Berkeley Social Scientists Define Conservatives


Berkeley social scientists report that they have scientifically established that political conservatives are motivated by "fear and aggression, dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity." They hasten to assure the public that they are not being "judgmental" and that "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled."

I can hardly wait to see their "objective" scientific analysis of libertarianism.


NEXT: 145,000 Strong

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. drf,

    The New Deal. Pell Grants. Head Start. Desegregating the military. Community policing. Funding Community Colleges. Lead Paint Programs. Banning leaded gasoline. COBRA health care portability.

    That’s off the top of my pointy, liberal head.

  2. mbe

    very true…thats why most of us here are libertarians 🙂

  3. hey joe!

    new deal? hmmmm. desegregation is most excellent. policies where individuals don’t get that “equal protection under the law” or laws that give special privledges to some but not others (like segregation laws) should be sent away! nice call there!

    touche. first round is on me! happy wednesday!

  4. how leftists like joe love to use trickery! fist pick “solutions” that have created more problems than they are worth and then mix in how the left was the sole champion against racism, sexism, etc,

    never mind that conservative belief is completely compatiable with abolishing racism, et al and that it was the right-wing GOP that led the way to desegratation.

  5. hey anon,

    with desegregation, truman did that to the army and many of the arguments back then were echoed in the don’t ask don’t tell bit of clinton. that’s the first example of desegregation in the modern era that immediately springs to mind.

    head start (preferably private) is a good thing. there’s a privately funded business directed form of head start that’s being tried here in chicago. that seems even better!

    as for the right wing GOP and segregation, we run into the problem of the dixiecrats (strom and trent’s comments) and conservative democrats.

    and neither side is good on civil liberties, unfortunately.

    as for trickery, calling conservative solutions “pragmatic” (gotta love that — stuff isn’t practical, it’s pragmatic. we don’t use something, we utilize it.) or logical is equally full of trickery.

    so — ike was in the whitehouse at brown vs. board. kennedy and johnson were in during the 60s when racial battles were fought. what examples of GOP right wing desegration were you thinking of?


  6. Lefty,

    In construing a legal document, it’s standard practice to reconstruct (or at least attempt to do so) the mind of the law-giver. In the case of the Constitution, that’s the sovereign peoples of the several states, assembled in the ratifying conventions.

    In practice, this means reading the document according to its internal organization and logic, and construing terms as they were commonly used at the time they were written. Common law terms of art are to be read according to their technical meaning in 1787, and general language as it was commonly used at the time. When allusions to historical events are made, the common understanding of those events should be reconstructed as much as possible.

    In the case of the term “general Welfare,” it appears both in the Preamble and in the Taxing Clause of Article I Section 8. It was repeatedly explained in the ratification debates that the Preamble was not a grant of power in any way. And various people involved in drafting the Constitution explained that the term “common Defence and general Welfare” was an allusion to the repeated use of that language in the Articles of Confederation, and the need to explicitly authorize taxation to pay debts undertaken under the Articles.

    What you are doing is much like the way Straussians read the Constitution: pick it up cold, and read it as a “sacred text” completely outside of any historical context. It’s the way Hal Lindsey reads Revelation, without regard to things like the symbolism it has in common with other late Jewish and early Christian apocalypes, or to the interpretations of the early Fathers, etc.

    Language is rooted in history, and when you destroy its relation to history you rob it of objective meaning.

  7. To put it all in a nutshell:

    Liberals believe you can circumvent human nature i.e. the tabula rasa.

    Conservatives believe you can control it.

    Both bring their own list of problems.

    But, and this is the point everyone seems to be skipping, these Berkeley guys are lumping in everyone Right of themselves.

    One could argue that it is the conservatives, even with their flaws, who tend to take the more pragmatic approach because they are not trying to change the unchangeable.

    This segues to drf?s example: both sides are guilty of various infractions but it is the emotional, squishy Left that come up with ?special rights? for groups of people, completely ignoring the fact that they are circumventing the principle that they are supposedly fighting for, equality.

