Are Libertarians Rational

Over at his blog, Matt Bruenig has a post titled “Why Are Libertarians Mostly Men.” As you can expect from Buenig, his position is denigrating toward libertarians.

Every so often, people opine on the question of why libertarians are mostly men (Jeet Heer, Kevin Drum, Brink Lindsey). As someone more interested in the philosophical debate, not the sociological debate, I generally stay out of these discussions.

However, if I had to speculate, I’d say that the reason libertarians are mostly men is that men are not as good as women at logical reasoning. This is not to say all men are not as good at logical reasoning as all women. It’s just to say that the logical-reasoning bell curve for men is to the left of the logical-reasoning bell curve for women. This means that there simply are more men in the bottom 10% of ability to logically reason, which accounts for their overrepresentation in libertarianism, a philosophy that is internally incoherent and operates mainly through tautology and begging the question on entitlement.

I take issue with this assessment, and not just because I’m a male libertarian, but because Bruenig cites absolutely nothing to back up any of his assertions.

Let’s start with Bruenig’s claim that men are on average inferior to women at logical reasoning. As highlighted in the article “Male Brain vs. Female Brain” by Satoshi Kanazawa in Psychology Today, the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, Bernard Crespi, and Christopher Badcock has shown that there is a difference in male and female brain anatomy.

Men have come to acquire systemizing and mechanistic skills because such skills were necessary for inventing and making tools and weapons. At the same time, low empathizing ability was helpful for men in tolerating solitude during long hunting and tracking trips, and for committing acts of interpersonal violence and aggression necessary for male competition. (It is very difficult to kill other people if you strongly feel for them.) Similarly, women have come to acquire empathizing and mentalistic skills because they facilitate various aspects of mothering, such as anticipating and understanding the needs of infants who cannot yet talk, or making friends and allies in new environments, in which ancestral women found themselves upon marriage. (In the ancestral environment, women left their natal group and married into a neighboring group upon puberty, a practice necessary to avoid inbreeding.)

As the quoted passage states, the average male brain is low on empathy and high on systematization and mechanistic skills, where as the opposite is true of the average female brain. Because of this, men on average perform better in math, physics, and engineering. This success is because these disciplines are rational and rule/law driven. And to take it even further, Kanazawa points out in a follow up article that Baron-Cohen’s revolutionary work demonstrates that the male brain taken to the extreme brings about autism or autistic-like mental disorders like Aspergers, which are known to focus highly on rational thought while being nearly devoid of emotional ability. So Bruenig’s point that men are more irrational than women seems to be incorrect.

Secondly I want to address Bruenig’s point that libertarianism is “a philosophy that is internally incoherent and operates mainly through tautology and begging the question on entitlement.” Libertarianism is neither tautological nor does it beg the question. Libertarianism takes an issue and uses deductive reasoning to identify and address societal problems. This is most evident in economics, specifically with the Austrian school and praxeology.

Economist and Mr Libertarian himself Murray Rothbard had this to say about praxeology:

Praxeology rests on the fundamental axiom that individual human beings act, that is, on the primordial fact that individuals engage in conscious actions toward chosen goals. This concept of action contrasts to purely reflexive, or knee-jerk, behavior, which is not directed toward goals. The praxeological method spins out by verbal deduction the logical implications of that primordial fact. In short, praxeological economics is the structure of logical implications of the fact that individuals act.

And it is not only in economics which libertarians use deductive reasoning to address problems. Let’s take a look at the libertarian critiques of the War on Drugs. This article from Benjamin Wiegold highlights how the Drug War makes drugs less safe. By forcing out tradition drugs such as heroin and cocaine, the drug market creates more dangerous alternatives such as Desomorphine, or krokodil, and methamphetamine. This doesn’t even address that the Drug War causes increased violence within the drug market due to prohibition. When one looks at police abuse, it is easy deduce that sovereign immunity and the lack of holding police responsible has led to a drastic increase in police brutality, as repeatedly pointed out by libertarians like Radley Balko and John Whitedhead long before Black Lives Matter was a thought in someone’s head.

So while Bruenig may say we libertarians are not rational, it’s the left’s very own positions on minimum wage, poverty, and college prices that point to their own lack of deductive reasoning.

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