The Temperaments of America

“There are strong minds in every walk of life that will rise superior to the disadvantages of situation, and will command the tribute due to their merit, not only from the classes to which they particularly belong, but from the society in general.

So wrote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper #36, one the founding articles of the United States of America.

If this is not one of the best arguments for the importance of Temperament in the Human Wealth of Nations, then I don’t know what would be.  The genius of Hamilton’s America is that it matters not the station one was born into, whether it be: from a dirt poor family in a log cabin in Kentucky (Abraham Lincoln, Rational); from modest family in a modest house in Omaha, Nebraska (Warren Buffet, Guardian); from a rich family in a New York apartment (Humphrey Bogart, Artisan); or from an unmarried African-American mother in the deep segregated South in Kosciusko, Mississippi (Oprah Winfrey, Idealist). Or born in another country, and being able to be an immigrant, including a poor white kid, of a single mother household from Dutch territory, the Caribbean island of Nevis: “that Scottish bastard,” Alexander Hamilton (Idealist).

That “Scottish bastard,” as John Adams called him, wanted a country where those who worked hard, using their natural talents, could get ahead.  Capitalist Democracy, the original vision of the Idealist Alexander Hamilton, with commerce and trade as the center of that Democracy, the closest thing we have to a meritocracy. It lets everybody try to use their natural talents, based on their Temperament to make the nation prosper.

“The door ought to be equally open to all; and I trust, for the credit of human nature…”

“What greater affinity or relation of interest can be conceived between the carpenter and blacksmith, and the linen manufacturer or stocking weaver, than between the merchant and either of them?”

– Alexander Hamilton

It’s trade.  Each temperament contributing it’s own.

18 thoughts on “The Temperaments of America”

  1. Why wouldn’t Warren Buffett be a rationalist? In Alice Shroeder’s bio, he’s described as learning machine. He’s fascinated about “systems,” became great friends with rationalist Bill Gates – their minds run together – and despite being meticulous in sizing up businesses to purchase, is actually is fairly hands-off when it comes to allowing managers to operate their businesses. He’s basically obtuse to details around him other than what he’s focusing on at hand. I’d characterize him as an ENTP…outgoing engineer type.

    1. Obviously Buffet is very smart and successful. Much of his behavior could be viewed as Strategic (in fact brilliantly strategic), hence one might decide he was a Rational, even a Inventor. But Temperament is the *primarily* pattern of behavior. The following is a quote from Schroeder’s book, which includes that he not only pays attention to details (statistics and facts) but he “loves” it. You can compare his behavior to Charlie Munger, who is a Rational.

      “He pored over GEICO’s reports and tracked the growth of their Internet sales week by week; monitored the See’s Candies sales at every single retail store every single day during the holiday season; read the daily sales figures by fax from Shaw Carpets; reviewed the daily reports from Borsheim’s before Christmas; memorized real estate listing statistics from Home Services of America … ; recited jet fuel costs and ownership statistics for NetJets; and knew the ad lineage from the Buffalo News by heart.”

      Trust Me, he is an Inspector Guardian

  2. Dr. Keirsey, thanks for replying & so promptly, too! Have been a big fan of yours since the eighties when I read about you in the Orange County Register and then quickly rushed off to buy “Please Understand Me.” What you say about Buffett makes sense & I now can better appreciate the differences between him and Munger, who weaned him away from seeking ‘cigar butts’ ala Ben Graham to purchasing great businesses. In that respect, Munger held the bigger picture.

    1. Actually you read about my father, Dr. David West Keirsey, the author of PUM and PUM II, who was featured in that OC Register article. I was busy in my own field of computer science, in the eighties. I am thinking that Buffet still uses Graham’s methods, but since he can’t really hide his trading easily when he wasn’t as famous and big, the cigar butt technique is not as effective and possible as it was in his halcyon days. Clearly, Buffet and Munger benefit from each other’s temperament strengths and make up for each other’s weaknesses.

      1. David, it’s really a treat communicating with you as I’m not in any organizations where I get to talk about temperament. So here’s another question for you: why is Hillary Clinton typed as an ENTJ? In “Game Change” she so often seems to be asking her team questions implying she’s adrift & in need of strategic direction. I know she has a phenomenal memory & can tick off facts for days on end. She seems more of an ESTJ to me. The bio of her by Carl Bernstein indicated she still is highly traditional & conservative in many ways, reflecting her midwestern background, which sort of reinforced my thinking. In her current role as Sec of State I don’t see her coming up with any real strategic directives ala George Marshall. Plus her management style in her White House years seemed to be that of a control freak rather than someone who was at ease delegating, as Marshall & other NTs are. But I look forward to you setting me straight. Thanks, David.

  3. I have not read Bernstein’s bio of Hillary, soo… many books, soo.. little time. I had been watching the Clinton’s ever since their rise, and initially thought Hillary was a Supervisor Guardian. I am prejudiced against her because of her politics, but I have to admit, some of her apparent actions didn’t jibe that view. It is a problem in general about determining the Temperament of politicians, they tend to be phoneys (and journalists aren’t much better). On the other hand, she has classified herself as an Myersian INTJ. Below are a couple of quotes, that indicate Rational over Guardian. There are more details but time and space don’t permit it.

