The Rational Personality

Less than six percent of all men and women are rational personalities. They speak of what is seen by the mind’s eye. Pleasing others and obeying rules is secondary to determining whether intended means will work in achieving their ends. Their thought and speech go from general to specific. Rationals enjoy puns, paradoxes, and word play. They abhor repeated errors, especially their own. Concerned with events, they lose track of time. Ingenuity, autonomy, and resolve govern their self-image.

Rationals keep their emotions in check, are closet romantics, value reason and logic, are goal driven, pursue knowledge relentlessly, relish chances to explain their achievements, and aspire to predict and control events, understanding and explaining their contexts. They are mind-mates as spouses, individuators as parents, and visionaries as leaders.

Notable examples are: Napoleon, Grant, Sherman, Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Einstein, Schrödinger, Tesla, Howard Hughes, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Kant, Dewey, Twain, Shakespeare, and William F. Buckley, Jr., and in fiction: Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty, and Spock.

Rarely will you meet anyone that fits this description. However, they are found as leaders in government or the military, scientists in laboratories and universities, engineers in industry and startups, philosophers, authors, and renown fictional characters.

This is one of the personalities that is especially important for writers to recognize and portray. David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me is a useful reference for writers who want to fully flesh out their characters.

Keirsey says Hippocrates and Galen observed that there are four personality types. Later scientists refined their observations by identifying four distinctions within each type.

Keirsey defines the rational personality as abstract in their word use and utilitarian in their tool use. They speak about imaginative, conceptual, or inferential things. Their conversation appears unemotional and avoids the irrelevant, trivial, and redundant.

Rationals fall into four subcategories, each containing one to two percent of the population. Two are characterized as directive coordinators: the expressive field-marshal and the reserved mastermind. The field-marshal harnesses people and resources to lead them toward their goals with minimum wasted effort and maximum progress. The mastermind makes efficient schedules with contingencies, interested in moving an organization forward rather than dwelling on past mistakes. Their single-mindedness can lead to ignoring others wishes and points of view to their detriment.

The two other subtypes are informative engineers: expressive inventors and reserved architects. The outgoing inventor makes sure prototypes work under real world conditions. They display a charming capacity to ignore the standard, the traditional, and the authoritative. The highly attentive architect, often working alone, strives for design coherence and configuration elegance as masters of organization.

Rationals possess lifelong curiosity in logical investigation, critical experimentation, and mathematical description. They are preoccupied with the logic of building (i.e., technology) and are intrigued by complex systems, both machines and organisms.

They maximize efficiency of means and anticipate consequences of ends before they act. Rationals regard custom or tradition neither respectfully nor sentimentally, but as useful for deciphering the errors of history. All is uncertain and vulnerable to mistakes. Events aren’t of themselves good or bad, favorable or unfavorable. Only events possess time, all else is timeless.

They see themselves as inventive. Self-directed and self-determined, rationals live independently, free of coercion. They scrutinize other’s ideas for error before accepting them. They have an unwavering strength of will that they can overcome any obstacle, dominate any field, conquer any enemy — even themselves. But they never take will power for granted.

Rationals are unflappable in trying circumstances, reluctant to express emotions or desires. They listen carefully to ideas that make sense but reject illogical ideas or arguments. They have a gnawing hunger for achieving goals that is never fully satisfied. They live through their work; even play is work. Rarely do they measure up to their standards and are haunted by the feeling of teetering on the edge of failure. Relentless in their search, they want to know about the world and know how the world works.

They share abstract ideas with their mates. Marriage, itself, requires careful empirical study since there is no room for error. If they do err, they do their best to reduce underlying values conflict. Each child must become more self-directed and self-reliant, developing their individuality and autonomy. As strategic planners, they usually have a vision of how an organization will look and fare in the long run.

As we wrote in “Why Are There Four Gospel Accounts?,” an earlier blog posting, these traits describe some peoples’ predispositions. Their experiences can mold them, as far as they are willing and able, so that they acquire attributes of the other personality types. These attributes in sum could be said to be their overall dispositions.

If you are a writer, I heartily recommend reading Keirsey’s book for yourself. I created detailed outlines for my personal use. You may profit from the same effort. We’ll review artisan, guardian, idealist, and rational personality speech characteristics and mannerisms the next few weeks.

William Shakespeare Mini Biography, via Bio.

The Fourth Revolution – The Nordic Future

In the fourth and last installment of our review and commentary on The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State by Micklethwait and Wooldridge, we examine the authors’ contention that Sweden and the other Nordic nations represent the future for the West’s reinvigoration.

Before and After

For most of the twentieth century, Sweden embraced the Fabian ideal for their society. Marquis Childs called their social experiment the “middle way,” one between capitalism and communism. In the nineteen sixties, Sweden moved left as they broadened the meaning of equality in their society. They applied more government and higher taxes to every problem.

Then it ended. Their politicians did what most world leaders know they ought to do but fail because they lack courage. Sweden reduced their public spending in proportion to their GDP. The government required itself to produce a fiscal surplus over the economic cycle. Swedish politicians reinvented the state while reducing its size. They gave their nation’s pension system a sound foundation, they adopted education vouchers, and revamped their health care system.

