Bryan Caplan  

Women, Liberty, Marketing, and Social Science

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Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire have restarted a long-standing debate about the shortage of libertarian women.  They make a very fair point: Libertarians should have been friendlier and more respectful to women - and turn over a new leaf forthwith.  As I've argued before, this is good general advice: Libertarians should be friendlier and more respectful, period.  To quote Mark Twain, "It will gratify some people, and astonish the rest."

Still, while I share Steve and Sarah's recommendations, I'm afraid they're conflating two issues: marketing and social science.

The marketing issue: How can libertarians better sell their ideas to women?

The social science issue: Why is there a shortage of libertarian women?

It's possible that the marketing issue is the answer to the social science issue.  Maybe bad marketing fully explains the libertarian gender gap.  But then again, maybe not.  A person could embrace the perfectly sensible view that libertarians should improve their marketing, yet still doubt that the best marketing in the world would close the gap.

My study of personality psychology makes me one of the doubters.  On the popular Myers-Briggs personality test, there is a huge Thinking-Feeling gap between men and women.  For men, the breakdown is roughly 60% Thinking, 40% Feeling.  For women, the breakdown is roughly 30% Thinking, 70% Feeling. 

This Thinking/Feeling disparity explains a lot about gender gaps in college major and occupation.  There's every reason to think that this disparity can help explain gender gaps in political and social views. 

To make a long story short: Thinking people tend to have "hard heads" and "hard hearts," while Feeling people have "soft heads" and "soft hearts."  Unsurprisingly, then, Feeling people tend to hold more anti-market views.  I've similarly found strong evidence that males "think more like economists."  This gender belief gap increases with education, consistent with a simple model where male and female students gradually learn more about whatever their personalities incline them to study.

The whole premise "Bleeding Heart Libertarianism," of course, is that we should unbundle the hardness of our heads and the hardness of our hearts.  Logically speaking, we can combine hard heads and soft hearts.  Empirically, though, this combination is rare.  And that's why Bleeding Heart Libertarians have their work cut out for them.  If you're trying to sell libertarianism to Feeling people, "hard head, soft heart" ideas are more persuasive than "hard head, hard heart" ideas.  But the libertarian remains at an inherent disadvantage against intellectual rivals pedaling "soft head, soft heart" ideas.

Marketing matters.  Libertarians can and should better market their ideas to women (and people, for that matter).  But marketing can only do so much.  Women really are more Feeling than men, and selling libertarianism to people with Feeling personalities is inherently difficult. 

Please don't be angry at me, I am only a messenger.



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The author at statan.se in a related article titled Bloggdebatt om varför det finns så få kvinnliga libertarianer writes:
    Efter att Julie Barowski, alias "Token Libertarian Girl", gav ett socialkonservativt svar på frågan varför det finns så få kvinnliga libertarianer spred sig debatten till många andra bloggar. Steve Horwitz och Sarah Skwire invände att "i princip allt i... [Tracked on January 6, 2013 11:19 AM]
COMMENTS (107 to date)
Michael Makovi writes:

Yup. Indeed, studies have found that irrespective of sex, libertarians are more cognitive and less emotional. So yes, I would expect a sex-divide as well.

Ken B writes:
Please don't be angry at me, I am only a messenger.
I don't think I should be angry at you, but I feel I should.


Ironically one of the most persuasive broadly libertarian writers is known to most readers here. But when small government politicans try to sell ideas with stories and context -- Feelings -- he lashes out at them. If you can only sell lower marginal tax rates or ending the war on drugs by presenting a social welfare function and some partial derivatives, you've already lost.

Bostonian writes:

In presidential elections, Republicans (who on economic issues are closer to libertarians than Democrats, while still far away) get about half the votes of married women and are crushed among single women. Sorry to be "disrespectful", but many American single women, especially those with children, are dependent on government and vote accordingly. That's what Obama's apparently successful "Life of Julia" ad campaign was about. If we scale back the welfare state, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, and make having children out of wedlock a non-viable option, the number of unwed mothers would shrink, as would the GOP female disadvantage.

William Callahan writes:

I see no reason why one can't make a "soft-hearted" case for libertarianism. I find the ideals of freedom, self-reliance, and dealing with one-another consensually very inspiring. I find the idea of an individual being crushed by bureaucracy at least as viscerally disturbing as the equivalent narrative of an unemployed person without a safety net. What's more, the notion that great things can be built emergent, by a multitude of individuals trading freely, to be at least as exciting emotionally as intellectually. If we tell the right story about the outcomes of the libertarian and progressive/socialist agendas, we win head and heart. It might be a problem of marketing and targeting, in terms of men and women needing different narratives to get emotionally inspired.

Sarah Skwire writes:

No real argument from me here, Bryan. I certainly think that what we know/suspect to be true about social science can help to inform the ways in which we speak about libertarian ideas. There's nothing inherently unfeeling or hard-hearted about libertarian or classical liberal ideas(Theory of Moral Sentiments, for heaven's sakes!), but there is much that is unfeeling and hard-hearted about the ways in which they are often presented.

I also think that the way we talk about those social science differences between men and women matters. To say that men and women are different (and vive la difference!) is not to imply that the differences are insurmountable, or negative, or even problematic. They simply *are* differences, and we should be careful (especially when citing work like your own!) not to imply that the differences are necessarily insuperable divisions.

Most importantly, that some hypothetical hard-headed/hard-hearted guy comes to his libertarianism as a result of regression analyses, graphs, and equations proving to him that libertarianism is logical, while I come to mine because of the ways in which its ideals and outcomes chime with my soft-hearted belief that people ought to be free to direct their own lives does not matter as much as that, in the end, we arrive at the same place.

Karen writes:

I think more than anything, what women want is not to be catered to for the sake of being women--but rather--an appeal to our interests. What can being a Libertarian do for a woman that another party affiliation cannot?

For example, explain what it means to cut government spending in social programs, and why private solutions are superior. Keeping in mind women are often less wealthy than men, for various reasons, why would it be a better choice to be Libertarian? etc..


Methinks writes:

This heartless, hard-headed, unfeeling libertarian woman takes no offense. I agree with you.

Look, I've learned the hard way that if you want to appeal to most women, you need to change the content of your marketing. I have no idea how to do that.

For instance, take Karen's question: What can being a Libertarian do for a woman that another party affiliation cannot?

My immediate response: why should you look to anyone but yourself to do anything for you? Not being a parasite and being free to create and reap the rewards of the fruits of your labour is more than enough. So, obviously, I have no idea how to appeal to women either. Good luck.

RPLong writes:

In my experience, libertarians make emotional arguments for libertarianism all the time.

The problem seems to an intellectual one. Economics is abstract reasoning in action. Abstract reasoning is the highest level of human cognition, and the one that matures last, in a person's early 20s.

The more adept a person is at abstract reasoning, the better a person will be able to follow along with a chain of logical reasoning about minimum wage versus unemployment or whatever.

I don't believe females are less capable of abstract reasoning than males, but I do believe society gives women fewer rewards for being logical than it gives men. To me it's an incentive question, and that speaks to the marketing issue the BHLs so often bring up.

Craig writes:

While that generality may be generally true, and I personally agree that the typical "liberal" is more governed by emotion than reason, some skepticism is called for regarding personality tests such as Meyers Briggs.

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4221

jc writes:

Focusing on tolerance and nonaggression seems to work best, in my experience. Immediately address the belief in their head that libertarians are bad, uncaring people (which means that if they believe what you do, they feel like they're now bad people).

