Do conservatives and libertarians think empirically?

Well there are some very lively and thoughtful responses here! I’ll try to come at your question and its broader context from a slightly different angle:

1. Nearly all statements by people in discussions are learned, adopted, repeated and post-rationalized. Original thinking is extremely rare. Further, most adopted concepts and rationale are a consequence of emotional convictions grounded in values transmitted by our parent culture, then focused by the groupthink of whatever tribal loyalties we have developed over time. There are exceptions to this - outliers who reject the status quo within which they are embedded - but even those outliers eventually “find their tribe” somewhere else, and commit emotionally to that tribe’s ideological frame. This is simply what most humans do over time - regardless of our political orientation or how committed we may be to being independent thinkers.

2. Self-espoused empiricism is often a thinly veiled form of scientism or hyper-rationalism - a sort of irrational faith in the comforting order of logic and reductionism that excludes an extraordinary scope of exceptions - sometimes because of bias, but more often due to an inability to grasp the relevance of information outside of a comfortably narrow (i.e. too exclusionary) context. Sometimes this is an understandable consequence of overspecialization, and sometimes this is due to innate limitations of intelligence, communication style or learning style. Here I have indeed noticed that objectivists, neoliberals and anarcho-capitalists seem to trend more towards the Asperger’s end of the spectrum, while progressives, environmentalists and egalitarian socialists seem to trend toward the felt-reality end of the spectrum. Among both groups, we find those who see “common sense” as a temporary collective construct, akin to mob rule, that cannot be trusted; and we also find those who believe it is an intuitively obvious, widely shared and deeply felt conviction. The difference being the methods by which each has arrived at those conclusions - conclusions whose formulations are again heavily influenced by point #1.

3. There is bell curve for general intelligence, and it is probably distributed equally across the entire spectrum of political ideologies. Keeping in mind that G is only one kind of intelligence (and probably not even the most important kind to human survival IMO), this means that only 2–3% of those who espouse a given ideology actually understand that ideology in a deep or multidimensional way. Among that 2–3%, an even narrower slice have the emotional intelligence, sophistication of language, breadth of exposure to competing ideas, and moral sophistication to transcend their own biases. Then, of that extremely rare group of people, I would bet that less than half of them have real-world experience with actual praxis. And of that final experienced group, perhaps 10% have any interest in participating in social media discussions in their areas of knowledge - and even then only sporadically. So we’re likely only talking about something like, I dunno, .001% of folks in a given moment across all media? That’s something like 3,258 people in the entire U.S., divided up into representative ideological chunks. And how many of those do you suppose spend time on Quora…or specifically when you happen to be participating in a given conversation? The odds are fairly small, I think, that you will get a real cream-of-the-crop exchange here at any time.

4. As others have pointed out, there are many gradations of conservatism and libertarianism - all across the spectrum. Neoliberal or neoconservative? Anarcho-capitalist or libertarian socialist? And I think there is also a growing population outside of those traditional delineations. Suppose someone says they are fiscally conservative, socially progressive, believe in smaller government but also in regulated markets, aren’t a fan of bloated entitlements, but feel that social safety nets should be a given in the developed world, don’t generally approve of war but think Putin’s ego should be constrained even if it takes military action…? What does that person get to call their political ideology? I think such people are more common than we might realize…especially young people just beginning to engage in political activities. Perhaps we need a label-free environment devoid of ideological entrenchment for more productive conversations about today’s most pressing issues?

With these fragments of thought in mind, I think it would be very difficult to induce generalizations about groups of people, or the ideologies they purport to represent, on Quora - and even more difficult to have constructive conversations about complex ideas in this medium. For the most part, we are all just talking to ourselves here. But there is value in that of course.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question:


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