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I once read the hypothesis that libertarians, on average, are more intelligent than others. I think that was from Steve Sailer, not himself a libertarian. The anecdotal evidence that I've collected over the years by travelling through the Internet seems to confirm this. Should the hypothesis be true, I can think of three explanations:

H1: Libertarianism is the right ideology to hold. Intelligent people are more likely to realize that than others.

H2: Only intelligent people are capable of grasping the inticracies of libertarianism.

H3: Intelligent people are the ones that are most likely to succeed in a libertarian world. They are unlikely to profit from minimum wage laws and unlikely to develop an unwise drug habit.

H2 is nonsense; there's hardly a more simple ideology than libertarianism. As for the other two, discuss!


pj said...

Well I can't say my experience bears that hypothesis out (I'd say it was true that libertarians are more likely to believe that they're more intelligent than others) - but assuming it were true it could simply be that as a minority political ideology only better educated (and thus presumably more intelligent on average) people get exposed to it - a variation on H2.

J Thomas said...

Intelligent people are more likely to try out new ideas and decide for themselves that they're true. Less-intelligent people are more likely to go along with what authorities tell them.

My guess is that libertarians tend to be the sort that settle on something and decide it's right, more or less at random. Maybe the smartest don't do this, but it does have adaptive value for the whole population that some people do it. If they pick something at random that happens to work, other people can copy it. If they pick something that works out badly, usually the consequences for the rest of society aren't so bad.

LemmusLemmus said...


I think the bit about believing is even more likely to be true. Your variant on H2 is a good one; that should definitely have been on the list.

J Thomas,

settling on something at random and sticking with it doesn't strike me as a sign of intelligence.

J Thomas said...

Call it intelligence with selective blind spots.

Pick something at random to believe in. Figure out what has to be true to allow that to happen. Live as if it's true and see what results you get.

Since none of us actually understands very much of the world, a random new believe might lead to some good results. And maybe everybody can benefit from those results. But the bad effects will hit *you* and you need to be pretty smart to get by.

Nowadays libertarians have lots of fellow libertarians to agree with them, there are even some female libertarians to flirt with. But think what it was like in the early days when there were only a few. Similarly with christians, mormons, UFO-believers, supply-siders, pacifists, evolutionists, christian scientists, atkins-dieters, Greens, string theorists, etc.

You have to be pretty adaptible when the currently-accepted beliefs appear to explain things better than your hobby-horse does, and you still want to do it your way.

LemmusLemmus said...

You may have identified a negative effect of the Internet: You'll always find someone who agrees with you.