Posted by: captainfalcon | January 20, 2011

Surprising Lede

From Reason‘s “The Science of Libertarian Morality” (while we’re on a “science” jag…):

Libertarians are often cast as amoral calculating rationalists with an unseemly hedonistic bent. Now new social science research upends that caricature.

Independent of the study’s merits, I’m not sure “upends” is really the word for it. For example:

1. “[The] results suggest that libertarians are ‘likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.'”

2. “Libertarians put higher value on hedonism, self-direction, and stimulation than either liberals or conservatives, and they put less value than either on benevolence, conformity, security, and tradition.”

3. “[L]ibertarians scored lower than conservatives and liberals on agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion. Low scores on agreeableness indicate a lack of compassion and a proud, competitive, and skeptical nature.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see how a study that caricatures libertarians as amoral calculating rationalists with an unseemly hedonistic bent serves to upend the caricature that libertarians are amoral calculating rationalists with an unseemly hedonistic bent.

Finally, just because it’s so stirring, the article’s closing paragraph:

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




  1. That was a great catch.

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