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Conservatives are Happier Than Liberals

mark.marrocco
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7/15/2012 11:48:34 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Full Article Here: http://bigthink.com...

This should be interesting, but there was a study saying that Conservatives, on the whole, tend to be happier than Liberals. The simple explanation is that this is because conservatives tend to be married more often, more religious, and wealthier.

The more complex explanations follow:

For the Liberal side:
"An explanation for the happiness gap more congenial to liberals is that conservatives are simply inattentive to the misery of others. If they recognized the injustice in the world, they wouldn't be so cheerful. In the words of Jaime Napier and John Jost, New York University psychologists, in the journal Psychological Science, "Liberals may be less happy than conservatives because they are less ideologically prepared to rationalize (or explain away) the degree of inequality in society." The academic parlance for this is "system justification."

For the Conservative side:
"Brooks arrives at his main point near the end of his op-ed: Conservatives overwhelmingly think that "hard work and perseverance" will "usually" pay off for individuals, while liberals are more skeptical about this claim. This piece of data might lead one to believe that conservatives are happier because they are ignorant, but according to Brooks conservatives are happier for a very different reason: they value personal freedom and moral responsibility, and find the present system promoting exactly these values. You can't blame conservatives for sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to social injustice, Brooks argues, because they do not interpret inequality as injustice at all:

"Liberals then condemn the happiness of conservatives, because conservatives are relatively untroubled by a problem that, it turns out, their political counterparts defined."

Now, obviously most of you will agree with the either the simple explanation over the complex one, or agree with the complex one that favors your side, but tell me: Why?

I'll tell you all now that I tend to agree with the conclusion of the author who writes toward the end:

"This refutation of the "system justification" may make Brooks, a conservative, happy, but it is built on a giant fallacy. Liberals do not "define" a problem that conservatives are untroubled by. Reality defines the problem. When conservatives invest faith in the American Dream, they subscribe to a myth. The notion that anyone can make it if only they work hard enough is suspect not because liberals don't believe it but because it is empirically false.

The fact is that Americans enjoy less social mobility than Canadians and most Western Europeans. Poverty in the United States is persistent, putting the brakes on individual attempts to prosper: 42 percent of American men born into the bottom income quintile end up there as adults, while only 8 percent rise to the top 20 percent of earners. Even Paul Ryan agrees that rags-to-riches stories are rare in American democracy.

So if conservatives really are happier than liberals, their bliss seems to stem from a degree of callousness toward their fellow man."

But what do you think?

Let the rhetorical war begin.
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JaxsonRaine
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7/15/2012 12:06:43 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Anytime you see an income-mobility study comparing different countries, the US usually ends up in the bottom. Just as with any other comparison, it's worthless if you don't establish a baseline and control for variables.

Yes, in other countries, people have an easier time moving from, say, the bottom 20% to the top 20%.

However, in other countries, there generally isn't nearly the difference between the bottom 20% and the top 20%. Naturally, it's harder to move from $15k to $200k than it is to move from $15k to $75k.

It's stupid to think that someone in America whose income rises from $20,000 to $40,000 is worse off than someone in the UK whose income rises from $20,000 to $40,000.

I'm so sick of the media, and worse, people who should know better(economists, university teachers, politicians) constantly using ridiculously stupid measures to compare countries.
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darkkermit
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7/15/2012 12:20:23 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
"The simple explanation is that this is because conservatives tend to be married more often, more religious, and wealthier."

Only "more religious" make sense. I don't know if conservatives are wealthier or tend to be married more often.

I also don't think liberals or conservatives really think constantly amount about the suffering of the world or even care too much on an emotional level. People waste their money on useless junk all the time instead of giving it to charity.
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16kadams
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7/15/2012 12:40:44 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 12:20:23 PM, darkkermit wrote:
"The simple explanation is that this is because conservatives tend to be married more often, more religious, and wealthier."

Only "more religious" make sense. I don't know if conservatives are wealthier or tend to be married more often.

I also don't think liberals or conservatives really think constantly amount about the suffering of the world or even care too much on an emotional level. People waste their money on useless junk all the time instead of giving it to charity.