No, all we want is tolerance and peaceful interaction. Use simple analogies and stories they can relate to to get them to see that aggressive coercion motivated by intolerance saturates our world. Reframe the conversation so that we're the caring, peaceful lot. It may take a while, but stick to this tack. As time goes by, you'll get their heads nodding while showing them that you have a heart.

Nothing works, in my experience, until this reframing takes place.

-----------------

Then (after reframing) when questions inevitably arise about how to feed the poor or what not, since most folks, in their opinion, won't voluntarily give...then I switch to empirical arguments (e.g., actual charity stats, benefits of economic growth and other efficiency-based arguments, etc.), thereby reducing their newfound, unpleasant dissonance.

They'll still be unconvinced at this point, but will have at least moved a bit in your direction.

If you wish, you can be pragmatic and concede that the use of force may be justified here (or wherever their hot button may lie), but probably shouldn't be used willy-nilly. Pretending you're not using force results in it being used all the time. Recognizing its existence may mean using it more sparingly, i.e., the bar for justification has been raised.

(Yes, there's a slippery slope here. And yes, you may feel that force is never - or almost never - justified. Hardcore stances here, though, at this point in the game = zero chance of conversion. Your choice, then, if you're hardcore: baby steps in hopes of conversion, or 'telling it like it is' talk that risks pushing would-be converts away.)

Focusing on issues that put you "on the same team" (e.g., maybe you have shared stances on certain social issues, or don't like war) is helpful too.

People's minds don't change overnight, even when confronted with strong evidence/logic. Even scientists trained to evaluate via objective analyses of evidence are not immune, e.g., science progressing one funeral at a time, studies showing that extra grey matter is simply used to rationalize, etc. The point is that changing the way they 'feel' about your ideas helps unfreeze their brains.

That old saying - they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care - seems to fit. Once you're 'on the same caring team', then you can bring up evidence, logic, etc. Beforehand and it simply often doesn't work...

Some of Mary Ewart's stuff, btw, seems to work. Deidre McCloskey seems to be a figure I've gotten people to like. Then, after we're on the same caring team, out come the more advanced or extreme arguments. (Or arguments that simply make them feel bad, e.g., babies killed by sanctions or drone strikes. Bringing this stuff up too early also makes them run away; they feel bad, think you're crazy, and are mad at you for making them confront something they'd rather ignore. Save this for later.)

Tim writes:

I've been working on this problem for the last 4 years, or basically since I started my current relationship.

I've found one way to make this work is to show the folly of government interference in areas she cares about. In her case this meant things like government laws that make home birth difficult, or the negative long term effects of the war on drugs.

We've also managed to find commonalities in relation to various social positions and foreign policy.

The final method has been pointing out the counter-productivity of government interference and how social welfare programs often achieve perverse results that were unintended.

Methinks writes:

I would love to agree with you, RPLong, but I have my doubts.

At the level of mathematics that requires strong abstract reasoning skills, men outnumber women 2:1. And that's not incentive-driven. Two thirds of the students with near-perfect math SAT scores are boys.

Greg G writes:

I'll bet the resistance of most women to libertarianism has a lot more to do with motherhood than a lack of math and reasoning skills.

All babies are helpless for so long that women are instinctively reluctant to divide the world up into producers and parasites. And that's a good thing.

Anthony writes:

What Greg said. And it's not just children who are reliant on others but pregnant women and those who are taking care of their children. That type of labor is necessary, but it makes you less able to take care of yourself rather than more.

Jared writes:

Maybe we should look at how male and female economists view things:

http://static.nzz.ch/files/1/5/8/May+etal+Disagreements+among+Male+and+Female+Economicsts_2012+copy_1.17665158.pdf

I don't recall whether you had interactions in your data, but perhaps interacting "economist" with the various other predictors would be of use. Just sayin'.

Methinks writes:

That type of labor is necessary, but it makes you less able to take care of yourself rather than more.

Sure, but that doesn't mean the state should be taking care of those women. A woman dependent on the father of her children or another person who signs up for that responsibility is not a parasite even by the most hard-core libertarian's definition.

It's not my responsibility to subsidize the life choices of other women any more than it is their responsibility to subsidize mine.

Greg G writes:

Yes Methinks, you've made it clear you don't intend to help pay for any government run social safety net. That's OK. Most of the rest of us are willing to take care of it. We realize that those children didn't have anything to say about the "life choices" that brought them into this world.

You can free ride if you like while you work on this big mystery about why more women aren't libertarians.

8 writes:

Libertarians have a large crossover with atheism. Both correlate with social autism. Libertarians aren't offensive like many atheists, but their arguments come off as unfeeling.

Libertarians could do a lot better with propaganda, since ultimately their arguments are not going to appeal to many people, not just women.

Take the previous big debate over whether there was more freedom in 1890 or 1990. If you grok the problem, there's no reason to debate. Libertarians should favor policies that make single motherhood expensive and push women into marriage. The result will be a more libertarian country. Also, you should favor restrictive immigration policies (cough)...

Ultimately, you will end up as a reactionary or a Christian libertarian if you follow the logic because you're going to be ostracized. So you either need to take on the culture as well as the political establishment, or fold. Libertarianism has too many internal contradictions in it's political and social spheres. In other words, if you are a social libertarian, you can't be a political libertarian (or you have to accept the culture will be unlibertarian and you will be in the minority). You can have one or the other, or neither, but not both. Unless you're talking about sea steading, or reducing federal control to the point where a city or small state can be libertarian.

Anthony writes:

@Methinks: Not wanting the state to care of those women is insufficient to make you a libertarian - many social conservatives agree with that as well, and women are not as absent in that movement as they are from the libertarian one. But social conservatives accompany that with calls for various cultural norms and laws which make it less likely that women will be in situations in which they are pregnant or taking care of children and have no one to take care of them. I am sure some libertarians support those cultural norms, but it's not a major part of their project.

Tim writes:

@8

Why on earth should libertarian favor restrictive immigration, when one of the tenets of libertarianism is freedom of movement?

jsalvatier writes:

I'm curious why you use Myers-Briggs instead of the Big 5? Isn't Big 5 much more empirically based?

I reminded of Words of Power: A Feminist Reading of the History of Logic by Andrea Nye. I am not making this up.

Methinks writes:

Anthony, we'd have to get into some details because that's where the devil is, but I'm not aware of libertarians flipping off women who claim that the law should make the father of her offspring at least in part financially responsible for raising it. Is that the position of most libertarian men Or "the movement" (god, I hate that word)?

Also, I am unaware of libertarians objecting to voluntarily helping women. You know...digging into your own pocket to finance your compassion instead mugging others to do it.

Which brings me to good ole Greg G who doesn't now and has never understood the difference between voluntary action and government force.

Tom West writes:

I think it was historically easier to be a soft-hearted Libertarian. Go back 150 years and there was literally no way that you could ensure that everyone had half-decent standard of living. There simply wasn't enough wealth. At that point, Libertarianism could promise that *more* people would have a decent standard of living.

In other words, those who were genuinely concerned about *everyone* in society could embrace Libertarianism as the best way to help all members.

Now, we have enough wealth to ensure everyone has a half-decent standard of living through the welfare state, and Libertarianism (in general) is now arguing for stripping the safety net away from the least productive (in return for making the productive even more productive).

For someone who cares about the least productive members of society, Libertarianism has gone from being an ally to being an enemy. Or to put it another way, Libertarianism's success in creating wealth has cost it much of its popular support.

