Republican conservatism (complete rewrite)

by John Quiggin on March 30, 2012

The first version of this was a trainwreck, as can be seen from the comments, so I’ve decided to rewrite it completely, trying to be as clear as possible about how I read Mooney and what I think myself.

Chris Mooney has a great talent for knowing just when to push the envelope. Back in 2005, when CT held a book event on The Republican War on Science, the idea that Republicans as a group were hostile to science and scientists was somewhere between controversial and unthinkable, as far as mainstream Sensible opinion was concerned. Now, it’s a truth universally recognised – even the professional Repub defense team doesn’t deny it, preferring the (demonstrably false) line that Dems are just as bad.

Now, with The Republican Brain Chris pushes the argument a step further with the question: why are Republicans  the way they are, and what, if anything, can be done about if? 

Before we start, I’ll observe that the set of “conservative Republicans” has changed over time, as have the specific set of policies associated with these terms and the general temperament that goes with this. On the first point, we’ve seen the disappearance of Eisenhower Republicans, the Southern realignment and the rise of the religious right, all of which have increased the concentration of dogmatic authoritarians in the Repub party. On the second, the emergence of environmentalism as a major political line of division is probably the most important development. The fact that Republicans/conservative are increasingly anti-science reflects both of these trends.

It’s also important to observe that Republican/conservative alignment can’t be explained simply in terms of class, geography and education though all these factors play a role. With a few exceptions (notably including blacks and scientists) a substantial portion of nearly every demographic group votes Republican and self-describes as conservative. So, explanations solely based on (for example) class interests, can’t explain voting behavior without a lot of (self?)deception, and that raises the question of why some people are more easily deceived.

Some people may regard themselves as Republican/conservative simply because they have adopted, without thinking too much about it, the political positions that are regarded as normal by their family, social circle and so on. Lots of people simply aren’t interested enough in either politics or science to devote a lot of thought to these issues. Typically, such people will hold a range of views that aren’t particularly consistent either internally or with any standard ideological line.

An obvious inference is that, if people could be given better information they would change their views. But, as Mooney shows, and has become steadily more evident thanks to the Internet, better educated and informed Republicans are more likely to hold crazy views consistently and less likely to change them in response to new information.

That leads to Mooney’s primary conclusion, that Republicans/conservatives don’t simply have different beliefs from liberals/Democrats (or, for that matter, leftists), or even different values. They have (bear in mind that this a statement about population averages) different psychological characteristics, summarised as high authoritarianism and low openness to ideas different from their own.

I find this pretty convincing. It seems to me that there is an authoritarian type of personality which, in the specific circumstances of the US right now, and for non-poor whites, produces a predisposition to Republican voting and “conservative” political attitudes. In particular this type of personality is (more) strongly associated with confirmation bias. That is, not only do they ignore evidence contrary to their initial position, they tend to reinforce their commitment as a result. The creation of an alternate universe in which this bias can be repeatedly amplified (Fox News, rightwing think tanks and so on) both reinforces this kind of thinking and encourages self-selection.

I don’t think there is the symmetry here that some of the commenters are suggesting. Looking at the standard examples of nuclear power and GM foods, it seems to me that, on the whole people on the left have been more open to evidence than in the corresponding cases on the right. In the case of nuclear power, it seemed for a while (say, from the mid-90s until a few years ago) as if the safety problems might be soluble at a reasonable cost in which case an expansion of nuclear power would be preferable to more coal-fired power stations. While the evidence pointed that way, opposition to nuclear power was muted. As it turned out, the problems couldn’t be solved, at least not at a reasonable cost, and Fukushima was the last straw.

In the case of GM foods, the evidence has mostly supported the position that the use of GM technology per se doesn’t create significant health risks, and AFAICT that has been fairly widely accepted on the left (Greenpeace is a notable exception, but I don’t think their position is representative of the left as a whole). That doesn’t rule out opposition to GM on ethical or aesthetic grounds, or opposition to the whole structure of the food industry – the whole point is that you can have preferences and beliefs without assuming that the facts will always be those most convenient to you.

