary to declare war on the U.S., China, and the pacific rim in order to exterminate the inferior asiatic races, I'd say a fuckload.

  • ||

    Your collectivism is so quaint. If only this issue was really as simple as "all the Japanese were guilty."

  • ||

    So, what do you want? Should we have just bombed Tokyo instead? Or used no bomb, and asked really nicely for Japan to stop? Both the U.S. and Japan were prepared for a mainland invasion of Japan. IIRC, the casualties were expected to reach at least a million in the initial assault.

    A shitload more of innocent civilians would have died had that happened..

  • Q||

    Did you realize that the bomb at Nagasaki killed the largest concentration of Christians in Japan? I suspect they were not as enthusiastic about the war as their compatriots who believed their emperor was a god.

  • ||

    "Did you realize that the bomb at Nagasaki killed the largest concentration of Christians in Japan?"

    Clearly, we should have done intensive reconnaisance and agitprop campaigns to cause dissent. I mean, aside from getting murdered by their own countrymen by the droves, that would have been a stellar idea.. all that while Japanese forces were raping and murdering the shit out of every village they came across.

    Sorry, but you get the government you deserve. If a culture is ingrained with the idea of being the 'master race' and 'death for the emperor', it's not any other country's responsibility to assume the loss civilian of life in the aggressor's nation is just as unacceptable as loss of civilian life in the defending nation.

  • ||

    The real moral dilemma (dilemna?) would be:
    Would you kill 5 known criminals to save one child?

  • AlmightyJB||

    If their total scumbags (serial killers, child molesters, etc) and you could be 100% certain of their guilt no child saving would be necessary.

  • ||

    What if two were such felons, and three were just escaping with them?

    I agree with Cyto and others further down in saying that when you add such qualifiers the point becomes moot. However, our ability to analyze such responses puts us a step above those who would say "1 for the lives of many!" regardless of the actual consequences.

  • Zeb||

    When playing a game of chess with your family as your game pieces, would you sacrifice one of your children to gain certain victory on the next move?

  • ||

    It depends; is that child a pawn or more like a knight?

  • ||

    How much is at stake in the game?

  • Zeb||

    The lives of all of your pieces are forfeit if you lose.

    There was a short story by Kurt Vonnegut with this premise. I can't remember what it is called right now, but it think it was in "Welcome to the Monkey House".

  • ||

    I think "the monkey house" was the people in the zoo story; no chess. There was a Twilight Zone episode with the Big Strong American Hero being forced by his Russian (or maybe Chinese) captors to play chess with his family and some other living people.

  • ||

    Not enough.. Let's play for keeps.
    You in...?

  • ||

    Libertarianism rejects tribalism, socialists, religious authoritarians, progressives etc. etc. all wish to form some kind of tribalism, although they vary a lot they do all share the common fundamental principle that the collective must trump the individual.

    Heres my variation of the Trolley dilemma for the leftists, lets say the person is a leftist hero like Moore or Obama, and the five victims are Tea Party members, would you still redirect the trolley towards the individual to save the many ?

  • ||

    I'm sure the leftists would say that in the long run saving Obama would save so many more people in aggregate whereas letting Tea Partiers die would save all the lives of the innocents they would kill. Leftists are stupid.

  • Juice||

    You can have your tribe as long as you don't force anyone to join.

  • Audrey the Liberal||

    Yes

  • Tim||

    Libertarians scored lower than both liberals and (especially) conservatives on sensitivity to disgust.

    Sugarfree is that you?

  • ||

    I actually have high levels of disgust. It's just directed differently.

  • Realist||

    More pseudoscience.

  • Old Mexican||

    "Libertarians share with liberals a distaste for the morality of Ingroup, Authority, and Purity characteristic of social conservatives, particularly those on the religious right," Haidt et al.




    Bullshit. Haidt and his guys just want to believe liberals are not religious about their own "Paradise on Earth" view. Libertarianism is not about top-down solutions like liberals (and conservatives) espouse.

  • ||

    OM: Can't get more top-down than Yahweh, I say.

  • ||

    With God being whatever moral compass a person has these days, I'd say government is far more top down than God.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Ron Bailey,

    OM: Can't get more top-down than Yahweh, I say.

    Never heard of the guy ;)

  • Pip||

    Really, Ron? Is Yahweh dictating your decisions and actions on a daily basis?

  • Zeb||

    Yaweh is a made up character from a book, so he is probably not telling anyone anything. But some people do hold that worldview and do behave as if directed in that way.

  • Ants||

    We are the penultimate creatures of the Universe!

  • yonemoto||

    Actually, YHWH was sometimes a pretty hands-off type of God, and there's even a libertarian bent captured in 1 samuel 8:18.

  • Joe R.||

    Was he hands-off before or after he murdered nearly everyone on earth by drowning?

  • yonemoto||

    I did say "sometimes". And 1 Samuel is after Genesis, so "after".

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    Actually he was known for heavy-handed intervention in favor of his beloved personal tribe. He even directed several of their military campaigns, going so far as to give specific orders as to the slaying of all the males, and the proper enslavement and systematic rape of the girls and women.

    Zoroaster on the other hand, now there was a hands-off god...

  • AJ||

    Libertarianism does not require atheism, Objectivism notwithstanding. If there is a higher power, his actions are of a different category than what we are concerned with, which is how PEOPLE should treat each other. You can arrive at libertarian conclusions with or without religious faith.

  • ||

    If you save five people (I have not RTFA), do they become your slaves for life? If so....

  • ||

    What if the group of five are members of Obama's cabinet? Or IRS agents?

  • ||

    I believe the five were described as "workers" or "people", so your counter-example does not apply.

  • Juice||

    I love it when people are simply referred to as "workers."

  • ||

    What if they were slackers? What if they were those free riders who won't buy health insurance until they are sick, and then expect the organs of blind orphans to be harvested to save them?

  • ||

    Slackers of the world, unite! Pretty catchy.

  • Your Daily Horoscope||

    Libertarian (21 Vendémiaire--20 Brumaire)
    Low scores on agreeableness indicate a lack of compassion and a cynical, pessimistic, and skeptical nature. Good day to kill yourself.

  • ||

    I wish I could, like, vote on this comment. So I could upvote it 9001 times.

  • ||

    I tried taking that test on yourmorals. I found it too facile to bother with finishing. Vague questions give only vague results.

    And the dilemma questions are skewed toward producing pro-utilitarian results. 1 for 5--if you are sure of the results, as OM right points out--isn't utilitarian, it's a rational choice. Realizing that the true utilitarian choice would also be 49 for 50, or 9,999 for 10,000 or 999,999,999 for 1,000,000,000 makes the games of "what would ya do" take on a more hollow dimension, especially since those choices are never that clear cut.

    Extreme cases make bad law; extreme dilemmas generate fatuous moral stances.

  • Mike||

    But those same studies *do* show a vast divide based on how they are presented and the taker's moral views.

    The trolley car is a classic test. Because there *is* a large difference between the number of people who will pull a level to stop the trolley and the number who will push a fat guy in front of it.

    How much of our media is based around someone refusing to kill somebody to save millions. How dark of a hero would it take to shoot the little boy who's going to destroy the world... it's never the hero who wants to do that, it's the villain, who lays no claim to morality.

    Experiments always simplify the real world down to try to isolate variables. Factoring in the unknown future only changes the calculus.

    You could easily treat the same trolley problem as "divert the track and there is a 50% chance that 2 people will die and a 50% chance that no one will die" and you have the same expected value for the question. But then you're introducing the variable of how people perceive odds, and the irrational way they tend to process chance like that, and you've obscured the basic moral question.

  • ||

    Sorry, Mike, but knowing the future skews the perception of the answerer to make it meaningless. If, in perfect hindsight, you knew the little kid was going to kill millions, shotting him or not shooting him is no longer a moral decision, it's just a decision. Simplified questions yield simplified answers.

    Ignorance of the future is what drives the imperatives of morality, not cocktail napkin math playing with hypothetical lives.

  • Mike||

    You're always acting on your best estimate of the future. If I point a gun at someone and fire, I don't *know* that I'm going to hit him. Maybe I miss. But I know there's a very high probability that he's going to die. Therefore you can approximate the morality of the act.

    In these particular cases, the potential in each situation is similarly high. Technically you don't *know* that the fat man is going to stop the tram. You don't know that the guy on the rails can't dodge. But you have examined the situation and come to a complete belief that nothing else is likely to happen, and you have to make your decision.

    Now, it is *very* possible that the differences they find in these morality questions is based on which, in a real life scenario, has more unknowns in its probability. Still, we must evaluate moral decisions based on what the actor *expected* to happen. In this case, for sake of argument, you expect the fat man to stop the train, and you expect the train to hit the guy on the tracks, and given those expectations, what do you do?

  • ||

    To be clear, I was arguing the premises of the track switching scenario.

    As for the fat guy... no, I wouldn't push him. And I'd question the psyche of someone who even thought it was a good idea to even consider doing so in the first place.

