Three Common Ways Libertarians Misuse Myers-Briggs Part 1: iNtuitive Elitism

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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (or MBTI) is a popular personality guide that describes human behavior. There are 16 types, broken down into preferences for Extroverted/Introverted, Sensor/iNtuitive, Thinker/Feeler, and Judger/Perceiver, that can be mish-mashed together into a given personality (ex: INFP, ESTJ, etc). If you’re unfamiliar with MBTI, I recommend checking out its Wikipedia page before continuing with this article. For a more in-depth look, I highly recommend Please Understand Me II or The Art of Speed-Reading People.

I consider myself very knowledgeable about MBTI and have invested a wealth of time trying to best understand individual types and the indicator as a whole. That said, I have found that libertarians are particularly attuned with MBTI, and I have had a number of enjoyable conversations about how MBTI and the liberty movement fit together.

However, I have also witnessed the three ways libertarians misuse MBTI for elitism, sexism, and cruelty. This article series aims to call out harmful use of MBTI and create more constructive ways of using the indicator.

iNtuitive Elitism

Regarding Guardians (people with Sensing and Judging preferences), Gary Gibson, an editor of The Dollar Vigilante, writes:

These people are ready-made fascists… Think about all the small-minded traditionalists and bigots making up the majority of villages, towns and suburban neighborhoods and you’ll see how this could be true. At best they may be conservatives in the paleo sense, but are most ready to jump into neocon uniform at the first false flag event.

He goes on to prioritize Rationalists (people with Intuitive and Thinking preferences) when he writes, “While your typical Idealist may get bogged down worrying about what will happen to the poor without the welfare state, the Rational can puzzle out that there would be a lot less poverty without the state to begin with.”

I read and hear this rhetoric all the time and it’s damaging to the movement.

Is it true that Guardians want authoritarianism and Artisans can’t understand economic modeling? Absolutely not. Guardians seek security, which means that they prefer to have order. That order does not have to come from big government, and Guardians are plenty intelligent enough to understand that.

There aren’t many Guardian libertarians solely because of messaging. Saying, “the market will eventually fix it” is not going to convince Guardians to jump into classical liberalism; there is no security in that argument. Emphasizing past successes and areas where the government undermines predictability (like unintended consequences) would be the best way to reach out to our Guardian friends.

As for Artisans (people with sensing and perceiving preferences), they, again, aren’t idiots, they simply have different preferences. While Artisans can understand economics or hard sciences, they tend to prefer to seek stimulation. In other words, this econ stuff is boring. Artisans prefer to live in the here and now, making an impact in their direct, tangible world. Sure, that could lead them to determine that welfare is a good thing, but it could also lead them to decide that charity is a better alternative. They are open to both paths. So long as Artisans feel as though they are making a positive impact on the world, they will be interested in libertarian ideas.

Both Guardians and Artisans crave guarantees. Let’s work on guaranteeing them that their lives will be better, that more freedom is inherently a good thing, and that their livelihood will not be at risk because of such a change. Let’s focus on how the market already creates wealth and could only help the poor. Present fighting for liberty as a virtuous, noble pursuit (and it is!). Let’s create a safe space for sensors.

We have to stop thinking that Executives, Scientists, Protectors, Givers, Visionaries, Thinkers, Idealists, and Inspirers are somehow “better” than their sensor counterparts. People with a sensing preference make up about 75% of the population, and there is equal distribution between genders.  We must remember that in order for libertarianism to be successful, we need ArtisansPerformersDoersMechanicsDuty FulfillersGuardiansCaregivers, and Nurturers as well. Libertarians who are into MBTI tend to dismiss these people yet forget that they participate in a functioning world as well.

In my experience, particularly from libertarian Scientists and Thinkers, libertarians dismiss Guardians and Artisans. This has to stop. We need sensors in the movement, and our ideas aren’t so abstract that 75% of the population simply can’t understand. It is not their problem, it is our problem. So get off your iNtuitive high horse (if you have one) and think about better ways to include the sensor community.

See Part 2 here and Part 3 here!

  • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

    There is so much elitism in libertarians in general, and, I think, in particular from libertarians main MBTI demographic: INTJs. INTJs, specifically immature ones, have a huge propensity towards elitism, and it’s one of the things that really turns me off about them.

