Why Support the State?

I've been baffled for a long time as to why support for the State remains so high, despite its obvious inefficiency and waste, not to mention violence and oppression. Certainly this is a complex phenomenon, the individual causes of which cannot be easily disentangled. Ultimately, any State must enjoy support (or at least resigned acceptance) from a large portion of its population in order to exist. I wanted to know just what type of person supports the State, and why. I've developed a model that helps explain why such support exists, and it centers around the personality types outlined in the Myers-Briggs test, and its subsequent development by David Keirsey. Many will already be familiar with the Myers-Briggs test, as well as Keirsey's elaborations, which ultimately stem from Carl Jung's psychological research. (I should note that psychology is not my professional field--I have only observed many connections between personality theory and modern politics. Feedback is welcome.)

For those already familiar with the Myers-Briggs test and Keirsey's four Temperaments, please skip a few paragraphs. For those not as familiar, continue on. You may want to visit Keirsey's web site, and especially this page of his concerning the four Temperaments.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter/Myers-Briggs test sorts people into one of 16 different personality types, based on four separate components of one's innate behavioral preferences. Each component is a sliding scale between two poles, and most people have a preference for one type of behavior over its opposite. The four components of personality are:

  • ' (E) or (I) for Extroverted versus Introverted (Social interaction vs. solitary reflection)
  • ' (S) or (N) for Sensing versus iNtuitive (How one gathers information; detail oriented vs. 'big picture'


' (T) or (F) for Thinking versus Feeling (How one processes information; objective and impersonal vs.

subjective and interpersonal)

' (P) or (J) for Perceiving versus Judging (How one acts upon information; spontaneous and open-ended vs.

scheduled and goal-oriented)

Each of the 16 types has a unique four letter combination, (such as ENFP, for Extroverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving), but more importantly, Keirsey arranges the sixteen personality types into four superfamilies or Temperaments, and is a shortcut to quickly assess the core of someone's personality. Only two of the four letters of one's personality type are used, with everyone falling into one of the four Temperaments. Keirsey gives each of these two letter combinations a name from Plato's Republic. These types are: SJ 'Guardians'; SP 'Artisans'; NF 'Idealists'; and NT 'Rationals.'

Here is a brief summary of the four superfamiles (see also this page of Keirsey's for more):

SJ 'Guardians' are the pillars of society. They have a strong regard for tradition, custom, and established social structures. Guardians tend to trust authority, and show respect for those with titles, degrees, certifications, or other officially recognized credentials. To quote Keirsey, they are the ' 'Security Seeking Personality' -- trusting in legitimacy and hungering for membership.'

SP 'Artisans' are, as the name suggests, the artists, performers, craftsmen, and skilled workers of the world. According to Keirsey, they are the ' 'Sensation Seeking Personality' -- trusting in spontaneity and hungering for impact on others' Artisans live for the moment and are always looking for a new and better way to get what they want out of life.

NF 'Idealists' are typically engaged in some sort of teaching, counseling, or tutoring role. They are Keirsey's 'Identity Seeking Personality' and tend to be future-oriented, focusing on developing deep and profound relationships between people. Idealists can make good mediators and dispute settlers, and are also good advocates for whatever causes they are involved with.

NT 'Rationals' are the strategic organizers, inventors, scientists, and intellectuals of the world. Ever pragmatic, the Rationals are Keirsey's 'Knowledge Seeking Personality' and always demand that sense be made not only of their own behavior, but the world at large. Most Rationals are tough-minded, autonomous, and skeptical, preferring to test and probe most anything before believing in it.

In a perfect world, I believe each of the Temperaments would be equally likely to oppose the establishment of a State, albeit from four different angles. However, given that we were all born into a society where the State already exists, the situation is changed dramatically. Because of the pervasive influence of the State's propaganda virtually from infancy, I believe the State has extensively altered the normal development of most people's minds to lead them to believe in the rightness and necessity of the State, again from four different approaches. After generations of increasing State power, it has bent (or broken) the minds of most people to its own service and glorification.

Recall from above that Guardians are the glue that holds society together. Ironically, most Guardians today accelerate the decay of civilization. The interference of the State has turned most Guardians into the State's supporters, and clearly a large portion of blame for today's sorry state of affairs lies with them. This is not to say that Guardians are inherently statist, but that they are more likely in today's world to not only accept the State, but to unquestioningly support it. Certainly there exist Guardians who are anarchists, but I believe them to be quite rare (the editor of this website is himself is an anarchist Guardian). Much as one doesn't usually stray far from the religious system one is born into, one does not usually stray far from the political system one is born into. I believe most anarchist Guardians probably had some major influences in their lives which steered them away from the State and its constant barrage of propaganda. Regardless of their particular disposition, Guardians can exert social pressure on others to conform to their belief systems. Therefore, Guardians' impact reaches beyond their numbers, for better or worse.

