Politics & Policy

Making and Taking Questions

This is not Scott McClellan's book.

Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less…and Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals.” Or so the subtitle of Peter Schweizer’s new book, Makers and Takers, declares. In an interview with National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez, Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, talks a little about what evidence he has for such contentions.

Listen to Schweizer tomorrow when John J. Miller goes Between the Covers,” in NRO’s twice-weekly audio author feature.

Kathryn Jean Lopez:

Conservatives hug their children more than liberals? Haven’t you taken this a little far? What evidence could you possibly have for such a contention?

Peter Schweizer: Actually, that’s what the research shows, according to a study done by scholars at Princeton and Mississippi State. I must say this didn’t surprise my wife very much. When I told her what I found she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “They are probably too busy hugging trees.” My point here is not that liberals are bad parents, but there is lots of evidence that many liberals outsource their responsibilities, including family responsibilities, to the government. And that all of that “family values” talk really does work.

Lopez: You say, too, that conservatives work harder. But Hillary Clinton’s been working pretty darn hard….

Schweizer: Sure there are lazy conservatives and hard working liberals, but there are a dozen studies in academic journals (not done by conservative think tanks) that show conservatives tend to have a better work ethic than liberals. Conservatives are less likely to call in sick, and more interested in assuming responsibilities on the job. The question is why. My theory is that modern liberal thinking basically says you can’t get ahead, the capitalist system is rigged. (The current liberal favorite is that the rich have “won the lottery of life,” meaning that somehow they didn’t earn any of their wealth.) When Pew asked Americans, can you get ahead in America by working hard? Four out of five Republicans said yes you can; amazingly, only 14% of Democrats agreed. Also, there is plenty of research on what conservatives want from a job and what liberals desire. It really is quite fascinating. In sum, conservatives tend to want a job that offers them the opportunity to advance. Liberals tend to desire in high pay and lots of vacation time. Again, I think this reflects the idea that hard work doesn’t pay off, so why bother.

Lopez: So John Dean says conservatives don’t have consciences and you counter that we are smarter and better. How does that help things?

Schweizer: John Dean’s theory (and book) is silly. The entire point is based on theories and concocted studies by academics. No real empirical research. And he believes that bad people are attracted to conservatism, we are all greedy racists to begin with so we embrace conservatism. I believe it goes the other way: liberal ideas have a bad influence on their adherents. And I don’t use theories. All of the material in my book is based on hard numbers and research done by leading universities. These are empirical studies that people never hear about because this research has been suppressed.

Lopez: Is there something at the core of conservatism that makes happier, healthier, etc. only natural.

Schweizer: Yes, I believe so. The first chapter in my book explores all the research that shows how liberals tend to be much more self-absorbed and self-centered than conservatives. Consider this question: Do you have a obligation to care for a seriously injured spouse or parent? 71 percent of conservatives said yes, versus less than half of liberals (46 percent). Liberals are also less likely to get satisfaction from putting someone else’s happiness ahead of their own. Modern liberalism is all about finding yourself and outsourcing your responsibilities to the government. (That’s why conservatives are more charitable than liberals, too.) That’s a depressing way to live your life.

Lopez: I sometimes feel nuts. I definitely read that I’m nuts. But conservatives aren’t by definition?

Schweizer: Actually conservatives are much happier, less angry, and complain less than liberals. Liberals are more likely to complain about their job, their spouse, their kids, and their income . . . even when they earn the same as conservatives! I also discovered that feminists complain more about housework but do less of it than traditional women. Sure, we all feel kind of crazy or down sometimes. But the research is clear: liberals tend to feel that way a lot more than conservatives do. Several academic studies have found that liberals are more likely to attempt suicide than conservatives.

Lopez: You write that “If liberals really want to stamp out teen smoking, perhaps they should encourage more young people to be conservatives. One survey of high school students found that among seniors, liberals were more than twice as likely to get drunk and smoke as conservatives.” Is that really fair? You and I both attended Young America’s Foundation seminars. . . . Conservative college students drink and smoke, too!

Schweizer: Of course they do. What we’re talking about here are relative levels of smoking and drinking. And the biggest differences come in the area of drug use. Studies have consistently shown that those on the left are five times more likely to use illicit drugs than conservatives. Again, I think ideas are the key factor here. “If it feels good do it” is the motto of modern liberalism. And when you have liberals embracing the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Abbie Hoffman and making them heroes, or Bill Clinton joking about how he wished he had inhaled, those attitudes have an effect.

Lopez: You say that liberals whine more, but isn’t whining the whole point of groups like the Media Research Center?

Schweizer: There are all sorts of things that we can legitimately complain about — and media bias is one of them. But the reality is that liberals have a sense of entitlement. Research shows they want high-paying jobs that provide security and lots of vacation time. Well of course, who wouldn’t like that kind of job? Liberals are also much more likely to rate their health as “poor,” even when they are the same age and have the same income as conservatives. Unless you believe certain diseases only afflict the Left, clearly there is something at work here. Their level of dissatisfaction is a function of a political ideology that is completely unrealistic and doesn’t really require people to grow up.

Lopez: What good can come from picking on Nancy Pelosi’s charitable giving?

Schweizer: Plenty. Modern liberals are wrapped up with the notion that they are so noble and caring of others. The reality is that many people on the Left — Nancy Pelosi, Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore — give to charities, but they give heavily to cultural institutions or political groups . . . not actual people in need. If Nancy Pelosi wants to tell us that we need to be concerned about the poor, it should be reflected in her charitable giving. But tax records show that she gives to elite prep schools and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Very little goes to the poor. (Unless you count starving artists.)

Lopez: Those who are fortunate enough to know Rush Limbaugh, know he is a kind and generous man. When the Left is going to hate him regardless – because he’s so darn effective – what’s the point of pointing out some of his numerical giving?

Schweizer: Funny thing is, Rush doesn’t give to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Tax records show that he actually gives to people in need — those afflicted with illness, orphans, those in hospice care. And guess what — he doesn’t advertise it. I didn’t get the tax records from him. I had to dig and find them myself. By the way, Rush is not alone in giving large sums to the truly needy. Bill O’Reilly does it and when you look at our political leaders — George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, etc. versus John Kerry and Al Gore, the same pattern holds out. Reagan fans might also like to know that The Gipper gave more to the poor as a percentage of income and in actual numbers than FDR did during the height of the Great Depression.

Lopez: Why is liberalism seductive and why is that dangerous?

Schweizer: It’s seductive because it offers a sense of moral superiority while demanding very little from its adherents. You don’t need to give to the needy, just vote for the right political party. You don’t need to care for family members that might be in need, that’s what the government is for. You don’t need to fight resentment or jealousy, embrace it in our economic agenda. No surprise then when liberals are 2 ½ times more likely to be resentful of others’ success.

Lopez: Are you saying Keith Olbermann pretty much never gets “The Worst Person in the World” right (they’re usually conservatives)?

Schweizer: No. I’m not saying that all conservatives are saints and all liberals are sinners. What I am saying is that modern liberalism as a belief system can often bring out the worst in us. And the data shows it. My biggest surprise in all of this is how much research is out there on this subject, but how little has been revealed to the public before.


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