McArdle is piqued; once again, science is attacking libertarians with the weapons of facts and reality. Although McArdle usually prefers to attack strawmen, a blow to her very core cannot be ignored.
Conservatives are conservative because they’re authoritarian and resistant to new ideas. Everyone knows that, right? There’s a bunch of social-science research that even proves it. If only conservatives were more open and less dogmatically attached to their tribe and their traditions, the world would be a much better place.That "bunch of social-science research that even proves it," if you follow the links, includes Bob Altemeyer's influential study on authoritarianism. McArdle does not address the science except to concede it exists and is not in dispute. But avoiding reality leaves a reality-sized hole in one's personal narrative, so McArdle must fish around in the tepid, shallow pond of her mind for a fantasy scenario in which she stills wins by failing.
A lot of smart people endorse some version of this story. And yes, research surveys show that conservatives do express a much stronger affinity for obedience, authority and in-group loyalty than do liberals. But there’s a question those surveys can’t answer: How does what people say translate into what people actually do? Jonathan Haidt, one of my favorite social scientists, studies morality by presenting people with scenarios and asking whether what happened was wrong. Conservatives and liberals give strikingly different answers, with extreme liberals claiming to place virtually no value at all on things like group loyalty or sexual purity.McArdle does not address the science of her own argument either, which was unwise. Dr. Haidt cowrote a paper called Understanding Libertarian Morality, a fascinating study that demonstrates the strongest component of libertarianism is a low level of empathy. The paper states "our results suggests that libertarians are particularly unemotional in their moral deliberations." Instead, libertarians say they care about liberty. What do they mean by that word?
Libertarians are not unconcerned about all aspects of morality, as suggested by their scores on the MFQ and several other widely used morality scales. Rather, consistent with their self-descriptions, they care about liberty. Like conservatives, they endorse a world in which people are left alone to enjoy the fruits of their own labor, free from government interference. They also exceed both liberals and conservatives (but are closer to liberals) in endorsing personal or lifestyle liberty.The problem with this assessment is that the paper takes libertarians at their word. For example, the paper states:
Libertarians appear to have a coherent moral philosophy, which includes a general opposition to forcing any particular moral code upon others. Note that Paul is not saying that gambling is morally acceptable. Rather, he is saying that (negative) liberty has a moral value that supersedes other moral considerations. Libertarians seem willing to reject both liberal concerns for social justice  and conservative concerns for respecting existing social structure  when those concerns conflict with their superordinate interest in maintaining individual liberty.Our libertarian leaders quite plainly do not have a coherent moral philosophy; they don't have a problem with restricting the poor's access to abortion or trying to cut aid to others while keeping aid for themselves. "Liberty" means personal liberty to libertarians; the right to do what they want, when they want and how they want without thought of the consequence to others. Due to that whole lack of empathy thing.
We introduced Study 3 with Rand's condemnation of love that is not based on a strong sense of self. We found that libertarians do indeed have a strong sense of self and the self's prerogatives, and a correspondingly lower sense of attachment to others. They exhibit a high degree individualism, a low degree collectivism, and generally report feeling less bonding with others, less loving for others, and less feelings of a sense of common identity with others. Libertarians have a lower degree of the broad social connection that typifies liberals as well as a lower degree of the tight social connections that typify conservatives. These social preferences were related to their moral attitudes suggesting that libertarians have less functional use for moral concerns.In other words, they are selfish. It's not entirely their fault. They're wired that way, raised that way, paid to stay that way. And selfish they are, even if they try to hide it and their attachment to their proudly selfish philosophy.
While not all libertarians endorse the views of Ayn Rand, our findings can be summarized by the three quotations we have presented from her work. We began Study 1 with Rand's exhortation to reject “the morality of altruism,” and we showed that libertarians do indeed reject this morality, as well as all other moralities based on ideas of obligation to other people, groups, traditions, and authorities. Libertarians scored relatively high on just one moral concern: liberty. The libertarian pattern of response was found to be empirically distinct from the responses of liberals and conservatives, both in our cluster analysis of participants and in our principal components analysis of measures. We found strong support for our first prediction: Libertarians will value liberty more strongly and consistently than liberals or conservatives, at the expense of other moral concerns. [sic]Their dominant emotional reaction in the study is hatred of being told what to do.
