Sunday, December 19, 2010

The pseudoscience of libertarian morality.

Ronald Bailey, in The Science of Libertarian Morality (an article in Reason) directs us to:

Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology by Ravi Iyer et al. Which, by the way, bases one of its "predictions" on the title of Reason. And thus the echo chamber is closed.

The fundamental fallacy of this paper purporting to discuss "psychological roots" that surveys DEVELOPED attitudes is that they do not consider the indoctrination process. Libertarians differ strongly from liberals and conservatives in that they are heavily indoctrinated at early ages. Ask a 25 year old how many liberal, conservative, or libertarian books they've read. Most liberal and conservative 25 year olds will say very few if any, but we know that the libertarians will reel off a list starting with Ayn Rand, the Friedman's, etc. You might just as well ask where Catholic ideas about God come from compared to atheists: it's the indoctrination, stupid.

If they truly wanted to study "psychological roots", they should start with 16 year olds (most of whom have no idea of libertarianism) and observe how they change with time.

They make the ridiculous "prediction" that "Libertarians will value liberty more strongly and consistently than liberals or conservatives, at the expense of other moral concerns." That's about as serious as predicting that "Zombies will value eating brains more strongly and consistently than humans, at the expense of other moral concerns." They cite the writings of Ayn Rand as a source for this prediction: I must then cite Dawn Of the Dead, I suppose.

Another huge problem is that they have really drunk the Kool-Aid of adopting libertarian terminology and propaganda claims throughout their paper.

Take, for example, "It is clear, then, that libertarians cannot be readily classified on the standard left-right dimension." No, that is not at all clear as anybody familiar with Lakoff 2002 would know. Lakoff clearly places libertarians in the conservative (right) end of the scale. They cite Lakoff 2002 just a few paragraphs earlier, but haven't the wits or honesty to admit that some real academics disagree. Nor is it clear that there is a single definition of "the standard left-right dimension."

The methodology is also highly susceptible to spoofing: they've used an internet survey site open to anybody. As anyone from Pharyngula would know, it is easy to send droves of readers with similar points of view over to any poll. And it took me about two minutes to find the first example of libertarians being steered over to it: "If you’re interested in answering that question, and consider yourself libertarian, register at yourmorals.org and take the Moral Foundations Questionnaire."

What we have here is an attitude survey of libertarians which is larded by repetition of standard libertarian talking points with no academic credibility. These talking points are the product of decades-long public relations campaigns, which (among other things) rely on incessant repetition of propaganda. Funding of this "study" by an investment banker strongly suggests to me that this is just another excuse to repeat propaganda yet again.

I will be very interested to see where this "study" gets published.

54 comments:

Mark Plus said...

I've noticed that American libertarians usually come from comfortable backgrounds. They don't have a political trauma in their lives to explain or provide some context for their radicalization. By contrast, Lenin could probably trace his radicalization to what happened to his brother, executed by the Russian government for his role in a botched attempt to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. And Che Guevara's radicalization apparently derived from the destitution he saw in much of Latin America during his travels as a medical student.

On the right, European immigrants like Edward Teller and Ayn Rand at least had bad experiences with communists in their respective youths to account for their hard-line views.

But what accounts for Americans in benign environments who turn into libertarians, like David Nolan, who grew up in the middle class, never knew deprivation or political repression and got to go to an elite university (MIT)? Apparently he considered President Nixon's impositions of temporary wage and price controls the trauma which led him to form the Libertarian Party and spend the rest of his life working to overthrow the current political consensus.

Somehow I find Nolan's grievances underwhelming.

iyerland8 said...

Mike, I appreciate your comments and reading of the paper, though I think perhaps I'd encourage those who are interested to read the paper themselves as there is much more in the paper, even though there is some truth in your criticisms. All research has limitations and certainly this does too. I respond more specifically to your points in the comment section of my blog -> http://www.polipsych.com/libertarians/comment-page-1/#comment-809.

Mike Huben said...

Ravi's response at his blog is unsurprisingly unapologetic and smarmy.

He lies about the possibility of spoofing. "All of this data was collected before anything was written about libertarian research publicly." Yet the link I provide was from 2008 and his paper says the data was collected between "June 2007 and December 2009".

His paper does not speak in any way about Lakoff's opposite contention, does not mention it, and does not say anything that refutes it. Even though he says "I think the paper itself speaks for that point". Instead, he pulls out a factoid about levels of disgust as if it addressed Lakoff.

He ignores the foundational complaint about the methodology of his paper: he talks about psychological "roots" as if they are constant throughout life when we all know that they can be considerably changed by experience. Especially by ideological indoctrination. Thus he's committing the basic fallacy of presuming psychology is cause and ideology is effect when it is very likely to be the other way around.

He ignores the accusation that he has wholesale adopted libertarian terminology and propaganda claims throughout their paper. Adoption of that rhetoric smacks of either laziness, gullability, or ulterior motives, and is certainly not normal for his field.

Why would somebody who protests too much that he is a liberal do such a thing? There's a large amount of money and publicity available to anyone who keeps up the drumbeat of propaganda that Koch and other libertarian interests want. Citing funding from an investment banker is suspicious right from the start.

"I’d encourage those who are interested to read the paper themselves..." Yes, the Kool-Aid is fine. A standard public relations approach of "teach the controversy". There is no controversy here, just propaganda.

iyerland8 said...

Wow..i didn't expect that response, especially the personal stuff. Such is life on the internet I guess.

First, I agree that correlation does not equal causality. I'll make that more explicit in revisions if it bothers objective readers. I should be more explicit about that.

Second, re: publicity - I meant that the specific findings of the paper were not publicized. Yes, people talked about moral foundation theory and libertarianism before, but that is but one part of the paper. I still find your suggestion of spoofing very unlikely, especially given our analysis by source (eg. Results are from different ips at different times and replicate for ny times readers and search engine users). I think you are overestimating the importance of our paper to think someone would go to such trouble.

Most interesting to me is why you think of the paper as propoganda. What positive thing does it say about libertarians? The central findings are that libertarians lack certain moral concerns, are unemotional, and solitary. How is that propoganda? Or even positive, rather than being merely descriptive? I would think liberals would think those traits are negative and I'd welcome learning more about how our paper converges with previous propoganda. Perhaps it'll make me less 'gullible'.

Ravi

Mark Plus said...

I take it, Matt, that you think people sort themselves out into liberals and conservatives somewhat "organically," based on personality factors; while it requires cultural construction to turn someone into a libertarian. In many cases people do this to themselves by reading, and reading too much into, novels by Rand, Heinlein and some other pulp authors, followed up by reading nonfiction publications (broadly construed) by the Friedmans, Austrian economists, Ron Paul, etc., at ages before the brain's judgment fully matures by the mid 20's.

In a few cases, we see libertarianism generationally transmitted, for example to Patri Friedman and Rand Paul, both hostages to libertarian indoctrination during vulnerable stages of their cognitive development.

Have I accurately summarized your position?

Mike Bast said...