Ken B writes:

One of the areas where Libertarianism is weakest is children. You just can't treat children as short adults, and you just cannot leave their care absolutely to parents in all circumstances. Compulsion and intervention are sometimes required. Until Libertarians can fix this hole in their theories (and they cannot) they will have disproportionate problems with women.

Kerpeep writes:

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jeppen writes:

@8:

"Libertarians have a large crossover with atheism. Both correlate with social autism. Libertarians aren't offensive like many atheists,"

This sounds like a very American thing. In my Sweden, almost everybody are atheists and this, of course, has little to do with social autism. The problem with being an atheist in the US, I guess, is the crushing social stigma associated with not being a good christian. You'd have to not care very much socially to not fall in line and believe what you are told to.

Kevin L writes:

Reminds me of how my alma mater (an almost completely engineering university) kept trying to market to female potential students. I don't think they ever got very far. The male/female ratio changed, but I think mostly because class size fluctuated so much while I was there. And the women who did attend took majors mostly in the pure sciences, business, and industrial engineering (which is less abstract than electrical or mechanical engineering). Whatever their major, in my experience women were generally better students than men. But the self-selection of majors, I think, is related to the self-selection of policy stances. There is an underlying difference between the sexes that can't be "helped" by giving girls Erector sets instead of Barbie dolls, or encouraging them to read classical economics instead of social studies.

jeppen writes:

I have an even tougher problem than selling libertarianism. On my free time, I try to make people aware that nuclear power is THE best option for power generation overall, and that safety procedures generally are over-the-top and should be scaled back somewhat.

To hard-headed, hard-hearted types like myself, this is often obvious and a fairly easy sell. But I'm at a complete loss when it comes to creating a soft-heart narrative. I'm not even sure it can be done. Here too, of course, women are much more anti-nuclear than men.

Methinks writes:

Compulsion and intervention are sometimes required. Until Libertarians can fix this hole in their theories (and they cannot) they will have disproportionate problems with women.


Yeah, that's a toughie and I can't come up with an alternative to the state either. Maybe I lack imagination. But, I've never had another woman tell me "You know, I'd be okay with the whole libertarian thing were it not for the issue of child protective services.". I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of women don't even think about it.

Anthony writes:

@Methinks: I don't know that most libertarians would reject the idea that fathers bear financial responsibility for their offspring, but I suspect a significant number would support replacing that (and marriage) with private contracts. I certainly think libertarians in theory support privately helping people in need, including women, and I have no reason to think they don't support this in practice. But the private institutions that are the most successful at this are religious institutions, and for them, giving is supported by strong norms involving the moral obligation to help those in need. I don't think libertarians are doing much to build those norms, or that it's even really much on their radar.

Also, what many women want when they get pregnant and raise children goes significantly beyond financial support. The liberal answer to that is, to paraphrase hopefully not unfairly, that the state can step in in various ways. The social conservative answer is social and legal norms that limit reproduction outside of marriage and get fathers to stick around. I think the libertarian answer is private contracts plus a significant dose of "some problems we will all just have to live with."

TMG writes:

Women are biologically wired to desire unearned provisioning and protection. The Democrat Party currently gives them a better deal, because they can pretend to be "strong and independent" while being entirely dependent on Big Daddy Government.

This is not rocket science.

Methinks writes:

Anthony,

I don't know if charity is not part of libertarian culture or of we're just not as vocal about it. I'm not sure that it's a social norm that needs to be built. It feels good to help your fellow man in need and contribute to institutions working in the cause of human freedom. Truly.

I've been fortunate enough to escape the Soviet Union, I worked hard and have been fortunate in my career and it is a wonderful feeling to help someone else along either by providing career assistance or writing a check. The bigger, the better. The feeling comes not from expressions of gratitude but from merely knowing that you were able to take care of one problem in someone's life. That wonderful feeling (missing as I force myself to write a check to Uncle Sam) is powerful incentive. I think many people feel this way because we feel some connection to each other as human beings. We are naturally empathetic creatures (even a mean little woman like me:). I do not feel compelled by social norms. It is an internal drive and I think the desire to help each other is pretty common to most people (even libertarians) and is absolutely tortured out of us when compulsion is introduced.

I'm sure that not only pregnant women but most people want something beyond financial support. The state is the entity least equipped to provide anything warm and fuzzy. If you've ever been on welfare (our family was for a few months plunked into section 8 upon arrival in the United States), it is demoralizing and the workers are rude and condescending. Both the "liberal" and "conservative" social norms have significant downsides and STILL there are problems you'll just have to live with. It's hard to make the case that either are superior to negotiated private contracts and charity.

I think the reason it seems that the other two alternatives are winning over more women is simply because they are older and more established and so more people will claim association with them. Most people couldn't tell you a single thing about libertarianism. Most have never heard the word. Well, at least a significant number.

Tom writes:

My experience in several libertarian forums and comments sections was that the overwhelming majority of participants had the INTJ Myers briggs personality type. A very male sounding personality type.

MingoV writes:

William Callahan wrote:

I see no reason why one can't make a "soft-hearted" case for libertarianism. I find the ideals of freedom, self-reliance, and dealing with one-another consensually very inspiring. I find the idea of an individual being crushed by bureaucracy at least as viscerally disturbing as the equivalent narrative of an unemployed person without a safety net.
I agree, but libertarians don't get to argue in a vacuum. Despite the effectiveness of many private charities, the proposed discontinuance of government-run safety nets frightens many people (not just women).

The cold reality is that we cannot establish a libertarian government in any existing society. Many people prefer to be irresponsible moochers. Even more have accepted the government- and media-promulgated propaganda that we need a massive, authoritarian, nanny-state government. No arguments we make will sway such people.

Brandon Berg writes:

Libertarianism is weird. Weirdness is a masculine trait.

Desmond Diamond DDS writes:

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Tom writes:

Also, a third of MIT students recently described themselves as libertarian. ( I'm guessing less than 5% anywhere else.) Something about that system building, efficiency loving, engineering mindset seems to be tied to libertarianism.

J writes:

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James writes:

Greg G,

You say something about "divide the world up into producers and parasites."

This division is not the basis for any significant form of libertarianism. On the other hand, this division is absolutely indispensable to Marxism. If your analysis is correct, women would be rare in libertarian circles but rarer still in Marxist movements. History suggest exactly the opposite.

There is probably also a lesson in the fact that you, a detractor of libertarianism, imply that a distinction between economic classes is especially important to libertarianism. Did you consider that your rejection of libertarianism is based on mistaken beliefs?

Hedlund writes:
This Thinking/Feeling disparity explains a lot about gender gaps in college major and occupation. There's every reason to think that this disparity can help explain gender gaps in political and social views.

Not necessarily? Myers-Briggs only addresses preferences, for starters. It doesn't peg you as being, e.g., an introvert or an extrovert; it just identifies tendencies that may manifest in any number of ways. Further, these are not considered to be static figures; they can and do change enormously over time. There's certainly no way extrapolate one's "hard-wiring" from this test.

If the trends you've mentioned are mainly the result of social conditioning, maybe the question should be less "how do we get more girls?" and more "how do we make society more egalitarian along gender lines?"

James writes:

Concerning the social science question, I'm guessing than Brandon Berg has it more or less right. Women are underrepresented in nearly every non-mainstream position or activity. I don't think it helps to treat women's absence from libertarianism as a special case.


