February 15, 2018

"It’s striking to me how many of the architects of [libertarianism] seem to be on the autism spectrum — you know, people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others, and who have difficult human relationships sometimes."

Said Duke history professor Nancy MacLean, quoted in "Duke students rebuke prof for saying libertarians are autistic" at Campus Reform. MacLean, who has written a book on the libertarian economist James Buchanan, was giving a long lecture when she was asked if she thought Buchanan was motivated by “personal greed” or “malevolence.” She gave what might have sounded, in context, like an empathetic understanding of his sort of mind — that he, like other libertarians she's observed — seems to be somewhere on the autism spectrum.

“My initial response was that I wanted her to be punished,” said Hunter Michielson, president of the school’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter. Michielson realized that punishing the professor was "hypocritical for him as a libertarian," but he decided to do something else that I'll call hypocritical, petition the university to put out an official statement:
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the university stand with conservative, libertarian, and autistic students and community members and say that just because you are a libertarian doesn’t mean you are autistic and just because you are autistic doesn’t mean you lack empathy,” Michielson remarked. “College should be a place where you confront difficult opinions,” he added, saying that despite experiencing classroom discrimination for his views, having liberal-leaning professors has been a welcome component of his education given his conservative background.
I'd say, forget the petitions and the official statements and set up a debate or a panel discussion on politics and empathy or human psychology and political preferences. Let's get deep and scientific on what's really going on, rather than take offense and try to scare the person into shutting up.

It seems to me that MacLean is contributing to the marketplace of ideas. It's awkward to drag people with autism in as if you are disrespecting them, but some of that disrespect is coming from Michielson, who says: “I struggle to accept that she actually believes libertarianism or conservatism is the result of autism."

First, MacLean said "seem to be on the autism spectrum." A lot of people — including people we encounter in everyday life who are not overwhelmingly disabled — seem to be on the autism spectrum. It may be a bit offensive to say that, mostly because it sounds disparaging toward people with autism. But MacLean was not "speculating that support for individual liberty might actually be the result of a mental disorder" — as Campus Reform puts it. She was trying to understand Buchanan, after somebody else speculated that he was afflicted by “personal greed” or “malevolence.”

And, frankly, I suspect that libertarians are reacting out of recognition that — however possibly offensively MacLean put it — there is some truth to her observation.

Note: I've incurred the wrath of libertarians for daring to talk about their psychology. Here's a good starting point if you want to examine my motivations.

384 comments:

1 – 200 of 384   Newer›   Newest»
MarkCh said...

People on the autism spectrum have often been bullied as children. Having been bullied as a child makes it difficult to identify with authority figures, and makes it easier to imagine receiving coercion than dishing it out. This inclines people to libertarianism.

I am Six Words or Less said...

Solidarity with others: share pitchforks, torches.

-6W

rhhardin said...

Confuse them by insisting that spectrum implies a stationary process, and the world isn't stationary.

A.M.Yaglom, An Introduction to the Theory of Stationary Random Processes

Gordon Scott said...

Libertarians often seem spergy. There is a magical belief in "should be because" and little understanding of "but in the real world, alas...."

James K said...

It seems to me that MacLean is contributing to the marketplace of ideas.

What does a historian know about autism, and whether specific individuals are "on the spectrum"? She's not contributing much, then, to the marketplace of ideas. It's more like those psychologists who are diagnosing Trump without having examined him, except this isn't even a mental health professional.

Rumpletweezer said...

I've been a libertarian for decades. We've been accused of everything under the sun. I've learned to ignore it. I love my kids. I donate to charities. I help my friends when they have troubles. Yep, I lack empathy.

rhhardin said...

It's a nonrivalrous marketplace, if it's a marketplace.

No property rights, no mutual advantage.

Michael K said...

She has been ridiculed for her alleged scholarship elsewhere.

The WaPoo has even published a critique.

The other reason I was immediately skeptical of MacLean’s take on Buchanan was because her portrayal of Buchanan did not mesh with my personal experience. I only met Buchanan once, at an Institute for Humane Studies gathering for young libertarian academics around 20 years ago. The devil himself (Charles Koch) was there. Buchanan gave the keynote address. What did this arch defender of inequality and wealth talk about? He gave a lengthy defense of high inheritance taxes, necessary, in his view, to prevent the emergence of a permanent oligarchy. Not surprisingly, perhaps, “Democracy in Chains” fails to note Buchanan’s strong support of inheritance taxes. [Update: He in fact publicly supported a 100% inheritance tax.]

She is a leftist hack and Duke seems to attract them.

mockturtle said...

Interesting observation and one I have also made in my experience working with Libertarians in political operations. Their ideas are mostly sound and are untainted by emotional subjectivity but I would not want to live in a society where they were in charge. One need only look at Ayn Rand's characters to see further evidence of their cold detachment.

rhhardin said...

The general idea of hers is that libertarians, in taking into account perverse side effects, decline to jump at direct action to solve social problems.

The soap opera end of the spectrum isn't in the middle, but women think it is.

I am Six Words or Less said...

Duke: is the basketball team libertarian?

-6W

Hari said...

If there were a defined spectrum for logical thinking, wouldn't liberals gravitate towards one end and conservatives towards the other?

Nancy said...

Her remark is so stupid it isn't even wrong.

I am Six Words or Less said...

Emphatic about empathy: caring is mandatory.

-6W

Rick said...

Michael Munger

Here's the best explanation of Maclean's shoddy political attack disguised as scholarship.


She was trying to understand Buchanan,

As amply demonstrated by many critics she made no effort to understand Buchanan at all.

Francisco D said...

Ann,

I have little doubt that your motivations are to stimulate discussion. So let's discuss.

As a long-time psychologist, I have a strong sense of empathy for most of my individual patients, but I also have a duty to differentiate between those who need help and those who are looking for an excuse that keeps them from taking some measure of responsibility and control over their own lives.

As a libertarian (but one who never votes for the Libertarian party) I greatly value the contributions of individual achievers to the social welfare. I do not value a system in which the government tells us how to run our lives, for the most part. Criminal laws are one obvious exception. Otherwise, I seek to control as much of my life as feasible rather than cede that control to politicians.

I work with patients to attain a measure of control over their lives and give up worrying about things they cannot control.

Fernandistein said...

seems to be somewhere on the autism spectrum

I'm sure she has plenty of anecdotes about people who are far more rational and less emotional than she is.

Their ideas are mostly sound and are untainted by emotional subjectivity but I would not want to live in a society where they were in charge.

You wouldn't want to live in a society where *you* were in charge of your own life?

Rick said...

One need only look at Ayn Rand's characters to see further evidence of their cold detachment.

This is much like saying we shouldn't support conservatives because extremist religious cults stifle freedom. Libertarians argue the law and government institutions should be detached, by which they mean not welcoming some groups and discriminating against others. That vision does not translate to people being detached.

Quaestor said...

Does Nancy MacLean feel solidarity with Donald Trump?

The Vault Dweller said...

These student groups trying to make them live up to their own rules only works so much. Jeff Seessions should get off his butt and and start reigning in these reckless college administration groups that are so scared of right wing speakers they charge them exhorbitant speaking fees etc. Nothing too overboard, just start slowing putting the pressure on them, so they learn you can't throw a tissy to keep other people from speaking.

MikeR said...

"It’s striking to me how many of the architects of [libertarianism] seem to be on the autism spectrum — you know, people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others, and who have difficult human relationships sometimes."
Well, yeah. Many of the architects of _pretty much anything_ are like that, with difficult human relationships. Take a look at the personal lives of, say, great French intellectuals like Voltaire or Rousseau. You will be astonished that people who spent their lives talking about how to fix everyone else were such total failures with all the people around them.

rhhardin said...

Think of libertarians as wanting what works instead of what's feel-good entertainment.

Richard Epstein has a nice recent podcast somewhere on what a classical liberal is.

I'm pretty sure this is it.

https://www.hoover.org/research/area-45-president-trump-libertarian-perspective

Lyssa said...

I'm less interested in this wrt libertarianism than I am in what constitutes "seems to be on the autism spectrum." That seems to mean a lot of things, most of which could also be called "personality." Where is the line between someone being on the autism spectrum and having just a different way of approaching things, or different values? Are we all supposed to be the same, but for some "autism spectrum" or similar variance?

mockturtle said...

Rick: Would Libertarians have been abolitionists or would they have regarded slaves as property, which they legally were?

