The Left-Right Happiness Gap Thru Conservative Eyes

May 08 2008 Published by under Featured News

A new study has revealed that conservatives are happier than liberals. Researchers have pinpointed exactly why right-leaning Americans are in such high spirits – conservatives don’t care about social justice. This conclusion conveniently reinforces liberals’ smug sense of moral superiority, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

To be sure, Jaime Napier and John Jost of New York University don’t explicitly say that conservatives lack compassion. Their study can be interpreted any number of ways, depending on one’s personal biases. To be charitable, one might say that conservatives have an optimistic view of an individual’s ability to overcome obstacles. To be uncharitable, one might write might write on LiveScience:

Individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners, and new research pinpoints the reason: Conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities.

Regardless of marital status, income or church attendance, right-wing individuals reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than left-wingers, the new study found. Conservatives also scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person’s tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities.

Shame on Senior Writer Jeanna Bryner for tipping her hand with “explain away.” Rather than portray the study as an analysis of two different worldviews, Bryner relies on the lazy stereotype of the Heartless Republican. Granted, stereotypes are often true, but that’s no excuse for shoddy journalism.

Liberals are less happy than conservatives because they perceive an unjustifiable level of social and economic inequality in the world. Life’s not fair, and it grates on left-wingers relentlessly. On the other hand, conservatives aren’t overly distressed by the notion of inequality. Right-leaners are prone to believing that an individual’s class status is a factor of one’s innate agency – that a person moves up or down the economic ladder based on effort and performance. Within this worldview, the existence of a social under class isn’t a problem to be fixed by government – it’s an unfortunate fact of life, which can be corrected through an individual’s own choices and actions.

Left-leaners are more likely to see classes as static, and that members of the under class are incapable of upward mobility. In the leftist worldview, this inequality could be reasonably corrected through income redistribution and welfare programs. Unfortunately, a monolith of needlessly joyous conservatives stand in the way of social progress, creating the resentment and unhappiness discovered by the NYU researchers. Poor liberals.

However, there’s no reason liberals can’t be socially conscious and happy at the same time. For answers on how to improve happiness, one might turn to the recent happiness conference in Sydney, Australia. The two-day conference was sponsored by the Buddhist Vajrayana Institute, and attracted approximately 2000 attendees, who listened to various academic speakers wax eloquent on the subject of happiness attainment. One lecturer made a very useful observation:

[Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert] said people’s happiness goes into steep decline after they have children, and never recovers its old level until the children leave home. As a source of pleasure, playing with one’s offspring rates just above doing housework but below talking with friends, eating, or watching TV, research has shown.

If liberals want to be happier, they must not have children under any circumstances. It will only make the problem worse. It won’t necessarily improve social inequality, but it might help narrow the left-right happiness gap. Plus, children are a massive source of carbon emissions. Live green, live happy, live childless.

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