Why Do Libertarians Vote Conservative?

Posted on Posted in libertarianism, moral psychology, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized

The United States political field is composed of two main political parties, liberal and conservative, and one additional party that doesn’t quite fit into the liberal conservative spectrum, libertarians.

Libertarianism, from a psychological perspective, is a unique personality different from both liberal and conservative. Interestingly the traditional libertarian view aligns with conservatives on economic issues like taxes, industry regulation, social welfare programs, etc. and aligns with democrats on social issues like drug decriminalization, gay marriage, civil liberties, etc.

Technically libertarians don’t really fit into either party, so what happens is they tend to make alliances with conservatives on some issues and make alliances with liberals on other issues, which is what one would expect. But that really doesn’t tell the whole story because more often than not libertarians align themselves with conservatives.

Why is that.

One prediction we might make is that libertarians would align themselves with democrats half of the time and republicans the other half. Of course that would assume that they value both expressions of individual liberty equally. But we don’t see that. We see a very strong trend that libertarians align themselves with conservatives. Why is that?

Obviously the most generous explanation would be that libertarians feel like the more egregious violation of a persons liberty are those inflicted by liberal policies (taxation).

One other explanation is that many people who call themselves libertarians are not true libertarians, they are really conservatives of some sort or some libertarian-conservative hybrid. That is certainly possible.

Here is a much less generous explanation of the phenomena. Libertarians vote conservative because what really motivates them is a hatred of any interference in their life, all of which they perceive as unjust. The particular psychological trait is known as reactance. Libertarians are very high in reactance as well as very low on empathy and positive feelings towards other persons. They also perceive themselves as isolated from the rest of society and thereby fail to appreciate the way in which they have been benefited and currently benefit by the existence of a stable social organization, which leads them to under appreciate their obligations to the rest of society.

All the bluster about individual rights really just boils down to the fact that they don’t want anyone interfering with their life, especially not to take their money to help others persons whom they have no empathy for and feel no moral obligation towards. So, because they don’t like interference in their lives they moralize this concern and turn it into the ideology of libertarianism. What about the lack of freedoms imposed by those without basic civil liberties? Those are not really of serious concern to libertarians on a level that would motivate them to serious action.

I’ve been speaking about “libertarians” in the abstract, and that might be unfair to some. So I’ll make this a bit more specific. If the Koch brothers core value was the importance of civil liberties they would support the democratic political party, or some other independent progressive party, not the tea party and the conservative party. But they don’t support any liberal political party! Ergo, their core value is not the importance of civil liberties but rather that they don’t like anyone interfering in their personal lives.

Instead of fighting for civil liberties they have aligned themselves with conservatives to push their twisted self-serving myopic agenda of lowering taxes, deregulating industry and undermining the basic elements of the social safety net.



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