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Myers-Briggs Personalities and the Peaceful, Voluntary World
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[Editor’s Note” The following is by TDV Editor, Gary Gibson]
All the world can be divided into 16 personality types, which fit into four distinct groups, at least according to the stunningly useful Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is a psychometric (literally “soul measurement”) questionnaire that measures how people perceive the world and make decisions. It is based on the work of Carl Jung, who theorized that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world: sensation and intuition, feeling and thinking. Mother-daughter team Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed the MBTI personality inventory based on Jung's work.
Myers-Briggs is a very handy way to categorize personalities and I strongly encourage you to read up more on the theory since this article will only look at the theory very narrowly. Here we use the MBTI to explore why so many people hate liberty and love the state monopoly on violence while so very, very few are prone to be Objectivists, libertarians or individualist anarchists who appreciate the morality and benefits of peace and freedom. Stay tuned because there will be a test at the end to see where you fit in.
Some MTBI basics: There are four categories, each with two binary options, resulting in 16 possible basic personality type combinations. A stew of genetic and prenatal factors go into shaping people into one of these types. And these types appear to be as like other unalterable, genetically and prenatally determined traits such as height, race, handedness or sexual preference. A person can act like another of the types, but they can never become another type.
The four pairs are Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Perceiving/Judging. Very briefly, extraverts get their energy from interaction while introverts recharge while being alone; sensing gains information from experiencing the world, while intuition builds theories against which to test the world; thinking makes decisions based on reason, while feeling makes decisions based on empathy. (It shouldn't surprise you that the majority of women are feeling, while the majority of men are thinking.) Judging essentially likes to have matters settled, while perceiving is open to lots of possibilities. (Again, understand that we're really just hitting the high points here and I encourage you to do some further reading after you finish reading this.)
Out of these handful of pairings comes 16 combinations that are almost eerie in the ability to describe human personalities. Does this mean there are only 16 types of people in the world? In a broad sense, yes, like there are only a handful of racial groups in the world. Some people find that automatically off-putting. Surely this theory has already revealed itself as flawed if it tries to herd humanity in all its billions upon billions of iterations into just 16 personality types, but just like our bodies have settled into a grouping of fairly distinct races with continua of sub-races therein, so have our minds and personalities.
I suspect most people who reject these (very astute) groupings do so because they think MBTI tries to define impossible-to-predict elements like taste in ice cream or music or whether you like animals or people with accents. That isn't what MBTI does at all. The Indicator merely explains about how each individual gains energy, gathers and processes information and their preferred process for making decisions, not about all the idiosyncrasies of tastes and experience that amount to the unique individual. Let's take a look...
The combination of these four binary categories yields 16 personality types which can be grouped into four major categories based on combinations of two letters: ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTP, ESFP, ISTP, ISFP, ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ, INFP, ENTJ, ENTP, INTJ, and INTP. An in-depth examination of each type is beyond the scope of this article, so we'll be dealing with these 16 types in the more general four group. So in case you went cross-eyed looking at that string of four-letter combinations, fear not! We'll gather them in the established groups now to make sense of them. In particular we'll be looking at how belonging to a group tends to shape one's political and philosophical leanings. The groups have even been labeled to help make them easier to understand:
The SJ/Sensing Judgment or “Guardian” group (as much as 53% of the US population):
- ESTJ ("Supervisor")
- ESFJ ("Provider")
- ISTJ ("Inspector")
- ISFJ ("Protector")
The SP/Sensing Perception or “Idealist” group:
- ESTP ("Promoter")
- ESFP ("Composer")
- ISTP ("Crafter")
- ISFP ("Performer")
The NF/Intuitive Feeling or “Artisan” group:
- ENFJ ("Mentor")
- ENFP ("Champion")
- INFJ ("Counselor")
- INFP ("Healer")
The NT/Intuitive Thinking or “Rational” group:
- ENTJ ("Field Marshal")
- ENTP ("Inventor")
- INTJ ("Mastermind")
- INTP ("Architect")
Again, a very brief generalization to help you understand the groups:
Guardians: SJ seek security
Idealists: NF seek identity
Artisans: SP seek sensation
Rationals: NT seek knowledge
If you give it a moment's reflection, you realize quickly that the individualist types who tend to fill the ranks of those who mistrust or hate collectivism and the state, must tend to be the intuitive thinkers of the world. They are the NT (iNtuitive Thinking) group which is not surprisingly known as the "Rationals". These are the people who won't let emotion cloud logic and who can also naturally build the sort of theoretical concepts that don't come as easily to the sensing types. Rationals are by nature individualistic and unconventional thinkers who are more comfortable in the world of ideas (and far, far more likely to subscribe to financial newsletters like this and get rich as the statist world trudges on its pre-ordained road to Hell). This group contains: Architects (INTP), Inventors (ENTP), Field Marshals (ENTJ), and Masterminds (INTJ). Interestingly, most libertarian types seem to come specifically from the last group, the Masterminds; the Intuitive Thinker whose other traits are Introversion and Judgment. (Note that the author usually tests as INTP and really fits that group's description and still manages to be thoroughly voluntaryist. Ayn Rand, on the other hand: INTJ. Einstein, by the way: a Rational! Specifically an INTP, which is irksome to this INTP author as Einstein was comfortable as a statist. Just goes to show again that being a Rational is no guarantee of being an anarchist; it just increases your chances.)