They are married more often, democrats favor other methods
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Cody_Franklin
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7/15/2012 12:59:18 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
That flies in the face of everything we know about "happiness", which we can here vaguely identify as "subjective well-being". Most of what we can discern about happiness centers on "set point theory", which looks at happiness as an adaptive homeostasis which functions as a mechanism for coping with adverse conditions. Given a particular stimulus, most affective changes don't last more than two or three months, even in supposed limit cases like the lottery winner or the abruptly paralyzed. Most people, as it turns out, happen to regress toward a (positively offset, as Ito and Cacioppo submit) "happiness equilibrium" in all but the most dire of circumstances.

You can look at plenty of the literature. Lykken/Tellegen (1996), Diener et al. over multiple years, Liszka (2007)--everything seems to point to a primarily congenital view of happiness, i.e., a view which, synthesizing research by Hamer and Diener, suggests that approximately 80% of long-term happiness results from the genetic predisposition to color one's circumstances and environment in a particular way. Even in the short-term, this number only declines to about 50%.

So, at best, the whole "liberal/conservative happiness" thing is a crappy heuristic that obfuscates deeper congenital inputs into demeanor. At worst, it's bad research that's just asking to be turned into a political football. Liberals get to whine about how conservatives are blissfully ignorant of tragic socioeconomic problems, and conservatives get to whine about how liberals are ushering in the decay of ethics and noble traditions. Even though the causal arrow points from personality to politics, it'll get painted as a substantial causal link from political identity to brain chemistry. Plus, the definition of "happiness" will get smeared and twisted until each political faction makes it mean whatever they want it to mean, making it methodologically useless.
Lordknukle
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7/15/2012 1:03:20 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I don't necessarily see how poverty is a "problem" that needs to be fixed. As Friedman put it, poverty is a negative externality that occurs because of economic processes or (mainly) individual decisions; in other words, it is completely natural or one's own fault. That by itself does not necessarily justify not helping but there are other various reasons for this that really aren't important right now.

The point is that liberals like to dramatize poverty as an independent event that needs to be fixed because it is an "injustice." However, from my opinion, this so called "injustice" is necessary for stuff to work as it should. I can't really give a detailed explanation right now cause I'm on an IPad, but if you want, then you can PM me.
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MouthWash
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7/15/2012 1:33:25 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 12:59:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
That flies in the face of everything we know about "happiness", which we can here vaguely identify as "subjective well-being". Most of what we can discern about happiness centers on "set point theory", which looks at happiness as an adaptive homeostasis which functions as a mechanism for coping with adverse conditions. Given a particular stimulus, most affective changes don't last more than two or three months, even in supposed limit cases like the lottery winner or the abruptly paralyzed. Most people, as it turns out, happen to regress toward a (positively offset, as Ito and Cacioppo submit) "happiness equilibrium" in all but the most dire of circumstances.

You can look at plenty of the literature. Lykken/Tellegen (1996), Diener et al. over multiple years, Liszka (2007)--everything seems to point to a primarily congenital view of happiness, i.e., a view which, synthesizing research by Hamer and Diener, suggests that approximately 80% of long-term happiness results from the genetic predisposition to color one's circumstances and environment in a particular way. Even in the short-term, this number only declines to about 50%.

So, at best, the whole "liberal/conservative happiness" thing is a crappy heuristic that obfuscates deeper congenital inputs into demeanor. At worst, it's bad research that's just asking to be turned into a political football. Liberals get to whine about how conservatives are blissfully ignorant of tragic socioeconomic problems, and conservatives get to whine about how liberals are ushering in the decay of ethics and noble traditions. Even though the causal arrow points from personality to politics, it'll get painted as a substantial causal link from political identity to brain chemistry. Plus, the definition of "happiness" will get smeared and twisted until each political faction makes it mean whatever they want it to mean, making it methodologically useless.

/endthread
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Apollo.11
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7/15/2012 1:44:33 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Unless you are going to establish a causative relationship between conservatism and happiness, stop trying to politicize every little things.

Study shows conservatives are better drivers than liberals.
Study shows that conservatives are better at juggling than liberals.
Study shows liberals are faster types than conservatives.

It's ridiculous.
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mark.marrocco
Posts: 236
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7/15/2012 5:05:28 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Well, I wasn't totally convinced by this single article, I just wanted viewpoints like these.