  • ||

    I think the difference between libertarians and liberals/conservatives in the given trolley scenario is that we're willing to fully discuss and investigate the possibilities and moral implications of every available choice. The libs/cons will just answer the question as if it were obvious and move to the next question. I mean, look at their governing styles. Oh, the day when we get to examine a libertarian governing style....

  • Upgrayyed||

    This- a colleague sent me the original survey and the first thing I told him was that it's bullshit and I don't like any of the choices.

  • ||

    A fat guy wouldn't derail a train, so you would kill him for nothing.

  • Robert||

    What if the little kid got enormous joy from killing millions? Who am I to prevent that?

  • Draco||

    Now imagine combining the Trolley Dilemma with the Monty Hall Paradox. How's that for a mind meltdown?

    (For those not familiar with the Monty Hall Paradox, it would play out like this in this case: saving the five people requires you choosing the correct "door" behind which lies the prize - a key which enables the track switch. Door #1, #2, or #3. You pick a door (say #1) and Monty Hall opens one of the other doors (say #2), showing you the key is not there, and offers you to change your original choice (i.e. to #3). But the kicker I throw in is that changing your choice of doors requires sacrificing the fat man. What do you do?)

    PS. No, I am not the villain in the movie Saw.

  • ||

    Wouldn't it be better if the oncoming trolley was behind one of the doors? Just like in the classic fable "The Trolley, The Transit Worker, or the Fat Guy?" by Frank R. Stockton.

  • ||

    I think that was an episode of The Secret Door.

  • ||

    Or maybe a polar bear?

  • Pip||

    My understanding is that the math behind it says to stick with door # 1.

  • Draco||

    No, it's human nature that says "stick with your original choice" - and most people will do exactly that (probably "endowment bias" of some variety - see behavioral economics). The math says switch doors - and it's not even close. Of course, that's why I made the price of switching doors be the life of one fat man. That fact alone should have warned you that your understanding was flawed.

  • Jack||

    If you switch, the odds of winning are 2/3, if you stay the odds are 1/3, and if you randomly stay or switch, the odds are 1/2.

  • Pip||

    Thanks all. Math was never my strong point.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Okay, but once it's revealed which door the switch was behind, those odds mean jack shit.

  • Jack||

    No, those are the odds after a door is revealed. Calculate the total probablities of winning for the two cases where the initial choice of doors happens to be the car or one of the goats.

  • Jack||

    Assume your strategy is to always switch. If you happen to initially pick the door with the car, when the dude opens one of the goat doors and you switch to the other goat door, you will always lose. If you happened to pick a door with a goat and the other goat door is shown to you, you will switch to the door with the car and will always win. There is a 1/3 chance of initially picking the car door and a 2/3 chance of initally picking a goat door. The total probability of winning is 1/3*0 + 2/3*1 = 2/3. Similiar calculation applies to the other strategies.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "saving the five people would require....the fat man. What do you do?"

    I would stop paying attention to what you were saying.

  • ||

    I don't understand this, since when do libertarians allow the coercive murder of an innocent for ANY reason?

  • ||

    All I'm saying is that if I had to push the button and I couldn't refuse in any manner, and it was a certainty that only one person would die rather than five... in that impossible to construct scenario, I'd kill just the one.

    Which is why the whole thing is meaningless as a way to gauge someone's morals.

  • Mike||

    Well, apparently self-identifying libertarians were more likely to in their made-up test than liberals or conservatives. Interpreting that data point is the hard part.

  • ||

    Any libertarian who is not a pacifist must support the "collateral damaging" of innocents in order to accomplish goals in the war. In the scenarios they propose, the deaths are akin to collateral damage rather than murder.

  • ||

    If you don't adhere to the non-aggression principle, why call yourself a libertarian Tulpa? Also, there is a difference between collateral damage, which is accidental, and knowingly sacrificing the few for the many.

  • ||

    Forseeable consequences of freely chosen actions are not accidents, heller. Indeed, in the fat man/trolley example, your only intention in pushing him is to stop the trolley, not kill the man.

  • Cyto||

    So put yourself on the train. Do you flip a switch or push the fat guy off the train to save your own sorry ass? What if your entire family is on the train? and the fat guy is Ted Bundy? Nah, it's all pretty trite.

  • ||

    Of course collateral damage is accidental! No one has the intent of causing collateral damage. That is the definition of accidental. However, the intent of what you are doing doesn't matter when the action itself is killing the fat man. This is not an accident, nor is it collateral damage.

  • ||

    Foreseeable results do not qualify as accidents, even if you really wish the wouldn't happen.

  • ||

    Foreseeable results do not qualify as accidents, even if you really wish the wouldn't happen.

    If you can foresee something happening it isn't collateral damage. What's your point?

    When you push the man, you're not trying to kill him. You're trying to stop the trolley.

    Pushing someone does not, in itself, kill them.

    That's bullshit Tulpa. In the hypothetical it is a given that pushing the man will kill him but stop the trolley. Even if you were just putting him in harms way, it is still a violation of his rights.

    If you weren't actually committing murder, then a libertarian would be fine with it. But this is like saying, "but the I just moved a knife, the fact that the knife cut through this guy's heart, which caused his death doesn't mean that I killed him." In the hypothetical you are knowingly sacrificing the fat man for the five trolley riders. That is murder.

  • Joe R.||

    So the children who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't collateral damage, because we knew it would happen?

  • ||

    Yes, they were the targets of the attack. They were not collateral damage.

  • ||

    ---"If you can foresee something happening it isn't collateral damage. What's your point?"---

    collateral damage  –noun

    1. the killing of civilians in a military attack.
    2. any damage incidental to an activity.

    I would suspect that when you are dropping bombs (or firing artillery or using a rcket barrage) on a factory or other military target, you would foresee that bystanders and adjacent buildings will be damaged. Not purposely, but you understand just the same. It's still collateral damage, not an accident.

  • ||

    http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/.....tm#page180

    Broadly defined, collateral damage is unintentional damage or incidental damage affecting facilities, equipment or personnel occurring as a result of military actions directed against targeted enemy forces or facilities... During Linebacker operations over North Vietnam, for example, some incidental damage occurred from bombs falling outside target areas.
  • ||

    When you push the man, you're not trying to kill him. You're trying to stop the trolley.

    Pushing someone does not, in itself, kill them.

  • Zeb||

    And neither does holding a loaded gun to his head and pulling the trigger. There is a point when the cause and effect are so close as to be the same thing for practical purposes.

  • Zeb||

    War (like government) is at best a necessary evil exactly because you need to make such relative moral judgements. War is always a bad thing. But sometimes it might be less bad than doing nothing.

  • ||

    Why is it my responsibility to murder someone in order to save others? It isn't. Was there an "I choose neither" option and yet still feel bad for the people that got fucked up? The trolley scenario isn't a self-defense scenario. It's pre-emptive war.

  • Yup||

    It's also a hypothetical situation that real people will never encounter. Real people don't live hypothetical lives. Saying isn't doing.

  • ||

    The situation is hypothetical, but there are cases which require one to choose the lesser of evils* - which is where you run into truly difficult moral problems.

    *An example that arose in the Bush administration when there was a disease affecting cattle in Lybia and the US was the only source of vaccine. Do you provide the vaccine and effectively help the Quaddafi regime or withhold it and let his people suffer. (Bush allowed the vaccine to be supplied - which I think was the correct decision.)

  • Yup||

    Bacon and eggs or oatmeal? Now that's a moral dilemma. Choose the former and I'm forcing society to pay for my inevitable heart attack because, of course, I'll go to the Emergency Room™ where treatment is free. Choose the latter and I'll live too long, forcing society to take care of me in my interminable, drooling dotage. I'm having the bacon anyway. Screw the social scientists.

  • waffles||

    NO, WAFFLES!

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Which of these would be a better insight into someone's morality?

    His answer to the question: how many homeless americans would you sacrifice to cure aids?

    Or

    How do you provide a living for yourself?

    It isn't your need to have opinions about Bush's foreign aid that gives rise to your need for morality. It's your need to live life successfully that causes you to develop a system for choosing between right and wrong.

  • ||

    Say, what's the deal with Google commemorating the 50th anniversary of JFK's inaugural address? Considering the things Google doesn't commemorate, this seems extra-wacky. I mean, so what?

    They must be more hardcore "progressive" than I thought.

  • Juice||

    JFK had a lot of libertarian sounding rhetoric. Not too sure how many libertarian policies he had though, but I know he had a few.

  • ||

    He was, of course, a Republican by 21st century standards.

  • Bill||

    I was with a group of colleagues and someone made a joke about being a libertarian. One asked what that was. They were at their computer so I told him to google it. Then I said to Google "classical liberal" instead. They started reading it out loud and then another, older, colleague said: "That's what they used to call a moderate"!! LOL

  • Draco||

    JFK translated: "Ask not what I can do for you. Ask, rather, what you can do for me."

