The Science of Libertarian Morality

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


When it comes to morality, libertarians are often typecast as immoral calculating rationalists who also have a somewhat unseemly hedonistic bent. Now new social science research shows that libertarians are quite moral, just not in the same way that conservatives and liberals are. 

University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done considerable previous work probing the moral differences between American liberals and conservatives, but came to recognize that a significant proportion of Americans did not fit the simplistic left/right ideological dichotomy that dominates so much of our political and social discourse. Instead of ignoring outliers, Haidt and his colleagues chose instead to dig deeper. The result: A fascinating new study, "Understanding Libertarian Morality: The psychological roots of an individualist morality ideology." that is currently under review at The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In probing the moral thinking of libertarians, the study uses the "largest dataset of psychological measures ever compiled on libertarians," involving moral surveys of more than 10,000 self-identified libertarians gathered online at the website, used by 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, Irvine.

So what did the study find to be the basis of libertarian moral thinking? It will not surprise Reason readers that the study found that libertarians show (1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, (2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and (3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.

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 and much higher on Ingroup, Authority, and Purity scales. In this case, libertarians scored low on all five surveyed 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," notes the study. Libertarians scored slightly below conservatives on Harm and slightly above on Fairness. This suggests that libertarians "are therefore likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly."

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 value Universalism less. Universalism is defined as "understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection of the welfare of all people and nature." All three put high value on Achievement. 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 by failing to include a sixth moral foundation, Liberty. They developed a liberty scale to probe this moral dimension. (Sample values: People who are successful in business have a right to enjoy their wealth as they see fit; Everyone should be free to do as they choose, as long as they don't infringe upon the equal freedom of others.) And guess what? The researchers found that libertarians dramatically outscored liberals and conservatives when it came to putting a high value on both economic and lifestyle liberty. Most dishearteningly, liberals scored two full standard deviations below libertarians on economic liberty.

Based on this values data, 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. Clearly, libertarians are not amoral. Rather, standard morality scales do a poor job of measuring their one central and overriding moral commitment."

Next the researchers wanted to explore how libertarians had come to embrace their moral code. Or as they put it, "Might libertarians generally be dispositionally more rational and less emotional?" On the Big Five Personality inventory, which is a broad measure of personality traits, libertarians scored lower than conservatives and liberals on Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Extraversion. According to some researchers, low scores on Agreeableness indicate a lack of compassion and a proud, competitive, and skeptical nature. On the other hand, like conservatives, libertarians are not generally Neurotic, tending to be more secure, hardy, and generally relaxed even under stressful conditions. And like liberals, libertarians scored high on Openness to New Experiences, indicating that they have broad interests and are very imaginative.

On a scale measuring disgust when confronting noisome experiences such as maggots in a garbage can, a rat scampering through a park, or spoilt milk, conservatives scored high. Libertarians scored similarly to liberals, but even lower on most measures of disgust. Consequently, the authors suggest, "The low level of disgust sensitivity found in libertarians 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." (This may well be why I was so deeply puzzled by bioethicist Leon Kass' notorious article advocating a ban on human cloning, "The Wisdom of Repugnance." What wisdom does the reflex of repugnance offer?)

Some of the more intriguing results reported in this study involve the Empathizer-Systemizer scale. The scale measures the tendency to empathize, defined as "the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts, and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion," and to systemize, or "the drive to analyze the variables in a system, and to derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of the system." Libertarians are the only group that scored higher on systemizing than on empathizing—and they scored a lot higher. The authors go on to suggest that systemizing is "characteristic of the male brain, with very extreme scores indicating autism." They then add, "We might say that liberals have the most 'feminine' cognitive style, and libertarians the most 'masculine.'"  They speculate that the "feminizing" of the Democratic Party in the 1970s may thus explain why libertarians moved into the Republican Party in the 1980s.

Next up is a measure called the Need for Cognition scale which tries to gauge the extent to which people engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activities. Again, libertarians outscored both conservatives and liberals. 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, in the non-aversive case (1) move a track switch which will divert the train but kill one workman, or in the aversive case (2) 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. In fact, the researchers find that libertarians are more likely to resolve moral dilemmas by applying this utilitarian calculus than are either liberals or conservatives.

Taking the scores on these cognitive and emotional measures into account, Haidt and his colleagues note, "Libertarians are high in Openness to Experience and seem to enjoy effortful and thoughtful cognitive tasks. In combination with low levels of emotional reactivity, the highly rational nature of libertarians may lead them to a logical, rather than emotional, system of morality."

But how might the emotional lives of libertarians affect their morality? Not surprisingly, on the Individualism-Collectivism scale, libertarians are more individualistic than either liberals or conservatives. When it comes to groups, libertarians are less identified with their communities than are liberals or conservatives, and like liberals they are less identified with their country, but like conservatives they don't identify with people "all over the world." On the Different Types of Love scale, it turns out that libertarian independence from others is associated with weaker feelings of love than liberals or conservatives have for friends, family, romantic partners, and generic others. The authors note that libertarians also report slightly less satisfaction with life than do liberals and conservatives. The researchers report that libertarians "score high 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's previous research has looked at the role that personality traits play in producing liberals and conservatives. To explore this area, the researchers adopted a three-level account of personality. Level One consists of dispositional traits such as sensitivity to disgust and Big Five traits. Level Two deals with how people fit their innate dispositions into the world including the adoption of moral attitudes such as those measured by the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. Level Three is where people weave together their dispositions and emerging moral attitudes into narratives justifying their moral values and ideological beliefs.

Using this schema, Haidt and his fellow researchers suggest that people who are dispositionally (level 1) low on disgust sensitivity and high on openness to experience will be drawn to classically liberal philosophers who argue for (level 2) 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 further speculate that an intellectual feedback loop develops (level 3) in which such people will find more and more of the libertarian narrative copacetic 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. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

NEXT: How I Voted 11.2.2010 Midterm

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  1. I hate it when people use the word “empathy” incorrectly.

    HULK SMASH!!!#^@&@*!*!!!!

  2. It’s truly the susceptibility of so many of us to emotional appeals that makes politics so pathetically awful. If we thought just a little bit, we’d have an almost entirely different government–both in who would hold office and in how the government would operate.

    1. If we had no emotions, I’m not sure what social structures (or life) would be for at all. If sounds had no pitch, it wouldn’t be such a bother when children practice the violin either.

      1. PL is talking about making political decisions, not life in general, doofus.

        1. Life is messy and politics is one way to tidy up the mess. If you don’t expect the cleanup to smell like chemicals and involve lots of soiled rags, your expectations are absurd.

      2. PL suggests that maybe we should be *more* rational than we currently are, not that we should eschew emotion entirely. Yet you jump to postulate a world where emotions don’t exist?

        Strawman much?

  3. In combination with low levels of emotional reactivity, the highly rational nature of libertarians may lead them to a logical, rather than emotional, system of morality.”

    I feel very strongly about that.

    But seriously, does anyone else wince when science tries to pathologize political viewpoints? I mean, even if they say something nice about you?

    1. Re: Paul,

      But seriously, does anyone else wince when science tries to pathologize political viewpoints?

      Yes. Like, for instance, when some journal alleged that the “liberal” gene was found. I couldn’t laugh any louder, my ribs were sore.

      1. I don’t know about the “liberal gene” but I do believe our genetics controls our political and religious tendencies. Sure, nurture plays a part, but I think we are all programmed from conception to be what we turn out to be.

        1. All else equal, maybe. Environmental stimuli simply plays too big a role in affecting neuronal integration to be essentially ignored as you have.

          You could condition most humans to act how ever, imo.

        2. nonsense you could be a total sucker for authoritarianism, or wealth redistribution, but so long as you entered into voluntary contracts in pursuit of such, you could still be a libertarian.

          1. And you could be a theist who believed god is evil, it’s not very likely, though.
            Politics is pathological. Even the people who are right on a lot of things (libertarians and economics) are basically crankish moralizers.