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

There is a magical belief in "should be because" and little understanding of "but in the real world, alas...."

I find this is much more applicable to most progressives that I know than libertarians. Most libertarians, such as myself, would say 'sure the world sometimes sucks and sometimes is awesome; whatever, not my problem or my accomplishment; just leave me the hell alone.'

William Chadwick said...

I do lack empathy for people who are trying to force me to do stuff. If there's a bent psychology in the political sphere, it's the sadomasochistic desire of statists to rule, or to be ruled. To me people who don't value their own liberty (let alone the liberty of others) are the ones needing scrutiny. I have no desire to be hammer or anvil, so of course that makes me the odd duck.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I would not want to live in a society where they were in charge

Why not? We'll mostly leave you to your own devices. Genuinely puzzled as to why you wouldn't want that?

traditionalguy said...

You are just lucky that Autism not considered a Race...yet. That is the all purpose "incite a riot" final solution tactic to eliminate ideas that expose truth.

Those are my feelings.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Libertarians, like Marxists, believe that man is an expression of economics. You can't say Libertaians are "on the spectrum" without putting commies on the same spectrum.

Balfegor said...

Re: Michael K:

Here is another follow up noting the mess of conspiracy-minding thinking that MacLean's work on Buchanan presents.

All that said, though, I think the student in question is deliberately blurring libertarianism and conservatism together here to make her point seem more ridiculous. Libertarianism is a little like Marxism and hardcore "social justice" theory (in all its racial and gender-theory varieties), in that it has a tendency to elevate theoretical principle over the kind of muddled give and take that everyday decency requires. All things being equal, these kinds of theoretical frameworks probably do appeal more to people who are a little more aloof, and a little less empathetic. That's not quite the same as being on the spectrum, but it's been conflated in popular culture.

Conservatism, on the other hand -- at least in many of its manifestations -- is muddling through elevated to a skeptical philosophical principle. It sits at the opposite pole from libertarianism, communism, intersectionality and all that. It overlaps with libertarianism in the US today only because the customs and practices that conservatives want to preserve happen -- in this country -- to coincide to some extent with libertarian principles.

rhhardin said...

As I remember it, the classical liberal decides on collective vs private action based on what produces opportunity for more gains from trade; with the proviso that nobody is left worse off (so may need to be compensated, for e.g. takings).

Estimating gains from trade is a pretty analytic thing to do.

traditionalguy said...

As punishment for being a nuisance, all Libertarians must be required to read the Complete Works of John Stewart Mill, slowly three times.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Only real humans are communists.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

As long as we can also recognize that many current and former University of Wisconsin School of Law faculty are on the retarded spectrum.

Ann Althouse said...

"Interesting observation and one I have also made in my experience working with Libertarians in political operations. Their ideas are mostly sound and are untainted by emotional subjectivity but I would not want to live in a society where they were in charge. One need only look at Ayn Rand's characters to see further evidence of their cold detachment."

Libertarians tend to not to understand the objection to their sort of mind. They tend to just think they are smarter and above the degrading experience of emotion (thought the smartest brain science I've read makes it seem clear that human thought is inherently emotional).

Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics. People sense that something is missing that needs to be there. It's interesting that Donald Trump — bursting with emotion — is successful and millions decided to trust him (even though he seems really weird). People are looking for something and we can't tell you exactly what it is, though we may be repelled by those who lack it.

mockturtle said...

Fernandistein asks: You wouldn't want to live in a society where *you* were in charge of your own life?

If it means literally 'every man for himself' [or woman, of course], no. While I consider myself largely libertarian in the political sense, I also see a need for compassion for the weak and sick. Not that it's the job of the state to institutionalize compassion but that, as a people, we have some obligation to extend help to those in need.

Jack Wayne said...

I think of Libertarians as Utopians. They have ideas about limited government but it don’t think they are practical. For example, they espouse nearly unlimited immigration in a welfare state which is completely nuts in my opinion. Which begs the question - Is Utopianism on the Autism spectrum?

jv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I'm with you Ann on the idea that this history professor should be free to speculate as to the source, including the psychology, of political and social systems with which she disagrees. The best way to refute her is to debate and argue the merits of her assertions. When you simply shut someone up the objectionable idea isn't refuted or settled, it just goes underground. Note also that she's opened debate, here and elsewhere, on the preferred social policy differences between Leftists and Libertarians. As a member of the latter group I welcome that debate wholeheartedly.

-sw

William Chadwick said...

Lewis Wetzel, where have you gotten your perception of libertarians from?

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others

This morning I was ranting about this when one of my husband's Amazon-employed Facebook friends shared a bunch of slavering photos of the inside of those disgusting biodomes. I could go on for hours about how morally offensive I find them ~ they are literally playgrounds for the rich and pampered, restricted to Amazon employees and their pet doggies only, accessible by a tunnel from an Amazon building designed to keep those precious precious brogrammers from having to interact with icky poors outside, taking up real estate in a city that is in the worst affordability crisis in its history, literally across the street from a McDonald's full of wet cold miserable homeless people while selling $15 organic greens salads ~ but I would guarantee that 98% of the people who use it consider themselves enlightened and caring progressives who are just brimming with solidarity and empathy. Get me an emesis basin because I'm going to fucking BARF.

rhhardin said...

Epstein podcast, about 11 minutes in.

Stacy McMahon said...

And, frankly, I suspect that libertarians are reacting out of recognition that — however possibly offensively MacLean put it — there is some truth to her observation.

No, they're reacting to the small but persistent strain of American leftism that "diagnoses" things like autism, anger issues etc. in their political opponents, which traces its ideological lineage to the Soviet Union's technique of "diagnosing" various mental disorders in its dissidents and then locking them up.

To be fair to Nancy MacLean, I don't think she is personally trying to have Libertarians locked up for their beliefs. What I do think she's doing is almost worse than that--she used an insult that's become fashionable in her corner of politics lately (calling right-ish people 'autistic') and tried to dress it up as academic discussion.

mockturtle said...

Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics. People sense that something is missing that needs to be there. It's interesting that Donald Trump — bursting with emotion — is successful and millions decided to trust him (even though he seems really weird). People are looking for something and we can't tell you exactly what it is, though we may be repelled by those who lack it.

Exactly! Would we want a robot or a computer [think Hal!] in charge?

MadisonMan said...

One should always resist the temptation to assign all x to y in a human population. Because everything is a spectrum.

If you are starting a sentence that essentially says It seems to me and you think of adding all people are.. then you are doomed to make a fool of yourself.

Fernandistein said...

Here's my "talking point": The U.S. Constitution is a libertarian document.

Aside from boring procedures, it's almost entirely about what the gov't, especially the federal gov't, can't do.

Look thru it for your favorite government words (health, education, equality, fairness, minority, medic*), and they're not there.

"Security" is in there, however:
"being necessary to the security of a free State," therefore - rather than the government doing something, the government is prevented from doing something.

And "welfare": "general Welfare of the United States".

rhhardin said...

Sometimes the transactions costs in voluntary arrangements are too high, would be the key observation leading to collective action.

lgv said...

".....she was asked if she thought Buchanan was motivated by “personal greed” or “malevolence.”"

This is what caught my attention. Yes, those are the only two possibilities. Wait, MacLean throws out a third, less sinister possibility.

We are missing some context. Who asked the question? What had she said or written about Buchanan and his economic positions before the question? And of course, my favorite topic, the complete lack of understanding when it comes to economics. Here we have a history professor analyzing Buchanan's economic policies, or that of libertarians in general.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

If it means literally 'every man for himself' [or woman, of course], no. While I consider myself largely libertarian in the political sense, I also see a need for compassion for the weak and sick. Not that it's the job of the state to institutionalize compassion but that, as a people, we have some obligation to extend help to those in need.

Then the problem here is that you misunderstand libertarianism; no worries, it's a common misconception, but no libertarian would argue with any of this. Just that it's up to private individuals and the associations they create freely and without state interference or coercion to extend help, etc.

Sure, some libertarians don't care about other people, but that's true of all political stripes, and anyway is not a cause or result of their libertarianism. As I mentioned above, I'd say that that techdouche lounging inside the Amazon biodome petting his dog, working on his Macbook and munching on his organic arugula and busily not giving a shit about the homeless people he can literally see through the glass is just as much 'every man for himself' as any strawman libertarian, but with the added stench of hypocrisy.

Fernandistein said...

mockturtle said...
... I also see a need for compassion for the weak and sick. Not that it's the job of the state to institutionalize compassion but that, as a people, we have some obligation to extend help to those in need.


