When Discussing Why More Women Aren’t Libertarians, We Learn Precisely Why More Women Aren’t Libertarians


The subject of the lack of female libertarians comes up quite a bit in libertarian circles. It seems like every few months or so we feel the need to ask ourselves “why?” Why aren’t more women in our movement? Do they hate freedom? What’s the deal?

This question is certainly one worth asking. It’s one that we’ve visited here many times. It’s something that libertarianism needs to address.

Here’s the thing. When we ask this question, libertarians jump over themselves to find answers, make asses of themselves, stereotype women, and, in the end, drive more women away.

A prime example of this is the much-discussed video by Julie Borowski, which has received a lot of justly-deserved criticism. This conversation, of course, has continued, and, of course, we are confronted yet again with why there aren’t more women libertarians: libertarians trivialize women, their decision-making capabilities, and the issues that they care about.

Bryan Caplan chimes in at EconLog to the debate. He proposes that the reason more women aren’t libertarians is a social psychology issue.

…And then he invokes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Mr. Caplan. Please. You say that your “study of personality psychology” is what leads you to you conclusions. I must respectfully call into question your study of personality psychology. MBTI is, at best, considered pop psychology and has been subject of much psychological criticism, particularly with regard to its reflection of reality. You can find a brief overview of MBTI criticism on Wikipedia, something a basic search would have shown you.

More importantly, even if we assume that MBTI is reflective of reality, you still are not fully showing that you comprehend what the type indicators mean. First of all, the MBTI dichotomies are meant to express preferences, not abilities or deficiencies. Feelers are not incapable of logic, nor do they never use it. They just “default” towards their feeling preference.

For that matter, you have misunderstood or misinterpreted what the T/F dichotomy is. Again, from the most basic source, Wikipedia:

Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. (Emphasis mine)

It simply does not follow, sir, that a “thinking” person arrives at markets and a “feeling” person does not or cannot. Feeling people make rational decisions just like Thinkers do. They just come at it a different way.

While the T/F split among men and women may be true, it, again, does not follow that Feelers will not come to libertarianism because they are “soft hearted” or “soft headed” (how insulting!). The majority of the writers for this website are Feelers—Rachel is an ENFP and Elizabeth is an INFJ.

Read a Book, Mr. CaplanThere are more complexities involved, particularly because the dichotomies do not act independently, but this short explanation suffices. If you are intrigued by the system and would like to use it properly in the future, I highly recommend Please Understand Me II.

By associating women with feelers—no matter how statistically justified that assertion may be (and it is certainly debatable)—you are essentially making the claim that women or most women are “soft-headed” and “soft-hearted.” You are denying them their individuality, grouping them all together as if they have one mindset—something that is certainly an unlibertarian principle!

I see “arguments” like this all the time. Whenever the question of why women aren’t libertarians comes up, we fall over ourselves to provide a “logical” answers, almost all of which include treating women as if they aren’t thinking, rational, capable people who make decisions the same way anyone else does.

And then we wonder why women don’t like libertarianism!

It’s not about selling libertarianism a particular way. There’s no way to repackage and “pretty up” what Caplan said to make it somehow appeal to women. He called them emotional and “soft headed”. Because the claim itself is insulting, irrational, and factually ill-based, to presume that women would somehow “buy” that if we package it a particular way just piles on the insult.

Women aren’t libertarians because of things like this. Because of things like Borowski’s video. Because libertarians prefer to chalk it up to “natural differences” between the genders rather than look at themselves and what they are doing to drive women away. Too many libertarians ignore those who cry out to them, “You’re not talking about issues that matter to me. You’re saying that the oppression I experience is somehow made up, but it’s not even something you can experience, so how do you know?”

My advice to Caplan, Borowski, and all those who are tempted to make pseudo-arguments like this: If you want to know why there aren’t more women libertarians, why not ask them? And listen to the answer instead of presuming you know.

You might be surprised as to what you hear.

  • I’ve been asking the men on my Facebook list what drew them to libertarianism. Shock of shocks, it’s not hard-headed theory that seems to have driven them, but “real life” or empathy or other feeling-oriented motivations. If we stop labeling women as being feeling while men are not (which probably trivializes men just as much as calling women soft-headed trivializes them), maybe we could look at the real differences instead of our stereotypes. While this IS anecdotal, most of the commentary about why women aren’t libertarians comes from anecdotal or selective evidence, such as personality tests instead of political surveys. If your conclusions produce a contradiction, check your premises.

    Also, Caplan has a PhD, so his proper title is Dr.

  • Savanna Bumpus

    I watched the video, and technically I am a libritarian woman (although I am disgusted with my party’s lack of awesome ideas that address my views as well, where as a consequence to my party, I had to reregister as dem. for the 2012 election…) but I have to agree with the video; there isn’t enough out there in the mainstream culture to attract the libritarian woman. perhaps if those trying to sway votes took the time to address issues that women would be concerned over, (without resulting to stereotyping) you would have more voters. A good start would be freedom without big government involvement; women’s rights (1900’s and the 1960’s movements) look at the past “war on women” that resounded in the senate and house, but most importantly… ask women what they would like from the party.

    • Robby

      “A good start would be freedom without big government involvement…”

      Could you elaborate on this point? Increasing freedom and reducing big government are important goals of the liberty movement but, if I understand correctly, you’re saying libertarians aren’t addressing this issue correctly or without stereotyping. What would you say is being mishandled or ignored on this front?

