July 8, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Conservatives Benefit Society

If many social ills derive from lack of self-control and poor judgment, governments should foster conservatism.

Choose to Control Yourself

A paper in PNAS found that conservatives have more self-control than liberals:

Evidence from three studies reveals a critical difference in self-control as a function of political ideology. Specifically, greater endorsement of political conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with greater attention regulation and task persistence. Moreover, this relationship is shown to stem from varying beliefs in freewill; specifically, the association between political ideology and self-control is mediated by differences in the extent to which belief in freewill is endorsed, is independent of task performance or motivation, and is reversed when freewill is perceived to impede (rather than enhance) self-control. Collectively, these findings offer insight into the self-control consequences of political ideology by detailing conditions under which conservatives and liberals are better suited to engage in self-control and outlining the role of freewill beliefs in determining these conditions.

This led to a variety of responses from other science media. Dawn Fuller on PhysOrg summarized the three studies, explaining that one’s beliefs about free will are crucial to the exercise of self-control, and conservatives tend to believe in free will with its associated value of personal responsibility.

The association of conservatism with personal responsibility was also clearly made on Science Daily.

“Effective self-control comes down to the extent to which you believe that you can control your behavior,” Clarkson said. “At the end of the day, the default seems to be that conservatives more strongly believe that they can control their behavior … than liberals.” And conservatives do control their behavior better than liberals, according to the study.

This value spills over into beliefs about others’ responsibility:

Differing perspectives on free will could explain several political differences among conservatives and liberals, the researchers surmised: One who believed less strongly in free will might arguably be more likely to attribute poverty, addiction and other hardships to sociological, economic and other factors beyond individual control. Such individuals might thus conclude, as many liberals do, that people struggling deserve government help. On the other hand, a believer in free will might be more likely to think people cause their own problems and should also solve them, rather than relying on government support, a typical conservative position.

Clarkson believes, therefore, that programs to encourage more self-control need to start with ideology about free will.

Who’s Anti-Science?

The old canard that Republicans are anti-science is not supported by data, new studies admit. A Pew Research survey reported on PhysOrg by Seth Borenstein says, “There is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for the public’s attitudes on science.” Gaps between the consensus and the person depend on age or what the issue is more than political party. Results vary whether the issue is fracking, global warming, GMO foods, space exploration, vaccination, and other hot topics.  Another PhysOrg article reported that views on environmental issues show a stronger link to political ideology, but race, age, religion and education are non-trivial factors. Perhaps this is because environmental issues so strongly overlap with government regulation—a dislike among many conservatives.

Jeffrey Mervis at Science Magazine implies that the findings were unexpected among scientists. “Contrary to perceptions, politics doesn’t always drive public views on science issues,” his headline reads.  Later, he has to correct scientists’ gut feelings:

The poll also casts doubt on many scientists’ belief that people would be more supportive of scientists’ views on controversial issues if they just knew more about the topic. In only three of the 22 topics was a person’s level of education or general scientific knowledge (as judged by answers to six questions) a significant factor in their views. One was animal research, where only 31% of persons with a postgraduate degree oppose the practice, compared with 56% of those with a high school education. (The other two issues where education appears to shape a person’s stance were nuclear power and GM foods—in both cases, more knowledge leads to greater acceptance.)

But if so many well-educated, intelligent people take issue with “scientists’ views” (if there is such a broad category), would this not cast doubt on the credibility of scientists? It might lead outsiders to think that “scientists” comprise a special interest group that get locked into a herd mentality. Mervis didn’t consider that possibility.

Mervis and his “scientists” should go out and mix with real people more often. But that would require personal responsibility, which presupposes free will. Evolutionary scientists deny the existence of free will. That’s why they are liberals. That’s why they lack self-control, following the “consensus” like lemmings.

Want a healthy society? Promote conservatism. Self-control has many societal benefits: care for the environment, excellence at work, better parenting, cleanliness, voting, taking care of one’s health, and much more. The more conservatives in society, the less government hand-outs would be needed. Government dependence would shrink, taxes would go down, and free market economics from all those responsible entrepreneurs would create a boom in prosperity that could be exported abroad. A lessening of entitlement spending (the largest share of the federal budget) would leave more money for scientific research. If scientists were really scientific—if they followed the evidence—they would take our advice and stop the nonsense about the “Republican war on science.” Science needs more responsible citizens and fewer pot-smoking, mantra-chanting, food-stamp-recipient, occupy-wall-street dopeheads who defecate in the street and expect someone else to clean it up.


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  • lux113 says:

    Believing in “free will” doesn’t at all mean that you can escape all situations on your own, nor does it imply that help in situations is not only needed but the most rational decision.

    Though you paint the conservative view as ‘better’, both an overblown belief in your self and your individual potential to solve all problems as well as a negative view of your own effect on a situation are equal psychoses.

