Liberalism and Low Self Esteem
The article below from late last year by Sean Last makes points that I have been making for many years -- though I allow that he expresses it better than I have. I think it was first in 2002 that I pointed out that Leftism is clearly motivated by ego needs. Leftism makes Leftists feel good -- as being wise and caring, whether or not they actually are, and mostly they are not. And Leftists are shallow enough to NEED that boost -- which is why they run away from any information that might undermine their half-baked policy preferences of the day.
But there is more than one source for Leftism and I have outlined many here. I actually think that the needy egos have hopped onto a train that had already been got rolling by others: The haters. As the huge demonstrations against Trump show, Leftists are huge haters. And their hate is primarily directed at the society in which they live. They want to destroy it, in the delusion that they can create a better society. So anybody who wants to make America great is anathema to them.
A better society can indeed be created. From the industrial revolution on, society has become richer and kinder and more capable of improving human lives. But none of that was done by Leftist policies of expropriation and destruction. It was done by the steady accumulation of human wisdom and ingenuity that a capitalist society enabled and produced. Other societies did well only insofar as they copied capitalist societies.
So the hatred that Leftists have for the society in which they live is at best impatient and at worst blind. There is much to criticize about modern society but Leftists want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They fail to see that a better society is steadily evolving out of our existing society and that attacks on existing society are therefore attacks on the only hope for the future.
When Leftists do get the opportunity to mould a whole society into what they think is desirable, all we get are ghastly tyrannies like the Soviets, Mao's China, Pol Pot in Cambodia and the dead hand of Castro's Cuba.
But the hate thrives nonetheless. Why? It can have many causes. It can be a traditional hate for "the bosses" that we see in places like Scotland, it could come from some personal deprivation, like being born into a very poor family, or it could be the expression of a pathological personality. Karl Marx hated just about everyone and that is said to be because for most of his life he had painful boils on his butt.
But by far the most obvious source for a personality that is full of hate from birth onwards is psychopathy. I have in fact had academic journal articles published which report research into psychopathy so I have enough knowledge of psychopathy to see how startling are the parallels between psychopathy and Leftism. I go into details here
To summarize briefly, Psychopaths love only themselves and hate anyone who does not take them at their own high valuation of themselves and have no real morality or ethics whatsoever. They are masters of "faking good" -- of saying things that they think will make them look and sound good regardless of any truth in it. They lie at the drop of a hat. So they are very shallow thinkers. Only the here and now exists to them. I think that is a pretty good description of most prominent Leftists. Getting principles or even consistency out of a Leftist is a mug's game. They will say one thing one day and something else the next day. He/she will say anything that makes him/her look good on the given occasion. Obama's 180 degree turn on homosexual marriage is a good example of that. Or Bill Clinton's claim that Hillary was named after Sir Edmund, the Everest hero.
So that is where the needful ego guy comes in. He is not necessarily fully psychopathic but he shares the psychopath's need for praise and ego boosting. He jumps onto the psychopathic train being run by prominent Leftists. I set out here the reasons why the Clintons, Barack Obama and John Kerry are clear cases of psychopathy -- JR
In this post I am going to argue that one important reason why many people adopt a liberal political ideology is that it boosts their self esteem by allowing liberals to view themselves as noble warriors in a great battle against evil. There is a good deal of empirical data which is consistent with this theory. But I will also be making use of some evidence which is purely anecdotal. I fully recognize the limitations of such data. But I am still going to talk about it because it adds something meaningful to this theory.
The first question that needs answering is why liberals would need to increase their self-esteem in a way that conservatives do not. The answer is simple: liberals have less self esteem than conservatives to begin with. This is the conclusion of a 2012 paper published in the Journal of Research on Personality. The paper included two studies that found that liberals had lower self esteem than conservatives. The first study’s sample was moderate in size and consisted of college students. The second study made use of decades of data from the General Social Survey. The GSS is a large and highly representative survey that has been administered in the United States for over 40 years. Another paper published in 2014 replicated this finding in two more samples. Thus, the finding that liberals have low self esteem has been replicated several times, including one replication with an extremely high quality sample.
There is also experimental evidence showing that self esteem has a causal relation to liberalism. Researchers from Stanford have shown that causing people to feel especially good, or bad, about their looks influences their political beliefs and behavior. The researchers manipulated how people felt about themselves by asking them to recall incidents in which they felt either very attractive or very unattractive. When participants were made to feel good about themselves they became more likely to believe that social inequality was caused by individual differences in talent rather than by systemic forces outside of the individuals control. That is, they became more likely to endorse the conservative view on inequality. They also became less likely to donate to organizations aimed at lessening social inequality. When participants were made to feel poorly about themselves the opposite happened: they adopted a more liberal worldview and were more likely to donate to liberal groups.
