FEB 10

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10: FEB 10


In-class content

  • Libertarianism as a moral and political theory

Libertarianism as a moral and political theory

  • Libertarianism in Six Minutes (notes)
  • Historical look: Libertarianism comes out of radical emancipatory politics.
  • 17th century resistance to oppressive conditions. “Rent seekers”. Payne.
  • Similar to socialism and capitalism, a view about what is fair.
  • "Libertarianism originated as a form of left-wing politics such as anti-authoritarian and anti-state socialists like anarchists,[6] especially social anarchists,[7] but more generally libertarian communists/Marxists and libertarian socialists." (from wiki).
  • US libertarianism closer to free market capitalism vs. European, which is more socialist. (Note: Political ideas can take multiple forms in relation to conservative/liberal.)
  • Assumption of natural harmony among productive people with liberty of contract. Laws limited to protection and protection of natural rights. (Non-aggressive principle). No regulation of market. Low social spending - people are responsible for themselves and their families. Taxes are presumed to be coercive and confiscatory.
  • Conservative libertarian theorist, Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia: "Night watchman" state. (Not so close to anarchy, except consistent with strong sense of public order.)
  • Problems identified in Thought Monkey Youtube:
  • No libertarian candidates on the national stage in two party state.
  • No successful libertarian states. No one's tried.
  • Monopolies, poverty. (We have extraordinarily high inequality right now.)
  • Doesn’t solve conflicts bt “Rentier” and propertyless.
  • No guarantee that you won’t “bleed out in the street” for lack of healthcare.
  • Non-aggression principle unlikely in free market. Markets can be quite aggressive. Putting people out of their homes. Eviction.
  • Assumes increase in wealth produces increase in happiness (Easterlin paradox)
  • Environmental concerns require collective action.
  • Summing up:
  • (US conservative) Libertarianism: fundamental concern with human freedom understood as avoidance of coercion; minimal state; some morals legislation - often anti-abortion; no redistribution of income or wealth. Strong concern with equality of liberty and avoidance of oppression, understood as forced labor.
  • Basic intuition: Taxation (beyond minimal state functions) is a form of forced labor. Only legitimate for a narrow range of goals that we mutually benefit from, such as defense.
  • (US Liberal) Libertarianism: Also focused on freedom, especially regarding respect for identity differences and private behaviors (favors decriminalization/legalization of drugs), but retains some of the original left-wing concerns of socialism. ::*Liberal Libertarianism has a more material interpretation of rights.
  • Are you really free if you are living on the street? A conservative lib: Maybe, yes. A liberal lib: No!
  • Are you really free if you are discriminated against?
  • To be fair, conservative libertarians have responses to these challenges: Charity, persuasion, voluntary methods.

Small Group Discussion

  • Whether you are liberal or conservative, do you place liberty and avoidance of coercion very high on your list of "really important values"? Or, could a case be made that it's the wrong "starting point"? Would "collectivism" be a more promising beginning? How optimistic are you that a moral/political culture focused on liberty and freedom can resolve the problems associated with it?

Hibbing, Ch 6, Different Slates

  • Introductory stuff
  • Story of Phineas Gage -- 1848 -- early example of biology and personality change.
  • Oliver Sachs work.
  • 149: lobotomies.
  • 149: Lots of brain diffs are correlated to non-pathological conditions as well. (mention reading and face recognition)
  • 150: Some Parkinson's drugs can trigger behavioral changes like addictions and gambling.
  • Could some brain diffs correlate with political orientation?
  • I Feel it in my Gut
  • Psychophysiology - the idea that we experience the world partly through our physiology. -- emotions as "action dispositions" -- we also trigger each other (escalation: story about ac and brother in law).
  • 151: physiology of anger (it’s getting you ready to fight or flee), stress (digress on cortisol), polygraph - example of measuring autonomic functions. Mention "negative partisanship" here.
  • 151: how emotional states are instantiated in neural and physiological activity.
  • CNS - central nervous system (head and spine) ANS - Autonomic Nervous system. Within ANS - SNS (sympathetic) "fight or flight" and PNS (parasympathetic) "rest and digest" activation reduces heart rate, sends blood to the gut.
  • 153: from Hibbing's lab: patterns of activation are pretty stable. Some people are agitated by dark rooms and loud noises. Same years later.
  • Politics on and in the Brain (two studies)
  • Kanai and Rees MRI study -- looking at ACC (anterior cingulate cortex) and amygdala of test subject in an MRI. ACC activated by tasks involving error detection and conflict resolution -- results on 156: found correlation between liberalism and size of ACC. Bigger. However, as for the amygdala (which is involved in face recog and emotion regulation), conservatives have bigger amygdalas (156: more active in face recognition and threat detection (also C5) . (Mention history of mask wearing and conservatism.)
  • Note these correlations increase by degree of partisanship.