Sweden focused on reducing waiting times for hospital procedures and on speeding patients through their stays, which also reduced the frequency of hospital communicated diseases. They published data such as operation success rates in health registries for patients and taxpayers to evaluate. And they charged minor fees similar to those that Lee Kuan Yew initiated in Singapore to discourage healthcare system abuse through elective services overconsumption. Swedish health care is now one of the most efficient in the world. Swedes live longer than most in the Western hemisphere and their health costs have decreased too.

Other Nordic countries have improved to a more limited extent. Yet, all four have triple A credit ratings and debt loads below the Eurozone mean. Their economic experiments seem successful. Indices show that they have superior social inclusion, competitiveness, and well-being.

And they’ve done this by serving the individual, employing fiscal responsibility, promoting choice, and encouraging competition. They’ve eschewed state expansion, pump priming, paternalism, and centralized planning. The Nordic countries have extended the market into the state instead of the opposite.

From There to Here

The Nordic countries show what is possible. They had to change because they ran out of money and continued to change because they found they could provide a better state for their citizens.

In 1991, Sweden plunged into their “black of night crisis.” The banking system seized up, foreign investors abandoned their confidence in the third way, and mortgage rates peaked briefly at 500 percent.

In the early 1980s, the people of Denmark faced a “potato crisis.” It was called this because they felt that potatoes might be all they’d be able to afford for their subsistence. Not only was there a cash shortage but the industries which financially supported government programs were strapped.

Now, countries in the West find themselves at or near the same crises. Western states have promised their peoples benefits beyond their ability to provide. The Nordics prove that the state can be brought under control and can be improved for the betterment of their peoples’ future.

But Big Government

History over the last two centuries seems to show that governments grow larger as they accumulate power and control. The Nordic countries provide a counterfactual: government can be contained while its performance and efficiency increases.

The authors pose the question: “How far can you take [the Nordic experiment]?” They argue that neither diminishing productivity returns in the service and government sectors [Baumol’s disease] nor society’s accelerated aging can prevent success. They claim technology is a solution to both problems.

Baumol stated that systems which boost manufacturing productivity are not applicable to the service sector (of which government is a part). The authors suggest that his disease is simply technological lag. As an example, educational efficiency once depended on increasing class sizes.

Now, with the internet, students with drive and grit can access materials from world-class educators. This sort of teaching is even extending into formal classrooms. Accredited degrees are increasingly available online. As a result, universities are having to reconsider the wisdom of administrative bloat and building monuments.

Technology is delayering management and making workers more productive, disseminating health care and school performance data so citizens can make informed choices, and, increasingly, bypassing government by putting power in citizens’ hands.

Law and order, a very labor intensive government function, is also an example. Instead of harsh sentences, increased warehousing, or even a decreasing cohort of young men, the authors maintain that crime prevention is what led to a decrease in crime worldwide starting in the mid 1990s (but varying across the globe). And this decrease has most to do with technology (e.g., CompStat, increased video surveillance, monitored alarms, etc.). Although community policing (directed by CompStat), a hands on solution, is also necessary.

Technology is even reducing costs in the military. By replacing soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guard and air men with automated hardware and software systems, lifecycle costs such as salaries, healthcare, and pensions are decreased. Operations, maintenance, and personnel costs are an overwhelming proportion of total cost of military systems when compared with initial development and procurement costs.

Technology, in the authors’ view, is taking out costs while increasing efficiency in many, if not all, public sector activities.

But Greying Demography

The authors’ ask: “won’t any gains from treating Baumol’s disease be wiped out by demography?” They note that the Nordics have changed the basis for their retirement systems from totally defined benefits to partially defined contributions. Swedes put some of their pension money into private plans. The government indexes the retirement age to life expectancy and decreases pensions during economic declines.

Delaying retirement increases worker payments into the system, reduces outlays, and enhances economic productivity of older workers through entrepreneurial activity and skills transfer. And Sweden made these improvements with cross party consensus: the “people’s home” survives only if finances are handled competently.

A Call to Action

There are many ways to improve the state that increase benefits to citizens while decreasing the cost of (and frustration with) government. While the Left argues cutting government will hurt the poor and the Right cries that expanded welfare will collapse the economy, the authors assert that it’s not a zero sum proposition.

Nineteenth century Victorian liberals went after “Old Corruption” in its various forms. Subsidies for the wealthy and middle classes at the expense of the poor are easy to correct via means testing, flat taxes, and repealing funds for government agencies that provide unfair aid where it is not needed (e.g., if I own suitable land that I have no intention of cultivating, should I be paid for not growing tomatoes or some other crop?). It only takes the will to do it.

Rather than take away from the poor, remedying this one situation actually helps the poor. Entitlement programs on which they depend will not run out if we fix who pays in, for how long, up to how much, and who gets to collect and when. There are many other substantive instances of waste, fraud, and abuse that we’re spending trillions on (i.e., not just shrimp on treadmill studies). Fixing these will make the country run more efficiently, benefit those who really need benefits, and increase citizens confidence in government.

Just as Sweden updated their “middle way,” using capitalist competition to efficiently provide socialist services successfully, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western states can shrink government, improve their economies, and restore confidence in Democracy (or the Republic, in our case) while providing the safety nets they’ve promised to those who need them for as long as they need them.

Halfhearted efforts rooted in selective interests just won’t do. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.

RSA Replay: The Fourth Revolution