Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Right-wingers really are nicer people, latest research shows

George Orwell once wrote that politics was closely related to social identity. 'One sometimes gets the impression,' he wrote in The Road To Wigan Pier, 'that the mere words socialism and communism draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, nature-cure quack, pacifist and feminist in England'.

Orwell was making an observation. But today a whole body of academic research shows he was correct: your politics influence the manner in which you live your life. And the news is not so good for those on the political Left. There is plenty of data that shows that Right-wingers are happier, more generous to charities, less likely to commit suicide - and even hug their children more than those on the Left. In my experience, they are also more honest, friendly and well-adjusted.

Much of this springs from the destructive influence of modern liberal ideas. In the Sixties, we saw the beginning of a narcissism and self-absorption that gripped the Left and has not let go. The full-scale embrace of the importance of self-awareness, self-discovery and being 'true' to oneself, along with the idea that the State should care for the less fortunate, has created a swathe of Left-wing people who want to outsource their obligations to others.

The statistics I base this on come from the General Social Survey, America's premier social research database, but they are just as relevant to the UK, as I believe political belief systems drive one's attitudes, regardless of where you happen to live. Those surveyed were asked: 'Is it your obligation to care for a seriously injured/ill spouse or parent, or should you give care only if you really want to?' Of those describing themselves as 'conservative', 71 per cent said it was. Only 46 per cent of those on the Left agreed.

To the question: 'Do you get happiness by putting someone else's happiness ahead of your own?', 55 per cent of those who said they were 'very conservative' said Yes, compared with 20 per cent of those who were 'very liberal'.

It's been my experience that conservatives like to talk about things outside of themselves while progressives like to discuss themselves: how they are feeling and what their desires are. That might make for a good therapy session but it's not much fun over a long dinner.

Research also indicates those on the Left are less interested in getting married: 30 per cent of those who were 'very liberal' said it was important, in contrast to 65 per cent of Right-wingers. The same holds true when the question of having children arises. Progressive American cities such as San Francisco and Seattle have become 'childless liberal boutique' cities, according to Joel Kotkin, an expert on urban development. While 69 per cent of those who called themselves 'very conservative' said it was important for them to have children, only 38 per cent of corresponding liberals agreed.

Many on the Left proudly proclaim themselves 'child-free'. While some do not want children on ecological grounds, much has to do with the fact that they simply don't want the responsibility of having a child. When asked by the World Values Survey whether parents should sacrifice their own well-being for those of their children, those on the Left were nearly twice as likely to say No. 'I'll have babies if you pay for them,' one Leftie blogger said on the social networking website Billionaire Ted Turner, a self-described socialist, publicly regrets that he had five children. 'If I was doing it over again, I wouldn't have had that many,' he says. 'But I can't shoot them now they're here.'

All of this should not come as a surprise to anyone watching the drift of progressive thinking over the past 40 years. Starting with British anthropologist Edmund Leach, who said: 'Far from being the basis of a good society, the family, with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, is the source of all its discontents', feminists, progressives and others have seen the family as an oppressive force. Feminist Gloria Steinem says on behalf of women: 'The truth is, finding ourselves brings more excitement and wellbeing than anything romance can offer.' Linda Hirshman tells women not to have more than one baby so they can concentrate on a career. 'Find the money,' she advises. Ah, the important things in life.

Even when they do have children, research carried out at Princeton University shows liberals hug them less than conservatives. My wife thinks they're too busy hugging trees.

Most surprising of all is reputable research showing those on the Left are more interested in money than Right-wingers. Both the World Values Survey and the General Social Survey reveal Left-wingers are more likely to rate 'high income' as an important factor in choosing a job, more likely to say 'after good health, money is the most important thing', and agree with the statement 'there are no right or wrong ways to make money'. You don't need to explain that to Doug Urbanski, the former business manager for Left-wing firebrand and documentary-maker Michael Moore. 'He [Moore] is more money-obsessed than anyone I have known - and that's saying a lot,' claims Urbanski.

