Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Conservatism, Liberalism, and Economic Luck

In understanding the difference between liberals and conservatives, it seems to me that  conservatives have a tendency to explain success in terms of superior merit, while liberals are more inclined to point to luck factors. 

Is this accurate? 


Anonymous said...

Hmm, in the psychology literature I'm familiar with, there are personality and cultural differences in attribution. Such that experimental participants who view a vignette depicting a person committing a crime, and then are asked to explain what caused that person's behavior. Some will say it was environmental factors, some will say it was some kind of intrinsic quality of the person. People from communitarian societies (like those of East Asia) are more likely to attribute the causes of behavior to the environment, while individualistic societies are more likely to say it is the individual that is the cause of the behavior.

Of course, I think both views are right - there are obviously both environmental and intrinsic causes of behavior (and an interaction between the two).

But I think the difference might be similar to what you call "superior merit" and "luck factors." In other words, I am guessing that liberals take more of a view that environmental factors drive behavior more than qualities of the agent in question. There's probably research that shows this, but I'm too lazy to look it up at the moment. Seems pretty intuitive though - comments like "you didn't build that" seem to highlight the environmental point of view.

LadyAtheist said...

Some research indicates liberals have more compassion, which would point to more awareness of the role that circumstances play in life:


BeingItself said...


Anonymous said...

"liberals are more inclined to point to luck factors"

Yet another cheap pot-shot. Actually, merit versus luck is far too simplistic.

Merit would presumably include things like hard work and creating value, as in invention. Merit plays a role in success, but not always. A wealthy investor works hard at making money without producing anything of value, and a field laborer works hard too, but can hardly feed his family. Yet the laborer actually produces something of value. No matter what you do, does anybody work hard enough to merit billions of dollars?

Luck clearly plays a role in economic success, too. Inheriting millions from your daddy and then parlaying thin into a larger fortune is a matter luck. Getting sick and losing all your assets to the medical/pharmaceutical industry is a matter of luck.

Sometimes neither merit nor luck are involved. You could be a senator with people shoving money at you to influence your votes. You could be a televangelist convincing people that giving their money to you is the key to heavenly rewards, or psychic scam artist, or a government contractor who overcharges for his services. You could be an executive who shuts down a profitable factory, fires the workforce, and exploits the cheap labor in China to replace them, making millions in the deal.

Cale B.T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

In understanding the difference between squirrels and badgers, it seems to me that badgers have a tendency to explain success in terms of their badges, while squirrels are more inclined to point to nuts.

Unknown said...

"Some research indicates liberals have more compassion, which would point to more awareness of the role that circumstances play in life:


Here's a whole book arguing the opposite, that conservatives far outstrip liberals when it comes to generosity. Makes sense, since Christianity has historically been the biggest force for charity in the world.

Unknown said...


Bilbo said...

Wealth Inequality in America.