Makers and Takers

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Makers and Takers
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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

Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, delineates the thesis of his fine study in his title:  Makers and TakersWhy 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 (New York:  Doubleday, c. 2008).   This contravenes the liberal mantra, articulated by the popular radio personality Garrison Keillor, who declared:  “Republicans are swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, aggressive dorks’” (p. 8).

Keillor represents, Schweizer says, not simply a political stance but a way of life—a worldview.  Careful, scholarly studies reveal that “those on the political left are much more likely to complain about their jobs, their families, their neighbors, their health, and their relative wealth—even when they earn the same as conservatives.  In short, the major surveys show that those on the left tend to be chronically dissatisfied with almost everything in their lives” (p. 21).   In fact, liberals are more selfish, less generous with their money, less hardworking, less honest, and less knowledgeable about public affairs and economics.  Conservatives, on the other hand, are happier, better parents, more charitable, and less angry about things in general. 

The allure of liberalism is easily explained:  it enables one to occupy a moral high ground, to feel good about oneself, simply by demanding the government care for everyone.  “Today’s liberalism is completely wrapped up with the notion of itself.  The legacy of the sixties’ ‘if it feels good do it’ ethos is alive and well” (p. 31).   One study of students in elite universities revealed that “those who were very liberal or radical tended to have a ‘narcissistic pathology,’ which included ‘grandiosity, envy, a lack of empathy, illusion of personal perfection, and a sense of entitlement’” (p. 41).  Thus those on the left frequently refuse to marry, and if they do they refuse to procreate.  In San Francisco, for example, “there are more dogs than children” (p. 32).  

Liberal enclaves, such as Vermont and Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, reveal similar trends.   Whereas 65 percent of very conservative respondents highly valued marriage, only 30 percent of the very liberal agreed.  When asked if “parents should sacrifice their own well-being for those of their children, those on the left were nearly twice as likely to say ‘no’ (28 percent to 15 percent) when compared to conservatives’” (p. 34).  Echoing one of their paladins, Hillary Clinton, liberals insist child-rearing is a societal, not a parental endeavor.  “Supporting government programs to ‘help the children’ is a convenient way for liberals to ‘love’ children without demanding anything of themselves’” (p. 40).

Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill, appointed Robert Reich to serve as his secretary of labor, a position which enabled him to recurrently regale the public with laments regarding economic inequities in the nation.  The real problem, he insisted, was the stingy, Social Darwinist, tight-fisted ness of those conservatives who opposed the expansion of the welfare state.  But when forced to release his own tax returns when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Reich reported an income of more than one million dollars, of which he gave away a grand total of $2,714—some 0.2 percent of his income!  So it goes with our liberal leaders!  As the great Samuel Johnson once quipped, regarding a stingy public figure who spoke grandly of philanthropy, he was a “friend of goodness” rather than a really good man.

Illustrating Johnson’s observation, Franklin Delano Roosevelt lauded the virtue of charity.  Charitable giving, he said, is a way of loving love for others.  He himself, however, limited his charity to speechifying!  Amidst the depression he declared (in 1936) that fully one-third of the populace was “ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished,” but he managed to give away a meager three percent of his yearly income ($93,000).   His giving pattern has been duplicated by our current president, Barack Obama, who also talks much about the dismal disparity between the rich and poor in America.  In fact, Obama, when still a senator, gave far less to charity than President Bush:  “In 2006, Bush made a third less than Obama, but actually gave more to charity” (p. 64).   To Schweizer, it seems evident that “what modern liberals like is a feeling of solidarity and compassion for the poor.  Liberals are often ‘friends of goodness,’ but fall woefully short when it comes to doing any actual good” (p. 69).

Liberals do less good, quite frankly, because they are “more envious and less hardworking than conservatives” (p. 81).  They routinely denounce the “greed” and “consumption” of conservatives, but in fact they (like Bill and Hillary Clinton) take advantage of every opportunity and institutional perk open to them in a capitalist culture.  “Time after time, reputable surveys show that liberals are more interested in money, think about it more often, and value it more highly than conservatives” (p. 87).   But whereas 80 percent of Republicans believe hard work and perseverance enable one to succeed, only “14 percent” of the Democrats surveyed thought “that people can get ahead by working hard” (p. 93).  To illustrate this, Schweizer notes that Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush found satisfaction working on their ranches, “Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore prefer to use their leisure time playing—jogging, socializing, shopping, sailing, skiing, and the like” (p. 99).

