Monday, November 30, 2015
More on what lies behind the Left/Right divide
Among psychologists, the most interesting answer to the above question is that given by John Hibbing. He might be called the "rockstar" of the debate. He attracts attention because he goes down to the physiological and brain-science level for his evidence and conclusions. He says that what you believe is a product of what you are. He does not stress it but "what you are" is genetically determined. So he is looking for inherited physiological differences between Leftists and conservatives.
And he has made some progress. He has put people through a number of experimental tasks and found that the reactions he observes to the tasks do indeed differ as between the two ideological groups. He describes his findings as showing that "disgust sensitivity" is the key variable. Conservatives are more easily disgusted. Most generally, they have a "negativity bias", according to Hibbing. And last year he put up a big paper summarizing the evidence for his view. It is "Differences in negativity bias underlie variations in political ideology"
I have long argued that Left/Right differences are largely inborn so my critique of Hibbing is not to contest his findings but to question the "spin" he puts on them. You can find a pretty good summary of his experiments here and I think it is easy to see that what Hibbing calls "negativity bias" could just as well be described as caution -- and caution has long been said to be the essence of conservatism. So Hibbing has confirmed some old wisdom rather than telling us anything new.
Hibbing's big article was published in an open review journal so critiques of it keep multiplying. One such critique that I have noted recently was "Not so simple: The multidimensional nature and diverse origins of political ideology" by Stanley Feldman and Leonie Huddy. They make two points that I think are pretty right:
They say that "negativity bias" is characteristic of neurotics and that all the studies show that conservatives are not particularly neurotic. I observed that in my research too. So that is a bit of a stake in the heart for Hibbing. His "spin" on his results has undone him. If he had simply described conservatives as cautious, that criticism could not so easily be levelled at him.
Their second point is that there is no single Left-Right dimension. Economic conservatism and social conservatism are quite different. So Feldman & Huddy conclude that Hibbing's work is pretty useless because he has mixed up two different things. And it is indeed true that those two types of attitudes are very distinct factorially. I noted that in one of my papers long ago.
So they are right but I am prepared to defend Hibbing on that one. Although there are two distinctly different types of conservative attitude, they are not totally different. As I found, they do correlate, albeit weakly. And that is why the "big tent" of the GOP succeeds. The two types of conservative do find some things in common, a respect for the individual, mainly.
And as we see in "Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits", Hibbing uses the Wilson scale in his research, which is primarily a measure of social conservatism. And I have shown elsewhere that social conservatism is the big one for separating people. Economic conservatism is arguably more important to our future but it doesn't get the blood boiling like social issues do: Abortion, homosexuality, religion, tradition etc.
So Hibbing may not be measuring overall conservatism but he is measuring social conservatism and that is the most central sort of conservatism. So I would summarize his findings as showing that social conservatives are instinctively more cautious than others. And I see no problem with that.
Hibbing uses "Negativity" rather than "caution" to describe conservatives because he wants to rubbish conservatives (though he says he does not). "Negative" sounds a lot sadder than "cautious". But in so doing he lands himself in trouble. I have noted the Feldman & Huddy comment on that but there is in fact a bigger vat of boiling oil he falls into:
As is noted here, who are the "negative" people when it comes to global warming? Warmists are almost entirely Leftists but it is they who are vastly negative about the climate and our future. They predict imminent catastrophe -- while conservatives are mostly just amused by the scare. Conservatives say in summary that: "global warming is not a crisis, the likely benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs, and mankind is not the scourge on Earth that liberals make us out to be"
And again, referring to conservatives simply as cautious would not enable that criticism. Warmists do say that they are the cautious ones but to swallow the arrant nonsense that is global warming would have to be a height of incautiousness. Conservatives just look at the evidence and see that there is no need for caution in the matter. Here's a graph of the amount of global warming we have had in the last 18 years -- none:
So two cheers for Hibbing. He has drawn attention to the biological basis of ideology but he should stop stretching the implications of his findings in a Leftist direction. He just makes a fool of himself with that stretch. He was pretty reasonable -- even humble -- in a 2012 paper. He should try more of that.