  • Noah

    There are many answers to the question you asked. One could be simply stated as “clientelism.” I think some of the problem in recruiting women as libertarians is the seeming conflict between the political goals of feminism, which are now widely diffused within the population, and these notions of personal liberty, which underpin libertarianism and have not had the depth and breadth of diffusion in society as feminist ideas have had. The rights-based movements (civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, consumer rights, animal rights, etc. etc.) from the 1960’s and 1970’s emphasized the role of government in protecting and enforcing a broadening set of rights, which benefited women, among other historically marginalized groups. It is not hard, then, to make the leap, however correctly or incorrectly, that opposition to the scale and scope of Federal government intervention in general represents specific opposition to the broadening regime of rights supported by that government. Given that women, among others, have been beneficiaries of equalizing, rights-based policies enforced by Federal action, is it really any wonder why they’re not libertarians, who would likely have not supported such action, at least in principle. I think this theory explains in general the lack of women and other historically underrepresented people within the libertarian coalition and the over-representation of historically dominant people, which defines the libertarian political identity as that of the dominant group, maintaining the status quo and preserving a white, patriarchal incumbency on power by making sure that the only institution for the redress of larger social issues is starved and hobbled in defense of “liberty.”

  • I’m a man, and an economics Ph.D. economics student, and you might call me a liberal-tarian.

    Here’s one idea of why women are turned off to libertarianism: libertarians talk down to people, and women are more sensitive to it then men are. I don’t mean that in a bad way – women get talked down to more often BECAUSE they are women, so they have less tolerance for it. When someone talks down to a man, it isn’t often because they’re a man, but because the speaker is a pedantic jerk. Most men can brush it off because they know it isn’t socially sanctioned. But women know that an otherwise affable person can treat them badly and get away with it just because of social gender roles, so it makes them angry. This tends to be the case with all socially marginalized group – they have less tolerance for abuse by the socially dominant class.

    Consider a typical interaction with a libertarian – I argue in favor of minimum wage: there is wide-spread support for a reasonable minimum wage (8-10/hr), and there is also a lot of serious economic evidence that shows that such a minimum wage has little or no impact on total, low-skilled employment. David Card, for example, found little or no change in fast food employment in New Jersey after that state raised it’s minimum wage.

    At this point, what I call a 101-libertarian will lecture me on the following: minimum wage reduces employment levels (it’s supply and demand don’t you know!), the government has no right to regulate private contracts between businesses and individuals, and how can I call myself a libertarian if I believe in a minimum wage?

    Basically, you have the three pronged attack: question intellect, question ethical integrity, then question social belonging. Since I’m a white, upper class male, I can ignore the underlying insults. This guy is an idiot. Whatever. If I were a women, those insults would signal to me that my thoughts, and my opinions are not taken seriously, and I’d find another party where I am treated as an intellectual equal.

    This isn’t about marketing – it’s about seriously re-examining the implications of libertarian philosophy and allowing a diverse range of opinions.

    • Roger Koppl

      Seems right, Robert. I look forward to hearing what V. A. Luttrell says about your comment.

    • I don’t think arguing that mimimum wage reduces employment levels is questioning your intellect so much as disagreeing with you. You accuse david of three ad hominems but in reality I believe he is only guilty of the latter.

      • When someone quotes “basic” economic theory as an argument, it is patronizing. It’s like quoting the dictionary.

        • darthhayek

          Rob, it’s also patronizing to accuse someone of fighting battles from the 19th century, which you did downthread.

        • Robby

          I don’t get how you’re insulted when someone debates you using information you consider “basic.” Sometimes people just make basic arguments, that’s nothing to get upset about.

    • I agree with the general thrust, though I agree with Anthony below that your David isn’t guilty of all of those fallacies.

      I think that *all people*—but let’s face it, I mostly care about libertarians—need to be better at listening and seriously considering their opponent’s arguments. Many people are so caught up in believing that they are right that they straw man, ad hominem, etc. all to get their opponent to go away. But here is what your example is really trying to get at:

      “If I were a women, those insults would signal to me that my thoughts, and my opinions are not taken seriously, and I’d find another party where I am treated as an intellectual equal.”

      I think that’s interesting. I certainly have had interactions with many libertarians where I felt I wasn’t being valued as an intellectual equal. But that is more of a function of those people being jerks than it is of the party in general. However, if a woman happens to hit several of those people at once, I can see how that would be a turn-off and make her feel like she wasn’t being valued *because* she is a woman. But then again, most of society doesn’t value her opinion because she’s a woman. :-/

      I don’t think the problem you’re describing is limited in any way to libertarianism, however, and might be more of a function of political debates and politics in general.

    • Sean

      I am a libertarian and I must say whenever I speak to liberals they are far more insulting and condescending. Common tactics are questioning intellect, condescending tone, citing majority support and moving goals posts in an argument when things aren’t going their way.

      As for your minimum wage example, if someone were arguing lowering minimum wage would increase fast food jobs for multi-billion corporations, I could see the point but the overall point often made by libertarians is that minimum wage laws favor corporations and hurt small businesses.

      • ZoomZoomDiva

        Agreed. I also find their fundamental concept that I need government to take care of me because I am unable to take care of myself to be insulting and condescending. Perhaps people don’t care if they are put down if they are bribed in the process.

        • Tynam

          I find your idea that my support for welfare spending is because I am “bribed” to be “put down” to be insulting and condescending. And all too common, which is why libertarians fail to recruit among the left.

          Hint: try assuming your opponents are smart and informed, and have reasons for their decisions. It won’t always be true, but it’ll stop you from shooting yourself in the foot by condescending to them.

          • ZoomZoomDiva

            There are smart and informed liberals, they generally aren’t the ones using the rhetoric of victimhood all the time. They aren’t the one ones voting Democrat 90% of the time and matters don’t get better.

            Why do you support using tax dollars for welfare spending over voluntary charity?

          • Tynam

            Because welfare spending saves tax dollars. It’s an investment that, like education and defence, is more expensive NOT to make.

            People who can’t eat might starve rather than commit a crime… but nobody, nobody, lets their children starve rather than commit a crime. People who get the bare minimum to live get more severe health conditions (which we then have to heal at a thousand times what it would have cost to prevent them in the first place), commit more crimes (which costs us all), work less productively, become homeless (which is a drain on everyone, and prevents them from getting jobs later)…

            …and so on.

            With societies it’s always at least a thousand times cheaper to prevent problems than cure them. So let’s do it the cheapest, simplest way possible.