  • Andrea Castillo

    I’m not sure that messaging is the *sole* reason that more Guardians don’t identify as libertarians. On the margins, messaging will surely have an effect. However, if Myers-Briggs is “correct” as an explanatory tool, then we would expect many Guardians to reject libertarianism if their preferences were strong enough. Some people simply put a lot of value on their sacred cows. Likewise, a large amount of messaging might convince a small number of Rationals to move over to statism, but we shouldn’t expect the law of diminishing marginal returns to just disappear.

    This, I think is what the author was getting at when he wrote: “Again, we speak here in tendencies. You can find natural artists chaffing in the position of chain drugstore manager. You can find a natural soldier or athlete trying to fit in with a bunch of counterculture hipsters in order to get access to certain types of young woman. Types do not change, but a person can seem to change depending on the needs of the environment.”

    It is not clear that entertaining this idea is “sexist,” “cruel,” or “elitist,” as you suggest.

    I also think it’s a bit dishonest to characterize the author as suggesting that one type is “better” than another, especially when he wrote this: “There aren’t really objectively ‘better’ traits; there are only traits that increase the odds of genetic reproduction given environmental conditions, conditions which include differing traits of those in the same species! In effect, the world certainly benefits from having the various groups with their different strengths and weaknesses. But that just makes us wonder: Which ratio of these traits provides the fertile ground for market anarchism or voluntaryism to flourish?”

    I think you’re right that Rationals, like any personality type, tend to devalue and misunderstand other personality types. I certainly see this in the libertarian movement. I think that meta-rationality is a desirable and rare trait; it is important to learn to “speak the language” of the person you’re engaging with. However, I think there’s a difference between explaining how we can be more effective at communication and labeling things we disagree with as “sexist, cruel, and elitist.”

  • Brendan Morse

    I think Gina is correct and dismissing others can generalized beyond an individual personality type. Quite a few sites and individual libertarians treat libertarian ideas as essentially self-evidently correct and anyone who questions them is incapable of thinking. This comes of as sort of proselytizing, which understandably turns people off. When conservatives libertarians combine free market and religious ideology, they come off as particularly elitist or even hateful. I think you made a truly excellent point for libertarians generally when you said: It is not their problem, it is our problem. So get off your iNtuitive high horse (if you have one) and think about better ways to include the sensor community.

    • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

      “Quite a few sites and individual libertarians treat libertarian ideas
      as essentially self-evidently correct and anyone who questions them is
      incapable of thinking.”

      So do liberals, in my experience.

      • Brendan Morse

        I agree. There are large liberals and conservative bases who want their preexisting beliefs simply reaffirmed and plenty of platforms to accomplish that task. Libertarians are in a fundamentally different position. Since libertarians need to reach out to new people in order to enlarge the base, they need to focus on propagating and explicating their ideas.

  • Just Me

    While using abusive language is certainly not going to gain the movement any followers, it doesn’t bother me that rationalists view themselves as superior to the other groups. The very fact that people talk at all presupposes the validity of rationalism as a method of understanding the world. If someone bothers to open their mouth to speak, they have accepted rationalism as a universally preferable behavior. If someone walked up to you and said that language has no meaning, you would laugh at them, and rightfully so. It is no different than those who use words to reject rational thought.

  • Guest

    “Artisans are just as important as Scientists and Thinkers”
    —Artisan

  • http://twitter.com/brett_jackson Brett Jackson

    The MBTI is about as accurate as a horoscope. Why does anyone ascribe any meaning to it? It’s too vague to describe a personality in meaningful terms.

  • Kevin Starkey

    I haven’t had much interaction with other people in the liberty movement who talk about MBTI, so I found this article quite interesting.

    I’m an ISTJ (I’ve also tested as INTJ, so I’m thinking I must be borderline?), but I don’t really understand why any particular ‘type’ would or wouldn’t be attracted to any particular political philosophy. To me it comes down to whether or not you see the actions of the state as moral or not. I happen to see the actions of the state as very immoral.

    My uncle, who is also an ISTJ, is a foaming at the mouth liberal (he thinks anyone who doesn’t agree with him on every point is willfully retarded). So maybe it’s only non-IJ STs who have a tendency to be attracted to the neo-con philosophy??? I realize that I’m only considering a sample of 2 here, but I’d never really considered these ideas until now. I’d love to hear other’s thoughts on this.

    Thanks for writing such a fascinating and thought provoking article.