Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Conservatives demonstrate more self control than Liberals, studies suggest

The research report below is unusual in favoring conservatives but we should not get too excited about it as the findings are based on students and highly educated respondents.  It may tell us nothing about the population at large.

The findings about "freewill" are however in accord with the greater belief in personal responsibility among conservatives.  Leftists rage and apportion blame while conservatives just get on with it. Conservatives are simply calmer

Findings from three separate studies link a person's political ideology and their self-control performance, with conservatives demonstrating greater self-control than liberals. The research led by Joshua John Clarkson, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of marketing, is published in this week's early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Two studies in the report involved tasks that were conducted among undergraduates at two Midwestern universities over the past year. The third study involved 135 people across the U.S. taking part in a survey through Amazon Mechanical Turk service. In each study, Clarkson says participants who identified as politically conservative consistently showed greater attention regulation and task persistence -- hallmark indicators of self-control -- and that these effects were independent of participants' gender, race, age, education or income.

Study 1

At one Midwestern university, 147 undergraduates completed a modified Stroop task. Sitting in front of a computer screen, they were presented with a word that represented a color (red, blue, green, yellow), with the words presented on an incongruent background. For example, the word 'yellow' would appear on a blue background. The researchers examined how quickly participants would respond with the word, controlling for correctness. 'We found that those who identified as conservative were as correct as liberals, but they were performing the tasks faster. This finding suggests that conservatives might be better able to fixate their attention on a task,' says Clarkson.

Study 2

At a separate Midwestern university, 176 undergraduates performed the same Stroop task. Again, researchers found that as political conservatism increased, there was a faster response time as well as an increase in the belief of freewill. 'Both conservatives and liberals reported that they wanted to perform well, but again, conservatives were responding faster, and this faster response stemmed from their stronger belief in freewill. That is, conservatives' belief in their responsibility for their outcome contributed to their faster responding,' says Clarkson.

Study 3

Using Amazon Mechanical Turk, 135 Americans participated in several seven-letter anagram self-control tasks. For each anagram, they were asked -- under a set of rules (e.g., words had to have at least three letters) -- to create as many English words as they could with the letters. Importantly, participants were told they could decide when they wanted to end the task. The researchers found that the conservatives spent more time on the task than the liberals.

However, the findings showed that conservatives outperformed liberals only when participants believed freewill has a beneficial impact on self-control. When participants believed freewill could undermine self-control, liberals outperformed conservatives.

'This finding is especially interesting because research to this point has focused only on the positive outcomes of believing in freewill,' says Clarkson. 'However, one could imagine a host of situations where knowing you are responsible for your actions could lead to frustration, anxiety and other negative emotions that could impair self-control. In these contexts, these findings would suggest liberals will demonstrate greater self-control.'

Clarkson explains how the research offers clear insight into the psyche of consumers. 'When marketers consider self-control, we tend to think of sticking to a diet or exercise regimen, not wandering off your grocery list or avoiding impulsive purchases. All of these behaviors exhibit elements of attention regulation and persistence. Ultimately, however, it all comes down to believing whether or not you can control your own behavior, and what we're finding is that conservatives are more likely to believe they can control their own behavior.'

SOURCE.  Journal article


Understanding Putin's  Russia

I don't entirely agree with the analysis below.  But it's part of the story

The Western media have done a poor job reporting on Russia. Cable news stations and print journalists have covered Putin’s wicked annexation of Crimea and military adventurism in eastern Ukraine, but rarely has their coverage tried to convey why Moscow has taken such aggressive steps in violation of international law.

To do so isn’t to justify Russia’s actions, but rather to establish a basis for predicting Russia’s behavior, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. It might also help us to better assess Western responses, such as the G-7 leaders’ recent decision to continue their economic sanctions against the Putin regime.

Russia’s policies can be seen as attempts to create a security buffer against perceived Western build-up to its borders. Moscow has intimated, for example, that the CIA assisted in the ouster of Russian-friendly Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine—a storyline that is consistent with the expansion of NATO in former Warsaw Pact countries after the end of the Cold War, despite President George H. W. Bush’s formal agreement to keep the Western military alliance out of what had been East Germany.

