Psychologist Steven Pinker Thinks Libertarianism Won’t Work Because “People Like Social Spending”

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

Steven Pinker, the author of new book Enlightenment Now, starred in a video by Big Think on Wednesday titled “Why libertarianism is a marginal idea and not a universal value.”


Within the video, he details why “the number of libertarian paradises in the world—that is developed states with no substantial social spending—is zero.”

His explanation is as such: humanity has come together to declare a set of values, and those are more or less better quality of life is good. Seems pretty straightforward, and the average reader will agree.

It is why we are decimating global poverty. It is why we have had a universal declaration of human rights. It is also why modern developed countries have high rates of social spending.

The values that modern humanity has come to accept are what created this new world of an “altruistic government” around us. Pinker is right in what he says, yet what he seems to be implying, and what can easily be taken from this, is wrong.

Towards the end of the video, he states, “People like social spending despite their protestations, even in libertarian America.”

Yes, this is true. There is popular support for social spending. What he seems to be saying, though, is that because this spending stems from the values we are all sharing, this is a good thing. That is what anyone could easily take away from the video. They get up from their desk thinking “huh, the welfare state sits within my values” after watching that video, but the sad fact of the matter is that only the surface is ever touched.

While people like social spending, they shouldn’t. Just because they do, it doesn’t mean they ought to. And when I say social spending, I do not mean philanthropy from billionaires and people who want to lend a helping hand. Rather, I mean the government stealing from one and giving to another.

The social security program is a massive Ponzi scheme where young people are taxed to pay in, unknowingly destined to get nothing out. The welfare state has destroyed family bonds and other social systems, and allow people to move past any altruistic inclinations  because they can easily say “the government has it taken care of, why should I help people.” FDR’s 1930’s policies that Pinker mentioned did nothing but prolong the most economically tumultuous period in American history.

Steven Pinker has some interesting insights. Libertarian values are not widely accepted. He is right. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be, for the alternative is much worse.

1 thought on “Psychologist Steven Pinker Thinks Libertarianism Won’t Work Because “People Like Social Spending””

  1. A few minutes at the Libertarian International Organization site shows that Pinker is a liar just making things up. He has just discredited himself for good.

    It’s shocking that Big Think publishes such bigotry. Substitute ‘Jew’ for ‘Libertarian’ and you see how this plays with the pro-libertarian cultural community. This is up there with that academic claiming libertarians are autistic.

    Libertarians are for voluntary social programs, which is very different from being ‘against social spending.’ And there’re plenty of stage 1 libertarian countries (freer market democracies) thanks to libertarian work in every nation. In 2017 they completed their stage-2 model in Florida and are only just now disseminating it as a goal.

    There’re elements of stage-3 in self-sustaining co-housing and eco-villages. Pinker thinks these don’t exist, apparently.

    The main libertarian project culturally is spread of scientific method in all fields ‘Voluntary eco-tools, all fields’ as they say, in a freer-market democratic milieu. Is Pinker against that?

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