A Cure for the Blues

Unhappy? Depressed? Morose? Don't take those false drugs, suggests George Will; just become a conservative:

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that conservatives are happier than liberals -- in all income groups. While 34 percent of all Americans call themselves ``very happy,'' only 28 percent of liberal Democrats (and 31 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats) do, compared to 47 percent of conservative Republicans. This finding is niftily self-reinforcing: It depresses liberals.

My friend George attributes this to conservatives being "more pessimistic" than liberals: they have fewer false hopes to be dashed. I'd say instead that it's not an optimism/pessimism thing but (to flog a meme I've mentioned a time or two in the past) an different-vision thing. Specifically: the difference between "constrained" and "unconstrained" visions of reality. (Also dubbed "tragic" and "utopian" visions.)

People should buy and read A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell. I'll plagiarize quote a perceptive Amazon reviewer, Marc Cenedella:

The Tragic (constrained) vision of human nature views man as possessing foibles, incentives, and the desire to act in his own self-interest. The Tragic "sees the evils of the world as deriving from the limited and unhappy choices available, given the inherent moral and intellectual limitations of human beings." …

The Utopian (unconstrained) vision holds that man has not yet achieved his full moral potential, and that that potential is essentially perfectible. It is "foolish and immoral choices explain the evils of the world - and that wiser or more moral and humane social policies are the solution." …

Seen that way, it's little wonder that those of the Utopian/Unconstrained camp tend to be on the unhappy side: they know that the failures of the world around them are caused by stupidity and malice; they are, in addition, constantly frustrated by reality in bringing their own plans to fruition.

Bottom line: read Sowell, you'll be happier for it.


Last Modified 2012-10-25 2:36 PM EST