Similar points may be made about “alternative” medicine, particularly opposition to vaccination. It’s primarily, though not exclusively (consider Michelle Bachmann), associated with liberals and leftists in the same way as creationism is primarily, though not exclusively, associated with evangelical conservatives. But, faced with scientific criticism, there hasn’t been anything like the political pushback and doubling down we’ve seen with creationism. The Huffington Post, which was a big outlet for anti-vaxers has started publishing one of their most vigorous critics, Seth Mnookin.

This brings us finally to the question that set off all the fireworks in the original post. To what extent are authoritarian personalities the product of environment, genes or some combination of the two. Again, it’s worth pointing out that, even if there is a genetic role in personality, there’s no such thing as a genetic predisposition to be a conservative/Republican. The content of these terms isn’t fixed, and the implications are very different depending on social circumstances. To take the most obvious case from comments: Republican policies and rhetoric appeal strongly to (US) white tribal/ethnic loyalty. So, US whites who respond well to in-group appeals are likely to vote Republican and call themselves conservatives. US blacks with similar predispositions obviously won’t vote Republican and are unlikely to call themselves conservatives.

To take another example from Mooney’s book, authoritarian attitudes in the US are typically associated with support for free-market/pro-business economic policies and virulent hostility to “socialism”. By contrast, in the former Soviet Bloc, the same attitudes are associated with support for the old order and positive feelings about “socialism” (I’m using the scare quotes to indicate that, in both cases, the term is something of a blank canvas, onto which all sorts of things can be projected). And indeed, in this context, the term “conservative” is commonly applied to hardline members of the surviving Communist parties.

Following up on a comment, this way of looking at things has a lot of similarities with Corey Robin, and The Reactionary Mind. The difference between Robin’s choice of Mind and Mooney’s choice of Brain is significant. As I argued when I looked at his book, I think Robin doesn’t take enough account of personality/temperament. While most soi-disant “conservatives” are authoritarian reactionaries, there is a genuinely conservative temperament which will tend to align with political conservatism in periods when the general tendency of politics is towards the left.

So, does the genetic part of the story matter. As (I think) Andrew Gelman has observed, in this context and many others, it’s just code for things we can’t change. As long as authoritarian personalities are stable over the adult lifetime of those concerned, it doesn’t matter much whether they are determined by genes, by toilet training (as in the caricature version of Freudian psychology I learned in my youth) or by some much more complex process. That said, I think the evidence that heredity (and therefore genes) plays at least some role in the determination of personality is pretty convincing.

The political implication, which has drawn some flak in the comments, but which I think is correct is that there is no point in political engagement with authoritarian conservatives. In a political environment where they are concentrated in one party,politics is going to be a matter the only strategy open to liberals is to outnumber and outvote them by peeling off as many peripheral groups (for example, those who deviate from the approved cultural identity in some way) as possible. Obviously, that’s an unpalatable conclusion in all sorts of ways, but I think it’s a valid one.

{ 237 comments }

1

chris 03.30.12 at 12:13 pm

But that leads directly to the conclusion that political views are genetically determined, if only partially and indirectly.

What happens if someone with the genetic predisposition to a Republican-like mindset is born into an unprivileged position in the underclass?

Since there are so few black Republicans, I find it hard to believe that genetics play any large role. (And before you say “well, blacks are a separate race, so of course their genetics are different”, I remind you that most African-Americans are mixed race, thanks to people like Strom Thurmond, or for that matter, Thomas Jefferson. The South is not two separate gene pools.)

Being brought up believing that you are entitled to regard the world as your oyster seems much more likely causal — and yet the Kennedys aren’t Republican, so that can’t be the whole story either.

2

magistra 03.30.12 at 12:22 pm

Unless you’re going to argue for extreme inbreeding, you’ve also got to account for why people whose ancestors only a few generations ago are largely European are so much more right-wing/authoritarian than those currently in most European countries. I’m also immediately wary of any author who is slipping between “Republican” and “conservative” without giving any details of how such groups are defined by him.

3

chris 03.30.12 at 12:23 pm

One other thing from the link I’d like to comment on though:

Conservatives becoming more factually wrong—or, in this case, more distrusting of science, which to me is basically the same thing—as their level of education advances.

