Three Common Ways Libertarians Misuse Myers-Briggs Part 3: Using MBTI as a Prescriptive, Instead of a Descriptive, Theory

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This post is the second of a three-part series exploring how libertarians misuse MBTI. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

“Myers-Briggs is no more accurate than a horoscope.”

For those of us into MBTI, we’ve heard some variation of this before, and it’s frustrating. However, it doesn’t surprise me that some exert this kind of skepticism. MBTI has been misused to imply that all people of the same type behave the same way, which has resulted in consequences such as affecting the hiring processes. Some take their Myers-Briggs type and translate it into a destiny—INTPs will be forever depressed, INTJs forever socially awkward, ESFPs forever dissatisfied,—in spite of differences between individuals and their personal circumstances. Libertarians have been apt to do this to themselves and apply MBTI to others in this way. A lot of it comes in the form of snobbery.

I have already talked about how libertarians have an inclination for iNtuitive elitism, and how Feelers haven’t been taken as seriously as Thinkers. Both of these posts strung together a theme of “type x is just as good as type y.” The greater message should be that MBTI is a system that highlights preferences and not abilities. This distinction is the fundamental difference between prescriptive and descriptive theories. In other words, MBTI should not tell people how to act or perceive other people. It simply describes the way things are inclined to be.

Libertarians have a general philosophy against collectivizing people, and this should translate over to MBTI as well. Within each type, there are patterns for cognitive functions. They can be arranged in any order, and while there are discernable patterns for each type, the functions can fall in almost any order. This creates differences within each type.

That’s a lot of psychological jargon for: within each type, there are functions that make us different from each other. These distinctions may come from personal experience or may have been an innate personality trait, but it separates people into (shocker!) having their own personality unique from anyone else’s.

Myers-Briggs has its well-known limitations and shouldn’t be the basis of evaluating your or other people’s capabilities. Doing so diminishes the Type Indicator to the level of a horoscope, a palm reading, or a psychic. MBTI has no bearing on your future or on the future of others. We are all capable of pursuing our interests regardless of type, and hey, isn’t that what libertarianism is all about?

  • David_Rogers_Hunt

    The following is a repost of http://www.dailypaul.com/comment/1931308 dated Sat, 10/22/2011.

    Okay, now you’ve done it…. You’ve pushed my button. I’ve been a big believer in the influence of Personality Archetypes for a long time now so here goes. My principle reference on Myers-Briggs analysis is the Keirsey Temperament and Character Web Site (http://keirsey.com/).

    It was at the 1984 Libertarian Party convention that when the attendees self-tested, some 80% came out as NT’s ‘rationals’ (http://keirsey.com/4temps/rational_overview.asp), who are the smallest group, comprising as little as 5 to 10 percent of the population. What does that tell ya’? The next group are NF’s ‘Idealists’ (http://keirsey.com/4temps/idealist_overview.asp), who are relatively rare, making up no more than 15 to 20 percent of the population. Next, SP’s ‘Artisans’
    (http://keirsey.com/4temps/artisan_overview.asp), are 30 to 35 percent, and SJ’s ‘Guardians’ (http://keirsey.com/4temps/guardian_overview.asp) are 40 to 45 percent. My ideological shorthand for these groups is that NT’s are libertarians, NF’s are empathic liberals and progressives, SP’s are pragmatists, and SJ’s are social conservatives.

    NT’s live to understand.
    NF’s live to feel.
    SP’s live to take action.
    SJ’s live to serve.

    Extending what has already been said here, rational libertarians are the only ones who care one wit about process, or how some event happens. All that the other personalities care about is the result. If working hard and saving can get everyone what they want, then great. But if we can get what we want by magic, or by the government, then that’s ok too. Rationals want to know how the goose can lay its golden eggs. Everyone else just wants the eggs, and more of ‘em!

    The SP artisans covet flexibility and freedom of action above all else. In every negotiation they will insist that everything that everyone has is negotiable. No dogmatisms for them. Unfortunately, this means that they are as intolerant of inflexible liberty as they are of inflexible tyranny. SP’s oppose all ideology on principle. Pun intended.

    The SJ guardian is always looking to authority to tell them what to do. They usually require outside validation for what is right and wrong. Once they have formed an opinion, they are the most reluctant to be open to new information. Any system that thinks of truth as provisional and subject to change is likely to make SJ’s uncomfortable. Guardians often react as though offering someone temptation to engage in vice as little different from committing a violent act.

    The NF empaths believe deeply that so long as anyone suffers through no fault of their own, that the world is unjust. They are often more concerned with the welfare of others who are in physical need, than they are with the welfare of those who are better off. Lifeboat ethics are basic ethical common sense to these guys. Most of all, NF’s think of wealth as fixed or zero summed. Lifeboats again. Why worry about planting seeds next spring,… there are people starving and in immediate need this winter. When in conflict, these guys believe it is very important to build a consensus to resolve the problem. Ronald Reagan saying “Peace is not the absence of Conflict. It is the ability to handle conflict through peaceful means.”, is largely a mystery to NF’s, while being immediately apparent to NT’s as obvious.