    • Skeptic Dan

      Whether the government mandates a higher minimum wage or mandates fringe benefits for employees or makes it impossible to fire current employees, it tends to keep current workers in and prospective employees out. In fact, Card’s study seems to prove that point. That’s one reason why teenage unemployment is so high in this country and even higher in heavily unionized European countries like France and Greece. If you’re a teenager sometimes means getting your “foot in the door” is essential to your career, and minimum wages seek to make that more difficult.

      Minimum wage increases increases the cost of labor and that ultimately reduces the business’s bottom line. The business is left with the choice of not hiring new people and not expanding as they expected, firing current employees, or going out of business.

    • KJC

      I would say that my experience has been similar to what you describe. Obviously, I don’t know all libertarians, but of the ones I have spoken with, the gist of the conversations have been, “What?!?!?!? You don’t know that markets are the best and will fix everything? You must be incapable of thinking or drawing logical conclusions.” Ouch. People of ALL political persuasions really need to get it in our heads that just because someone disagrees with me or didn’t take the exact same history class I did in college (so they haven’t heard of my obscure reference) doesn’t automatically make them stupid and incapable of rational thought. This superiority complex issue is the reason I do not affiliate with any of the current political parties – yay independents! – recruit me!

      I also think that in reality, politically speaking, we all vote for the party that we think is in our best interest (as a person and as a member of a society at large). And I think it makes perfect sense that what is in one person’s best interest may not be the same as what is in another person’s best interest. So we can both be logical about our own best interests and draw different conclusions.

    • ZoomZoomDiva

      Robert, if women and other minorities are intolerant of being patronized, how are the Democrats able to appeal to them? I find their insinuations of the low capabilities of the American people to be highly insulting.

      However, while one can argue and debate in a respectful manner, I disagree that a group or organization should accept and include opinions that are fundamentally opposite to core principles. One can fairly say that some of your beliefs are not libertarian, but to say that the libertarian beliefs should change to fit you is misguided.

  • Ivan

    The reason why you don’t see more libertarian women is probably the same reason why you don’t see more libertarian minorities.

    • Yup.

      • bob

        Hey, it’d be helpful if you two would elaborate instead of cocooning in mutually-reassuring smugness.

        • But then how would we turn into beautiful, arrogant butterflies? (read some other replies and you will find that we already did)

          • bob

            If the content is elsewhere (based on what I’ve read, I’m not satisfied that it is) what is the purpose of your post here? Is it to pat yourself on the back?

          • I’m letting you know where you can find the answer to your question.

          • bob

            No, that was what you say is the purpose of your response to me. I’m asking about your cheerleading response before, which is content-free.

        • Ivan

          Because minorities understand that in a market system, the decks are stacked against them. Even white convicts have it better than equivalently qualified blacks with no criminal convictions:


          So when you say that we should have a completely free market, it’s a tough sell for those who get abused most in a free market system.

          Disclosure: I am Asian and despite how conservatives and libertarians say, “see? Asian people can succeed why can’t you other minorities?!?!”. I assure you, we face as much (if not more) discrimination. See: How many Asian managers/execs you see (aka: the bamboo ceiling).

          There’s a reason why we focus so much on STEM and Medicine: there’s less discrimination (although still there).

          If you’re white, you can go in almost any industry you want without these issues.

          This is not to say i’m some ‘commie’, but i have far less trust in the market because of this issue (and other non-racial issues) than your typical libertarian.

          • I had no idea about the bamboo ceiling. Am I a bad person for laughing at that name? :3

            I would argue that the problem is not the market. The problem is the state. The state is the entity that began the oppression that still plagues sociopolitical minorities today. State deprivation of rights is the beginning of today’s social oppression in almost every category I can think of. I do not think, then, that the state can offer solutions to these problems. Only markets can, because they are necessarily impersonal. In the absence of government influence, everyone would be recognized for the labor that they produce (even Marx says that this is one of the most important functions of capitalism!). Only with markets can the inequities that the state has produced (and continue to produce!) finally equal out.

          • Ivan P

            No, the problem is the market. I mean, it’s just numbers in general. And it’s not always overt racism either, but it’s just a general preference of people to interact with people like this.

            The bamboo ceiling is a derivation of the term ‘glass ceiling’ (hopefully you know what this refers to).

            Asians are passed over for promotions because of this and it has nothing to do with the ‘state’. I used to be a libertarian until i started working and my eyes were opened.

            I had a conversation with a coworker of mine yesterday, who is a muslim indian. He said when his wife was looking for another job, she was getting almost no callbacks. Someone suggested changing her muslim sounding first name on her resume to an anglicized first name. She got callbacks as a result. This issue is even worse for blacks with ‘black’ sounding names.

            I don’t know if you are white or not, but this is really the reason why libertarianism isn’t very attractive to us. And it has nothing to do with the state.

            …. ah, and before i forget, i remember one other anecdote. I used to work for a small company. The owner was half asian/half white and i became decent friends with him. Even he was a pretty progressive person, but i noticed something odd about the racial makeup of the company. The front facing sales people were pretty much all white (and mostly men) while the minorities worked in the back office. I asked him about that when i was having a beer with him and he basically said it’s because it’s what the clients preferred. He wished it didn’t have to be that way and felt guilty about it, but he had a bottom line and at least he was very open about hiring minorities for other positions. But these sales jobs were definitely the best (and best paying) jobs. I was a bit shocked, but understood, i mean, it’s market forces after all.

          • Ah, my point was that state-sanctioned oppression of people of color is the root of the oppression that they still face today and that current state sanctions, most notably against entrepreneurs, still serves to keep sociopolitical minorities down. Sorry if that was unclear before.

            A great current example of this is how the city of Atlanta attempted to force street vendors to give up their businesses and then RENT them back from the company the city signed a contract with (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0tpn-BWyUTc). While this may not have been done BECAUSE they were black, cities, states, and countries passing excessive regulations do a lot to prevent people from beginning businesses, particularly those who have little to no capital (often poor people, who are often political minorities).