  8. “Welfare is as much a part of the Constitution as the right to bear arms.”

    Except that the right to bear arms is in the Bill of Rights, and federal wealth-redistributing welfare programs are pretty much ruled out by the Bill of Rights (i.e., the Tenth).

    Of course, you can play a game of confusing “promoting the general welfare” with government welfare programs. However, it is pretty clear that promoting the general welfare is not consitant with these programs.

    “Both have ‘obvious problems.”‘

    The right to bear arms doesn’t have any obvious problems, but gun control does. Just look at England’s handgun ban and the resulting high handgun crime rate.

    Welfare programs have obvious problems.

    Both gun control and welfare programs are contrary to promoting the general welfare.

  9. On the thinking-feeling thing, I just thought of a comment Buchanan made a long time ago. He said that in matters of patriotism and patriotic symbolism (e.g. flag-burning), it was liberals who “just didn’t get it” because they approached the issue with their heads rather than their hearts. Most Americans, on the other hand, simply see red when something impugns the sacred honor of The Fatherland.

  10. hey Don,

    besides the article in reason a few months ago, do you have any more info on handgun crime / violent crime in the UK?


  11. Mr. Burns:

    “Leftists believe that reality has no purpose other than to oppress would-be perfect human beings.”

    I’d say some of the neocons share this form of gnosticism. “Creative destruction,” “the end of history,” the radical transformation of the world through the use of force….

    I’m not saying all the pro-war people on the right are guilty of this, by any means. Although I don’t agree with it, there is at least a prudential case that can be made for war, on a case by case basis. But some of the off the wall types in the PNAC and the Rumsfeld/Perle group, on the other hand, sounded like Ranters or Fifth Monarchy men from the 1640s.

  12. But Kevin thinks there is never a justified cause for war. This is the overly idealistic characteristic of someone on the fringe that I had posted about earlier.

    Lofty principles on paper are great, just ask any Marxist, but reality sinks in when bad people with guns come knocking. That I want my team to have the biggest guns makes me “pro war” in Kevin’s book.

  13. If you beleive that there was never any concept of the common good in the constitution’s framers’ minds, go ahead. I can then take the language of the gun issue, place it in the context of that era’s militia practices and conclude private ownership of guns for non-militia activities can be banned.

    However, the constitutionality of both “welfare” and the right to arm bears has been established by the courts so it’s a bit moot right now. How they are applied and practiced are legitimate bones to gnaw.

    So chew on – with feeling.

  14. The article says, in part, “This intolerance of ambiguity can lead [conservative] people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes, the researchers advised.”

    That describes liberals a lot more closely than conservatives, if you ask me.

  15. Lefty,

    Madison had said that there was no better interpretation of the Constitution than the Federalist Papers. In those papers, regardless of what the courts might eventually say, Madison said that no population where the common man was armed could ever be taken over, he said a strong enough army could not be raised to take on such an armed populace. This, by the way, is why we are disarming the general population of Iraq, to make them more pliable.

    The welfare question has already been answered with direct quotes from Madison and still you ramble on as if no one has shown you otherwise.
    Someone tell Plutarck that this where the name calling begins because some people are just so dense that it boggles the rational mind.

  16. The four researchers are: a distinguished professor, an associate professor, a visiting professor, and an assistant professor. I don’t know when you get tenure, but up to three of them would appear to be on somewhat shaky ground if, say, a lot of people wanted to complain to their schools, alumni associations, etc. about Lysenkoism.

    I’ve got their various contact info here.

