- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 17, 2008


By Peter Schweizer

Doubleday, $27.95, 258 pages


Liberals and conservatives are different, and it’s not just about different policies. The mythology of

mean, greedy conservatives versus generous, altruistic liberals, a mythology retailed by liberals, has no basis in fact. The evidence shows almost the exact reverse to be true more often than not. Peter Schweizer gives us that evidence in detail in “Makers and Takers.”

Mr. Schweizer’s conclusions - that conservatives on average work harder, are happier, lead closer family lives, are more honest, give more to charity, are more open-minded, less self-centered, less prone to anger and rage and whine a good deal less than liberals - are not what you’ve been hearing on television, reading in your daily newspaper or what your kids have been hearing from their professor in class.

It has been the claim of liberals for decades that not only are they (liberals) sensitive, selfless, intelligent and all around superior human beings with only the best interests of the world and its inhabitants foremost in mind, but that conservatives are materialistic meanies who care only for themselves and are not very bright into the bargain.

These claims, which are consistent with the world view of most in the mainstream media, as well as in academe and among the literati, have gotten a lot of play. There have been faux studies hatched at some of our tonier universities - Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, et al - claiming to demonstrate that conservatives are emotionally limited people, intellectually stunted and uncurious, rigid, prone to violence and afraid of change. Some have even tried to claim that conservatism is a form of mental illness.

Most everyone reading this review has heard or read these claims. Most have seen the Hollywood movies portraying grasping, dysfunctional conservatives and brilliant, well-adjusted liberals who are so good it almost gives you a sugar high to watch them (See Robert Redford in almost anything after Sundance).

Liberals, from the side that hams it up the most about “the politics of personal destruction,” are in fact masters of this form.

“It’s not simply conservative policies that are wrong,” Mr. Schweizer writes of the liberal catechism. “The problem is that conservatives suffer from a deficient moral code, and concomitant character flaws. Conservatives are backward, ignorant, and selfish. Liberals on the other hand are enlightened, just, fair, emotionally mature, stable, and calm.”

Mr. Schweizer’s message is don’t believe a word of it. It ain’t so. None of it.

Fortunately for conservatives and for the truth, there are many studies published in refereed journals and surveys, such as the General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago and the National Opinion Research Center, which regularly asks thousands of Americans their attitudes on a range of issues, that are done with more scientific rigor than ideological fervor. They provide a more accurate and balanced picture. Mr. Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, catalogues the studies and gives readers a brief rundown of the findings, findings that have gotten almost no play in our overwhelmingly liberal media.

In aggregate, the studies show that those who identify themselves as liberals are:

m More selfish: “Liberals are much more likely to think about themselves first and less willing to make sacrifices for others.” For instance, they are less willing to care for a physically ill or elderly family member, and more concerned with ensuring that their own needs are being met.

m More focused on money: “Liberals are much more likely to report that money is important to them, that they don’t earn enough, and that money is what matters in a job. They are also more likely to be envious of others.”

m Less emotionally satisfied: “Liberals are much more likely to suffer from a nervous breakdown, attempt suicide, suffer from depression, and be chronically angry.”

m Less honest: “Liberals are more likely to believe that it’s okay to be dishonest or deceptive, cheat on their taxes (and their spouse). Keep money that doesn’t belong to them, and sell a used car with a faulty transmission to a family member.”

m Less knowledgeable: “Despite claims that conservatives are ignorant, studies and surveys show that conservatives and Republicans (not coterminous categories) tend to know more about public affairs, have a better understanding of economics, and do better on word association tests.”

Again, in aggregate, those who labeled themselves conservatives:

m Tend to be happier and better adjusted: “Conservatives are more satisfied with their lives, their professions, and even their health, even when compared to liberals with the same demographics (age, income, etc.)”

m More generous: “For all the talk of liberal compassion, the reality is that conservatives are much more likely to donate money and time to charitable causes.”

“Makers and Takers” gives chapter and verse on these differences and others, which of course, are just to a degree. There are, of course, creepy conservatives out there, as well as good and honorable liberals. But taken all around, the big picture is not at all what the left has gotten away with painting for years.

How could these differences between liberals and conservatives be so consistent? Mr. Schweizer, and many other perceptive writers, trace the differences in attitude and behavior to the different ideas liberals and conservative hold on how the world works and what is good and bad.

As moral relativism, skepticism about the very concept of an objective right and wrong, is so prevalent on the left, why should it be a surprise that liberals are not that concerned about honesty. This explains why liberals so often respond to questions of character with a version of, “Who am I (or you, especially you) to say?”

Liberals obviously won’t like this book (but since liberals read less than conservatives, they may not even notice it). It paints a less than attractive picture of liberalism and its idea. But conservatives will find it simpatico. And doubtless will conclude it has the ring of truth to it.

Larry Thornberry is a writer living in Tampa. His email address is ltberry [email protected]

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