  • Cyto||

    There was a pretty interesting discussion about this on NPR yesterday. The point was about this call to help as a political strategy. It turns out that asking someone to do you a favor gets them invested in your future. They become an ally. They claimed that Ben Franklin said "you want to make a man a friend? Ask him to perform a favor."

    The panel concluded that the army of Kennedy followers' devotion was due to his asking for their service in his cause. They worked for him, and so were invested for life. This seems to ring true - look at the Friends of Bill, or the Reagan Republicans... they hold on to those loyalties through thick and thin.

  • Zeb||

    It's because he got shot. That is the only reason why anyone still cares about Kennedy.

  • Chris Rock||

    Kennedy was assassinated. Tupac got shot.

  • Zeb||

    The two are not mutually exclusive propositions. Kennedy had both happen to him. (Yes, I know it's a joke)

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Libertarians are quite moral, the researchers argue—just not in the same way that conservatives and liberals are."

    This is really a meaningless statement. Charles Manson has morals. Just not the same as everyone else. If you asked him questions about things he would or wouldn't do, you would certainly get some "I would never do that, what kind of person do you think I am" answers.

    I put this study in the same categories as those (Michael Shermer, etc) who "scientifically" try and connect morality to evolution. You have to start with your main conclusion already built into your premise somewhere for it to work. It's all BS.

    It's moral if I say it is, and might makes right, and all of that.

  • Mike||

    It's an issue of definition of terms.

    Libertarians do have a belief system that they follow that rates things as good and bad. One term for that someone who follows such a system is "moral."

    Whether that person is defined as moral under your own belief system, under a universal belief system defined by God, or by a logically consistent philosophically correct system of morality, it is moral under that definition.

    These belief systems are still useful to study and compare even if *you* think that they are wrong.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, I suppose it's semantics to a point. I wasn't arguing against the study, but the statement. Everyone has a belief system they follow so our new lab coat wearing priests saying Libertarians are moral doesn't mean anything. Political differences are based in differences in belief systems. We already know that.

  • ||

    Regarding Shermer, as he is both a religious skeptic and a libertarian, he is trying to illustrate that morals can arise naturally without the need of an all powerful deity handing out random commandments. Essentially he's arguing that "natural rights" arise from a set of biologically set behaviors that come about due to natural selection and are inherent in human (and many animal) societies regardless of the efforts of those who try to suppress said rights.

    Culture and environment may cause differences in moral priorities and ranking but overall there are some absolutes that exist within all human societies. Certain groups and ideologies may arise that pervert or suppress these rights but they exist nonetheless. The most notable are these are don't kill, don't steal, and help those in need. While largely pertaining only to one's in-group, they exist throughout the societies of humankind along with primates and cetaceans.

    This is what Shermer and others like him want to point out. Their theories came about after it was observed that other primates behaved in ways similar to human cultural norms and morality. Morality seems to be an essential part of the behaviorism that arises during the evolution of highly social / high intelligence animals.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I understand that. I read his book on the subject. I found his arguments lacking. I like Shermer. I liked his book, especially his viewpoints on non-duality. I think he's a smart guy and I agree with a lot of what he has to say, but I don't think he's able to prove what he has set out to. In fact, I'm not sure it's possible. As an atheist, I'm quite sure our belief systems did come along in a natural way (more from fear, deception, force and social pressure, than any innate concept of "natural law" but I digress), but I don't think we're going to prove the specifics behind that in terms of evolution. it's way too complex. It sounds great and all but one has to presume way too much as Shermer does in his book.

  • ||

    I'll give you that. As an atheist I too find morality's origins to be a bit fuzzy. I think despite his attempt to use science, Shermer is really delving into philosophy. We may not be able to prove that morals came from evolutionary pressures but that explanation sure beats saying "Cause God said so!"

  • AlmightyJB||

    I'm with you brother. I just want to make sure we remain intellectually honest and not turn it in to just another belief system based on anecdotal evidence. As tempting as that might be:)

  • dhex||

    "The authors note, “We might say that liberals have the most ‘feminine’ cognitive style, and libertarians the most ‘masculine.’ ”"

    a who said what now?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Some bitches on their period whining again...

  • Meh||

    It's a 'scientific' explanation of why this place is such a sausage fest.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Sand in their vaginas.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I first read this as "Send in the vaginas."

    A sentiment with which I must wholeheartedly agree.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Shit...that's another typo on my part. Why does an 'a' look so much like an 'e'?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Of course, we aren't helping the cognitive style become more feminine with these comments...

  • Steff||

    I think they tend to forget that libertarian empathy, compassion and sensitivity are, like everything else libertarian, on the individual level. I'll go through hell for an individual I know, will even help out one I don't, but I don't decide to take over the fucking government to do it.

  • Juror||

    I was a juror on a civil case involving an accident. The injured party was suing for medical expenses. It was obvious that the injured party was at fault in the accident. He even slipped and more or less admitted it on the stand.

    Sure, I felt bad for the guy. But I wasn't going to find in his favor and screw over the other guy. A liberal probably wouldn't have either. In fact I have to assume they wouldn't since I live in a very liberal area and all of us found in favor of the defendant.

    But replace the defendant with the taxpayers and suddenly liberals do a 180. It's okay for ALL of us to be forced to pay A LITTLE for unfortunate things that aren't our responsibility. Or replace it with a corporation, a wealthy individual, or any other demon of liberalism.

    To a liberal, you don't 'care' if you don't like being forced to give up a portion of your income to take care of whatever the liberal cares about - regardless of how you would use the money if it wasn't taken from you.

  • ||

    "To a liberal, you don't 'care' if you don't like being forced to give up a portion of your income to take care of whatever the liberal cares about - regardless of how you would use the money if it wasn't taken from you."

    can't you say that about any elected official who makes decisions with money from a wide group of people who have diverse ideas about how that money should be used?

  • ||

    What if a well-intentioned individual steals medicine and gives it to a sickly child who, saved from premature death, then lives on to become a mass murderer?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: P Brooks,

    What if a well-intentioned individual steals medicine and gives it to a sickly child who, saved from premature death, then lives on to become a mass murderer?




    Well, if your name was Cassandra and you knew this beforehand and still make the choice, then you would be a mass murder enabler. How could you live with yourself?

    Otherwise, you would only be a damned thief for stealing something that does not belong to you.

  • ||

    Hitler already had quite a few million under his belt before anyone decided to take action, and then it didn't work.

  • Juice||

    What if, indeed.

  • ||

    What if one of the victims of the mass murderer was the only carrier of a new, deadly virus that would wipe out humanity if he was allowed to spread it?

    Then what if humanity was standing in the way of the evolution of cats into a spacefaring powerful species destined to rule half the galaxy with justice and mercy?

    But what if the space cats were going to set off a miniature black hole anomaly that destroyed the whole universe?

  • Meh||

    You had me going until you started talking about cats showing mercy. A bridge too far.

  • yonemoto||

    maybe they were big cats. Big cats only go postal when you're assholes to them, you know, like Roy.

  • ||

    I hate cats. They should send them all to Guanxi Province, PRC.

  • James J.B.||

    Lol.

    You saved a child. What he does with that life is his business.

    What if your attempt to "stop" him is the event that sets him off. Everyone has the chance to do evil or good. It is not my, or anyone's, job to be God or judge of the universe.

    Secondly, there is no such thing as future crime.

  • ||

    What if you had the opportunity to travel back in time to stop Hitler but everything you did was what was required to enable his rise to power?

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    What if you become Hitler?!

  • DesigNate||

    There was a Twilight Zone where a girl from the future went back to kill Hitler. She ends up drowning the wrong kid in the river and hangs for it.

  • ||

    I don't understand this, since when do libertarians allow the coercive murder of an innocent for ANY reason?

    Exactly.

    Like it or not, *not acting* is substantively different from murder.

  • billy_ran_away||

    My take on the whole trolley thing is the five workers are/should be aware of the risks of that line of work and are more likely to some compensation setup for death/injury. The innocent bystander's agreed to no such risk and probably doesn't have those same benefits.

    I do agree that whatever one decides for the switch should apply to the fat man and yes it was easier for me to say flip the switch, but when faced with pushing the fat man it made me rethink the whole decision and then change my answer on the switch.

  • robc||

    As I said above, I disagree that they are the same decision.

  • ||

    A fat man will not derail a train.

  • Bill||

    Was it a private or public trolley system?

  • ||

    Sorry, but if you pushed the fat man then I can't consider you a consistent libertarian. Utilitarians can't be tied down by ideology. If someone makes the case that communism creates more "good" than libertarianism, the "libertarian" would have to switch to communism. Libertarianism is fundamentally a moral absolutist system. It can't consistently mix with utilitarianism. Either you believe that the fat man is an innocent who has the right to not be killed against his will, or you believe that the man's freedom is meaningless if it saves five people. You can't have both.