    2. Social science in general has always seemed like a bit of a con. Attempting to rationalize societal biases by dressing them up in scientific jargon.

      1. Social biases come from genotypical biases. Even at the height of classical liberalism it was mainly represented by a handful of eccentric elites. People are herd animals.

    3. Agreed. It is roughly equivalent to analyzing the ‘inate differences’ between those who eat cupcakes and those who eat donuts.

    4. I wince when it’s apparent in the article that I’m supposed to interpret the findings a certain way. The scare/repugnance factor is a good example. I know I’m supposed to think conservatives just scare easily. But I really just wonder about the living conditions of the people who don’t react any differently to a maggot infested wound as they do to a bowl of fruit.

      1. If everyone freaks out, it’s harder to find a person to deal with the mess. Having some people who are not grossed out by bad hygiene actually makes hygiene easier to effect within a group of people. And we could make an analogous observation for the apparently liberal or conservative personality types, e.g. if everyone is gripped by empathy a group might get bogged down, but being able to call on individuals with keen empathy might be useful to resolve major interpersonal conflicts.

        Anyway, if you don’t think conservatism is an impulse of disgust/fear, i.e. cautiousness, then why do Republicans do well when war/”terror”/joblessness/”the gay menace” are prominent issues?

        1. 1994? There was a war? Massive joblessness? a ‘gay menace’? Don’t remember that. Maybe I slept through it. Don’t remember any of that in 2000 either….

          1. Your point is fair, but I didn’t say Republican success requires those issues, only that, when prominent, those issues are claimed more often by Republicans. Joblessness might be a tricky issue to give to one side or the other, but the engineering of fear about gay people is widely credited with getting out BushII’s base. Similarly, “strong on defense” is conventionally understood to be a Republican strength.

        2. What about doctors and nurses who work in emergency rooms? They would have to be systemic and also hard to disgust or feel repugnance. And I’ve also known some highly empathetic ER people.

          1. Sure. I didn’t mean to imply resistance to disgust and tendency to empathize were exclusive of each other.

    5. This study isn’t particularly complimentary. Taken as a whole, the characteristics ascribed to libertarians (more utilitarian, less able to make emotional connections, greater difficulties with socialization) would indicate a libertarian predisposition toward autism.

      1. Sounds OK to me.

        1. Yeah, I’m hardcore aspie and don’t really care about other people except as means to ends. I’m a libertarian because 1) I like economics; 2) I’m amoral; and 3) I hate liberals.

    6. Yes. I expect that this study has been biased by the author’s conception of empathy.

      I feel the pain of others deeply, I want to help them, I have often given to charities or to individuals in the hope of improving their situation. However, I am also rational enough to know that I cannot be a long-term solution to their problems and that they are ultimately responsible for their own happiness. Even though it is difficult, I try to do what is necessary for their success – which often means doing nothing at all.

      Is my empathetic nature to be devalued just because I’m not an idiot? Is my love for my fellow man to be derided because I am not a fool?

      1. I belatedly thought of this to add: The study concluded that Libertarians find less satisfaction in life than Liberals and Conservatives. Perhaps this has a great deal to do with the fact that Libertarians are generally constrained by the idiocy of Liberals and Conservatives. I will quote from the excellent film “Idiocracy”:

        Rita: You think Einstein walked around thinkin’ everyone was a bunch of dumb shits?
        Pvt. Joe Bowers: Yeah. Hadn’t thought of that.
        Rita: Now you know why he built that bomb.

      2. The study is not saying that we don’t empathize — it’s saying we empathize LESS than liberals and conservatives. It’s relative. Our empathy doesn’t lead us to sacrifice rationality to “do something at all costs”. And our utilitarianism restrains us as well when we recognize it’s better to do nothing, than something that may do more harm than good (but reflects our personal feelings and empathic need to respond).

    7. I think one of the reasons libertarianism dosen’t apply to those who value collectivism is because we have moved away from people practicing philantropy and gaining a sence of communisty from charities, friendly associations, clubs. It isn’t just freedom for big business or even small business or about greed. It’s aobut the freedom to act and associate as we please in all parts of life.

      1. Many libertarians and individualist authors show a distrust for charitable organizations in general, and a feeling that alms giving degrades the giver and the receiver.

  4. Social psychology is not science!

  5. A new social psychology [sic] study explores the moral formation of the libertarian personality.

    Sorry, I almost shot my milk across the room laughing. “Social” psychology? The study of the human mind (which is individual by definition) but on a “social” scale?

    That’s like studying the anatomy of ants by looking straight at the hive. Psychologists are clearly charlatans, of the worst kind.

    [Because the best kind of charlatans are quite charming.]

    1. OM is on the extreme autistic side. I think he literally cannot comprehend the concept of groups of people.

      1. Re: Tony,

        I think he literally cannot comprehend the concept of groups of people.

        I can comprehend groups of people, Tony.

        Look! There! A group of people!


        What YOU don’t comprehend is that the concept of “society” as used by eleutherophobes like you does not mean “us guys”, but “the governing sages and wisemen who decide for us rubes.”

        1. You didn’r address the autism.

          1. Should be “didn’t”

      2. You act like ‘autism’ is a bad thing; it can also be a positive. In fact, I’d go so far to say that autism is the primary evolutionary force in humans today. Sure, it produces some failures (people who clearly are not more adaptive than “normal” humans), and that’s to be expected. But it also produces some truly astounding successes, successes that aren’t possible with normal, un-evolved people.

        Autism’s positive benefits are the future of humanity. I’m sorry, Tony, that you’re not part of the club.

        1. If a cognitive, logical, calculating view on the world is ‘autism’, sign me up for the short bus.

        2. Indeed. Scientists and engineers tend to fall further up the “autism spectrum” than others, but not quite to the level of a disorder.

        3. This is just wrong. I have a great deal of experience woking with autistics, and to consider it some kind of “gift” is the world turned upside down.

          1. The problem here is that a number of traits have been grouped together as “autistic”. “Asperger’s Syndrome” could also be known simply as “Intelligence”, and prominent historical figures thought to be Aspies include Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein. Nonetheless, “Intelligence” – er, I mean “Asperger’s Syndrome” is frequently classed among the “autistic” disorders.

            We should be careful not to put Albert Einstein in the same category as the kid banging his head against the floor.

            1. Exactly. Anyone who works with autism would surely know there’s a scale, and not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis.

              1. I’ve read two of Dr. Temple Grandin’s books, one on autism and the other on her perspective of the way animals think which is based on her belief that they think in pictures which is how she claims to think (she is a high functioning autistic).

                Anyway, it is widely known that when your engineering types get together and have kids (silicon valley) incidence of autistic children goes up. The traits seem to travel together. However, in Temple’s books, she suggests that autistic individuals have the added problem of sensory systems that are not working properly and can be overloaded very easily (so the compulsive rocking or beating their head on a wall is an attempt to drown out the noise or impose some sense of order on the chaos).

                We have a lot to learn about autism still. It’s an interesting thought that that functional people on the spectrum could be considered the future of humanity. I had been thinking of myself as myself as broken in some ways and super human in others. More likely continued diversity is the future of humanity.

            2. “Asperger’s Syndrome” could also be known simply as “Intelligence”

              No. Asperger’s could be roughly summarized as “Intelligence and Unintelligence, of certain different types, together”.

              1. No, autism, at least in the Aspie case, is more like intelligence + systems analysis – interest and ability for social signaling. However, since they lack interest in social signaling, this isn’t a sign of unintelligence; and is often considered a boon by those who have it.
                Put simply, an absence is not a lack. We don’t want your herd instincts.

      3. Whereas you, Tony, cannot comprehend anything BUT “groups of people”.

      4. thanks Tony, I lulzed at that one

    2. Psychology is not just the science of “the mind.” It’s also the science of human behavior, which occurs on both the individual and social level. There are numerous fields and schools of thought in psychology – it’s not all about the neuro-cognitive.

