Notes On Libertarian Moral Values

References: Excerpts taken from

Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians

Citation: Iyer R, Koleva S, Graham J, Ditto P, Haidt J (2012) Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians. PLoS ONE 7(8): e42366.

As I study Jonathon Haight’s works on moral/ethical values I came across the above 2012 research article on how libertarians self-identify their beliefs and values. Libertarians score differently that both liberals and conservatives on beliefs about morals and ethics.
Haight reports that studies show that liberals care very much about harm and fairness, whereas libertarians do not. Libertarians care very much about oppression versus freedom, whereas this is not much of an issue for liberals. And both liberals and libertarians differ from conservatives, who weigh every moral foundation equally. Conservatives value divinity ethic , for example, whereas divinity ethic is not very important to either liberals or libertarians.

So the three groups see fundamental issues of human values and life in somewhat different ways. Well, markedly different fashions actually. In the below sections quotations from the referenced paper are shown in alternating colored backgrounds. My comments are in this larger text.

My purpose is to report on what they said about libertarian moral values in order to better understand why libertarians do not seem to communicate their ideas effectively with others such as leftists, conservatives,liberals, and other groups, or why members of those groups fail to understand a libertarian world view.

Now, let us ask, what do Libertarians say about themselves? Here are some excerpts and conclusions from the study about how libertarians describe themselves.

Study 1: Describing Libertarian Morality

If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.
– Ayn Rand

Our first prediction was that, compared to liberals and conservatives, the morality of libertarians would be characterized by strong endorsement of individual liberty at the expense of other moral considerations. We addressed this question by examining several measures designed to give a broad overview of a person’s values and morals, in particular the Moral Foundations Questionnaire [41], and the Schwartz Value Scale [42], as well as a new measure of endorsement of liberty as a moral principle, introduced here (see Appendix S1). For convergent validity, we also examined several other scales commonly used to measure moral orientations.


The first five rows of Table 2 show d scores indicating how libertarians differed from liberals and conservatives on the MFQ (also see Figure 1).

Libertarians were similar to conservatives on the fairness foundation, as both groups scored substantially lower than liberals.

However, like liberals, libertarians scored substantially lower on the ingroup, authority, and purity foundations compared to conservatives.

Finally, libertarians scored slightly lower than conservatives and substantially lower than liberals on the harm foundation.

Convergent results were found using the Moral Foundations Sacredness Scale, which measures endorsement of foundations using a willingness to make tradeoffs.

My Comments: Please Note: I am not sure how willingness to make tradeoffs affects any of this.


Our results suggest why libertarians do not feel fully at home in either of the major American political parties.

Consistent with our prediction, libertarians were relatively low on all five foundations.

Libertarians share with liberals, a distaste for the morality of ingroup, authority, and purity, characteristic of social conservatives, particularly those on the religious right [43].

Like liberals, libertarians can be said to have a two-foundation morality, prioritizing harm and fairness above the other three foundations.

But libertarians share with conservatives their moderate scores on these two foundations. They are therefore likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.

Libertarianism is clearly not just a point on the liberal-conservative continuum; libertarians have a unique pattern of moral concerns, with relatively low reliance on all five foundations.

My Comments: This has been my own observation – DISGUST expressed at victims. Other groups seem not to feel the same way, or at least to varying degrees.

Lifestyle and Economic/Government Liberty

In the original conception of Moral Foundations Theory, concerns about liberty (or autonomy or freedom) were not measured. But as we began to collect data on libertarians and to hear objections from libertarians that their core value was not well represented, we created questions related to liberty in the style of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. We generated 11 items about several forms of liberty (see Appendix S1) and collected responses from 3,732 participants (2,105 men; 2,181 liberals, 573 conservatives, and 525 libertarians). Principal component analysis using varimax rotation indicated two clear factors (Eigenvalues of 3.40 and 1.48; next highest was .74). Six items loaded greater than .60 on the first factor, which represented concerns about economic/government liberty (e.g., “People who are successful in business have a right to enjoy their wealth as they see fit”).

