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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Whiny Kids Grow Into Conservatives?

Jonah Goldberg dissects the UCBerkely study that followed 100 Berkely kids, and found that the whiny ones turned out to be conservative, while the smart kids turned out to be liberal. They explained this as whiny kids needing the reassurance of tradition, while smart kids being self-assured enough to explore different options. Unfortunately, here again the labels kill us. If the study had said that people who are less self-assured are averse to change and are conservative in that way (i.e. traditional), and liberals like change, I could perhaps see a grain of truth. But first, what's the last "new idea" liberals have had? Frankly, I think that more often it is the Conservatives who believe in "rugged individualism" (and by conservative I mean libertarians), while the Liberals rely on the government as a safety net, to preserve them like the father they never had (in Berkely). Again, this isn't a great separation, because some have argued that Conservatives rely on God, religion, tradition too much as well. I just think this study is pretty counter-intuitive, (and as Jonah explains) pretty wrong, not only in much of their premises, but also their conclusions.


I've never understood the "liberals don't have new ideas" canard. There are plenty of ideas liberals have--gay marriage, single-payer health-care, legalized abortion, liberalizing the drug regime, supporting stem-cell research, and so on and so forth. How many of them are new? All of them, in a sense. Except for legal abortion, we don't have any of those now, so until they're implemented, can they be considered anything but new? Liberalism isn't monolithic--you'll find plenty of variation among which of those issues are supported.

I also don't see how conservatives can be considered rugged individualists. Red states are by and large welfare states, dependent on federal government largesse because they refuse to tax their citizens so they can be self-sufficient.

I'm skeptical of the study because, well, it was just one study, in an idiosyncratic place, with not too many participants. But it wouldn't surprise me if it panned out on a larger scale. Your responses are just stereotypes dressed up as arguments, which don't effectively respond to empirical evidence.
I disagree. The rugged individualists do not necessarily describe red state voters, because conservativism (as in limited government) is a hard thing to really put into practice. Republicans (as we've seen) aren't really in favor of limited government in a lot of cases. But libertarians are (and that's why I put that little note in there). Many Republicans are only in favor of limiting government until they need a hand out. Then again, many Democrats are in favor of government expansion until it somehow intersects their interests (i.e. the Kennedys and wind power).

Also, the no new ideas card, I believe, is far from being a canard. Look at what liberals regularly advocate for. The issues could be exactly raised from a liberal platform in the 20's. Schools don't have enough money. Neither do the poor. Rich people have too much. We must sacrifice for the environment. We must support Unions. We must be socially libertarian until it becomes unpopular. The basic makeup of liberalism is as it always has been. How to fix any problem in society? The answer is the federal government, and the solution is throwing money indiscriminately at the problem. I know I'm overstating it. But I hardly think the argument's a strawman or canard.
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