Nothing in libertarian philosophy prevents or interfere with people doing exactly that. Libertarianism* would only interfere with forcing people to do that.

*I wish there were a better word.

Ann Althouse said...

"If there were a defined spectrum for logical thinking, wouldn't liberals gravitate towards one end and conservatives towards the other?"

The problems to be solved are not logic problems, so the question is, ironically, illogical.

rhhardin said...

Epstein said "the adverse possession problem" where he meant "the adverse selection problem," on Obamacare.

Freeman Hunt said...

Maybe movement a bit in the direction of autism on the spectrum is an improvement as regards clear thinking. Maybe people have evolved, in the environment of all small scale projects, to mostly over-empathize, leading to bad decisions on large scale projects.

Mike Sylwester said...

Many libertarians are extraordinarily funny. For example, the comments on the websites Reason and 4chan are hilarious.

It's my understanding that autistics do not have good senses of humor.

mockturtle said...

Your point is well taken, Pants, but let's extrapolate the argument, as Althouse did, at 9:24. Would we want elected officials to be coldly detached, albeit logical and pragmatic? Robots in the Senate?

rhhardin said...

The problems to be solved are not logic problems, so the question is, ironically, illogical.

The problems to be solved need analysis. The question is whether the better analysis comes from abstracting from details or adding details.

The former is masculine, the latter is feminine.

The former works on system, the latter works in neighborhoods.

Once and for all fix vs one-time fix.

Nonapod said...

Probably the most common insult leveled against libertarians is that they lack empathy. I can only say that anecdotally I've personally known a few people who considered themselves libertarians and in my observations that didn't seem to be the case. There was even a time when I considered myself a libertarian, and I know actually do care about my fellow human beings.

But ultimately I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a neurologist and I'm not telepathic, so I can only imagine what's really going on in other people's heads. But it seems insulting, overly dismissive, simplistic, and not constructive to just declare that libertarians have no empathy or that they must be autistic. Honestly it seems trollish. When you can't debate an idea, it's easier to resort to insulting the people with the idea I guess.

Ann Althouse said...

Libertarians might be trying to limit what's involved in a problem because they have a need to be able to solve it according to their principles.

I see this need as emotional. But try talking to a libertarian about that. I did and caught hell.

Quaestor said...

MacLane may have a minor point, but I doubt it has anything to do with autism, a very ill-defined mentality which is obvious in clinical examples but fuzzy to the point of illusory otherwise. Her valid observation has to do with libertarianism as a political movement. There has been an officially designated Libertarian Party since 1971, but it has been singularly unsuccessful in its mission. I suspect that libertarians, self-described members of a movement of principles, find it difficult to condense those principles into political formulas or find candidates whose ideological purity can satisfy the core Libertarian voter.

lgv said...

"Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics. "

There are no voters to bribe via your political position. When you want less government, you have those who will end up with less voting against you. Those who are likely kindred souls are part of the population that is least likely to vote. Those who support the massive social safety net and free stuff will come out and vote Democrat. Those who support large military expenditures will come and vote Republican to support the military.

jv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

Not everything that's called a disorder only takes; sometimes it gives too. A little bit of autism often gives a whole lot. Where would we be without people a bit father than average toward autism on the spectrum? Imagine all the advancements in every field that we would have to give up. It's staggering.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Would we want elected officials to be coldly detached, albeit logical and pragmatic? Robots in the Senate?

A girl can dream..... :-)

Give me an example of a governmental or public problem that is better solved though the application of emotion, especially since most emotion is selfish and comprised of trying to secure resources for oneself or one's tribe. Calls for 'compassion and empathy' etc usually are just cynical covers for 'freebies for the people I want to vote for me.' This is equally true for farm subsidies as it is for pointless programs like Head Start; it's not a right or left thing.

I'm all for a sober reckoning for the role of emotion in government and policy, but let's talk about the *actual* emotions (tribalism, greed, mob excitement, moral masturbation, the need to belong, etc) and not about what they are purported to be (compassion, solidarity etc).

Quaestor said...

Politics in a democracy is about compromise and unfortunately compromising one's principles is generally perceived as a moral failing of the first order. This puts the Libertarian Party, the Party of Principal™️ in the position of fielding corrupt candidates by definition.

Ann Althouse said...

"I have little doubt that your motivations are to stimulate discussion. So let's discuss. As a long-time psychologist, I have a strong sense of empathy for most of my individual patients, but I also have a duty to differentiate between those who need help and those who are looking for an excuse that keeps them from taking some measure of responsibility and control over their own lives. As a libertarian (but one who never votes for the Libertarian party) I greatly value the contributions of individual achievers to the social welfare. I do not value a system in which the government tells us how to run our lives, for the most part. Criminal laws are one obvious exception. Otherwise, I seek to control as much of my life as feasible rather than cede that control to politicians."

I notice that you talked about values. I agree that libertarians have values that they have weighted above other values: individual achievement (and risk) over empathy and social welfare. But my question — which I could not coax libertarians to discuss — is WHY have you given that weight to those values?

The libertarians I have encountered seem have low empathy for the unfortunate, and they don't want to look at it, even as others feel repelled by their coldness.

rhhardin said...

I see this need as emotional. But try talking to a libertarian about that. I did and caught hell.

The emotion is engrossment in a problem. Very male. Enjoyment of it. Abstraction.

The problem though is not solved emotionally. It's solved, period.

EDH said...

Aren't those who wish to relegate compassion to an anonymous state bureaucracy truly the ones who have difficulty engaging with other people to demonstrate their individual empathy for others?

Roy Jacobsen said...

"I can't argue with you on the merits of your position, so I'ma drop a not-so-subtle ad hominem instead."

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Are you on the autism spectrum if you think the government is a cradle to grave nanny?

traditionalguy said...

The handicap Libertarians bring to Politics is a strict demand to reason from categories. That sounds noble, but if/when they mislabel people into simple categories, then they seem out of touch with reality.

Note: I just said that people's perceptions are reality until you persuade them otherwise.

That's how I feel about that.

Ann Althouse said...

"Jeff Seessions should get off his butt and and start reigning in these reckless college administration groups..."

King Jeff of the College Administration Groups.

rhhardin said...

Libertarian value is maximizing opportunities for gains from trade.

What distinguishes civilization from barbarism.

He knows that because he can abstract.

Fernandistein said...

Mike For example, the comments on the websites Reason and 4chan are hilarious.
Ack! Reason suffers from SJW Syndrome. Never looked at 4chan.
Volokh moved his blog to Reason (cuzza censorship by WashPo?) but I haven't looked at it for months.

mockturtle said...Would we want elected officials to be coldly detached, albeit logical and pragmatic?

Yes, of course, especially keeping in mind that they're not going to be doing much of anything.

Under what circumstances would you prefer them to be emotional, illogical and impractical?

Ann Althouse said...

"Think of libertarians as wanting what works instead of what's feel-good entertainment."

They won't admit to being pragmatists. They're all about principle. And that feels good to them... in their cold cold place.

mockturtle said...

Give me an example of a governmental or public problem that is better solved though the application of emotion, especially since most emotion is selfish and comprised of trying to secure resources for oneself or one's tribe. Calls for 'compassion and empathy' etc usually are just cynical covers for 'freebies for the people I want to vote for me.' This is equally true for farm subsidies as it is for pointless programs like Head Start; it's not a right or left thing.

Pants, my earlier post mentioned abolition of slavery. Slaves were legal property. They were bought by their owners. Would a strict Libertarian see this as a strictly legal issue and side with property rights or as a humanitarian one?

Rick said...

Libertarians tend to not to understand the objection to their sort of mind.

No, they think the objections don't compare to an appropriate standard which includes the alternatives' weaknesses.

Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics.

People want to believe and when dealing with uncertainty many will suspend disbelief even when they realize promises are unlikely to be reached. Why was Obama's obvious lie that Obamacare would save the typical family 2,500 / year accepted? Why was Trump's obvious lie that we would get Mexico to pay for the wall accepted?

Freeman Hunt said...

"The libertarians I have encountered seem have low empathy for the unfortunate"

Perhaps what some read as low empathy is really the position that state-directed solutions mostly make more people unfortunate and make the unfortunate worse off.

Rick said...

They won't admit to being pragmatists. They're all about principle. And that feels good to them... in their cold cold place.


I am a libertarian pragmatist. Why do people who reject stereotypes about other groups so readily embrace them about libertarians?

mockturtle said...

