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Kinder and Gentler

There's no other way to describe conservatives.

By 7.23.08

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Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less...and Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals
by Peter Schweizer
(Doubleday, 258 pages, $24.95)

"I think that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their political duties, they lead their country, by a short route, to chaos." So said Robert Bolt's Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons.

The opposite side of that moral coin is explored by Peter Schweizer in his book, Makers and Takers -- namely, the personal consequences of a moral compass that points unswervingly to the political left. Schweizer's answer is given in his extended subtitle -- a list of declarations that clearly suggest the royal road to happiness isn't paved with fervent commitment to government health care.

In this short, generously spaced work Schweizer debunks the popular notion that liberals are better people than supposedly tight-fisted, hard-hearted, mentally unstable conservatives. After providing a gut-wrenching sample of popular elite opinion -- from tendentious "studies" that classify Stalin as a conservative to the vacuous blatherings of Bill Maher -- Schweizer proceeds to demolish those opinions with peer-reviewed sociological data that show liberals are generally more selfish, more focused on money, less hardworking, less emotionally satisfied, less honest, and even less knowledgeable about politics than their conservative counterparts.

In addition to anecdotal evidence (like Bill Clinton's 957-page monument to self-obsession) Schweizer cites his favorite source, the "highly regarded General Social Survey," to show that self-described strong conservatives are much more likely than their liberal counterparts (55-20%) to say they get happiness by putting another person's happiness ahead of their own. Similar results were obtained in response to queries about caring for a seriously ill spouse or parent. Another study found that students who called themselves "very liberal" or "radical" tended to have a "narcissistic pathology" that exhibited itself in "grandiosity, envy...and a sense of entitlement." Not surprisingly, these students were not only the most power-oriented but also the most pot-oriented.

This professed gap between liberals and conservatives when it comes to self-centeredness also carries over into practice. While liberals tout their generosity and berate conservative greed, the hard facts (and IRS data) tell another story. That Al Gore gave just $353 to charity in 1998, out of an adjusted gross income of $197,729, appears to be a common occurrence among the former V-P's ideological associates. The 1040s of leftists like Robert Reich, Andrew Cuomo, Ted Kennedy, and even Franklin Roosevelt tell a similar tale. Indeed, as Schweizer notes, Al Gore looks "downright benevolent" when compared to John Kerry, who gave none of his 126,179 taxable dollars to charity in 1995.

SCHWEIZER'S GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEY shows that this anecdotal evidence corresponds with the tendency of conservatives to donate more money than liberals and to volunteer more time to charitable causes. Even after eliminating church activities, conservatives still volunteered for charitable work more frequently than liberals (27-19%). Prof. Arthur C. Brooks, author of Who Really Cares? (and the incoming president of the American Enterprise Institute) , calculates the annual giving gap between religious conservatives and liberals at $2,210 to $642. This disparity suggests the accuracy of Merryle Rukeyser's witty definition of a liberal as someone who's liberal with other people's money.

Since liberals squeeze their greenbacks so tightly, it follows that they also value money more highly than conservatives when it comes to job satisfaction, a conclusion born out by Schweizer's statistics (36-24%). Consistent with their entitlement mentality, liberals also put twice as much value on leisure time than conservatives and considerably more value on a low-stress work environment (56-36%). It clearly takes a government-run Wunder-Village to produce these labor conditions -- high pay, leisure time, no pressure. Add to these job priorities the fact that conservatives value hard work more than liberals, and it's easy to see why Schweizer tells employers to "think long and hard" before hiring someone wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt.

Unrealistic workplace expectations doubtless foster another unpleasant characteristic that pervades the left -- envy. This trait is perfectly illustrated by an anecdote Schweizer provides about a student who traded his $15-an-hour pizza job for one paying only $6.25-an-hour. The reason for this counterproductive economic decision was envy over the fact that the enterprising student who started the business was making $50-an-hour. Such reasoning coincides with the thought-patterns of that Russian who, given only one wish by a genie, wished that his neighbor's barn should burn down.

It should come as no surprise that liberals don't score as well as conservatives on honesty, since leftists frequently subscribe to a "higher" morality that covers a multitude of stained blue dresses. As radical organizer Saul Alinsky put the matter, "Ethical standards must be elastic to stretch with the times." Such flexibility is certainly helpful when it come to rationalizing the biographical liberties taken by poet Quincy Troupe, Professor Edward Said, and Yale Professor Paul de Man -- to say nothing of the dialogical liberties taken by Robert Reich in his recent "memoir." Not surprisingly, this ethical flexibility only extends in one political direction.

ON ANOTHER STATISTICAL front, Schweizer provides data that show Michael Douglas' angry character in Falling Down should have been a liberal with a UN-WORLD license plate. It turns out that "very liberal" folks are three times more likely to "let fly" than corresponding conservatives. That lamp-shattering stat corresponds with another from the General Social Survey that shows extreme liberals six times more likely than extreme conservatives to have reported a mental health problem (30-5%). Schweizer notes that the left's emphasis on victimization contributes to this psychic distress -- as does the idea that individual initiative counts for nothing against a "lottery of life" rigged by and for conservatives. Beyond those political factors, the left's sympathy for philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre also contributes to the frustration of folks who find an absurd universe mentally taxing.

Probably the most distressing assertion in Schweizer's book, for liberals, is the claim that conservatives generally know more about politics. Indeed, the gap between the political knowledge of strong Republicans and strong Democrats, based on the calculations of George Mason law professor Ilya Somin, equals several years of formal education. "Independent" and "weak" Republicans also scored higher on Somin's scale than their ideological counterparts. So much for Thomas Frank's assumption that folks in Kansas are too dumb to know what's good for them.

Perhaps the most unexpected findings in Schweizer's statistical and anecdotal compendium were those related to the paranormal: that liberals are more likely to believe in ghosts than conservatives (Gallup, 42-25), that they are more likely to believe in communication with spirits (CBS, 43-29) and that they are significantly more likely to say UFOs have visited the earth. Actually, those ratios shouldn't come as a surprise -- given Hillary's chats with Eleanor Roosevelt and Dennis Kucinich's stated views on extraterrestrials. (Note to aliens: Dennis is ready for beaming.) Schweizer explains this data by noting that many liberals, absent a belief in God, have gravitated toward superstition, thus confirming G. K. Chesterton's assertion that those who don't believe in God will believe in anything.

In sum, Schweizer has created a compact sociological tour de force that is destined to meet the same fate among the MSM as Dr. Brooks' book on giving -- malign neglect. I suspect that those few leftists who deign to acknowledge its existence will focus on methodological flaws that are bound to exist in any large collection of social science data. But then, what else would one expect from a group of thin-skinned, stingy, ill-informed, and mentally unstable journalists?

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