ISTM that this way of looking at it assumes that conservatism is bred in the bone — surely a tempting belief, but shouldn’t we be skeptical of it?

Some people abandon their conservatism as they acquire education — indeed, education is infamous among conservatives for this very reason. “Educated conservative” means someone who has remained conservative *despite* their education (and when you consider the positions of modern US conservatism, “despite” is very much the right word). Isn’t it reasonable to presume that only the people who are most fact-proof ex ante remain conservative even when educated? IOW, maybe the fact-resistance is the independent variable, and it is in some sense a *prerequisite* for becoming and remaining conservative. Anyone but the true champions of dogmatism will start believing their lying eyes at some point or other.

I think what you really need here is a longitudinal study — how much of that cohort was conservative before their education, how much is conservative after, what characteristics distinguish those who doubled down on conservatism from those who accepted the evidence that certain conservative positions were full of shit and are now ex-conservatives.

4

Scott Martens 03.30.12 at 12:30 pm

I don’t challenge the idea that political ideology is related to idiosyncrasies of individual personalities. I’m not sure anyone sensible would argue to the contrary. But I have two problems with grandiose conclusions about heritability:

1. I have difficulty with the notion that individual personality idiosyncrasies are strongly hereditary independently of enabling environments.
2. I have difficulty with the notion that individual personality idiosyncrasies map strongly to well-defined political categories independently of historically situated contexts.

The first is a dispute over what science actually shows given the enormous difficulty of constructing the kinds of experiments that would lead to robust conclusions. The second comes from noticing how, for example, Ron Paul supporters argue America is not a free market, and therefore the failures of American markets cannot be used as arguments against anarcho-capitalism; while for many years the far left argued that since the USSR was not socialist, its failures could not be construed as failures of Marxism. Regardless of the merits of either argument, I am convinced that the kinds of beliefs both groups hold, and the manner in which they argue for them, are completely compatible, and that young American libertarians would simply have become young American radical socialists if they had been born in another generation without having significantly different personalities.

I don’t know if Mooney considers that prospect, but I just can’t see how “Republicans are the way they are because they were born that way” is really going to fly.

5

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 12:36 pm

political views are genetically determined,

Is this an empirical claim? If so, what would constitute evidence for or against it?

Or is it something we know a priori?

6

Kevin Donoghue 03.30.12 at 12:41 pm

The statement “political views are genetically determined, if only partially and indirectly” looks to me like the start of the TSOTT. If interpreted in a weak sense it’s trivially true, while in a strong sense it’s quite outrageous.

7

J. Otto Pohl 03.30.12 at 12:48 pm

There is a lot wrong here. First, Republican and conservative are not the same. It is true that most Republicans claim to be conservative today. But, not all conservatives are Republicans. This is particularly true when dealing with the world at large. There are contrary to comment no. 2 lots of people that are conservative in Europe. Indeed on issues of immigration and race the European Right is far, far, far more extreme than the US right. Regarding comment no. 1 while there are few Black Republicans, there are lots of Black conservatives. Africans or at least Ghanaians tend to be far to the right of the average American Republican on social issues such as homosexuality, the role of religion in society (mostly Evangelical Pentacostals), and the role of women in society. They also listen to a lot of Country music here, the same as White American conservative Republicans.

Political party identification and positions in the US are often transmitted from generation to generation by means of socialization in the family. But, that does not make them genetic. Adopted children are much more likely to have the party affiliation and positions of their adopted than of their biological parents. People sometimes stray from this inheritance, but on a large scale it holds.

8

asdf 03.30.12 at 12:54 pm

Conservatism and homosexuality could have a genetic basis, but athletic ability, criminality, gender roles, and intelligence can’t? Without nailing down precise genes how does this work?

9

Tom 03.30.12 at 12:56 pm

“Political views are genetically determined” makes me uncomfortable, too, as it’s not a far leap from here to The Bell Curve. A majority of white people may be bigoted and close-minded, but being white is not, in and of itself, what makes you that way.

10

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 12:57 pm

Or just to spell out the thought a little more:

* Blood type is genetically determined, in the sense that there is a developmental path leading from a given allele to a given blood type, with no environmental influence. If you know the distribution of alleles across a population, you know the distribution of blood types.

