Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Libertarians on the Shrink's Couch

by Gene Healy

Washington Examiner
November 15, 2010

We libertarians tend to think of ourselves as a tiny, embattled sect, ignored when we're not reviled. Lately, though -- with Hayek's Road to Serfdom shooting up the Amazon charts and Tea Partiers with "Don't Tread on Me" flags storming Capitol Hill -- there's increasing interest in figuring out how this strange tribe thinks.

A team of social psychologists, including the University of Virginia's Jonathan Haidt, provides some of the most detailed answers yet, putting libertarians on the couch in a new study, "Understanding Libertarian Morality."

"Libertarian morality?" you say. "Isn't that an oxymoron, like 'military intelligence' or 'law school talent show'?" No, smartass, it isn't. "Libertarians are not amoral," Haidt and his colleagues report. (Whew!) We simply have "a unique moral-psychological profile." That profile helps explain both why we can be hard to get along with and why we're needed, now more than ever.