      1. +1

    3. Interesting that you went straight for the ant comparison. Because if you only look at individual ants, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ANTS.

      “Social psychology” is more redundant than contradictory, since the vast majority of humans and their psychological states depend on social interactions to have at-all interesting mental activities.

      1. Very off topic:

        the vast majority of humans and their psychological states depend on social interactions to have at-all interesting mental activities.

        Some might argue/feel that the most interesting mental activities are those we are least conscious of: the processes involved in sensorimotor coordination

        1. My point is simply that psychology can well be a “social” thing, even if OM thinks that’s contradictory. Humans, with their psychological states, are social critters.

          OM’s ant comparison is stunning because if you only look at a single ant, you’ll never figure out what some of the most particular bits do (e.g. pheromones) or how they reproduce (since most are sterile), because ants are social.

    4. Or studying the anatomy of bees by looking straight at the anthill…

  6. Bailey should get a degree in a real science.

  7. libertarians show (1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, (2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and (3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.

    They forgot (4), in the case of Ron Bailey, a tendency to vote for — and “defend” your vote for — Barack Obama.



    Ron, can you answer just one question:

    Would it have been possible to 1) vote, and 2) punish the Republicans, all without voting for Obama?

    1. Boy, the paleos cannot let this one go, can they? It’s like a Libertarian Inquisition…

      1. Fuck you, Minge. Bailey regularly treads into the comments, especially to “defend” his 2008 vote. But then he disappears, like magic, as soon as I post this question. He’s a fucking coward. You don’t have to change the subject for him.

        1. x,y: Coward? Don’t flatter yourself. I have answered your question several times already in blog comments. One last time: In my judgment, it was better to vote for Obama as a much stronger signal of repudiation to the Republicans than voting third party.

          In addition, Obama campaigned as a blank slate pragmatist, there was the off chance that he might not be terrible. So much for that hope.

          1. +1. I voted for Obama as well, knowing that the economy was going to keep being crappy. With McCain it was going to be the same scenario, but it would have been harder to muster a congressional sea change in the midterm elections.

          2. That’s actually pretty fascinating – internally, voting for Obama may very well be a stronger repudiation of McCain and the Republicans. But from all outward perspectives, it was just another run-of-the-mill “I want hope and change” vote. Writing in Ron Paul, or voting for Chuck Baldwin would have at least registered on somebody’s protest-o-meter.

  8. Ron your conclusion is a little bit unsubstantiated, not to say nonsensical. I’m not sure how a society comes into being without a little bit of tribalism and a little bit of universalism. Neither rule of law, civil liberties, nor capitalism (especially forms of it that approximate fairness) seem to have resulted from a purely individualist spirit. I think conservatives, liberals, and libertarians should agree that, say, the founding of the USA was accomplished by people who do not fit any of these modern templates exactly.

    1. Re: Tony,

      Neither rule of law, civil liberties, nor capitalism (especially forms of it that approximate fairness) seem to have resulted from a purely individualist spirit.

      You’re conflating different things, Tony.

      Capitalism results from individuals engaging in production and trade, so it DOES arrive from individual endeavor. Rule of law is instead a concept.

      1. Do you think you are addressing a sentient human?

        1. Re: Realist,

          Yes, I do. His conclusions may be wrong, but he is sentient.

          1. He sure as fuck is fond of you! “OM is on the extreme autistic side. I think he literally cannot comprehend the concept of groups of people”

            1. I like OM, I really do. He just has a bizarrely atomist view of human beings that I find intriguing.

              1. You two should get a life….or a room!

        2. Tony passes the turing test. Though I find his views abhorrent, I accept him as a human.

          1. Should be Turing test. Peoples names are capitalized!

          2. A scripted character for Deus Ex passed the Turing test. I ran with it for a couple of hours one evening. The test is useless.

            1. Bullshit. So you set up two terminals, you told a human that another human was typing words at one terminal and a computer (your scripted character from Deus Ex) was typing at the other and the human couldn’t tell the difference?

          3. Can we give the gom jabbar test, please?

      2. Yeah, but trade kinda needs more than one person to work properly…right?

    2. “…nor capitalism (especially forms of it that approximate fairness)…”

      Ah, you must mean laissez-faire capitalism.

    3. Without getting into what is possible, as when you say you’re “not sure how a society comes into being without a little bit of tribalism and a little bit of universalism,” we can note in terms of the factual that the United States did come into being with plenty of tribalism and universalism during its history.

      Ron ends up making typically overblown libertarian claims that libertarianism and only libertarianism “changed history by enabling at least a portion of humanity to escape our natural state of abject poverty.” I could as easily attribute the cause for that same historical change to smallpox.

    4. And the USA was a disaster.
      I’ll take my Stirnerite Manchester types over classical liberals any day.

  9. Now new social science research shows that libertarians are quite moral, just not in the same way that conservatives and liberals are.

    Ron, is it possible (and I know, it may be a bit of a stretch, but bear with me), that Libertarians arrive at their ethic through . . . dare I say it . . . *gasp* . . . reason alone????

    Because I don’t subscribe to this notion that political views are somehow some type of neurosis or dependent on things like catching my parents fucking. I believe liberals, conservatives and libertarians arrive at their ethic through reason alone, and not by happenstance – humans are NOT mere animals.

    1. “…humans are NOT mere animals.”

      OM, have you never been to Hometown Buffet?

      1. or watched Dune

    2. That seems so simplistic. If we all arrive at the views by reason alone how come we so such consistent patterns such as people having views similar to the parents and others in the regions they live in?

      1. “If we all arrive…”

        Check your premises. Clearly, not all people are reasonable in all things. For normal people, there are many social reasons for adopting the morality of your parents and peers. There are also many social reasons for claiming you did so reasonably — which is different form arriving at the view through reason.

    3. I believe liberals, conservatives and libertarians arrive at their ethic through reason alone, and not by happenstance

      Have you ever talked to a real, live liberal or conservative? A *lot* of them cannot display an actual logical understanding of their positions. There certainly are people who arrive at those positions by logic, but to claim that they all do is just absurd.

      1. This is true of libertarians, too. And morality and logic are not happy bedmates.

    4. Conservatives and liberals may reach some of their positions through reason alone, but defintely not all of them. The defining characteristic of the positions, when viewed as a whole, of either of those groups is inconsistency.

      Re: “…humans are NOT mere animals.”
      Yes we are. We’ve just evolved greater cognitive capacity than the rest of them, which was good since we are relatively weak and slow. The other species of humans didn’t evolve to be as intelligent (except maybe Boskop), so they are now extinct.

    5. humans are NOT mere animals.

      Depends. Being more than a mere animal requires awareness and choice. People who rely entirely on their feelings are being human animals.

    6. No offense dude, but you’re a bonobo with a high opinion of itself. We all are.

    7. I believe liberals, conservatives and libertarians arrive at their ethic through reason alone, and not by happenstance – humans are NOT mere animals.


      We may not be *mere* animals, but neither are we perfectly logical state machines. The squishy bits and the animal impulses exist and still matter.

  10. Most dishearteningly, liberals scored two full standard deviations below libertarians on economic liberty.

    Really? Huh.

    1. Their IQ will be worse than that!

      1. Liberals are smarter than most people. They’re just responding to social climbing signals. It is beneficial for them to believe crazy; to a person with status concerns believing nonsense is often the smart thing to do.

  11. Just throwing it out for consideration, but even the aspects of Christianity I find most appealing have to do with reciprocity.

    The idea that I should treat other people the way I would want to be treated if I were them isn’t exactly an irrational concept.

    …and it’s kinda the basic ethical premise in our culture, even the atheists I talk to, even the people I talk to that are pretty hostile to religious belief generally, they all seem to premise their appeals on that concept of reciprocity.

    They all seem to be saying that they should be treated the way other people would want to be treated if only…

    So, I don’t know about fear of God being the beginning of all wisdom, but from sticking up for the rights of everybody from pornographers to Muslim imams who want to build a mosque at Ground Zero, to the right of stoners to get stoned and rich people to keep their own damn money…

    The golden rule may be the beginning of all libertarianism. And that is foundation morality.