My Comments: Please Note: Libertarians do not seem to know most other people do not share this attitude.

Three items loaded greater than .60 on the second factor, which can be interpreted as a “lifestyle liberty” factor (e.g., “Everyone should be free to do as they choose, as long as they don’t infringe upon the equal freedom of others.”).

My Comments: Please Note: I personally, as a conservative, reject the above belief on freedom. It is *NOT* the rule Christians are supposed to follow, for example. It is a secular value.

We created two subscales from these items (Cronbach’s alpha for economic/government liberty was .81; for lifestyle liberty, .60; the correlation between factors was .27).


Table 2 shows that libertarians scored highest on both kinds of liberty (also see Figure 1). On economic/government liberty, liberals were the outliers, scoring below the midpoint of the scale, two full standard deviations below libertarians (d = 2.56). On lifestyle liberty, libertarians scored substantially higher than both liberals (d = .81), and conservatives (d = 1.19).


Libertarians are not unconcerned about all aspects of morality, as suggested by their scores on the MFQ and several other widely used morality scales. Rather, consistent with their self-descriptions, they care about liberty. Like conservatives, they endorse a world in which people are left alone to enjoy the fruits of their own labor, free from government interference. They also exceed both liberals and conservatives (but are closer to liberals) in endorsing personal or lifestyle liberty.

Study 2 Summary: How Do Libertarians Think and Feel?

My comments: Note: I am going to skip this study and perhaps report about it separately.
The next study, study 3, is more interesting in terms of objective results.

Study 3 Summary: How Do Libertarians Relate to Others?

As predicted, libertarians in our sample appeared to be strongly individualistic. Compared to liberals and conservatives, they report feeling a weaker sense of connection to their family members, romantic partners, friends, communities, and nations, as well as to humanity at large. While liberals exhibit a horizontal collectivistic orientation and conservatives a vertical collectivistic orientation, libertarians exhibit neither type of collectivism, instead displaying a distinctly individualistic orientation. This relative preference for individualism may have been moralized [10] into the value orientation found in Study 1.

Libertarians’ weaker social interconnectedness is consistent with the idea that they have weaker moral intuitions concerning obligations to and dependence on others (e.g. Moral Foundation Questionnaire scores). If “moral thinking is for social doing” [33], then libertarians lack of social connection naturally means that they have less use for moral thinking. Their distaste for submitting to the needs and desires of others helps explain why libertarians have very different ways of relating to groups, consistent with their lower endorsement of values related to altruism, conformity, and tradition in Study 1, providing convergent evidence for the idea that moral judgment is tightly related to social functioning.

Conclusions (to Study 3)

While not all libertarians endorse the views of Ayn Rand, our findings can be summarized by the three quotations we have presented from her work. We began Study 1 with Rand’s exhortation to reject “the morality of altruism,” and we showed that libertarians do indeed reject this morality, as well as all other moralities based on ideas of obligation to other people, groups, traditions, and authorities. Libertarians scored relatively high on just one moral concern: liberty. The libertarian pattern of response was found to be empirically distinct from the responses of liberals and conservatives, both in our cluster analysis of participants and in our principal components analysis of measures. We found strong support for our first prediction: Libertarians will value liberty more strongly and consistently than liberals or conservatives, at the expense of other moral concerns.

We introduced Study 2 with Rand’s claim that Western culture can only be reborn when it can be founded on “a rational ethics.” Consistent with Rand’s writing and psychological research concerning the intuitive origins of moral reasoning [8], we found that libertarians were indeed less emotional (less disgust sensitivity, empathic concern, and neuroticism) than liberals and conservatives. This lack of emotional reactivity may underlie an indifference towards common moral norms, and an attraction to an ideology where these moral codes are absent, libertarianism. The only emotional reaction on which libertarians were not lowest was reactance – the angry reaction to infringements upon one’s autonomy – for which libertarians scored higher than both liberals and conservatives. This disposition toward reactance may lead to the moralization of liberty and an attraction to an ideology that exalts liberty above other moral principles – namely, libertarianism.