Under what circumstances would you prefer them to be emotional, illogical and impractical?

None. Logical and humane are not mutually exclusive.

rhhardin said...

They won't admit to being pragmatists. They're all about principle. And that feels good to them... in their cold cold place.

They're about what will work. What will work depends on gains from trade.

The feel-good is about solving the problem, not about how Althouse feels.

The problem solved means it's not a problem. There's that.

If the criticism is that it's still a problem, maybe it's another problem entirely. Next on the list.

CJinPA said...

I'd say, forget the petitions and the official statements and set up a debate

This should be the response to EVERY modern academic kerfuffle. But partisan academics and students would never allow it.

Fernandistein said...

They won't admit to being pragmatists.

I admit to being a pragmatist.

To back up your statement, perhaps you could demonstrate how Friedman based his philosophy on feeling cold emotions rather than on logic and pragmatism.

Perhaps.

Nonapod said...

As to why libertarians haven't been politically successful, that's easy: There just ain't enough of them. Human beings naturally seek paths of least resistance. People who strongly believe in things like the primacy of the individual, self reliance, personal accountability, not expecting hand-outs, and all that stuff generally have to be fairly good at being individuals in the world. Those sorts of people aren't super common.

rhhardin said...

There are two classes of Libertarians, Epstein says. No fraud and no force is common to them all.

Recognizing that there are reasons for state action separates them.

Reasons for state action include, almost exclusively, reducing frictions that prevent voluntary exchange, provided that that collective action leaves nobody worse off.

Pareto optimum, it's called.

Such things include roads, right of way for pipelines, network things like railroads.

Ann Althouse said...

"'I would not want to live in a society where they were in charge' Why not? We'll mostly leave you to your own devices. Genuinely puzzled as to why you wouldn't want that?"

Because we don't accept hearing about American children who can't get the cancer surgery they need and grandmothers eating dogfood, etc. etc.

Yes, charity could deal with much of that, but most of us prefer systematic taxing and spending to establish the basic floor below which we will not sink. We feel more free to go about our own lives doing what we like if that's taken care of by government and not a continual nagging on me to be either charitable or callous with respect to every possible thing that needs attention.

mockturtle said...

Why do people who reject stereotypes about other groups so readily embrace them about libertarians?

Rick, Libertarianism is a political/ideological position, not a racial or cultural one. Can we not make generalizations about Communists base on their positions?

jv said...
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I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I notice that you talked about values. I agree that libertarians have values that they have weighted above other values: individual achievement (and risk) over empathy and social welfare. But my question — which I could not coax libertarians to discuss — is WHY have you given that weight to those values?

The libertarians I have encountered seem have low empathy for the unfortunate, and they don't want to look at it, even as others feel repelled by their coldness.


More strawmen. Citation needed that libertarians don't value 'empathy and social welfare.' They just don't want to be told when and how to exercise someone else's idea of 'empathy and social welfare.'

Well, it seems to me you have low empathy for the unfortunate. Do you donate your Amazon portal earnings to the poor? How many single mothers and their toddlers do you house in your big ol empty nester house? Does Meade spend his days fussing (autistically?) over your garden or teaching the disadvantaged to read and apply for welfare benefits? Do you spend your days reading writing and skiing, or do you offer free tutoring to struggling college students and unload donations at the food bank?

Do you like being judged by someone who has no idea how much empathy for the unfortunate you in fact have? Neither do libertarians. It's annoying and childish. There's some emotion for you :)

Quaestor said...

As for Simpleton's Guide to the Autism Spectrum (copyright 2018, Nancy MacLean) who doesn't lack solidarity? And who doesn't find relationships troublesome from time to time? Liberals love to flatter themselves as loving and caring. Is their hubris so complete that they assume they enjoy a monopoly of love and care? And does their love and care place them on the Downs Syndrom spectrum?

MadisonMan said...

It is amazing to me, also, that a History Professor can make a diagnosis of Autism simply by observing people.

This is the kind of thinking that gets us Facebook posts about Trump having personality disorders.

Why the need to take people with whom you disagree, and clump them into a group?

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

"College should be a place where you confront difficult opinions...”

Say, that libertarianism tends to attract the spergy/people who tend to be naïve about what motivates other human beings? (Yes, they are like progs that way.) We can talk about how left-ish politics tends to attract the objectivity-challenged feelz brigade, can't we? (I suspect Mr. Michielson doesn't have a problem with that.) So fair game.

"I struggle to accept that she actually believes libertarianism or conservatism is the result of autism."

Isn't the relationship between temperament and political leaning one of those "challenging", "difficult" topics that the intellectually curious ought to be willing to consider?

And why is it a "struggle" to "accept" that somebody else believes something that you don't believe? That is illustrative of a lack of "empathy", which people here appear to be using in the very restricted sense of "but I'm a nice person" sympathy/compassion, rather than the ability to get inside the viewpoints of people one disagrees with.

One may be skeptical that other people are on the up-and-up, one may suspect that they're trolling, or being deliberately provocative, but "struggle to accept"? Sounding pretty damned SJW here, Mr. "Libertarian".

Fernandistein said...

mockturtle said...
"Under what circumstances would you prefer them to be emotional, illogical and impractical?"
None. Logical and humane are not mutually exclusive.


Well, then, it sounds like you *do* want them to be detached, logical and pragmatic.

Ken B said...

Biological reductivism as an "explanation" for ideas you disagree with isn't much of a contribution to the marketplace of ideas.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Yes, charity could deal with much of that, but most of us prefer systematic taxing and spending to establish the basic floor below which we will not sink. We feel more free to go about our own lives doing what we like if that's taken care of by government and not a continual nagging on me to be either charitable or callous with respect to every possible thing that needs attention.

Which is powerfully selfish, lol. The nice thing though is that, being a libertarian, I want you to have the freedom to be selfish. You want to force me to pay for your comfortable selfishness. If you think that's morally defensible, good for you, but don't expect others who value their freedom and autonomy to accept that without a fight.

rhhardin said...

The Accountant (2016) was good.

Do an empathy analysis.

D.D. Driver said...

"Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics."

I'm gonna call a little bit of bullshit here. From gay marriage (first proposed by libertarians about 40 years before mainstream lefties had a "change of heart") to marijuana legalization, to school choice, to deregulation and tax reform.

Libertarians have had tons of success in the real world of politics. But change requires that one or both of the two major parties catch up with the rest of the class.

But the broader point (i.e., a lack of empathy) is also bullshit. Are libertarians (generally) pro-immigration, anti-war, anti-militarization of law enforcement, anti-mass incarceration because they "lack empathy." Is the non-aggression principal the product of a lack of empathy?

I think we need a new tag (like "civility bullshit") for "empathy bullshit." It's a way to smear an opposing a political viewpoint you may disagree with without understanding it and engaging in actual ideas (instead of your straw-man version of those ideas).

Lewis Wetzel said...

Libertarians say they want welfare to be the job of private charities and churches.
But I've never met a Libertarian who gave money to a charity or who went to church.

rhhardin said...

Children needing cancer surgery.

Is there a more womanish example possible.

Rae said...

If you're not an emotional basket case you must be mentally ill.

Ann Althouse said...

"Here's my "talking point": The U.S. Constitution is a libertarian document. Aside from boring procedures, it's almost entirely about what the gov't, especially the federal gov't, can't do...."

U.S. Constitution concerns itself with setting up the federal government, with all the other powers of government left to the states. You can complain that over the years, it's been interpreted to allow the feds to do much more than was originally envisioned, but it doesn't establish libertarianism because it doesn't address (except for a few things) what government can do at the state level.

And that spending for the general welfare left a gigantic loophole.

rhhardin said...

Shriners hospitals.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

But I've never met a Libertarian who gave money to a charity or who went to church.

Your limited social circle is neither my problem or indicative of any actual facts.

deepelemblues said...

So some guy at reason pissed the professor off 11 years ago by misrepresenting her, in her eyes. How this has a connection to suggesting there is a connection between libertarians and autism is a mystery. Misrepresentation is hardly the sole province of libertarians, is being active in politics itself a sign of autism, then? Just what is the professor's point, precisely?

rhhardin said...

Roman law, and common law, have evolved more or less in the direction of the classical liberal, which is to say the state-action-allowing form of the libertarian.

Based on what is found to work.

Formalization of the principles is happening today. No fraud, no force, state action to enhance opportunities for gains from trade, pareto optimum.

