Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer for LiveScience.com wrote an article
benignly entitled "Conservatives Happier Than Liberals". But it becomes immediately apparent that the article and the "scientific" study it discusses is nothing more than a hack job on conservatives. It would almost be laughable, if the article was not so patronizing and demeaning of conservatives. The article refers to a new study by Jaime Napier and John Jost of New York University, which concludes that conservatives are happier than liberals, because they "rationalize social and economic inequalities".
The article simply oozes with liberal bias, and Warner Todd Huston has written an excellent piece
at 'Stop The ACLU' where he exposes and comments on this bias. Jonjayray
has re-posted the Bryner article at 'Blogger News Network' with a good Intro
suggesting that conservatives are really happier than liberals because they are less angry.
If the LiveScience article is any indication of the study's quality, then we can assume it must be seriously flawed. The study however, is not yet available for review. According to the article, the study found that conservatives "scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person's tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities". Yet, the article quotes some of the statements posed to the study subjects, and they appear to be very poor indicators of "rationalization".
The rationalization measure included statements such as: "It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others," and "This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are."
Unfortunately, an answer to either one of these statements provides no indication of "rationalization", or lack thereof. In order to explain this, we need to understand a bit more about "rationalization". Since there are various definitions of the word which do not apply here, we will concentrate on the one intended by the researchers...
ra·tio·nal·ize Function: verb, 1: to bring into accord with reason or cause something to seem reasonable... broadly: to create an excuse or more attractive explanation for (eg, to rationalize the problem).
Clearly then, in order to measure "rationalization", one needs to develop a method whereby one can quantify the ability of an individual or individuals, to "make excuses", or to develop "attractive explanations". Such a method would have to be independent of political persuation (ie, it would have to be unbiased). A true method for determining "rationalization" would necessarily be able to measure the "excuse-making" capabilties of conservatives, liberals, libertarians, anarchists, authoritarians or centrists using a common method for all. Neither of the two statements quoted in the article can accomplish that. Therefore, they cannot be used as a measure of "rationalization".
Rather, what it appears that Napier and Jost have done, is to simply categorize conservatives who disagree with their liberal-socialist viewpoint into an "ugly box". They have apparently made the assumption that "inequality" is a serious problem, and they have therefore determined that anyone who disagrees with that assessment must be "rationalizing". That's not science. That's "political justifying". That's "spin".
To be fair to them, it is a very difficult task to do "pure" research into areas touching on the political realm. One always brings his or her own political baggage and philosophical biases into the equation. One would hope that Napier and Jost are not just political hacks dressed in academic suits. But unfortunately, they bring a lot of baggage and bias to their "research"...
From her "Personal Information" page
at the Psychology Department of NYU.edu, Jaime L. Napier says she is "interested in how situational and cognitive factors motivate people to adopt certain ideologies". And her research "focuses on political conservatism and religious fundamentalism
". In other words, it would appear that Ms. Napier is studying Christian conservatives such as myself. She says that in her current research, "John Jost and I are currently looking at how individual differences, such as need for cognitive closure, can predict political and religious conservatism".
The impression one gets from reading this personal information page is that Jaime is studying an aberration of nature. You might imagine that formerly she was investigating the "social cognition model" of psychopaths. Today she has moved on to political conservatives and religious fundamentalists. No doubt her research will help find a cure.
John Jost, is not much better. According to Jost's "Personal Information" page
, his research "focuses on theoretical and empirical implications of a system justification theory". For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept of "system justification theory", Jost is trying to find out why some people are not as "progressive" as he is. He wants to "understand how and why people provide cognitive and ideological support for the status quo", a neurosis if I ever heard one. The second goal of his research is to "analyze the social and psychological consequences of supporting the status quo, especially for members of disadvantaged groups".
Jost, it would appear then, seems to think that social stability (ie, "the status quo") is an impediment to the members of "disadvantaged groups" (such as illegal aliens, perhaps?). Jost would no doubt like to change "the status quo" so that such "disadvantaged groups" can more rapidly obtain economic "equality". And those of us conservatives who oppose such "progressive" ideas are clearly in need of study and investigation.
Among his research concerns are "nonconscious biases that perpetuate inequality, attitudinal ambivalence directed at fellow ingroup members who challenge the system, opposition to equality among members of disadvantaged groups, rationalization of anticipated social and political outcomes, and tendencies among members of powerless groups..." But that which seems to fascinate John Jost above all, is "the underlying cognitive and motivational differences between liberals and conservatives".
In particular, we are carrying out studies to determine whether certain epistemic and existential variables (such as uncertainty avoidance, need for cognitive closure, and death anxiety) are associated more with conservative or right-wing political orientations than with other political orientations.
In other words, he is trying to prove his belief that conservatives have a "right-wing" political orientation, because: a) they want to avoid "uncertainty", b) they need "closure" on tough issues, or c) they fear death. It would seem then, that if Napier and Jost are not mere political hacks, they are certainly pretty biased in a liberal sort of way.