Enid writes:

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Jacob Lyles writes:

Social conservatism and libertarianism go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Liberty thrives in a society where people take care of themselves. This is encouraged by stable non-governmental social structures such as family and church. Vices aren't a "personal choice", they make it more likely that you are going to be a burden on society. Conservative social norms are a recipe for reducing the external cost of your lifestyle.

joe arrigo writes:

Yes, "hard heads" and "soft hearts" can be combined, and I also think it's not that rare. The term "hard heads" seems sonewhat harsh for "thinking people."

[broken url fixed--Econlib Ed.]

Carl writes:

Women nowadays regard the state first and foremost as a material provider. It's just the default setting, and not at all ideological - most are simply bored by political theory and by economics.

When pushed (easily done), they will recite social-democratic feel-good bromides.

Forget "marketing" your ideas to women, concentrate on the men. The women will follow, as usual.

Greg G writes:

James,

I'm glad to hear that your particular version of libertarianism does not divide the world up into producers and parasites. I was responding to Methinks who said that it was about "not being a parasite" and suggested that poor math and reasoning skills among women might impair their ability to see the wisdom of libertarianism.

You say that dividing people into producers and parasites "is not the basis for any significant form of libertarianism." Have you ever heard of Ayn Rand? Isn't she the best selling libertarian author in history in this country?

Methinks writes:

I was responding to Methinks who said that it was about "not being a parasite" and suggested that poor math and reasoning skills among women might impair their ability to see the wisdom of libertarianism.

In other words, Greg G was once again responding to the fantasies vomited up by his tortured imagination.

Ken B writes:

@methinks: I paraphase two actual conversations.

1.
Me: What about a mother who doesn't feed her baby?
Libertarian: That's fine.

2.
Me: Would you have shot Breivik as he took aim at those children?
Libertarian: No.

Now not all Libertartians are like this, but as long as this sort of thing is characteristic of a large segment of the Libertarians, and the rest nod and say "well maybe so", don't expect a lot of women.

Tim writes:

Objectivism is not the same thing as libertarianism.

Methinks writes:

Ken B,

well, just wow! Does that really represent a large segment of libertarians? I don't think so, but I haven't done any surveys either.

1.) I'm fine with people not wanting to take care of their kids. I have to be. You can't force love. That's life. I'll take the kid (which means we have to take that kid from her which gets us back to establishing an entity with the power to take people's children. Still don't have a great alternative to that)

2.) This sounds like an extreme position to me. I would have popped a cap into him without a second thought and I think the vast majority of people would do the same, including libertarians. I wouldn't have forced you to do it because I don't want to be responsible for spilled blood, though. Is this not the more representative view?

I agree that all libertarians are not perfect. But, if perfection is required to attract women, game over.

Mickey writes:

Ken B 1: I don't think it is "fine" if a mother doesn't feed her baby. Indeed, by starving her child I think she has not only abused the child but has at the least seriously damaged her claim to parent the child. Meaning, it would be justifiable for someone to intervene with their own resources against the now merely biological mother.

Ken B 2: Well, it seems to me that Breivik at that moment could easily and reasonably be interpreted as threatening the children, of about to murder them. While if that is correct I don't have a problem with someone reaping his soul, even if it isn't I'd think the lower action of merely confronting him is an even stronger position to defend.

Chris H writes:

@Ken B

You sure know how to come up with an extreme example. However, that second idea is something which has more to do with pacificism than libertarian. That is an idea that yes many libertarians embrace but so do many on the left. If that's a primary concern then women should avoid the left in similar proportions. Perhaps they do, I don't really have any data on that, though the pacificism associated with the far left doesn't seem to turn women off from siding with the moderate left so why should pacificism among more far libertarian groups turn women off from more moderate libertarianism?

For the first, that might be a stumbling block but I haven't seen it much in my discussions with other people (of both genders) on the merits and demerits of libertarianism. Typically a host of other issues come up long before any discussion of the neglect of children. Things like privatizing roads, the value of regulations in a market economy, gun-control, or the provision of healthcare are far more common topics (the only time I've had a significant discussion of the implications of hard core libertarianism on child care was actually with my dad). Furthermore, I can't think of a single parody or attack on libertarianism I've seen (and several of my facebook friends are rather anti-libertarian so I get to see my fair share) from the angle of neglected children. This is all anecdotal of course and could have more to do with who my friends are, but nonetheless it seems to me that this isn't a particularly mainstream critique. I would be interested to hear if you've encountered different experiences however. That being the case, if libertarianism becomes more broadly popular I could see this as a significant stumbling block in reaching some women, but I don't think we're really at that stage yet.

Ultimately I'm not certain on the answer to this question. What I do feel a bit more certain about though is the marketing angle to this question is an entirely moot point. If Ms. Borowski is correct and there are some inherent gender differences which cause the follower gap then speaking in a way that tends to drive away women would have little effect (since women would have been driven away anyways). If Dr. Horowitz and Dr. Skwire are correct then libertarians should abandon ideas like Ms. Borowski's because they are wrong not because they make us look bad. Wrongness alone should be sufficient.

Ken B writes:

@Chris H: I practice.

I don't claim this sort of stuff is representative of libertarians, but it's clearly within the tent, and characterizes a significant and articulate minority. That's quite enough for the topic at hand I think.

These extreme positions though result from something that really IS characteristic of Libertarians: a deductive approach to morality and law, and a willingness to accept such pathological conclusions rather than question the sacred axiom.

Chris H writes:

@Ken B

I think you kind of missed the thrust of my argument, namely that libertarians are not the only group with very vocal advocates of extreme positions (though I'm of the opinion that correctness/internal consistency of belief should matter more than extremity, but I'm not sure such a view is held more broadly). In that case shouldn't we expect socialism, which has extreme pacificists, to also suffer in female support? Also that the extreme positions I've seen anti-libertarians argue against are not the positions you mention, but things like health, roads, etc. If libertarian positions on the role of the state in child rearing are holding us back, why isn't that being used against us more? If that's a convincing argument that people are thinking about then we should hear more about how libertarians want to have all babies starve in the streets. Instead the complaints we more often here is that those streets won't be owned by the state.

Also a somewhat more positive spin on your formulation in the second paragraph is that libertarians are unconcerned with sacred cow conclusions and are thus more willing to follow logic than popular consensus. ;)

Harold Cockerill writes:

The nanny state provides short term support but guarantees a more empoverished future. The libertarian state cannot provide short term support (although individuals are free to do so) but will create a society that is wealthier in the long run. Single women, especially single mothers can't wait for tomorrow to get better, they have to get through today. That is the genius of the welfare state as crafted by the nannies. They have broken the family and provided themselves with a stock of voters that are forced to vote for today.

Once this condition has been established I can't see a path for the ideas of libertarianism to gain traction with those dependant on the nanny.

We're screwed.

Methinks writes:

Harold, I agree.

Here's what I said earlier today after thinking about this some more (I do not particularly care how many other women self-identify as "libertarian" and this is the first I've thought about it): Women bear and raise children and, in contrast to men, that makes them more dependent on others, which makes them more fearful of letting go of even a crappy safety net. If you have children, you do not want to stand alone, so women are generally more sympathetic to collectives of any kind. It just may take most women longer to hear about and fully accept libertarian alternatives (we are now so used to a huge state) or they may be willing to give up some of the things we value so dearly to ensure that they can just get by and reject libertarian ideas altogether. I think the number of libertarian women will grow, but we will always be a minority.