Another data point: George W. Bush promised to admit Ukraine and Georgia into NATO—regions that Russia considers to be within its geopolitical sphere of influence. Eland offers other examples, as well.

“Russia feels surrounded and vulnerable and thus succumbs easily to nationalist demagogues like Putin,” Eland writes. “However, in the future, perhaps the United States will be more understanding of the relatively weak Russia’s need for a geostrategic buffer zone in Eastern Europe as the more powerful China rises in East Asia and the Americans need an ally to balance it there.”



Bullet Train Is Slow-Speed Boondoggle

We have been keeping track, so to speak, of California’s vaunted “Bullet Train,” officially the state’s High-Speed Rail project. But as it turns out, “high speed” is something of a misnomer, as William Bigelow notes on Breitbart.

The first actual construction on the project is a viaduct over the Fresno River, nowhere near the Bay Area to Los Angeles route politicians used to sell the $69 billion project. This construction “will start three years after the date initially estimated by the rail authority.” The project faces financial obstacles, including “$2.2 billion in federal stimulus money that can only be used by the rail authority if it is spent before Sept. 30, 2017 on construction in the San Joaquin Valley. Any funds left unspent must be returned to the Federal Railroad Administration.” As taxpayers know, government agencies never leave funds unspent, and they will have to spend more.

As in Blazing Saddles, one thing stands in the way of the land they need: the rightful owners. As Bigelow observes, the state rail authority recently acknowledged legal possession “of only 257 of 1,079 properties that it requires for the first two construction sections.” The process has been so slow that actual construction has been delayed. And California High-Speed Rail Authority boss Jeff Morales admitted that this problem could bring about, yes, a “cost increase.” Morales is also on record that a high-speed rail line from the Bay Area to Los Angeles could have been built privately. That is something of a giveaway.

The bullet train is more about spending than transportation. California congressmen see it as a way to shore up their fortunes by spending money in their districts. That’s why the first stretch of the boondoggle is slated for the boondocks. The bullet train also gives politicians a way to expand government. So no surprise that the California High Speed Rail Authority serves as a soft landing spot for washed-up politicians such as board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for governor Gray Davis. California governor Jerry Brown, who appointed Schenk, sees the train as a legacy project, like the $25 billion tunnels he wants to build under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The bullet train, meanwhile, is supposed to be fully operational by 2028. California’s embattled taxpayers might ponder what high-tech advancements in transportation might occur before that time.



Western liberals: protecting ‘vulnerable’ murderers

Proponents of free, unbridled expression fight censorship on multiple fronts. Charlie Hebdo and others fight the hard censorship of the ‘murderer’s veto’. Others fight the softer censorship of radicalised political correctness and other attempts to ‘protect’ people from differing opinions. The two fronts of the battle may seem unconnected. But they are not. Soft censorship facilitates its violent brother.

A Pakistani student at the University of California, Berkeley, recently wrote an article for her school’s newspaper, entitled ‘On Leaving Islam’, explaining that she felt compelled to leave her faith because, despite trying, she could not reconcile her liberal beliefs with Islam’s often sexist and homophobic tenets. Although she is critical of Islam, she argues that writers such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali are overly harsh, and that many of them promote unfair and negative stereotypes about Islam. Despite the moderate tone of the article, the author faced threats of violence, forcing the paper to remove the article for her protection.

One can’t help but wonder whether the New York Times contemplated praising this act of censorship and denouncing the article as ‘hate speech’.

Those who, under the guise of sensitivity and multiculturalism, blame the victims of Islamists because they ‘provoke’ their own slaughter, equate drawing pictures with mass murder and take issue, not with certain people’s ideas, but with their very right to air them in the first place, make those who wish death on those who offend them feel justified.

What is a jihadist to make of the pitiful authors who recently pulled out of a PEN gala in New York after PEN awarded Charlie Hebdo its Freedom of Expression Courage Award? Or of those who made excuses for the two men who shot up a provocative exhibition of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in Garland, Texas? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if, when they hear ‘liberals’ apologising for their violence and criticising their victims, jihadists feel they’re in the right. If my opponents were wrong to say those things, I suppose it’s okay for me to silence them.