Ken B said...

All problems are logical problems Althouse. That's why we don't decide things by reading animal entrails. The premise of your "she is contributing to the debate" defense of her statement is that debate has value.

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Your limited social circle is neither my problem or indicative of any actual facts."
Wrong, Miister Pants. It is indicative of the fact that, as I wrote, I have never met a Libertarian who gave money to charity or who went to church.
Libertarians aren't nearly as clever as they think that they are.

Freeman Hunt said...

Characterizing people with autism as lacking empathy is, I think, a mistake. Confusing the outward display with the inner state. Or confusing the result with the cause.

deepelemblues said...

Surely Lewis has heard the phrase, "the synonym of anecdote is not data."

Fernandistein said...

mockturtle said...
Rick: Would Libertarians have been abolitionists or would they have regarded slaves as property, which they legally were?


That's a no-brainer. The basic principle* is: no force or fraud.

Therefore no slavery.

*Actually: minimize the use of force - you still have to arrest criminals by force.

The Reason crowd is divided on abortion: some see it as an "I own my body" right, and others see it as "your using force against an innocent person".

Quaestor said...

Althouse: The libertarians I have encountered seem have low empathy for the unfortunate, and they don't want to look at it, even as others feel repelled by their coldness.

Having low empathy for the unfortunate does not preclude having sympathy for them. Empathy is way overrated and needs to be banned from political discussions as immature twaddle. I don't care if my physician doesn't empathize with my ailment, in fact, a wise patient should flee from such a quack. I should only care if the treatment he prescribes is effective. His empathy or lack of it is immaterial. Do attorneys empathize with the accused criminal? I imagine some do, mainly of those the "Tom Hagen" stripe, but empathy is more properly an irrelevancy compared to professional competence and a devotion to duty.

We should all remember Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" bullshit, which is more often than not the mark of a mountebank seeking to exploit the emotions of the unwary.

rhhardin said...

The hit-the-other-guy-on-the-head-and-take-his-stuff economy is all empathy.

Henry said...

Professor MacLean would have done better to talk about the extent to which idealism can blind people to the human consequences of their ideas. I do think many hardcore libertarians fall into that trap. But that is a trap for idealists on the left as well. Just as an example, idealism can lead a respected historian to doctor quotes and indulge in character assassination.

* * *

But I've never met a Libertarian who gave money to a charity...

Like these guys?

Or this guy?

Ann Althouse said...

"Not everything that's called a disorder only takes; sometimes it gives too. A little bit of autism often gives a whole lot. Where would we be without people a bit father than average toward autism on the spectrum? Imagine all the advancements in every field that we would have to give up. It's staggering."

Psychologists have to say "disorder" for various reasons, but for social purposes, I think we should lean toward seeing people as "differently abled" (to use a much-mocked term). There is a movement (I've blogged about it) among people on the autism spectrum to be respected as having their own gifts.

We're all good at some things and worse at others. I, for one, have no sense of smell and many less specific limitations, but there are a few things I'm good at and I've managed to get myself in the position where I can maximize what I'm good at.

Bay Area Guy said...

Vaccines cause Libertarianism - everybody knows this.

rhhardin said...

What you want it a doctor is someone who likes medicine, not people.

mockturtle said...

That's a no-brainer. The basic principle* is: no force or fraud.

Therefore no slavery.


You're assuming slaves were considered citizens with inalienable rights. They were not.

Murph said...

"...most of us prefer systematic taxing and spending to establish the basic floor below which we will not sink. We feel more free to go about our own lives doing what we like if that's taken care of by government and not a continual nagging on me to be either charitable or callous with respect to every possible thing that needs attention."

I intend no insult, but you are assuming an awful lot there about people of whom you *know* nothing.

Michael K said...

"Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics. "

No graft to grease the wheels.

Seriously, my objection to "Big L" Libertarians is that they assume a social order but do not specify how it comes to exist.

Henry said...

Althouse: The libertarians I have encountered seem have low empathy for the unfortunate, and they don't want to look at it, even as others feel repelled by their coldness.

I do think this is a problem for hardcore economic libertarians, though I'm not sure empathy is the right word. Rather there is the sense of mission that prescribes a grand scheme that ignores individual costs. Again, this is a problem for idealists of all orientations.

Quaestor said...

Yes, charity could deal with much of that, but most of us prefer systematic taxing and spending to establish the basic floor below which we will not sink.

How high is that floor? And does it include a cell phone and basic cable?

William Chadwick said...

Libertarians are probably so unsuccessful on the world of politics because, deep down, most people fear freedom (as Nock and Mencken told us decades ago). Certainly in a society where over half the populace is in some way dependent on government,the electorate have a financial stake in keeping the plunderbund going. ("The People's Pottage," as Garet Garrett called it.) Many people profess to love liberty when actually what they want is "freedom for me but not for thee."

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

MadisonMan: This is the kind of thinking that gets us Facebook posts about Trump having personality disorders.

It can be, but isn't necessarily.

Why the need to take people with whom you disagree, and clump them into a group?

Because, depending on how you're clumping them, the roots of why people think the way they think is an interesting question? I don't have a problem with people saying, "Angle-Dyne, your political views strongly correlate with your particular constellation of personality traits, and that's why I think you think the way you think". Seems like an interesting area of research, which can be well or badly done, as is always the case. Hardly in the same thing as "Angle-Dyne, you voted for Trump because you're a racist xenophobe, and I know this because only racist xenophobes support Trump, and anyway Trump has a personality disorder because he's not letting the Dems amnesty 30 million illegal aliens which makes him Hitler QED."

Do you want to go out on a limb and say that there is no correlation between temperament/personality traits and attraction to libertarianism, and that political views are 100% arrived at by experience, or rational thought, or something entirely distinct from natural temperament?

buwaya said...

Ayn Rand, and her characters, are not coldly detached.
They are not intellectually libertarian either, regardless of Rands prolix rationalizations. And Rand, whatever her mental issues may have been, probably wasnt on the Aspergers spectrum.

Rather, they were Romantics, with more in common with Byron and his Don Juan than some pure analyst. They were not scientists observing an ant colony, they were passionate rebels.

rhhardin said...

The slave economy is before free market. It's better all around to enslave conquered peoples than to kill them.

In a free market, a slave contributes more to society working in his own self-interest than as a slave, so the economic basis disappears.

In disappearing a lot of hopeless arguments against change were invented but they were all doomed to fail. E.g. naturally subservient people, etc. That hadn't been necessary before.

Ann Althouse said...

"The emotion is engrossment in a problem. Very male. Enjoyment of it. Abstraction. The problem though is not solved emotionally. It's solved, period."

What problem? Surely not how to run the government. This is like what I said earlier: If you exclude all the things that are not subject to your template, you get your answer.

But even in math and engineering problems, your entire nervous system (that is, your emotions too) is operating. You may not enjoy knowing that, but your mind doesn't work like a computer, and you are making intuitive leaps and projections, even where the ultimate solution is objective and could be reached, using different methods, by a computer.

But government requires many choices and an ongoing encounter with consequences. Which problems in government are solved "abstractly" and in a way that could be worked out without emotion? Pure fantasy!

Kevin said...

She's not contributing much, then, to the marketplace of ideas.

What she's contributing is the idea that people who have a problem taking from someone better off to give to someone less well off lack empathy.

Once they can successfully pin this on Libertarians, other groups will be subsequently labeled.

That should keep the empathy people on the Democratic ranch no matter how well the economy does under Trump.

traditionalguy said...

It's about time to watch the Temple Grandin movie again. It is true enough to make even a Libertarian feel empathy.

Lewis Wetzel said...

logger deepelemblues said...
Surely Lewis has heard the phrase, "the synonym of anecdote is not data."

What did I assert, deepelemblues? I quote myself:
"Libertarians say they want welfare to be the job of private charities and churches.
But I've never met a Libertarian who gave money to a charity or who went to church."
I did not say that no Libertarians have ever given money to a charity or gone to church.
Perhaps you know many of these philanthropic, church going Libertarians. I have never met any.

deepelemblues said...

Is the gleeful lack of empathy in certain quarters for people who might be called "deplorables" a sign of autism?

jv said...
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Lyssa said...

This seems like a place for a spin on the "pussies and dicks" discussion from Team America. We need emotionalism and detached rationality to check each other. Too much is bad of either one.

Kevin said...

What problem? Surely not how to run the government.