Also related to what you said, Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek posted a link to Bob Higgs: http://blog.independent.org/2013/01/03/the-salmon-trap-an-analogy-for-peoples-entrapment-by-the-state/

Though I am a libertarian, I have to agree with you and some of the other commenters that we are fighting a losing battle for the hearts and minds of men and women.

D writes:

Women will become libertarian when low achieving minorities become more libertarian. That is to say, never, but for different reasons.

MichaelM writes:

If the trends you've mentioned are mainly the result of social conditioning, maybe the question should be less "how do we get more girls?" and more "how do we make society more egalitarian along gender lines?"

Bam.

The thing that has always struck me is that the post-modernist, relativist arguments you most often hear from the left -- especially the totalitarian left -- are actually best put to service in the interest in a decentralized, individualized society.

Gender roles are socially defined paradigms created and imprinted on people by a wider social mechanism. There are biological differences between men and women but they're not as important as some people have a tendency to think.

If people don't have anything to want, patricians won't have anything to offer them for their freedom.

James A. Donald writes:

If we look at which women vote against capitalism and freed markets and for handouts, the problem is, pretty much, sluts, whores, and trash.

Women who are married to the fathers of their children tend to vote for capitalism and against welfare. Women with a way high notch count tend to vote against capitalism and for welfare, even if they are wealthy lawyers, perhaps especially if they are wealthy lawyers.

Matej writes:

Harold Cockerill & Methinks:

Melanie Pinkert would agree; see her article which was published on her blog Broadsnark, October 27th, 2010:


When I lived in California, I worked for a small nonprofit that assisted caregivers of people with brain impairments. I picked up the phone one day and spoke to a client who had just received her first bit of respite. That’s where we provided money for the caregiver to hire someone for a couple hours. The woman had been taking care of her husband since his motorcycle accident a decade before. She was crying. She said it was the first time away from her caregiving responsibilities in all that time.

Our program was paid for in large part by tax dollars, both state and federal. Who do you imagine that woman was going to vote for when the time came? Do you think arguments about taxation being theft are going to persuade her that she should forgo those precious few government-funded moments of freedom? How does your vision of freedom actually help her? Are you going to go take care of her husband for her?

The vast majority of our clients were women, more than 80%. Nationwide, the vast majority of people providing care for aging or disabled family members are women. And even where men do provide care, they usually spend a lot less time doing it. All that care has a cost. Caregivers are stressed out. They are depressed. They earn less money. They don’t take care of themselves. They are struggling.

Matej writes:

Anyway, it might be useful to distinguish three separate questions:

1/ Why are there so few libertarian females? In this context, the word 'libertarian' means 'a radical libertarian' who favors a completely stateless society (Rothbard, Hoppe, David Friedman, Edward Stringham, possibly Bryan Caplan etc.).


2/ What is the ratio of 'classical liberal' males to females? 'Classical liberalism' = substantially less radical political philosophy (i.e. F. A. Hayek or Richard A. Epstein).


3/ Do women tend to have substantially less pro-market views than males?


Now, if there were a huge gender gap regarding the pro-market / anti-market views (i.e. 60 percent of males are pro-market, while 70 percent of females are anti-market), it would make me really worried.

But such a huge gender gap does not seem to exist. See i.e. David Boaz and David Kirby, 'The Libertarian Vote', October 18, 2006. Their main findings:

"Our own data analysis is stricter. We find 9 to 13 percent libertarians in the Gallup surveys, 14 percent in the Pew Research Center Typology Survey, and 13 percent in the American National Election Studies, generally regarded as the best source of public opinion data. (...) The libertarian vote is in play. At some 13 percent of the electorate, it is sizable enough to swing elections."

As for the male to female ratio of these 'libertarian voters', it´s 59/41 in favor of males (pg. 16, Table 10); it´s a considerable gender gap, but not an alarmingly huge one.

Tom West writes:

Matej brings up a very good point.

Having and caring for children or the elderly is a huge effort mostly supplied by women that is seen by many/most Libertarians as simply a lifestyle choice, rather than as vital support for continued social functioning.

Given that Libertarianism tends to rather stridently dislike any form of governmental support for "lifestyle choices", it's small wonder that the vast majority of women avoid an ideology that seems to value a huge amount of their effort at approximately zero. (Except for perhaps the occasional handshake and a 'job well done'.)

James A. Donald writes:

Women who live a socially conservative lifestyle tend to vote pro capitalist, regardless of whether they are social conservatives and regardless of their socio economic status.

Women who have a high notch count, or who divorce the father of the children, women who do not live a socially conservative lifestyle, tend to vote anti capitalist, regardless of whether they are social conservatives, and regardless of their socioeconomic status.

That is not, of course, an absolute rule. Women who are libertarian rather than conservative are seldom socially conservative, and are likely to live a lifestyle that is not socially conservative. However, most pro capitalist women are conservatives, rather than libertarians, and they tend to live like conservatives.

And even libertarian women are seldom to be found on slutwalks and campaigning to "take back the night", even though they are more likely to be divorced or to have a high notch count than conservative women.

James A. Donald writes:

Supposing lifestyle is causative, rather than lifestyle and anti capitalist attitudes being caused by some other factor, the best way to get women to vote libertarian is to encourage marriage, family formation, and discourage divorce:

Abolish zoning restrictions, so that houses and thus family formation becomes cheaper.

Abolish child support. If a woman is not obligated to support her children, neither should a man be, unless he has contractually agreed to it (the pre 1830s contract that once upon a time constituted marriage.) Children need fathers, not a payment, so to incentives to have children without fathers should be reduced, and the incentives to part children from their fathers should be reduced.

Abolish welfare: Fatherless children tend to grow up criminal. There is a large externality to depriving children of their fathers at a young age, thus this behavior should be taxed, rather than subsidized.

Fatherless children tend to vote against capitalism, and women who produce fatherless children tend to vote against capitalism, so, if the correlation indicates causation, such policies would improve the vote for capitalism in both the short term and long term.

James A. Donald writes:

Women who vote like Obama's "Julia" usually have a life that resembles Julia's, thus the simplest explanation is that a large part of the difference is women voting with their purses.

Thus, attempting to win over the women's vote is apt to be as thankless a task as winning over the welfare vote, for the women's vote is in substantial part the welfare vote.

jstark writes:

1. The fundamental basis for libertarianism is that the use of force should be as limited as possible.
2. How is 1 related to either Thinking or Feeling? For most people using force feels wrong, particularly when it is against people they know or easily identify with. However, strong rational arguments can be made that using force (for the most part) is inefficient for producing social welfare.
3. Decades of psychological research (see 'Thinking, Fast and Slow') strongly suggest that all of us, whether male or female, primarily rely on Feeling (i.e. System 1) to cope with problems in our everyday existence. Thinking requires effort, and most of us avoid it, particularly when dealing with everyday problems.
4. So regardless of what you are arguing for, if your argument requires the person you are trying to convince to Think, you already face an uphill struggle.
5. The real question is how much Thinking is really required to accept the fundamental basis of libertarianism? None. Most people already accept it because it feels right.
6. So why do people often accept things like 'We need a government program (which requires the use of force to fund it) to help starving children'? Because the images and good feelings that come from imagining 'helping starving children through a government program' are more salient than the the images or bad feelings that come from imagining the use of force required to fund it.
7. So this is the crux of the problem. Most people already accept the fundamental basis of libertarianism, but don't usually follow it when faced with actual policy proposals, because (usually) the force required, to enact the policy, is not very salient. And this is where Thinking comes in. You need to think hard in order to accept as a rule that limiting the use force is the way to go, even if the force being used doesn't feel like much.
8. So the social science is in. This isn't a male/female problem. (After all, was is mostly men or women who developed, espoused and implemented Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, etc.?) This is a human problem rooted in our psychology.
9. The good news is that it must be a mostly solvable problem. Evidence? Witness the mostly free society we live in. For my part, I vote for better marketing, so that we can convince more women and men.