    I know I’ve hammered on this a lot over the years, but you people in the utility crowd are sill missing out on half the argument. If we’re not making the moral case for libertarianism, then we’ve still got an enormous hole in our swing.

    1. “The golden rule may be the beginning of all libertarianism. And that is foundation morality.” It is the only way a society can survive. What’s this bullshit “….even the atheists…”? Atheists can and do live moral lives. Let me know the next time you hear of an atheist butt fucking little boys!

      1. Actually, there are all sorts of cultures where the Golden rule…um…isn’t necessarily the rule.

        Ever wonder why there hasn’t been an MLK or Gandhi like movement in the Middle East?

        I wasn’t saying that atheists aren’t moral or don’t make moral arguments. I was saying that even people who are hostile to Christianity make their appeals in the context of our culture–which has been heavily influenced by Christianity.

        When an atheist tells me he should be treated the same way anyone else in his position would want to be treated, it’s a direct appeal to a cultural value that has a specific origin–regardless of whether the atheist believes in the religious origin of that idea. And whether that idea would exist regardless of its origin is kinda beside the point.

        We have a culture, and our ideas about morality are part of that. Our culture has been influenced by various things. Even atheists who deny the religious significance of those influences still make their case within the context of that morality. Culture’s inescapable that way.

        When we libertarians make our case, if we ignore the reality and importance of that cultural context, we do so to our own detriment. That’s pretty much all I was trying to say.

        The existence of rights is a cultural adaptation that’s basically inseparable from that moral context as well. When most people hear a question like, “Why should we respect the rights of minorities?”, they don’t answer it in utilitarian terms.

        It’s a moral question for just about everyone. And we need moral answers to address that question if we’re ever going to move our appeal beyond just the utility crowd. Actually, I suspect libertarians have probably already maxed out the utility crowd–I think that’s an oversaturated market.

        1. Of course, an atheist would be quick to point out that The Golden Rule was an idea written by a person, not by a deity, and is therefore a universal human value of morality, not a religious one, regardless of the nature of the popular book which spread the meme.

          1. It was not an unheard of concept before Christ.

        2. “Ever wonder why there hasn’t been an MLK or Gandhi like movement in the Middle East?”

          Green Movement. Iran. LAST FUCKING YEAR!

          Damn you’re ignorant.

    2. Actually, Jesus got it wrong. “Do unto others…” is a perscription for all kinds of trouble and rationalization. It leads to arguments such as: “Were I a heathen, I would WANT some nice Christian to come along and straighten me out and assure my passage to heaven — therefore it is my duty to convert others (by the sword, if need be). Because I would want somebody to save me from damnation if it were me.”

      Confucious got it right. Before the bible was written he had already advised: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” This is a much superior philosophy, as it does not license action so much as prohibit causing harm to others. Don’t want people to steal from you, murder you, or keep trying to convert you? Well, don’t do it to other people.

      1. Kinda like:

        Rule #1: Do what you will until you violate the rights of another.

        Rule #2: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, as long as Rule #1 is never broken.

      2. It’s interesting talking about the way things should be or might have been…

        To a lot of people.

        I’m a bit of a realist though. I’m more into how things really are…

        The fact is that Christianity had a huge impact on Western culture generally and American culture specifically. First step in changing things to the way they should be? Is figuring out what to do given the way things are.

        And if we wanna win the hearts and minds of a critical mass of the American people? Making appeals to Confucianism ain’t gonna cut it.

        1. And if we wanna win the hearts and minds of a critical mass of the American people? Making appeals to Confucianism ain’t gonna cut it.

          Ah. So the utility of a proposition trumps philosophical value. May I then suggest “You deserve free stuff” as an easier proposition for the winning of the masses? It seems to work much better than personal responsibility as a selling point.

          1. The less snarky version: trying to use The Golden Rule as a selling point for Libertarianism is a non-starter, given that liberalism has already co-opted it. “You want access to health care, don’t you? Well, you have a moral obligation to ‘Do Unto Others’ and provide it to everybody else.”

            1. Yeah, that’s the only way it can be interpreted.

              Because Christians couldn’t possibly respond to the suggestion that we shouldn’t discriminate against gay people because we wouldn’t want the government to discriminate against us?

              Is that what I’m supposed to think?

              1. We have to discriminate against the gays. The Bible says so. Queers are evil and don’t get into Heaven!

                Also, any man whose genitals have been injured doesn’t get in either. So anyone who had testicular cancer, and the entire cast of Jackass are all going to Hell!

            2. Funny how liberals use “separation of church and state” out of one orifice, then use “my brothers’ keeper” to justify getting people hooked on entitlements…

              1. Leave me out of this one guys. Some Roman weirdo wouldn’t quit stalking me so I made him a saint to get him off my nuts. Now, what did I say about gay people again…?

      3. nonmaleficence anyone?

        Competency in understanding the consequences of one’s own actions is non-normally distributed in our population.

      4. Thanks, that clarifies,

    3. I think that libertarianism takes the opposite tact of the Golden Rule.

      “Don’t do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”

      Don’t want to be murdered? Don’t murder people.

      Don’t like be robbed? Don’t rob people.

      Hate someone coming on your property without your permission? Don’t go onto people’s property without their permission.

      Absolutely loathe being told the “one true way” to live an upright and decent life? Don’t proselytize or coerce the unbelievers.

      1. To bad Jesus’s English wasn’t a little better. Then he could have gotten the nuances of the golden rule down a little better.

        1. Jesus’ English was just fine when he sat down and personally wrote the KJV.

      2. I prefer “Do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t involve force, fraud, or coercion.” Way simpler, and we don’t have to hammer some dusty old adage to the point no one recognizes it anymore.

    4. “Just throwing it out for consideration, but even the aspects of Christianity I find most appealing have to do with reciprocity.”

      I like the part where being moral is the original sin.

      “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.”

      So I’m pretty disappointed to find out that Libertarians are moral. Liked it a lot better when they said we were a-moral (as opposed to im-moral).

    5. Reciprocity and the golden rule are not the same thing. Reciprocity, stated like the golden rule, would be more like, “if someone does something for you, you are morally obligated to do something for them in return.”

      Liberals then confuse it into, “if you do something for someone then you have the right to expect something in return.”

  12. This asshole has to be related to Beetle Bailey.

    1. Look everyone! Edward got a new mask for Halloween! So cute! Here’s a candy coated dog turd. Now run along!

  13. So a study that was dumb as shit when it was done before was expanded to libertarians, and reveals a bunch of stuff that anyone who actually spent any time here at H&R or around libertarians could have told you.

    These studies are absolutely retarded, because the experimenters’ biases have far, far too much effect on any supposed results, and even bias the creation of the questions and scale systems. It’s voodoo–fucking political voodoo at that.

    1. More charitable would be to simply say that they took a poor study and improved it, but it’s still not very good.

      But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from discussing bad studies. Sometimes even nitpicking them can generate more light than heat, if you can get past your seething rage at them daring to take on the subject in the first place.

      1. The voice of reason….what the hell are you doing here???

      2. Explicitly political studies are meant solely to confirm biases. One of these comes out every six months or so, and is just as meaningless every time, but if you want to “generate some light” about tests that collectivize individuals…you go for it.

        1. “Studies” in general are complete bullshit.

          I had a professor once who related the very amusing story (with a straight face) that a colleague spent 8 years trying to perfect a study so that it “would show what she was trying to show.”

          That doesn’t mean they’re always useless — they can still provide useful insight. Just usually not the way the people behind the study intended.

  14. “We might say that liberals have the most ‘feminine’ cognitive style, and libertarians the most ‘masculine.'”

    [insert libertarian sausage-fest joke here]

    I am not thrilled to be lumped in with liberals, however.

    1. You’re giving me a lump here, dearie.

      1. “Dearie”? Why do you talk to chicks like an old lady would? Is that one of your sick fetishes, you festering pile? Do you dress up as your grandmother and molest your female cats? I think I’m going to vomit.