            You see, the roots of the progress of groups aren’t, I think, representation in CEO chairs, but the number of people who can make an honest living for themselves doing whatever they want to do. That’s where it all starts, and for two centuries now, the state has played an instrumental role in making sure that the people who need most to be able to do that, can’t.

          • Ivan P

            Except a) this isn’t a widespread problem and b) ‘street vending’ isn’t a well paying middle/upper middle/upper income job.

            You’re going to have a tough sell on this to minorities considering the amount of discrimination we face in the market. If you had to live in our shoes you would understand.

          • Certainly, I would have to live in your shoes to understand. As someone who grew up poor (and not the “noble” kind of poor, either), I do have some inkling, but, of course, it is not quite the same.

            The truth of the matter is that I do think there is a great argument to be made for my position, both historical and economical, but I might just need to make another blog post for it. I’ll come find you when I write it. 🙂

          • Ivan P

            Well, i added you to my RSS feed. I do think you made a great point with your original post. Minorities also have this problem with condescension (i.e. this post by Charles Murray over at the republican leaning AEI think tank, pondering why Asians voted overwhelmingly for Democrats when they should be ‘naturally republican’).


          • Oh AEI. /smh.

          • bob

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t typically associate sales positions with “ceilings” applicable to executives and managers…

          • bob

            See, Robert? This is what a response looks like. It is a) responsive and b) less condescending than any individual item you have graced us with in your visit.

            Ivan, I’d be careful about taking the conclusions of a study about low-skill jobs (i.e., positions ex-cons can be hired for) and applying them broadly, especially if you next want to discuss the opposite end of the labor market where professional degrees may be required.

            Thought experiment: do you think racial discrimination is a bigger factor at the low end of the labor market than government regulation of wages working conditions and so on? Do these conclusions apply at the opposite end of the labor market?

            If there’s a bamboo ceiling (and I sincerely hope whoever coined that phrase has ancestry in a region where bamboo grows natively), is the link you provided relevant to that? Is there some other non-anecdotal finding on this phenomenon? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a difference in representation, but you’d have to have a discriminatory mechanism leading to a large part of the difference to call it a bamboo ceiling. Maybe something like quota limits on elite university admissions, yielding a smaller pool of CEO-qualified individuals over time…

            Speaking of anecdotes, I can’t recall a single person I know (outside of “studies” departments) whose academic trajectory or career path was chosen in an effort to avoid discrimination, or who even had discrimination in mind. People seem to value compensation, prestige, and personal satisfaction in my experience.

          • Ivan P

            Bob, i really don’t think about racial discrimination vs. government regulation and what is worse because the first obstacle is always racial discrimination when you’re a minority. If i were white, i would probably think more about the effects of regulation. I’m not pro or against regulation, i look at it on a case by case basis. Part of that reflects the fact that Asian countries tend to be more pragmatic about government intervention and government works well in the pacific because we have a less cynical view of government there (unfortunately in the US, our government stinks a lot, because we are much more cynical about our government and we don’t hold our leaders accountable, but that’s another discussion altogether).

            Yes, i do think the link i provided is relevant. I’m serious when i tell you that, while i give my children a chinese name, their ‘official’ name for everyday use will always be an American one.

            And yes, Asians do consider avoiding discrimination when determining what they study/choose for a career path. I had a few interests in going into advertising/market/law, but all of those are soft skill type careers where minorities are disadvantaged the worst. My parents, wisely, advised me of going into medicine, technology, or some sort of finance. Or at the very least, if i had to go work in another field that i would work for a tech company where discrimination against Asians is less.

            Asians are the most (or one of the most) educated ethnic groups in the US, yet we are very underrepresented in management and executive positions, this is a fact. People who think we live in a meritocracy are out of there minds. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And if you’re not like the people who are in power, you’re at a severe disadvantage.

          • bob

            I take what you’ve said at face value (that you believe racial discrimination is the top factor in minority non-advancement across the labor market), but I remain unconvinced because nothing you’ve said provides evidence for this. I’m also unconvinced that the study about low-level jobs ex-cons can fill is relevant to jobs credential/experience barriers to entry, because again, nothing you have said provides evidence for it. Why do you think these things?

            We’re clearly coming from entirely different positions, because 1) I’m reticent to lump Asian countries together for the purpose of judging the quality of their governance and 2) I am not envious of the quality of governance I perceive in Asian countries like, say, Thomas Friedman is. Do you truly believe Asian political leaders are held to account by the people? That’s the first I’ve heard of it. If Americans are more cynical about government, perhaps it’s because they have the expectation of actually participating.

            It’s easy for me to believe that a good number of people of Asian ancestry in this country believe they are discriminated against in employment. That said, of the Asians (American and foreign born) I’ve known and with whom I’ve had discussions about race, affirmative action, and related topics, zero have said to me what you have about pre-selecting career trajectories to avoid discrimination. Do you have any literature on the topic?

            Nobody’s making strict meritocracy arguments around here. I work in a highly technical academic field, and fundraising trumps quality research every time. You have to say the right things to the people in position, and I believe that’s true just about everywhere. What’s your solution, and who do you think is the problem?

          • Ivan P

            I’m not quite sure why you discount the study i posted.

            Asians clearly gravitate to jobs/industries where racial discrimination has less or no impact on their long term careers. For example, Asians are 4.8% of the population, but Asians are wayyyyyyyyy overrepresented amongst Doctors:

            “Three out of four physicians identified themselves as white, non-Hispanic, while 3.8 percent were black, non-Hispanic, 5.3 percent were Hispanic, and 17.2 percent were Asian or other races. However, among physicians under age 40, about two-thirds were white and 33 percent were minority—black (4%), Hispanic (5.4%), and Asian or other race (24%) (findings not shown).”