How is it possible that those who seem to renounce the money culture are more interested in money? One might suggest those on the Left are simply being more honest when they answer such questions. The problem is that there is no evidence to support this. Instead, I believe the results have more to do with the powerful appeal of progressive thinking. Many on the Left apparently believe that espousing liberal ideals is a 'get out of jail free' card that inoculates them from the evils of the money culture. Cherie Blair, for example, never lets her self-proclaimed socialist attitudes stop her making money. She is even willing to be paid (as she was in Australia) to appear at charity events. Such progressives, sure that they are not overly interested in money and possessions, believe they are then free to acquire them.

Studies also indicate that those on the Left are less likely to give to charity or to volunteer their time to charity. When they do support charity, it is often less the sort of organisation that helps people and more one that advocates political action. Uber-progressive Barbra Streisand gives lots of money to charity but the largest recipients are not organisations that feed the hungry - the cash goes to advocacy organisations such as The Bill Clinton Foundation. Similarly, Michael Moore gives to film festivals and elite cultural institutions such as the Lincoln Center - but barely a penny goes to needy people.

Progressives see economic equality as the highest form of social justice, so they have become obsessed with questions of income inequality. Can there be any surprise then that those on the Left tend to be more envious and jealous of successful people? That's what studies indicate. Professor James Lindgren, of Northwestern University in Chicago, found those who favour the redistribution of wealth are more envious than those who do not.

Scholars at Oxford and Warwick Universities found the same sort of behaviour when they conducted an experiment. Setting up a computer game that allowed people to accumulate money, they gave participants the option to spend some of their own money in order to take away more from someone else. The result? Those who considered themselves 'egalitarians' (i.e. Left of centre) were much more willing to give up some of their own money if it meant taking more money from someone else. Much of the desire to distribute wealth and higher taxation is motivated by envy - the desire to take more from someone else - and bitterness.

The culprit here is not those on the Left who embrace progressive ideas but the ideas themselves. As John Maynard Keynes reminds us: 'The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and wrong, are more powerful than commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.' Or, as the American theorist Richard Weaver once declared: 'Ideas have consequences.' And it seems that today modern progressive ideas can often bring out the worst in people. [More likely the worst people shelter behind Leftist ideas]


The British are still lovers of liberty

But let's not forget the EU is as much a threat to our freedom as the surveillance state

By William Rees-Mogg

My wife, Gillian, is the chairman of the trustees of St John's Smith Square. Last Thursday evening, the hall was being used for the BBC's Question Time. We were watching the discussion from the balcony; David Dimbleby kindly invited us to supper after the show. The last time I had seen Question Time live is now 25 years ago, when Robin Day was in the chair.

On Thursday evening, the Irish had voted on the Lisbon treaty, but we did not yet know the result. David Davis had announced that he was going to resign his seat in order to fight a by-election on issues of liberty. Only one member of the panel seemed to regard the Davis story as really important; that was Shirley Williams, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. She spoke of Mr Davis's decision with considerable sympathy, more sympathy than I would have expected. Not for the first time, her judgment of a political issue was better than mine. The British people feel very strongly about the current issues of liberty; I admit that I think that Baroness Williams underrates their concern about liberty in Europe.

After supper, we drove down to Somerset late in the evening. Friday was, for me, a very enjoyable day. I had not expected the Irish to vote "no" to the Lisbon treaty; that seemed too good to be true after every other democratic defence against a bad treaty had failed. Only last Wednesday, the House of Lords had voted down Britain's promised referendum by 280 votes to 218. I found myself voting for the referendum in the same lobby as Margaret Thatcher, just as I had when I voted for a referendum on the Maastricht treaty. I thought it was shameful that the Labour and Lib Dem peers would not honour the manifesto commitments of the 2005 general election. But, then, I had thought it shameful when Tory peers tamely obeyed their whips and voted down a referendum for Maastricht.