Given that I haven't read the entire study, this is cursory, but I have a problem with this, right in the intro:

"a relatively cerebral as opposed
to emotional intellectual style"

This plays right into the self-identifying/reinforcing aspects of what they SAY, rather than looking at what they are.
I've said it before, but it's important here to note that I was a libertarian for years, and was a fairly active advocate. I met a lot of libertarians over the years and almost all of them prided themselves on being "rational" and not emotional. And, no doubt many were. But, there was also a strong current of reinforcement for that idea, and for the idea that others who weren't libertarian were emotional and NOT rational. Many libertarians are former Randians, and look at rationality and logic as belonging to them in a way that's important to their self-image. They will attack or ridicule even those among them who they see as being emotion-based.
Dr. Mary Ruwart was popular among a small sub-group (as an example) but I routinely saw her work marginalized as being "useful" to convince those from outside the movement but not among the movement.
And so, I think that taking this as a starting point misses something important about them. They may think they're cerebral, but they're every bit as irrational, prone to psychological errors and emotional as anyone else, they just can't express it either to themselves or in any forum.
I've actually seen a Randian say that Quantum Physics is "obviously" wrong, because it contradicts Ayn Rand. Not exactly the kind of cerebral, scientific thinking they think they exhibit.
I hope the quality of the study improves from here, but it seems that it's all about paying attention to what people say, not how they act.

Joanna Liberation said...

I think I'm a perfect example of the study. I only found out about libertarianism when I was about 25 years old (I came upon the advocates quiz on the web). So I then obviuosly read Rand, Ruwart, Mises, Friedman, Rothbard etc only in my late twenties and early thirties.

I did grow up in socialism of the 80s (capitalism kicked in in my home country when I was an early teenager), but I had a happy childhood. Of course, compared to the West we were poor, but never went hungry or homeless. I do remember long overnight queues to buy toilet paper or food rationing, so it must have been a difficult time for my parents, but I guess as a child you are happy if they let you play. We also had pretty good schools during socialism. After all, socialism enslaves excellent professionals in low salary positions (not that there was much to buy for money), including teachers - it was deadly dangerous to try to emigrate. Then I was happy with capitalism cause I could use my skills to pursue a career (in IT) that pays actual money. Not like my mother who has been working over 30 years under socialism as a high ranking manager but ended up in 89 with nothing except some meager pension of about $250 a month.

Still, even though I was not aware of libertarianism, I was an introvert and individualist from early childhood, always questioning all social rules. My family was catholic, samy as all my friends, we attended services etc until my teenager years (ie until my parents could no longer force me to), but I never believed in God. Religion was bullshit fairy tale for me since I can consciously remember. I guess it did happen to be government stance in the 80s, but then again I remember I wanted socialism to be overthrown same as everybody else, so I don't think there was any indoctrination either way. In early elementary school I virtually stopped playing with other children outside of school and started to read a lot of books, including tons of science fiction, but I don't think I have ever read Heinlein. In fact, I've read two first Heinlein books last week because the author was popping up at this site (yes, I'm so introvert and anti-social, even against libertarians, that I use Mike Huben's site to educate myself about libertarianism...) Wonderful! In fact, I think Mike Huben's anti-libertarian critiques were much more beneficial for my libertarian views than all pro-libertarian sites combined. They really motivated me to study austrian school in detail so I could evaluate all its "refutations" by myself.

In my late teenager years I considered myself a liberal (in european sense), but I don't think I have ever read anything about political science, it was only natural for me that state should just interefere less, taxes should be lower etc. I was more into physics (which I would later study), technology, then computer science etc.

In fact, I've been coming to the same conclusion as Ravi Iyer over last few years. It also fits nicely with species evolution theory, ie eternal struggle between parasites and producers. Survival of the fittest, but how fit is a parasite compared to a producer? That depends how strong is parasite power to enslave producers. Animal parasites ordinarily use physical power, while humans can also use ideology. In short, socialism is just the latest in a series of collectivist ideologies (feudalism, absolutism, mercantilism) used by parasites to enslave producers.

Mike Huben said...

It's always fun to watch propagandists twist and lie to justify themselves.

"First, I agree that correlation does not equal causality."

That's very nice, but he's putting words in my mouth. That was not my complaint. My complaint is that for all he talks about roots, he does not consider what is cause and what is effect. If I was telling him about plants, I'd have to yell "green side up!"

"Second, re: publicity - I meant that the specific findings of the paper were not publicized."

For pete's sake, the survey was the subject of a TED talk before it was completed and I've linked to a libertarian encouraging others to take the survey. He commented about how different he came out. There was effective publicity: if you're ignorant of that, you're pathetic.

"Most interesting to me is why you think of the paper as propoganda."

Let's see: for a start, there's your presentation of libertarianism on pages 3-6 which relies entirely on descriptions by proponents such as Boaz and unsourced propaganda points about "classical liberalism", the "socially left, economically right" argument, claims to be the "true liberalism", arguable interpretations of Locke, ficticious pre-20th century libertarianism, etc. As scholarship goes, that is pathetic and inexcusable.

"I'd welcome learning more about how our paper converges with previous propoganda."

See above. Repetition is one of the fundamental principles of propaganda: keep the talking points in the public's face until they automatically think in those terms. Critical analysis is the opposite, and something you clearly haven't done.

"The central findings are that libertarians lack certain moral concerns..."

Nope. Cite yourself: that's not what you said. You said that there was a different weighting (in your Abstract), and in other places you said a "relative lack", and the "moral foundations" graphs don't show a lack, but just a slightly different emphasis.

But I'm not surprised you're incapable of presenting your own study consistently.

Joanna Liberation said...

Ravi, Mike Huben keeps stressing in virtually all of his critiques of libertarianism that he is the voice of pure reason vs stupid, propaganda-driven libertarians, while your research shows that Mike's ideology has actually much less to do with reason than libertarianism does. Libertarianism turns out to be most reason-based. I can't even imagine a worse turn of evens for Mike, to be proven that he just happens to be a specimen with hardwired psychology of a collectivist. Okay, evolutionary speaking it's equally natural as a psychology of an individualist, and libertarians have also never really chosen their ideology, but still, individual consciousness universally favors individual reason and individual creativity as good, just because it is individual, not collective, consciousness. I mean, all humans are individualists in that respect, unless they stop thinking altogether and follow bee or ant-like psychology of collectivist altruism. Hence, parasitic collectivist ideologies can only be popular (survival of the fittest ideologies) if they make people believe that parasites are producers and vice versa. That's why socialists actually believe that capitalists exploit the working class, even though it is so easy to refute using reason (labor-intensive lines of production do not generate more profit than capital-intensive ones). In other words, collectivist ideologies all strive to be at least superficially reason-based. Note that even Mike's actual income relies on the ideology that _forces_ other people to pay for his work. He really needs to believe that he actually is a producer instead of a parasite to go along with his, after all, individualistic life. Absolutely wonderful job Ravi!

Mike Huben said...

Joanna, you really are funny every time you open your mouth.

First, let's note that Ravi nowhere in his paper states WHAT definition of rationality or reason he's even talking about, let alone considers it critically. In case you weren't aware (well, that's a euphemism, since you obviously are ignorant), there is no one accepted definition. See: Skepticism of Rationality.

Second, for somebody who pretends to be rational, you're blithely committing the fallacy of decomposition (or division) when you characterize me.

