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Happy Conservatives and Miserable Liberals

In this interview, Arthur C. Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness, offers some telling data about the relative happiness of liberals and conservatives:

In 2004, people who said they were conservative or very conservative were nearly twice as likely to say they were very happy as people who called themselves liberal or very liberal (44 percent versus 25 percent). Conservatives were only half as likely to say they were not too happy (9 versus 18 percent). Political conservatives were also far less likely than liberals to express maladjustment to their adult lives. For example, adults on the political right were only half as likely as those on the left to say, “at times, I think I am no good at all.” They were also less likely to say they were dissatisfied with themselves, that they were inclined to feel like a failure, or to be pessimistic about their futures. Further, a 2007 survey found that 58 percent of Republicans rated their mental health as “excellent,” versus 43 percent of political independents and just 38 percent of Democrats.

Ronald Reagan was considered the “happy warrior” for a reason. Because he was happy about America, he was able to fight on her behalf. The fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals on this point is that conservatives have given themselves permission to value what’s worthwhile in themselves, their cultures, and their beliefs, while liberals suffer from a default dissatisfaction with themselves and their way of life.

In liberal policy, we see this psychodrama writ large. The Left is perpetually dissatisfied with their country and its actions: liberals savor talk of America’s “blunders” and “disasters.” It’s no wonder Barack Obama’s downer speeches about alienation and frustration strike a chord among Democrats. In pop-psychology speak, he’s “validating” their feelings. Yes, we’re too violent; yes, we’re too greedy; yes, we’re too egocentric. Barack Obama’s call for unqualified summits with leaders hostile to the U.S. resembles, in this context, nothing so much as some radical global group therapy session.

Last month, when filmmaker and playwright David Mamet renounced modern liberalism, he wrote “This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.” It is also Barack Obama’s guiding political principle.


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