Artisans' opposition to the State can come largely from objection to its interference in our lives. On principle, most Artisans vehemently oppose anybody dictating to them how they are to run their lives. I suspect most Artisans simply try to ignore the State as much as possible, but are likely to participate in it halfheartedly out of a sense of obligation due to social pressures, State indoctrination, etc. An exception lies where the tool or machine an Artisan has talent in is not an inanimate object, but people. Bill Clinton is the perfect example an Artisan who fits this profile, although his tool is groups of people rather than individuals. It is just as conceivable that other Artisans would use their skills to resist the State. A great example is Louis Armstrong- in particular, he often played and sang Fats Wallers' 'Black and Blue' as a protest against institutionalized racism in the United States .

Idealists could be expected to oppose the State based on its moral incorrectness as well as the oppression that it causes. However, State inference again rears its ugly head. Many Idealists today can be found involved in causes associated with the liberal left, such as social and economic justice movements, environmentalism, antiglobalization, etc. Paradoxically, these groups typically seek to lobby the State to fix problems the State probably caused itself. An environmentalist once showed up at my door soliciting donations to augment the New York State Superfund, and to lobby the State Legislature to pass certain bills. Upon questioning him whom he thought was the biggest polluter of all, he readily gave the correct answer--the State. Nevertheless, he still couldn't see the folly of lobbying the State to fix problems it caused itself! Such is the power of the State's propaganda! Still there do exist some antistatist Idealists. Consider Mohandas Ghandi, who fought heroically against the British State . On the other hand, Mikhail Gorbachev is also an Idealist, who rose to the pinnacle of State power in the Soviet Union .

One might suspect that the analytical Rationals would be uniformly opposed to the State based on its sheer illogic, but again, when State interference is taken into account, the opposite effect can be observed. While it is true that Rationals are at least skeptical, if not blatantly distrustful of authority, I believe that due to State interference, the thinking skills of many Rationals have been crippled to encompass only their chosen field of study. No doubt this is due to the public education most of us receive, as well as the ridiculous multiculturalism rampant in universities. In my own life, I have found many Rationals to be expert scientists (I am a research chemist myself and an INTJ Rational), but most are sorely lacking when it comes to applying their critical thinking skills outside their field. Furthermore, I believe that because of the poor schooling most of us receive in the humanities, many Rationals fall victim to the State's propaganda machine, and become statists themselves. These people are easily among the most evil on earth. Actively statist Rationals are typically the 'intellectual bodyguard' that seeks to justify the State, or worse yet, its agents who mastermind and engineer its programs. Francis Fukuyama is an example of the former, while John Poindexter is an example of the latter. On the other hand, one can identify such antistatist Rationals as Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and indeed most of the Austrian economists.

Now that I've showed how the State can pervert each of the four Temperaments' minds to its own ends, taking a look at the proportions of the four Temperaments in society can be cause for despair. Guardians make up 40-45% of the population; Artisans 35-40%, Idealists 8-10%, and Rationals 5-7%. These proportions, in conjunction with each type's likely attitudes towards the State, create a clearer picture of why there is so much blind patriotism and support for the State. An overwhelming majority of the population is either likely to be strongly in favor of the State (Guardians and Idealists) or at least grudgingly tolerant of it (Artisans). Even more dismaying is that many of those who should be the best hope for promoting liberty in the face of statism (Rationals) have either been intellectually hobbled and blinded to the folly of the State, or have become its most powerful advocates and operatives.

The power of the State as an overt and covert influence in the minds of its citizens is not to be underestimated. Over generations, the increasing power of the State has led most people to engage in the worst kind of Orwellian doublethink, becoming tremendously successful in manufacturing support for itself. No matter what one's personality type may be, there is always a way to rationalize the State. It seems that its many tentacles have crept into every facet of life, allowing everyone their own particular justification for its existence. Every State needs the support and participation of its people to survive. The entrenchment of State power is a direct reflection of how firm the average person's belief in the State's right to exist is. At this late hour, it is more difficult than ever to be an effective advocate for liberty while fending off the continuous onslaught of State propaganda. It troubles me greatly to see the path our society is on, and where it is likely heading.

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Tony Sampognaro's picture
Columns on STR: 4

Tony Sampognaro is a medicinal chemist and student of economics. He lives in Connecticut with his family and two dachshunds.