Third, the producer/parasite categorization is a typical Randian false dichotomy. If you studied a little biology you'd learn about commensalism, mutualism, and a host of other alternatives.

Fourth, you are as dependent on force as I am: the protection of your property from internal and external enemies and the funding for that protection are both reliant on force. The same force that collects taxes for my salary also collects taxes for the police and soldiers that enable you to own property.

The libertarian claim to "reason" is an appeal to vanity that suckers in people like you who are too stupid or willful to perceive the intelligence of others. When I appeal to "rational" argument at my site, it is in part because it is what libertarians demand.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike

1) But he does. If a person uses "less disgust, empathic concern, and neuroticism" and is stronger on "utilitarianism, need for cognition, and systemizing", then he is more rational. Which of the above criteria you believe Ravi incorrectly correlates with "reason"? I mean, unless you just want to make "rationality so diffuse that all the users methods are included"...

2) Okay, as an example from a previous post, as a public school teacher you are twice as more _likely_ to send your kids to a private school than the national average, I'm not saying you actually do. Obviously I don't know you in person, but still I'm trying to figure out Mike Huben as a liberal, so I use what I know about you for examples. Maybe I'm wrong, but then again you call me stupid all the time, even though you also don't know me in person, so sort of hypocritical for you to use such an argument.

3) No, the "dichotomy" is actually your false strawman. If you ever actually read Rand, you'd see how the masses benefit from the work of a creator (eg inventions) even though it is not the creator's intent, so here is your commensalism. Then all free market exchanges are after all a form of voluntary mutualism. And there is eternal struggle (not "dichotomy") between parasites and producers, you should really know better as a person with plant breeding hobby.

4) I'm dependent on force to protect my property, but I happen to be _not_ dependent on force to collect my income, so _so_ not like you.

Mark Plus said...

I'm dependent on force to protect my property, but I happen to be _not_ dependent on force to collect my income, so _so_ not like you.

You'd depend on the threat of force to collect income if you owned real estate and had a tenant who fell behind on his rent, or if you sold real estate to someone on a payment plan, and the buyer defaulted on his payments. I work for a businessman who has had to go to court a few times to enforce his property rights in both kinds of situations. Judges don't depend on persuasion when they side with the property owner and order an eviction.

We also use a similar mechanism to enforce the collection of child support payments and taxes, which suggests that our society has organically decided to consider these claims legitimate.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mark, no I wouldn't.

If anyone owns anyone anything (whatever legitimate contract), a court should simply liquidate enough estate assets (the ones that are actually ever registered in a court in the first place) to pay overdue obligations. In my opinion, if you don't have enough estate assets to cover your obligations, you should be free to go (in other words, never imprison for overdue obligations), but the creditor should be able to sue you again any time in the future when you finally have some assets to liquidate. In practice, you should not be able to own any estate until you've paid off all your obligations.

This above applies to child support payments, obviously provided that a guy has actually signed a voluntary contract with his girlfriend/wife for the circumstance of her becoming pregnant.

This above also applies to taxes, obviously provided that a person has actually signed a voluntary contract with the State for its services, like protection of his estate assets. You would even be free to sign a contract with the State that would oblige you to pay taxes to support public schools. See how flexible libertarianism is?

Mike Bast said...

Joanna, I really can't tell if you are truly as strange a thinker as you sound, in that you exhibit almost every problem with libertarian thinking Mike Huben has talked about, or if you are just trying to mock them. I just can't tell. Mind you, I don't so much care. Either way it's parroted libertarian rhetoric I've seen way too many times, but I often wonder about people on the net. Many lie, and many believe strange things. Oh, well.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike, you are also, like me, a perfect example of Ravi's results.

You are surrounded by strange beliefs, parroted rhetoric and lies precisely because you perceive the world using mostly "disgust, empathic concern, and neuroticism" and less "utilitarianism, need for cognition, and systemizing".

Same for Mike Huben, eg in his last comment:
The libertarian claim to "reason" is an appeal to vanity that suckers in people like you who are too stupid or willful to perceive the intelligence of others.
See how much you have in common? Reason as a secondary priority, far behind "disgust, empathic concern, and neuroticism".

Mike Huben said...

Joanna, you seem to think that you're one of those libertarian mind readers who know more about people than they know themselves.

Sorry, you're just a twit pulling rhetorical guesses out of your ass.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike, just trying to keep my posts on topic. You should be grateful, it is really hard to make something useful out of obscenities and conspiracy theories, fortunatelly the topic happens to be a research on psychology of libertarians vs non-libertarians so we can put your posts in some scientific perspective.

Joanna Liberation said...

Jeff, as virtually all liberals or conservatives, Mike needs some sort of conspiracy theory to explain why so many people don't share his beliefs. The most common conspiracy theory being "propaganda" by some "biased media" usually owned by "true beneficiaries of the propaganda" etc. This is the most popular conspiracy theory also in my home country. A liberal (or european socialdemocrat) or conservative would usually "rebut" your argument by accusing that you are only mindlessly repeating what you've previously watched on this or that tv channel, heard on this or that radio station, or read in this or that magazine. I'm also puzzled what's the use of all that, as it proves nothing, but I guess that's just another example of liberal/conservatist irrationality.

Mark Plus said...

@ Jeff Snipes:

David Nolan, affluent middle class Republican with a political science degree from MIT, started the Libertarian Party because Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls for a time. I remember vividly the hardships that intervention caused, the unburied bodies of the people who died from starvation lying on the streets of Tulsa, eaten by feral dogs.

Please. What a trivial excuse of a grievance, especially compared to the real grievances the Civil Rights movement worked to rectify.

Mike Bast said...

Joanna, your point about the conspiracy theories used to explain why people don't share your beliefs is almost bizarre to me. As I've pointed out before, used to be in "the movement", and was specifically taught to advance it. Part of doing that required me to read a lot of what was written by libertarians (pre-www, so magazines and such) and there was a CONSTANT theme of why people didn't agree with libertarianism. Since it was "obviously correct", the answers ranged from "people are stupid", to "they are afraid of us", "they can't handle freedom", "they're under the influence of propaganda from the state", "we know things they don't", and on and on.
For a libertarian to accuse others of doing what they've done for more than 20 years (my own range of experience) is just unbelievable.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike, well, you know better, cause I never really felt being "in the movement". In fact, I never felt I was in any movement whatsoever in my life. I did read quite a few libertarian books (mostly austrian school), but I don't follow any libertarian websites and don't talk with libertarians. For the past years I've only been reading and arguing on leftist websites. However, if what you say is true, all the more power to Ravi's research. We are all wondering why the other side can't get our arguments. Now we know. Libertarians are the rational thinkers, all the others are irrational.

But then how do we explain your case? You kind of did by yourself already. You said you were "in the movement" and you were "specifically taught to advance it" which "required" you to read a lot of libertarian stuff etc. This does sound like you were a libertarian only because others told you to be, not because you were a rational individualist thinker. And now you are a liberal because in turn liberals started to control your mind.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike, BTW, I do know there is libertarian propaganda, I think Mary Ruwart is the best example. I did read Healing Our World some time ago and was very excited. I was not fully satisfied though. I only found intellectual satisfaction with mises austrian school and Murray Rothbard. And look at the logo of this website that Mike Huben has chosen: it lacks both Mises and Rothbard, precisely because they are the hardest to criticize.