            Why is this? Well, obviously doctors make decent money. But the other reason is because you aren’t working to become a manager or executive to advance your career. Once you become a doctor, you’ve made it. Start your own practice and you’ll be making good money and you can manage your own career. The medical profession is much more of a meritocratic profession than law, marketing, advertising, etc. where the barrier to becoming successful is more about who you know and how you fit in the culture – the barrier to becoming successful to become a doctor is working extremely hard in school to get into medical school and graduating.

            If you are involved in the Asian community (Like i am), you will know that Asians DO heavily consider discrimination when considering employment and the Medical profession is something that Asian parents push hard on their children to pursue because of this. I’ve been involved in Asian clubs, went to a Chinese church, etc.

          • bob

            I discount it because the study, as I have now pointed out twice, has to do with jobs entirely unrelated to the professions Asians aspire to (STEM, medical doctor, etc.) or to the ones you say the “bamboo ceiling” prevents them from taking (managerial, executive). The people interviewing for jobs available to ex-cons and the people interviewing them are qualitatively different than the interviewers/interviewees in high-skill positions. They certainly have different educational levels and likely have different cultural biases. Why do you think these results will apply across the entire job market?

            Overrepresentation by Asians as medical doctors (a high-compensation, high-prestige profession) could possibly be explained by Asians gravitating toward professions with minimal racial discrimination. You would have to demonstrate that other professions are more discriminatory toward Asians than medicine, but nothing you have presented is evidence of this.

            I’ll buy into a “discrimination based on how well you rub shoulders” idea to some extent, but I think an Asian with a Harvard degree rubs shoulders with a white Yale grad a whole lot better than a State U. grad — not to mention a graduate of Directional State U.

            I’ll take your word for it on Asians shaping career aspirations based on discrimination avoidance. Would you say that this is primarily with foreign or native-born individuals, or both? Out of curiosity, where are you regionally?

          • Ivan P

            Just because the jobs aren’t ‘high paying’ doesn’t mean racism doesn’t apply up and down the income/’prestige’ ladder.

            Over representation by Asians in the medical field is BOTH because of the money/prestige factor and also the almost guarantee that racism won’t be a factor in your success. It’s the fact that the barrier to entry is so high thanks to the guild system that is the medical profession that anyone can just brute force their way in if they’re willing to put in the hard work in school.

            I think this is a very good explanation as to why Asians are so extremely over represented in the medical profession vs. others which could be considered ‘high prestige’. The thing is, those other high prestige professions only really become prestigious when you climb the corporate ladder and get into the executive level. Even Asian parents will ‘Ooooo’ and ‘Ahhhhh’ that. But the thing is, we inherently know that the ‘bamboo ceiling’ presents very little opportunity for that. Becoming a doctor is a 100% surefire way to high income/prestige for a minority.

            I’m in the US and racism applies across the board, but obviously foreign born have it worse. I’m American born and i feel lucky compared to the foreign born. At least i’m ‘in tune’ with American culture (i love American football and can talk football with my male colleagues, for example), but still, i have experienced discrimination.

          • bob

            Here’s where we stand:

            – Racism exists at all job levels for Asians, because there’s a study about such discrimination in low-skill job hiring. This can be bootstrapped to high-skill jobs to validate the “bamboo ceiling” you mention repeatedly. I’ll ask for the third or fourth time: what connects behavior in these two labor markets?

            – The explanation for Asian success in medicine is an AMA “meritocracy” and the fact that “anyone” can brute force their way into medicine. This is in zero contrast to the corporate world or in politics, systems where a huge proportion of those at the top are graduates of Ivy League universities, which admit a fraction of Asians larger than population representation based on test scores. What is the purpose of selecting for test scores if the end result is to select against test scores? Is the only possible explanation the low-skill hiring study validated “bamboo ceiling” concept?

            – “Anyone” can brute force their way into medicine. What, then, is your explanation for why Hispanics and blacks are underrepresented in medicine? Is there any possible explanation for why group underrepresentation in a profession other than some flavor of discrimination? Are they facing a colorfully named ceiling transparent to whites and Asians? Is Asian population overrepresentation in medicine a form of discrimination against Hispanics and blacks?

            I haven’t been able to get any additional detail from you in the last three posts, so I’m hoping this will be as clear as possible in expressing what I’m trying to figure out.

          • Ivan P

            I don’t know what to tell you man, you seem pretty resistant to the idea that Asians and other minorities have much higher hurdles than whites in the market place and we do make decisions on employment based on where there’s less racism (or where it doesn’t matter as much) even though it’s very much relevant to our every day lives. I mean, the way you push back pretty much answers the question ‘why aren’t there more minority libertarians?’.

            Here’s another thing to chew on:



            Study of the Day: There’s a ‘Bamboo Ceiling’ for Would-Be Asian Leaders

            RESULTS: The dominant East Asian employee was more disliked than the non-dominant East Asian employee, the non-dominant White employee, and the dominant White employee. A separate trial showed that participants held descriptive stereotypes of East Asians as being competent, cold, and non-dominant, while another showed that the most valued expectation of East Asians was that they “stay in their place.”

            CONCLUSION: East Asians who don’t conform to racial stereotypes are less likely to be popular in the workplace. “In general, people don’t want dominant co-workers,” says Berdahl, “but they really don’t want to work with a dominant East-Asian co-worker.”

          • KJC

            Great way to phrase it – “the decks are stacked.” Totally agree in the sense that the powerful will almost always act in self interest to maintain their power, which is not always for the betterment of society. One of the most fundamental purposes of our government is to ensure that the majority cannot trample the rights of the minority, and the myriad ways that can happen are complex, thus requiring very specific laws to address so many areas of existing or potential oppression.

    • Marta

      Exactly. For many people, the legacy of “big government” regulations is what has given – and still gives – us economic freedom and civil rights.

      So yeah, a bunch of white males screaming about how they don’t have enough freedom and the federal government just needs to leave them alone are not likely to persuade me to join their movement with that attitude. As a woman, I rather like you being forced to pay me equal wages for equal work, etc.