Matej writes:

Also, this paper seems to be pretty relevant:

Edlund, Lena, and Rohini Pande. "Why Have Women Become Left-Wing? The Political Gender Gap and the Decline in Marriage." The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2002): 917-961.

Abstract:

The last three decades have witnessed the rise of a political gender gap in the United States wherein more women than men favor the Democratic party. We trace this development to the decline in marriage, which we posit has made men richer and women poorer. Data for the United States support this argument. First, there is a strong positive correlation between state divorce prevalence and the political gender gap—higher divorce prevalence reduces support for the Democrats among men but not women. Second, longitudinal data show that following marriage (divorce), women are less (more) likely to support the Democratic party.
Ben Southwood writes:
There is an underlying difference between the sexes that can't be "helped" by giving girls Erector sets instead of Barbie dolls, or encouraging them to read classical economics instead of social studies.

Facile point is facile.

Give me some evidence that changing the whole of society from one that is fairly rigidly gendered to one that isn't wouldn't affect the balance. (Reasoning for intuition that it might: we have changed society a lot away from the even more extensive and rigid gendering of, say, 1900, and look at the gains women have made since then.)

Joe Cushing writes:

This is why we always have to make the moral case for freedom. Make the case that if you truly care about poor people, you will care enough to learn what is good for them and what is bad for them. Make the moral case that taxes are theft. Make the case that if you care about children's safety you will care enough to learn what works in terms of gun control. If you want to prevent democide, you will do the same. Because the logical case for freedom is on our side, the moral case is also on our side. You can be as touchy feely as you want to be if you can explain to feelers that they are causing great harm to people with their anti-freedom agenda. Point out the poverty caused by government. Point out the death caused by governments. Take the blame off of business and put it on government. Scold people for being immoral policies that lead to tyranny, poverty, and democide. Heck, point out how their agenda is anti-freedom because they might not even realize that.

Greg G writes:

So we start out with a post by Bryan urging libertarians to be friendlier and more respectful in making their case to women.

And we finish with a flurry of comments urging that it should be explained to women that they are sluts and/or are not smart enough to realize they support thievery and murder.

And the mystery continues as to why we don't have more women libertarians.

Don Kenner (@DonKenner) writes:

Great discussion. But this whole shebang began when Horwitz and Skwire made a ham-fisted, pseudo-intellectual attack on a humorous video which made MANY OF THE SAME POINTS made in this article and by the posted comments. Accusing Julie Borowski of "slut-shaming" and other nonsense from the bowels of Womyn's Studies, Horwitz and Skwire attempted to set the proper limits of discussion for "social issues," like any good leftist.

So now Skwire writes "No real argument from me here, Bryan." Really? The author of this article and virtually every commentator has done what the BHLs find so offensive: talk openly about gender differences sans the usual feminist clap trap. Unbelievable.

So what now? We have "problem" (too few womyn in our movement). And the BHLs have the solution! A hard head coupled with soft heart. Like dialectical materialism, this is the ideological strain that will save us. And to where does the "soft heart" lead? To that greatest of oxymorons, Social Justice.

And where does Social Justice lead? If you don't know. I suggest you leave this sight and pop over to Jezebel.

[comment edited with permission--Econlib Ed.]

Methinks writes:

Matej,

That is a much smaller gap than I imagined, proving once again that imagination in these cases is no match for data. Frankly, I meet a lot of people (both men and women) who self-identify as conservative or liberal but whose opinions on issues most closely resemble those held by libertarians. If I could have a dime for every conversation that ended with "yeah...I guess I AM a libertarian".

We trace this development to the decline in marriage, which we posit has made men richer and women poorer.

This is badly state. Unmarried childless women make as much money as men in similar jobs. This doesn't seem to be a decline in marriage but an increase in divorce issue. I fear that many people's "solution" to this will be to try to make divorces harder to obtain rather than internalizing the costs of life choices.

Methinks writes:

I realize it's difficult for your mind to break free of its collectivist shackles, Greg G, but none of us speak for the whole of libertarians. Nobody elected these individuals who said a few extreme things as spokespeople for all libertarians.

Women are smart enough to understand that every bushel has a couple of bad apples and if they don't....they're not smart enough.

Frankly, speaking as a woman, I find a far greater number of offensive, condescending men amongst you collectivists and your close cousins, the bible-thumping right-wingers

Ken B writes:

@Chris H,
And I think you missed mine. This stuff is NOT seen or treated as extreme in the Libertarian world. They are not marginalized. Quite the reverse.
When Dukes won a GOP nomination the party denounced him. Imagine they had said instead, oh sure we don't push it that far but let's let him represent the GOP anyway.
This is how Libertarians come across a lot of the time, ideologues with moral blind spots.
The breivik conversation was from a blog on the blog roll here, with the blog owner. The child one I have had several times. I am not beating the underbrush here.

Greg G writes:

Methinks,

I am well aware that none of you speak for the whole of libertarians. You are certainly right about that. In fact you have the opposite problem. "Libertarian" means anything any self identified libertarian wants it to mean.

You have right libertarians and left libertarians and objectivists and bleeding heart libertarians and anarchists and minarchists and anarcho-capitalists and voluntarists and even garden variety Republicans all sometimes self identifying as libertarians. The only thing that unites them all is that they all scream their rights are being violated every time they lose a public policy debate.

another Bob writes:

Exit > Voice

Let's all meet in a small country somewhere.

Ivan writes:

The real problem with Caplan's analysis is that 'Bleeding heart libertarianism' is not the 'hard head soft- heart' combination as he implies, but rather the 'soft-head, soft-heart' one; just a (relatively) low tax liberalism. If you scratch the surface of a bleeding heart libertarian you would find just a moderate, right-wing social democrat, divinizing all sorts of freakish anti-bourgeois lifestyles as the embodiment of 'freedom'. Above all, you will find the Millian attack on social power (religions, churches, 'patriarchy', 'discrimination') as the most salient feature of this teaching, rather than an attack on the state power as such.

Ken P writes:

Bryan makes a good point, but I think it goes deeper than personality to passion level. Evolutionary psychology shows that women have very different survival and reproduction strategies. Being a 'lone wolf', would not help the survival of someone carrying a baby for 9 months. Social connectedness, on the other hand, was evolutionarily very important to survival for women.

I think Julie Borowski's point that libertarianism is not mainstream enough for women is a pretty good insight. I think the best point to make is the point that resources are more abundant for all under a society that confiscates less from it's citizens and to point out the lack of kindness that is inherent in the confiscation of resources from others.

Tom West writes:

I think the best point to make is the point that resources are more abundant for all under a society that confiscates less from it's citizens

But that's not true! Resources are more abundant for *most*. And *that* is the crux.

If you believe in government as last-chance insurance for you and your children, then you and your children's welfare is probably *less* assured than under the current system.

Chris Koresko writes:

For what it's worth, conservatives are wrangling with almost exactly the same issue.