  17. I’ll leave it to “conservatives” to define that word. I haven’t found a better “definition” of “libertarianism” than Charles Murray’s examination in “What It Means to be a Libertarian,” which I recommend without reservation to anyone who wants a firm command of that word. To his credit, Murray doesn’t offer a dogmatic “definition,” but more of a description of the route one takes to get to “Libertarian City,” including the milestones and scenic attractions along the way, not to mention the neighborhoods you find when you get there. Whether you wish to live there, or where you decide to settle in the region, is up to you, but after reading the book, you’ll be able to look at people labeled “libertarian” and tell whether or not they are even in the neighborbood, much less on the same planet. I doubt that any sociological study could do better than Murray’s thoughtful journey-in-print.

  18. James M.


    I’ve given a number of copies of Murray’s book away and it has helped me with even the basics of applying semantics to my own stances.

  19. The idea that conservatives do not approach issues emotionally is laughable. Listen to Rush Limbaugh sometime people. Listen to the collectivist rhetoric conservatives spout about “duty, honor, and country,” and the need to place these above rational and critical thought. Hell, listen to conservatives when they speak about gay marraige, where they often offer some of the most paranoid rantings one will ever see in public discourse. Or better yet, read Coulter, who delves into the argument from emtion any chance she can get.

  20. The idea that Croesus does not approach conservatives emotionally is laughable.

  21. Ray:

    “Someone tell Plutarck that this where the name calling begins because some people are just so dense that it boggles the rational mind.”

    I didn’t ask for a *reason* – let’s pretend name calling begins because iant pink faeries sprinkle meany dust onto people’s hearts. I asked if it was _productive_ – if anyone actually thought it was a wise ^choice^ to behave in such a way.

    You can’t control whether or not someone else is dense, but you can control what you say in response; you can choose whether or not to behave in a way that raises, maintains, or possibly even raises the level of discourse and productivity of a discussion, or you can choose to drive it right down into the abyss even faster than it might otherwise go. If nothing else you can opt out of a useless exchange, or you can choose to drive it down into the dust and rub salt in it’s wounds, then rap it up in bandages and soak it with gasoline and set it in fire, then throw it off a cliff, then urinate on the charred, broken remains, then barry it in a copper mine and set off a nuclear warhead, and then shoot yourself so as to utterly illiminate any knowledge of the location of the remains.

    A little good ole fashioned personal responsability goes a long way; run-on sentances helps too, I think.

  22. Ray, you casually brushed off the actual constitutionality of the issues we’ve been discussing and went on to talk about a book you once read and how rational your mind is.

    “Regardless of what the courts may eventually say”, Ray says welfare (the poor type or the corporate type?) is unconstitutional and should be banned. Who can I call or write to get this put into practice as soon as possible? King Ray the Rational has spoken.

  23. The “left” and “right” are basically two large coalitions of people, groups, and politicians in America today. They are far from uniform, but each coalition has a general theme that most of its members more or less subscribe to. And of course there are plenty of people who really don’t fit into either coalition.

    I’m not sure that there’s some fact of psychology that causes most people to automatically fit into one of those molds. It could be that our two-party system forces most people to choose one or the other, and affiliation then influences them.

    Then again, I could be totally wrong.

    In any case, it is strange to me that knowing a person’s position on one hot-button issue (e.g. guns, abortion, invading Iraq) can help me predict (with reasonable accuracy) how that person feels on other, unrelated issues. Surely there should be more variety to human thought.

  24. “Surely there should be more variety to human thought.”

    Not really, see my metaphysical theory above. I fully admit though that this is less than perfect model.

    99% of people never really think about metaphysics though. Most just say whatever is popular, gets them traction with allies on a particular issue, etc, sells radio advertising, etc.

  25. Did it HAVE to come from Berkeley? Jesus, how cliche can you get?

  26. Lefty,

    I do think it’s germaine to the discussion of the ‘constitutionality’ of those issues, what a book says about those issues written by one of the guys who actually wrote the constitution, on the subject of what the stuff in it meant. You’ve just descended into ad hominem Ray bashing.

  27. BTW, IMHO, the beliefs associated with ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are mostly the result of historical accident, relationship/coallition building et cetera than any form of logical consistency based on metaphysics, reason vs. emotion, idealist vs. realist thinking or any other factors.