    “She loves talking about ideas. But ask her about herself, and she shuts down emotionally.” — Wellesley classmate

    What has Bill gotten from the marriage? What did this brilliant, handsome, charismatic, fun-loving guy see in a coke-bottle glasses, no makeup, carelessly dressed law student? His first impression when seeing her in law class indicates an important part of his attraction.

    “I spotted a woman I hadn’t seen before. Apparently she attended even less frequently than I did. She had thick dark blond hair and wore eyeglasses and no makeup, but she conveyed a sense of strength and self-possession I had rarely seen in anyone, man or woman.”

    The insert for Presidential Temperaments is about Bill and Hillary has some more about her and her Temperament.

  4. David, thanks much. Yes, see how Hillary could be a rational. I’m of a libertarian bent & keep hoping we’ll find an ESFJ to run who espouses those views. The Pauls, father & son, in my opinion, convey the right message but unfortunately at least in my opinon lack that emotional appeal that it seems to me is a necessary component of succeeding with a broader audience. Reagan & Clinton both had it (SPs); neither Bush (STJ’s ?) had it. Nor does Obama (NT?) have it despite his ability to read from a Teleprompter.

    1. The general US electorate does not “like” the Libertarian message of radical reform: the left and right are very conservative in their want for “political stability.” Thomas Jefferson’s suggestion of “a revolution” every couple of decades, was not well received even in his day. (He also thought each new generation should “choose” its own government)

      Barry Goldwater, Rational, the first and last of the Libertarians, didn’t have a chance. (Ironically, Hillary was a Goldwater Girl — so much for consistency in principles for Rationals.) You will notice that Rationals (like Gingrich and probably Romney) despite their Christian pedigree (all politicians must be Christian to be elected — or keep their mouth shut) are NOT attractive to the electorate. Obama’s mother was a wide-eyed Champion Idealist, and despite his likely Rational temperament — Obama’s attractiveness was a new face (literally) on the left. Rhetoric had nothing to do with, as long as it was unconventionally conventional.

      I have a great deal of trouble imagining a Guardian Libertarian. You never know, though.

      PS Check out presidential pages (Bush Jr — Artisan, Bush Sr — Guardian)

      1. David, just fascinating. Thanks! Hadn’t considered Goldwater as Rational, but confess hadn’t done much thinking about. Given his flying airplanes & western demeanor I had conveniently & simple mindedly lumped him in with the Artisans. But given that he authored the “Conscience of a Conservative” albeit with help, you cause me to pause & reflect further.
        On another note, was reviewing list of notable Guaradians on your website last night with my college aged nephew, who’s an ISTJ, and saw Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr labeled as one. This surprised me as I’ve always felt he was a Rational given his approach to the law & his correspondence (have skimmed through his correspondence with Harold Laski.) He loved Philosophy as a college student, did not enjoy the basic details of practicing law so switched to teaching & then serving as judge. That would indicate pattern of a Rational rather than Guardian (?). Can’t see a Guardian enjoying Philosophy or constitutional law for that matter. According to Felix Frankfurter, Holmes “powerfully changed ways of thinking about law and had thereby rationalized law.” The corresp. between Holmes & Laski, aside from being extremely erudite, reflects in Frankfurther’s words, a “preoocupation merely with things of the mind and and the insoluble issues of man’s spiritual quest…..high themes cancassed with enormous learning and a light touch, expressing deep convictions unmarred by intolerance..” So different a focus, it seems to me, than what you’d expect in the letters of a Guardian.

  5. “Mistakes were made but not by me…” Seriously, I was probably wrong about Holmes, when I did my evaluation of him about him a decade ago. The book “The Metaphysical Club” was not published at the time, which I read later to contradict my first guess, and I was probably working too hard to find a marvelous Inspector Guardian. You are probably right in this case. On constitutional law, however, you should read my father’s analysis of President Howard Taft

    1. Dave, a lot of fun corresponding with you. Thanks. Yes, realized soon after I posted the above that Sandra Day O’Connor & many other Guardians had made fine judges. I wonder if present Justice Sonia Sotomayor could be a Guardian based on this description of her work habits as an Appellate Judge taken from a Wikipedia bio: “Sotomayor tended to write narrow rulings that relied on close application of the law rather than import general philosophical viewpoints. A Congressional Research Service analysis found that Sotomayor’s rulings defied easy ideological categorization, but did show an adherence to precedent, an emphasis on the facts of a case, and an avoidance of overstepping the circuit court’s judicial role. Unusually, Sotomayor read through all the supporting documents of cases under review; her lengthy rulings explored every aspect of a case and tended to feature leaden, ungainly prose.” Certainly Holmes was never accused of writing “ungainly prose.”

  6. Hi David,

    I’ve been following the idea of temperaments for most of my adult life, having read PUM and PUMII after my psych professor introduced me to the ideas early in college.