  • Note connection to BeanFest.
  • 157: caution in reading these results. Still, you can predict political orientation from brain differences.
  • Amodio 2007: Specific brain wave amplitude diff that varied by pol. orientation. Basically, liberals have strong ACC activity spikes in response to error detection in the go/no go task.
  • Back to Kain and Rees research: bigger amygdalas of conservatives help with (or effect of?) face recognition. Threat detection. (Fits with the attentional studies of Chap 5). (Try to find some empathy for conservatives who don't like masks!)
  • Politics Makes Me Sweat
  • EDA studies -- electrodermal activity -- skin conductivity, especially as it varies with sweat. Simple way of measuring SNS activity. SNS activity also triggers focused attention. Largely unconscious (study).
  • Study from Hibbing in 2008 (161): EDA activity correlated to policy positions on "socially protective policies" (those involving a threat). "People more physiologically responsive to threat stimuli (images) were more likely to support policies aimed at reducing or addressing threats to the social status quo" 161. The more conservative the more sweat.
  • 2nd Hibbing lab study: Known that conservatives have strong triggers for disgust/impurity. Sexual issues in politics, for example, not taxes. Note sig: not a general skin response to policies you favor, only a cluster. (We will be covering this in Haidt soon.) 162: more on disgust -- nature's way of helping us avoid things (but not perfect).
  • EDA disgust studies line up with fart spray studies. Morality and smell are connected.
  • Hibbing EDA study 163: disaggregate data and its the sex-issues driving the SNS response.
  • EDA studies have shown increase activity around inter-racial interactions. Note: resisting preferential race policy needn't be racist, could be based on strong value on equal treatment. But it could be racist. Very hard to tell the diff in surveys since open racism isn't cool.
  • Practical issue: studies showing unconscious response to group affiliation. SNS activates in presence of politically relevant out-groups. It could be that conservative vs. liberal racists are having different physiological reactions to out groups.
  • French study on response to out-groups. 165 Verbal reports non-racist, but EDA showed activation for non-white image. (Our bodies can betray us.) (Unconscious racism? At least unconscious activation of potential threat.)
  • Emory study 165 - application bias study. Test subjects with higher SNS activation show greater preference for white applicants.
  • In Your Face Politics
  • Studies assessing our ability to determine political orientation from faces (not including hair or dress!). Proxies for this judgement could include "emotional expressivity" (168), which Liberals score higher on in "Berkeley Expressivity Questionaire".
  • Your face is communicating, pretty much all the time..... "the visual Twitter accounts of our nervous system"167 Not just communicating emotion, but group membership.
  • Looking for physiological markers of facial signaling or pol. orientation. Drawing on Berkeley Expressivity Questionnaire (validated instrument correlating expressivity and liberalism). (Note that this fact pattern would explain ability to recognize group affiliation.)
  • Hibbing study involving the facial muscle corrugator supercilii" (the eybrow furrowing muscle). Females of all pol. orientations more expressive than males. Liberal males about as expressive as females. (Apologies to macho liberal guys!) Conservative males were distinctive for lack of emotional expressivity.

Small Group Discussion on Physio-politics / Neuropolitics

  • Practical Problem: How should physio-politics affect our conversation practices in moral and political discussion and experience? What are the lessons? What values should we adopt?
  • If "physio-politics" is real, then we're all having somewhat different physiological reactions to news, issues, and each other.
  • If the "social epistemology" hypothesis from Haidt is true, then we are "smarter together" and we need to make use of our differences.

Practical advice for better political and moral discussion in light of physio-politics

  • List goes here
  • 1. Model exploratory thought. (How do you do that, specifically?)
  • 2. Avoid escalation of physiological responses. (How do you do that, specifically?)
  • Acknowledge insight across the spectrum.
  • Cultivate diverse relationships if possible.
  • Avoid perjorative lables.
  • Views can chage even if orientations don't.
  • Accept difference that won't change, focus on pragmatics and cooperation.
  • Humor, if possible. Self-effacing first.
  • Acknowledge physio-politics in the discussion.
  • Don't "sugar coat" differences. (Be true to yourself.)