We also found that libertarians showed a strong preference for and enjoyment of reasoning (higher on utilitarianism, need for cognition, systemizing, and a greater likelihood of answering correctly on the cognitive reflection task). We think it is worth repeating that libertarians were the only one of our three groups for which systemizing scores were higher, in absolute terms, than their empathizing scores, suggesting that libertarians are the only group that may be psychologically prepared for the Randian revolution of “rational ethics.” Thus, we found strong support for our second prediction: Libertarians will rely upon emotion less – and reason more – than will either liberals or conservatives.

We introduced Study 3 with Rand’s condemnation of love that is not based on a strong sense of self. We found that libertarians do indeed have a strong sense of self and the self’s prerogatives, and a correspondingly lower sense of attachment to others. They exhibit a high degree individualism, a low degree collectivism, and generally report feeling less bonding with others, less loving for others, and less feelings of a sense of common identity with others. Libertarians have a lower degree of the broad social connection that typifies liberals as well as a lower degree of the tight social connections that typify conservatives. These social preferences were related to their moral attitudes suggesting that libertarians have less functional use for moral concerns. We found strong support for out third prediction: Libertarians will be more individualistic and less collectivist compared to both liberals and conservatives.


In Minnesota half the libertarians are athiests who constantly oppose Christian legislators and republican candidates. I don’t know about elsewhere around the country. But this is a form of populism in Minnesota.

Atheist Libertarians are not conservatives and they are anti-Christian. They don’t “shrug”. What they do is defeat conservatives in elections and guarantee marxists on the left side of the democrats get elected. They are a very strong faction in Minnesota. They gave us “marriage – equity” as a state supported institution. They support anything that is against Christian ideas or morals, all the while demanding “you have to be pure”. (Is that morality right there?)

Their core belief : LIBERTY === NO GOD.

Not all Libertarians are atheists. But they glom with them because they don’t understand that


I have been trying to figure out these folks for years:

From Aug 26, 2013:

Jason Lewis is bloviating nonsense again tonight, and he is both right and wrong. He is right about the english common law teaches the foundations of civilization – do what you say you will do (ie, perform on your contracts) and do no harm to others. IE, the golden rule. He is wrong that that is secular – because it is actually Christian. It doesnt exist in many other countries. He is also wrong in his contention it is enough. He went into moral teachings – saying that obligations to fellow humans do not exist, and the government and other institutions are propagating a false sense of moral obligation. He attacked Christianity. What he ignores is the founders (James Madison) taught that humans have a moral obligation (duty) to God (as citizens) , and that God can give them an obligation to their fellow man. His secular religion denies this latter, or at least fails to understand it. The attack on Christianity was particularly obnoxious.

From Aug 28, 2013:

Someone told me tonight that Jason Lewis is the one who started the importation of Ayn Rand into the world of the right wing extremist movement. Can that be true? A left wing fanatic (author of Atlas Shrugged) is the guru and goddess of the libertarian movement? And it’s Jason’s fault? Previously she was not an icon of the movement? I don’t know. Only in Minnesota. Its something in the glaciated water.

It’s called HOPE

Physicist John Polkinehorne writes about how the human mind, what we call the soul, is a hypercomplex machine that exists in higher level dimensions but which is linked to the three dimensional physical universe, i.e., our chemical based brains, and the two co-evolved (or were co-engineered to work together) by the creator.
This is a quantum computing phenomena that is beyond what physics can measure and thus is non-deterministic the same way that all quantum events are non-deterministic.

It is a metaphysical belief that is supported (inferred) by physical evidence. But we cannot measure it any more than we can measure the location of an electron.

Naturalists have no place in their metaphysical reality for such concepts.

But the soul is congruent with Christian beliefs. Not with naturalist’s beliefs.

Naturalists (and atheists) live in a soul-less universe where people are just an illusion produced by chemical reactions.

Chemical reactions can have no rights. Naturalism is dangerous to people’s rights. That is the political result of the American left. They have no basis for rights because humans are just illusions to them.

One way to understand the bankrupt socialist left is to read Francis Schaeffer.

Does Ayn Rand really rule the MNGOP?