I think JaxsonRaine is definitely right about the fallacy of ignoring base rates and statistical ignorance in general. I think Cody_Franklin is correct across the board (I actually have read similar material about happiness being congenital, and ironically it was also on that same website), but that didn't occur to me when I posted this. However, Apollo11, we did establish a causative relationship, it just happens to be reversed from what the author implied (i.e. happiness causes conservatism instead of vice verse.) I actually agree with you about overpoliticizing everything, I just thought I would get a new perspective, which I did. MrBrooks, are you trying to convince us or yourself? I can't tell. And, finally, LordKnukle, I would love to hear that explanation, perhaps in debate form? Fyi I'm writing this particular post on my cracked Kindle Fire, so I get it. Lol
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ConservativePolitico
Posts: 8,210
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7/15/2012 5:08:32 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Well yeah, liberals are always whining and complaining about something. I'm not surprised they're less happy because they're never happy with the way things are.
socialpinko
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7/15/2012 5:13:04 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 5:08:32 PM, ConservativePolitico wrote:
Well yeah, liberals are always whining and complaining about something. I'm not surprised they're less happy because they're never happy with the way things are.

Yeah bro liberals suck conservatives rule. Go team right?
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Cody_Franklin
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7/15/2012 5:13:40 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 5:13:04 PM, socialpinko wrote:
At 7/15/2012 5:08:32 PM, ConservativePolitico wrote:
Well yeah, liberals are always whining and complaining about something. I'm not surprised they're less happy because they're never happy with the way things are.

Yeah bro liberals suck conservatives rule. Go team right?

I think I know a group he might like to join...
RoyLatham
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7/15/2012 5:27:41 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 12:59:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
You can look at plenty of the literature. Lykken/Tellegen (1996), Diener et al. over multiple years, Liszka (2007)--everything seems to point to a primarily congenital view of happiness, i.e., a view which, synthesizing research by Hamer and Diener, suggests that approximately 80% of long-term happiness results from the genetic predisposition to color one's circumstances and environment in a particular way. Even in the short-term, this number only declines to about 50%.

So genetics causes happiness. Happiness correlates with being conservative. So one possibility is that happiness causes conservatism. Another possibility is that genetic factors cause both. It's not too convincing.

There are surveys in which people self-appraise their happiness, Zimbabwe is the least happy place on earth. The happist place is some Scadinavian country. The differences are dramatic. So should we conclude this is a esult of genetic predisposition?
MrBrooks
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7/15/2012 5:28:34 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 5:27:41 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 7/15/2012 12:59:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
You can look at plenty of the literature. Lykken/Tellegen (1996), Diener et al. over multiple years, Liszka (2007)--everything seems to point to a primarily congenital view of happiness, i.e., a view which, synthesizing research by Hamer and Diener, suggests that approximately 80% of long-term happiness results from the genetic predisposition to color one's circumstances and environment in a particular way. Even in the short-term, this number only declines to about 50%.

So genetics causes happiness. Happiness correlates with being conservative. So one possibility is that happiness causes conservatism. Another possibility is that genetic factors cause both. It's not too convincing.

There are surveys in which people self-appraise their happiness, Zimbabwe is the least happy place on earth. The happist place is some Scadinavian country. The differences are dramatic. So should we conclude this is a esult of genetic predisposition?

If I were black, I wouldn't be happy either.
Frederick53
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7/15/2012 5:47:39 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Ok, let's say that conservatives actually are happier than liberals. Does that make them 'right'?

I have a simple response: Ignorance is bliss
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Cody_Franklin
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7/15/2012 6:31:28 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 5:27:41 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 7/15/2012 12:59:18 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
You can look at plenty of the literature. Lykken/Tellegen (1996), Diener et al. over multiple years, Liszka (2007)--everything seems to point to a primarily congenital view of happiness, i.e., a view which, synthesizing research by Hamer and Diener, suggests that approximately 80% of long-term happiness results from the genetic predisposition to color one's circumstances and environment in a particular way. Even in the short-term, this number only declines to about 50%.

So genetics causes happiness. Happiness correlates with being conservative.

About 80% in the long term, and about 50% in the short term, yes.

So one possibility is that happiness causes conservatism. Another possibility is that genetic factors cause both. It's not too convincing.

