The Statist “Virtue” of Inconsistency

Libertarians think a certain way. For example, we rely a lot on systematic logic.

I’ve got bad news…

Non-libertarians don’t care as much as you do about consistency, and they’re not going to buy your logic.

It’s normal to assume that the truths we know are obvious. When others don’t see it, we expect we can make the truth obvious by explaining it.

But if we’re truly listening, we discover that others are not only disagreeing with our conclusions, but they’re also processing information quite differently.

The Libertarian Mind

The libertarian is very good at “systematizing.” We tend to possess both an ability and a need to be logically and morally consistent. Libertarians are apt to loathe hypocrisy and sloppy thinking.

When we spend significant time talking to progressives, populists, and conservatives we libertarians find that moral and intellectual consistency tends to matter to us far more than it does to the followers of these other ideologies.

There can be no doubt: People resist logic all the time. If you cannot recognize that your “airtight” logic is indeed quite “resistable,” you’ve missed a principle: We’re all unique human beings with our own wills and values. Therefore…

  • Being logical and consistent isn’t an important value to everyone.
  • The listening, libertarian logician finds out that what he or she thinks is an “open and shut case,” simply isn’t.

Inconsistency is a Statist Virtue

The best way to embrace a contradiction is to convert it into a virtue. It may even be the case that the purpose of an ideology is to justify inconsistencies and (otherwise) unethical behaviors.

In my experience, there are at least five types of people who actively embrace inconsistency…

  1. The Realist thinks he or she is more astute than you. “The world isn’t a simple place” they declare. The Realist maintains that your quest for consistency is simplistic.
  2. The Moderate observes that there are more than two sides to every argument. They often say things like, “Each side makes good points.” This group believes more in experts. Logic is very secondary. And you cannot possibly be more expert than the experts on everything.
  3. The Tough One is willing to make the hard calls. If you want to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs. Conservatism views toughness itself as a virtue. But progressives are not wallflowers. They believe that class, race, and gender privilege exists so rich white males must see their eggs cracked to make the progressive’s socially harmonious omelet.
  4. The Partisan simply wants to defeat the other side. There’s been a burst of research on political tribalism in recent years. It’s ugly and disturbing. Seeing the other side despair is a tribalist’s primary goal. One study demonstrates that the pleasure centers of the brain light up when a spokesperson for their partisan team tells a “winning lie.”
  5. The Fatalist has their own “golden rule,” Do it to them before they do it to us. It’s eat or be eaten, and the libertarian approach is too naive or Utopian. “Let the other side lay down arms first, then maybe I’ll consider your way,” says the fatalist.

These types are not mutually exclusive — people can be a mix of these things.

And let’s be clear: Not every libertarian places a high priority on consistency. Likewise, not every conservative or progressive is okay with hypocrisy and sloppy, ad hoc thinking. Indeed, I was raised as a conservative and was true to it. Hypocrisy was the behavior of “leading conservatives.” It created an intellectual crisis for me, thus beginning my move to libertarianism.

Socrates the Salesman

The logical argument can be persuasive. But I suspect that it must be preceded by a crisis. And that could be the distress that comes from watching leaders of your ideological team act like hypocrites. Therefore, a sales professional might suggest the following formula to precede using libertarian logic…


First, you evoke a problem where you know you possess the solution. Opening that wound causes anguish in the prospect — remind them of the hypocrisy, in this case. Then, you pour salt in that wound to make the pain so acute that it must be dealt with quickly. Don’t let the hypocrites off the hook. Finally, you offer the soothing salve. Your solution will make the distress go away.

In psychology, there is a term for the emotional distress that accompanies intellectual inconsistency. It’s called cognitive dissonance. People will resist the notion they’re wrong. Many will even rage at you (which could be a sign that it’s working). But the goal is to offer a solution that will result in cognitive harmony, even intellectual confidence. And that, dear libertarian, is where your logic may finally find a welcome response.

Show Comments 9



  2. Aren’t libertarians realistic as in truthful? I think so. So why say that the realist is more astute than us? “Arrogant” may be a better name for them.

    1. Post
      1. Understood, but the same thing bothered me.
        I suggest putting scare quote marks on “Realist”, as you did on “Virtue”

      2. The Realist’s problem is his ( or her) perception of reality. Reality to some is what separates us, but as you yourself pointed out in https://www.zeroaggressionproject.org/principles/does-the-golden-rule-have-flaws/, we really have this in common. You pointed this out to us, and when C. S. Lewis describes his list of cross-culture virtues in The Abolition of Man,it does not just appear in the Judeo-Christian lists..(Illustrations of the Tao , the appendix of The Abolition of Man) Lewis admits his list is not exhaustive, but the variety of sources he quotes is a broad section of world wide views.

  3. The Realist: I understand you (your argument) but I don’t trust it. It doesn’t feel right to me. When you have your feelings why bother with logic? Feelings are automatic and easy so I use them to make decisions.
    Me: Do you know where your feelings come from?
    Realist: What? Feelings are feelings! Can’t you just accept that they exist? Must you analyze everything? Life is too complex for that. You are oversimplifying.
    Me: That’s exactly what I was going to say to you.

    The Moderate: I can’t refute your logic but it doesn’t go far enough, e.g., experts disagree with you. Since you are not an expert, I’ll trust them.
    Me. This the fallacy by appeal to authority. It’s not logical.
    Moderate: There you go again. (I dismiss you as not an expert.)

    The Tough One: I’m willing to do or support what might appear to be too violent, too extreme, a little immoral because I’m practical.
    Me: That’s what all authoritarians say, right up until they are no longer on top, then they kill themselves. Is suicide practical, or is it refusal to admit that violence is impractical?

    The Partisan: You’re not one of us so you wouldn’t understand. Subtext: (Join us, don’t think, just follow, and see what I mean.)
    Me: You can choose to think for yourself, or follow the crowd, the majority, and worship the superstition called democracy. But know this: thinking is individualistic. There is no “group wisdom”. The “collective mind” concept is a delusion. Delusions are dangerous, anti-life. Wake up and live.

    The Fatalist: It’s kill or be killed. I am willing to admit it, are you?
    Me: That concept denies our common means of survival, our mind. When we combine our efforts we do better together than alone. We multiply our productivity exponentially. That explains why the less enslaved societies (freer societies) produce more wealth. Are you willing to look at history and admit this is what it shows? War impoverishes all. Self-respect leads to respect for others as expressed in freedom which provides affluence. It’s proven by history and it’s logical.

  4. Esperanto has a word, “samideano” (member of the same idea). Once you find a group where you are among samideanoj (the plural), you can act as a effective “cloud”, getting things done together, helping each other complete partly baked projects. The first big trick is finding your samideanaro (group of like thinkers).

    I’m a member of several different samideanaroj (groups of — you get the idea) on different topics.
    I’m happy to say that this is one of them.

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