Thursday, February 23, 2006


George Will again besmirches the editorial pages of the WaPo today (which is, in itself, rather like disgusting a buzzard off a gut-wagon) with a column headed Smile if (and Only if) You’re Conservative, wherein he writes, "A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that conservatives are happier than liberals -- in all income groups. " If the Pew survey had shown, for instance, that Fox viewers were more inclined than all others to believe that 2 + 2 = 5 Georgie wouldn't be touting this. But, as is, this news makes the bowtied boy very happy, cleary. He nearly lifts off from planet Earth in his giddy explanation of the good news. "Conservatives" are wise apparently; that's why they're happier than other people. Says he:

"Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile -- touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Conservatives' pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised -- they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes -- government -- they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity -- it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness."

I'd be willing to bet that the Pew people would find that very, very few self-described "conservatives" would know what a Calder is, or what the Law of Unintended Consequences is. The few who did know of that "law" would, of course, not apply it to things like the "War on Drugs" and the War in Iraq, both of which are textbook examples. Moreover, I don't know what Will means when he speaks of conservative "pessimism." The belief that a semi-literate lifelong loser would miraculously turn into a leader when given absolute power perhaps. Or perhaps the notion that we can combust billions of years worth of stored solar/chemical energy in just centuries without disurpting the natual order of things. Or perhaps the idea that the Iraq fiasco would bring democracy to the region, and would pay for itself. All of these were or are cherished core "conservative" beliefs. None qualifies as pessimism. And as to the issue of being 'right more often than not....'

George is flat wrong when he asserts that "conservatives put not their faith in princes -- government...." First of all, prince doesn't equal government, though you wouldn't know it from the blind, cultish loyalty "conservatives" show toward the infallible Prince George Bush. And also "conservatives" are all for government solving the problems of private morality for each and all of us -- except themselves.

Finally, only a world-class asshole thinks that "happiness is inseperable from the pursuit of happiness." Happiness is a byproduct, quite often, and perhaps always, of putting one's own happiness aside for other ends, quite unrelated to one's own happiness.

In any case, what the Pew study seems to show is that among the 3000 or so people who answered their phones and agreed to answer the stranger's questions, a self-report of happiness is more strongly correlated with "conservatism" than liberality. We might wonder how depressive realism correlates with political view, or how lack of self-awareness, ignorance of public affairs or natural science correlates, how a deaf ear to cognitive dissonance, how a complete lack of social and private conscience, and a high tolerance for hypocrisy all correlate -- to this "happiness". But that would be a more thorough study. George Will wouldn't be interested in that one, you can be sure.


At 1:17 PM, Blogger conservo said...

wow - how bitter. You really HATE Bush and probably any conservative.
Back to the subject at hand.
The Pew study supports what many others have shown. I think George is close but misdirected when he says that conservatives may be happy because they are pessimistic. Rather than pessimistic I think of it as more realistic. When I took my current job, 80% of my group had been laid off at least once before. From this I learned that I could expect to be laid off in the future. I did not become discouraged by this but instead have done everything I could to promote my long term employment and to prepare for the need to look for another job. If I do get laid off I will not be overly unhappy because this was to be expected based on the facts. Perhaps liberal thinking doesn not lend itself to realistically analysing the facts. Instead, liberal thinking would say, "they owe me a job so therefore I can't be laid off"! Or better yet, "I don't need to do anything to prepare for a layoff because the government or the union will protect me!" In reality, your bitterness is not really with George Will but with the inherent truth that the study showcases. Don't worry, it's never too late to change. You too can become conservative and happy.


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