        1. Molest my cats? I would never drug my snugglebunny Dagny and force her to do that. Never.

    2. You had me at ‘insert.’

  15. Now, for something a little more thought provoking, here’s Stefan Molyneux on Universally Preferable Behaviour (UPB) October 31 2010…..r_embedded

  16. This week in “No Shit Sherlock” includes two UVA Psychology Professors attempting to understand the mind of the rare “Libertarian.”

    1. Yeah, none of those results surprised me.

  17. I hate to be a party-pooper but the historic record for rational morality is pretty bleak and the pluses are pretty sparse.

    In the negative column we have FDRs New Deal, Stalin’s GULAG, Hitler’s ovens and Moa’s great leap forward. In the plus column we have a pretty cool re-edit of the bible by Thomas Jefferson….at that is about it.

    Hayak was pretty good on this. He (i am paraphrasing) recognized that Morality from tradition often has hidden benefits and simply throwing them out because you do not immediately see this benefit can be disastrous.

    All morality has its base in reason, rationalized or not, but to think the only reason they exist is because they come from the mind of men is fallacy. An eyeball is a product of the rational trial and error process of evolution. Our moral traditions are also rational and exist without a central committee planning for them.

    Do not throw them out in haste.

    1. Oh grow up.

      As a libertarian, I don’t throw out morality. I just don’t need to stuff myself with Thankgiving turkey and hang out with relatives I can’t stand, and then go to a church whose doctrines are stupid, just to know right from wrong.

      I do think that many people do need tradition to be moral. So did Friederich Nietsche for Elvis’ sake. (“God is dead” actually prefaced his fears about this; it was not a celebratory statement.) But some of us don’t need to be told Bible stories to understand that it’s wrong to murder people.

      As a libertarian, I believe in letting people have their beliefs and traditions, provided I’m not forced to do anything. And I also don’t believe all traditions and belief systems are created equal — that’s sort of bemused, distant analysis, though, not tribalism. I don’t really “get” how or why someone would choose to join a lot of the belief systems I see.

      1. I don’t think you understood what he was saying. He was saying morals exist. He wasn’t suggesting any particular ones were supernaturally divine.

        And I agree. I think morality is largely a result of the same evolution that formed our bodies and our minds. Just because you want as I do, I assume, liberty for everyone, doesn’t mean we must ignore morality. In fact our adherence to liberty is a moral stance. Do you think that stance comes from nowhere?

        Libertarians here can have nuanced arguments. Don’t jump to conclusions, I imagine you actually disagree on less than you agree on.

      2. Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, instituted by the government, not the church.

        But some of us don’t need to be told Bible stories to understand that it’s wrong to murder people.

        Leave out the word ‘bible’. We DO actually need to be told that it’s wrong to murder people–because on a simple biological basis, it’s not wrong at all–it might even be helpful. But, as human groupings grew, it became less so, so humans developed the idea that it was ‘wrong’ to murder. And this idea is taught through stories.

    2. No Joshua you’re confusing “rational morality” the scientific/medical definition with the popular/logical Vulcan TV definition of the phrase. Hitler was a demagogue with strong leanings towards amorality who used emotional arguments to further his goals towards racial extermination. Stalin was similar but with a very strong dose of paranoia that led him to murder millions. Mao too was a similar type of person. On the other hand FDR was an early modern liberal who used the economic train wreck that was the Great Depression to move America towards the European type of low key socialism that he admired. They were not libertarian rational thinkers in any sense of the word. As for Thomas Jefferson, he was a slave holding hypocrite but at least his libertarian ideology overlapped with his scientific skepticism (Reason over religion) as you seem to assert.

      And no, morality is not based in reason. Like the eye, it comes from evolution. And unfortunately like every thing else that has evolved, reason (and human thought in general) is not perfect…it is merely adequate. Survival doesn’t require perfection only…just good enough. That is why even the most well intended rationally thinking people often screw up.

      1. Agreed. Interestingly, there is a lot of overlap between libertarian traits and the traits of amoral people. Stirnerites can be thought of a sort of extreme version of these.

      2. Looking back at this I totally fucked up what I wanted to say.

        First off all morality is rational.

        My problem is between reasoned morality, the morality created by a mind, and unreasoned morality, the morality created by trail and error and selective forces.

        I think the term “rational morality” used in the above article referred to the former type.

        And yes it is this former type that has the bad record of FDR, Hitler etal and a very short good record, Jefferson’s rewrite of the bible.

        Hayek’s basic premise with centralized planning is that no matter how smart the planners they cannot foresee all possible outcomes. And that the self organizing order of the market would better allocate resources.

        The thing is he went on with this same line of reasoning to conclude centralized morality has the same problem central planning does.

        you cannot create the perfect morality whole cloth because it is impossible for you to have all the information you need to create such a moral system.

        Unreasoned morality on the other hand has come down to us through the ages. It has gone through the trials and errors of history and been exposed to selective forces. It is the product of a spontaneous order.

        And this is why simply throwing it out and replacing it has many pitfalls.

        Anyway this is just an elaborate way of me saying that my atheism of let the Christians be Christians is far superior then Fluffy’s bullshit militant atheism.

    3. FDR, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, were not rational. They might have thought they were…

      The alternative is to simply accept the morality of others who have decided what your morals should be. OK if you want to do that, but then there’s no point in having a rational discussion about it…

  18. “When it comes to morality, libertarians are often typecast as immoral calculating rationalists who also have a somewhat unseemly hedonistic bent.”

    …and what’s wrong with that?

  19. They then add, “We might say that liberals have the most ‘feminine’ cognitive style, and libertarians the most ‘masculine.'”

    When my brother hitched up with his current wife, a nice enough and not unattractive lady by the way, his politics began to shift from nearly strict libertarian to more of a republican outlook. This study underlines what I thought occurred in that transition, she turned him into a big woman.

    1. Or, in moving out of the basement, one learns that real life is not lived purely individualistically.

      Consider one of the glaring problems in Rand’s books: she can never deal with children or, of course, their parents, because in this case one person is responsible for another. I am much more comfortable being cavalier about my own money/body than the wellbeing of other people when that wellbeing depends on my actions. (So for example there is a different moral weight to racing around empty farm roads than crowded city streets.) Family life makes a person cautious (conservative) and communal (liberal), out of respect for other people (libertarianism).

      1. 1) I don’t care about children.
        2) My real life involves using people as means to ends. Does this make me less individualistic? Does having shoes make you less individualistic? People are just sentient capital goods.

  20. So in that one test, did Michael Bloomberg rush to push the fat man off the bridge, even though it turns out that the 5 workmen were perfectly safe without intervention?

  21. By the way, I have no preference. Which is closer and exerts less effort, pulling the switch or pushing the fat man?

    1. And why is it my problem?

      1. BTW I have a hard time “relating” to models that require a huge suspension of disbelief. Skepticism, I think.

        1. I was thinking this too! Even an extremely fat person is not especially likely to stop a multi-ton vehicle. If I’m supposed to imagine jamming the trolley’s tracks, I don’t think adipose is the ideal substance. The scenario is too inane to warrant any moral feeling. Being idiotic makes me feel neither righteous nor guilty.

          1. Exactly. Or how about three or four fat dictators? Idi Amin, Kim Jong Il and Mao. And you got to save 10 people!

      2. Wasn’t answering you. Mere coincidence that we posted nearly at the same time.

  22. Another thing that this article doesn’t really mention is that Libertarians tend to be more informed: no one reflexively identifies as a Libertarian like conservatives or liberals do.

    Plenty of liberals/conservatives only identify that way because their parents did, sorry to say. But to become a libertarian, you actually have to do some intellectual digging. You can’t get their without being at least modestly informed about current events

    1. “you can’t get THERE”


    2. I don’t know. I suppose it is true that few people are born to libertarian families. But I didn’t have to do any “digging” to embrace the political philosophy of live and let live. And there are certainly plenty of overnight adolescent libertarians as there are “marxists” and “greens” (etc.) who don’t really know what they’re talking about.

