At times I feel like a lonely little petunia in an onion patch. I am surrounded by relatives and friends who strongly embrace liberal views. With great righteousness they regard my my political views as those of a knuckle dragging Neanderthal. They refuse to believe that an intelligent person could be a registered Republican and watch Fox News. Perhaps some clarification is in order. I regard myself as a political orphan who does not fit into either political party. I am a strong fiscal conservative who believes in governmental responsibility to balance budgets. In social issues I am basically a libertarian. I fear the threat posed by politicians who attempt to impose their religious views upon the populace. Furthermore, I am a conservative who never listens to Rush Limbaugh or watches Sean Hannity. I will confess that occasionally I will tune in to the Bill O’Reilly show. Surprisingly, despite my primitive views, I am quite happy with my life and with my “non-enlightened” political stances. This seems to be true of my other conservative friends as well.
Evidence exists that liberals tend to be less happy about their lives than are conservatives. Apparently this has been the results of different studies over a period of years. A Pew research poll reported that conservative Republicans were sixty eight percent more likely than liberal democrats to say they were very happy with their lives. Part of this discrepancy appears to lie in difference of life styles. Conservatives are much more often married, religious and have children. These factors tend to be associated with happiness. In contrast, liberals include a much greater number of single, secular and childless persons. However, the happiness differences persist even when adjusting the data for age, race, education, sex and income.
The question remains as to why there is greater dysphoria on the political left. I believe the Buddha sheds some light upon this subject. He suggested that the origin of all suffering is desire (expectations.) I believe that liberals and conservatives have differing expectations as to how the world should be. A definition of a conservative is someone who adheres to and is comfortable with the the existing order. He doesn’t have a strong desire to change things and retain what has worked in the past. If it aint broke, don’t fix it. In contrast the liberal wants to improve things He may even have an utopian vision of how he would like the world to be. With high expectations he is destined to feel disappointed. Reality will intrude upon his wishes.
The goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement might caricature the hopes and desires of the political left. The movement rails against the inequalities in our society and manifests much anger about the lack of fairness in our system. The movement tends to view the have-nots as victims of circumstances and suffering from oppression by the wealthy. To many of the demonstrators capitalism is an anathema because it involves destruction of industries that are inefficient. A desire for equality cannot tolerate a system that favors winners and destroys losers. Even some of our political leaders decry this feature of capitalism as a vicious form of social Darwinism.
Where am I going with this? There is evidence that many liberals define fairness and an improved society in terms of greater economic equality, i.e. equality of results. Many governmental programs have been devised to achieve these goals such as the war on poverty, school bussing, affirmative action, food stamps, eliminating grading in schools etc.. Many such worthy attempts have been very costly while producing questionable results. I believe that many liberals feel pain for the unfortunates and experience personal unhappiness that their charitable intents are ineffectual in ameliorating the plight of the poor. I have liberal friends who actually experience physical agony over the plight of anyone who is experiencing misfortune. (Yes, there are truly bleeding heart liberals.) Even more, they anguish over their expectations that the world cannot be more fair and more equal.
In contrast, I believe that conservatives view income disparities more realistically. Such disparities will continue no matter what social engineering measures are taken to eliminate them. Innate differences in personal drives and variations in personal abilities dictate that economic reality. Hard work and perseverance often might overcome an individual’s disadvantages. Many times even such efforts might not result in a fair outcome. I believe that conservatives tend to be less upset with the fact that life is unfair. Moreover, conservatives see the free enterprise system as a more effective system to help the poor than governmental hand outs. The conservative has concerns that the social welfare state presents a huge threat to economic liberty. He further believes that such threats bode ill for both the affluent and the impoverished.
Perhaps conservatives are cold and heartless. More likely they may see the world more realistically. Despite mega-billions of federal dollars spent to stamp out poverty, it continues to persist. Even Jesus acknowledged that the poor shall be with us always. A caring society should do everything it can to aid the unfortunate. However, to agonize over the reality that poverty exists can only lead to frustration and unhappiness. Perhaps the true key to happiness is lower expectations.
I confess that I have oversimplified this topic and and made broad generalizations. Forgive me for that error. Try to look at these statements as simple social commentary that might stimulate your thinking. I have also been requested not to publish this blog because it isn’t a true reflection of me. I anticipate a number of comments from my readers.