Arnold Kling

If You're Happy and You Know it

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You are more likely to be libertarian. At least if the James Lindgren paper cited by Tyler Cowen says what I think it does. Apparently, the phrase "angry left" contains a redundancy.

I find this a plausible story. David Henderson points out that people on the left will complain about lack of choice in media and point to Fox News as an example. When he suggests that there are many other news outlets, the reply is "But some people only watch Fox News!" He concludes that the issue is not choice in media, but that people on the left are angry with other people's choices.


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The author at amcgltd in a related article titled Clap Your Hands! writes:
    Sounds about right to me: I find [being happy makes you likely to be libertarian] a plausible story. David Henderson points out that people on the left will complain about lack of choice in media and point to Fox... [Tracked on April 13, 2011 10:13 PM]
COMMENTS (12 to date)
Daniel Kuehn writes:

I must be an anomoly because most on the left I'm familiar with are fairly happy and I come across a lot of libertarians that are quite angry and often condescending. Still - I don't want to argue from anecdote or potential cognitive bias.

For someone who cited Leamer just 24 hours ago, I'm surprised how confidently you propose this interpretation. Who the anger is directed at is pretty vague here, and it seems just as likely that non-redistributionists aren't angry because they lack sympathy and they donate more because they're more religious. I'm not sure how "the left doesn't like choice" leaps out so clearly to you... perhaps your interpretation is grounded in your own anecdotes and biases.

On Fox - you don't think peoples' views on Fox have more to do with perceived misinformation? Why do people complain more about Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity than Brett Baier and Chris Wallace? I don't think it's a "people are watching a conservative network and I don't like it thing", it's a "these people have completely transcended subjective-wiggle room territory and are simply misrepresenting facts".

Tom writes:

At least at Fox there is a distiction between the news and a political show. You don't get that at the other channels.

As for misrepresenting facts, it's usually presenting facts that liberals aren't comfortable with. Not many liberals try to rebut the facts, but complain why they don't feel they are right.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

re: "Not many liberals try to rebut the facts, but complain why they don't feel they are right."

?????

Rebutting Fox on the facts has practically become a national pastime.

Jeff writes:

Anger (and emotions in general) can often be compartmentalized, though. I get angry at Barack Obama and John Boehner sometimes, and I condescend to leftists sometimes, too, but I'm not sure that makes me an "angry person" or affects my overall happiness level. Keep in mind the paper in question speaks about how often people get angry and how long the anger lasts, so maybe the best conclusion to draw isn't that leftists are in general angrier, but that they're not as good at compartmentalizing their anger.

Just throwin' it out there.

Shangwen writes:

I read the abstract...now there's a paper that's bound to bring about howls of disagreement from the left.

I think this raises the larger question of the relationship between character traits and political beliefs. People can get angry for all kinds of reasons. If I'm bored and reading too many blogs and news articles, I get angry.

This reminded me of a conversation several years ago that constituted an informal thought experiment. I was talking to a good friend who is very left-wing (shocker: a professor of education), and we were discussing the impact of winning the lottery. (Neither of us buys tickets.) She was totally averse to people winning lotteries, because she said that winners would then want to "control other people", equating wealth with social dominance. I found this odd. I replied that I would want to win a lottery so that I could just do my own thing. She found that odd.

Jameson Burt writes:

Humans, as mammals, run many emotions separate from ideology.
I'm more willing to attribute emotions like happiness
to attributes underlying our mammal-ness
than to some social/political ideology or to some religious fairy tale.
Said in other words,
the influences on our emotions derive less from our beliefs
than from our underlying mammal-ness,
which more strongly kindles emotions and virtues.
Or said another way, when our mammal-ness sufficiently partitions
our emotions' extent, little remains to explain.

This perspective becomes more obvious not in social beliefs
(libertarian, Old-Whig, economic-conservative)
but in religious beliefs.
Many religious sects wrongly attribute everything
to others' dissimilarity.
Thus, those outside the sect are sinful and less happy;
those outsiders underlie the sects' troubles;
and those outsiders go to hell.
The 2001 New York religious attack on New York's Twin Towers
gets attributed to New Yorkers' immorality
even though New Yorkers
have fewer out-of-wedlock pregnancies,
have less obesity,
and have more honesty,
and are demonstrably more tolerant.
Religious sectarians push every fleeting thought as revelation
-- a realistic (existential) libertarianism avoids such delusions.

Still, if an author presents valid experiments (not retrospective),
only fools would ignore their reality.

John writes:

Arnold, you'd better correct the "your" in your first sentence to a "you're", otherwise the grammar police are going to be on you. :)

Yancey Ward writes:

Bertrand Russell would have found nothing at all surprising in this paper.

Shane writes:

I've definitely become more content with world affairs as I shifted right. (I'm still not confident enough in my understanding of economics to label my stance but I've read lots of libertarian and right-statist material and find much of it convincing.)

I used to hear pessimistic phrases like "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer". The world was described as being unbearably unjust. Any inequality in wealth was explained in terms of bigotry and discrimination by the wealthier population.

Today when I read left-wing and feminist material they often seem outraged.

...Though I've also read libertarians and anarchists predicting the collapse of modern welfare states into a chaos of civil war! Not so happy!

Libfree writes:

All I can say is watch "PCU".

Badger writes:

I don't need external evidence when I have my own: my angriest and most unhappy years happened to take place during a short period of time under heavy influence of leftist ideas. Never going back that road, thanks.

Doc Merlin writes:

Yes, Ideologies that are about controlling other's behavior will result in more unhappiness, because naturally its impossible for them to control others' behaviors. If there was just one such person, it would be possible, but once there is more than one leftist in the world, leftism becomes unhappy.

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