Interestingly, Intuitive Feelers or NF group (as opposed to the Intuitive Thinkers) are also more comfortable with ideas, but also prone to "altruism" and to worrying about the suffering of the group. They are known as The Idealists and this group is composed of these four types: The Teachers (ENFJ), The Counselors (INFJ), The Champions (ENFP), and The Healers (INFP), all the types of people you'd expect to vote Democrat or socialist! Together they are known as The Idealists and it's from this group that the bleeding heart "world improvers" are drawn. Now these traits are fine in an individual and the world certainly needs the hands-on compassionate people that this group produces, but the world is also still a politicized place (i.e. run by collectivized violence) and these types quite naturally turn to the available power of the state to force the world into a more "caring" place at the point of a gun, creating the sort of economic distortions that more rational types try in vain to warn them about.
Just because one belongs to the Rational group, however, doesn't mean one doesn't have empathy. It just means that one's reason will usually trump one's empathy and not lead one down the blind alley of collectivized welfar violence. While those in the rational NT group use their intuition to construct theories based on their ability to think and reason (iNtuitive Thinking), those in the empathic NF (iNtuitive Feeling) group will use their intuition to construct theories that consider everyone's happiness (iNtuitive Feeling). This is why so many in the freedom movement come from the NT group while the NF group produces nanny statists, social democrats, and various flavors of communists. Generally, no matter how smart an NF is otherwise – even in something as empirical as mathematics – you will not be able to convince them of anything based on an economic argument if it goes against an empathic grain. They will put the perceived needs of others ahead of economic and physical reality.
And if you're wondering which of these groups is mostly voting Republican, then look no further than the Guardians (Sensing Judgment). The four types in this group are: The Inspectors (ISTJ), The Protectors (ISFJ), The Providers (ESFJ), and The Supervisors (ESTJ). These are the people with a strong sense of duty who seek security, trust authority and respect and preserve institutions. From these ranks come the administrators, priests, bureaucrats, middle managers, family people with traditional values, church-goers, soldiers and police. These are the people most likely to support a strong and smoothly functioning state at the cost of trivialities like personal privacy or liberty. In other words these people are ready-made fascists. And according to what research has been done, this “Guardian” group makes up most of the US population. They likely form a similar slight majority around the world. Think about all the small-minded traditionalists and bigots making up the majority of villages, towns and suburban neighborhoods and you'll see how this could be true. At best they may be conservatives in the paleo sense, but are most ready to jump into neocon uniform at the first false flag event.
Again, we speak here in tendencies. You can find natural artists chaffing in the position of chain drugstore manager. You can find a natural soldier or athlete trying to fit in with a bunch of counterculture hipsters in order to get access to certain types of young woman. Types do not change, but a person can seem to change depending on the needs of the environment. Imagine someone immersed in another language or culture. They'll adapt to the immediate needs of their environment and possibly come to some level of adaptation if forced to use a new language. But their fallback and automatic preference given the chance is still their native language. Another example is a sighted person forced to maneuver in a pitch-black room. Given some time they'll come increasingly to be able to map out their surroundings based on touch; forced to live in darkness long enough and their ability to maneuver by touch may rival that as that of someone who has been blind from birth—but then reintroduced to their usual lighted conditions, they'll automatically revert to their old method of getting around by means of sight.
