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Psychological Projection in Politics

March 13, 2012 - 10:41pm
Nick Coons by Nick Coons


Psychological projection is a defense mechanism where a person denies his own thoughts and emotions, subconsciously, and then ascribes those to others. This is extremely common when people discuss political theories or policy. It happens among statists to some degree who have opposing views of how to coercively structure society, but in large part it happens when statists are arguing against libertarianism.

I'll give a statist-on-statist example, and then move on to the statist projections on to libertarianism.

A modern liberal may claim that conservatives don't care about the poor because they oppose the welfare state. But the welfare state does nothing to help the plight of the poor as empirically evidenced. Statistically, those identifying themselves as "conservative" give a greater portion of their income to charity than those identifying themselves as "liberal." The only way to truly help the poor, if you claim that helping a poor is a virtue that you value, is to do something about it yourself. Supporting the welfare state is the opposite of doing something about it, it's forcing others to do something about it, which has proven ineffective over the last half-century. Liberals are projecting their dislike for the poor onto the conservative opponents.

But this happens much more when statists are arguing against libertarianism, because a stateless society is much more a target of defense mechanisms than simply statists arguing about the details of policy. The claim above that liberals make about conservatives is also made about libertarians. Additionally, statists claim that the view of a stateless society is all well and good in theory, but it only works if everyone in society is good and can be trusted to act morally. Statists also claim that practical ideas put forth by libertarians to replace the state are overly simplistic.

Let's look at the first projection; that a stateless society only works if everyone is good.

Violence and corruption comes from power disparities. The greater the difference in power between two people, the greater the violence and corruption that will occur. An island with two people, one weak and one strong, will have a higher likelihood of resulting in the strong abusing the weak than an island with two equally-matched people. The negative effects of such a power disparity are tempered by the moral character of those involved. So this doesn't mean that two unevenly matched people will always lead to violence, it simply means that statistically the chances are greater. And when you don't have two people on an island but instead 300 million people in a country or 7 billion people on a planet, these statistical conclusions become virtual absolutes.

When you have a state, essentially what you have is a group of people with overwhelming power over another group of people. This power disparity over such a large group of people means inevitable violence and corruption, tempered by the prevailing moral character of the population, but violence and corruption nonetheless. A stateless society means not allocating a group of people to have overwhelming power over another group of people. Given a statist society and a stateless society whose population's moral characters are the same, a stateless society must lead to less violence and corruption.

Certainly this takes a bit of analysis to reach, so one may argue that this isn't projection as much as it is simply a lack of knowledge. But this hypothesis can be easily dispelled by simply informing the statist and seeing if they change their position.

Libertarian ideas to replace the state with private firms are far too simplistic; this one is quite perplexing.

People look at our ideas and say that putting trust in the market (which is a result of understanding economic forces and human nature) is far too simplistic. Of course, the ideas aren't simplistic at as they take a huge amount of work. Replacing every one of the government agencies "necessary services" is building a business plan from scratch in an industry that in most cases has never been done in the private sector. This is anything but simple. On the other hand, what is the statist's solution? Give a small group of people guns and they'll use their power for good.

There are no doubt countless other flawed concepts that statists project onto us. Keep that in mind next time you hear someone saying "libertarianism won't work because..."

Related Content:

When Lies and Misinformation Become More Important then Truth - Jim Iannuzo
Why We Shouldn't Abandon Our Principles - Kimberly Ruff
That May Be, But You're Still Wrong - Kimberly Ruff

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