Then there is Ayn Rand, but eg in Fountainhead there is recurrent theme with both Dominique and Wynand actually trying to do the opposite of libertarian propaganda, they actively pander to irrational massess with populist ideas, they actively support and even give employment to Ellsworth Toohey, chief liberal ideologue, because they just can't stand casting pearls before swine.

So you may ask why I keep casting pearls before swine? I simply enjoy the arguing. Another reason why I have never in my life actually talked to any libertarian.

Joanna Liberation said...

BTW2: That's also why I believe Mike Huben's critiques of libertarianism may be the most important event in the history of libertarianism. They make libertarians think much harder before they spout their run-of-the-mill propaganda.

To become less of a "mindless" libertarian, I would say a combination of Murray Rothbard and Mike Huben is necessary. First read Rothbard's Man, Economy and State, then his Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought (which was here "rebutted" by Mike's source recently by repeating 50 times that it is..._austrian_ perspective...). Next read critiques of Mises/Rothbard (as opposed to Hayek) on Mike Huben's site and... decide for yourself.

Reading critiques of Rand, Hayek, Nozick and Friedman is superfluous, because they are actually done by Mises/Rothbard, so you save time that way.

Mike Bast said...

"(mostly austrian school)"

That explains a lot.

"Now we know. Libertarians are the rational thinkers, all the others are irrational."

That's your myth, anyway. No disabusing any of you of it, that's for damned sure.

"This does sound like you were a libertarian only because others told you to be, not because you were a rational individualist thinker."

This is funny, it really is. You don't understand what I said, at all, but you've already "figured it out"... You couldn't be a more perfect example of why your movement fails.

"And now you are a liberal because in turn liberals started to control your mind."

Seriously, I just cannot tell if you're mocking libertarians or are just this caught up in it. I have had libertarians say similar things before, so I don't know. I stopped being a libertarian BECAUSE I applied reason and rationality to the issues under discussion and found the theory and practice wrong. Not that that will change your mind, but then, I don't care. Talking like this, as if it's not possible to look at libertarianism and the real-world and rationally realize it's BS, makes me think you're a true believer. But, I just can't tell.

"I do know there is libertarian propaganda"

Really? You sound like it's a surprise.

"I did read Healing Our World some time ago and was very excited. I was not fully satisfied though. I only found intellectual satisfaction with mises austrian school and Murray Rothbard"

That was the point I made, thank you for reinforcing it.

"both Mises and Rothbard, precisely because they are the hardest to criticize"

So you want to believe.

"So you may ask why I keep casting pearls before swine?"

Treating people this way is really going to advance your cause...

"They make libertarians think much harder before they spout their run-of-the-mill propaganda"

Too bad it doesn't stop them, though.

"and... decide for yourself"

I already did. I credit this site with providing me many excellent sources of REAL data, through which to see that the libertarin perspective is at best limited and at worst simply wrong.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike Bast, I'm so curious, what would you say is the "best" critique of libertarianism among the many sources Mike Huben provides? Maybe you remember the one that turned you around?

Mike Bast said...

Joanna,
It wasn't any one thing.
I, to be honest, think that the idea that any one thing would "turn you around" is a little odd.
It was a years long process of testing the tenets of the theory against reality. It fails history (many things/conditions it claims were historical aren't), economics (mixed economies do not only well, but often better than more capitalistic ones), ethics (letting people suffer from illnesses or not eat is immoral no matter how you try to claim it's not), and politics (there's not only no evidence for a libertarian society, there's plenty of evidence that fewer regulations lead to bad outcomes).
And that's just off the top of my head, some of this is stuff I investigated a decade ago and haven't thought about since, having moved on.
It is a philosophy that can only be held by people who don't know history, or have some value (individualism, usually) that overrides others to the degree where they are ideologically blind to anything outside their theory.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike Bast, okay, but how you could be a libertarian _before_ you did all the "testing the tenets of the theory against reality"? After all, libertarian tenets go against so many popular convictions that they are rarely accepted before serious reasoning, even by a rebelious individualist youngsters. I'm not from US, so maybe I simply underestimate the strength of libertarian propaganda there.

You have evidently fallen for the most common liberal/conservative fallacy of equating libertarianism with "fewer regulations". It is superficially true, but way too generic (what regulations specifically?). Typically, "fewer regulations" are then being mindlessly equated with "weaker state" which is virtually never true. In reality, libertarian government would actually enforce "regulations" much stronger than any other, except the libertarian "regulations" are limited to the protection of private property. It is the protection of private property (including one's own body) that accurately describes libertarianism. So yes, "fewer regulations" may indeed lead to bad outcomes. A good example is our monetary system. Government money monopoly gives private banks a license to steal money via fractional reserve banking. Obviously, "fewer regulations" do lead to bad outcomes here, says libertarian theory itself.

Analogously, you may likely understand "capitalism" as more regulations that actively benefit corporations. In reality, _only_ libertarians explicitely want to end all (no exceptions) corporate welfare, which is currently being granted not only via direct subsidies, but also various regulations that give big corporations competitive advantage over smaller business.

Another fallacy you seem to have fallen for is that libertarians allegedly claim that letting people suffer is moral.
In reality, libertarians simply claim you should never sacrifice some people for to benefit others (private property again).
You should well be aware, _historically_, what suffering was repeatedly caused by the rejection of this very libertarian claim.

Mike Bast said...

Joanna,
You did nothing but trot out the most common libertarian remarks about someone no longer in their fold. You also ignore the very strong anarchist wing of your movement, probably in one of the interminable "they're not all like me" rants about how there's "true" libertarianism, and there're others pretending to be...

"You have evidently fallen for the most common liberal/conservative fallacy of equating libertarianism with "fewer regulations" "

Actually I didn't "fall" for anything. I've heard this for years. And, yes, fewer regulations are not only a consequence of your ideology but something explicitly called for by libertarians.

"with "weaker state" which is virtually never true."

Except when it is. You ignore the anarchists ("anarcho-capitalists" as they like to call themselves), I'm guessing because they don't fit your story.

"It is the protection of private property (including one's own body) that accurately describes libertarianism."

Which is why some people call you propertarians, I know. Again, though, there are NO "property" rights to bodies. If you think there are, show me the law. That way leads to slavery, and libertarianism is the only current political philosophy I know of which supports this, so don't start.

"Analogously, you may likely understand "capitalism" as more regulations that actively benefit corporations."

And you might be outright making shit up, and you are. You don't know what I know/think about capitalism, so you're pulling a fairly common rhetorical trick of saying "I might" or "may" as a way to impute things to me. Don't pretend to read minds.

"In reality, _only_ libertarians explicitely want to end all (no exceptions) corporate welfare"

Horseshit. I know this is a common line, and some small number of you seem to actually be serious about it, but the majority of you are so caught up in the idea that being rich makes you virtuous that it functions as a guide for you on what is the goal. Say all you want that you want to end corporate welfare, but I've seen too many of your compatriots clamor for it, and claim that it's deserved.