Which brings us back to the their test methods. What Napier and Jost appear to have done, is to establish a test protocol that is tainted by their own biases. They have: 1) created a series of "True-False" questions about things which they themselves believe to be important, 2) asked those questions of people who are unlikely to believe them important, and then 3) labeled the resulting responses as "rationalizations". Hardly scientific.
If Napier and Jost want to know why conservatives are happier than liberals, then I think I can explain that rather easily, without all the pretext of "scientific research". Liberals are basically unhappy because (IMHO) they continue to believe that they can create a utopian society. For most liberals, "utopia" means "equality", that is, economic and social equality. Liberals want a society that looks like a well-maintained lawn -- where all the grass is the same height, the same color, and the same texture. And since it is nearly impossible to accomplish such a feat with an actual lawn, then why do liberals imagine they can accomplish it with human beings? They are doomed to failure and the unhappiness that accompanies continual failure.
Liberals seem to believe that we can have that utopia if we just listen to them and do what they say. We can eliminate poverty in this country if we just declare 'War on Poverty'. We can reduce oil prices if we just impose a windfall profits tax on "big oil". We can help solve our energy shortage if we just use more bio-fuels like ethanol. All of our employment problems will disappear if we just create an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There won't be any more racial prejudice if we just enforce desegregation. Blacks and whites will sing "Kumbayah" together if we just mandate integration by forced busing and affirmative action. We can instill "political correctness" if we just impose some more "diversity training". We can eliminate the economic discrepancies between rich and poor if we just take from the rich and give to the poor. We can make sure that nobody in this country goes without health care if we just mandate a national health care system and then get those rich bastards to pay for it. We can give amnesty to all the illegal aliens and give them free taxpayer-funded benefits, and then they will do the jobs we don't want to do ourselves. And everybody will be happy! It will be a "utopia"! Can you say "Amen", brothers and sisters?
Now don't get me wrong. I do not favor discrimination. I am all in favor of tolerance. I do not wish poverty on anyone. But we have tried a lot of these programs which the liberals have suggested, and they have been dismal failures in many cases and only partially successful in others. Why? Because you cannot legislate "utopia". You cannot change human nature. You cannot throw a monkey wrench into the free enterprise system and expect it to continue working smoothly. And this makes liberals unhappy. When they come up with an idea and it fails or back-fires on them, they get even more annoyed because they are supposed to be the "utopia-makers". They are supposed to be the "intelligentsia", the "academics", the "brain surgeons".
Conservatives on the other hand, have learned that "equality" is pretty much out of the question. We do
believe that all people are created equal in the eyes of God. We do
believe that all people are equal before the law. We do
believe that all people have certain inalienable rights including life, liberty and the "pursuit" of happiness. We do
believe that all people should be free to achieve their ultimate potential. We do
believe that all people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. We do
believe that everyone should be judged on their merits and not on their race or gender. However, we do not believe that a "utopia" is possible where all are "equal".
Simply put, conservatives recognize the problems of human nature and accept it as fact. We know empirically that not all people have equal talents, equal intelligence or equal drive. We recognize that some people will succeed and others will fail. We understand that incentives will cause some people to work hard and achieve, while others cannot be motivated under any circumstances. We do not "rationalize" away inequality, we rationally observe inequality and recognize it as an immutable feature of the human condition.
We conservatives have seen the failed experiments of communism and socialism. We have seen that utopian equality is impossible to attain. We have observed that equal division of rewards among all, regardless of effort expended, reduces work ethic to the least common denominator, and ultimately leads to a collapse of the system. We have witnessed the deterioration of morale that accompanies efforts to restrict people from achieving their full potential. We have recognized the injustice of forcefully taking from those who "produce" and giving it freely to those who merely "consume". We have understood the disastrous effects on peoples long subjugated to "equality" as "wards of the state".
And so, we conservatives have not merely seen, observed, witnessed and recognized these facts... we have accepted them as truth. Our fundamental understanding of the human condition is reinforced daily on television, radio and the internet. If we are "happier" than liberals, then it is because we are constantly rewarded with affirmation of our belief system.
Christian conservatives have the added advantage of a Bible which further supports such a belief system. The Bible tells us that the poor will always be with us. Hence, we understand that a "utopia" as envisioned by liberals can never be achieved. The Bible tells us that a true "utopian" society of justice and righteousness can never be possible on this earth until Christ returns and establishes one. Thus, if Christian conservatives are "happier" than liberals, then it is because we have a God, and His Word - the Bible - to affirm our beliefs.
If Christian conservatives are "happier" than liberals, then it is because we are not trying to impose our own idea of "utopia" on others. We are not trying to fight human nature... and failing miserably. We do our best to serve our family, our country, and our Lord. We believe in the values of family, hard work, free enterprise, patriotism, democracy, Constitutional law, and the Judeo-Christian tradition. We desire that all people would come to know Jesus Christ and the inner peace He brings, but know that some won't. We also want all people to succeed, but know that some won't. So we are also generous with our charitable donations to help those less fortunate or who face unforeseen catastrophes. We believe that we are living according to God's will in the best way we know how... and we are "happier" for it.