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March 1992
Dear Carol:

I just read with interest Travis Hardin's "Wisdom of the West" for February on Thinking, Feeling, and the Myers-Briggs. I took the Myere-Briggs personality profile last summer and  found  it most interesting. I  too questioned some of the interpretations, but very much enjoyed reading about them in Please Understand Me. Please Understand Me gives the percentage of the population as a whole that falls into each of 16 personality types. I am curious whether anyone has any information regarding the distribution of the Myere-Briggs personality types among Mensans. In other words, does personality type have anything to do with intelligence, or vice versa?

I have heard of studies which indicate that certain physical characteristics, including being left-handed, having allergies and being near-sighted, are much more common among Mensans and others of "high 1Q" than they are among the population as a whole. So I now wonder if there is any evidence which suggests that certain personality types are more common among Mensans. I had wondered about this when I took the test last summer, and Travis Hardin's column has caused me to ponder this question once again. I would be most interested to know if anyone has any information on this subject.

Thanks to anyone who can supply information on this subject.
Jennifer Williams Carter, Easton, MD

W.O.W. March 1992

by Travis Hardin

(Conservatism is the first of four related essays. The others, in order, will be Pseudo-conservatism, Liberalism, and Pseudo-liberalism. For contrast I express the polar views. Most people appear elsewhere on the continuum. "Conservatism" as used here refers to a world view, not an attitude toward waste.)

For clarity, let's not wade through the muck of history in this short space. Let's freeze a few frames of later twentieth-century conservatism (that which I have directly experienced), and examine them for a current definition.

Republicans "believe the free enterprise system offers more freedom than big government They believe in families, communities, and a higher being," summarizes columnist and commentator David Gergen.1

Respected 1950's conservative thinker Russell Kirk, in his first of Six Canons of Conservative Thought, is eloquent on Gergen's last point in asserting the "...belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead."

Kirk continues to affirm the conservative/Republican identity with the other canons: (2) Affection for traditional life; (3) A "conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes;" (4) Belief that property and freedom are inseparable; (5) Faith in prescription, the need for man to "put a control upon his will and his appetite;" and (6) "Recognition that change and reform are not identical, and that innovation is a devouring conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress."

Cataloging opponents, Kirk says that scientific doctrines, Darwinism chief among them, "have done so much to undermine the first principles of a conservative order."

Kirk summarizes, The essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral tradition of humanity. Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors." 2

The reader may wish to sample Republican party leader George Bush's philosophy of conservatism, which I summarize from his nomination acceptance speech of August 18, 1988.
The individual is central in Mr. Bush's philosophy. Radiating out of that is the family, which transmits culture and religious faith. Communities, then states and countries radiate out in order. Power must be kept close to the individual, close to the hand that raises the family and raises the children.

A strong defense and "economic growth that touches, finally, all Americans" was central to Mr. Bush in 1988. (Emphasis added.) If "finally" suggests crumbs from the table, it is not surprising to a hip young conservative I interviewed. "Money seems to be very close to the heart of most conservatives," he said.

Analysis. In this essay I attempt to analyze conservatism in a neutral light, saving its unsavory companions for the "Pseudo-" essay. To analyze something requires critical and uncoerced thought inside a logical structure. I confess I use feeling with a rational logical structure and speak the liberal tongue. In the liberal tongue the most revealing question after looking at the beliefs above seems to be, "Does there exist a "true" conservative belief, arguable to a reasonable person, free of exclusiveness, fears, and mystic imaginings?

I find few beliefs that qualify: Conservatives tend to preserve history and approve of human existence into the future. (Question for another time: Which humans?) Conservatives approve of present existence, if a docile one: "It is commonly sufficient for practical purposes if conservatives, without saying anything, just sit and think, or even if they merely sit" 3

The most neutral I can be toward Russell Kirk's first conservative principle, divine purpose, is to point out that belief in the supernatural is primitive. The primitive conservative God is paternal, threatening, and speaks His blood-lust through stern men. The liberal God has matured beyond vengefulness.

Does reverence for family attempt to disguise paternal tyranny, and the fact that the family is where the psychological burdens of parents are shifted to the backs of the next generation? The hand that raises the children also beats them, unseen. The family is more profane than holy.

Standing in this century we are illuminated by the fires of atrocities, yes, but also by the recent geometric brightening of shared human knowledge. If we flip the cards of history back far enough through withering and blossoming civilizations, we reasonably come to a time when our ancestors were savage. The ancient moral tradition and wisdom of our ancestors would have centered, I think, on whether or not to bite a hairy fellow to make him drop a rabbit. Humanity has progressed despite conservatives, and I don't see how less-informed ancestors can reveal the complex answers for our unprecedented time. Nor does it feel free to me to be commanded in life by the dead.

An externally prescribed life has no dignity.

The individual is deemed most important who is most firmly enfranchised.

In conservatism, where is a system of ideas that corresponds to reality and elevates? Conservatism at its best is possessive. At its average it is lethargic. At its extreme it is pathological-and that will be next month's subject.

1   David Gergen on "America's Political Parties-The Republicans: Before and After Reagan," PBS broadcast 10/18/88
2 Russell Kirk, "The Conservative Mind," 1953
3 F.J.C. Hearnshaw, quoted jocosely by Kirk