"Another fallacy you seem to have fallen for is that libertarians allegedly claim that letting people suffer is moral."

It must be nice to have a brain so wired that you think that anyone who disagrees with you is irrational, falls for fallacies, is under or mis-informed, and so on. Must make thinking you're always right SO much easier.
As to your claim here, I HAVE HEARD libertarians say it's moral, because it would be immoral to compel people to help. I HAVE HEARD libertarians LAUGH at the idea of charity, and make it clear that they don't care about the suffering of others. Your movement's ideology actually encourages that kind of pathology.
Do not presume to lecture me when you have no idea what the truth is.

"You should well be aware, _historically_, what suffering was repeatedly caused by the rejection of this very libertarian claim."

I'm aware, historically, of what good is done by government using public money to help those who can't help themselves, which is a bigger deal to me.

You are a great example of why I don't usually waste time arguing with libertarians anymore. You don't know what you're talking about, but you're damned certain of yourself. You assert as facts things which aren't, you assume the faults are all on the side of your opponents, you argue strawmen, and you're just plain silly. You're also a damned good argument for why it's a good thing your movement is, and always will be, marginal to real-world politics.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike Bast, so you are no longer a libertarian just because there are some OTHER libertarians who tend to anarchocapitalism? You are no longer a libertarian because you've heard from some OTHER libertarians that there should be less regulations? You are no longer a libertarian because OTHER non-libertarians have never considered property rights to bodies? You are no longer a libertarian becuase you've SEEN some OTHER libertarians to clamor for corporate welfare? You are no longer a libertarian because you've heard some OTHER libertarians claim something is moral?

For God's sake, libertarians are humans, I guess there are libertarians out there that fall for ANY fallacy you can only think of.

I mean, have you ever tried to build your political worldview by thinking by _yourself_?

Mike Bast said...

Joanna,
I wish we were in the same room so you could hear me laugh at you. All I can do is guess that, like most cultists, you have to build up a worldview that says outsiders have to have the flaws in the discussion.
You ignored what I said about why I am no longer one of you, misinterpreted my responses to particular instances as why I "really" am no longer a libertarian, and try (but fail) to make it seem as though I don't think for myself.
Again, I wish you could hear me laugh at you. But you won't hear/see/read me waste any more time on you.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike Bast, well okay, thanks for your answers.

I can only support you in that many libertarian arguments make me cringe as well, they are often superficial, incorrect, mystic etc. That's why I also love Mike Huben's site, another thing we share. You say that building your own worldview out of available ideas is "cultist". But isn't that what thinking for yourself actually means? Why should it be my fault that I only find mises/rothbard version of libertarianism correct? Why should I be responsible for everything other self-described libertarian believe?

Waltlaw said...

@Joanna: I also encountered libertarian thought in my mid-20s, which overturned many of my previous unquestioned assumptions about economics (e.g., Austrian school) and ethical philosophy (e.g., Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden).

Curiously, Hubens claim that libertarians are indoctrinated. In contrast, I believe conservatives and liberals suffer from this problem. I guess we're all indoctrinated and living in our own self-made political matrices!

Seriously, my belief is that because most libertarians actually read literature in economics and philosophy before arriving at their beliefs, their epistemological method is more rational compared to an adult who just absorbs their politics from their upbringing and schooling.

As a Canadian, I saw my education in economics as indoctrination on the superiority of the mixed economy and the welfare state. There was no examination of different schools of thought; just that the mythology narratives that "capitalism caused the great depression" and "Canada's mixed economy takes the best of capitalism and socialism." Then when I studied macro-economics at university, it sounded all rather abstract to the point of being unreal. I learned it, but it didn't make much sense to me. But then a few years later, I encountered the Austrian school with its focus on the individual, which presented a much more intelligible, concrete, and realistic way of understanding economics. I could follow the logic of Austrian economic theory!

I agree with the criticism of Austrian economic theory that it doesn't use econometrics. However, I don't think Austrian economists need to reject econometrics; if their theory posits predictions (which it does), then it's possible to quantify it.

For what it's worth, I'm a psychological researcher (PhD student close to defending), so I'm big on the quantification of data, including qualitative data. I am trying to link my psychological research on self-esteem to ethics and eventually--hopefully--to political theory.

By the way, Joanna, I appreciate you taking the rational higher ground in your discussions with Hubens.

Waltlaw said...

Sorry Michael, I mean Huben (without the 's').

Mike Huben said...

Waltlaw:

Here's my simple test for indoctrination: when you encountered libertarianism and started reading books about it, what books did you read that criticized it? In general, libertarians exhibit a strong confirmation bias, reading essentially nothing but literature uncritical of it.

Coming to beliefs after reading such a biased sample is not what I would call rational, no matter how it compares to the average.

That was one of the major reasons why I started my FAQ and my site almost 20 years ago: because libertarians were so amazingly limited to their own echo chamber.

Being able to "follow the logic of Austrian economic theory" is scant recommendation. People can follow the logic of Aristotelian physics and maybe not relativity, but relativity is much better physics. Indeed, a rational person would admit that in order to decide which is better, you would need to understand both well enough to subject them to tests.

I wouldn't go around congratulating Joanna on "rational higher ground" for several reasons. First, because most of her arguments don't fit even loose ideas of rational. Second, because like all libertarian argument, it has a very bad Garbage In Garbage Out problem. And third, because (as Michael Shermer observes, and should observe about himself) she's somebody who is attempting to defend rationally what she has come to believe irrationally.

I recommend that before you go throwing around the idea of rationality, you read my Skepticism of Rationality. It's one of my Skepticism pages.

Mike Huben said...

Oh, and I also recommend my Parable of the ship: why Austrian Economics fails.

Waltlaw said...

"Here's my simple test for indoctrination: when you encountered libertarianism and started reading books about it, what books did you read that criticized it? In general, libertarians exhibit a strong confirmation bias, reading essentially nothing but literature uncritical of it."

Ever since I encountered libertarian and Objectivist thought, I have debated socialists and welfare statists. I have friends who are hard core socialists who I debate. Their Marxist view of economics is frustrating, but I debate with them anyway. When I first encountered the literature, libertarianism was a term that barely anyone knew what it meant; never mind critique it. I had to learn it from different angles. Hence, reading Adam Smith, John Locke, J.S. Mill, Milton Friedman, the early Austrian school--Menger, for instance--just to see how all these different thinkers converged on what we call "libertarianism." I was also reading Marx and Keynes; so I could get the other side. More recently, I am reading the work of Jeffrey Sachs, "The End of Poverty" in which he is critical of some of the libertarian explanations for poverty. His solutions also, are not exactly libertarian as he argues for the need of economically strategic foreign aid. Sachs attracted my interest after watching PBS's excellent series, "Commanding Heights," (based on a book by Yergin & Stanislaw) which provides an economic overview of the 20th century that contrasts Hayek's ideas vs. Keynes. And I have read several critiques of Objectivism. I even have a few of my own.

As to the confirmation bias, people of all political stripes can fall victim to it. Libertarianism is not unique in this way.

As someone who has studied psychology for over a decade and does therapy, I'm very aware of people's inherent cognitive biases and faulty thinking, and helping them find ways to correct it.