  • ||

    If one's analysis reveals that libertarianism is the most beneficial system of law, then it is certainly consistent with utilitarianism. Communism is known not to be a beneficial system.

    The problem you pose is like saying that a physicist who bases his beliefs on the results of experiment would have to deny gravity if apples started flying up into space rather than falling to the ground.

  • ||

    If one's analysis reveals that libertarianism is the most beneficial system of law, then it is certainly consistent with utilitarianism. Communism is known not to be a beneficial system.

    The vast majority of utilitarians would disagree with you on that Tulpa. And I don't see how you're a libertarian if in any situation you would sacrifice the freedoms of the few for the good of the many.

  • ||

    The problem you pose is like saying that a physicist who bases his beliefs on the results of experiment would have to deny gravity if apples started flying up into space rather than falling to the ground.

    Yes, a scientist would have to reject gravity if repeated experimentation showed that the theory of gravity was false or flawed. That is how science works Tulpa. A scientist cannot have an ideological adherence to any theory. A scientist knows that all theories have the possibility to be false.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Unless the theory is Global Warming/Climate Change, of course.

  • yonemoto||

    eh, scientists have to have an ideological adherence to the principle of empiricism. I guess it's not a theory though. Also, at least a *temporary* adherence to a theory can be really useful in terms of actually doing the fucking experiments, which can be soul-shatteringly tedious, laborious, and low-impact. As long as, one is open-minded in the long run.

  • ||

    I have a problem with the people who are pulling a switch that condemns the one worker as well.

    If, and only if, it was guaranteed the additional worker would not be harmed, then I would pull that switch. If there was any chance at all (beforehand, as we've said hindsight can't factor in) that the worker on the 2nd track would perish, I would not pull that switch. Sorry trolley of 5.

  • Cyto||

    What if it was an empty trolley headed for 5 innocent bystanders. Would you pull the switch and kill the innocent worker to save the innocent bystanders? That removes innocence from the equation.

    What if there are 1,000 people on the trolley? What if you would only cripple the worker, not kill him?

    It is an inherently ridiculous question - these modifications show how it is ridiculous... if a 5 for 1 trade wouldn't be made because of a moral point on violating an innocent's rights, surely there comes a point where anyone would make a trade. Fill the train with people with a fatal virus. Flip the switch (or push fatty) to stop the train from getting away or 2 billion people worldwide die. Trade 1 for 2 billion? Still wouldn't do it? Well, what if we don't kill him. Just chop off his legs? Won't trade his legs (against his will) for 2 billion lives? How about a nasty second degree burn on his finger that really hurts? Would you do that to save 2 billion?

    As long as there's something you'd do in violation of the dude's rights to save someone else, you are a utilitarian. And if you pretend that you wouldn't kick the innocent guy in the sack to save 5 people's lives, you are not being very realistic about yourself either. This is why "theory" and "reality" are not the same thing.

  • ||

    To me it comes down to choice and unaltered consequences. The workers on the trolley chose to be there. The worker on the track chose to be there. As it stands presently, the worker on the track would be spared and the ones in the trolley would perish.

    Now the choice lies with me: act, and doom one man, or do nothing and doom no one. You can't say that my inaction is going to doom the five men. They were already doomed. I only have the option of killing one man, which I choose not to do.

    Of course Congress would step in and use the Commerce Clause to save all 6 people plus somehow tax me in the process. So says the government

  • ||

    Then a person who cuts a skydiver's parachute cables before they jump is also free of any guilt for their death. After all, the skydiver chose to jump out of an airplane at 4,000 feet, and that was the cause of their splattering on the ground below.

  • ||

    Again, you fail to understand the distinction Tulpa. Cutting the cables which leads to someone dying is not equivalent to not saving that person.

  • GOAT||

    I do not identify myself as a libertarian because I like the name of the ideology, I choose the ideology because I believe it goes toward the greater good. If someone proves to me that communism is to the greater good then I would be a communist. There are inherent flaws in every system, libertarianism is just the best option.

  • E||

    Mike???

  • Lifeboat Dilemma||

    What about me? Is it because I'm white?

  • Juice||

    Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology

    Already in the title there is an assumption that is not necessarily true. Nothing about libertarianism says that you have to be "individualist." I always assume that the first principle of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle. Nothing about the NAP precludes organization of people.

    “Libertarians share with liberals a distaste for the morality of Ingroup, Authority, and Purity characteristic of social conservatives, particularly those on the religious right,” Haidt et al. write.

    Ok. Sounds right.

    These results suggest that libertarians are “likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.”

    WUT? What complete BS.

    libertarians “score high on individualism, low on collectivism, and low on all other traits that involved bonding with, loving, or feeling a sense of common identity with others.”

    Ok. Complete crap. It sounds like the whole study was geared toward reaching this pre-determined conclusion.

  • ||

    Of course it was. The hallmark of progressive "science."

  • yonemoto||

    Dude don't even give the first one credit. I was friends with a YOUNG EARTHER, who after 3 years of living inside the beltway as a conservative commentator, decided that politically she considered herself a libertarian... She didn't give a shit if other people did gay sex or pot - but she'd be damned if she did herself. Stayed registered as a republican, and still believes the planet is a handful of thousand years old, though.

  • cynical||

    "Nothing about libertarianism says that you have to be "individualist.""

    Correlation is not definition. It wouldn't shock me one bit to see a correlation between individualist attitudes and libertarianism, any more than it would shock me to see a correlation between personal piety and political conservatism.

  • ||

    I'm a little puzzled by how anyone could think that a political philosophy based on the non-aggression principle is amoral.

    I haven't read the scenario, but does it say that only a fat man can stop the trolley? Or does it give an option of self-sacrifice? Without that option, I don't think it gives you much of an insight into people's real morality.

  • ||

    The liberal/progressive test creator's moral bias shows in the scenario. He would not sacrifice himself. He'd push an obese guy because that guy's life is worth less than his.

    I mean, the guy is killing himself anyway, right? I mean, am I right? Fat tub o' shit.

    /Progressive

  • ||

    Mike Huben has already criticized this study on his blog. As I understand his critique, adults tend to sort themselves out into liberals and conservatives organically; whereas it takes indoctrination from adolescence to turn people into libertarians, usually starting with the reading of pulp novels like Rand's and Heinlein's.

    In other words, libertarians don't really represent a third category on the same level with conservatives and liberals. Children don't organically grow up to become libertarians any more than they grow up to become, say, Mormons, Red Guards or Muslim jihadists.

  • ||

    That's insane. There's nothing hardwired about being a liberal or conservative. Not in the political sense, anyway.

  • ||

    Whatever, PL. Ours is a comic book morality that we got from books we shouldn't have been reading at such a tender age. Tipper Gore was right all along, but she should have burned the science fiction section of the library instead of heavy metal CDs.

  • ||

    Science fiction: A gateway genre.

  • ||

    "Why? Why did I ever little Davie read Chapterhouse: Dune? It's my fault he killed himself!"

  • ||

    I got hooked on Bradbury. They said I could handle it and that it wasn't really science fiction, but they were wrong. I moved on to harder stuff like Heinlein and Asimov, then went straight to the psychoactives, like Herbert.

    What's really sad is that they were providing this stuff at my elementary school. Friggin' permissive 70s.

  • ||

    I got my first Heinlein from a pusher at school. She had shelves and shelves of the stuff. She looked so innocent.

    Don't even try it. Not even once.

  • ||

    You started on Heinlein? Wow, man, that's heavy.

  • ||

    You started on Heinlein? Wow, man, that's heavy.

    I never had a chance, man.

  • ||

    I hear that shit can give you the freedoms real bad.

  • Cyto||

    "I got my first Heinlein from a pusher at school. She had shelves and shelves of the stuff. She looked so innocent."

    Funny you should say that... my pusher was at the public library. I was finished with the "Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys" series and in need of something to read over the summer. There was a book club at the library, so mom took me down there. I read an Asimov novel (Robots of Dawn, I think... it's been 35 years..) for the first meeting. I gave my report first. It wasn't until the second guy went that I learned that 3rd graders don't read Asimov.... It was too late though... she'd already shown me this entire section labeled "fiction" where I could find all kinds of great stuff. Robot dogs in "Fahrenheit 451"... Cool subway flat panel lighting in "Anthem"... who knew I was being indoctrinated? What a great summer... Hydroponics (asimov), space elevators(Clarke), solar sails(Boulle).. fantastic stuff.

  • yonemoto||

    SF, could you treat us with a erotic rendition of that encounter? I'm getting kinda lonely out here in Man Diego, and am too chicken to be seen too often around the innumerable "adult novel" stores, plus that shit is drivel compared to your prose.

  • LeSigh||

    If any Dune title is going to make someone kill himself, it's going to be something written by Brian.

  • ||

    You know that "abomination" Frank Herbert kept talking about? He meant the books his son was (then) going to write.

  • Zeb||

    Eh. He's certainly nowhere close to his father, but I didn't find Brian Herbert's dune prequels unpleasant to read.