      We can be sympathetic to libertarians on some issues (especially civil liberties), but deeply appreciate a strong, active federal government.

      • bob

        Who are Libertarians to contradict a strong woman and her idea that economic freedom and civil rights flow from a strong, centralized government?

        Mansplainers, that’s who.

        • I really hate the term mansplainers. Its horribly dismissive and avoids going into the actual reasons why one disagrees with someone and avoids the opportunity for both parties to learn from each other and potentially grow from an exchange.

          • bob

            Yes, exactly. Feminists use it because shut up, that’s why.

      • Marta, I would suggest that Big Government caused many of the social ills that it later corrected. One big example is racial segregation, upheld and reinforced by state law (either directly by mandating segregation or indirectly by ignoring violence against non-whites). Much like giving Congress credit for “resolving” the fiscal cliff it itself created, crediting the civil rights laws of the 60s with “giving” minorities their freedom or ending segregation overstates the value of government action.

        I’d suggest that, without state sanction, segregation would have died long before the civil rights era. The threat of violent reprisal was the big factor that stopped previous civil rights actions, and that threat was a direct result of state power.

      • KJC

        Agreed, Marta. As a woman, here is my two cents on where I see libertarians misunderstanding women/minorities. The history of our country is much shorter than many people acknowledge and involves a lot of oppression of various groups currently or in the not-so-distant past. Those groups that have been oppressed recognize the government as playing a key role in ensuring ongoing freedom from that oppression, and it goes beyond a simple “The law says you can vote now; are you happy?” The aftermath of oppression is deep and long.

        I also think it’s a difference in understanding of the word freedom. There are freedoms “from” and freedoms “to,” and it seems like libertarians focus so much on freedom from the government and less on the freedom to do certain things that are only possible with the protection of the state.

        I think one of the other issues I see is this *unyielding* belief by libertarians in the goodness of the market (which when you draw it to its logical conclusions, often sounds like a belief in the goodness of people), to a point that is illogical to those who have been oppressed and seems incompatible with history. I think many women are turned off by the inability of some libertarians to talk in nuances, to admit that it’s ok to trust the markets for the most part, but to also see occasional failings and admit to them. Is it ok for people to exercise their “freedom” to oppress others? Because if given the chance, it often happens. And if not ok, how do we stop it? As Marta said, it’s mostly a bunch of white guys complaining about not having enough room to do whatever they want. And historically, what have the majority done with complete freedom? Look out for their best interests – to the detriment of others (not, as many libertarians think, to the betterment of all society).

        Robert is a case in point when he says, “I’d suggest that, without state sanction, segregation would have died long before the civil rights era.” To those who lived as minorities through that era, his assessment, while it may be his honest opinions, just seems unsympathetic and unrealistic. On the contrary, those who have been oppressed know that if left unregulated, the market leans toward monopoly, not just in the economic sense, but in terms of power dynamics. There is still significant oppression all over the world today for a HUGE variety of reasons, not just state sanctioned. It is often woven into the fabric of a culture, and we all live in the context of a culture. We make economic and power decisions based in part on the context of our culture and personal morals, above and beyond our “economic logic.” Furthermore, economic logic itself often dictates that I will be personally better off if I can squash others. In many parts of the world where there are not strong laws or strong enforcement ensuring *specific* civil rights are maintained, the dynamic is based on the “freedom” of the majority to harm the minority with impunity. I would suggest that the world without rules to protect women and minorities (whoever is a minority in a given region/country) resembles “Lord of the Flies” more than the warm and fuzzy envisioning of Robert’s comments. In this sense, women may notice that the bare minimum the government can do will not be enough to keep the balance from tipping in favor of the oppressive majority.

        Libertarians need to acknowledge that oppression is real and not imagined and adjust accordingly.

        • Broken Shins

          Politics is the pursuit of violence. You are advocating for a monopoly of violence, because obviously giving all the violence to one person is safer than distributing small amounts of violence across the entire population. Your argument is not inherently wrong. It has a theoretical appeal, even – if the person we give the violence to will use less of it than the generalized violence content of society, then this would minimize violence in society.

          Libertarians seek to produce the least violent possible world. This is why many of them are minarchists – they believe the least violent of all worlds will include a central enforcer, and dedicate their intellectual efforts to finding the structure which is most likely to maintain that least violent possibility. Those who believe that all central enforcers will be more violent than the baseline distributed violence (or that the establishment of the enforcer cannot reduce the baseline, which achieves the same conclusion) will become anarchists instead.

          Anarchist/Minarchist is not a solved question in libertarian theory, and it weighs heavily on the question of oppression. Your claim that libertarians don’t acknowledge oppression is insulting. Libertarianism is a political philosophy defined by its opposition to oppression.

          Your sexual and racial stereotyping is the root of this mistake. Please reconsider. The people you mass into one homogenous “privileged” group are not homogenous at all. They’re not a raging hydra all deriving from the same corrupted spirit. They’re individuals with individual value, and deserve to be treated as such.

  • LibertyTerp

    While I agree that libertarians shouldn’t insult women when discussing when there are so few female libertarians, I don’t agree with the conclusion of your argument. Discussion of why women aren’t libertarians is maybe 0.1% of political discussion and at most 1% of what libertarians talk about. I’m libertarian and I’ve never talked to anyone about it.

    Women aren’t libertarians because what libertarians say and what they hear about libertarianism is not appealing to them. It’s an issue of marketing and reputation. Women CAN be libertarian. My wife was libertarian before I was. Most American women were classical liberals from 1790 to 1930 since that was the dominant political philosophy.

    There is a very obvious overlap between the rise of progressivism and women being granted their right to vote. Perhaps women are just more likely to see the government as another source of nurturing? Not necessarily. I think the more likely causes of the rise of progressivism are threefold:

    1. The income tax Constitutional Amendment provided the source of funding for the welfare state
    2. The direct election of senators Constitutional Amendment allowed the federal government to ignore federalism and state governments
    3. FDR’s court-packing scheme intimidated the Supreme Court into allowing the federal government to ignore virtually all Constitutional limitations of federal power that had been observed over the previous 140 years. The enumerated powers of Article I Section 8 and the 10th Amendment were in effect killed.