    Basically, people who have a liberal sentiment about a few issues personally important to them tend to associate with and/or discuss their beliefs with others that have liberal views and tend to over time adopt those other, extraneous views because that is the side of the story they’re hearing. Same with conservatives. Not many people take the time or make the intellectual effort to step outside of the box and question everything for logical consistency. The people that do, also in my humble opinion, become either libertarians or totalitarians.

  28. What bugs people about studies like this is that they apply statistics to human behavior, and this smacks of determinism. It is the same thing that bugged and shocked people when the French mathematician Laplace applied statistics to things like marraige rates, instead of simply gambling dice. People don’t like the idea that they can quantified, so they tend to get obnoxious when they are.

  29. lies, damned lies and statistics

  30. Here is a site that covers the “welfare” topic pretty well, I think:

  31. drf,



    The latestet data shows that reported crimes are up overall by 2%, while a survey shows overall crime is down 2%. In any case, firearms crime is up 35%.

  32. “Who can I call or write to get this put into practice as soon as possible? King Ray the Rational has spoken. ”

    Clearly, the Tenth would eliminate welfare at the federal level–if we bothered following the Constitution, that is. Since the reign of FDR, we haven’t paid much attention to the Constitution.

  33. Lefty,

    Constitutional issues were not brushed off. You were presented with direct quotes from Madison stating beyond a shadow of a doubt that the constitutional phrase “general welfare” had nothing to do with your contemporary definition of wealth redistribution.

    The only book cited was “The Federalist Papers.” Since you are obviously ignorant of the most basic points of our history; these papers were written by Madison, Hamilton a few by Jay and published in the New York newspapers to persuade the populace to adopt our current constitution.

    Madison said later (remember him, the Constitution’s author) that there was no better interpretation of the Constitution than the Fed Papers.

    All of this is a reiteration, so Lefty, instead of brushing off these issues again, please, hold forth.

  34. What’s “conservative” mean? Democrats want to conserve the status quo with regard to public education while Republicans want to give vouchers a chance.

    Many liberals want to expand the definition of marriage to include gays, but conservatives don’t.

    Who’s “conserving” the status quo? It depends on what issue you’re talking about. In my opinion, so-called liberals are probably MORE conservative than the conservatives.

  35. Honestly, I think that Libertarians are often some of the most ‘liberal’ people around. Because they espouse limited government intervention in their personal lives as well as business, that to me is a very ‘liberal’ stance. I often tell people that Libertarians are liberal in both social issues as well as economic issues whereas Dems are liberal socially and conservative economically and Republicans are conservative socially and liberal economically. Now by this, I mean liberal to mean ‘let people mind their own business, and “nature” will run it’s course and things will work out relatively ok’ and conservative to mean ‘let’s try to control everything because if we let nature run it’s course, things will go very badly.’

    However, I also realise that you could say that Libertarians are conservative because of their general belief that the Constitution should be upheld. At the same time, though, even without the Constitution, I would want to be considered ‘Libertarian’, since I think that liberty is the most important things to hold dear.

    Although in the end, I think that if everyone would just take responsibility for their own actions, the world would be a much better place…..

  36. Russel Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” is the quintessential and best work on the thought behind conservatism. I’d go into the basic tenets of conservatism he writes about, but I’m not about to write an essay — anyhow, while the Berkeley “scientists” may be right in their analysis on certain issues (i.e. far-right Christian conservatism), their semantics rely on hyperbole, which pretty much discounts any “objectivity” on their part.

  37. Why they call sociology a science when the degree is clearly a liberal art is beyond me. Pseudo-science maybe? How about pre-science? Honestly, how the hell can you make any meaningful conclusions about people using such vague political designations as “conservative” and “liberal”? Preposterous jackassery.