  • ||

    Really? I hated them the way that I hate those damned Harkonnens.

  • LeSigh||

    I honestly don't know what drove me to read the whole set. They make Anderson's solo work look good in comparison.

    "Dune 7" was more up to Anderson's typical mediocre quality.

  • ||

    The evidence suggests that our political orientations as adults just rationalize nonrational psychological dispositions based on biology. Men tend to value freedom more than women, for example, because men spontaneously form dominance hierarchies, and lower-status men don't like the bullying and humiliation from higher status men; so we've created ideologies which elevate the value of freedom from the tyranny of dominant males. By contrast, women seek out, or at least tolerate, dependency upon, and submission to, dominant males. This difference shows up in the perception of the Republicans as the Dad Party, and the Democrats as the Mommy Party.

  • Trespassers W||

    The evidence suggests that our political orientations as adults just rationalize nonrational psychological dispositions based on biology.

    Well, researchers could hardly conclude otherwise, given their biology and status in the dominance hierarchy.

  • Cyto||

    By contrast, women seek out, or at least tolerate, dependency upon, and submission to, dominant males.

    Will someone please explain this to my wife?

    I kid honey, I kid!

  • Eric||

    Jesus, you're a condescending prick.

    Also doesn't explain the fact that the freedom-oriented conservatism you describe was mostly an Anglo phenomenon around the 1700s which was later exported by the US and the UK. Most of the world has no concept of a freedom-oriented right.

  • cynical||

    Even outside of hierarchy, men have always had less to gain by submission -- a neighboring tribe that conquers yours will probably execute the males; the baby factories are still useful to them alive.

  • Juice||

    I know that my attitude toward authority and coercion hasn't changed since I was a child.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You refused to eat your peas on principle didn't you.

  • ||

    A child's distaste for authority is usually coupled with expectation of having his or her needs taken care of by others.

    Of the three options presented, the moral philosophy of a child is actually closest to liberalism.

  • Trespassers W||

    adults tend to sort themselves out into liberals and conservatives organically; whereas it takes indoctrination from adolescence to turn people into libertarians, usually starting with the reading of pulp novels like Rand's and Heinlein's.

    Exposure to principled arguments about values = "indoctrination"
    Uncritical absorption of values from surrounding culture = "organically sorting out"

    Of course, someone whose values were arrived at organically is willing to accept this characterization on its face, their brains being all mushy and whatnot.

  • ||

    I guess libertarians want only the parts of the Hayekian argument which support their own agenda, while rejecting the others: None of this "spontaneous order" foolishness when it comes to cranking out future generations of duck-speaking libertarians! We need to impose The Plan upon children's minds so that they all turn out like Rand Paul and Patri Friedman.

  • Trespassers W||

    Seems like a waste of time if our political orientations as adults just rationalize nonrational psychological dispositions based on biology.

  • ||

    Organically ? What exactly does that mean ? I am fully aware that in America likes to divide the country into the blue and the red team, perhaps because it simplifies things. Speaking of the different countries in world, there is no way that society is divided up into two "organic" groups.

  • ||

    Study after study has shown that racism develops organically, too. Just because it happens "organically" does not make it better.

    Civilization is nothing more than the process of countering the bad tendencies that humans develop nauturally.

  • Bingo||

    That's the dumbest thing I've ever read. All he proved is that people are tribalist by nature and try to align themselves with the popular tribes.

  • DesigNate||

    That's funny cause I didn't read Rand until last year. Of course I did read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind from about 22 til he finished the series (still well past adolescence).

  • cynical||

    I can only speak for myself: My libertarianism (though almost certainly rooted in the ornery Tea-Party style conservatism of my parents) was based on a combination of personal experience with authority figures that abused and often were not ethically or intellectually worthy of their power; and an attempt to look at the world as dispassionately and rationally as possible, but still starting from the principles I had been raised with.

    That not only drew my attention to what I perceived as internal inconsistencies in conservative beliefs, leading to me rejecting the moral aspects (not necessarily as personal guidelines, but things worthy of coercion) but also to the general uselessness of conservative politicians in realizing what I perceived as the positive aspects of their philosophy.

    Oh, yeah, and Ultima V probably influenced me more than a little bit -- for someone starting from a conservative background, the message "coerced 'virtue' isn't virtue at all, and can be more evil than the simple absence of virtue" is an invaluable philosophical thought. If the first game I played had been Sim City, I might have turned into a technocrat or something.

  • underzog||

    An oxymoron if ever there was one.

  • X||

    Let's not bicker about who kills who. If they had listened to libertarians in the first place there wouldn't be an out of control government trolley killing people, the six workers would be doing something productive, and the fat guy would still be fat but it wouldn't be anybody's business.

  • ||

    Awesome, Mr. X.

  • ||

    if this guy is so damn fat (and he must be super FAT to stop a TROLLY) how in the hell are you going to be able to push him even a fraction of an inch???
    The question should be rephrased to state: If you had super strength to be able to push a huge fat guy off a bridge to save 5 people, would you do that? And if you had super strength, why don't you just stop the trolly yourself, d*ckwad?

  • AlmightyJB||

    You try and push the fat guy, you fail, he pushes you, you fall on the tracks, you die. Just take a picture of the destruction and sell it to the major networks for large sums of cash. Much better outcome for you, no change in outcome for anyone else.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Maybe it's just trolley in the British sense, you know, a grocery cart. Not sure why that would kill five people, though.

  • Robert||

    I figure the guy is Terry Gilliam cartoon fat, like weighing a literal ton, but that he's teetering on the edge so even a feather touch would knock him off.

  • ||

    When I first read the words "trolley dilemma" I wondered if it was going to be about whether or not there should be a trolley. Boy, was I wrong.

  • Ska||

    Fucking Mr. Rogers and his land of make believe.

  • X||

    fucking trolleys in Somalia, how do they work?

  • Juice||

    In the Trolley Dilemma, was there a choice of yelling "Hey get the fuck off the track, there's a trolley coming right at you!!!"

  • ||

    This was my favorite line: "libertarians are “likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.”

    Liberals don't mind victimization, oppression and unfair treatment as long as the intentions were good or at least the ends justify the means. To them "victimization" might be what happens when your insurance company jacks its rates so it can break even, but kicking a poor black family out of their house so the government can generate more tax revenue is perfectly acceptable. Making poor people dependent on welfare shows their "generosity" while preventing them from starting their own small business via licensing and regulatory laws is wise "for the health/safety of the community." They support keeping poor kids trapped in failing schools because "teachers are such nice people and need job security." They rage about corporations exploiting voluntary, cheap labor for profit, while domestic labor protectionism policies they support would in effect result in third world starvation so GM union workers can get paid $150 an hour to sit around and play chess.

    Libertarians consistently oppose oppression in all forms (besides self-oppression). We will protect your rights to the fullest but we can not save you from your own stupidity or ignorance because that would be condescending and authoritarian. Libertarians just need to work on marketing their outrage better to a more diverse coalition and garnering sympathy for the human face of oppressive government policies. Rationality over emotion is an excellent foundation for basing our policies, but libertarians often forget that the emotional factor is absolutely critical in gaining the power to change the policies.

  • sarcasmic||

    You cannot use rationality to convince someone who only cares about what they feel.

    In fact it can have the opposite effect. Say you give a fact based logical argument that totally destroys theirs that is based on feelings. The result will be them feeling angry and solidifying their opposition to your position.

  • ||

    For me personally, I accept much of the Left's premises and cater to their emotional orientation to seed the rational argument. Using their own jargon, sympathy for the oppressed and their desire for moral superiority, I argue that their policies are counterproductive to their own desired ends. This at minimum gets you a hearing (as opposed to being immediately tuned out), then concessions at the shortcomings of their own policies and trust in government solutions, and finally either doubt in their entire ideology or the recognition that they prefer command-control authority to actual progress.

    The Left (not the politicians but those who buy the policies) generally want to feel like they are "doing good," and if you can prove to them their policies are counterintuitively propping up megacorporations, hurting the poor and minorities, and giving your future political opponents undesireable political powers to use against you, actual progressives who aren't intellectually dim, power-fetishizing authoritarians should be receptive to libertarianism - if it's not marketed as being right wing nihilism.

  • Draco||

    ...right-wing nihilism

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: sarcasmic,

    You cannot use rationality to convince someone who only cares about what they feel.

    Tell me about it:

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/01.....nt_2092730

  • Jill||

    “moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.”

    So that’s a moral appeal I, thought it sounded like whining.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Interesting conversation on the radio last night. Here locally in Columbus, OH in city near a metro park a man showed up naked and bloody in freezing weather at a mans house asking to be let in. the man refused but called 911. By the time the police arrived (12 minutes later), the man was gone. He wasn't found until the next morning, dead in someone's shed. Several callers thought that the man who did not let him in should be charged with manslaughter (they were very sanctimonious about it), most callers though thought that was ludicrous and that the man's first responsibility was the safety of his family and that calling 911 was the right thing to do.

