More Silly Studies

by Steven F. Hayward

The continuing discussion of the study on conservative pathology is not the first such social science nonsense along these lines.

Last fall Nature magazine carried a news story explaining that conservative rule makes more people want to kill themselves.

“Suicide Rises Under Conservative Rule,” read the September 20 headline on nature.com, the website of Nature magazine. “A nation’s suicide rate increases under right-wing governments according to two studies that have looked at Australia and Britain over the past century.” The story was based on two refereed articles in the British-based Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. One of the articles is entitled: “Mortality and Political Climate: How Suicide Rates Have Risen During Periods of Conservative Government, 1901-2000.” The subhead tells it all: “Do Conservative Governments Make People Want to Die?” (You have to read it .)

More from this pathbreaking scientific research: “Alienation and isolation may run higher in societies driven by competitive market forces, suggest the teams behind the findings. Left-wing rule, focusing more on equality, might put people under less pressure.” Never mind the gender gap; now liberals have the “suicide gap” to crow about. In total, one study found, in Britain there were 35,000 more suicides under Conservative governments in the 20th century than there would have been had the Labour Party been in power for the entire century. Of course, fancy statistical regressions can’t handle counterfactual scenarios, such as the economic suicide that perpetual Labour Party rule would have brought to Britain.