* Height is genetically determined, in the sense that there is a link between various genes (though not one specific allele) and height, in combination with various environmental influences. In a given societies, height will be moresensitive to genetic variation than to chance or minor environmental differences, but comparing average height between socieities or over time, environmental variation is much more important than genetic variation.

- Religion is a personality trait that is not determined genetically in any meaningful way, even though it is strongly heritable. Even complete knowledge of the distribution of all alleles across a population would tell you nothing about the distribution of specific religious affiliations across that population, if you had no other information about the society it was part of.

(I.e. we can say there is a gene for being Rh positive, there are genes associated with being relatively tall in a given environmental context, and there are no genes for being Catholic in any sense.)

So what I’m wondering is, are you claiming that conservative politics is like blood type, or like height? And how do you know it’s not like religion?

11

bob mcmanus 03.30.12 at 1:00 pm

Now, it’s a truth universally recognised

I must have missed this, or maybe I’m a Republican and don’t even know it, or maybe I’m just too resistant to authority…wait, science. This is science, right? Terms are well-defined, facts are distinguished from values, methods are rigorous, etc?

Jonathan Haidt has a new book out, too.

But this is trolling. The topic question is whether Republicans are genetically inferior, perhaps not fully human, and beyond education or other improvement. Works for me. After that we can consider those who deny dialectical materialism.

12

Tim Chambers 03.30.12 at 1:03 pm

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/09/07/your-brain-on-politics-the-cognitive-neuroscience-of-liberals-and-conservatives/

Here is a useful write-up on it that I ran across recently. Fascinating stuff. It gives scientific justification for calling Conservatives “thick.” But some of their apostates, such as Paul Craig Roberts and Bruce Bartlett, talk an awful lot of sense to some of us Old Lefties.

13

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 1:03 pm

Also, how does the claim that conservative distrust with science is inborn square with the fact that there was no conservative distrust of science a generation ago? Isn’t that proof that it is not “genetically determined” in any meaningful sense? And doesn’t that refute the pessimistic claim that nothing can be done?

14

Tim Chambers 03.30.12 at 1:30 pm

Conservatism and Conservatives have changed a lot in the last generation. There is far more money at stake now, with taxes so much lower and fortunes growing so much faster, among those fortunate enough to have to have something to conserve.

But there is also recognition among one group in the power elite (the carbon energy sector) that its role in the economy is changing and its power will inevitably diminish with that shift. Hence its intransigence regarding certain sciences. No doubt it promotes Intelligent Designand other such hoaxes as a way to keep its allies on board.

15

ajay 03.30.12 at 1:31 pm

Also, how does the claim that conservative distrust with science is inborn square with the fact that there was no conservative distrust of science a generation ago?

A generation ago science wasn’t challenging conservative beliefs?

16

Uncle Kvetch 03.30.12 at 1:35 pm

Indeed on issues of immigration and race the European Right is far, far, far more extreme than the US right.

Cite, please.

17

J. Otto Pohl 03.30.12 at 1:45 pm

Dyadya Kvetch:

Just on the basis of the fact that citizenship in the US is determined solely by birth US policy is far, far, far more liberal than any European country. But, there has been no equivalent to the popularity of organizations such as the BNP, Vlaams Blok, or National Front in US politics either during the more than four decades I have been alive.

18

J. Otto Pohl 03.30.12 at 1:46 pm

The first sentence refers to the fact that the US is just about the only country in the world where you get citizenship on the basis of birth regardless of your parent’s status.

19

bob mcmanus 03.30.12 at 1:49 pm

I’m building up one of those “Ascent of Man” charts, you know, with chimps and australo-pith and cromags walking left to right. I’m pretty sure where Cochrane goes, maybe Steve Williamson and Will Wilkinson,but I need some help with Paul Krugman and IS/LM versus Steve Keen/MMT. They both claim evidence, logic, and argument, but one of these must be a genetically pre-disposed science denier, right?

20

seeds 03.30.12 at 1:49 pm

Count me among those who think that searching for a spurious genetic basis to complex social/behavioural phenomena is weak, whether it’s “our side” doing it or Charles Murray.