Now exactly what does that mean? Because if you define run the government as to what it's limited to under the Constitution, they're probably the people best equipped to do it.

If you mean some other government, then yes, they are less able to do that.

The government of Venezuela? No Libertarian could run that place as currently designed.

deepelemblues said...
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rhhardin said...

But even in math and engineering problems, your entire nervous system (that is, your emotions too) is operating. You may not enjoy knowing that, but your mind doesn't work like a computer, and you are making intuitive leaps and projections, even where the ultimate solution is objective and could be reached, using different methods, by a computer.

People all fail to be computers. Guys see connections and abstract, women see connections and add.

How barren a computer is doesn't strike most people. The smart stuff it does is by way of big data: find the solution some person has found for this and print it.

Rick said...

mockturtle said...
Rick, Libertarianism is a political/ideological position, not a racial or cultural one. Can we not make generalizations about Communists base on their positions?


The person who made the statement rejects stereotypes based on politics - at least then they're asserted about leftists.

Ann Althouse said...

"Aren't those who wish to relegate compassion to an anonymous state bureaucracy truly the ones who have difficulty engaging with other people to demonstrate their individual empathy for others?"

I would say I want a good-enough social safety net so I can be free of the impossible task of showing decent concern for all of the problems because I want to limit my personal caring to a much smaller group that is closer to me.

And compassion channeled into private charities can leave out a lot of important needs. Look at all the money people give to dog-related charities. Our feelings about things too far beyond our personal scope are too inaccurate.

deepelemblues said...

Oh Lewis, if you're now saying you weren't really trying to say anything, why did you say anything at all? You did have a point you were trying to make with your anecdote about libertarians, did you not? Don't be weaselly, proudly stand by what you believe.

mtrobertslaw said...

"...the smartest brain science I've read make it seem clear the human thought is inherently emotional." It that is so, the conclusions of "the smartest brain science" themselves rest on emotion.

And if this is true, it does not make much sense to label one set of emotions "smarter" than another. There is no basis judging that one emotional reaction is "better" than another when reason and logic (the very structure of human thought) themselves are simply emotions.

MarkW said...

"Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics. People sense that something is missing that needs to be there. "

Libertarianism was a dominant political philosophy of the 19th century until it was eclipsed by the Fabian socialists and early progressives. In the U.S., progressive leftists managed to hijack the term 'Liberal' leaving old-school'classic' liberals to call themselves libertarian. That's not true outside the U.S., where 'liberal' continues to mean something akin to libertarian and nothing like socialist as it does in the U.S.

The point is -- did all those 19th century liberals (who would now be called libertarians) have "something that's missing that needs to be there"? I'd suggest that your experience is not representative. You met with people who were gung-ho enough to go to Libertarian meetings. You have to expect the percentage of true-believers to be high in such a setting regardless of political philosophy. Most 'small-l' libertarians are simply people who are cultural liberals and economic conservatives. Who agree with Democrats on gay marriage and Republicans on de-regulation. The parties in the U.S. have cleaved in a way that leaves most people like that as independents with no political home.

But the lack of Libertarian Party electoral successes does not mean that history has not moved in a libertarian direction. Since I was a kid, the world has gotten a lot more libertarian in many ways. Many industries (airlines and trucking, for example) were deregulated. Home schooling and charters are allowed. There is increasing skepticism of restrictive licensing. Gay marriage legal. So is home brewing. Drug legalization is proceeding. The draft is no more. People are much more skeptical of authority generally. Did Libertarian(TM) politicians do these things? No. But a lot of libertarian-leaning thinkers (including James Buchanan, Mlton Friedman and many others) have had a great deal of influence. That's the place to look for libertarian political successes, not at the ballot box.

CStanley said...

I'm libertarianish but I think you need Burkean conservatism to fill the gaps and make a just society.

I think a big downfall of pure libertarianism isn't so much a lack of empathy (as others have stated, that varies with individuals) but a naïveté of how far individual liberty will handle the problems in society for which we feel empathy. There is a need for strong institutions which is going to involve collectivism of some sort, whether through private or government means. Leaning toward private as much as possible is desirable in my opinion, but it's just absurd to actually believe that everyone being "left the hell alone" will organize themselves into a cooperative society that cares for the needs of those who can't provide for themselves.

In short, when you place individual liberty as the very most important value in the hierarchy, you won't get the results you want if you do have empathy. Ironically, the main differences I have found between my own political ideas and Professor Althouse's involve her own devotion to individual freedom, especially as it relates to bodily autonomy of women taking priority over the right to life for human feti. I'm not saying this makes Althouse a libertarian, just that the quirk of overvaluing individual freedom occurs in various parts of the political spectrum.

rhhardin said...

Tower of Hanoi. Three pegs, N disks of differing sizes piled on one, no smaller one ever on a larger one.

Move the pile from one peg to another, one disk at a time, never putting a larger on a smaller.

Solution: Move N-1 disks to the third peg one disk at a time never putting a larger on a smaller. Move the bottom disk to the second peg. Move the N-1 disks on top of it using the original peg as the extra.

A person sees the solution, the computer does it.

Abstracting and insight.

rcocean said...

Libertarianism is an idiots philosophy. There's never been a purely Libertarian country and there never will be.

Look at the goofballs who run for POTUS as "Libertarians" - of course the response is:"That's not true Libertarianism" - Yep, and it never is. Maybe you should wonder why.

Most "Libertarians" are just people who want legal hookers and Coke and/or Liberals who don't like paying taxes.

Rick said...

Stacy McMahon said...
To be fair to Nancy MacLean, I don't think she is personally trying to have Libertarians locked up for their beliefs.


To be accurate about Nancy Maclean she asserts libertarian philosophy is driven by racism but presents only absurdly shoddy evidence because her conclusion is driven by politics rather than evidence.

rcocean said...

BTW, I had to laugh re-reading the Ron Bailey vs. Althouse post. I'd forgotten what a pompous blowhard he was.

buwaya said...

As for the question of government policy, that is, interventions in reality, by idealists -

- the trouble with libertarians is that they are, in fact, unnatural. Human nature is not going to suit their ideals. The animal was just not made that way.

- the trouble with the more romantic sort of liberals is that their ideals don't scale. Man was not designed to feel the pain of millions and billions, as technology now demands. Nor to actually care for billions through enormous impersonal institutions that are only feasible through technology. The sort of human feelings that are useful in small Neolithic bands simply fail to work in a world of massive information and enormous resources and incomprehensible complexity. The old Neolithic brain is not wired for that, makes poor value judgments.

Quaestor said...

Which problems in government are solved "abstractly" and in a way that could be worked out without emotion? Pure fantasy!

I don't see a significant emotional context in public sanitation, potable water, grading and paving, or signal-control intersections versus roundabouts, and public works in general except in cases involving eminent domain. Someone who attempts a "feelz" approach to building codes is looking for trouble. The same goes for patent law and copyrights. In fact, most of our day-to-day interactions with government are quite unemotional, which is not to say they are strictly rational, however.

Ann Althouse said...

"How high is that floor?"

That's what we argue about in American politics. I don't need to resolve that question to make the point that we decided long ago that there will be a govt-built floor. And the question cannot be answered but stands on its own as a statement of what we are doing as we muddle along in politics.

rhhardin said...

It All Started with Ayn Rand by Jerome Tucille is entertaining.

My favorite nutgroup is Galambosians.

John Lynch said...

A lot of leftists seem to be creative types. Is that offensive?

rhhardin said...

A safety floor has perverse side-effects. Can Althouse guess what they might be.

Kansas Scout said...

I had to give this some reflection and having read the refered to articles, I came to a similar conclusion as Ann. I have had similar experiences with hard core Libertarians and in every case was totally put off by their obnoxiousnes. I don't know about labeling them Autistic or having Aspergers syndrome but they definitely have a major empathy deficit. I think raising the issue of someone's psychological inclinations is valid to some degree. Then again, we could make ourselves insane if we did this across the board.

Ralph L said...

not a continual nagging on me to be either charitable or callous with respect to every possible thing that needs attention.

You may not be watching the right TV channels or donating to the right money-grubbing charities. My Dad was getting at least 10 begging letters a day (more before Christmas) his first few years living with me. I've edited the mail for 2 years but they're still sending them.

Hyphenated American said...

I remember seeing the data that libertarians have higher IQ than people of other political persuasions...
Makes perfect sense to me.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics.

Success in state or national-level politics is a prolonged exercise in trading favors: I'll support your run for office if you support my legislation for such-and-such special interest group. In other word, you are using the power of government to buy yourself a larger share of that power.