There was a recent National Review article, by Kevin Williamson if I remember correctly, which argued that a lot of the reason Republicans do poorly among some demographics (blacks, single women, and Latinos I think) is that those groups tend to be more financially risk-averse than typical Republican voters (whites, men, entrepreneurs...) and that makes them gravitate toward the Democrats because the Democrats promise financial security rooted in government solutions. Social Security is one such solution: it offers a low rate of return compared to a stock-based private savings plan, but that return is "guaranteed" and appears to be safe.

The author notes that the degree of one's risk aversion is a matter of personal choice, not competence. He says it's important to respect that choice, even when it's not the choice most conservatives would make.

Russell writes:
Greg G - "Yes Methinks, you've made it clear you don't intend to help pay for any government run social safety net. That's OK. Most of the rest of us are willing to take care of it. We realize that those children didn't have anything to say about the "life choices" that brought them into this world"

You claim you're willing to "take care of it." I wonder what you mean by that. Do you mean you take out your checkbook and take care of it? Or do you mean you pay your taxes so the gov't takes care of it on your behalf?

And taking care of each individual case that arises will have to go on forever, as gov't incentives continue to create more and more things that need taking care of. Perhaps a better, more caring solution, would be to removed the incentives that keep the vicious cycle going.

Ron H. writes:

Methinks

"Yeah, that's a toughie and I can't come up with an alternative to the state either. Maybe I lack imagination. But, I've never had another woman tell me "You know, I'd be okay with the whole libertarian thing were it not for the issue of child protective services.". I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of women don't even think about it."

IMO Some of the best thinking on this subject I've ever encountered comes from Rothbard (who else?) while not perfect, as nothing is, I think it comes closer to internal consistency than anything else I've read.

Ron H. writes:

Russell

"You claim you're willing to "take care of it." I wonder what you mean by that. Do you mean you take out your checkbook and take care of it? Or do you mean you pay your taxes so the gov't takes care of it on your behalf?"

I suspect Greg G. means that he'll take care of it using *your* money.

Ken P writes:

Tom West: If you believe in government as last-chance insurance for you and your children, then you and your children's welfare is probably *less* assured than under the current system.

Unless you believe that a stronger economy is better insurance for you and your children than government.

Greg G writes:

Russell & Ron H

I will be happy to clarify what I meant by "take care of it." What I meant was that, without any whining, I am paying taxes at rates that Methinks has insisted they will never collect from her. In addition, I make sure that my children and my grandchildren are not a burden to others. And I donate time and money to various private charities that help to build a social safety net.

I do not think any of that is particularly exceptional. Thats why I said "Most of the rest of us are willing to take care of it."

Glenn writes:

I believe that collectivist politics would not hold nearly as much sway in our society if more women were economically literate. I live in a very Progressive community (in NH) and I often meet virulently Progressive women who think nothing of making the most snide, derisive and nasty comments about right wingers. They speak so presumptuously, often assuming/asserting an agreement with me that I don't accept about issues and political morality. I happen to be quite literate about economics and finance, having worked in market risk management systems. I often chime in when they are bashing the bankers, trying to offer some facts and reality - they just look insulted and get angry. You can't have a rational conversation about any of it with them, mostly because they have no idea what I'm talking about.

But they know the fat cats on Wall Street are to blame...

Methinks writes:

Awe! How big of Greg G not to whine about paying taxes so that he supports a giant corrupt government bureaucracy adept only at enabling fraud and caring for and feeding cronies. How convenient that it allows him to stroke his vastly overblown ego as he pretends that any of the poor he he claims to help get more than $0.02 (in the form of government cheese) from every $1.00 taxed away from him. Bravo. Golf clap for Greg G.

How dare the other slaves complain about their chains!

Ken P writes:

Greg G, none of us can claim to be paying for the level of government we are getting, since there is a $1.2 trillion shortfall per year.

In fact, that works out to around $1,000 per month per household that we are not paying for.

If we actually paid that out of our paychecks, a lot of the other ways we are able to help friends/family would dry up quickly for most of us.

My video response to Julie: http://youtu.be/a49r8iGdOJ0

[format edited to make the url into a clickable link--Econlib Ed.]

Tom West writes:

Ken P:
Unless you believe that a stronger economy is better insurance for you and your children than government.

Well, we do manage a safety net in what is a pretty mixed economy.

However, the main point is that in *any* economy, there will always be those who fail, and if your concern is to *ensure* provision for those who fail (as opposed to just hoping for charity), Libertarianism is definitely not the way to go.

Generalizing horribly, I think Libertarianism doesn't do well among women (and I don't think confusing it with percentage voting Republican is useful here), because it's really not serving their interests, given their utility function (again, massive generalization).

Educating people about economics might well make them *more* free market, but desiring freer markets != Libertarianism, any more than wanting more regulation = Communism.

Matej writes:
... none of us can claim to be paying for the level of government we are getting, since there is a $1.2 trillion shortfall per year. In fact, that works out to around $1,000 per month per household that we are not paying for.

It´s even far worse, actually, since the bottom 40 percent of American households pay only 5 percent of federal taxes:

The share of total federal taxes paid by the bottom 40 percent of households has fallen from 9 percent in 1980 to 5 percent in 2005, and the share of the tax burden borne by the top 10 and 1 percent has risen steadily. The trends for the income tax are even more sharply divergent, with the bottom 40 percent receiving sufficient refunds so that their income tax liability is now negative, whereas the top 10 and 1 percent pay more than 70 percent and just less than 40 percent of total income taxes, respectively.3

See Bruce Yandle, Jody W. Lipford, "Taxpayers and Tax Spenders: Does a Zero Tax Price Matter?", The Independent Review, Spring 2012, pg. 522, Table 1.

Will writes:

Myers Briggs is effectively useless (score aren't bimodal, but instead distributed normally, so scale cutoffs are arbitrary. This leads to a reliability problem- different people end up in different types on different days), so using it as evidence of anything is probably just adding noise to your argument.

Its best to think of Myers Briggs as an HR tool than a serious psychological metric.

Matej writes:

Also of interest:

Male economists tend to be substantially more pro-market than female economists, see for example here:

Female economists tend to favor a bigger role for government while male economists have greater faith in business and the marketplace. Is the U.S. economy excessively regulated? Sixty-five percent of female economists said "no" -- 24 percentage points higher than male economists. (...)

The survey of 400 economists is one of the first to examine whether gender differences matter within a profession. The answer for economists: Yes.

How economists think:

  • Health insurance. Female economists thought employers should be required to provide health insurance for full-time workers: 40% in favor to 37% against, with the rest offering no opinion. By contrast, men were strongly against the idea: 21% in favor and 52% against.

  • Education. Females narrowly opposed taxpayer-funded vouchers that parents could use for tuition at a public or private school of their choice. Male economists love the idea: 61% to 14%.

  • Labor standards. Females believe 48% to 33% that trade policy should be linked to labor standards in foreign counties. Males disagreed: 60% to 23%.

The source is: "Are Disagreements Among Male and Female Economists Marginal at Best? A Survey of AEA Members and Their Views on Economics and Economic Policy,” Ann Mari May, Mary G. McGarvey and Robert Whaples, Contemporary Economic Policy (forthcoming).

Methinks writes:

Tom West,

We are so "generous" with our "safety nets" that we utterly trap the poor in poverty. Let's face it, we are way way way past just a safety net that simply ensures that people don't end up in abject poverty when they find themselves in a temporary pickle. It's time we stop kidding ourselves about what's really going on.

Women, the sex that bears the overwhelming majority of the cost of child bearing and rearing (a fact which makes them naturally more dependent), are simply more easily trapped by the state. Let's not flatter ourselves that we are simply helping.

but desiring freer markets != Libertarianism, any more than wanting more regulation = Communism.

