Bryan Caplan  

The Ethics of Individualism

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Last question before GenCon: In Haidtian terms, what is an "individualist"?  Insiders' knee-jerk reaction is probably to say "low in Care," or maybe even "low in Fairness."  But per Sebastian Nickel, isn't "low in Loyalty" the better answer?


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
eccentric-opinion writes:

Low in Loyalty, low in Authority, and possibly low in Purity. Haidt found that libertarians' primary foundation is Fairness, followed by Harm, which is actually not that different from what he found for liberals.

sam writes:

Libertarians are influenced by the society the are in, just not to as great an extent.

Middle-class suburban libertarians tend to be patriotic, egalitarian, and culturally isolated. They are culturally Republican, but irreligious.

High Loyalty and Fairness, medium Purity, low Authority, low Harm.

Upper-class urban libertarians tend to be class-loyal, elitist, and culturally connected. They are culturally liberals, but free marketers.

High Fairness and Harm, medium Loyalty and Purity, low Authority.

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

What is an individualist; in whatever "terms?"

How can we possibly deal with this question, worded as it is, without first coming to an individual understanding or concept of individuality?

It has been stated that individuality is that compound of characteristics of distinct and differentiated human beings observed principally in the variety of motivations and the variances in degrees of intensities of motivations.

Individual ism has been distinguished from that observation of individuality, as the exercise of those characteristics in a social context.

Thus, the observation of the individual ist is made in a particular social context. If the commonalities in that society deprecate, de-value, or create a burden of the characteristic of friendship/kinship designated as "loyalty," the motivation for its exercise will be suppressed.

We can of course always make broad generalizations about human motivations and what they signify, but that is almost always done in the context of social groupings or social orders.

Another approach to this type of question is to begin with an identification of the social context and then ask "what is an individualist in a social organization having these [defined] qualifications?"

If there is a common feature to the nature of individuality in many different and varying types of social contexts, it may be indicative of a commonality of the sources for formation of motivations of individuals observed.

Steve S writes:

I agree with low Loyalty, but only in low Loyalty to other groups. I can be loyal to individuals (e.g. my wife). She would have to do a lot of harm to me - physically, mentally, emotionally - before I didn't stand behind her decisions, even the ones I wouldn't have made for myself. But if my wife was part of a club and the club did something that I was incensed about, I would not feel bad about dissociating from them.

I can't stand it when sports fans boo a player who got traded to another team. I don't understand unquestioning patriotism.

Basically I fail to recognize group identity as legitimate. Which is why, when people ask me if I'm a Libertarian, the first words out of my mouth are, "Well...yes, but..."

Miguel Madeira writes:

"Middle-class suburban libertarians tend to be (...) egalitarian"

"Upper-class urban libertarians tend to be (...) elitist"

I wonder what really "egalitarian" and "elitist" mean in this context - if by "elitism" we mean "some people are better than others, and the better should receive special respect and deference", and "egalitarianism" the opposite, this seem little more than a different word for "authority" (high in authority - elitism; low in authority - egalitarianism); but both groups, apparently, are low in authority, putting both, apparently, in the egalitarian side (perhaps with a difference in what "elite" each group sees as the "enemy" - the media? academy? military-industrial complex?)

Eli writes:

I would call in "individualist" someone who is low on groupishness, that is, low on all the moral foundations.

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