  38. Gee, I dunno. Looks like a pretty accurate description of Scalia and Santorum to me. Your comments Lefty?

  39. Not to be a thorn…well, that’s not true, but EVERYONE is motivated by seeking acceptance, avoiding/fearing rejection, control and dominance (one theory states that all relationships are marked by a drive for dominance – one has to leave one’s judgements about “ought” at the door when considering an “is”, especially about human behavior), and hierarchial values/goals (in order) of survival, security, self-esteem, love, self-expression, and intellectual and/or spiritual fulfillment. Acceptance and rejection, control and dominance tend to be means to the ends of the value/goal hierarchy, though they are occassionally taken on or considered goals in and of themselves.

    To further tone down a perfectly reasonable visceral reaction to the article that even I myself felt, it is helpful (and they would have done well to point out, assuming non-partisan/demonising motives) to consider the existance of the “Psychogenetic Fallacy”:

    In short, why someone believes something – no matter the reason – tells us nothing of the truth or falsehood of that given thing.

    None of this is to say their analysis is correct – I’ve not actually seen much of their reasoning, with a special emphasis on just how far back into history and crossing cultural boundaries they go – just that it isn’t so obviously bad as one might think at first blush.

    But you can be sure that someone will pick it up and try to use it to justify their own beliefs or demonize other people – thus is the way of the world.

  40. Oh, in an interesting sort of exposing of a filter/implicit cognitive assumption: according to the article, this isn’t from Sociology or Sociologists at all – it’s from Psychology, and published in the “American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin”.

    Can’t blame you for assuming that, though 😉

  41. I’m humbled that Apis would ask my opinion. I guess I’m about as impressed with this article as any other attempt at generalizing and sterotyping groups of individuals – which is not much. This type of lumping is, to me, a sign of lazy thinking and serves no useful purpose.

  42. Sure it alot of work to be lazy…

  43. I think I’d pretty much agree with the researchers. 🙂

    To be fair, it’s their word choice that makes it sound negative. You could use concern for the future and assertiveness, tradition and straightforwardness in place of “fear and aggression, dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity.” and it sounds a lot nicer.

  44. Isn’t Frank Sulloway the man who also claims that birth order is destiny? Oldest children are destined to be corporate CEOS and policemen and the youngest children of big families will end up as criminals and political revolutionaries.

  45. Sociology sociology is a science because all the math scares liberal arts majors.

  46. This article is about as breakthrough as this:

    Kansas is flatter than a pancake

  47. Who are they including in their definition of “political conservatives”? If by political conservative you mean that group that is trying to preserve the status quo, I think that the Democrats are much more status quo oriented than the Republicans, for example.

    The Dems are trying to preserve the statist status quo on all fronts, from redistribution of wealth to the regulatory state. The Republicans, agree with them or not, are working much more for a transformation of the current political scene.

    So who’s the conservative party – the one trying to preserve the status quo, or the one trying to change it?

  48. I think if you’ve never actually met or interacted with any conservatives, you think they’re all authoritarian personality type cliches like Ashcroft. (Not that that particular cliche doesn’t apply to him. . .) Maybe these social scientist need to leave the echo chamber and experience a little diversity once in a while.

    This sounds about on the same intellectual level as Michael Savage ranting about dope smokin’ hippies, but he’s just a radio goon – he doesn’t have tenure somewhere.

    (Actually, I don’t even think people like Ashcroft or Santorum *are* conservatives. They’re authoritarians. I’m not sure these guys could tell the difference though. Throw libertarians in the mix and they’d get really confused).

  49. I?ve noticed over the years that people are inclined by the nature of their base personality to fit into 2 basic groups; the more idealistic and the more realistic.

    The more idealistic people you will find on the fringes, left and right. The more realistic they are, the more and more towards the middle they move.

    The closer towards that middle one goes however, the less principled they seem to become and conversely, the farther out one goes the more principles come in to play. To far out though and the principles simply do not coalesce with what is feasibly ever going to happen i.e. the left?s utopia or the Ayn Rand version of utopia.