  • ||

    Bravery in hindsight is the worst form of cowardice.

  • ||

    I probably would have grabbed a gun, a blanket, and a first aid kit. Then I would have given him the blanket, sat him down by the fire, given him the first aid kit, and waited for the cops to arrive, never getting close enough for him to make a move.

    I don't have kids though.

  • ||

    I saw a little bit of that story.
    Raises questions:
    Did the homeowner say he was calling the police, and tell the guy to wait for help?
    12 minutes seems an excessive response time for what could be considered life or death situation (Ohio, at night, in winter).

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, I don't think they really provided that info. I know it was around 1 am. Yeah, in hindsight maybe you throw a blanket out the window for him or something, but awaken at night by a naked bloody guy banging on your door you're probably not at your sharpest.

  • ||

    In other words, libertarians don't really represent a third category on the same level with conservatives and liberals. Children don't organically grow up to become libertarians any more than they grow up to become, say, Mormons, Red Guards or Muslim jihadists.

    Wow. Go back under your bridge, please.

  • ||

    Let's not bicker about who kills who. If they had listened to libertarians in the first place there wouldn't be an out of control government trolley killing people, the six workers would be doing something productive, and the fat guy would still be fat but it wouldn't be anybody's business.

    Most excellent, Sir.

  • ||

    The two variations on the trolley test strike me as being substantively different.

    On the flip the switch version, you are essentially choosing whether a trolley which can't be stopped will kill one, or kill five.

    On the push the fat man version, you have a trolley that can be stopped by a body on the tracks. If you can push somebody onto the tracks to stop the trolley, you can jump onto the tracks yourself to stop it. The choice to kill someone else rather than sacrifice yourself is, to my mind, the real illuminating choice.

    So, I don't think the two variations are comparable at all, and its no wonder that they give different results.

  • sarcasmic||

    If you can push somebody onto the tracks to stop the trolley, you can jump onto the tracks yourself to stop it.

    I think the assumption is that you're not fat enough to stop the trolley.

  • ||

    Sure, sure, but that version still puts you in a position to sacrifice yourself (even with the bizarrely arbitrary assumption that (a) wouldn't be true and (b) that you couldn't know about at the time anyway), while the switch version does not.

    I think that completely changes the moral calculus.

  • sarcasmic||

    If you're not fat enough to stop the trolley then it is merely suicide, not sacrifice.

    If you push Tony in front, and he's not fat enough to stop the trolley, then at least you'd never have to deal with his inane bullshit again.

    I vote to push Tony in front of the trolley and then flip the switch.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    OHHH I'm fat enough.

  • Tim||

    WHat if, instead of a trolley it's a high speed train with one (subsidized)rider derailing in a densely packed neighborhood?
    Ridiculous? It's actually something that's planned. A derailments, statiscally are foreseeable.

  • Bingo||

    But if it's the California High Speed Rail, then it's only been built in the middle of no where and there are likely to be fewer casualties but higher subsidies and thus a higher tax burden if you damage the thing.

  • Ragnar||

    Flick the switch? Yes. Several dozen times. Confuse the switching mechanism and force it to the middle instead of to one track or the other.

    Push the fat guy? No. 1) a trolley car in San Fransisco (I use that as a standard "trolley car") weighs approx 16,000 pounds unloaded and moves at 9.5 mph. 2) a fat guy big enough to derail or stop a moving trolley car would be waaaaay too big to push by my 180 lb frame.

  • Trespassers W||

    "I'm gonna make it jump the tracks!"

  • ||

    Wow, what a weakling.

    You could just trip him and then roll him onto the tracks. Use some imagination.

  • An Example of Dem Morality||

    "The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner holds a State Dinner for a man who has the 2010 winner under House Arrest."

  • Radio Monitor||

    So you listen to Rush L. He was beating that drum this morning.

  • ||

    The evidence suggests that our political orientations as adults just rationalize nonrational psychological dispositions based on biology.

    The evidence also suggests (quite strongly) that you are a blathering imbecile.

    Or, possibly, a random phrase generator.

  • NoVAHockey||

    You push the fat man because he's part of the obesity epidemic that's contributing to increased health care cost for all.

  • omg||

    Would you guys really flip the switch? I wouldn't flip the switch or push the fat guy.

  • Bingo||

    I think my answer would probably be contingent on whether the trolley was government-subsidized and if the fat man was either a politician or an unelected bureaucrat.

  • ||

    Dems and Republicans have their cultures and culture wars....from what i can see the whole thing is lame.

    I see no reason why libertarians should create their own culture and jump into the fight.

    I have no idea why Baily wants to get us involved in it.

  • cynical||

    Didn't they run the same article a while back?

  • MNG||

    "The utilitarian ethic is entirely flawed as it purports to know the future."

    Du, any consequentialism is going to be based on guessing the consequences. But it's hardly the unknowable thing OM describes it as, we guess everyday whether x or y will better increase the welfare of the people around us, for example when we give our wife flowers instead of tickets to UFC 175. According to OM's "reasoning" we might as well buy our wife a gift at random because we can't "know the future" about what she will want on her birthday...

  • ||

    So guessing is the same thing as knowing? Glad to know you are willing to take guesses and risks with other people's lives.

  • MNG||

    I don't think it would be hard for me to think of situations where you have to guess what someone is going to do in order to save a life. Of course you'd better be right, utilitarianism endorses the idea of the probability being factored in.

  • ||

    Not that it matters. Sacrificing the few for the many is still wrong, even if you do actually save the many.

  • MNG||

    The many who would have been saved thank you for your purity!

  • ||

    True selfishness is demanding that others sacrifice for your benefit. Isn't there a word for that.... Oh yeah: slavery.

  • yonemoto||

    well it's not as long as the few have given their consent for you to make that judgment on their behalf.

  • ||

    Too bad that has nothing to do with the moral problem we are discussing...

  • yonemoto||

    I know, I was just being traditionally libertarian nit-pickey.

  • ||

    You're walking down the street alone, carrying a concealed pistol, at 1 AM and a guy with a knife in his hand stops you and asks for your wallet.

    You don't know for sure what will happen if you say no and try to walk away. What do you think is the right thing to do, since you're not allowed to coerce based on a guess?

  • yonemoto||

    ? Didn't the coercion already happen when the knife was pulled out?

  • cynical||

    Tulpa just said it was in his hand, not that it was pointed at you. I suppose, by that logic, putting your pistol into your hand in a non-aggressive manner would also not be coercive, but it might be a good idea to do it before saying no.

  • ||

    Are you retarded Tulpa? Threatening you with a knife is an initiation of aggression. You have the right to defend yourself.

  • ||

    Try again Tulpa, this time use an innocent

  • cynical||

    I think it's like reason versus instinct -- your instinct can often be wrong because evolution is a slow and statistical process, and it may be more appropriate for a pre-human ancestor or tribal human; on the other hand, reason can be wrong when a situation is too complicated to fully understand the consequences or make bad assumptions or logical mistakes -- instinct has the advantage of being based solely on the millions of years of "did it work?"

    Heuristic morality is the equivalent of instinct, the product of cultural evolution. Utilitarianism (while still founded in heuristic morality at some point) is more about applying reason and logic to minimal set of moral premises. Generally, you're better off using both to check one another and trying to examine the places where the results differ in detail.

  • ||

    I don't think the Trolley scenario is all that easy.

    What if the fat guy was Rush Limbaugh or Barney Frank, or Jerry Falwell, Or Warty vs. Christina Hendricks, Kiera Knightly, and three Dallas Cowboy Cheeleaders?

    I think I'd cream in my jeans to watch any of these guys get splattered. But I couldn't kill Warty though, not even if you held a gun to my head.

    What if the 5 people were the Jonas Brother, Joni Mitchell, and Barbara Streisand vs. Edgar Allen Poe? Hell, I'd be looking for a loop switch so that the trolley could go over and over and over the five

  • Warty||

    But I couldn't kill Warty though, not even if you held a gun to my head.

    *sniff* I've never had such a nice compliment.

  • ||

    Just in case we're ever in San Francisco together, I'd like you to know that I'm not heavy enough to stop a trolley.

  • Warty||

    If we're ever in San Francisco together, I will sell you to the Chinamen.