    Neither side of that equation would have a better outcome. Neither a nation of rugged idealists that think they can take on the world without assistance, nor a nation of individuals who feel incapable without a social safety net. Each is a fault.

  • lux113 says:

    And yes, I say this as an unabashed Christian and liberal. One who also believes in “free will” (and predetermination simultaneously). Honestly I wish you’d drop the politics and stick to science.. which I’ve said before.

    Conservatives and Liberals have distinct character traits, each with strengths and weaknesses and each are essential to society.

  • lux113 says:

    The root of the thing you are calling “Conservatism” is not “personal responsibility” — it’s actually personal IRRESPONSIBILITY. It’s the conservative’s insistence that nothing around them IS THEIR PROBLEM. It’s their focus on saying they “don’t care” about others, the world around them – except if it’s directly affecting THEM.

    Personal responsibility sounds splendid — it sounds so much better than what the conservative trait really is — Selfishness. A view that everyone else should ‘fix it themself.. and leave me alone’ — that is, until THEY need help, then they sing a different tune.

    • Editor says:

      Jim, if Science Magazine and the major science news outlets talk about conservatism and liberalism with a bias, so can CEH with a different perspective. I’m sorry you don’t like it, but our job is to report the news that bears on worldview.

      Your caricature of conservatism is a classic example of a Half Truth–and a non-sequitur, too, with some either-or fallacy mixed in. Just because conservatives value personal responsibility highly does NOT mean they are heartless to those in need. Yes, there are bad examples on the extremes. But most Christian conservatives I know are not selfish as you describe; they are the most loving and caring people I know. It is a well-known fact that Republicans and conservatives vastly outgive Dems/libs in charitable giving. But they do not believe it is the government’s job to redistribute wealth confiscated by force from taxpayers. If you really care about someone, you give them a hand up, not a handout with OPM (other people’s money). That is neither charitable nor responsible. Anyone can pretend to be a benefactor with OPM.

      The apostle Paul warned about slackers, saying that “if a man will not work, neither should he eat.” That’s personal responsibility. But he also got all the churches of Asia to make a large contribution to the poor in Jerusalem, who truly were deserving. This is the correct balance. Solomon, too, repeatedly admonished the sluggard, but spoke highly of generosity. Paul spoke at length about care for the widows and orphans (as did God in the OT), but not as if it were the government’s job. The command was to individuals: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Individuals were to be hospitable and concerned for the stranger and sojourner. Individual landowners were to leave some of their crops to the gleaners. They were not commanded to give it to the King to redistribute. (If they did, the King would undoubtedly take the lion’s share for himself, as our government bureaucrats tend to do in their wasteful programs.) Private charities are the most efficient means of helping others. Are you practicing what you preach? I do.

      I want you to get out of the mode of thinking that it is the government’s job to show charity; it is your job, it is my job, it is the church’s job. Yes, I believe in a certain level of safety net; but in our current government’s budget, where the largest slice of spending is on entitlements, it’s become not a safety net, but a hammock. Many of the handouts actually encourage sluggards, and promote easy divorce and fatherless homes–major contributors to poverty. You may have heard of “generational welfare” where grandchildren and beyond grow up expecting to be supported by taxpayer money — money that was NOT freely donated, but confiscated by force of law. As you know, government entitlement programs are rapidly running out of OPM, running up deficits in the trillions of dollars that our children will have to deal with. How charitable is that? How responsible is that? I encourage you to go to prageruniversity.com and watch his video series on the Ten Commandments, and other videos he has on economics.

      I posted your full 3 rants this time, but any more half-truth caricatures, or hints that conservatism is somehow psychotic, will be rejected. I appreciate your loyal readership. Please take to heart what I am saying.

  • Tiago says:

    Speaking from Brazil, where other people’s money is now fast running out, the comments above rang especially true.

    lux113: I believe the word “irresponsibility” refers to not being responsible for your own actions, not others’. Also, you can’t be held responsible for anything that is beyond your control. By definition, you are not responsible. You can’t force someone to study hard and go to college instead of partying in their teens, nor can you be responsible for any disadvantage they later have from not having a college degree.

    There is a natural balance between freedom and responsibility. The more freedom you have, the more responsibility is shifted to you. Children growing up have little free will and therefore little responsibility; their parents have both authority over them, and the responsibility to care for them. When they achieve adulthood, they gain entire freedom, but responsibility is also transferred entirely from their parents to them.

    You as a liberal are actually confirming the findings of the study: conservatives, more than liberals, have a greater sense that a free society and free will come with responsibility for one’s own actions. They embrace freedom AND the responsibility that comes with it. This is in contrast to more socialist societies, where citizens let themselves become more dependent on the government and more under its control, the extreme of this being communism.

  • St-Wolfen says:

    It would appear the liberal mindset is much like the evolutionist mindset, deny evidence that contradicts their personal beliefs, ignore it, or rail against it

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