    The NT rationals believe deeply in the sovereignty of our own free will. Erich Fromm (NF) was not talking about us when writing, “The Fear of Freedom” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_from_Freedom). The others often prefer an environment that gives a person a sense of self-worth and self-identity. Think living in the medieval period, where one’s birth largely determines one’s role in life. NT’s MUST create our own self-identity. This is because we MUST understand for ourselves, and for understanding’s sake itself, what to believe about everything. NT rationals distrust knowledge merely based upon authority. NT’s are likely to think of respect as due to admiration, rather than to fear. We strive to make mistakes only once, while recognizing everyone must be free to learn from their own mistakes. Socially, we often prefer to understand others rather than judge others. Discovering efficacious principles is gold to us, as we understand, far more than the others, that truthful principles are useful in the same way a SP artisan understands the utility of a tool.

    So what has been learned. Libertarians have a tough job, is what! Consider why NT rationals are so rare. It’s because when political, religious, and other such purges would be conducted, NT’s would be the only ones willing to die on principle! Consider the fate of Giordano Bruno. We are an independent and stubborn bunch. NT’s often have a better relationship with science, technology, and math, than with people. While nature is often subtle, it’s never malicious. People often are.

    NF empaths are our greatest adversaries because everyone else listens to them. They are the most charismatic and attractive of all the personalities. Writers, actors, and journalists, are all likely to be NF’s. Unfortunately, they are absolutely committed to distributing wealth rather than to investing it to create more wealth. They really do not believe in wealth being open summed. Hence, the belief that humanity is a curse on the environment, that we are always about to run out of finite resources, that the worse thing in the world would be for everyone in the developing world to achieve the same living standards achieved by the free market. While actions are judged by results achieved, NF’s are more likely to judge actions by their intention. Markets allow people to pursue selfish profit, so they’re probably bad. Governments look out for people, so government is better motivated than businesses. NF’s are often greatly offended by people caring more for themselves, their friends, and people they know, than for perfect strangers. Hence coercive charities. Suggest to a NF that government charity is to voluntary charity as rape is to consensual sex, and they’ll go epileptic. NF’s always take special pride in having the moral high ground. Sovereignty should always be based upon who has the best good intentions. Consider that communism has successfully existed for as long as there have been insect societies. And that is the standard of utopia than many would drag us to, even at the price of death camps. The intended result is everything. The means are merely means. More than any other, NF’s believe that results inevitably flow from will. If results are not forthcoming, then it must be because of opposing wills,… nothing else.

    My goodness,… looks bad, doesn’t it? As Bill Maher might say, the people want socialism that works, like the europeans have for instance. So what are my suggestions?

    SJ’s guardians, who will be voting in the Republican primaries in droves, need to be told over and over again that enlisted military personnel want Ron Paul and not some McCain lookalike Neocon. I can not emphasize this enough. These guys would never imagine that active military personnel would ever give up fighting pyrrhic battles putting down angry hornet’s nests. Go figure. People in the military want to die for a good cause, and not in meaningless exercises for no good purposes. As you might imagine, SJ’s have a hard time folding a bad poker hand. Only military personnel, in person, on television and the regular Mainstream Media, will be sufficiently persuasive. The Ron Paul campaign, like Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is going to have to go straight to the people thru paid advertising. The Media ain’t gonna do it for us. SJ’s don’t trust information they discover for themselves. It must come from authorities they trust. You might also try to persuade SJ’s that God actually did not make a mistake in giving humanity free will, even though we often misuse it. But this is always going to be a tough sell.

    SP’s are simpler. Just show them what we are doing ain’t working and never will.

    NF’s are tough. They believe that if the United States government can send men to the moon, then it should be rather simple to cure poverty. They really believe this. No joke. Keynesian economics that says one has one’s cake because one eats it is very intuitive to NF’s. Wealth from savings and production is so stodgy when compared to the easier wealth arrived at by means of debt and inflation. Money is wealth, isn’t it? Maybe counterfeiting is a crime when an average criminal does it, … but not if a bank or a government does it. Let us make the minimal wage twenty dollars an hour, and end poverty. Heck, why not a hundred dollars! Higher minimum wages can not result in higher unemployment because society created minimum wage laws to help people, not to hurt them. And results have to follow intent, right? Like civil rights activists, who support affirmative action because they really don’t believe minorities can succeed under the same standards as the majority, NF’s have no confidence that freedom and liberty can be of any real use to the poor. If we can convince them that the poor can succeed under equal opportunity, then we’ll have them. Good luck. We can’t even convince NF’s that the poor are capable of choosing their children’s school.