    This is why I?m finally changing my party affiliation to Libertarian instead of being a libertarian leaning Republican. I think it is time to move the L. party in from the fringes. Legalized drugs are something I?m for but it is not a platform to win the hearts and minds of the general populace. Sometimes, wars need to be fought and yes we can have a strong military presence without being the world?s policeman. And so on.

  50. It should be noted that, to my knowledge, no war has ever been started or ended over a disagreement about mathematics; further, in general, incidents of torture, intentional starvation, murder, genocide, slavery, foot-binding, rape, social justice, and inventions of governmental institutions, law and jurisprudence, corporations, property rights, marriage, feudalism, aristocracy, democracy and countless other such things…have almost absolutely nothing to do with the art, science, theory, or practice of mathematics.

    That given…as far as I’m aware, math isn’t very popular amongst liberal arts majors – but then, that could be because mathematicians are scared by, or don’t understand, liberal arts and the “softer” sciences :>

    Or not 😉


    I’m not aware of anyone who thinks birth order is destiny; however, he may or may not be the person who believes that birth order is a main, or the main, determinant in certain psychological personality traits, which as such tends – not absolutely determines – to result in individuals that occupied certain birth order slots to end up being employed in certain fields and endevours disproportionately; not a clue whether or not he’s as full of it as astrologers, though, but it’s at least a far more plausible theory.

    T. Hartin:

    You bring up a good point, and I think expose a possibly major fallacy in this whole sort of thing – whether or not someone seeks change is so incredibly relative to outside factors and which particular perspective one examines something from that the study may very well end up being nothing more than a study of only particular kinds of conservatices, but not conservatives as a whole. Seems like a far more plausible explanation to me.


    As far as I’m aware, as the terms are used here, Authoritarian and Conservative are not mutually exlusive terms – they relate to entirely different things.

  51. More anecdotal evidence; liberals in the contemporary sense that have ?converted? always have a difficult time with their new ideology. It never seems to come to them naturally, as if they have to take a deep breath and consciously plug in their logic and then formulate their thoughts.

    And that is the defining difference; logic. Conservatives (and yes the sociologists mean Libertarians too) see welfare or something like that and see the obvious problems. The Left can look at the exact same thing but they see through a filter of emotional thinking and thus wind up thinking that, if applied with a sledge hammer, human nature will change and we will live happily ever after.

  52. Kevin,

    Quit reading more into it than is really there.

    The Berkeley types view everyone Right of them as conservative in the contemporary sense. Yes, that includes everyone here at Reason.

  53. Yeah I was trying to say that I think these guys are conflating “conservative” with “authoritarian.” Two different things.

    There are right authoritarians and left authoritarians and right-wingers who aren’t authoritarians, etc. Is old skool Goldwater “limited government” conservatism compatable with a really statist authoritarianism? I don’t think so.

    Actually the authoritarian/libertarian axis is much more interesting to think about than the right/left axis.

  54. I quote from the subject article:

    “Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality….”

    This is, of course, hilarious on several grounds. First, it is virtually self-evident that those most resistant to change and tolerant of inequality are on what passes for the Left these days. Second, in the sense that “conservative” simply implies resistance to change, the findings are tautological. Third, the notion that there is some common definition to “conservative” or “liberal” over the last 50 years is absurd on its face.

    Oh well, social science is to science what fireflies are to fire.

  55. Welfare is as much a part of the Constitution as the right to bear arms. Both have “obvious problems”. In your view, Ray, the left are emotional and the right are logical in approaching these issues. Seems like one of those eye-of-the-beholder things.

  56. From Professor Glaser’s remarks on 9-11, available on his website:

    “We should keep in mind that we have the tendency to overestimate the homogeneity of groups to which we do not belong (?They?re all alike?). In reality, all groups (ethnic, racial, gender, political, etc.) have tremendous diversity; extremists are, by definition, not representative.”