So far we know that liberals have low self esteem and that having low self esteem causes people to be more liberal. There are at least two ways of looking at this. One way is to say that having low self esteem causes someone to be liberal because it makes it rational for them to favor equality. Equality helps everyone on the bottom half and that’s probably where you think you are if you have low self esteem. There’s clearly some truth to this narrative. But I believe that people with low self esteem will also be attracted to liberalism because being a liberal helps your self esteem a little bit. In particular, being a liberal lets you view yourself as a kind of moral hero waging a battle against dark and evil forces. Who doesn’t feel good about themselves while playing super hero?
The thing that initially caused me to think that liberalism boosts self esteem is the fact that liberals seem to be very proud of their political ideology. They want everyone to know about it. You can tell someone is liberal by the car they drive, the clothes they wear, and the food they eat. Non-liberals aren’t normally like this. I can’t look at someone and know whether they are a moderate, a conservative, a libertarian, etc. It’s only liberals that I can reliably spot on sight.
It also seems clear to me that morality is involved. Liberals are always crusading against something immoral. It’s never a simple factual disagreement. Conservatives are sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. And they hate the poor. Of course, many of these charges are ridiculous. For example, conservatives advocate the economic policies they do because they think that everyone will benefit from them. It has nothing to do with hating the poor. Notice that conservatives don’t respond in kind: conservatives don’t normally argue that liberals hate the poor, women, straight people or minorities, even though they think that liberal policies will negatively effect these groups.
Research by the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt lends support to this theory. Haidt has developed surveys that ask people about their moral values. Early in his research Haidt found that liberals and conservatives tended to fill out these surveys differently. After replicating this finding several times Haidt did something pretty cool: he had liberals fill out the surveys as they imagined conservatives would and vice versa. Haidt found that conservatives were fairly accurate in their depictions of the moral values of liberals. But liberals were widely inaccurate in their view of conservative morality: they drastically underestimated how much conservatives cared about moral values like fairness and kindness. Haidt also had liberals fill out the surveys as if they were the average liberal and conservatives fill out the surveys as if they were the average conservative. Once again, conservatives were far more accurate than liberals. Liberals consistently over-estimated how much the average liberal cared about various moral values. And thus, Haidt showed that liberals irrationally view conservatives as immoral and view themselves as far more righteous than they actually are.
The behavior of liberals is also consistent with viewing them as moral crusaders. Pew polling shows that liberals are far more likely than conservatives to end a friendship with someone due to a political dispute. This is what we would expect from people who view the opposition as evil. Who wants to be friends with evil people?
I think this explains why liberals care so much about things that are offensive and don’t matter. If you want to feel morally superior to everyone around you, you can’t agree with them. And so you have to find things wrong with society which society won’t admit to. And so as time has gone on, liberals have had to invent increasingly ridiculous complaints about society. Consider transsexuals and people with autism. By even the most liberal estimates of transsexual prevalence, autism is about five times as common as trannies are. And no one could argue with the fact that autistic people have hard lives. But the left doesn’t generally care about people with autism because supporting autistic people isn’t offensive to most people. If the left launched a campaign to help autistic people most people would probably feel sorry for the mentally ill and agree with them. And then there would be no bogey men to wage war with. So the left concentrates on trannies instead. There are basically no trannies. And most of the few that do exist are clearly insane. So they are the perfect group for the left to champion. A lesser but similar case can be made about gay marriage. Being gay is rare, and almost no gays actually want to marry. But gay marriage is offensive to many people. So it is a great issue for the left. It creates lots of bogeymen.
I’ve found that this theory helps to explain a lot about how liberals debate. In my experience, liberals are more concerned with proving that I am evil than proving that I am wrong. (“The races differ in mean IQ scores.” … “You’re racist!”) I now think that this is because they can only grandstand by showing that I am evil. Showing that I am wrong won’t boost their self esteem the way that showing to the world that they are battling evil does.
In summary, studies show that liberals have low self esteem and that causing low self esteem causes people to be more liberal. Research also shows that liberals have unrealistically negative views of the morals of conservatives and unrealistically positive views of the morals of liberals. And polling shows that liberals are far more likely to break social ties with people over politics. They are moral crusaders. The fact that liberals want everyone to know that they are liberal, that they seem to purposefully pick offensive views, their debate style, and the fact that being morally superior normally feels pretty good, suggests to me that the moral crusading and the low self esteem are connected. Liberals are liberal so that they can say that society sucks, so that they can say that they are better than everyone else, so that they can feel a little less shitty about themselves.