    Is it really any wonder that the lemmings have always been in control?

    For more, see “I Trust You” (http://www.lpmich.org/ourwords/hunt1.php).
    ________________________________________________________

    As noted, I originally wrote this back in 2011 during the Ron Paul Campaign, and this is geared toward analyzing personality archetypes as it applied to that campaign. Of course I am generalizing, and in doing so, I am doing some violence to the nuanced beliefs of actual people. But I do believe, in substance, that I am correct in that a person’s personality archetype greatly influences their basic moral intuitions. SJ’s tend to believe in truth from authority. SP’s tend to be too willing to pragmatically trade away others’ liberty. NF’s are REALLY locked into the false idea that redistribution of wealth is the best way of alleviating poverty because wealth is seen as exclusively fixed/zero summed. While it is true that none of these tendencies are locked in concrete for any given individual, they are, nevertheless, very strong biases which color their perception of liberty and society even before any discussion takes place. While I can be accused of overstating my position, I do believe that the fact that NT’s only make up some 5-10% of the general population is a real and genuine handicap that advocates of liberty must be aware of in order to anticipate the problems that result from this, as well as strategies to meet and overcome such handicaps.

    • Grzegorz

      Thank You, that comment is better than all three parts ;)

      I don’t get it, just as INTJ has to learn to show empathy, to speak in public, be able to change plans etc. the same applies to other types – they got to learn how to use logic and reason. You cannot “feel” or “experience” why libertarianism is right. You got to process it in your mind.

      • David_Rogers_Hunt

        Thank you for your comment.

        To me the fundamental problem is that largely our moral and economical intuitions are based upon the world as it was experienced by our ancestors some hundred thousand years ago. For the vast majority of humanity’s existence, we lived a nomadic lifestyle were wealth was what was found in our natural environment. Lifeboat ethics, where what we have in our local tribe/boat is all we are ever likely to have, would seem to apply and so, we must share what we have in order to prosper. Does that sound like modern Progressivism? If someone, then, was obese, while those around them were starving, the natural conclusion was that some were consuming more than their fair share of the limited food.

        I recently attended a Unitarian convention where the conviction was often expressed that since taxes were 90% during the 1950’s upon the highest income brackets, that such ‘progressive’ taxes were just. “Why should anyone have more wealth than they need to consume?”

        Perhaps the greatest intellectual leap, that even INTJ’s have to be taught, is that order arises from spontaneous, self-organization, from the bottom up, rather than being imposed, by design, from the top down. Supernatural creationism makes so much more intuitive sense than the idea that order arises within nature without any designer at all.

        Is there hope? Consider the following…
        http://frontpagemag.com/2012/dgreenfield/worst-city-in-america-votes-98-percent-for-obama/

        NTs will often start a discussion with “I may be wrong, but I believe…”. Doubt is our shield and armor as we go forth into the world. This attitude may be admired by other personalities,… but it really makes little sense to them.

        We Libertarian NTs also have to avoid, at all cost, our own version of the Pygmalion Project,… of saying that others must become more like us if the world is to improve. This is no more, and no less, than what EVERY personality says. It is always so attractive,… and always so destructive. No one can change their personality archetype anymore than they can change their sexual orientation.

        • Grzegorz

          NTs are most likely to see (paraphrasing Bastiat) what’s invisible. We see that some people create more wealth than others, and in order to “convince” them to produce, we can’t punish them by obligatory sharing with have-nots.

          Other types in my opinion are more towards what is visible. And they see that some people have, and some don’t. They don’t see wealth that can be created in the future, but the wealth which already exist in the present. Like You have written before, NTs care not only about the result but also about the process.

          I can understand using doubt as a shield. It’s hard because Rationals look for the Truth. So when finally find it, they stick to it, they don’t use terms like “I feel… I hope… I suppose…” but they’re just sure, they base on evidence, logic and reason, and for others who don’t seek knowledge so much, it may seem arrogant and pert.

          Avoiding the Pygmalion Project is hard because it seems clear that to understand the world one “must learn philosophy, economics and history and if someone’s not interested in the subject is obviously stupid, sheeple etc”. I have to admit, there were times I thought that way. But I don’t understand two different issues here. 1. I’m INTJ myself, and I hate speaking by the phone, however I have to do it. I have to learn many different traits that are unnatural and uncomfortalbe to me. However Guardians or Artisans don’t feel the need to understand the world as a whole, make own opinion, use reason etc. Maybe because it’s about modern western culture, I don’t know… 2. Why people who know nothing about the subject, are not speaking out about physics or biology, however if it’s about social issues, psychology, economics, politics and all so-called liberal arts they aren’t ashamed to form judgements based on pure prejudices? I get angry then, and I guess most NTs too :)