The liberal problem with reality again
Hillary Clinton’s million little lies
TO HEAR Hillary Clinton tell it, she was named for Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Mount Everest — even though she was already six-years-old when he made his famous ascent.
On a visit to war-torn Bosnia in 1996, she claimed she and her entourage landed under sniper fire and had to run “with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base” — although videos of her arrival show her waltzing serenely across the tarmac, waving to the crowd.
She blamed the 2012 attack on American diplomatic and intelligence-gathering installations in Benghazi on “a disgusting video” when she knew almost from the first moment that it was a jihadist assault that took the lives of four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.
No wonder the late William Safire, writing in The New York Times in 1996, at the height of the Whitewater investigation, called her a “congenital liar”.
Said Safire: “She is in the longtime habit of lying; and she has never been called to account for lying herself or in suborning lying in her aides and friends”.
Baron Munchausen has nothing on Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Now comes the recycling this month of another Clinton tall tale: That shortly before her 1975 marriage to Bill Clinton, she decided in a fit of patriotic fervour and dedication to “public service” to stroll into a recruiter’s office in Arkansas and join the Marine Corps.
It’s an anecdote she trots out to charm military audiences, whether it’s a group on Capitol Hill in 1994, or, most recently, to veterans in Derry, New Hampshire.
“He looks at me and goes, ‘Um, how old are you,’ ” Clinton recalled at the event on November 10. “I said, ‘Well, I’m 26. I will be 27.’ And he goes, ‘Well, that is kind of old for us.’ And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, ‘Maybe the dogs will take you,’ meaning the Army,” she added.
Yeah, right. Never mind that the term is “dogface,” used to refer to the Army infantry. And never mind as well that, given the tenor of the times, the Marines or any other service would have taken young Ms. Rodham in a heartbeat, especially given their need for lawyers.
Like so many carefully parsed Clintonian statements, Hillary’s Leatherneck fantasy is either unverifiable or dependent upon how it’s phrased.
When confronted with the obvious discrepancy in her “Edmund Hillary” story, she characteristically shifted the blame to her mother, Dorothy, saying the fable was something her mother told her.
But let’s assume for a moment that, unlike Clinton’s other whoppers, this story is actually, in some sense, true.
What are the odds that, in the immediate aftermath of Vietnam, the anti-war Wellesley graduate, who’d written her college senior thesis on “community organiser” Saul Alinsky, had a snazzy Yale Law degree, and who was already envisioning a career in state and national politics alongside Bill (then a candidate for Arkansas lawyer general), would do such a thing — and actually mean it?
I’m betting zero.
A far more likely explanation is that Hillary entered the Marine recruiting office — if she did — not out of any desire to “serve her country”, but as an agent provocateur, determined to show that the Marines were a bunch of bigoted sexist, ageist pigs in order to fuel her sense of outrage.
This explanation is given credence by one of Hillary’s Fayetteville, Arkansas, friends at the time, Ann Henry, who said that Hillary was interested in probing the way the military treated women candidates.
“I can remember discussing it, but I cannot give you the details of when and what was said,” Henry told a reporter.
“Hillary would go and do things just to test it out, and I can totally see her doing that just to see what the reaction was.”
Given the mood of the time, and the vituperative nastiness of the left regarding all things military, it would have been just like the self-aggrandising Hillary Rodham to try and manufacture a controversy where there was none, to make herself look good.
And now she allegedly recasts the story as a legitimate desire to join the military, to show her dedication to public service. Is the story true? And if it is true, were her motives as described?
What difference does it make!
The late Christopher Hitchens titled his memoir of the Whitewater/Monica Lewinsky circus No One Left to Lie To, but even someone as perceptive as Hitch couldn’t foresee that the Clintons, like cockroaches and the Kardashians, would always be with us, forever playing the same shell game on the American people and laughing as we fall for it.
That would be the same Clintons (combined current net worth: $140 million) who were “dead broke” when they left the White House.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)
Posted by JR at 1:14 AM