Temperament: What if Keirsey’s Rationals (NTs) really did rule the world?

Rationals as rulers of the world!  That might be a scary concept.  This is the last of the series in which we have asked this question about each of Keirsey’s four temperaments (the SP Artisans, SJ Guardians, NF Idealists, and now the NT Rationals.)  In each case we have mainly thought about it from the point of view that each temperament was pure.  For the NT this means that all scores in the Thinking (T) and Feeling (F) preference scale were Ts–all thinking and no feeling at all.  With that, all scores in the Sensing (s) and Intuitive (N) preference scale were N–all Intuition and no Sensing at all.  With that is the assumption that the preferences for Introversion/Extraversion and Judging/Perceiving  are basically neutral in this imaginary type.  So the question is–what would the world be like if every human being, from the very beginning was a pure Rational NT–all Thinking and Intuition and no Feeling or Sensing.  To get things started here is the Summary of Keirsey’s description of the the NT Rational.


IN SUMMARY:   Rationals are classed as Abstract Utilitarians.   Like NFs they think and talk about ideas and possibilities, rather than daily events.  Unlike NFs they do this in very precise and unemotional ways, always careful to qualify ideas with maybe, possibly, etc.  Where we summed Idealists as “passionate communitarians”, a good term for Rationals would the “passionate achievers“.  Making things better and more efficient seems to be a deep innate drive that dominates over social support and social approval.  In any conflict between what logical analysis suggests and what emotional feeling suggests, logic is the probable winner.  They strongly attempt to control emotion in both language and action, in keeping with the preference for logical solutions.

The greatest intellectual strength is in Strategy–long range planning within systems.  Second to this is Diplomacy–which for them is probably the route to getting others to accept your plans!

In education, career choice and outside activities, scientific and technological interests dominate.  Even where career interests focus on human behavior the interest is in understanding systems that govern it and ways that these might be improved.

In Orientation, they are pragmatic in relating to the present, skeptical (but not long-range pessimistic) in relating to the future, and relativistic (perhaps) about the past.  Their place is always where two or more things intersect, opening up new ideas and possibilities, and their time is the Interval or segment of time of any event.

They value being calm, trust reason, long for achievement, seek knowledge, prize deference and aspire to be true wizards.


Question one:  Assuming human life began in parts of Africa, and gradually migrated northward, would NTs be likely to migrate to far northern and less hospitable climates?   One of the early questions that I asked about a world full of only SPs was whether northern Europe, Russia, northern Asia be populated as they are today.  I concluded that SPs would be more likely to stay where the living was easy and the climate was pleasant, so wouldn’t go toward less comfortable parts of the world unless population pressures forced it.   When discussing SJs and NFs I assumed that they might go to more difficult living areas if population pressures pushed them there, but would not have temperament-related urges to do so.  (Both SPs and NFs might have curiosity about new places, but I can’t see SPs moving permanently to locations where food or shelter were a serious problem.  NFs might have a lot of intellectual curiosity, but with a pure NF population I think their answer to proposing a  permanent migration might be a little like proposing to go to Mars in our world (all very interesting, but resources can be so much better spent on our children, our ailing and elderly).  But NTs?  Their curiosity and desire to explore would not be blocked by emotional arguments.  On the contrary they might argue that new forms of food might be found, new medicines found etc. and more generally, it is always better to know more about the unknown–and, besides all that, it would be very interesting.

Question two:  What would education be like?.  Highly developed, absolutely required, and very efficient.    This would not be the populace that would have an educational fad of the month.  Methods would be rigorously tested and then rigorously applied.  Where NFs might be very gentle about competition and individual differences in abilities,  NTs would not.  I think they would take individual differences in ability for granted and expect each child to work to his or her ability, would strongly praise accomplishment and would not be concerned about the self-esteem of lower performing children.

College level courses would be rigorous, and again, you would continue your education at that level only if you had intellectual gifts.  If not, thorough programs would be provided in more practical and applied areas.  Because a passion for  science is uniquely NT you would expect to see that as a very large part of the curriculum.  Business courses should also flourish, but largely at a theoretical systems level.  NTs are said to be curious about everything, so the humanities–history, social sciences, philosophy, and the arts would all have their place, but not with the emphasis seen in a NF Idealist curriculum.

Commerce:  You would expect businesses to be efficient, effective and highly competitive.  Where Keirsey calls NTs Rationals, based on their strong use of logic, we have called them Passionate Achievers in our books, based on the very strong drive to accomplish new things. (See book cover on this page).  This desire to achieve should be seen in all aspects of NT life, and should be both a source of both towering progress, and of very considerable social friction.  And then there is another shortcoming in the NT society.  The big problem in running businesses, private organizations, and governmental institutions, would be the lack of the good old SJ Guardian, who is never happier than when keeping systems running smoothly.  When an NT has established a system that works well, that accomplishment is complete.  They may soon want to change it, improve it and so forth, but keeping it running as is, on a day to day, year to year basis is not an accomplishment at all.  To an NT, that would feel more like a ticket to Siberia.  I am guessing that the practical answer to that problem would be to try to train the less gifted NTs in the jobs required to keep things running.  If there were no “less gifted” NTs, if everyone were just all equally brilliant, either this passionately achieving society would fall far below its potential, or it would have to find a novel solution (see the next section).

