The Corner

Status, Money & Left & Right

A new paper parses the effects of status and income, with some interesting insight on how conservatives and liberals respond differently to both. Money makes conservatives happier and status makes liberals happier. Apparently the differences are small. Will Wilkinson has the details. Kevin Drum is confused by the finding, but it makes sense to me, at least in an intuitive way. For years, I’ve been one of many arguing that the press is liberal because certain kinds of people want to become journalists. Ditto teachers, government workers etc. Meanwhile, conservatives tend to define their happiness closer to home: family, community etc. Making more money helps the conservative provide more for his family. Getting promoted in some bureaucracy demonstrates that you’re doing good at your do-goodery. Making a million bucks in business is a fairly conservative aspiration. Winning a MacArthur “genius grant” not so much. There are a thousand other ways to look at the tendency (lest readers feel inclined to overwhelm my email box with different interpretations). Conservatives are greedy, a liberal might say. Liberals are insecure, a conservative might retort. Conservatives are independent (money maximizes independence). Liberals part of  the system (status exalts success in the system). All of them probably have a bit of merit. All of them are probably easy to over-emphasize as modes of analysis, since ideological affinities are more complex (and, in a way, more simple) than all of this might suggest. Still, it’s interesting for a hot Friday afternoon.