Is Liberalism a Handicap? Part I

Science suggests it may be…


Robert Heinlein called The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.”

Earth confronts a new planet with a super species to rival humans. Their history of cycled overpopulation, scarce resources, and violent purges, has caused them to become genetically hyper-specialized.

Basically, on an alien planet, mom dies if she doesn’t get pregnant, so the race ends up with a caste system from hell that’s hyper-capable in any given situation, even making war on itself.

In the novel, a question is asked: Why haven’t Earthlings continued to mutate and genetically evolve?

Answer: because once we start taking care of the bottom of our gene pool, our biological evolution slows down. Weak genes don’t get culled.

Now don’t freak out: Taking care of our weakest is obviously a GREAT thing.

But up against an army of well bred mutants, there are some downsides to recessive genes running amuck. Look at Prince Charles.

Natural beauty and moral beauty both benefit from a a good mix of genes.

Which brings us to Jonathon Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory.

Like the six human senses, we have at least six (or seven or more) moral foundations:

Where Libertarians, like myself, deviate from Conservatives we do so on lesser questions: Ingroup, Authority, and Purity.

Generally, Conservatives are multi-sensory. They have a vestigial lizard brain, a dominant gene set that has carried humans from the soup. If you grant any value to the lesser senses at all, Conservatives are even-keeled, juggling far more considerations. They are deeper, multifaceted, more mature, and complete.

Never do Conservatives drop too far outside the mean (above 3.0 on every measure).

Liberals however, on Harm and Fairness, the strongest moral issues, express GIANT EARS AND NOSES. Totally recessive genes.

At the deepest level, Haidt ultimately comes down to Fairness / Cheating. Conservatives CARE if cheaters prosper. Liberals excuse cheating if the cheater didn’t have his fair share.

Here’s another Haidt graph. This one on neuroticism:

Nurture DOES NOT help. Rich liberals suffer this disease, more than poor liberals.

Sadly, we see Liberals suffer greater negative emotions because of their BIG EARS AND NOSES. Without the lizard brain, without the Conservatives Darwinian anchor system they are made frantic by the cruel world around them.

In short, Liberals have a mental handicap.

Fortunately, Liberals and Conservatives don’t disagree much on Harm. As such, Conservatives are able to feel bad for handicapped Liberals… even more than Libertarians. We libertarians are assholes, we don’t care if Liberals are born that way… we demand they change.

BUT WAIT! Morality isn’t genetic!

Yes it is. Chris Mooney at Mother Jones has been doing great work explaining this to liberals politely:

Nonetheless, the twin studies suggest that the total genetic influence adds up to something pretty substantial. What Hibbing and his colleagues suspect is actually being inherited is a set of core dispositions about how we want society to be structured and run. Thus, the latest study showed a substantial genetic influence not only on people’s self-described political ideology, but also on their responses to questions asking whether “society works best” when “those who break the rules are punished” as opposed to when “those who break the rules are forgiven,” and when “people are rewarded according to merit” as opposed to when “people are rewarded according to need” (to give a few examples).

Of course, it’s not all genes. Morals, particularly the big two, Harm and Fairness, are likely as engrained by a mix of genes and culture as sexuality.

While it is “possible” for a person to change their sexuality and alter their behavior, it is far too expensive a proposition. Stick me in a prison long enough, and who knows… but, what’s the economic upside? Who cares?

On moral foundations? It is COMPLETELY WORTH the economic cost to push them to change how they think. It’s called the Internet, it costs a ton and has improved society immeasurably more than politics, over the past fifteen years.

Liberals can, do, and will learn overtime to change their policy positions on the issue of Fairness, just as Conservatives are learning to change theirs on Purity. Worryingly, we now see Liberals becoming more demanding of Ingroup and Authority….

The point is, dear Libertarians, we can heal liberals. Just as we have been healing conservatives. But we must recognize they suffer a disease.