The Libertarian Mind

A new study of the psychology of political beliefs indicates that Pareto was correct when he said that an individual’s political views are as much an indication of their own innate personality type and psychological makeup as much as anything else. In other words, we may be “hard-wired” to adapt certain political outlooks. Read about the study here. And see what the same study said about liberals and conservatives here.

Emma Goldman once said that anarchists are born and not made, and Sean Gabb said in his interview with me that being a libertarian is like being a homosexual in that it appears to be innate to the person’s own essential characteristics and not something that is merely adopted. I generally agree with that with the qualification that political beliefs, like sexuality, are something of a continuum. Someone can be either a hard-core libertarian or merely be a libertarian-leaning liberal, conservative, socialist or centrist. Also, I’ve noticed that people raised in libertarian or anarchist families seem to be much more likely to hold those views as adults when compared to people raised in environments where more conventional political views were the norm. The ironic observation that we can make from this is that people who are normally herd creatures (which is most people) can in fact adopt libertarian or anarchist views if such views are the norm for the “herds” with which they are the most closely associated. There is also the question of “libertarians of convenience,” that is, folks who adopt libertarian views because they believe their values or references groups are under attack by the existing state and embrace libertarianism as a survival strategy for their own kind.

This study indicates indicates that 7.6 percent of the people observed exhibited libertarian personality types. This is consistent with something that I have long understood: Individuals with a libertarian psychology are a minority and always will be. Therefore, for libertarians to influence society they must be capable of exercising influence and, indeed, domination way beyond their actual numbers.  There are plenty of other groups who do indeed maintain a social and political influence that are disproportional to their size. Jews are one example, being only 2.5 percent of the population but clearly holding influence in institutions that is much more pervasive than what such a percentage would intuitively imply. Homosexuals are another group, with hard-core self-identified homosexuals probably being only about three percent of the overall population but with the gay rights movement clearing holding power beyond what such a percentage would normally indicate.

I have long argued that for libertarians to become the dominant political force in society, they must become the leadership corps of a much larger populist movement that brings into its ranks the potentially vast array of persons who might become “libertarians of convenience,” or who will become libertarians merely out of herd instinct as libertarians become the dominant herd, or who have a partially libertarian psychological makeup and can be swayed in our direction or siphoned off from rival movements.

I should probably also qualify how I’m using the term “libertarian” in this context. By “libertarian,” I’m not referring to any one set of political dogmas or labels but rather I’m using the term to describe those with a generally anti-authoritarian outlook and for whom freedom is a primary value. This could include people from a wide variety of actual political sects, from neo-classical liberals to anarcho-communists, followers of John Stuart Mill and followers of Emma Goldman.

For anarchists and libertarians to achieve political preeminence, the following things must first be accomplished:

1. There needs to be an effective way of working around the hyphens like anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-capitalism, eco-anarchism, anarcha-feminism, etc. Proponents of outlooks like anarchism without adjectives, anarchism without hyphens, anarcho-pluralism, tribal-anarchism, national-anarchism, and synthesist anarchism seem to be on the right track with this even if one does not agree with the some of the specific ideas expressed by adherents of these.

2. There needs to be a serious effort to reach out to and connect with persons from overlapping movements with whom libertarians and anarchists may shared some of the same values in some instances, including liberals, socialists, Greens, and progressives from the Left, and conservatives, classical liberals, distributists,  and nationalists from the Right.

3. There needs to be a serious effort to reach out to potential “libertarians of convenience,” i.e. persons who regard themselves as under attack by the present state and who can become libertarians by default.

4. Anarchists and libertarians need to abandon culture war psychology and advocate for a cease fire on cultural conflicts that are divisive questions in mainstream political discourse.

5. There needs to be a concentrated focus on those issues where there is the most agreement among anarchists and libertarians. These would most likely include the American empire and imperialism generally, the state-capitalist/corporate-plutocratic economy, and the police state.

6. A strategic vehicle that is largely value-neutral is also necessary. This is what pan-secessionism is intended to be.

7. Ultimately, of course, there needs to be a way for anarchist and libertarian movements to gain the support of the majority of persons residing within particular societies, primarily by championing their economic and cultural interests against those of the state and state-allied plutocratic and cultural elites.

1 reply »

  1. I have this potentially crazy, possibly untrue, and definitely unscientific opinion on why the human species produces whackos like us. From an evolutionary standpoint, our species as a whole benefits from producing mostly herdlike individuals who go with the flow and put in the work it takes to keep their tribe alive on a day to day basis. But we also benefit from producing a small percentage of restless individuals who bore easily and are constantly thinking about better ways to organize their tribe, more efficient ways to accomplish tasks, etc. These folks might also be always thinking about adventures to see what’s in the next river valley over; maybe it is more lush and plentiful? I imagine that historically such people have spectacularly high rates of failure; but they are probably also an important part of what drives our species forward. The small percentages of times they are successfull result in exponential gains…. or they result in mass murder on the scale of totalitarian states such as the USSR, Third Reich and (unfortunately) the US.

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