March 22, 2006

My Father Always Told Me That When the Other Side Has Nothing On You, They Make Up a Study to Say You're Crazy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Maybe it's because I'm a whiny conservative, but I can't tell if this posting from RI Future is for real or a parody...

Well, this is obvious. Whiny children, claims a new study, tend to grow up conservative while confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grow up to be liberals. Its clear that Liberalism is a higher state of mind. Liberals want to challenge where society has been and push the further evolution of our society. Conservatives accept the status quo and seek to conserve what already exists. I want progress. Im a liberal.
What do you think?

By the way, since liberals apparently want change, I'm looking forward to RI Future's support on replacing the 1930s era Social Security structure with something suitable for the present day, school choice reform, health-savings accounts, and replacing the United Nations with an institution that actually works.

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Gee, what a surprise that a "study" laced with negative connotations about conservatives would be produced in Berkley, CA. Jonah Goldberg sums it all up nicely:

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley of course found that of the roughly 100 kids they tracked for 20 years, starting in nursery school, the whiny kids were more likely to become conservatives.

UC Berkeley professor Jack Block's theory, according to the Star, is that insecure kids look for "reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial."
Ah yes, in Berkeley, Calif., nothing is more rebellious to the status quo than being a liberal. Why, they must be pariahs at the local organic food co-op. I mean, it's just plain heroic to embrace liberal politics in a town where residents cast 90 percent of their votes for John Kerry and only 6.6 percent of their votes for Bush.
But don't nominate these mavericks for a Profiles in Courage award just yet. If you read down to the 15th paragraph in the story, you'll discover that there was "a .27 correlation between being self-reliant in nursery school and being a liberal as an adult." In other words, self-reliance explains seven percent of the variance between kids who bravely became liberal and tykes who supinely embraced conservative politics.
One obvious problem with this sort of analysis is that the single best predictor of partisan affiliation is the political orientation of your parents. In Berkeley, the most liberal majority-white city in America, most kids are going to be liberal because their parents are liberal. If one or two of the whinier kids turn out to be conservative, it might have more to do with the fact that their parents are whiny conservatives. Heck, if I lived in Berkeley, I might be whiny too.
To call these sorts of studies entirely useless is probably unfair. No doubt Block has more or less accurately charted the path of his subjects. And even he concedes that the study tells us little about the rest of the country. But it's also pretty clear that Block wants to find psychologically satisfying explanations for what makes people conservatives. It's not hard to imagine that if the whiny, sniveling brats turned out to be liberals, he would explain this as proof that liberals are born more emotionally sensitive and with a greater acuity for spotting injustice.
Posted by: Marc at March 23, 2006 7:16 AM