    • Are you fighting any battles from this half of the century?

      • bob

        We’re talking about a political ideology, not about how SHUT UP BECAUSE MY LEFTY BUDDIES WON THE 20TH CENTURY.

  • “Whenever the question of why women aren’t libertarians comes up, we fall over ourselves to provide a “logical” answers, almost all of which include treating women as if they aren’t thinking, rational, capable people who make decisions the same way anyone else does.

    And then we wonder why women don’t like libertarianism!”

    Is this really a good explanation? It seems to implicitly assume that women form their beliefs about politics and economics based on whether people are nice to them, and not on logic and evidence. Even if libertarians are total jerks to women, why should that affect a woman’s evaluation of, say, the merits of free trade?

    So would you suggest that there are “hidden libertarian women”—women who are libertarians, but who are ashamed, due to shitty treatment by the libertarian movement, to publicly label themselves as such?

    • Michael, we’re not saving souls, we’re building a political movement. It doesn’t matter what someone believes, it matters how they act and vote. If the movement is turning people away because of how its members treat women, it is losing opportunities to change society, because those women go somewhere else and join some other group and participate in that other groups agenda, even if it doesn’t completely correspond to their beliefs.

      • Robby

        Well said.

      • ZoomZoomDiva

        Disagreed. One’s beliefs are critical as they form the foundation of how one acts and votes.

    • I, of course, do not think that this is the only reason why women do not like libertarianism. I go on to say:

      Too many libertarians ignore those who cry out to them, “You’re not talking about issues that matter to me. You’re saying that the oppression I experience is somehow made up, but it’s not even something you can experience, so how do you know?”

      I think that also constitutes another big part of the problem. Libertarians shun what they see as “identity politics” and as such become terrible at dealing with issues of sexism (even acknowledging that it exists!). What is more basic of a political disagreement than “You are not talking about/do not agree with me about issues that matter to me?”

      I *do* think that, for many women, issues of societal oppression do matter to them. They, of course, do not only care about women’s issues, BUT, even if a group is 100% with you on everything else, if they completely trash these other things that are important to you—to your *life*—would you really stand with them? I think not. Addressing these issues is something we need to be better about. It will not recruit ALL THE WOMEN, but it will do a great deal to bring women who agree with us on all the other stuff into the fold. Who wants to join a group where they feel like their voice and concerns aren’t respected?

    • Marta

      Michael, this isn’t about being “nice” to women. It’s about being treated with dignity.

      After being disrespected and marginalized for centuries, many women do made decisions based on whether we get treated like human beings. For example, all the ex-Republican women who have not changed their economic beliefs, but are now independents or Democrats since this past election cycle many Republicans decided to be condescending assholes with regards to women’s health and reproductive rights. Or, another example from another marginalized group, the shortage of gay Republicans, even if their economic interests are better represented by that party.

  • imkatgrrl

    I think it’s because women are the “feeling” type in general, but not because that’s the opposite of thinking. It’s not that there’s a lack of logic but a preponderance of empathy. On average, women care about other people and care about social issues. A LOT. However, most card-carrying libs I know are hardlining assholes who say the government should never do anything to help anyone or who spout off about how it’s perfectly okay for states to outlaw abortion because it’s “states’ rights” (and I’m not saying whether I agree with that or not) – they say shit that turns women off in large numbers. I’m one of those women. I consider myself a socialist libertarian (yes, you heard me right). I support things like welfare, and not just because I’m a nice person. It’s because having a healthy society is the best for ME and MY goals. “Best interests” is not a zero-sum game. (But if we want to get real obvious here, think about how many single moms rely on the government programs that oh-so-many devout Libertarians are rabid about destroying. And the gender issue aside, Libs do a damn poor job about explaining HOW their ideas actually help people. Democrats do a much better job of it, so the Libs lose all those votes. Pretty simple.)

    • bob

      From what you’ve written, you do not seem to be any different from the average progressive. Can you provide us with some contrast that might allow someone to find your claim to libertarianism plausible?

      • Skip 1 & 2, go straight to 3. Efficient.

        • bob

          Condescending and pointless. Robert’s posting philosophy, in brief.

    • A Melon

      It’s very difficult to explain how libertarian ideas will help other people because frankly, they won’t help. People have very short time preferences and it’s easier to vote away other people’s money to get what you want than to work hard. It’s the path of least resistance.

    • States Rights is NOT a Libertarian concept. The biggest problem is how libertarianism is presented — as being anti-woman and anti-choice. In fact, Libertarianism and the LP are neither. It’s just a few misogynist loudmouths, including Ron Paul, that give people the wrong impression.

      • darthhayek

        Speak for yourself. I support states’ rights, and that’s not a codeword for racism. That means I support the right of California to have universal healthcare, the right of Texas to have armed guards in schools, and the right of Washington to legalize cannabis and gay marriage. If you support welfare, like imkatgrrl, then she ought to support it – in her state, as local as possible, with Washington only getting involved if absolutely necessary. That’s why I support states’ rights – it’s not a backdoor for oppressing women.

        • shesalive

          States’ rights is a constitutional concept, but doesn’t have anything to do with libertarian philosophy. It might be a practical best-case scenario to make decisions “more local’, and I think it’s useful for some current threats, but it also led me to question whether states are just. It’s important to understand why a person would say it’s not a libertarian concept. (i adore ron paul though)

    • Sean

      Socialist, sure. Libertarian not so much. You seem to be describing far right wing Republicans more than Libertarians. Libertarians don’t believe you shouldn’t help people. Quite the contrary. We simply don’t believe having the basis for society being coercive force will create a truly civil or just culture. Further, when the state creates various disincentives and distorts market mechanisms, it leads to a variety of cascading unintended consequences.