We introduced Study 2 with Rand's claim that Western culture can only be reborn when it can be founded on “a rational ethics.” Consistent with Rand's writing and psychological research concerning the intuitive origins of moral reasoning , we found that libertarians were indeed less emotional (less disgust sensitivity, empathic concern, and neuroticism) than liberals and conservatives. This lack of emotional reactivity may underlie an indifference towards common moral norms, and an attraction to an ideology where these moral codes are absent, libertarianism. The only emotional reaction on which libertarians were not lowest was reactance – the angry reaction to infringements upon one's autonomy – for which libertarians scored higher than both liberals and conservatives. This disposition toward reactance may lead to the moralization of liberty and an attraction to an ideology that exalts liberty above other moral principles – namely, libertarianism.Which means that libertarians do not feel connected to their fellow man. They are largely male and tend towards solitude (which makes them natural gamers). Since they do not identify with their fellow man they feel no sense of kinship, responsibility, or communality.
We introduced Study 3 with Rand's condemnation of love that is not based on a strong sense of self. We found that libertarians do indeed have a strong sense of self and the self's prerogatives, and a correspondingly lower sense of attachment to others. They exhibit a high degree individualism, a low degree collectivism, and generally report feeling less bonding with others, less loving for others, and less feelings of a sense of common identity with others. Libertarians have a lower degree of the broad social connection that typifies liberals as well as a lower degree of the tight social connections that typify conservatives. These social preferences were related to their moral attitudes suggesting that libertarians have less functional use for moral concerns.Since Haidt is one of McArdle's favorite social scientists and he discusses libertarianism, it's very odd that McArdle has no desire to discuss his work. One wonders if she even read it, for she is quick to jump on imagined slights to her image of herself and who among us is pleased to hear that her primary characteristic is a bone-deep selfishness based on lack of empathy?
Once again, we see that libertarians look somewhat like liberals, but assign lower importance to values related to the welfare or suffering of others–the benevolence value (which Schwartz defines as: “Preservation and enhancement of the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent personal contact”) and universalism (defined as “Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature”). It is also noteworthy that the highest mean for any Schwartz Value dimension was libertarians' endorsement of self-direction (defined as “Independent thought and action – choosing, creating, exploring”). Self-Direction was the most strongly endorsed value for all three groups, but for libertarians the difference was quite large compared to the next most endorsed value, achievement (d = 1.04). If libertarians have indeed elevated self-direction as their foremost guiding principle, then they may see the needs and claims of others, whether based on liberal or conservative principles, as a threat to their primary value.There is a treasure trove of information available to our intrepid journalist, the better to ply her craft and increase her personal knowledge. Evidently McArdle has decided that there's nothing in it for her to do a good job, especially as she is being paid very well to do a bad one. According to Dr. Haidt, libertarians substitute cognitive analysis for emotional analysis.
Table 3 shows that libertarians were moderately more utilitarian than conservatives, and slightly more utilitarian than liberals (also see Figure 4). Their judgments were more utilitarian in both the more aversive and less aversive scenarios.However we have seen countless times that McArdle makes emotional arguments in defense of her self-image and that she cannot follow or make a logical argument. She just thinks she is making a logical argument. The brain trust at Reason are not reasoning. The Objectivist are not objective. They just think they are. They create elaborate mental structures that they think will support their arguments but when they are examined, the arguments fall apart. Social Security is not bankrupt. Seniors don't hate having Medicare. America really does have poor people. Regulations are necessary.
Interpretation.The results from these moral dilemmas, which are devoid of political content, indicate that libertarians are indeed more capable of “rational ethics” where costs and benefits are weighed according to utilitarian principles. Given the body of evidence suggesting that utilitarian judgments in these dilemmas are more likely to be reached via “cold” calculation, and that deontological (rights-based) judgments are more likely to be reached via “hot” affective processes (e.g., , ), our results suggests that libertarians are particularly unemotional in their moral deliberations.
As we have seen with this paper's touchstone, Ayn Rand, just because people don't understand emotions doesn't mean they don't have them, or make emotional arguments. Their arguments are based on their emotions, just like everyone else's. But those emotions run the gamut from A to A. Love is love of self. Concern is concern for one's self. Fear is fear for one's self.