You're right, of course. More regulation gets us closer to Fascism, not Communism.

Methinks writes:

Tom West,

We are so "generous" with our "safety nets" that we utterly trap the poor in poverty. Let's face it, we are way way way past just a safety net that simply ensures that people don't end up in abject poverty when they find themselves in a temporary pickle. It's time we stop kidding ourselves about what's really going on.

Women, the sex that bears the overwhelming majority of the cost of child bearing and rearing (a fact which makes them naturally more dependent), are simply more easily trapped by the state. Let's not flatter ourselves that we are simply helping.

but desiring freer markets != Libertarianism, any more than wanting more regulation = Communism.

You're right, of course. More regulation gets us closer to Fascism, not Communism.

Dan C writes:

So many comments, so little time. I apologize if this has been covered.

There is a wide spectrum of male/female behaviors with significant overlap, enhanced or mitigated by culture, such that it is easy to over generalize. On average, it is well established that there are differences in brain physiology and behavior between males and females (i.e., emphasis on but not aptitude for spacial and logical reasoning, emotional IQ, depth perception, childhood development rates, etc.). However, if libertarians are fewer than 30% or 40% female, that suggests to me a cultural or marketing explanation.

First, classical liberal tendancies are not the same as calling oneself a libertarian.

Second, I suspect that libertarians tend to be on the extreme end of the analytical spectrum even among males, with lower EQ's.

Third, given the counter-cultural state of "true" libertarianism, and given that political affiliation is social indentity not theory, it likely attracts the socially awkward male, which then repels those more mainstream.

Analytical disciplines are male dominated (business, economics, finance, engineering), and three of those disciplines are informative of the perils of government intervention into the economy. Those that uncritically favor government intervention/control tend to be (though not necessarily) uneducated in economics or ideologically motivated.

Matej provides the differences between male and female economists, and assuming the female cohort is not too small a sample size or otherwise self selective, it actually illustrates why an econ education is necessary for classical liberal theories to take root. Even among the female economists, the rate of support for classical economic ideas tends to be higher than the general population.

Mike Rulle writes:

I do not remember so many comments before on a post.

If the results of the last study you referenced ("think/feel") are actually accurate, then Libertarianism can never be a national party. It can only be part of the mix of compromise. That is interesting to me. I had never explicitly thought of a male/female biological split as being an inherent part of politics---although that is an obvious naive thought.

Ironic that Ayn Rand's Objectivism is a very close cousin to Libertarianism. But it is also ironic, or at least odd, that women have fought against virtually all gender sterotypes----which men have largely supported.

Now we have a whole movement ("Libertarianism") which may simply be driven (in good measure at least) by the biological DNA of the male gender.

I do not think this is bad----it just "is". I obviously am not making any broader conclusions---but the implications are politically interesting.

Michael V writes:

Why aren't there more female libertarians? I don't think the main reason is because women are repelled by sexism among libertarians (although it may be a secondary reason, and also related is the fact that libertarians sometimes sound sexist when they really aren't). Being agreeable strikes me as an even less likely cause.

The main reason there aren't many female libertarians is because libertarianism is a relatively small ideology that is most likely to be encountered on the Internet - blogs, message boards, etc. Given that Internet discussion communities are predominantly male, libertarians are more likely to be men simply because men are more likely to be exposed to libertarian arguments.

John T. Kennedy writes:

Roderick Long writes:

"I don't believe females are less capable of abstract reasoning than males, but I do believe society gives women fewer rewards for being logical than it gives men. To me it's an incentive question, and that speaks to the marketing issue the BHLs so often bring up."

What I object to is a reflexive reaction on the part of the BHLs I've seen rejecting out of hand the possibility that Borowski could be right about women being more conformist than man. When pressed, they fall back to saying it doesn't matter even if true.

Caplan on the other hand, right or wrong, is an honest broker interested in the truth first.

I see men and women as the products of millions of years of choices based on radically different costs of reproduction, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if women had a greater interest in sharing the costs of reproduction, which could naturally lead to a greater bias in favor of conformity to the social group.

John T. Kennedy writes:

Sarah Skwire writes:

"I also think that the way we talk about those social science differences between men and women matters. To say that men and women are different (and vive la difference!) is not to imply that the differences are insurmountable, or negative, or even problematic. They simply *are* differences, and we should be careful (especially when citing work like your own!) not to imply that the differences are necessarily insuperable divisions."

Nor are differences necessarily superable. The MVP in the NBA will never be a woman, nor is it likely that 50 of the top 100 chess players will ever be women.

Borowski, being a woman, obviously could not be reasonably interpreted as saying that being a woman was an insuperable obstacle to being a libertarian. The differences Bryan points to could well be problematic when it comes to recruiting women to libertarianism.

I find it odd that so many of Borowski's detractors hold that 1) there aren't important relevant differences between men and women and 2) libertarianism needs more women. Sounds to me like saying libertarianism needs more redheads.

Tom West writes:

Methinks, the welfare trap can be (and occasionally is), very real, but Libertarianism (as much as one can generalize) is not a call for better designed welfare, it is a call for *no* welfare, because the recipients have no moral right to another's production.

Ron H. writes:

Tom West

"Methinks, the welfare trap can be (and occas... frequently is), very real, but Libertarianism (as much as one can generalize) is not a call for better designed welfare, it is a call for *no* welfare, because the recipients have no moral right to another's production."

Libertarians (as much as one can generalize) are opposed to the notion that a group of people can decide to take money by force, earned by some individuals, and give it to others who have not earned it.

Libertarians believe that human kindness and compassion in the form of private charity and voluntary, cooperative organizations can do a much better job of caring for those in need, as they have done throughout history, especially US history, before central government shouldered those charities and organizations aside.

Caring for others is a personal responsibility, not a collective responsibility.

Methinks writes:

That is untrue,Tom West.

Most libertarians do not believe in state-administered welfare (though some do. I did believe the state could administer some limited assistance to indigents until I realized the state would never limit itself when politicians can so easily buy votes with other people's money). We libertarians do NOT believe that we should never help our fellow man in need. I challenge you to find such beastly people. Your list, in not empty, will be too short to be relevant.

You poo-poo a very real poverty trap and slay libertarian straw men. There's nothing "occasional" or petty about marginal tax rates approaching 100% for the poor. A chasm of nearly 3x one's current income is a welfare trap as severe as a trap can get. There's no compassion in trapping people in perpetual dependence. And there's no honour in reaching into your neighbour's pocket to do it.

Michael Barnett writes:

Who cares why there aren't more female libertarians? Sex and gender are just labels anyway, right? Artificial constructs to treat us inauthentically, grouping us and stripping us of our individuality. The question damns itself and is irrelevant. I learned that in Philosophical Anthropology in college.

Ron H. writes:

Michael Barnett

"Who cares why there aren't more female libertarians?"

An excellent question. The irony here is that it's likely few libertarians actually care about it, but non-libertarians with too much time on their hands find it worth worrying about.

"Sex and gender are just labels anyway, right? Artificial constructs to treat us inauthentically, grouping us and stripping us of our individuality."

Not really, sex and gender seem like useful concepts when discussing the differences between males and females. You realize there ARE differences, right?

"The question damns itself and is irrelevant. I learned that in Philosophical Anthropology in college."

Have you considered asking for a refund? It doesn't seem to be very useful, but I suppose it's a required course for majors in axe grinding.

Robert writes:

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