Saturday was a perfect Somerset day; we sat in the garden from lunch to tea. Two of our grandchildren were staying with us and two more had come across in the morning. Our youngest daughter, Annunziata, who is the Conservative candidate for Somerton & Frome, went off to canvas in villages near Bruton, including Pitcombe, where our eldest daughter lives, and Shepton Montague, where a lot of our ancestors are buried. Annunziata was able to bring back to us a fresh and up-to-date report on public opinion in southeast Somerset.

As I expected, the Irish vote had been greeted with delight. Earlier in the year, we had a local referendum in Somerset & Frome on the Lisbon treaty. Eighty-seven per cent wanted a referendum on the treaty and 88 per cent stated that they would vote "no" if a referendum were given. The local MP, David Heath, resigned from the Lib Dem front bench in the Commons rather than follow Nick Clegg's three-line whip to abstain.

What I had not foreseen was the impact of the Davis resignation. Annunziata found that Lib Dem voters identified most strongly with the Davis campaign, to the point at which Mr Davis seemed to be validating the Conservatives as a party prepared to fight on liberal issues. There seems to have been a similar reaction among Labour rebels, some of whom say they will go up to Haltemprice and campaign for him. Pragmatists may have failed to recognise the impact of his personal declaration or the strength of public feeling on libertarian issues.

For the Libs Dems themselves, there is a snag in this, or perhaps two snags. The first, as Lady Williams immediately saw, is that Mr Davis is not campaigning on right-wing issues, but on traditional issues of personal liberty. The second snag is that Europe is itself a liberal issue, but one on which the Liberal Democrats as a party are on the anti-liberal side. If the Lib Dem peers had voted with the Conservatives in the Lords, the Lisbon Bill would have gone back to the Commons with a clause providing for a British referendum. We would not have had to leave our liberties for the Irish to protect.

The origin of the Lisbon treaty was the constitutional treaty, which was drafted by the European Constitutional Convention, which was controlled by Val‚ry Giscard d'Estaing as its chairman. In the Convention, the democratic deficit, which was supposed to be eliminated, was deepened and entrenched. The constitutional treaty was put to the vote in several European countries. Spain voted "yes", but France voted "no", as did the Netherlands. The European people do not want to transfer further powers away from their elected parliaments to the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels.

The EU responded to the French and Dutch votes not by recognising the public concerns about liberty and democracy, but by trying to avoid any public votes in the future. In every country except Ireland, this policy of avoiding democracy was successful, though there are still a few to come. The avoidance of a referendum was even successful in Britain, where all the major parties had committed themselves to a vote. Only the Conservatives honoured their commitment.

What may happen next? There will be an attempt to rescue the substance of the Lisbon treaty in some form or through some subterfuge. Brussels, like the Clintons, is extremely reluctant to recognise defeat. The European politicians want their legal identity, their extended powers, their president, their foreign minister. They want the status of a national state. But referendums will go against them, as the referendum went against them in Ireland.

The Prime Minister has no feeling for these developments in public opinion. He is creating an ever larger surveillance state and accepts the European democratic deficit. There is now no national consensus to ratify the Lisbon treaty and it would be a grave blunder to do so.


Summary of the Steyn human rights trial so far

We are now awaiting their "verdict"

In the United States, a suit purporting to seek justice for a perceived slight involving nothing more than a difference of opinion would be laughed out the docket. But tolerance for legal frivolity seems to increase above the 49th parallel. A subsection of Canada's Human Rights Act defines hate speech as speech "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt." By that impossibly opaque standard, Steyn's article - or, indeed, any article - could theoretically be considered hate speech. In practice, as well, that has been the case. The Canadian Human Rights Commission, which enforces the act, has a record of conviction that recalls the awful efficiency of Soviet courts: In over three decades of existence, the commission has yet to find someone innocent.

