What Is Liberalism? - Why Liberals Are More Intelligent than Conservatives

The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn't Always the Smart One - Satoshi Kanazawa 2012

What Is Liberalism?
Why Liberals Are More Intelligent than Conservatives

It is difficult to provide a precise definition of a whole school of political ideology like liberalism or conservatism. To make matters worse, what passes as liberalism or conservatism varies by place and time. The Liberal Democratic Party in the United Kingdom is middle-of-the-road, while the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan is conservative. Most “conservatives” in the UK and Europe are far more liberal than liberal Democrats in the US. The political philosophy which originally emerged as “liberalism” during the Enlightenment is now called “classic liberalism” or “libertarianism,” and represents the polar opposite of what is now called “liberalism” in the United States.1

In this book, as elsewhere in my work,2 I adopt the contemporary American definition of liberalism. I provisionally define liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) as the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others. In the modern political and economic context, this willingness usually translates into paying higher proportions of individual incomes in taxes toward the government and its social welfare programs. Liberals prefer higher taxes and income transfers to achieve equality of outcomes. While conservatives believe in equality of opportunities (egalitarianism) and are happy with inequality of outcomes (as long as there is equality of opportunities), liberals believe in equality of outcomes (equality) and prefer any means to achieve it.

Defined as such, liberalism is evolutionarily novel; our ancestors were not liberal in the contemporary American sense. Humans (like all other living species) are designed by evolution to be altruistic toward their genetic kin,3 their friends and allies with whom they engage in repeated social exchange,4 and members of their deme (a group of intermarrying individuals) or ethnic group.5 (Yes, it has been mathematically proven that humans are evolutionarily designed to be ethnocentric. The mathematical sociologist Joseph M. Whitmeyer has shown that any individual tendency to benefit those whom one might marry, or those whose children one's children might marry, or those whose grandchildren one's grandchildren might marry—in other words, favoritism toward members of an intermarrying group of people known as the deme or, in short, ethnocentrism—will be evolutionarily selected.6) But humans are not designed to be altruistic toward an indefinite number of complete strangers whom they are not likely ever to meet or exchange with. This is largely because our ancestors lived in a small band of about 150 genetically related individuals all their lives, and large cities and nations with thousands and millions of people are themselves evolutionarily novel.7

But how do we really know that our ancestors were not liberals? In order to make reasonable inferences about what values our ancestors might have held during the course of human evolution, I have relied on two sources. First, I have consulted the 10-volume compendium The Encyclopedia of World Cultures,8 which extensively describes all human cultures known to anthropology (more than 1,500) in great detail. Second, I have consulted five different extensive, monograph-length ethnographies of traditional (hunter-gatherer, pastoral, and horticultural) societies around the world.9 While contemporary hunter-gatherer societies are not exactly the same as our ancestors during the Pleistocene Epoch, they are the best analog that we have available for close examination, and are thus often used for the purpose of making inferences about our ancestral life.

These ethnographic sources make it clear that, while sharing of resources, especially food, with other members of their own tribe is quite common and often expected among hunter-gatherers, and while trade with neighboring tribes may have taken place,10 there is no evidence that people in contemporary hunter-gatherer bands freely share resources with members of other tribes. Because all members of a hunter-gatherer tribe are genetic kin (for men) or friends and allies for life (for women),[11] sharing of resources among them does not qualify as an expression of liberalism as defined above.

It may therefore be reasonable to infer from these ethnographic accounts that, while sharing of food and other resources with genetic kin may be part of universal human nature, sharing of the same resources with total strangers whom one has never met or is not likely ever to meet is not part of evolved human nature. The Intelligence Paradox would therefore predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to espouse liberal political ideology than less intelligent individuals.