Bryan Caplan goes even further than the typical biases in identifying other cognitive biases (e.g., anti-market bias) in his "The Myth of the Rational Voter." For what it's worth, Caplan is critical of the Austrian school, but at least he is rational about it.

As to Shermer, I have read many of his works, which I've enjoyed. Most recently, I'm reading _Mind of the Market_, a defense of free markets, but obviously there is no point in following his arguments because Shermer must have been indoctrinated in order to write the book. Anyway, thanks for the patronizing citation to Shermer's essay.

As for the rest of your reply--and your assumptions about me--, they are patronizing and insulting, thus not worth responding to. Respect earns respect.

I see you have posted other replies, but guess what? If this is a sampling of your response style, I'm not going to waste my time reading them. I just hope your FAQ--which I have read parts of it back in the late 90s when I wasn't a graduate student--is toned down in patronizing rhetoric.

By alienating the very people you wish to hear your arguments, you sabotage your own goal. But at least this gives you the opportunity to say, "They won't even listen to my arguments. And that's because they are irrational/biased/dogmatic/indoctrinated."

I'm all ears to hearing critiques of libertarianism (and Objectivism), but I expect respect from the critic. I'll continue my journey elsewhere. Congratulations on alienating someone whom actually listens to opposing viewpoints.

Mike Huben said...

Wow, what a funny over-reaction.

Please list one of my "patronizing and insulting" assumptions about you in particular.

You as much as admit your indoctrination (by my standards) when you claim "barely anyone knew what it meant; never mind critique it". But of course criticisms existed: you didn't find them.

You attempt to excuse yourself from confirmation bias with a "tu quoque" fallacy, that other people do it. Love that rationality!

"By alienating the very people you wish to hear your arguments, you sabotage your own goal." Now that is a stupid thing to say, for the simple reason that you apparently think I have only one goal and that convincing you is my goal. Nope: convincing dyed in the wool ideologues with honeyed words is futile. Far better to show onlookers how stupid and pretentious such people are.

Please flounce off as you threaten to, and nurse your stinging ego, you thin-skinned and silly person. If you cannot stand a very mild contradiction of your pretentiousness and self-proclaimed "rationality", you're too pathetic to be happy here.

Respect does not earn respect here: respect must be earned here with intelligent argument. And it's rather pathetic that you attempt to argue by aphorism. That's not rational either.

Mike Bast said...

"my belief is that because most libertarians actually read literature in economics and philosophy before arriving at their beliefs, their epistemological method is more rational compared to an adult who just absorbs their politics from their upbringing and schooling."

You belief is not verified by anything empirical (even a reliable survey would be nice) and contradicted by my own experience of years of being a libertarian and speaking to others. I find that most of the libertarians I've known (including myself) got into the ideology first and then into economics. I have never met one who did it the other way.

"just that the mythology narratives that "capitalism caused the great depression" "

On what basis is it a mythology? That it contradicts ideology? I've yet to see a critique of the idea from someone who wasn't ideologically pre-disposed to thinking it was so.

"I could follow the logic of Austrian economic theory! "

But that doesn't make it true, at all. I've met a few Austrians who say that Macroeconomics doesn't make much sense, but that (again) doesn't mean it isn't true. There are things which just are hard to understand.

"if their theory posits predictions (which it does), then it's possible to quantify it. "

You might want to read the writings of Hayek and Rothbard on their methods. It's pretty straightforward in being antithetical to the scientific method.

"By the way, Joanna, I appreciate you taking the rational higher ground in your discussions with Hubens."

Um, no. She is using rational words, but the sounds don't make it actually rational. That's the entire issue.

"I have debated socialists and welfare statists. I have friends who are hard core socialists who I debate"

Having been involved in many "debates" from many sides, I have to say that I don't think that's a good way to judge your level of indoctrination. Well, maybe it is, in that most of them seem to be nothing more than people who already have a POV throwing it out as an explanation, and defending attacks on it. There's no attempt to get at the truth (often because the participants are convinced they have it) and no exchange and consideration of other ideas, data and viewpoints. No one is listening, just waiting for their turn to talk.

"Their Marxist view of economics is frustrating, but I debate with them anyway"

And this makes me pretty sure your "debate" is as I described it above. I wouldn't use it as a way to say you're not indoctrinated, if I were you.

"I was also reading Marx and Keynes; so I could get the other side"

Many people say this, but I haven't seen many read for truth, but merely to learn how to formulate responses to things with which they already disagree.

"I'm very aware of people's inherent cognitive biases and faulty thinking, and helping them find ways to correct it."

I know a lot of people who have great insight into others, but can't see the same things in themselves.

"Bryan Caplan "The Myth of the Rational Voter." "

Caplan's basic argument is that the voters are wrong because they don't agree with him and the economists he says are "mainstream". I've read the book, and it's nothing more than libertarian cheerleading.

"As to Shermer"

I like Shermer's work, but I think he's a great example of someone who sees other's biases, but not his own. He actually argued that those who don't believe in the free-market have a pre-modern mindset.

Waltlaw said...

@Mike Bast: I believe that anyone who doesn't recognize that their own political viewpoint is biased is deluding themselves. We all idealize that we are objective, but this is simply not true. This applies to liberals, conservatives, and libertarians alike.

I see that you parsed my brief response like Huben did; reading a lot into a little. You don't know me and you assume indoctrination. I don't how you guys don't view this as insulting.

If you want an actual example to analyze a tiny bit of my personal epistemological method, here's a better one. I was raised Roman Catholic, but in my early 20s I analyzed my core reasons for believing, and found these reasons answered by naturalistic explanations. I then stopped believing. How many "indoctrinated" people disavow their own religious beliefs, which involves overcoming their own childhood-based indoctrination and strong emotional attachments to deism? As well as experiencing the social disapproval of, and arguments with, family?

Anyway, I shouldn't have to defend my thinking method. I did't inquire into yours. Psychologizing is unbecoming of a rational debate. It goes nowhere. Have you ever convinced someone to change their mind because you told them they were indoctrinated?

I come from the perspective that people have their reasons for their beliefs and it's a matter of figuring those out. This is extraordinarily difficult at times. People are not (on average) adept at introspection, which psychological research supports, so they may not be able to tell you themselves. But whether they are rational or irrational in how they arrived at their beliefs requires much investigation; not an assumption based on their political beliefs.

I realize that the Austrian school doesn't support econometrics. To conclude otherwise is to read things into my post that were not there. My proposing of econometrics is based on my experience from psychological research.

If you are serious about convincing libertarians that they are erroneous, telling that they indoctrinated is shooting yourself in the foot. Why? For the simple fact that it is insulting. Some may be indoctrinated, but this is true for any political orientation.

I know some Objectivists who regurgitate Rand, and who I would consider indoctrinated and dogmatic. Yet, I also know of Objectivists in which I see rationality exemplified not only in their thinking, but in how they live their lives. The moral of the story: Not all Objectivists are indoctrinated. Similarly, not all libertarians are indoctrinated. And despite the fact I don't agree with them, not all liberals, welfare statists, or conservatives are indoctrinated.

