The Liberal Mind: A Thumbnail Psychological Portrait

I am lucky to have the opportunity of frequent face-to-face interactions with liberals. (Not that I could avoid them easily if I wanted to given where I live.) I am also ahead of most of you in understanding the liberal mind, if I say so myself. That’s because I was raised in the country whose high-level intellectuals practically invented political bad faith.

First, let me classify my subjects. There are three kinds of liberals: hereditary liberals, union liberals, and liberals-by-choice. I focus on the latter class because they provide the purest examples. The other two kinds are roughly similar but they may differ in detail and they may be susceptible to sudden accesses of rationality.

Liberals frequently demonstrate confusion about causal processes. I am saying “causal.” Their casual thinking is just fine as a result of regular practice.

The glaciers are melting because of massive human generation

of industrial and automobile CO2.

But the temperature of Greenland was higher in 1100 than it is

today and its Norse inhabitants had no automobiles and their

industry was three guys pounding on an iron bar heated on

a bed of charcoal.

So, what’s your point?

They rely on non-fact facts.

The US armed forces killed millions in Iraq.

Polar bears are disappearing.

Even when they are generally well informed, they display strategic ignorance. That’s true of people who say they read the New York Times five times a week and who actually read most of it twice a week. (My definition of a well-informed liberal.)

There is a frequent, well-established positive relationship

between permanently lowered taxes and increased

government revenue. (The less of their income people pay

to the government, the more the government ends

up collecting.)

Well, I wouldn’t know about this.

That’s what Democratic Pres. Kennedy seemed to have

believed because he implemented big tax-cuts.

Well, I would not know about this.

Fairly often, liberals make statements that prove at once a lack of respect for facts and mental confusion:

Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction.

(I wonder why Bush would not have lied instead about something unlikely to show that what he said was not true to fact.)

Of course, people who make false inferences, whose facts are often demonstrated to not be facts at all, whose ignorance is exhibited frequently, will normally develop an aversion to debate. All but one. or two of the liberals I know hate debating. They are experts in changing the subject after one curt sentence that’s supposed to annihilate contradiction and that never does. In face-to-face interaction, many will actually turn their head away in a physical attempt to escape debate.

The above are main psychological traits and their logical consequence. They are not to be confused with value preferences. Value preferences are difficult to overcome because their origins are usually not clear. They may even be rooted in brain chemistry.

Here is a liberal value preference that is difficult to combat:

They prefer justice to freedom.

I refer to their idea of justice which often boils down to equality of outcomes, regardless of inputs such as effort, talent and courage. If you think about it, it could be worse: Some people prefer even tyranny to freedom, irrespective of justice: Tens of thousands of Russians cried when the mass murderer Stalin died. I don’t exclude the possibility that, in this country, people who prefer tyranny to freedom think of themselves as liberals. There is no other political home for them in America. I am explicitly not saying that liberals in general prefer tyranny to freedom.

Here is a consequence of this particular liberal value preference of “justice” over freedom: A liberal who would know how to think straight, who relied on real facts, and who did not cultivate ignorance could still be an adversary. At least, he would be an adversary with whom it’s possible to negotiate and compromise. We are a long way from such a situation, I think.

What do you think?


About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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