I wasn’t interested in hearing this rubbish from the Nobel Prize winner who co-discovered the structure of DNA. And at least Jim Watson has spent a lot of time in the company of people who may have some claim to know what they’re talking about, i.e. evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists. I’m particularly not interested in hearing this from a Templeton fellow who apparently has no qualifications in science.

21

David Wilford 03.30.12 at 1:50 pm

On the subject of authoritarian impulses in the Republican Party, I found Bob Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” very helpful in understanding it:

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

22

AcademicLurker 03.30.12 at 1:51 pm

I’m not generally a fan of sloppy arguments about how much behavior is determined by genetics, but can’t we all agree that if this meme baits and irritates conservatives that’s a good thing?

23

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 2:00 pm

When is the original piece that does the trolling, does the writer (JQ) get banned from commenting on his own post?

24

P O'Neill 03.30.12 at 2:07 pm

I’m fine with working backwards from the premise that the present incarnation of conservatives is insane (they are) but the genetic part is a stretch. The fact that poster boys for the insanity include names like Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, and Bill O’Reilly tells its own story about ethnic shifts in the composition of the movement over the last 2 generations.

I think the insanity has been 40 years in the making, but it had its own hockey stick moment with Bush v Gore in 2000. They saw power slipping from their grasp, they freaked out and called in every mole that had been planted over the previous decades, and they won. There was no going back after that.

25

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 2:11 pm

can’t we all agree that if this meme baits and irritates conservatives that’s a good thing?

Wait, I thought they were supposed to be the tribal ones, while we based our views on evidence. No?

26

ajay 03.30.12 at 2:14 pm

14, 15: you are slipping, possibly accidentally, between “US citizenship policy is more liberal than European” and “the European Right is more extreme than the US Right on matters of immigration and race”. These are not the same thing at all.

I don’t think you could find a serious contender for the leadership of a European country saying that the cure for illegal immigration would be a heavily militarised border zone with the authority to shoot to kill; I don’t think you could find a serious Republican candidate who would say anything else.

27

Bloix 03.30.12 at 2:15 pm

The assumptions behind the thesis seem to have things backward. For most of human history, people have not formed their views and beliefs on the basis of scientific evidence. The emergence of scientific evidence as a source of knowledge is a late development, and emerged only slowly, painfully, and in the face of constant and often violent opposition.

And even people who have recognized the importance of scientific evidence as the source of knowledge in their professional fields have often rejected it in other areas – their personal lives and their political and social beliefs.

Sources of belief that are more important for most people than scientific evidence are authority, loyalty, identity, personal experience, emotional response, economic self-interest – perhaps more.

To take a common example: non-specialists – including educated lay people – really don’t have the ability to judge the truth of the theory of evolution on their own. I, for example, have no post-high school training in biology. But I have read many books by Dawkins, Gould, and others, and I think that I have a better grasp of evolutionary theory than most college-educated non-scientists. I accept that it’s true, partially because what I have read makes sense to me, but primarily because I have a belief in the authority of science, and so I come to popular books on evolution with a receptive mind. I believe that the scientific method, as practiced by people who have achieved posts of distinction in universities, produces truth. And I believe this in large part because my parents believed it, and they sent me to schools where I was taught to believe it. So my belief in the truth of evolutionary theory is as much a result of my faith in scientific authority as it is in my understanding of science. And my faith in scientific authority comes from my background: a middle-class northeastern secular family, son of a scientist father and a college-educated mother, with more years of my own secular higher education than I like to admit. I accept that universities are a source of knowledge, and I do not accept that churches are a source of knowledge.

If I had been raised in Texas as a Southern Baptist, I would also be strongly influenced in my views of evolution by authority, but in that case by a very different source of authority. I would have been taught the authoritative value of pronouncements by preachers and ministers — heads of venerable and wealthy religious institutions, respected men in my community, with both economic and political power and with gernuine personal skills in rhetoric, organization, and leadership. These authorities would have taught me that belief in evolution was not merely incorrect, but evil. It would take much more than a few books by professors to persuade me otherwise.