      • Hank

        Sean, you’re trying to explain libertarianism to a woman who’s entire worldview is formed by watching The View.

  • Hadokener

    And don’t leave out us “Feeling” libertarian men… I’m a male ENFP and find the personality-type determinism to be really annoying.

  • Rob_88

    A lot of talk about insults in this article. Something I like about libertarianism is that its honest. I don’t CARE if its insulting, just give me the god damn truth. The question of whether or not its insulting shouldn’t even be debated I think… at least nothing more than a side note.

    • Robby

      Honesty and civility are not mutually exclusive. A libertarian can and should be both honest and polite.

  • Patrick L

    It seems much more likely that women hear first arguments for libertarianism and reject them because they don’t conform to their general rational/emotive response that defines their moral makeup – and therefore political philosophy, rather than say a woman hear’s a libertarian ‘argument’ that is overly chauvinistic and choose to reject the rest of the philosophy at hand.

    Libertarianism is extremely masculine liberalism. This isn’t just the pop psychology of the MBTI either, Haidt’s ‘largest study ever on libertarian psychology’ showed that as well. Check out this site

    From the paper

    … libertarians score the lowest of any group on empathizing, and the highest on systemizing (also see Figures 3 and 4). In fact, libertarians are the only group that scored higher on systemizing than on empathizing. Given that these traits are known to differ between men and women, it is important to examine these effects in each sex separately. Table 3 shows that the same effects hold when looking only at men, and when looking only at women.

    Research by Baron-Cohen [62] has shown that relatively high systemizing and low empathizing scores are characteristic of the male brain, with very extreme scores indicating autism. We might say that liberals have the most “feminine” cognitive style, and libertarians have the most “masculine.” These effects hold even when men and women are examined separately, as can be seen in Table 3. Indeed, the “feminizing” of the Democratic party in the 1970s [63] may help explain why libertarians moved increasingly into the Republican party in the 1980s.”

    You can dismiss Haidt, but I think these are all pointing at something important that you’re choosing to ignore. There isn’t symmetry between men and women in patterns of prioritizing systemizing over empathy.

    • It’s interesting to me that people latch on to Haidt’s use of feminine and masculine as if he meant it to ascribe to male and female or men and women. He puts it in quotes precisely, I think, to discourage that notion.

    • This is a great article and I recommend anyone passing through this thread check it out.

  • Your argument is the more women are not libertarians because we stereotype them? That’s a stereotype. Reason doesn’t care about feelings. So if feelings are turning women away, then they are not using reason.

    • Hank


  • Skeptical Dan

    there are a few mean libertarians out there on the big bad web. But if you understand what the Fed is doing to the value of the
    dollar, what Obama’s re authorization of FISA and the Patriot Act means for
    your privacy, what Obama’s signing of NDAA means for Magna Carta, or actually
    examine how politicians and bureaucrats operate on a day to day basis,
    you’re in the libertarian camp. Libertarianism is about morality and truth, which is discovered through a rigorous study of logic and philosophy, it’s not a social club.

    The perceived differences between men and women are often due to cultural factors, which also can differ from generation to generation. Just like there are certain negative behaviors that modern men tend to adopt from the wider culture, the same can be said for modern women. It’s possible through corrective behavior for individuals to not fall into the stereotype, but in general stereotypes are valid because they’re based on the accumulation of real life experiences. A young woman who gets her social cues from the Kardashians is probably not the same girl who contemplates Austrian Economics and the Bill of Rights.

  • ivyfree

    So here we have an article that outlines some issues about women becoming libertarians, and suggests that libertarians ask women why, if they want to know.

    It’s interesting to read down the comments and see how soon the subject of women completely disappears from them.

  • Cathy Reisenwitz

    I posted a video response to Julie: http://youtu.be/a49r8iGdOJ0

  • “If you want to know why there aren’t more women libertarians, why not ask them?”

    I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t already thought of that by the time I read it.

  • Stone

    The best description of MBTI I’ve heard was that it’s, “horoscopes for intelligent people.”

    • I wouldn’t go quite that far. I like MBTI and it’s actually been really helpful for me in relating to people. It doesn’t, to my knowledge, have a basis in “hard” science, no, but I dislike people associating it with horoscopes because MBTI at least attempts to make specific descriptions based on observed phenomena.

      • It’s not an entirely accurate description no but it does sum it up nicely. The differences you note are why its “for intelligent people”

  • Amelia

    I agree. I’ve thought for a long time that a huge real that women to a large extent aren’t interested in the libertarian movement or at least don’t want to participate in it. Take the pretty large amount of negative feelings towards women and add on top of that the fact that you are prone to get friggin’ swamped by lonely guys if you take part in the social interaction, and it can become a very uncomfortable place to be.

    It’s also kind of like that “you don’t sound black” to black people who don’t speak Ebonics. They’re like “what an odd creature, why are you not behaving in the way that you and your kind are supposed to?”

  • Hank

    Gina, I think your post sets women back about 100 years. Inane anti-intellectual post-modern tripe at best. Perhaps it’s not that women are shallow and desperately seek to be a part of the popular red carpet socialist mentality–maybe it’s merely your problem. I have a mommy, thank you. I certainly don’t need another, especially someone suffering from a lack of intellect, understanding of human nature, comprehension of history, and an utter failure to grasp long-term perspective on real issues. Go have a few kids and mind your own business. Mind your own business–the foundation for libertarian thought. If you weren’t such an arrogant, authoritarian fool, you might understand.

    • >women are shallow and desperately seek to be part…

      What part of the post implied all of this? Can you please quote the line from the post?

      Let’s also avoid Ad Hominem attacks here and address the ideas, the ones that were actually stated mind you, as opposed to your assumptions about the people expressing them.

      I look forward to hearing back from you elaborating/clarifying your arguments and the chance to learn from a clearer view of your perspective. Have a great day!

  • Cam

    Bryan Caplan has a PhD from Princeton…who are you again?