    I don’t think either nominal “conservatives” or “liberals” have a deadlock on substituting emotion for logic. I’ve heard a lot of conservatives who, in relation to domestic policy, quote Acton’s dictum and distrust government’s motives, but believe they have a “patriotic” duty to believe whatever a president says in wartime, if he wraps himself in the flag and repeats the mantra of “national security” enough times. Not to mention Freepers who were horrified at Reno’s ongoing slide toward jackbootism but are perfectly comfortable with Ashcroft and USA PATRIOT because Ashcroft and Bush are “good Christian men.”

    The local letters to the editor page is filled with comments about how “good Americans trust our President in wartime.” It would seem that, to any person who uses logic instead of feeling, that’s a pretty good incentive for a power-hungry politician to GET us into “wartime.”

  57. Lefty,

    Do you REALLY, SERIOUSLY think that the word “Welfare” is used in *that* sense in the Constitution? You’re being facetious, right?

    Or maybe the “guarantee the States a republican form of Government” clause refers to installing GOP governors?

    I don’t expect you to embrace a methodology of original intent, or forswear your “living, breating document” (like Frankenstein was a living, breathing monster) assumptions. But please recognize, at least, that language actually means something.

  58. Kevin,

    Refer back to my post about people being basically more idealistic or more realistic, Left and Right and you will see that we agree for the most part.

    However, and I did preface all of my wanderings as anecdotal, that Leftists tend to make up their minds as to how they wish things could be while disregarding basic human nature.

    Think of Rousseau and the French Revolution. They literally thought that the human condition was at one point in our young lives a tabula rasa, or a blank slate. And of course it is not.

    This is the difference between Left and Right generally speaking and yes, this emotional pox affects all of us; it is the main cause of ?not-in-my-backyard? syndrome. Such and such policy is great for you but just not in my neighborhood.

  59. Oh, excuse me. I must have got that “promote the general welfare” idea from my copy of the Communist Manifesto.

  60. “Leftists tend to make up their minds as to how they wish things could be while disregarding basic human nature”

    uhmmm… okay, but

    Rightists tend to make up their minds as to how they wish things could be while disregarding basic human nature. Examples: sodomy laws, marriage laws, abortion laws, the practice of democracy in other countries, the war on drugs, any other kind of puritanism the authoritarian right favors…

  61. I have a question: Has anyone ever, ever witnessed a conversation made MORE productive by personal insults? Ever? In their entire lives? Has anyone even heard of a story of where the discourse was rendered more reasonable, instead of less, through the use of insults?

  62. “I think that the Democrats are much more status quo oriented than the Republicans, for example.”

    They’re not talking about changes in the government, but changes in society. All the “status quo” programs you mention, like redistributive fiscal policies, environmental regs, etc., are intended to change the way society functions. In a larger sense, “conservative” in this context doesn’t refer to a set of policy assumptions at all, but to a style of politics that adopts and sloughs off policy positions based on the historical context.

  63. Plutarck:

    As to your question, yes, I have. And your mother wears combat boots.

  64. Ray:

    “This is the difference between Left and Right generally speaking and yes, this emotional pox affects all of us;”

    Are you aware that the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Shaun Hannity all say the EXACT opposite – that it is really conservatives who act according to their thoughts and intelligence, and liberals who act on feelings and emotions? That’s a major argument I hear all the time on radio and television about welfare – liberals just want to “help people” with welfare, but they’re really just making them dependent on the state (give a man a fish…), whereas the thinking man – the conservative – knows better.

    And on the human nature bit, I echo mbe’s objection in that absolutely both conservatives and liberals have, throughout history, either actively disregarded or simply were not aware of human nature, or – perhaps more commonly now adays – actively sought to use some drive of human nature to suppress or change some other drive or behavior in human nature. Example: abstinence until marriage (people want to have sex, but just ward off the ill-effects of it by restricted it to a marrital relationship).

    Just be sure not to make the mistake of not recalling that emotion and intellect, and instinct and culture, are ALL a natural part of human nature.