I can't imagine any reason a principled libertarian would have trouble thriving in such an environment/sarc.

Quaestor said...

Man was not designed to feel the pain of millions and billions, as technology now demands.

“If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.” I cite this quote from Joseph Stalin to emphasize buwaya's point about the shortcomings of the Neolith mind. Empathy untempered by reason can be played for evil ends as well.

buwaya said...

One of the most important things that formal problem solving IRL teaches, and this goes for everything from hunting or auto mechanics or systems design, to higher mathematics, is to remove your own feelings. They are useless, detrimental.

Nature doesnt care for feelings, and if you want to be successful, neither should you. They drag you into all sorts of sunk cost fallacies - all that work, chasing up a dead end, for nothing? - of intrusion of personality - valuing an opinion you should logically reject on grounds of contrary evidence say - etc. and etc.

Fernandistein said...

Ann Althouse said...
but it doesn't establish libertarianism because it doesn't address (except for a few things) what government can do at the state level.


It also doesn't establish libertarianism in other countries.

But it establishes libertarianism, or something very close, at the federal level.

It defines some libertarianism (I'm beginning to dislike that word) at the state level (secure in their persons, cruel/unusual punishment, own guns, free speech, private property, etc - by removing government interference with those rights, not by providing the rights), it doesn't mandate active rights, like the right to medical care or to education, which states are, perhaps, supposed to satisfy.

Active rights require force to implement, but passive rights - basically the right to be left alone - consist of a lack of force.

If states had similar constitutions, they'd have libertarian documents, too.

You can complain that over the years, it's been interpreted to allow the feds to do much more than was originally envisioned,

That's why I called it a "document" - because it's just words on paper and largely ignored nowadays, although a few important portions survive.

John Lynch said...

Socialists have a problem with reality.

Libertarians have a problem with people.

Ann Althouse said...

""...the smartest brain science I've read make it seem clear the human thought is inherently emotional." It that is so, the conclusions of "the smartest brain science" themselves rest on emotion."

Depends on what you mean by "rest."

If you necessarily make leaps and use intuition as you come up with a hypothesis but then you test it in a scientific way, it's not only emotion. What I've seen in what I've read is that if you did not have your nervous system engaged, you would not be able to make the intuitive leaps that would allow you to make progress in solving a problem.

Also, it's almost to obvious to say: You have to feel a desire to solve a problem and feel motivated to work on it intensely and carefully.

If rh talks one more time about his interest in manifesting masculinity...

narayanan said...

"Man’s faculty of volition as such is not a contradiction of nature, but it opens the way for a host of contradictions—when and if men do not grasp the crucial difference between the metaphysically given and any object, institution, procedure, or rule of conduct made by man.

It is the metaphysically given that must be accepted: it cannot be changed. It is the man-made that must never be accepted uncritically: it must be judged, then accepted or rejected and changed when necessary. Man is not omniscient or infallible: he can make innocent errors through lack of knowledge, or he can lie, cheat and fake. The manmade may be a product of genius, perceptiveness, ingenuity—or it may be a product of stupidity, deception, malice, evil. One man may be right and everyone else wrong, or vice versa (or any numerical division in between). Nature does not give man any automatic guarantee of the truth of his judgments (and this is a metaphysically given fact, which must be accepted). Who, then, is to judge? Each man, to the best of his ability and honesty. What is his standard of judgment? The metaphysically given.

The metaphysically given cannot be true or false, it simply is—and man determines the truth or falsehood of his judgments by whether they correspond to or contradict the facts of reality. The metaphysically given cannot be right or wrong—it is the standard of right or wrong, by which a (rational) man judges his goals, his values, his choices. The metaphysically given is, was, will be, and had to be. Nothing made by man had to be: it was made by choice."

guess who said it

William Chadwick said...

A weird premise seems to be underlying this discussion: "If I decide you're not empathetic enough, I'm justified in infringing on your liberty." As in: "Being the caring, evolved, empathetic person that I am, I believe you should want to give X percentage of your income to help the people I want to help. And if you don't want to do that voluntarily, you don't deserve liberty and I have the right to force you to do it." And they think libertarians are strange!

Quick--summon the Empathy Police! Haul this person in front of the Empathy Board for evaluation, to see if we're justified in picking his pocket!

But seriously . . if there were an Empathy Board, the last people I'd want evaluating me would be "liberals," the Stupidest People on the Planet.

Quaestor said...

That's what we argue about in American politics. I don't need to resolve that question to make the point that we decided long ago that there will be a govt-built floor.

And I qualified my question to illustrate why empathy is not preferable to reason.

John Lynch said...

States' rights weren't libertarian. For black people, state governments were totalitarian. The Federal government was their path to freedom. Libertarian fixation on states' rights instead of individual rights is perplexing. If the feds guarantee individual rights, let's hear it for the feds.

Hyphenated American said...

“Ask yourself why libertarians are so unsuccessful in the real world of politics. ”

Ask yourself why math teachers are so unsuccessful in teaching most pupils how to solve differential equations or understand the physics teachers in teaching deep understanding of the maxwell laws....

mockturtle said...

guess who said it

Ayn Rand.

Triangle Man said...

The conceit of the rational agent is at the foundation of libertarian thinking, and the behavior of the rational agent seems consistent with the autism spectrum. Whereas the rational agent is viewed as being beyond emotional influence, the person on the autism spectrum is seen as susceptible to being overwhelmed by emotional influence. Avoiding, or ignoring, the role of emotion in cognition is the common denominator.

William Chadwick said...

Ignorance is Bliss: Mencken described what you're describing as politicians campaigning on the promise "to turn A loose in B's cornfield."

John Lynch said...

You can be right about something but ineffective in convincing anyone. In such a case, you are still a failure.

Quaestor said...

Also, it's almost to obvious to say: You have to feel a desire to solve a problem and feel motivated to work on it intensely and carefully.

There are eminent scholars who do not admit this as obvious or even true.

Hyphenated American said...

“Also, it's almost to obvious to say: You have to feel a desire to solve a problem and feel motivated to work on it intensely and carefully.”

Could a person with an average IQ discovered the maxwell equations? I don’t think all the desires and motivations in the world, she wouldn’t be able to.

Fernandistein said...

President-Mom-Jeans said...
As long as we can also recognize that many current and former University of Wisconsin School of Law faculty are on the retarded spectrum.


When - if - I grow up I want to be austarded and go to Bovine University with my Partners In Freedom.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hyphenated American said...

“The conceit of the rational agent is at the foundation of libertarian thinking, and the behavior of the rational agent seems consistent with the autism spectrum. ”

The foundation of libertarian thinking is that ALL people are stupid and ignorant. It’s best if they have the power to ruin only their OWN INDIVIDUAL lives, and have little power over over a large number of people.

It’s unfortunate that a whole lot of people make pronouncements about the subjects they are completely unfamiliar with.

Unknown said...

@mockturtle: The idea of people as property does not originate with the idea of property rights. Libertarians believe in equal rights for all humans regardless of sex, race etc., but are generally opposed to government programs that purport to “increase equality”.

Why is libertarianism such a hard sell in politics? The answer is easy and I will borrow from Glenn Reynolds: Not enough opportunity for graft.
-willie

CStanley said...

"How high is that floor?"

That's what we argue about in American politics. I don't need to resolve that question to make the point that we decided long ago that there will be a govt-built floor. And the question cannot be answered but stands on its own as a statement of what we are doing as we muddle along in politics.


This is very true but I also think it's a big problem that we put all of our focus on this- and I think we do so because we've been trained to see this as the difference between the two parties. Politicians prefer having us argue over policies that relate to redistribution, because the real problems they ought to focus on are so much harder to solve. By making the "debate" about how compassionate they are vs the other heartless bastards, or how much they want you to keep your hard earned wealth vs the others who want to confiscate it, we don't notice that they aren't addressing real policy.

Gahrie said...

And, frankly, I suspect that libertarians are reacting out of recognition that — however possibly offensively MacLean put it — there is some truth to her observation.

Are you sure you want to attack Libertarians again? That didn't work out so well for you the last time....

Rick said...

mockturtle said...
Rick: Would Libertarians have been abolitionists or would they have regarded slaves as property, which they legally were?


Abolitionists, I'm not even sure why you think this is a question. The premise of libertarian economics is that the government should not interfere in voluntary interactions. Slavery was not voluntary.

