conservatives are happier than liberals ... this happiness
gap is accounted for by specific attitude and personality
differences associated with positive adjustment and mental
health ... In four studies, conservatives expressed greater
personal agency (e.g., personal control, responsibility),
more positive outlook (e.g., optimism, self-worth), more
transcendent moral beliefs (e.g., greater religiosity,
greater moral clarity, less tolerance of transgressions),
and a generalized belief in fairness, and these differences
accounted for the happiness gap."
Chambers, J.R.; Le, B., "Conservatives are Happier Than
Liberals, But Why? Political Ideology, Personality, and Life
Satisfaction," Journal of Research in Personality, December
Well, this new
psychological study should set the tone for conservatives'
enjoyment of this election year. I haven't yet read it myself,
but I have noticed liberals within range of my attention seem
more unhappy than usual lately, stepping up their personal
attacks on conservatives as greedy, lacking in empathy or
concern for others, deeply unethical, narrowly educated,
immature, and — my favorite — driven by a "hideous
Most of us simply
describe liberals with the adjective "nuts" and get on with our
day. For those who might like to expand on this, psychiatrist
Lyle Rossiter wrote a book in 2006 called "The
Liberal Mind, the Psychological Causes of Political Madness,"
in which he refers to "patterns of thinking ... that undermine
the individual's efforts to cope with the challenges of adult
life" and led to calls for Big Government to take care of us
least fiscal conservatives, can be happy just living their own
lives and letting other people live theirs. Sometimes it seems
that liberals can't be happy unless they make the rest of us
This week was
supposed to be a triumph for those liberals as they forced us
all to buy mercury-infested light bulbs. However, at the last
minute, congressional Republicans refused to fund implementation
of the ban on the old incandescent bulbs.
Just in case, my
happy conservative friends have been stockpiling incandescents,
and I myself found a package of four that are guaranteed to last
10 years. If the ban eventually goes through, we may have to
smuggle them from China. Though, of course, to indulge in a less
happy thought, we may be owned by China 10 years from now.
This seems a good
place to quote Dr. Rossiter again: "There can be no rational
compromise between the virtues of individualism and the
destructiveness inherent in all forms of collectivism: in
socialist, communism and fascism, in the madness of all cults,
and in the persecution of infidels by radical religions."
I'm pretty sure I
couldn't sustain my cheery attitude if I didn't have freedom —
if I lived in a dictatorship, if I had to wear a chador and walk
a respectful distance behind the men, if I couldn't escape from
a religious cult into which I had wandered.
I don't understand
how some conservatives can be truly happy if they resist the
uniquely human fun of thinking independently and enjoying the
wonders of science and rationality. The theory of evolution, for
instance, delights me.
Nor can I imagine
the con men responsible for the recent economic crisis being
really happy people. Dishonesty of any kind must be an enemy of
However, I suspect
happiness is mostly genetic. I've been happy for as long as I've
known myself, and my mother always said I'm like my father, who
enjoyed everything. I once wondered if some of his enjoyment
came from having survived a childhood in foster homes where he
had to fight for his share of the food and rarely received a
Christmas present. As a result, everything he earned by working
hard as an adult was tasted, relished and appreciated.
But eventually I
learned that some others with similar childhoods became bitter,
envious and sometimes criminal adults.
Nurture, as well as
nature, must play a role, too. I think it's easier to be happy
if you're not in debt, and I owe my present debt-free status to
my dad's instructions never to borrow for anything nonessential.
This leads me to
another uncomfortable thought: Is my country happy? Should my
grandchildren, already owing almost $50,000 each toward the
national debt, expect to be unhappy as adults, despite their
My dad's genes
could explain why my son, who became a liberal at UMass Amherst,
seems happy despite the unrealized "better world" of Barack
Obama. Or perhaps some people become liberals just as a reaction
to social conservatives who also often want to intrude on
individual freedoms — as libertarians like me sometimes become
more conservative to ally ourselves against the presently more
For instance, I'd
be open to a discussion of climate change if liberals didn't
insist on addressing it with mercury in my light bulbs.
We should try to
distinguish between happiness and the delusion that all is well
when it's not.
terrible periods in history, positive and courageous people had
to fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,
eventually creating the American Dream we must now defend.
Happy New Year,
libertarians and fiscal conservatives. Liberals: Same to you, if
you can be happy without forcing your unhappy agenda on me.