Political Orientation and Heredity

There's an interesting paper discussed a bit in the blogosphere that is basically twin studies done on political positions. Politics: complex; must be environmental, right? Wrong. It's heritable, about as much as most other traits. Best discussion I've seen on the web is not the NYTimes piece, which was pretty ignorant, but this one:
The authors do not argue that genetics makes one a Republican or Democrat. Indeed, people like me who are Libertarian with Republican leanings may not fit at all into the study if such were the assertion. Rather, they base the study on the notion that certain character traits are to some extent inherited. Character traits such as openness in turn are translated into social attitudes. These social attitudes are then transformed, to some extent, into political attitudes and later into political behavior. The genetic component, they predict, should be an important factor but certainly not the only one or even the most important one.
Well, it's quite important for at least some traits, i.e., American's position on school prayer.

Not really that new or unexpected if you keep up with what modern science is discovering about heredity. One of the reasons I love Sailer is he keeps up with this stuff religiously so I don't have to.

The wisest remark I've seen on this thus far: the Derb:
The subtext here is the assertion of determinism -- that what we are, WHAT I AM, is not as much a product of my free will as I should prefer to think it is. All the science on human nature is tugging in that direction, the determinist direction; all our instincts and preferences and faith tug in the other direction.

Science will win, of course -- it always does. We shall find out that our cherished beliefs about the Self are largely illusions, and we shall come to terms with that somehow -- but we'll protest every inch of the way there.

Science is cold.

I thought of that paper when I saw an item on a new libertarian blog, hosted by the Catallarchy guys. One of the liberty belles ("Lea") is taking up the old chestnut, why are there so few libertarian women?

I posted briefly there, and thought I would expand a bit here. My theory is by no means a total explanation, but partial. It's very simple: libertarianism is an ideology that appeals primarily to high IQ people. As Larry Summers won't tell you openly any more, there are more high-IQ men than women. This is a result of higher variability in the normal distributions of male IQ as versus female. More stupid men, more smart men. As a logical consequence, we should expect a disproportion in the number of libertarian men vs women.

The size of the imbalance depends on several things: the difference in average IQs for men and women (if any), the difference in the standard deviation of these two populations, and the correlation between IQ and libertarianism. From observation, I'd guess the ratio of male:female libertarians is something like 4:1.

Here's some more predictions from this theory. First, there should be relatively few libertarians. Imagine a simple model where everyone above a certain IQ has a N% chance to be a libertarian, while everyone below the cutoff has none. To get a 4:1 difference in men:women with two bell curves that are very similar, we'll need to go out a standard deviation or so. But this means the total number of people who might possibly be libertarians is only ~15% of the population. If we imagine N to be perhaps 20% we get a pretty good estimate of the number of libertarians as registered in opinion polling and voting.

Next: we should expect to see disproportionately many Jews in the movement. (See the previous post.) We should expect to see very few black or hispanic libertarians until those populations close the IQ gap.

Finally, and back to the paper mentioned at the beginning, we should expect that libertarianism is quite heritable. A great example of that is the great Friedman line: Milton, David, and now Patri.

What if I'm right? Well, here's one consequence: engaging in majoritarian politics is largely a waste of time for us. We'll never get more than perfect saturation of those able to grasp the ideas, say, 15% or so. At least until we engineer humanity to all be higher-IQ. The only hope here is intentional concentration, ala the Free State Project.

Second, we need to focus efforts to recruit that 15%: high IQ people. Right now I'd say the left still dominates there (look at the universities), but there's no reason why we can't fight for that demographic and win it. As socialism continues to fail, as it will, and capitalism keeps rolling, we'll see continued success in converting people.


Anonymous said...

I responded on my own blog



Sunni Maravillosa said...

Interesting hypotheses on libertarianism and intelligence ... not sure that I agree completely though. Seems more likely to me that personality type has a lot to do with one's willingness to accept the tenets of the freedom philosophy -- and since the majority of people fall into the Guardian and Artisan types, it isn't surprising we've an uphill climb. Rationals, the type most likely to embrace libertarianism, are estimated to comprise only 5% of the population ...

Not saying this explains everything, of course; just that things other than intelligence go into an individuals' openness to the freedom philosophy.

Leonard said...

Sunni, I agree that personality does seem to influence politics. As I said, my explanation is not an attempt at a total explanation.

I would raise two concerns about personality. First, that it may well be correlated with IQ. That is, maybe INTJs (or however you characterize personality) tend to high IQs. In which case, according to my theory anyway, they'll trend libertarian. Determining causation will be difficult.

Second, personality is not well characterized. I certainly think there is something there when talking about introversion and extroversion and many other aspects of personality, but there is nothing like an IQ test. (Even IQ shows some variability over different tests, and over time.) Without being able to measure personality, we're stuck in a unscientific limbo where we're pretty sure it's important but we can't really prove anything.

Sunni Maravillosa said...

"... but there is nothing like an IQ test. (Even IQ shows some variability over different tests, and over time.) Without being able to measure personality, we're stuck in a unscientific limbo where we're pretty sure it's important but we can't really prove anything."

Actually, there are many tests that attempt to measure personality in some way ... the Rorschach test, that purports to measure unconscious motivations/fears; Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, that attempts to measure certain tendencies in a specific context; Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Indicator, that probes for signs of psychopathology; the 16PF, that categorizes individuals across 16 personality factors and is used in a wide variety of contexts -- well, I could go on, but you get the point. Some of these are much more scientific than others.

It would be very interesting to try to tease out how much intelligence and personality contribute to one's political views. I know many very intelligent individuals who seem to be totally apolitical, and others who could be characterized as unable to conceive of a functioning society without nation-states.