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[Opinion] Conservative Happiness vs. Liberal Happiness

Posted May. 10, 2008 03:01,   


How are conservatism and liberalism distinguished from one another? There are many ways, but the simplest way is to understand that conservatism is a tendency to maintain the reality and liberalism to change it. To put it short, it is the difference between preserving the existing state and overthrowing it. Which makes one happier, then? A recently released research result says that a conservative feels more satisfied than a liberal does. The research was carried out by professors Jaime Napier and John Jost of New York University sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

That is because conservatives are more ready than liberals to accept inequality in social or economic status. Conservatives (or the right-winged) construe the unequal status as the result of performance. They think that if they are worse off than others, it is either because they show weaker performances or because they are less diligent, and that those who are better off than themselves are more capable and diligent. Therefore, it is easier for them to be satisfied with themselves. On the other hand, those who label themselves as liberals (or the left-winged) tend more to blame the system, not themselves, for their weaker status, because they believe that the world should be an equal place.

This is not the first time a research reveals such a story. The research by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center in 2006 also said that while 47 percent of conservative Republicans answered they were happy, only 28 percent of Liberals answered so. Another statistics showed that conservatives make more donations than liberals do. It seems they should be the ones to donate more because liberals stress distribution, but they are not. Liberals think that it is the society that should be in charge of distribution, and thus make fewer donations. Their words do not match their behavior.

This is not to say that conservatives are superior to liberals. Like the phrase of British utilitarian philosopher John S. Mill that “it is better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied,” liberals’ dissatisfaction and struggle against the reality have worked as an engine for social reform. It is insensible to accept the reality as it is when it is full of absurdities. Bodily comfort does not necessarily mean happiness. Nevertheless, it is difficult for people who always blame others for their bad luck and believe all the time that something should be overthrown to win happiness. It seems that the ultimate message of the research is that one’s happiness or unhappiness depends on his or her conviction.