    Having just finished Meacham’s recent book Jefferson: The Art of Power, and being most of the way through Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, it seems to me that the evidence is very strong that Jefferson was, in fact, an INFP, while Hamilton was an ESTJ.

    With regard to Jefferson as idealist, I would point to the following letter he wrote about a dialogue between his head and his heart:

    In Meacham’s discussion of this letter, and in asking whether the head or the heart wins, he notes that Jefferson gave his heart the last word, and the highest honor he could bestow it: credit for the revolution. In the Heart’s final passage, it declares:

    “In like manner in denying to you [the Head] the feelings of sympathy, of benevolence, of gratitude, of justice, of love, of friendship, she [Nature] has excluded you from their control. To these she has adapted the mechanism of the Heart. Morals were too essential to the happiness of man to be risked on the incertain [sic] combinations of the Head. She laid their foundation therefore in sentiment, not in science…

    “In short, my friend, as far as my recollection serves me, I do not know that I ever did a good thing on your suggestion, or a dirty one without it. I do for ever then disclaim your interference in my province.”

    I’d say this makes a very strong case that Jefferson, though broad in his interests, nevertheless stands as an F rather than a T. More broadly with regard to his being an NF, has any greater statement of idealism been ever enshrined than our own Declaration of Independence? Indeed, in its most well-known line,

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

    We must note here that this phrase was modified by Benjamin Franklin, who introduced the term “self-evident.” Jefferson’s original wording had been “sacred and undeniable.” I must say I find the idea of a sacred truth to be more a marker of an Idealist, while a self-evident truth is the language of a Rational. The comparison between the two scientist-statesmen of Franklin and Jefferson further illustrates the difference. Franklin’s tinkering was wholly functional, with his pot-bellied stove and his bifocals. Jefferson had his adaptations—notably the writing table he’d devised—but he has no more profound legacy than in the aesthetics imbued to Monticello. Even the location of Monticello was a testament to the sentiments over pragmatics, its location having been selected when he was just a boy out wandering with his friend.

    As for Hamilton, I must confess here that I am both a great admirer of the man, and I’m personally an ENTP Inventor. I had read his biography after having first completed the Federalist Papers, and understandably we seek to find in those we admire the traits we see in ourselves. The NT rational Hamilton seemed like something that I would easily find. Yet in truth, he does not seem to have been an intuitive at all.

    The primary point of division is said to be whether one looks at concrete realities or abstract possibilities. In truth, in looking through Hamilton’s life, he seldom favored the abstract at all. He was always guided first and foremost by experience and precedent. In looking at his major accomplishments and the endeavors in which he made his greatest contributions, one is startled to discover what is actually a dearth of innovation. In forming the Bank of New York and the First National Bank, what was his approach? He looked at the charter for the Bank of England and essentially cribbed it. How about the role he played in the Constitutional Convention? While others had their plans based on various state constitutions, the idea put forward by Hamilton was so highly reminiscent of the British Constitution that it came to be called the British Plan:

    For all of his strengths and talents and the great efforts he undertook to ensure the ratification of the Constitution, his own vision was actually quite limited. He had seen already that Britain was the strongest government in the world, and he had little desire, upon the attainment of independence therefrom, to alter the basic plan by which Britain was governed. True, he believed strongly in meritocracy and opposed hereditary rule. This makes a great deal of sense given his own humble origins and the fortune he had to be sent to America to study on what constituted a scholarship when his talents were recognized. But even in this, it seemed it was an idea he supported largely due to his experience with its values rather than any lofty ideal; it had a very tangible basis in his own lifetime. His actions are always very utilitarian. While Jefferson was a student of abstract sciences, Hamilton favored mathematics more for practical accounting, as seen his comfort in not only pouring over facts and figures and long data sets both in his early proposals on finance to Gouverneur Morris, but also in his specific case for the assumption of all state debts. He also took a hands-on approach both in his role as a leader in the Revolutionary Army as well as in the role of Treasurer.

    Forgive my lack of brevity here, but I feel the case is a strong one in both directions. In reading the descriptions here on this site for either the Healer/INFP or the Supervisor/ESTJ, it seems like each line in the description lends itself easily to a particular act or statement I could assign to one man or the other.

    I’d add that it seems the peculiar nature of their enmity also stems at least in part from the two men being perfect opposites in each and every dimension.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

  7. Hello

    I’m intrigued by your classification of Alexander Hamilton as an idealist, After reading certain quotes, and also many of his writings on the Federalist Papers, that realpolitik vein (he is considered the father of American Style realism) strikes me more as an NT than an NF. I’d really like to know your comments about it. Thanks in advance.

    1. It’s complicated, for Hamilton was a complicated man. I do not have sufficient time or space to give a coherent answer. However, consider his demised, it was in the defense of his honor (his integrity). I suggest there are several good biographies on the man, judge for yourself after that, pay particular attention to his coming to America and his stand up advocacy in the square at King’s College (Columbia).

      1. Thanks a lot for your answer. I will check the parts of his life that you point out and tell you what I find.

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