Undoubtedly mindful of the fact, the Canadian Islamic Congress turned to the Human Rights Commission to adjudicate its case against Maclean's. Shopping around for a friendly forum, the group initially took up their complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. They met with partial success. Although the commission declined to hear the CIC's complaint, it did so on narrowly technical grounds. And, lest anyone doubt what the verdict would have been, the commission issued a censorious ruling effectively finding in the CIC's favor. Reproaching both Steyn and Maclean's, the commission wrote that it "strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims" they had supposedly published. Never mind that neither Steyn not Maclean's were afforded the opportunity to contest the charges against them. In the commission's crypto-totalitarian calculus, Steyn's article had offended someone. Ergo: hate crime.

Even more fulsomely accommodating was the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, the complainants' next choice of venue. Between June 2 and June 6, the tribunal heard the case against Steyn and Maclean's. In keeping with historical precedent, one might have expected the "trial" to be farce on a grand scale. According to those in the audience, it was that and more. "You didn't have to be a lawyer to see how it ridiculous it was," says Ezra Levant, who attended the tribunal. Levant is no stranger to such proceedings. A former publisher of Canada's Western Standard magazine, he was hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for publishing the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Even so, Levant was shocked by what he saw at the recent hearing.

Most striking, Levant said, was the incompetence of the tribunal's three judges. "You had a room full of professionals - the two top lawyers in the country [for the defense], journalists, including from the New York Times - presided over by three crackpots," Levant recalled. "It was a weird juxtaposition between people living in the real world and a kangaroo court with three radical, Marxist clowns."

Just how about was it? Levant noted that on one occasion, the accusers produced blog posts - some from the U.S., some from Belgium, and none written by Steyn - that they submitted as incriminating evidence. It is a commentary on the benthic standards of such tribunals that some of this "evidence" literally had been printed out the day before. "There are so many reasons why that evidence would be inadmissible," Levant, himself a lawyer, observes. "But the tribunal said, `Sure, we'll look at it.' None of the judges knew how to run a trial."

If the judges were inept, the prosecution was scarcely more competent. Attempting to prove Steyn's "Islamophobic" views, the prosecution's lawyers summoned Andrew Rippin, an expert on Islam and a professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. At issue was Steyn's use of the word "Mohammedan" to describe Muslims. The prosecution charged that this was insulting, possibly even hateful. Only, their star witness disagreed. Professor Rippin pointed out that just as Christians adopted the name of Christ, Muslims in various parts of the world referred to themselves as followers of the prophet Mohammed. "The prosecution was so stupid that their own expert witness made the case for Steyn," Levant says.

Similarly wince-inducing moments were a regular feature of the five-day hearing. All the more so if one happened to be a supporter of free speech. One such moment came when Faisal Joseph, the lawyer for the complainants, accused Steyn of failing to provide alternative points of view in his article. In a trial about hate speech, it was the equivalent of saying that all journalism that didn't meet Joseph's specifications was punishable as hate. Equally revealing was a comment from Dean Steacy, an investigator for the Canadian Human Rights Commission. When asked what value he gives to free speech in his investigations, Steacy breezily dismissed the question. "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value," he said.

With the tribunal thus revealed as a travesty of justice, Steyn and Maclean's wisely decided to focus their attention on the absurdity of the proceedings. Maclean's lawyers refused to provide any witnesses. Meanwhile, Steyn said that he would be happy to loose, if only to demonstrate how far the Human Rights Commission had gone in trampling on freedom of speech and the liberty of the press in Canada. As he put it to one interviewer: "We want to lose so we can take it to a real court and if necessary up to the Supreme Court of Canada and we can get the ancient liberties of free-born Canadian citizens that have been taken away from them by tribunals like this."

Supporters applaud that strategy. "Six months ago it would have been unrealistic for any politician to tackle the human rights commission. It would have been like going after apple pie," says Ezra Levant. "But a year from now, their reputation will be so tarnished that politicians can act. The first step to reform is to publicize its insanity." In that sense, it may be said that even if Steyn and Maclean's lose, Canadians have already won.