I think the lesson here is that just because someone has arrived at a political system different than yours doesn't mean that they are essentially irrational in their thinking. Randroids are notorious for making this conclusion about others who don't agree with them. They are not exactly a group to emulate.

Now if you psychologize even more based on this post--e.g., further "proof" that I am indoctrinated--, then obviously you're not getting my point how insulting this is.

Walter

Waltlaw said...

And I subscribe to Cato Unbound, an discussion forum "between four libertarian and non-libertarian scholars selected by the Cato Institute for participation."

http://www.cato-unbound.org/

I was very happy to see this. Along these lines, for many years I have hoped and asked that The Atlas Society summer seminar invite non-Objectivist and non-libertarian speakers. Hearing your oppoent's arguments directly is incredibly important to a meaningful, rational dialogue. Indeed, Cato Unbound's approach is much better than assuming your political opponent is indoctrinated and then psychologically analyzing his/her statements in order to confirm that your assumption is valid.

Mike Bast said...

"This applies to liberals, conservatives, and libertarians alike."

Saying it applies to everyone doesn't absolve you of doing it, or of failing to correct it when you know you've done it.

"I see that you parsed my brief response like Huben did; reading a lot into a little. You don't know me and you assume indoctrination. I don't how you guys don't view this as insulting."

First, this is a discussion of a study which seems to claim that libertarians are more "rational" than non-libertarians, and you specifically praised Joanna for being rational. Somehow I bet you don't see that as at all insulting.
Second, I looked back over what I wrote, and I don't really see me "psychologizing" about you. I put what you said, actually said, into a context.

"If you want an actual example to analyze a tiny bit of my personal epistemological method"

I've spent too much time discussing things with libertarians (within and without) and I find it boring. Too many will make extravagant claims about how independent minded they are, and then ignore that they come to the exact conclusions others in their group do.

"Anyway, I shouldn't have to defend my thinking method."

Why not? You came into a public discussion, made remarks, and then took offense at others commenting back. Why do you think you get to set the terms of the discussion?

"Have you ever convinced someone to change their mind because you told them they were indoctrinated?"

I've never cared enough to try. I discuss for my own reasons, and whether anyone else gets anything out of it isn't up to me to decide.

"I come from the perspective that people have their reasons for their beliefs and it's a matter of figuring those out."

How do you do that without discussing how they arrive at those reasons?

"But whether they are rational or irrational in how they arrived at their beliefs requires much investigation; not an assumption based on their political beliefs."

I am almost astonished that you say this. The very study that started this discussion says EXACTLY what you claim shouldn't be done, and you're on that side. Talk about being bad at introspection.

"I realize that the Austrian school doesn't support econometrics. To conclude otherwise is to read things into my post that were not there"

Where, specifically, was this done? The closest I came was to tell you to look at the writings on methods of Hayek and Rothbard, and that had to do with why they won't accept quantifying things. That you think they "could" use econometrics isn't important, because they won't.

"If you are serious about convincing libertarians that they are erroneous"

I'm not. It's up to them to do it for themselves, as it was for me. I do care about them putting out ideas in public that are either unsupported by data or flat out wrong.

"For the simple fact that it is insulting"

You keep going on about being insulted, but can't seem to grasp that saying that your politicial ideology has the most rational adherents is insulting.

"I think the lesson here is that just because someone has arrived at a political system different than yours doesn't mean that they are essentially irrational in their thinking"

Are you kidding? Are you even paying attention to what this entire discussion is about?

UCSDMedRes said...

@Waitlaw- you say in your post that you like data. I'm a science phd,and I love data myself.

In my view, here is a simple way to test indoctrination. Ask yourself the following questions: What data would it take to convince you that your libertarian ideas are ill-founded? What would it take to convince you that the Austrian school of economics is fundamentally flawed?

Consider that even libertarian-leaning economists (Tyler Cowen, Bryan Caplan) have pointed out that the Austrian school's predictions do not match the data. Its not just the Paul Krugmans.

Mike Huben said...

UCSDMedRes: That's a good point!

But we can add to your list: pretty much every libertarian-leaning Nobel laureate in economics rejects Austrianism, starting with Milton Friedman. I'd allow people to quibble about Hayek, but he is often denounced by Austrians such as Block, Radnitzky, Hoppe, and de Jasay and clearly rejected some aspects of Austrianism.

Ayn R. Key said...

The problem with your critique of this paper is that the authors of the paper are not libertarians themselves. Since they try for a balanced approach, indicating that each ideology has its own moral foundation by which it judges itself moral and others immoral, they therefore indicated that libertarian have a moral foundation at all.

Clearly that is unacceptable, and that also clearly means that the authors are biased in favor of libertarians in spite of not being so.

The problem with Lakoff was that he started with a two option premise, and then was left to shoehorn libertarians into one of those. Iver, much to your dismay, started with a three option premise, and then was left to find the differences between the third option and the other two. Lakoff never questioned the validity of his two option and only two option starting point.

There certainly was a self-reinforcing aspect in parts of the study, but did you look at the moral dilemma portion? The authors did indicate that the classic question of a speeding train is not a political question. By departing from questions that are simply political the authors were able to ask questions not covered by party platforms. In fact, parts two and three of the study are pretty explicit about trying to go deeper than the superficial political layers as it is their premise that political opinions are a result of moral opinions, and that moral opinions are a result of base gut urges.

The paper is interesting in what it atempts, and contrary to your presentation it does not attempt an apologia about libertarianism.

Mike Huben said...

Ayn R. Key, if you are able to read carefully, I do not criticize this paper because of the beliefs of the authors. I criticize it for methodology.

You claim: "Lakoff never questioned the validity of his two option and only two option starting point."

Read the book. Page 13, Lakoff says: "There are, of course, far more than two forms of morality and politics, even among conservatives and liberals. But set within normal human minds, the two family systems and moral systems that I will be outlining give rise , in a systematic way, to a considerable number of actual moral and political positions [....]" In other words, he nowhere claims those are the only models. And he finds the conservative model well includes libertarianism.

"Interesting in what it attempts" is faint praise for the simple reason that the methodology is stupid. It might be interesting that you attempt to fly jumping from a height with little cardboard wings, but you're stupid to do so.

I do not criticize this paper for "apologia" as you claim: I criticize it for naive parroting of unscientific claims by libertarians.

Are you done grasping at straws yet, or will we have another round of spurious claims from you? If you want to make a claim about my post, I recommend that you cite a portion as evidence.

Waltlaw said...

Huben, you claimed without a shred of empirical evidence, the following:

"Libertarians differ strongly from liberals and conservatives in that they are heavily indoctrinated at early ages."

Please cite the psychological studies that support this claim. Thank you.

Mark Plus said...

@Waitlaw:

You don't think we got Patri Friedman and Rand Paul because of their respective families' libertarian cult indoctrination?

Mike Huben said...

Waltlaw, I don't claim to be writing anything scientific here: they do. Thus, I don't need to meet that particular standard.

However, most people who have talked to libertarians will agree with my statement from their personal experience: libertarians often self-indoctrinate extensively. It is much less common to find liberals or conservatives who do that.

Waltlaw said...