  • benthamite||

    This is interesting to me because I used to definitely fall into this category (of adhering to a libertarian morality) but when I thought it through, I realized (perhaps mistakenly) that although Libertarian moarlity is very easy to follow logicaly (its much easier to define and is more parsimonious than other ideologies) that there is no absolutely logical basis for accepting this morality in the first place so while moral libertarians once they make the irrational jump into libertarian ethics then begin to be logical so really my question that I want help with is
    what is the basis for libertarian morality? (Ive looked at objectivism and think it has the same problem despite the fact that it masquerades as the only logical system of morality grounded in reality)

  • benthamite||

    This is interesting to me because I used to definitely fall into this category (of adhering to a libertarian morality) but when I thought it through, I realized (perhaps mistakenly) that although Libertarian moarlity is very easy to follow logicaly (its much easier to define and is more parsimonious than other ideologies) that there is no absolutely logical basis for accepting this morality in the first place so while moral libertarians once they make the irrational jump into libertarian ethics then begin to be logical so really my question that I want help with is
    what is the basis for libertarian morality? (Ive looked at objectivism and think it has the same problem despite the fact that it masquerades as the only logical system of morality grounded in reality)

  • ||

    What exactly do you mean by a "logical basis" for libertarian morality? What moral philosophies have the basis you say libertarianism lacks?

    I'm just not clear on what you're getting at. The basic tenets of libertarianism don't seem to me to be any more ephemeral or arbitrary than those for any other system of moral thought.

  • benthamite||

    completely agreed "The basic tenets of libertarianism don't seem to me to be any more ephemeral or arbitrary than those for any other system of moral thought" but why should respect for the liberty of others be what determines the rightness or wrongness of an action rather than fairness or purity or any other standard for that matter (maybe this is just a ridiculous question like "why do I like turkey sandwhiches rather than fried chicken)

  • yonemoto||

    you're an idiot. Any real moral system has to bootstrap from something. Even moral relativism must accept the morality of relativism as a prior.

    What libertarians, I think, strive for (to varying degrees of success) is a consistency in positions that derive from their priors. Libs and Conservatives tend to just have "laundry lists" of things that they are supposed to believe, even if when examined closely they derive from sometimes contradictory premises.

  • benthamite||

    I agree that libertarianism is much more consistent internally than "laundry list" conservatism and liberalism, I was just curious if theres any reason for accepting it in the first place (which i now see is probably foolish expectation)
    but so theres no reason for bootstrapping into libertarinism over liberalism or conservatism or even a completely ridiculous standard to measure the moral value of an action?

  • yonemoto||

    the reason why "no two libertarians can agree on anything" is precisely because libertarians tend to choose slightly different priors. The orgins of property rights is a big one, for example, resulting in widely diverging opinions on the role of intellectual property.

  • ||

    you're an idiot.

    He reads like a language parser, not an idiot. Ignorance is not stupidity..

  • ||

    Yeah, ok -- you're saying that a liberty-based morality has no more objective basis than, say, a religion-based or community-based morality. Like you said, to some degree it's simply a matter of inexplicable preference.

    I'm clearly biased, but personally I think that libertarianism does have an objective justification. Or, rather, it acknowledges that moral objectivity is actually impossible, and that no single person is more capable of describing how people "should" live than any other person.

    I see libertarianism's respect for the individual as a result of this idea that people are and always will be unable to assert their own moral judgment over that of their fellow man with any objective justification. In other words, recognizing the lack of objective morality gives way to the only objective morality. Or something.

  • benthamite||

    well i was hoping someone would tell me im completely wrong this is why libertarianism is the best for reason x, i guess your explanation sorta works
    I wonder if libertarians are logical because were a small group and as a result a libertarian would have to alot more original thinking instead of just "learning" an inconsistent list of things which are good or bad

  • yonemoto||

    "people are and always will be unable to assert their own moral judgment over that of their fellow man with any objective justification"

    I don't know, North Korea seems to be able to "assert their moral judgement" quite well.

  • Zeb||

    It's the "objective justification" part that is tricky. There is no doubt that people are quite capable of asserting their moral judgment.

  • yonemoto||

    ssh don't tell the objectivists.

  • Zeb||

    What Ryader said is pretty much why I see libertarianism as the superior political philosophy. Everyone's basis for morality has some basis in their own personal preferences. Libertarianism differs from other political philosophies in that it incorporates this fact. Everyone gets to decide what is good and important for themselves, as long as they don't force anyone else to go along with them. In a libertarian society, there is nothing to stop people from voluntarily joining together to be communists, religious fanatics, or whatever. It just has to be voluntary.

  • ||

    In the new study, Haidt and his colleagues note that libertarians score low on all five of these moral dimensions.

    Yes! I think I'll treat myself to that new monocle I've been eyeing.

  • IceTrey||

    This study fails because it doesn't separate objective morality from subjective morality.

  • Tony||

    What's objective morality?

  • IceTrey||

    Morality deals solely with actions. Objective morality deals with actions between individuals. Subjective morality deals with actions that affect just the individual.

  • ||

    I scored zero on the purity test.

    I was pleased.

  • ||

    Isn't there just one moral dimension, that being liberty and to what degree it is defended or limited?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    How do you arrive at the conclusion that man should be free? I think that the fact that he must weigh choices rather than rely on instincts for survival is why he must be free. Weighing choices in order to survive is a moral process and is necessary to form the concept of freedom.

  • Michelle Obama||

    I would push the fat man.

  • Zeb||

    This is a very pleasant and interesting thread.

    Philosophy is so much more satisfying than politics.

  • ||

    Philosophy is like solving physics problems where you are told to ignore the effects of friction, stretching and so forth. It works out nicely on paper but fails in the real world. Politics forces you to see the results and have to tweak your ideas.

  • NT||

    Libertarians value individual liberty above all! Shocking finding! Libertarians are… libertarians! This was an entirely unsurprising analysis. The last paragraph however strikes me as unfounded, and pure editorial tendentiousness.

    From my perspective, the lack of empathy and altruism evinced by most spokespeople for libertarianism is the gravest problem with the philosophy. Individualism has great value, certainly, but I do not believe that it encompasses the whole story of what it means to be fully and optimally human. There are important values that are best experienced and expressed in community. (And in a complex society, government is sometimes the best way to do that and the marketplace sometimes the worst.)

    The high level of intellectual arrogance and discounting of "traits that involve(d) bonding with, loving, or feeling a sense of common identity with others," the constant insistence that rationality and emotion must be opposed to one another, and the underlying premise that human culture is fundamentally the same as Hobbesian nature—red in tooth and claw—makes for a relentlessly ungenerous perspective. And any "systematizing" that doesn't take into account the value and role of emotions like compassion, empathy, love, kindness, generosity, and belonging in "the rules that govern behavior in nature and society" is bound to fail, in my view, because those feelings and motivations are endemic—indeed, central—to human nature. No one is an island.

    The underlying premise of much libertarian punditry seems to be: "we are smart and rational, and if you don't share our priorities and perspectives you are stupid and a slave to your emotions." (And, apparently, "feminine!" Horrors! ...What the hell was the point of THAT observation?) Needless to say, I find the general attitude to be both mistaken and unconstructive.

  • ||

    Most libertarians probably do not believe that empathy and altruism are actually bad, simply that they should not be forced. In my opinion forcing people to be altruistic actually does not make it an altruistic action in the first place.

    Most libertarians probably have families and love someone and live in a community, they do not however think it should be forced. I struggle to see how making socialist like laws makes for better communities, I see the opposite happening.

    Libertarians do not advocate each man living on an Island, but have no problem if someone does want to though.

    There are some libertarians that might take the high brow approach, but compare that to the number of high brow leftist academics out there, it is not a big number. But given the choice between a "know it all" big government type versus a "know it all" libertarian, I will take my chances with the libertarian, the worst the libertarian can do is annoy someone on the internet.

  • sevo||

    "...the underlying premise that human culture is fundamentally the same as Hobbesian nature—red in tooth and claw—makes for a relentlessly ungenerous perspective...."

    Nice try, now how about leaving your strawman in the closet. It doesn't look good on you.

  • YT||

    Hilarious. What you use the force of government for should be extremely limited. You would seek to force people to be compassionate by the point of a gun. Again, truely hilarious.

  • Ral||

    Libertarianism is a world movement for rights and voluntary solutions. Unfortunately, many people project their own pre-occupations, including psychologists. For action by world Libertarians see http://www.Libertarian-International.org

  • sharx||

    What if you choose to give the fat man an icecream cone? How immoral is that?

  • Robert||

    What, like hang the ice cream cone out over the bridge?

  • ||

    "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

    -William Pitt

    This is the plea of utilitarianism, in which the most brutal actions can be justified as "necessary" to reach a certain end.

  • Tony||

    As opposed to dogmatism, which will shove a "brutal action" up your ass and tell you it's good for you.

  • YT||

    Does the idea of the man being "fat" play into the equation? Just interested as to why the question is phrased that way. Maybe trying to flush out some "Seven-like" John Does?

  • Bill Adams||

    I'm guessing he's especially fat to explain why he alone can stop the trolley (otherwise the first of the five guys would already be poised to save the other four). It may also be that if you point out that you could jump in front of the trolley yourself without killing anyone, the tester replies that you are not fat enough, there are only the two choices.

  • Bill Adams||

    I'm guessing he's especially fat to explain why he alone can stop the trolley (otherwise the first of the five guys would already be poised to save the other four). It may also be that if you point out that you could jump in front of the trolley yourself without killing anyone, the tester replies that you are not fat enough, there are only the two choices.