Democracies Can't Compromise on Core Values


As the American president embarked on his farewell tour of Europe last week, Der Spiegel, echoing the sentiments of a number of leading newspapers on the Continent, pronounced "Europe happy to see the back of Bush." Virtually everyone seems to believe that George W. Bush's tenure has undermined trans-Atlantic ties. There is also a palpable sense in Europe that America will move closer to Europe in the years ahead, especially if Barack Obama wins the presidential election.

But while Mr. Bush is widely seen by Europeans as a religious cowboy with a Manichean view on the world, Europe's growing rift with America predates the current occupant of the White House. When a French foreign minister, Hubert V‚drine, declared that his country "cannot accept a politically unipolar world, nor a culturally uniform world, nor the unilateralism of a single hyper power," President Clinton was in the seventh year of his presidency and Mr. Bush was still governor of Texas.

The trans-Atlantic rift is not the function of one president, but the product of deep ideological forces that for generations have worked to shape the divergent views of Americans and Europeans. Foremost among these are different attitudes toward identity in general, and the relationship between identity and democracy in particular.

To Europeans, identity and democracy are locked in a zero-sum struggle. Strong identities, especially religious or national identities, are seen as a threat to democratic life. This is what Dominique Moisi, a special adviser at the French Institute of International Relations, meant when he said in 2006 that "the combination of religion and nationalism in America is frightening. We feel betrayed by God and by nationalism, which is why we are building the European Union as a barrier to religious warfare." This attitude can be traced back to the French Revolution, when the forces fighting under a universal banner of "liberty, equality and fraternity" were pitted against the Church.

In contrast, the America to which pilgrims flocked in search of religious freedom, and whose revolution amounted to an assertion of national identity, has been able to reconcile identity and freedom in a way no country has been able to match. That acute observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, long ago noted the "intimate union of the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty" that was pervasive in America and made it so different than his native France.

The idea that strong identities are an inherent threat to democracy and peace became further entrenched in Europe in the wake of World War II. Exponents of what I call postidentity theories - postnationalism, postmodernism and multiculturalism - argued that only by shedding the particular identities that divide us could we build a peaceful world. Supranational institutions such as the EU, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations were supposed to help overcome the prejudices of the past and forge a harmonious world based on universal values and human rights.

While these ideas have penetrated academia and elite thinking in the U.S., they remain at odds with the views of most Americans, who see no inherent contradiction between maintaining strong identities and the demands of democratic life. On the contrary, the right to express one's identity is seen as fundamental. Exercising such a right is regarded as acting in the best American tradition.

The controversy over whether Muslims should be able to wear a veil in public schools underscores the profound difference in attitudes between America and Europe. In Europe, large majorities support a law banning the veil in public schools. In the U.S., students wear the veil in public schools or state colleges largely without controversy. At the same time severe limits are placed on the harmless expression of identity in the public square, some European governments refuse to insist that Muslim minorities abide by basic democratic norms. They turn a blind eye toward underage marriage, genital mutilation and honor killings.

The reality is that Muslim identity has grown stronger, has become more fundamentalist, and is increasingly contemptuous of a vapid "European" identity that has little vitality. All this may help explain why studies consistently show that efforts to integrate Muslims into society are much less effective in Europe than in America, where identity is much stronger.

Regardless of who wins in November, the attitudes of Americans toward the role of identity in democratic life are unlikely to change much. Relative to Europe, Americans will surely remain deeply patriotic and much more committed to their faiths.

Europeans, meanwhile, may move closer to the Americans in their views. The recent shift to the right in Europe - from the victory of conservative leaders like Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi to the surprise defeat of the leftist mayor of London, Ken Livingston - might partially reflect a belated awareness there that a unique heritage is under assault by a growing Muslim fundamentalism. The logic of the struggle against this fundamentalist threat will inevitably demand the reassertion of the European national and religious identities that are now threatened.

Europeans are now saying goodbye to Mr. Bush, and hoping for the election of an American president who they believe shares their sophisticated postnational, postmodern and multicultural attitudes. But don't be surprised if, in the years ahead, European leaders, in order to protect freedom and democracy at home, start sounding more and more like the straight-shooting cowboy from abroad they now love to hate.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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