Well, in either case, genetic factors cause both. It's just a question of whether genetics is a direct proximal cause or an indirect one. Either:

Congenital factors --> Happiness --> Conservatism, or
Congenital factors --> Happiness + Conservatism

One other obvious constraint is what's meant by "happiness", depending on whether the metric of subjective well-being is good enough for you--not to mention the reliability of self-reporting. I mean, the thing is this--to the extent that happiness is congenital, we're talking about regression toward an equilibrium after a stimulus (discounting for hedonic treadmilling and contrasting a la Tversky/Griffin), so, really, I think it's a question about feedback loops. Set points are, in limit cases (e.g., spouse being murdered), the equilibrium can be shifted, or it can take a really long time to return to homeostasis. I'd say that some people are disposed toward some point on a giant emotional gradient. There are all sorts of biases and inputs that can change how things are evaluated, and how those things might change how you do your evaluations. Like, someone with heavy optimism bias will probably stare out through rose-colored glasses and concentrate on everything that's good, probably to the exclusion of things that aren't so good. Contrastingly, someone who tends to color their circumstances negatively might have a lower set point, and might be more vulnerable to external negative stimuli.

So, I'd say that happiness "causes" conservatism/liberalism/whatever in the same way that water causes someone to drown: the only possible outcome of being exposed to water isn't drowning. Similarly, I don't think the only possible outcome--or even the most likely outcome--of being congenitally disposed to being happier is also being conservative.

So, I mean, I guess it depends. To the extent that we can generalize about conservatism as being the preservation of existing institutions, or even returns to the past, I think you get some stuff with nostalgia bias--where you romanticize the past and remember your experiences as being more positive than they probably were--and a case of "setting your own benchmarks": like, if conservatives think that "the good life" or whatever consists in being married, being religious, and preserving tradition, then they'll obviously be happier living that way. People who are exterior to/dissatisfied with those benchmarks may be less satisfied.

tl;dr Happiness research is super-complicated, and I'm just not particularly keen about people having articles like "Conservatives happier than liberals, study finds", because it seems pretty disingenuous from the standpoint of anyone who participates in hedonic research.

There are surveys in which people self-appraise their happiness, Zimbabwe is the least happy place on earth. The happist place is some Scadinavian country. The differences are dramatic. So should we conclude this is a result of genetic predisposition?

Ehhh. That's sort of iffy. A lot of those "happiness studies" also deal with stuff like "life satisfaction", which is usually treated as a different category in the literature, and also includes material well-being like health, education, income, etc. Things like general good health contribute to well-being, but it's like, you also look at stuff like Easterlin (1974, 2001), and you see that growing markets haven't empirically resulted in upticks in happiness trends. And, if you look not only at Easterlin, but also at Veenhoven's longitudinal research from 1946 (2007), you also get that "improvements" in hygeine/safety/economic policy didn't contribute to happiness growth, either--most likely, it is suggested, because of treadmilling/rising expectations.

Like I said, it's super-complicated. I'd argue that happiness peoples' day-to-day lives, coupled with long-term happiness, is primarily a consequence of genetics--but that doesn't mean that other stuff, like material threshold conditions (e.g. not dying of malaria), aren't somehow important.
ConservativePolitico
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7/15/2012 7:55:50 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 5:13:04 PM, socialpinko wrote:
At 7/15/2012 5:08:32 PM, ConservativePolitico wrote:
Well yeah, liberals are always whining and complaining about something. I'm not surprised they're less happy because they're never happy with the way things are.

Yeah bro liberals suck conservatives rule. Go team right?

You got it.
Maikuru
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7/15/2012 8:52:46 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
My extreme liberal friend is a huge bummer and my extreme conservative friend is ridiculously happy. They are both insufferable.
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darkkermit
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7/15/2012 9:03:36 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 8:52:46 PM, Maikuru wrote:
My extreme liberal friend is a huge bummer and my extreme conservative friend is ridiculously happy. They are both insufferable.

You should tell your conservative friend about this video.
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Maikuru
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7/15/2012 9:15:05 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/15/2012 9:03:36 PM, darkkermit wrote:
At 7/15/2012 8:52:46 PM, Maikuru wrote:
My extreme liberal friend is a huge bummer and my extreme conservative friend is ridiculously happy. They are both insufferable.



You should tell your conservative friend about this video.

LOL. I love that one of the symptoms is keeping in touch.

I obviously can't show her this. Her laughter makes me want to kick puppies.
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