  23. Libertarian morality is overly rational? Hmm, I didn’t know “hey, don’t touch my stuff!” was so rational 😉

    1. I’ll touch your stuff.

      1. No! you cant touch your stuff.

    2. Libertarian morality is ultimately pacifism, excepting versus aggression by others. Everything else follows from that.

      A basic difference between you progressives, left and right, and libertarians is that you don’t want to give up excuses to use force against others.

    3. True, but “don’t touch my stuff right now, my wife is standing right over there, dammit!” is quite rational.

      1. (Morally questionable, of course.)

    4. You fucken die.

    5. I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not, but it is actually rational. As multiple communist experiments have discovered, when you don’t respect the right of people to keep their “stuff”, they tend to give up making “stuff”.

  24. What’s so loving and compassionate about political philosophies that endorse widespread coercion for the benefit of politicians and their favorite interest groups?

    1. Because it’s more important to have good intentions than to actually do good.

      Didn’t you get the memo?

  25. Fuck it man, let’s talk about weed!

  26. “Libertarians share with liberals a distaste for the morality of Ingroup

    Which is why they’ll never win anything politically.

    How many of us took these tests?

    I gave Haidt 3 different survey answer sets. It was a PITA but I didn’t want to have my only one discarded as an outlier.

    1. But do we share with conservatives a taste for the amorality of InTrade?

    2. It’s very hard for an entire group of non-joiners to get elected.

    3. You speak as though anything could be ‘won’ politically. I consider staying off the trolley headed for trainwreck central to be a good thing.
      And maybe the masses of peons and herd animals will never learn better. So much the worse for them – I don’t judge the accuracy of ideas or the success of my lives by the stupid decisions people I dislike make.

  27. libertarians appear to live in a world where traditional moral concerns (e.g., respect for authority, personal sanctity) are not assigned much importance.

    OK, firstly, since when is “respect for authority” a traditional moral concern? I didn’t know there was a moral component to respecting authority at all! So, I guess I pass that libertarian litmus test…

    Secondly, since when do libertarians not assign personal sanctity much importance? Maybe I don’t know what personal sanctity is, but I would have used the second definition for sanctity (Ultimate importance and inviolability) – which combined with the modifier “personal” would mean that the individual person is of ultimate importance and is inviolable. What in the world would make you think libertarians don’t place a high importance on the sanctity of the individual? Just spend about 5 minutes in the Reason archives… for fuck’s sake man, Balko has made a career out of chronicling the abuse of personal sanctity by the state!

    So of your two “moral concerns” that libertarians disdain, one isn’t a moral concern at all (and yes, I have disdain for it) and the other is probably one of the core libertarian values. Dang, that’s a pretty big helping of fail right there!

    1. I do wonder what they mean. “Sanctity” could mean “inviolability” which is what you mean (and what I would mean). But its other definition is “saintliness”.

      And I’ll concede that, in general, it’s really hard to picture a libertarian going to daily confession.

    2. Yeah, I actually took the test to see if they defined their terms, but they did not. It was a poorly designed test. Several of the items, devoid of context, were completely meaningless IMO.

    3. OK, firstly, since when is “respect for authority” a traditional moral concern?

      Go open a Bible to the first page and read until the first instance of God scolding humans for being naughty. You’ll find that the only crime the humans committed was declining to obey authority. They didn’t hurt anybody, they just acted independently. I understand not considering authority inherently moral, but as a question of the facts of tradition, it is clear that respect for authority has primacy in tradition.

  28. Why does it have to be a fat man, would a skinny man’s life be more valued? Do they really, deep down, just want to push Rush Limbaugh off a bridge?

    Why not a fat woman, or a fat liberal since they apparently are more or less the same thing according to this study?

    1. I really didn’t get the trolly thing, either. If I don’t have time to talk to the workers or Mr. BigMac, I’m going to have to assume the worker is a more valuable individual. Unless, perhaps, fatty is wearing a labcoat or something.

      I want a link to the specifics of the test. 😐

    2. It would probably affect the outcome. I mean, even a fat liberal man would probably relish the thought of pushing a fat liberal woman off a bridge. That’s probably got something to do with The View.

    3. It would probably affect the outcome. I mean, even a fat liberal man would probably relish the thought of pushing a fat liberal woman off a bridge. That’s probably got something to do with The View.

    4. I don’t get it either. Skinny people less likely to actually stop the trolley? Anti-fat bias, but why would it be relevant?

    5. The study is exceedingly subjective. Slightly rewording the questions will generate variable answers, not to mention the ease with which such “questionnaires” can be games by the subjects to generate a desired result.

      Is there anyone here who couldn’t make this test say anything they want?

  29. Libertarians are high in Openness to Experience

    Experience to extremes
    Experience to extremes

    –Neil Peart

    1. Don’t feed the people
      But we feed the machines
      Can’t really feel
      What “international means
      In different circles we keep holding our ground
      Indifferent circles we keep spinning round and round


      So the maples formed a union
      And demanded equal rights.
      “The oaks are just too greedy;
      We will make them give us light.”
      Now there’s no more oak oppression,
      For they passed a noble law,
      And the trees are all kept equal
      By hatchet, axe, and saw.

  30. “The golden rule may be the beginning of all libertarianism. And that is foundation morality.”

    Try meeting a masochist who does unto others as he would have done to him.

    Not very libertarian.

    1. I’ve heard this one before… they must pass this argument out in English 101 class or something.

      True masochists perceive pain as pleasure. They would like to receive pleasure, so giving pleasure to others follows from the golden rule.

      Except for an individual with a severe mental disorder, a masochist is going to know that most others don’t have the same experience of pleasure upon receipt of pain that they do. So they’re not going to find a random person on the street and, say, crimp their nipple with an alligator clip (masochists, help me out here if you have a better example).

      1. Yeah, that’s why everyone else said it before I did.

  31. “We might say that liberals have the most ‘feminine’ cognitive style, and libertarians the most ‘masculine.'”

    Might say? Liberals are the most womanly people I’ve ever discussed politics or philosophy with.

    Women and liberals both:

    (1) Become irrational quickly
    (2) Storm away from debate if they’re mad
    (3) Very quick to accuse you of some flaw in your personality
    (4) Attempt to change subject if debate gets too overwhelming
    (5) Have an abundence of sympathy (bleeding hearts) for people (even animals) when they’re hurt
    (6) Think they have a right to interfere in anybody’s business if they need to.
    (7) Get little bits of “facts” and feel superior to people who can’t repeat or understand them.
    (8) Become self-righteous, even to the point of violence, if you disagree with them on something they really feel strongly about.
    (9) Have no interest in hearing logic, especially in large groups.
    (10) Will suck your dick if you say the right thing.

    Hell Hath no Fury like A liberal Scorned!

    1. Have you ever wondered why so few women are libertarians? Gosh, I have no idea why they’d be turned off by it.

      This must be why you guys support prostitution legalization.

      1. You illustrate my points so superbly. Besides, I support legal prostitution because not every husband-less mother can be a waitress… especially since they enforce the smoking ban in a lot of states now that forced restraunts out of business.

        Have you no sympathy for these women?

        You want them to suffer in a prison just because they couldn’t get a job as a waitress because liberal politics forced small, legitimate businesses out? God damn. Where’s your sense of empathy? Don’t sit down too fast with that silver spoon up yer ass.

        1. Big stretch much? I’d like them to not have economic opportunities denied them because of ignorance and bigotry.

          According to libertarians (to go by what you say) they’re incapable of any economic activity other than serving food or sex work.

          1. Big stretch much? I’d like them to not have economic opportunities denied them because of ignorance and bigotry.

            Just because a woman is willing to fuck for money before she lets her kids go hungry, doesn’t mean the guy gettin’ blown is a sexist.. It may not be something you would do, but try not to look down on them for trying to survive.