In the US, an estimated 39 to 53% of people are from the Guardian group. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the Idealist world-improvers are almost as rare as the eminently logical Rationals. Somewhere between 13 and 21% of people in the US are in the Idealist group versus the slightly rarer 9 to 19% of Rationals. I don't know about you, but I would have thought the Idealists were almost as common as the Guardians. This just goes to show, however, that it's dangerous to expect full correlation between political affiliation and Myers-Briggs Personality Type, although this could be an indication that among those who identify as socialist or Democrat, there are actually many whose show of care for the collective's well being only disguises their true desire to regiment and control. Or it could be that the Artisans who make up between 17 and 29% of the US population round out the socialist/Democratic vote.
So given these ratios of the personality types, is there hope for a world of peaceful anarchy free of the coercion of the state? Now we have to turn to the concept of frequency selection. That is, some traits work (increase survival fitness) in a certain relative frequency to other traits in the same species. If for example, there are genes that tend to make one lazy and thieving as opposed to productive, creative and honest, then natural selection will tend to produce a population in which most people have the productive, honest tendency...But then there will be a niche for the lazy and thieving to fill and exploit. If the lazy, thieving type became too common, they would overwhelm the host productive population on which they feed, so natural selection would tend toward some equilibrium where there are some but not too many naturally lazy folks. It helps to think of the genes as predator and prey competing in the ecosystem of animal and plant populations. Don't think of the species. Think of the genes that create those species as being successful and reproducing, or failing to do so and dying out.
There aren't really objectively "better" traits; there are only traits that increase the odds of genetic reproduction given environmental conditions, conditions which include differing traits of those in the same species! In effect, the world certainly benefits from having the various groups with their different strengths and weaknesses. But that just makes us wonder: Which ratio of these traits provides the fertile ground for market anarchism or voluntaryism to flourish? Because while being a Rational is far away from any guarantee that one will be a philosophically consistent peaceful type (i.e. a voluntary society anarchist), the Rationals are the group from which libertarians, voluntaryists, and market anarchists seem most likely to be drawn. Again, it's probably because of the Rational capacity to construct theoretical models and think things through to their logical conclusions without the emotional interference that clouds the thinking of most world-improvers. While your typical Idealist may get bogged down worrying about what will happen to the poor without the welfare state, the Rational can puzzle out that there would be a lot less poverty without the state to begin with.
The Guardians meanwhile are happy with "good enough to have kept us alive so far" and are more likely to defend the status quo no matter how immoral or unworkable that quo is in the long run. The Guardians who make up the bulk of society don't generally care to think these things through at all. Their natural concern is with smooth function based on what's proven to work well enough before. They may even lump the anti-state types from the Rational group in with the same addled fantasizers and bleeding hearts in the Idealist group. And the world needs that, apparently, because that trait naturally occurs frequently as far as we can tell. (Now here is a disturbing twist on the idea of frequency selection: What if the frequency of the Guardian type isn't nature's handiwork, but that of the human farmers known as monarchs and politicians? A question to explore another time, perhaps...)
The world needs its administrators and myrmidons, the ants that see to the continued functioning of the colony. Maybe nature has just, er, naturally decided that those who would shake things up with their theoretical models should be kept to a minimum ratio. Or maybe the kings and politicians have been selectively breeding these types of people (using tax subsidies in the modern world) in order to make it easier to maintain their control of the masses. Guardians make fantastic herd animals.
The thing is, any of these types can exist happily in a state-free world. But most of these types will naturally resist the change in thinking that must happen en masse in order for a state-free world to become a reality. This is not to say a state-free world can't ever happen, but this does remind us that humanity has proven that it is willing to discard brutality and violence only grudgingly. Most of civilized history has seen human beings casually accept chattel slavery as perfectly fine and most humans still see wars as just, the beating of children as morally correct and government as a “necessary” evil which is actually capable of net positive good! Still, it is likely the Rational group that will act as the vanguard in dragging humanity into the light of reason and the universality of the non-aggression principle.
Now here's your chance to see where you fit in. You can take the test here. Once you're done, however, we would really appreciate if if you chimed in on the coments page of this article to let us know which personality type you are. Post your results there. We have a bet around the office that more than 80% of you will test as part of the Rational NT group, and that more than half of that number will be INTJ in particular like many other liberty-loving people. And if you don't fall within the Rational group, don't worry. That just means that those in the other groups can be made to see reason, too...and that a peaceful world really is possible.
Oh, and if you happen to fit in the NT group (a high probability)...and the NT group wins the TDV poll...then you may very seriously want to consider moving to Galt's Gulch, Chile, for the sake of your own happiness and sanity.
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