Physical Inventions:  This should be a crowning achievement for the NT.  Science is their forte and a passion to make things work, and work efficiently, should produce a remarkably accomplished technological society.  If there is an ideal answer to keeping things running in a society without Guardians, it should lie in the creation of automated systems of all kinds that can do this with very little human intervention.

Other than this pressing need for Guardians or automated Guardian equivalents, there really should be no limit to Rational NT inventions.  From fire to the microwave, from the wheel to the self-guided automobile, the glider to the interplanetary vehicle, and from Morse Code to WiFi and beyond, it all seems possible.

For anyone with even a smidgen of Idealist, however, the rather terrifying possibility is that these pure NTs might be so technologically competent, and so emotionally challenged, that they might ultimately replicate the human brain at a level that makes ordinary humans redundant!  Possible?  I don’t know.  Would it matter?  NFs would face that possibility with utter horror.  Pure NTs might just shrug.

What would the social culture look like?  One comment that I have received is that “it would be a very free world with not many restrictive laws….”.  I have some trouble with that idea.  If creating systems that are both effective and efficient is a deep major NT drive,  an NT government should rationally permit behaviors that don’t conflict with that, but interfere strongly with behaviors that are inefficient, illlogical, and costly to society.  For example, so long as the society is expanding and children are a precious resource, you might expect that abortion of a normal, healthy fetus  would be forbidden unless there are extenuating circumstances (mom is a critical designer for an upcoming space vehicle).  On the other hand, abortion might be a requirement for any fetus that would not be physically and emotionally competent.  Euthanasia of the demented elderly might be expected.  Euthanasia of younger patients with incurable diseases in late stages might also be required.  All of that can be seen as perfectly logical.

With respect to sexual behavior, it would not seem that an NT government would have any concern, unless pregnancy was involved. Marriage laws, if any, would seem to depend on what the prevailing views were on the nurturing of children.  If the majority of research indicated that children did significantly better in two parent, heterosexual families it would seem likely that there would be laws to that effect, and such laws would require a commitment to the relationship until the child or children came of age.  In that case, marriage (or whatever it might be called) might conceivably be restricted by the government to persons who qualified as mentally and physically fit for parenting.  If parent heterosexuality made no difference to child outcome it would logically make no difference to NT laws.  You can speculate forever here, but I think that the bottom line is that NTs would be tolerant or lenient in these matters depending on whatever research indicated in terms of effective and efficient upbringing of children.

In terms of culture, there is nothing incompatible with enjoyment of music, arts and social gatherings and the Rational NT temperament.  What would probably be different would be style.  I would expect a greater aura of competitiveness in all games, from poker to golf, and with that a greater interest in self-improvement.  In literature and drama, I would think that the mystery, the car chase, the legal drama, would all triumph over stories of emotional sadness and psychodrama.

What would government structure be like:  This is a tough one. If you start with the NT premise that the best system is the one that is the most effective and efficient, there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer.  You can rule out isolated tribal systems on both grounds.  Monarchies and dictatorships are largely dependent on the wisdom and good will of one or a very few individuals.  That makes them both untrustworthty and unlikely to meet the efficiency/effectivness criteria, for lack of skilled information and willingness to share it.  That largely leaves us democracy.  This has the very real virtue of responding to what the people themselves want–or at least what some majority of the people want. As a very impure NT, I think that is of great importance.  And, so far, at least within some of the western democracies, it has proven to be somewhat more effective than other forms of government?  But is it efficient?  It would be hard to come up with a good proof of that as we watch the Republican primaries play out in the United States.

So, I think our hypothetical, pure NT would be saying, “no, no, no–there has to be a better way.”  And perhaps, in a world where feelings did not play a part–or much of a part–there would be a better way.

And lastly–would NTs be warlike?  I think the answers would go something like this:

Yes, if some other group was threatening to harm them.  I don’t think NTs would have any scruples against a preemptive strike.

Yes, maybe, if they were very resource poor and a neighbor was very resource rich.

No, if there was little or nothing tangible to gain by war.

No, if it was simply because the neighbors religion, beliefs, personal practices annoyed you.  That would not be effective or efficient in solving any problem that the NT has.

And if pure NTs somehow became in charge of a world already full of SPs,  SJs, and  NFs with all the complexity that would already be there?  What then?  Well, in localized pockets (big corporations, scientific research, isolated sectors in politics) I am sure that they already are there.  In terms of running any entire democratic government, however, I would say that this cannot be done without substantial understanding and respect for the needs, wishes and feelings of others. I would expect them to lose the next election!

Note to all NTs:  Please feel free to disagree with any or all of this. I consider that to be fun.   Bear in mind though, that I have tried to create a hypothetical NT with just no Feeling input.  It isn’t you, it isn’t me and hopefully it isn’t any real person.

Coming up next week:  Why we need all the Temperaments to make the world work.  And, I set up a hypothetical committee meeting of our four pure SPs, SJs, NFs, and NTs!


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2 Responses to Temperament: What if Keirsey’s Rationals (NTs) really did rule the world?

  1. INTJ says:

    That is really interesting! It will be worth watching to see how Monti’s term plays out.

  2. Lars says:

    It just came to my mind when reading this article: since Berlusconi stepped down last year, Italy currently has a pure technocrat goverment under the lead of economic scientist Mario Monti.
    So one might say this is an NT goverment in charge. What they achieve is to be seen.

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