            According to libertarians (to go by what you say) they’re incapable of any economic activity other than serving food or sex work.

            Nobody said that. Waitressing just happens to be the primary occupancy of women who were not formally skilled in a field of labor who can still earn a decent income. Service positions – nanny work, waitressing, etc. doesn’t require college, in other words.

            Not every woman has the time to become a scholar, so they work hard.

            The only way a woman can hypothetically earn more of an income is if she was free to sell her body for sex to men willing to pay for the service. .. even by extension per pornography.

            Why should two adults be forbidden to engage in this private act?

            If you think you are superior to these women, and feel that they have no right to “objectify” themselves for money, then that’s fine, but you can’t deny the fact that it is lucrative, and doesn’t hurt any innocent people.

            Case closed.

      2. Ironically, I find women are the easier converts, but only if you sell them on individualism, and stay away from the political philosophy.

        1. Of course, that could also be that because I’m so handsome, they’ll agree with anything I say.

          1. Give them rum, they will succumb

        2. So they accept individualism, but only in a vacuum. I think that’s true of everyone. People get logic in it’s pure form but they don’t see how it relates in the real world, where drama is much more compelling.

          1. It does make sense that a philosophy that makes sense of people as isolated individuals only makes sense in isolation.

            1. Which is NOT libertarianism. Individualism has to do with the psychological dimension of Openess, the O in the Big Five OCEAN scale. Men and women score pretty much equally in openess. Women are slightly more concientious and slightly more extroverted. Men and women score evenly in agreeableness, which surprises a lot of people. But where the sexes differ the most is in neuroticism. Women are significantly more neurotic than men, although there are far wider differences within the groups.

              1. It seems to me like individualism as a psychological thing would have the most to do with intro/extro-version, rather than openness. Could you elaborate?

                And I agree that thinking of people as isolated individuals is not libertarianism. Things like free association and the invisible hand are critical to libertarianism; as anarchists like to point out, “anarchy” is not disorder but order without rulers.

                However, I do think that some people self-identify as libertarian and advocate libertarianish notions/policies out of a hyperlogical regard for isolated individuals. These folks have eyes only for the single human, and dismiss social phenomena as illusory or “collectivist” (in a pejorative sense), even though libertarianism accommodates and vindicates social phenomena.

      3. You don’t pay the prostitute to stay, you pay them to leave.

    2. Most of those traits are part of the “neuroticism” trait in the OCEAN Big Five personality traits paradigm. And the one trait that women score significantly higher than men is neuroticism (the N at the end of OCEAN). Since libertarians are at the LOW end of the neuroticism scale, far fewer women are libertarians.

    3. This is pretty much accurate.

  32. Whenever Liberals or Conservatives want to legislate morality the long term consequences are almost always negative. Prohibition, abortion, gay marriage, affirmative action, the government just needs to get out of all of it.

    1. Are you saying pro-choice policies are legislating morality? Because what were the long term consequences back when abortion was illegal? And how would you compare the time periods?

  33. Reason, please give us a link to where we can purchase this article. Thanks.

    1. I thought it would be on JSTOR, but a cursory search does not reveal its presence there.

      1. SJ & db: The second link in the column will take you to a site where you can download it for free.

  34. I scored as an “extreme systemizer,” which surprised me since I think I am very capable of empathy.

    I don’t get the impression the researchers were trying to pathologize anything. Summa y’all need to relax…

  35. Libertarians are just as empathetic as everyone else. It’s just that we’re not as weak as they are. So when they put themselves in someone else’s shoes who happens to be in a rough spot, they think “OMG! The horror!”, whereas I think “yeah, that would suck, but it ain’t THAT bad.”

    1. I think this is often true. Certainly libertarianism only survives encounters with the real world if a person accepts that life sometimes gets shitty.

  36. they put less value than either on Benevolence, Conformity, Security, and Tradition.

    Benevolence to me as a libertarian is very important. Donating to charities for funding, helping out family and friends in need, and any other assorted non-authoritation act of philantrophy are private acts between individuals that preclude the need or want for government intervention.

    Conformity I can’t imagine many people willing to agree that they are mindless conformists. Needless to say, even if I “conform with non-conformity”, it is still unappealing to me to fall into the run-of-the-mill scenery of politics and culture.

    Security we went from a nation of people that said, “give me liberty or give me death” to “do whatever you want to me, just make me safe”. Feeling safe is being armed and knowing how to defend yourself, and not needing to ask somebody else to do it for you.

    Tradition to me is something that is so subjective that it will be rendered to opinion every time. I may support the Tradition of Liberty (the Free Market, Free consumption), and traditions like Thanksgiving (which is one of the only holidays that serve exclusively American foods), or even the tradition of going to the video store rather than downloading it off the internet… but the tradition of religion, moral crusades, etc, etc are things that I’m willing to forgo. It’s up in the air, more or less.

  37. get out of my head Ron

  38. I can see libertarians being more rational than the average liberal or conservative. But I think they often overlook the reasoning implicit in tradition. If you look at history as a massive science experiment, it’s possible to think of reasons for almost everything. Actually there’s always at least one good reason against changing any tradition. Change makes us momentarily incompetent.

    1. “Implicit reason” is an oxymoron. Reason has to be explicit or it isn’t reason.

      I’ll grant that traditions can be beneficial, but they must always be questioned. They are too frequently used by people in power to maintain the status quo to simply trust in their “implicit rationale”.

      1. Societies can hang on to traditions long after they have any value, save possibly social cohesion. But that isn’t always a good thing either. If tradition interferes with adapting to a changing environment (not necessarily the natural environment) it’s best that they go.

      2. What’s the use of reason if it has to be explicit? Analysis is not an instigator of anything. People with damaged emotional faculties can’t even decide what to eat for lunch.
        But just because I haven’t deliberated and used supporting documentation then blogged about it before choosing a restaurant doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason for my decision. If pressed, I would probably say I chose the closest place that I liked so I wouldn’t have to waste my lunch break.

        1. To drive my point home I should add…alternatively, if I was asked why I did it, and said “duhh” and drooled on myself, but I still had enough of my allotted time to eat. What would it matter how articulate I was about it?

          1. Women don’t know what logic is.

  39. The study ignores pledged Libertarians. For a better view of Libertarian moral action please see: for examples.

  40. The biggest problem with this study is that it fails to recognize that there are two types of morality. Morality concerns only actions. Thoughts and feeling are never moral or immoral. Objective morality concerns actions that occur between two or more individuals. Subjective morality concerns action which only affect an individual. Governments are supposed to concern themselves solely with objective morality. That’s why most libertarians hold that individual liberty is the primary political goal. But they are all over the place when it comes to subjectively moral actions like drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc.. Each individual must decide for themselves whether any of these actions are right for them.

  41. But as a social psychologist, Haidt fails to discuss what is probably the most important and intriguing fact about libertarian morality.

    I find it odd that Ron complains that a psychologist overlooks a question of economics.

    A more obvious Big Question actually pertaining to the study is: What new approaches could/should we take when debating and shaping our society if we accept that political philosophy is as much a question of facts as of personality? For example, can a single society be satisfying to libertarians and liberals and conservatives at the same time?

  42. What is with people trying to figure out the psychology of liberals, and conservatives, and now libertarians? Apologists for the middle class? How is any of this real science?

  43. Dear Mr. Bailey:
    This is an excellent summary of our findings, and our interpretation of our findings. I just want to correct two things: 1)The paper is UNDER REVIEW at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It has not yet been accepted. 2) The lead authors on the study are Ravi Iyer and Sena Koleva. They are graduate students who conceived and executed this massive study, so i hope you can give them credit. Thank you for covering our work so well, and bringing it to the attention of Reason readers.

    Jon Haidt

    1. Wait, this study hasn’t yet undergone peer-review? Jesus Christ Bailey, you really are a one trick pony aren’t you. Any data, no matter what its quality, is acceptable so long as it confirms Ronald Bailey’s pre-existing biases.