  65. Mark:

    You rat bastard!

    [ I’ve never said name-calling can’t be entertaining 😉 ]

  66. Ray again:

    Hmm, on re-reading, I’m thinking that I mis-understood you, and what you said was actually in agreement with the Limbaugh-Hannity position that it’s conservatives who think and Liberals who ‘feel’, so to speak.

    I don’t actually agree, but my earlier post on there being a contradiction between their viewpoint on the matter and yours was mistaken.

  67. There’s a reason Feyman hated the social “sciences” for daring to call themselves “sciences”…

  68. I’m somewhat saddened by that Frank J. Sulloway’s name is associated with this ‘report’. I’ve found his book “Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives” a fascinating read with very interesting conclusions, IMO well supported by a quarter century of his (and others’)research. Given that he mentions at least six different personality axes in that book, any paper which purports to find common personality traits in ‘conservatives’ smacks of gross oversimplification. The traits mentioned in the ‘report’ are overwhelmingly present in most (self-professed) Radical Feminists – accordingly, I agree that this isn’t about ‘conservatives’: it is about people whose personality is primarily authoritarian.

  69. Well, depending on how you look at it, according to the institutions they inhabit, then Radical Feminists are really conservatives!

    Kind of blows your mind, doesn’t it?

  70. “like Frankenstein was a living, breathing monster”

    Do you mean Victor or his creation?

  71. Plutarck,

    Speaking with liberals, you broach the subject of helping the poor in whatever way and you get an emotional response, regardless of feasibility.

    Speaking with conservatives, broach the same subject and you?re likely to get a more pragmatic answer. However, bring up his own union wages or the subsidy he regularly gets to keep his farm afloat and his logic or pragmatism is out the window.

    This is my point from earlier posts that we are all born into one of two basic groups; that of an idealist or a realist and the Left and the Right have plenty of both.

    And these Berkeley types consider everyone Right of themselves as conservative so don?t get sidetracked into thinking they?re attacking Rush Limbaugh and not the Libertarians as well. It is generally accepted that the logical argument is harder to sell than the emotional gimme i.e. giving fish or teaching to fish. And of course this old adage still sums up the basic differences between Left and Right.

    So the Berkeley scientists are essentially saying that if you fall into the ?teaching to fish? camp, then you?re a soulless scoundrel.

  72. this “conservative = logical, thinking” vs. “liberal = feeling, emotion (irrational)” is silly. just get people in indiana talking about daylight savings time — “it’s not god’s time” or get fundies talking about evolution vs. creationism, you get emotion. get the iraq issue: bringing up shredding machines when challenged on the flimsy evidence for fighting. that’s an appeal to emotion if there ever was one.

    there’s an emotional side to conservatives, too. and why not? we are thinking and feeling beings. a system of beliefs that have both fits. as long as people can discuss and debate ideas and principles and applications, it seems okay to have both elements.

    if anyone has evidence that PC liberalism involves not getting brain damage, however, please alert the authorities! my reasons? an anecdote where a true-believing howard dean supporter was explaining to me how HD is a “big proponent of individual rights”… (if anybody has an example of that, please lemme know!)

    (equal balance warning: i can’t find any examples of practical liberal solutions, sorry)

    and aren’t we libertarians a part of the “mushy middle” that doesn’t have the balls to make real man, conservative decisions? 🙂


  73. In any case, it is strange to me that knowing a person’s position on one hot-button issue (e.g. guns, abortion, invading Iraq) can help me predict (with reasonable accuracy) how that person feels on other, unrelated issues. Surely there should be more variety to human thought

    because issues are reflections of principles, consistency is frequent. for instance: i am against killing of innocent nonhumans, hence i am against abortion and am a vegetarian. however i am also against govt intervention in nonhuman issues (i.e. killing man= govt intervention, so does raping or beating him, but killing animal is nongov issue) so you see there is method to the madness.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.