Challenging and ultimately changing one’s beliefs often requires moral courage. Those who denounced the Berkeley student’s act of courage only highlighted their own moral cowardice. And herein lies the great irony: the true victims of violent censorship are precisely those people who Western liberals often seek to protect.

Across the world, liberal Muslims, secularists, humanists, women and gays are the most common victims of Islamic radicalism. The inability of many Westerners to criticise militant Islam, so as to avoid being called ‘Islamophobic’, endangers the very existence of the persecuted minorities they often purport to protect.

Until Western liberals can summon the courage to denounce murderers, rather than sympathise with them; until they are unafraid to call out oppression wherever it exists – even if the oppressor is ‘underprivileged’; until they distance themselves from what one might call multicultural extremism; indeed, until they abandon such overzealous moral relativism and return to universal rights and values, Western liberals will never truly support the most vulnerable in our society.



‘People can’t lead full lives if they’re dependent on the state’

Over the past few years, the tired, old political duopoly of red vs blue has become increasingly coloured by yellow. No, I’m not talking about the rise and fall of the Liberal Democrats and their shortlived foray into British government. Rather, I am talking about the revival and growth of libertarianism in US politics, often symbolised by a bright yellow ‘Don’t tread on me’ flag, which is increasingly visible on lawn flagpoles and bumper stickers across the US.

This rise of libertarianism, with some polls suggesting that as many as 15 to 20 per cent of Americans hold libertarian views, has prompted David Boaz, executive vice-president of the Cato Institute (a Washington DC-based think-tank), to revise and update his 1997 book Libertarianism: A Primer. The result, published this year under the title The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom, provides a comprehensive overview and introduction to libertarian thought.

Big government and the presidential race

‘It just makes your skin crawl to be a libertarian in this city’, Boaz tells me in his office in Washington DC, in reference to the fact that even a short walk in this town takes you past a myriad of government-department buildings and lobbyists’ offices. ‘They are all there to get a piece of the taxpayer’s money’, Boaz adds. These comments express an underlying theme for Boaz – Americans have allowed the government to get too big, from the county to the federal level. Now is the time, he says, for libertarians to push back.

Such is the extent of government regulation that, according to Boaz, the Code of Federal Regulations is over 175,000 pages long and comprises 238 volumes. Federal regulatory agencies now employ over 275,000 people (twice as many as in 1980) and regulation costs the US economy $1.75 trillion dollars annually in lost output.

Given how entrenched big government is, I wonder if dismantling these regulations will prove an impossible task. ‘It does seem like an overwhelming prospect’, says Boaz, ‘but in history, of course, we have dealt with such overwhelming prospects as ending slavery, and we managed to do that’. Boaz isn’t being flippant here. Rather, he is a keen believer in our ability to better our own lives and those of others. ‘We have in the space of a couple of centuries taken humanity from a state of back-breaking labour carried out from dawn to dusk, and short life expectancies, to incredible wealth, even for poor people in the West.’

This is true, and in this era of manifest misanthropy, Boaz is to be commended for focusing on the positive aspects of human development. He worries, however, that government regulation and pressure are stymieing our future potential: ‘Ideally, I would rather government was confined to protecting our rights.’

Little wonder, then, that throughout The Libertarian Mind Boaz argues that government should play a very restricted role in the management of society. As he is keen to stress: ‘In my book, I describe and advocate a libertarianism that is pretty radical, that the purpose of government is only to protect life, liberty and property and everything beyond that is unwarranted in a free society.’ But with government still growing (don’t mention Obamacare to Boaz), and the 2016 US presidential election just around the corner, I wonder what hope he sees for libertarianism in the upcoming political cycle, with it looking likely that either grandma-in-chief Hillary Clinton or a third Bush (Jeb) will take the helm. ‘A Bush-Clinton race ought to be the best opportunity the Libertarian Party ever had, not to win, but maybe to break through’, he says.



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