The results suggest that libertarians are less likely to see moral traits as important to their core self, compared to liberals and conservatives. At the same time they are just as likely as these two groups to base their self-concept around positive non-moral characteristics, such as being funny or outgoing. Notably, libertarians were the only group to report valuing pragmatic, non-moral traits more than moral traits. Libertarians may hesitate to view traits that engender obligations to others (e.g. loyal, generous, sympathetic) as important parts of who they are because such traits imply being altruistic .When you cannot feel good about yourself through contact with mankind, you must find other ways of feeling good about yourself. Libertarians feel good by getting what they want. They find proof of self-worth through "winning the (fill-in-the-blank)." What they want can vary. McArdle wants to fit in with the financial elite. Rand wanted to fit in with the intellectual-cultural elite, the same people her mother sought to conquer. The boys at Reason seem to want everyone to think they are cool. We all evaluate ourselves. If you cannot evaluate yourself by moral standards you will find others. Libertarians judge themselves by cognitive standards. They create a mental image of themselves and judge the world by how much it lives up to the imaginary world in their heads. McArdle explicitly does this when she stated that financial success is proof of morality. She knows everyone is supposed to have a moral system so she substitutes the "moral" system in her mind for the human one that almost everyone else has. Every time McArdle said that her heart broke at a child's shooting, she lied. Not because she is a liar, although she is, but because she thought it should be breaking because everyone else said that their hearts were breaking. All of these issues, questions and theories are fascinating; read the whole thing, as the kids say. And Megan McArdle ignores them. She is not interested in libertarian theory, she wants to win the dinner party/political tussle. So she picks an issue that she thinks is a winner, god help us.
One of Haidt's most memorable questions involves a man who has sex with a frozen chicken, then cooks the chicken and eats it for dinner. Is this wrong? he asks. Philosophy-class enlightenment values pretty much give one answer: No one was harmed, so it can’t be wrong. And yet: I’m willing to bet that most of the folks who say that it’s A-OK would still be weirded out if they found out this is what their spouse had prepared for a special anniversary feast. Or that this is how a co-worker spends every Monday night.So Megan McArdle literally thinks "Philosophy-class enlightenment values" can be summed up as "keep f*cking that chicken." Once again, McArdle says something intellectually and morally brain dead because she wants to win an argument. She cannot imagine what liberals feel so she imagines what they think. Because she is petty and spiteful she imagine the worst and then she accuses liberals of these imaginary crimes.
In the ultra-liberal enclave I grew up in, the liberals were at least as fiercely tribal as any small-town Republican, though to be sure, the targets were different. Many of them knew no more about the nuts and bolts of evolution and other hot-button issues than your average creationist; they believed it on authority.Megan McArdle doesn't know what evolution is. Really.
And when it threatened to conflict with some sacred value, such as their beliefs about gender differences, many found evolutionary principles as easy to ignore as those creationists did.Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. That is why equal pay will never work.
It is clearly true that liberals profess a moral code that excludes concerns about loyalty, honor, purity and obedience -- but over the millennia, man has professed many ideals that are mostly honored in the breach.We are supposing that McArdle did not mean to say "excludes" although with her word salad it is hard to tell. McArdle believes that liberals lie when they say they care about moral values because she cannot imagine anyone truly caring about moral values unless they are trading them for an E-ticket for Pearly Gates admission. Therefore liberals are not better than libertarians and Megan McArdle and libertarians everywhere win the blogwar.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who had questions about the prevalence of conformity on both sides of the political spectrum:And since Cubans are exactly like American liberals, liberals are authoritarians too. Suck it, libs! Sadly, this is a prime example of the libertarian cognitive process. Corrupt, mean-spirited and dumb.
The way I saw it, this slavish obedience to authority and tradition on the part of conservatives was the true source of the culture war between liberals and conservatives over foreign war, abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, and racial inequality. They way I saw it, conservatives clung to old, near-sighted ways of thinking and fell in line with the dictates of the "man in charge." If only conservatives would think for themselves -- like liberals do -- the war would be over and we could get on with life, governance, and progress. Or so I thought. Then, in 2012, I went on a cycling trip around Cuba.Jeremy Frimer, the author of the piece, noticed that socialists seemed unable to tolerate even mild questioning of Che Guevara’s eminently questionable legacy. Frimer is a researcher at the University of Winnipeg, and he decided to investigate. What he found is that liberals are actually very comfortable with authority and obedience -- as long as the authorities are liberals (“should you obey an environmentalist?”). And that conservatives then became much less willing to go along with “the man in charge.”
Frimer argues that conservatives tend to support authority because they think authority is conservative; liberals tend to oppose it for the same reason.And liberals were against invading Iraq because liberals think they should be anti-war, not because of all the death, destruction and lingering hatred. Libertarians do not feel for others. They cannot imagine anyone else is different.
Liberal or conservative, it seems, we’re all still human under the skin.Some of us are.