Red doesnt mean libertarian. Libertarians wont save America.

But on The Patriot (AM 1280) Minnesota libertarians preach that if you are opposed to “The Left” you are libertarian. And America is embracing the libertarian world view. This is based on a false dichotomy.

Jonathon Haight goes to great detail in his book to describe why libertarians have a completely different moral value system than do conservatives. They don’t even recognize conservatives are different than themselves. They think they are conservatives.

What the Am 1500 libertarian preacher said today is if you reject the left you are libertarian. I say, “No. Simply wrong. And naive as can be”.

The founding fathers made it very clear they thought America came to be because of Providence. In other words, God, and God’s provision for the human race. They viewed America as founded on the principles of Christianity.

Jefferson based Virginia laws on the Bible. On the Old Testament.

You are not going to hear that from libertarians or their high priestess Ayn Rand.

What you will hear instead is THE GREAT SILENCE about America’s foundational principles.

Religious freedom is one of the very first principles that gets short-sheeted when libertarians discuss values and world view. But religious freedom is fundamental to the gospel. As any bible believing person knows.

Bible believing people also know that freedom is derived from issues of conscience. And issues of conscience derive from God given religious freedom. This is why libertarian values sound hollow like a drum when they go on and on about “freedom versus oppression.”

The bible tells us that freedom to do whatever you want isn’t freedom at all – instead it is slavery. Slavery to sin and rebellion against God. Which leads to death, both earthly ephemeral and eternal.
How oppressive is that?

That is not in anybody’s “self interest”. Ayn Rand writes prolifically about “rational self interest”, but death ephemeral and death eternal is not in anybody’s rational self interest. In fact, it is completely irrational. And that is the true Achille’s heel of libertarianism.

The MN GOP needs to get a lot smarter about such things. And they need to start discussing world views and the beliefs of the founding fathers. Start with Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Bills 82-86.

Why I am not a libertarian.

Reason #11727

9 Years ago I wrote the following:

What is a right? A right is a demand that one man makes upon another man who owes him a duty. This idea of rights did not exist in Greek culture. Neither did it exist in Roman culture. It came from Christianity after the Gregorian reform in 1075. Renaissance humanist culture argued against it.”

Then I heard libertarian theorist Jason Lewis preach that no human being owes any moral obligation to any other human being. That is a core tenet of libertarianism. Jason eventually became my local member of the Congress.

It was because of Jason’s belief that I began to reject Libertarianism because Libertarianism is obviously anti-conservative and also anti-inalienable rights. It is the opposite world view of Christianity just like Marxism and socialism are the opposite of Christianity. Libertarianism is the opposite of the teaching of James Madison.

This explains why it is that when a conservative quotes the founding fathers of America that libertarians become violently upset. Their upset was always a mystery to me. But it makes sense.

Libertarians are actually moral nihilists. They are devoid of any meaning or any values except narcissicism. This explains why their political movement focuses on being against others but never lists what they are for. They preach purity and purity tests. But purity only makes sense if you have a value to measure things against. And the only value Libertarians have is self interest, ie, narcissicism.
So they demand everyone must be purely self interested. That is the purity they value. They detest all else.

This is why they worship Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand said her philosophy is based on rational self interest. But that’s just fancy window dressing on self interest. In the end it is not rational to call for morals and rights and simultaneously deny any such thing even exists.

Reason #11728

Commensurate with the above I now realize Francis Schaeffer describes libertarian philosophy.

In Francis Schaeffer’s book The God Who is There Schaeffer describes the fundamental shift in the definition of truth that has led the modern world to despair. He describes the Line of Despair.
Libertarianism is a philosophy that falls below the line of despair. It is an anti-philosophy.

Cannot tell you what they are for?

Below the line of despair philosophies, e.g., anti-philosophies, can be experienced, but they cannot be communicated. They are a bit like an LSD trip. This is another reason why libertarians cannot describe what they are for. It is something that cannot really be described so another human can understand. To ask what they are for is a nonsense question. They do have a word for it. they call it freedom. Or liberty. But their liberty does not mean what a conservative means when she says the word liberty.