Thanks Mark and Mike for clarifying your appeal to anecdotal evidence. Mike, you are free to absolve yourself from being scientific in your ostensibly empirical claims. It just means I can safely dismiss the statement, and as well, note that you justified yourself. All I can say to that is, "Wow."

Psychologizing can be fun because it does absolve one from taking the other person seriously. Kind of a lazy and arrogant strategy, if you ask me.

I prefer to understand the underlying beliefs of people's politics at an individual basis after getting to know them. By actually asking them deeper questions about their beliefs, I get at some of their root assumptions or philosophical commitments about human nature and social structures. I find that much more informative and interesting than broad brushstroke psychologizing, which, in reality, is patronizing, arrogant, and simply disrespectful.

I have actually thought about conducting such research, namely, exploring core beliefs of people of different political orientations, including people's understanding of economics as I believe economic illiteracy contributes to political beliefs as well.

Haidt, mind you, seems to be doing some interesting exploratory research on his website regarding people's political beliefs and morality. I'd be interested to see what he does find on libertarianism as I think he's the first psychologist to study libertarianism.

You know, I am willing to bet any money--yes, ANY MONEY--that Haidt's research is not going to conclude or suggest "libertarians are indoctrinated." I am saying this before he has published anything. All I know is his exploratory survey questions on his website. Any takers?

Mike Huben said...

Waltlaw: in your own words you are "patronizing, arrogant, and simply disrespectful." Not to mention wrong in many ways.

First, my evidence is not anecdotal: it is my personal observation in informal surveys over the past 40 years.

You say that means you can safely dismiss the argument: that's wrong of course, because you're merely preferring your own biases.

You accuse me of "psychologizing", but provide no quote to back up your claim. That's lazy or dishonest.

it's very nice that you have daydreamed about research: that makes you all hat and no cattle.

Your bet is stupid: Haidt does not explore the development of political beliefs. Thus he wouldn't make conclusions about indoctrination. And that is one of the great faults of his methodology. Ask any biologist if development is unimportant for understanding the adult organism They will tell you that it is critical. Why should psychology be any different?

In short, your entire response is specious, a waste of bits.

Waltlaw said...

Mike, you keep rationalizing and defending the indefensible. Personal observation is anecdotal. If I surveyed 1000 research psychologists and asked them, "Is a personal observation anecdotal evidence?" 100% of them will say yes. Personal observation is textbook anecdotal evidence. Even wikipedia says, "Accounts of direct personal experience are commonly equated to anecdotal evidence where the evidence is anecdote, hearsay or represents a conclusion deduced from generalisation." (shakes head in disbelief)

Anything else you say that builds on your anecdotal evidence is pure speculation and can be safely dismissed as a non-scientific. In your case, the claim is obviously an emotion-laden bias given your antagonism and hostility to libertarians.

I have shared each of your rationalizing and psychologizing comments with my friend (who describes his politics as socialist, if that matters) and he never fails to raise his eyebrows and express words of disbelief.

Thanks for reaffirming my opinion of you. (So my memory was not exaggerated; you are as irrational as I had remembered. So much for giving you the "benefit of the doubt.")

Mike Huben said...

Waltlaw, you are correct that my evidence was anecdotal: I had confused anecdotal with second hand.

But I'm not claiming scientific study of libertarianism. I'm pointing out that the study cited is pseudoscience. I don't have to have a scientific alternative to show correctly that they are not scientific.

As for your opinions and those of your friend, they constitute anecdote. Nor do they contain argument citing anything I've written. They are mere denunciation.

Waltlaw said...

Read the original paper--"Understanding Libertarian Morality: The psychological roots of an individualist ideology"-- in which Haidt is a co-author. So Haidt ~has~ published on libertarianism then. :-) (Although, the linked copy is not published yet.)

Then I looked again at Mike's critique that the paper had a "fundamental fallacy" in that it "did not consider the indoctrination process." Mike then follows this with a non-scientific claim upon which he builds his house of cards: "Libertarians differ strongly from liberals and conservatives in that they are heavily indoctrinated at early ages."

As I have noted, and will continue to note, because this a speculative claim with no scientific evidence outside of anecdotal evidence (e.g., personal observation), it can be safely dismissed until there is evidence shown to support the claim.

Anyway, back to the empirical paper and Mike's "fundamental fallacy" critique. When I read the study's abstract, I laughed. Then when I read Mike's comment that there was a "fundamental fallacy," I laughed even harder. Sorry for laughing, but I find the pretentiousness in your bold claim quite funny.

As the purpose of the study makes clear, this is simply a correlational study to examine how certain moral beliefs and personality traits are linked to one's political orientation. There is no claim to find "DEVELOPED attitudes" (whatever that means). In short, Mike's critique is irrelevant.

The study did not purport to examine the developmental roots of a person's political beliefs, nor make any such claims about developmental influences. The questions they were asking were about the links between personality, moral beliefs, and political beliefs.

As the authors note, "We show how self-described libertarians differ from self-described liberals and conservatives not just on their
moral beliefs, but on a variety of personality measures that may help us to understand why libertarians hold their unique pattern of moral beliefs....Our goal, however, was not just to understand libertarians. The relationships we report reveal a great deal about the moralities of
liberals and conservatives, by virtue of the contrast with libertarians and with each other."

(As an aside, I really liked the fact that the authors quoted Ayn Rand, who has probably been the biggest influence on modern day libertarianism.)

If I were to imagine a study examining indoctrination (and as a research psychologist, I can safely claim some expertise in psychological research design), I think it would require an elaborate longitudinal study. I estimate it would take about at least 20 years to gather evidence. After all, you'd like to see if the indoctrination held when the person is into their adult years (i.e., 25 years old +). But that's an entirely different and complex question.

Mike, if I had to mark your essay (and I have marked hundreds upon hundreds of undergraduate psych papers), I would indicate things such as, "The authors made no claims about identifying developmental processes in the purpose of their study. For this reason, your critique is irrelevant. However, studying indoctrination might be useful in understanding how some people form their political beliefs. In addition, your use of anecdotal evidence is insufficient to build arguments or form strong conclusions. At best, anecdotal evidence can be useful for deriving testable hypotheses. Please refer to your textbook chapter on levels of evidence."

"Fundamental fallacy"...that's priceless.

Mike Huben said...

Waitlaw, you pompous simpleton, why don't you explain how "psychological roots" are established with "a correlational study".

You can't: your entire argument is merely pompously declaring that you are the judge of the argument. And you are obviously unfit.

For example, a psychological study about indoctrination would not take a 20 year longitudinal study as you foolishly suggest: it's obvious to anyone that you could use overlapping cohorts over a much briefer period.

A huge amount of psychology is pseudoscientific bullshit. Including pretty much all of the contradictory measures of personality.

There's no pretentiousness in declaring that the emperor has no clothes. Nor in pointing out that for all your claimed expertise, you still haven't explained why any one of my criticisms is wrong. All you do is huff and puff and bellow "non-scientific claim". But you don't seem to have the wits to realize that because they haven't excluded such an obvious hypothesis, they have very little grounds to claim they have anything scientific: all they have is a lot of hype and a small correlation based on dubious measures of a self-selected group that was gamed by libertarians.

Maybe that's what you consider good psychological research. I would hardly be surprised if you were that pathetic also.