  • ||

    How does a Libertarian weigh the rights in late term abortions? I'm personally ambivalent before the child is viable - if the mother doesn't want it, why should I care? Forcing a reluctant mother to carry a child to term, and then entrusting her with the well-being of the child, strikes me as foolish and heartless in the extreme, especially for the child. But it seems that the balance changes when the child reaches a point of viability, and can survive separately from the mother. Certainly the child is still the beneficiary of the mother's nutrition, and presumably her guardianship, but can it still be considered no more than the mother's appendage, to be disposed of as she pleases? It seems to me that if the child is able to live separately from her, then the kid has some rights, and can't be clipped off and discarded as though it was a lock of hair. But how would a Libertarian go about forcing a mother to responsibly carry the child to term? The thought is almost as repugnant as what the mother plans to do to the child, and unless immediately separated from the mother the child’s prospects are miserable at best. So – is there a balance to be struck, and if so enforced, or is it better to just look away and trust Karma to sort things out?

  • ||

    Give me liberty or give me death-----Patrick Henry

  • ||

    Why do you Haidt America, buddy?

  • bigfoot9p6||

    Sounds like the libertarian morality has a lot in common with that of the rattlesnake. Screw who you want, screw over who you want, I don't care. But if I see you, and I'm hungry you are gone. After that I will find a warm rock and sleep like a baby.

  • ||

    "... the most important and intriguing fact about libertarian morality: It changed history by enabling at least a portion of humanity to escape our natural state of abject poverty. Libertarian morality, by rising above and rejecting primitive moralities embodied in the universalist collectivism of left-liberals and the tribalist collectivism of conservatives, made the rule of law, freedom of speech, religious tolerance, and modern prosperity possible."

    Wow. Written masturbation, perfected!

    Congratulations!

  • Vishal||

    As an atheist libertarian, this article describes me to an uncomfortably accurate degree. Utilitarian calculus can solve anything!

  • ||

    Who cares? Do whatever you want. If you like money, then work hard or just take it. Then complain about taxes because you like having money, or don't if you can rationalize it as helping people. Do drugs, don't do drugs. Have a family if it makes you feel good about yourself, or don't because it's boring.

    Find religion if it makes you feel good, or don't because it's bullshit and makes you feel smart to be an atheist or whatnot. Even harass people who are not like you. You only live once. eat chicken or pizza, whatever suits you.

    I'm justing saying have no morals or have a lot that you like to post on the internet, because you like to do that.

  • ||

    Pardon me if I say the entire trolley scenario sounds ridiculous. What right does anyone have to throw the switch and play God? The railroad worker, through an act of God, Fate, or random chance, is minding his own business out of harm's way until somebody decides to sacrifice his life to save five other people who have no greater or lesser right to live than he does. How is flipping the switch either moral or heroic? Just sayin'...

    Be that as it may, this is a good article.

  • ||

    I'm a life-long libertarian--none of this, of course, is news to me.

  • ||

    I think it wrong to characterize libertarian morality as somehow anti-social and hyper individualistic. The difference between libertarian morality regarding such matters as concern and care for others is not that libertarians think people should take care of themselves; the difference is that libertarians think that people should be able to choose their associates, choose who they take care of and who they don't - in essence, that libertarians believe in moral reciprocity.

    It is actually non-libertarians who strip from human relations moral obligations. If you must be loyal to members of a group, show compassion to a category of person, love the poor in general but know nothing about any poor person in particular, then you are not exercising any kind of moral judgment; instead, you are avoiding confronting the possibility that someone merits love and compassion and assistance while someone else does not.

    In other words, libertarian morality, compassion and charity is a lot closer to Christian notions of compassion and charity. After all, if the sinner is unrepetent, then they do not receive forgiveness and absolution. Further, some kind of actual penance is required from the sinner.

    The libertarian does not see all poor people as worthy of the charity of all people who have money. Instead, they insist that anyone needing charity be subject to moral scrutiny from those who give it.

    The so-called gap between this and Christianity (and Judaism and to some degree, Islam) is quite small. Contrary to the feel good pseudo-Christianity of a uniformly compassionate God that will forgive everyone all their sins, God is actually very, very demanding in terms of each person's conformity to his laws.

    Thus liberals who want to have their money indiscriminately spent on charity by bureaucrats are morally irresponsible. They talk about morality, but evade the hard work of getting to know the actual objects of pseudo-charity and exercise any kind of judgment as to who merits it and who doesn't. The result of this is that resources that should be going to actual victims, the actually needy, the actually repetent are scattered to the undeserving - thereby encouraging immorality and discouraging those in genuine need from righting their lives.

    That is why so many libertarians so admire those who pull themselves up by their boot straps, without any assistance from amoral bureaucrats. They recognize that they have righted themselves against overwhelming odds. Christian morality, which is hard -not easy, sees righting the soul as the greatest human accomplishment and recognizes that doing so always goes against the odds.

  • ||

    i must admit that i am in favor of liberty. if that makes me a bad person, f. u.

  • ||

    These "scientific studies" appear to presume that values like "fairness" are themselves objective. They're not. The liberal/marxist understanding of fairness is quite different from the libertarian. The outcomes are determined by which standard is used. In short, garbage in, garbage out.

  • ||

    1. Psychology is not "science and neither is "Sociology". Either's claim to be able to define, objectify or "measure" moral percepts is a wholly laughable scientific claim, and is wildly beyond the rather limited metaphysical basis of science.

    2. "Objectivism"/Libertarianism is not a "Philosophy", at least not in the formal sense. It is a political economic frame of reference or at best a reasoned framework of opinion.

    3. #1 can never approach #2, and neither can formal philosophy approach #2. It is a poltical matter.

    One could call this "study" "Scientism", but in fact it is merely Leftist propaganda hiding behind a spurious "appeal to authority", in this case that authority is "Science".

  • Bill Adams||

    I'm glad to hear that Haidt has finally realized there's more to the moral and political spectrum than the world according to NPR. His book "The Happiness Hypothesis" is full of good stuff, but slowly comes apart due to his blinkered feeling that there are only left-liberals (whom he regards as completely tolerant, which of course requires disregarding the many issues on which they are in fact authoritarian or priggish) and repressively religious types (whom, for fairness's sake, he must manfully try to see the side of, a little). Like many of my liberal friends, he can't imagine a conservative who is also an atheist (though they're not that uncommon), much less a libertarian. But he's wising up. Good on him.

    Meanwhile, on the trolley question, I agree that from a rational moral standpoint, throwing the switch and throwing the fat man are the same decision, but I'm surprised more libertarians don't question the right to make that decision. It's one thing if I have voluntarily entered into responsibility for all these guys -- if they are soldiers under my command, and I have a duty to preserve the greater number. But if they're all strangers, I know plenty of people who are worth more, in terms I value, than five other people I know of. When the wife of the sacrificed man asks my right to play God and kill him when he was going to live, I think I would need much bigger numbers on my side. Kill a man to save a whole city full of people, I could imagine that. (Even then, I wouldn't walk away whistling.) What do y'all think?

  • ||

    So, looks like libertarianism has all the hallmarks of a personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder (what used to be called sociopathy) to be specific. Not surprising since most people take on libertarianism in adolescence - a stage of development when sociopathological traits are prominent. Most people continue to develop into complex, mature adults, some, however, stay stuck.

  • ||

    Wow, what a compelling troll. I know, I'll fall for it. That'll show you!

  • Bennett Callaghan||

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  • ||

    I think this research should be treated very gingerly, especially in regards to the findings on 'empathy'. In fact, I don't understand why the author of the article has taken it at face value, apparently without qualification. Concerning the supposed empathy of liberals, what is one to make of the disregard of minority opinion in regard to school vouchers? Or the way in which ethanol has been promoted without regard to the effect on food prices in Third World countries? Or the tendency to either ignore the plight of women in various non-Western societies or to equate genuine (and sometimes horrific) oppression with life-style quibbles of feminists in the West? In this connection, there's also the discussion in Who Really Cares that seems to run counter to the results/assumptions of the research under review. All these incidents seem to indicate a rather self-centered perspective without any capacity for genuine empathy. If so, then this research seems to be more about shoring up a self-serving narrative than about extending our knowledge of the psychological correlates of political identity.

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  • ||

    American founders were libertarian?

    John Locke was the first to declare "Life, Liberty, and Property" as our inalienable, fundamental rights. In John Locke's First Treatise, “extream want” confers a “right” to the “surplusage” of another. If the man in plenty denies his “surplusage” to the one in need, and that man starves, he would seem to be guilty of murder. Thomas Jefferson agreed "It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want."

    "When economic power became concentrated in a few hands, then political power flowed to those possessors and away from the citizens, ultimately resulting in an oligarchy or tyranny." John Adams

    They all seem to value empathy and fairness as much as freedom.

    Here's one thing liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have in common: we all reject authority, at least the notion of absolute authority, .

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