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Thursday, February 23, 2006


Smile if (and Only if) You're Conservative
A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that conservatives are happier than liberals -- in all income groups. While 34 percent of all Americans call themselves "very happy," only 28 percent of liberal Democrats (and 31 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats) do, compared with 47 percent of conservative Republicans.
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Begin with a paradox: Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. Conservatives think the Book of Job got it right ("Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward"), as did Adam Smith ("There is a great deal of ruin in a nation"). Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile -- touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Conservatives' pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised -- they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes -- government -- they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity -- it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.
The Bible (Psalm 118) tells us:
Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in mortals.
Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in princes.
Conservatives, even those of non-religous views, understand that trusting people to be perfect will only lead to disappointment. It's why they're conservative and oppose centralization of power. The more power any one person, or group of people, has the more that can, and will, get screwed up. People are fallible. Let's keep their mistakes small.

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