Liberals focus on happy thoughts? Really?

The article criticized below goes back to research by John Hibbing.  Hibbing is an expert at applying derogatory names to highly ambiguous stimuli.  His research amounts to little else.  Changes in skin conductance, for instance, could mean many things but Hibbing always manages to label such changes in a way that is derogatory to conservatives.

He certainly does show some physiological differences between liberals and conservatives but ALL the differences he describes could much less imaginatively be described as showing simply that conservatives are more cautious and more alert for things that they should be cautious about.  That conservatives are more cautious is no discovery, however.  Conservatives have rightly been described that way -- by both themselves and others -- for over 100 years

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, whose writing I commend heartily to readers of Somewhat Reasonable, this morning called my attention to some fascinating research reported recently in Mother Jones. It is truly not every day that Kass cites Mother Jones, so I was intrigued.

In ”Can Conservatives be fixed scientifically?” Kass quotes an April 4 Mother Jones article – This Machine Can Tell Whether You’re Liberal or Conservative – as saying conservatives “go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening and disgusting stimuli.”

For reasons that won’t come as any surprise to readers of Somewhat Reasonable, my mind immediately turned to environmental issues, and climate change in particular. Surely Mother Jones and the researcher whose work it reports, University of Nebraska-Lincoln political scientist John Hibbing, would recognize environmental alarmism as a glaring exception to this notion that conservatives are the “negative” ones?

But alas, there’s no evidence Mother Jones or Hibbing recognize this gap in Hibbing’s theory.

Mother Jones reports: “Some of us are more hierarchical, as opposed to egalitarian; some of us prefer harsher punishments for rule breakers, whereas some of us would be more inclined to forgive; some of us find outsiders or out-groups intriguing and enticing, whereas others find them threatening.” (italics mine)

Hibbing and Mother Jones clearly want to conclude conservatives are the ones described by the phrases I’ve italicized. But on climate change and other environmental issues, that’s simply not true.

“Hierarchical” describes people who see the world as being “ranked,” with some groups of people higher than others. Think of the left’s obsession with “class warfare” and you’ll get some idea of where they’re coming from. People who are “more hierarchical” are likely to believe individuals can’t manage their own lives – they need the government to tell them what to do and how to do it. Granted, some conservatives are like that on some issues … but liberals are like that, big time, on energy and environment and climate change issues. It is the liberals, after all, who talk about “global” warming and think a “global” governing body – the United Nations – has all the answers on climate change.

And on climate change, clearly liberals are the ones who “prefer harsher punishments.” They call for Nuremberg trials and even the death penalty for climate change “deniers.”

(N.B.: The phrase “climate change deniers” is not something that would be used by “happy,” “positive” people. Nobody is denying climate change happens. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change notes in Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, “Any human global climate signal is so small as to be nearly indiscernible against the background variability of the natural climate system. Climate change is always occurring.”)

Finally, it’s clearly the liberals who find “outsiders or out-groups” threatening. Why else would they label the scientists who disagree with them “deniers,” refuse to engage in civil debate or even speak at events to share their views in an open forum?

On energy, environment, and climate issues, it is the “conservatives and their rambunctious libertarian siblings,” as Kass calls us, who have a positive message to deliver: that global warming is not a crisis, the likely benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs, and mankind is not the scourge on Earth that liberals make us out to be.


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