 Adding to his indictment, Schweizer insists that “conservatives value honesty more than liberals” (p. 105).   Philosophically this follows, since many liberals (as relativists) doubt the reality of truth itself!  Embracing Nietzsche’s famous aphorism (“there are no facts, only interpretations”), liberals (especially of the postmodern variety) uphold epistemological skepticism and moral relativism.  So Oliver Stone entertains “’severe doubts about Columbus, Washington, the Civil War being fought for slavery’” and even wonders (he expects us to believe) “’if I was born and who my parents were’” (p. 125).  “If truth is relative, Schweizer argues, “then honesty is a subjective thing.  As Sidney Hook once put it, ‘The easiest rationalization for the refusal to seek the truth is the denial that truth exists’” (p. 106).

Scholarly surveys demonstrate this dishonest tendency, for “Liberals were more than twice as likely as conservatives to say it is okay to get welfare benefits they were not entitled to” (p. 107).  They were also “two and a half times more likely to illegally download or trade music for free on the Internet” (p. 111).  “More than a third (35 percent) of self-described ‘progressives’ said ‘there are some situations where adultery is understandable.’  Only 3 percent of conservatives agreed” (p. 114).   Lying may be justified, according to Al Gore, under the rubric of “rhetorical excesses and leaps of faith” (p. 124).   Or, to follow the prescription of Saul Alinsky (whose Rules for Radicals influenced both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), “lying for justice” is utterly praiseworthy.

Added to their dishonesty, liberals are more angry than conservatives.  There is much talk about “the angry white male,” but there’s little evidence that they exist.  Instead, as Peter Wood details in a book on anger, “the left has embraced ‘anger chic.’  It is now stylish to be angry” (p. 139).  Somehow anger is taken to be a sign if sincerity, of deep commitment to social change.  The vitriol vented on President Bush, the students on university campuses who shout down conservative speakers (but never their liberal counterparts), the profanity that laces the language of leftists such as Al Franken, all testify to the endemic anger fueling the liberal agenda.  “Perhaps,” Schweizer says, “this is what Jean-Paul Sartre meant when he praised anger and rage as a form of heroism:  ‘irrepressive violence . . . is man re-creating himself’” (p. 150).

Still more, though George McGovern declared that virtually “every educated person I encounter in the world is a liberal,” conservatives “actually know more” than their leftist counterparts (p. 157).   The mirage of liberal intelligence is magnified by their dominance in universities and media outlets, but “authoritative studies show that conservatives are actually better informed, more knowledgeable, and better educated than liberals” (p. 162).  Take President Bush, for example.  Though nightly lampooned by Jay Leno as a numbskull, he is demonstrably (on SAT and IQ tests as well as college grades) smarter than either Al Gore or John Kerry.  “Bush’s scores were also higher than those of Sen. Bill Bradley, another liberal often described as learned and brilliant” (p. 165).  

In politics, conservatives know far more about their congressional representatives, candidates for office, ballot issues, than liberals.  Though derided by the left, Rush Limbaugh listeners—talk radio listeners—are better educated than those who don’t listen to the radio.  And though accused of being brainwashed by talk show hosts, in fact “talk radio exposure was associated with greater faith in people, lower authoritarianism’” (p. 171).  Conservatives have better vocabularies and score higher on analogy tests.

Finally, liberals complain more than conservatives and endlessly recite a litany of victimization.  Bill Clinton famously whined when things failed to favor him.  Doing so he followed one of his liberal progenitors, LBJ, who “groused, ‘Nobody loves Johnson’ mere weeks after trouncing Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election!   Since folks who complain are generally unhappy, no one should be shocked to discover that the Pew Research study “found that 45 percent of Republicans reported being ‘very happy’ compared with just 30 percent of Democrats” (p. 188).  Liberals are three times as unhappy with their jobs as Republicans and equally apt to seek treatment for mental illnesses.  “Another survey found that feminist women do less housework than traditionalist women, but complain more about it” (p. 191).

Concluding his study, Schweizer declares that liberalism harms both individuals and societies.  It provides a certain solace since it allows one to give “lip service to virtuous ideals” without personally doing anything.  But there is always a price to pay for hypocrisy—the persistent misery that beguiles it. 


Gerard Reed is a retired professor of history and philosophy, most recently Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He is the author of three books--The Liberating Law; C.S. Lewis and the Bright Shadow of Holiness; C.S. Lewis Explores Vice & Virtue--as well as a variety of articles and book reviews.





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