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Why lefties are purse faced

  • April 3rd, 2008


If Lefties think life is short-changing them – it most probably is. What a tragedy to spend your only life getting a face like a trade union leader.

Before I was elected in 1999 someone gave me  a copy of  Pam Corkery’s book. It explained why she resigned from Parliament. She had a wickedly funny pen, but she found politics too hard.

I soon experienced almost all the things that caused her anguish – like turning up to a hall in Waikikamukau to find only the local party secretary and no key, on the wrong night. But whereas she found it desperately depressing, I found amusement and the unexpected pleasure of new friends. 

I decided that the difference was probably just the company. She was spending her days with Alliance whingers, people whose world was envy, the awful certainty that some one, somewhere, was getting a better deal than them.

I would invariably find myself getting to know local acheivers. Sometimes they were eccentric optimists,  but nearly always they were thankful for what they had, and expecting to make their world better. They were glad to celebrate success in their neighbourhoods, whoever was getting it.

So I was delighted to find some evidence to support my unscientific impression. 

The Economist of 27 March reviews a forthcoming book (Arthur Brooks – Gross National Happiness) that reports US research showing conservatives are happier than liberals. In 2004 Americans who called themselves “conservative” or “very conservative” were nearly twice as likely to tell pollsters they were “very  happy” as those who considered themselves “liberal” or “very liberal” (44 percent versus 25 percent).   American conservatives have been consistently happier than liberals for at least 35 years.

 This is not because they are richer; they are not.  Brooks find three significant differentiators:   Conservatives are twice as likely as liberals to be married, twice as likely to attend church every week. Married, religious people are more likely than secular singles to be happy. They are also more likely to have children, which makes Brooks confident that the next generation will be at least as happy as the current one.

When religious and political differences are combined, the results are striking: Secular liberals are as likely to say they are “not too happy” as to say they are very happy (22 percent to 22 percent). Religious conservatives are ten times more likely to report being very happy than not too happy (50 percent to 5 percent). Religious liberals are about as happy as secular conservatives.

Why should this be so?  Brooks proposes that whatever their respective merits, the conservative world view is more conducive to happiness than the liberal one (in the American sense of both words).   American conservatives tend to believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed. This makes them more optimistic than liberals, more likely to feel in control of their lives and therefore happier.

American liberals, at their most pessimistic, stress the injustice of the economic system, the crushing impersonal forces that keep the little guy down and what David Mamet, a playwright, recently summed up as the belief that “everything is always wrong”. Emphasising victimhood was noble during the 1950s and 1960s, says Mr Brooks. By overturning Jim Crow laws, liberals gave the victims of foul injustice greater control over their lives.

But the American left is now a coalition of groups that define themselves as the victims of social and economic forces, and in as much as its leaders encourage people to feel helpless and aggrieved, he thinks they make America a glummer place”.

Assuming that the findings hold for New Zealand where religiousity is much less associated with the right, this is comforting for a National Party candidate. Who cares if our view (that successful honest self reliant responsible people improve the world) is pollyannaish?.  I win both ways. I’m happier, whether that’s justified or not, and I get to spend more time with cheerful people.

Can we speculate that the findings explain why the MSM (main stream media for newcomers to blog shorthand) are mistrusted by us and by the practical majority? The happiness research is from the US. Clear research there and here has shown overwhelming left wing preference among journalists. Their miserable victim view of the world may predispose them to unhappiness and accordingly to the temptation to project unhappiness and suspicion onto others.

Persistent media hostility to parties which trust ordinary people to organise their own lives without the supervision of their anointed superiors is accordingly explained. The journalists feel bad about themselves.

“The joys of parenthood; Why conservatives are happier than liberals,” The Economist, March 27, 2008 reviewing Arthur Brooks, “Gross National Happiness,” Basic Books, April 7, 2008.



  • Jordan
  • April 4th, 2008
  • 3:44 pm

This study was only done in the U.S. which, interestingly, has a much lower overall happiness rating than a rather large number of liberal countries…in fact the first four places are held by notoriously liberal Scandinavian countries.

Maybe conservatives in the United States do get a better deal because they know that under the current status quo they’ll always come out on top, and change under their staid and inflexible government system is unlikely. But hey, being liberal in America is about as much fun as bashing your head against a brick wall I guess.

One thing that liberals do have over conservatives is their ability to change, the ability to hope and make progress towards something even better.

We’re not just ‘whingers’, as can be seen in the swarm of liberal countries leading the HAPPINESS metre…

Let conservatives settle for mediocrity and be happy with that if they want…I mean, they say ignorance is bliss don’t they?

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