Your reference to slavery being "legal" acknowledges that government support was necessary to enforce slavery. A libertarian government would have arrested the slaveholder as a kidnapper.

mockturtle said...

I remember seeing the data that libertarians have higher IQ than people of other political persuasions...
Makes perfect sense to me.


Intelligence ≠ wisdom.

Quaestor said...

Talent does what it can, genius does what it must.

jwl said...

I am male in my mid 40s and I call myself libertarian but I am really a 19th century liberal or a Whig. I have had two former girlfriends, one worked with autistic kids (physical therapy), claim that just about all males are on the autistic spectrum but to varying degrees. Males don't have same feelings for humanity as women do, females are much more in tune with people's emotions or feelings while males can be clueless about that kind of thing. Males can also get quite obsessive with their job or hobbies in a way most females don't.

I agree there can be something off-putting with some libertarians, they are wedded to their idea of freedom from state coercion and most people think they go too far, but I don't believe it is correct to say many of them are autistic.

sparrow said...

I wonder if Prof MacLean is on the sociopath spectrum; her statements sound like a tactic Stalin might employ (i.e. diagnosing political opponents as mentally unfit).

Hyphenated American said...

“By that criterion, the most intelligent people are most suited to public office and they are not. Intelligence ≠ wisdom.”

You can’t become very wise without being intelligent. Wisdom relies on the ability to recognize patterns. The ability to recognize patterns is part of the intelligence.

In other words, intelligence is a necessary condition.

Quaestor said...

Intelligence ≠ wisdom.

True, but wisdom without intelligence is inconcievable, no?

rhhardin said...

The more women you have voting, the more dysfunctional the politics.

Meaning it doesn't work.

Gahrie said...

(thought the smartest brain science I've read makes it seem clear that human thought is inherently emotional).

It is, which is why man developed a process called reason and logic to overcome this weakness.

Quaestor said...

Wisdom is intellect tempered by experience.

Gahrie said...

The more women you have voting, the more dysfunctional the politics.

Repeal the 19th

Ambrose said...

I wonder if Duke psychology professors make pronouncements on history,

jwl said...

Jonathan Haidt - The Largest Study Ever of Libertarian Psychology:

1) On moral values: Libertarians match liberals in placing a relatively low value on the moral foundations of loyalty, authority, and sanctity (e.g., they’re not so concerned about sexual issues and flag burning), but they join conservatives in scoring lower than liberals on the care and fairness foundations (where fairness is mostly equality, not proportionality; e.g., they don’t want a welfare state and heavy handed measures to enforce equality).

2) On reasoning and emotions: Libertarians have the most “masculine” style, liberals the most “feminine.” We used Simon Baron-Cohen’s measures of “empathizing” (on which women tend to score higher) and “systemizing”, which refers to “the drive to analyze the variables in a system, and to derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of the system.” Men tend to score higher on this variable. Libertarians score the lowest of the three groups on empathizing, and highest of the three groups on systemizing.

3) On relationships: Libertarians are the most individualistic; they report the weakest ties to other people. They score lowest of the three groups on many traits related to sociability, including extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

http://righteousmind.com/largest-study-of-libertarian-psych/

Gahrie said...

Males don't have same feelings for humanity as women do, females are much more in tune with people's emotions or feelings while males can be clueless about that kind of thing

It's not that males don't have feelings, it is that we control them and don't allow them to control our thoughts and behaviors.

Dr. Graphene said...

Since the choice of words or phrases so often serves as the catalyst for the always interesting blogging of Professor Althouse, I was surprised to note that there was no attempt to similarly ground this discussion. The National Institute of Mental Health defines the "autism spectrum disorder" (ASD) as:

the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, “a spectrum,” of
symptoms, skills, and levels of disability. People with ASD often have these characteristics:

-Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others;
-Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities; and
-Symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life.
Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life
Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled.

Of course, there are other definitions out there, but the overwhelming majority, including Wikipedia, equate the phrase "autism spectrum" with a "neurodevelopmental disorders." This strikes me not only as unduly harsh, but also strongly suggests that Professor MacLean is completely unqualified to offer such an opinion (as are most of us).

I am all for debate, and if I honestly believed that was Professor MacLean's intent I would be happy to engage her. Of course, having read some of her work the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that her comment was intended as a pejorative. I can accept that in common parlance it may have developed a less (dare I say it) offensive meaning, but I believe the better reasoned position is that it should be viewed as an insult.

I am increasingly reminded of the old Matthew Broderick film "War Games." With the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation due to a game of tic tac toe, the computer wisely determines that the only prudent play is not to play at all. So it is with ANY sort of political debate these days. It should be okay for liberals, conservatives, moderates, libertarians, Republicans and Democrats to disagree without immediately calling anyone who disagrees with your position an idiot (or some other pejorative), but this is clearly never the case anymore.

Everyone is guilty of this, even me (although some - e.g., Ann Althouse - are better than others.

Thus I avoid political debates these days and re-read Orwell on a regular basis. He saw the world with remarkable clarity. I have little doubt about what he'd say here.

Unknown said...

@Hyphenated, where did you get such a strident idea of libertarianism?
The individual can and does make rational decisions. Power is a corrupting influence, especially when it comes with a public purse you can help yourself to. These are not difficult or exclusionary ideas.
Government should get no credit for the continued success of the human race. They have only served to cull the herd and provide us with a worthy adversary.

Hyphenated American said...

When I think about liberals and compassion, this quote always comes to mind:

“"Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion. “

The man who said it was Harvey Weinstein.

mockturtle said...

The implication that Libertarianism is like Autism is more insulting to Autistics than to Libertarians. Libertarians make the choice to be Libertarians.

Not Sure said...

Libertarians may or may not be compassionate, but they think that's a matter for personal action, not state compulsion.

The spergy ones are the Objectivists.

Gahrie said...

Our feelings about things too far beyond our personal scope are too inaccurate.

Which is why reason and logic were created to limit the effects of feelings and emotions.

Sebastian said...

MacLean should be investigated for scholarly fraud in her Buchanan book, not for rogue accusations of autism--an upgrade from the usual racism.

Quaestor said...

Somehow we have gotten on this reason versus emotion track such that we have people advocating too strongly for emotion, and especially the emotion of empathy, on the one hand, and others taking an extreme position on reason and intellect. They both exist and are part of human nature. However, one must be subordinate to the other. Emotional politics are inherently dangerous. In all the sad history of war and persecution emotion has played a more decisive role than reason. It was not for nothing that the Nicomachean Ethics defines human evil as arising from a deficit of reason. Good laws derive from cool reason. Bad laws and violent societies derive from hot emotion.

rhhardin said...

The feelings express happiness, make one smile. Analysis of the feelings expresses happiness, all personality aside; makes one smile. The former uplift the soul, dependent upon space, upon duration, up the conception of humanity considered as itself, in its celebrated constituents! The latter uplifts the soul, independently of duration and space, up to the conception of humanity considered in its highest expression, the will! The former are concerned with vices and virtues; the latter only with virtues. Feelings do not know their marching order. The analysis of feelings teaches how to reveal it, increases the strength of the feelings. With the former, all is uncertainty. They are the expression of happiness, grief, two extremes. With the latter, all is certainty. It is the expression of that happiness which results at a given moment from knowing how to restrain oneself in the midst of good or evil passions. It uses its calm to render the description of the passions down to a principle which flows through the pages: the non-existence of evil. The feelings weep when they must, as when they need not. Analysis of the feelings does not weep. It possesses a latent sensibility which catches one off guard, prevails over miseries, teaches how to dispense with a guide, provides a combat weapon. The feelings, sign of weakness, are not feeling! The analysis of feeling, sign of strength, generates the most magnificent feelings I know. The writer who is taken in by feelings must not be placed on a par with the writer who is taken in neither by feelings nor himself. Youth intends sentimental lucubrations. Maturity begins to reason without confusion. He was only feeling, he thinks. He used to let his sensations wander: now he gives them a pilot. If I liken humanity to a woman, I shall not expatiate upon her youth's being on the wane and the approach of her middle-age. Her mind changes for the better. Her ideal of poetry will change. Tragedies, poems, elegies will no longer take precedence. The coolness of the maxim shall prevail!

- Lautreamont

mockturtle said...

The more women you have voting, the more dysfunctional the politics.

Gahrie suggests: Repeal the 19th.

It wouldn't make an appreciable change in our government. So long as both men and women lust for power and wealth, our political scene will remain what it is.

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