      1. True: Why not read the study and the citations and take some of the tests at and see what you think instead of reflexively relying on peer review to do your thinking for you? Just a friendly suggestion.

        1. You mean like reviewing the study and thinking for yourself?

          How very un-libertarian.

      2. Because nothing is interesting or worth writing about until it has undergone peer review. Do you have any actual objections to the methodology or conclusions described above, or are you just throwing stones?

  44. You jagoffs love to claim you’re using “logic” and/or “reason”, problem is if you really were, the first thing you’d recognize is that it has severe limitations:

    and on top of that you completely ignore human nature and the stark realities of the world in your “reasoning”

  45. “That’s me, Da! That’s me!”

  46. In terms of the issue of low scores for feelings of “disgust,” most true libertarians would probably admit they have genuine feelings of disgust for redistribution of wealth and legislation of morality.

  47. As a lifelong libertarian, I find some of these conclusions odd. Being a very empathic individual who has strong love connections with family, friends and pets, it does not all ring true to me. But it is an interesting article.

    1. The study has a basic flaw – it describes a political strategy, libertarianism, and calls it a moral basis. Several moral philosophies arrive at libertarianism as the correct policy prescription, but the psychological basis must be different. This study seems to describe objectivists fairly well, and then calls them libertarians. A further study might attempt to identify other moral philosophies that arrive at libertarianism.

  48. I find this psychological portrait to be basically accurate. I think that as libertarians we should be proud that we avoid emotion-driven politics, but shouldn’t we view the low score on empathy as a defect of the libertarian personality, something to improve on? A high level of empathy in liberals drives their support for the welfare state, but there’s no reason that it has to. Empathy added to libertarian moral principals would mean a greater level of charity, mutual aid, and other forms of voluntary welfare which would provide a bulwark against the state.(Incidentally wonder what the researchers would make of the moral psychology of left-anarchists?)

  49. I think the anarcho strain of the libertarian camp gets shortsold in this study. I’m all kinds of empathic about the difficulties people (especially poor people) face in their lives. I just don’t trust our senile bloated immoral and imperial government to be very effective in helping to deal with such difficulties. In fact, I view the government as the root-cause of most of those difficulties.

    I suppose, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the old saw that there are slightly more flavors of libertarianism than there are libertarians.

  50. As a former “social scientist” I pronounce this research and this article bullshit. As an early libertarian and current conservative, I’ll tell you that much here is true:

    “It will not surprise Reason readers that the study found that libertarians show (1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, (2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and (3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.” This study is very flawed as most social studies are.

    Anyone can make up “measures” and measure them to say what they want to say.

    The chief difference between Conservatives and Libertarians is adherence to the U.S. Constitution.

    Dr. Don (Tex Expatriate)

  51. Scores low in empathy and bonding but high in systemizing – that pretty much sums up all my interactions with libertarians.

  52. Bilderberger influenceTO THE WEAK-KNEED REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRAT?..TO ALL THE COMMUNIST IN THE IG,FBI,CIA,AND U.S. Senators and the left wing media outlets?..Wake up america!!!! This goverment is the most corrupt we have had in years. The good old boy network is very much in charge.Mr. obama and pelosi are the puppet masters.How many of their good friends benefited by the agreement ” what a farce. All of the u.sSenators voted for this. I am ashamed to say I voted for the these corupted self serving politicians.With good reason they picked an out of towner to be president.All u.s departments need an overhaul. We need to rid ourselves of the puppet masters and the dept heads that bow down to obama and pelosi.I am sick of the lip service I have been getting from these dummies over violations, their friends are getting away the goverment . Barack Hussein Obama , threatens friends and bows to Mmslim.
    INPEACH OBAMA ,GOD OPEN YOUR EYES.///For us there are only two possiblities: either we remain american or we come under the thumb of the communist Mmslim Barack Hussein OBAMA. This latter must not occur.//////// I love communist obama.will you ,thank you,the aka red ink obama.//////// Repost this if you agree, IS communist obama ONE , Because of its secrecy and refusal to issue news releases, the Bilderberg group is frequently accused of political conspiracies. This outlook has been popular on both extremes of the ideological spectrum, even if they disagree on what the group wants to do. Left-wingers accuse the Bilderberg group of conspiring to impose capitalist domination,[21] while some right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society have accused the group of conspiring to impose a world government and planned economy.Obama’s India trip really an Emergency Bilderberger Meeting ?THE COMMADER //////// .Is Barack Obama pushing forward dangerous policies that are bringing the United States closer to a socialist dictatorship. Are you even aware?

    2. What is the major proof of the Bilderberger influence over many of the world events in the last decade!

    3. Is it really true that the recent global financial collapse was engineered by the Bilderberg Group. Why was their 2010 annual meeting held in Greece?
    4. Bilderberger influence,president George W. Bush says he was “blindsided” by the financial crisis that shadowed his final months in office, but adds that the Democratic-controlled Congress shares some of the blame. –

    Now that the agenda for global government and a centralized world economic system is public and out in the open, the importance of the Bilderberg Group’s annual conference rests on grooming political candidates. The lion’s share of Bilderberg’s 2010 agenda has already been announced by its members weeks before ? it will revolve around a potential military strike on Iran as well as the future collapse of the euro.The Bilderberger group, whose policies would pave the way for global communist conquest.

    —– Bilderberg group in United States——-
    George W. Ball (1954, 1993),[13] Under Secretary of State 1961-1968, Ambassador to U.N. 1968
    Sandy Berger (1999),[14] National Security Advisor, 1997?2001
    Timothy Geithner(2009),[15] Treasury Secretary
    Lee H. Hamilton (1997),[1] former US Congressman
    Christian Herter,[16] (1961, 1963, 1964, 1966), 53rd United States Secretary of State
    Charles Douglas Jackson (1957, 1958, 1960),[17] Special Assistant to the President
    Joseph E. Johnson[18] (1954), President Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    Henry Kissinger[19] (1957, 1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1977, 2008),[20] 56th United States Secretary of State
    Colin Powell (1997),[1] 65th United States Secretary of State
    Lawrence Summers,[15] Director of the National Economic Council
    Paul Volcker,[15] Chair of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979?1987
    Roger Altman (2009),[15] Deputy Treasury Secretary from 1993?1994, Founder and Chairman of Evercore Partners
    [edit] Presidents
    Bill Clinton (1991),[21][22] President 1993-2001
    Gerald Ford (1964, 1966),[4][23] President 1974-1977
    [edit] Senators
    John Edwards (2004),[24][25] Senator from North Carolina 1999-2005
    Chuck Hagel (1999, 2000),[26] Senator from Nebraska 1997-2009
    Sam Nunn (1996, 1997),[1] Senator from Georgia 1972-1997
    [edit] Governors
    Rick Perry (2007),[27] Governor of Texas 2000-current
    Mark Sanford (2008),[28] Governor of South Carolina , the United States closer to a socialist dictatorship. Are you even aware? === The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, or Bilderberg Club is an annual, unofficial, invitation-only conference of around 130 guests, most of whom are people of influence in the fields of politics, banking, business, the military and media. The conferences are closed to the public.== The Bilderberg Group in which he accuses them of manipulating the public “to install a world government that knows no borders and is not accountable to anyone but its own self.”

    Repost this if you agree,

  53. Hence why all libertarians are sociopaths. They score low on empathy.

  54. So it’s official: liberals are pussies.

  55. LIES!!!!

    I love poeple more then liberals and conservatives!!!

    I love them enough to let them be who they want to be and do what they want to do.

  56. Great read. I think the problem with liberals and conservatives supposedly “loving” people more than libertarians is that they’re willing to control others “for their own good”, while libertarians just want liberty, which they extend to everyone else. This is what actually results in the greatest good.

  57. “Libertarians scored similarly to liberals, but even lower on most measures of disgust.”

    So some surgeons are democrats, but most are libertarian. That’s what I’m reading from this.

    0 surgeons are conservative. With 100% confidence.

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