It’s worth noting that knowledge of the truth is not necessarily useful for individual or group survival or prosperity. False beliefs that encourage cohesion, loyalty, industriousness, cheerful compliance with norms, and optimism may be more beneficial to a social group than true beliefs. There’s no necessary or even probable correlation between truth and success.

So, with the growth and politicization of the evangelical churches, it’s not at all surprising that the political party associated with them rejects scientific evidence as a source of truth, and I don’t think it says anything about the genetic predisposition of that party’s followers that is not true of all human beings.

28

HP 03.30.12 at 2:15 pm

I may be just a simple country hyper-chicken, but it seems to me that the current alignment of economic and social conservatism, religiosity, authoritarianism, and anti-intellectualism with a single partisan political identity is a peculiar historical contingency of the early 21st-century U.S., and can’t really be generalized in the way that Mooney wants to.

29

SN 03.30.12 at 2:19 pm

This genetic argument for people being Republican seems like sociobiology gone seriously, seriously awry.

If we were going to go with the simplest explanation I’d say interests shape many beliefs and they have different interests. I can personally vouch for the fact that liberals and leftists of all stripes are not ardent truth-seekers in every area of life–in their personal relations, for example. They do not boldly fail to ever deceive themselves about their abilities, their actions, etc.

There’s something fundamentally wrong with all these explanations–I just want to put that out there in case someone else wants to pick up this issue and say what it is.

30

Patrick 03.30.12 at 2:19 pm

I’ll bet a nickel that Mooney doesn’t argue that “republicanism” is genetically influenced, so much as he argues that more general concepts like “authoritarianism” or “a desire for a structured social hierarchy” are genetically influenced.

31

mds 03.30.12 at 2:20 pm

I’d easily accept an assertion that such conservatism is heritable, as JW Mason noted @ 10 about religion. I would expect authoritarianism to be a more readily heritable mindset for obvious reasons. “Genetic” is ridiculous, except at an almost trivial level of “we are all affected by our genes in some way.” The apparent suddeness of the onset of full-out derangement is easily accounted for by (1) ajay’s remark @ 13, and (2) studying a little bit of the history of American conservatism.

The first sentence refers to the fact that the US is just about the only country in the world where you get citizenship on the basis of birth regardless of your parent’s status.

And many American self-identified conservatives, including those in the halls of power, rail almost ceaselessly against the evils of “birthright citizenship.” We’ve even had at least one member of Congress rail against the long-term terrorism threat posed by the “anchor babies” of foreign Muslims, who will be able to freely enter the country as citizens eighteen years later despite having tainted murderous blood. The only reason jus soli hasn’t already been thrown out the window by shrieking nativists is because it’s in the Fourteenth Amendment, which is awfully hard to alter. Even ttempted sophistry with “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” hasn’t managed to get anywhere. Congressman Paul doesn’t accept the Reconstruction Amendments (among others) as valid, but our legal system and state department still do.

32

J. Otto Pohl 03.30.12 at 2:22 pm

Ajay:

I have been told by graduate students here that shooting to kill to prevent illegal immigration into Europe from Black Africa actually exists as a defacto policy in Morocco. The Europeans tacitly endorsing this policy as a way of preventing illegal African migration. I have not independently verified this. But, I have no reason to distrust my sources.

33

rf 03.30.12 at 2:25 pm

“the European Right is far, far, far more extreme than the US right”

Anecdotally that seems reasonable, and certainly there doesn’t appear to be legitimate US political leaders as blatantly xenophobic as Wilders or Le Pen. (Or perhaps they are better at dressing up the rhetoric) But the implication that there is some pan European anti-immigrant right (excluding far right groups within Europe that have cross border affiliations) is clearly incorrect.
So judge each European case independently, and I’d imagine doing the same in the US on a region by region basis might make sense. It’s not a competition.
And three uses of the word ‘far’ is definitely overstating the point.
I like Chris Mooney but this book, as described above, appears to parochial and context specific to be taken seriously

34

ajay 03.30.12 at 2:26 pm

I have been told by graduate students here that shooting to kill to prevent illegal immigration into Europe from Black Africa actually exists as a defacto policy in Morocco.

I’ve been told by graduate students that Britain is secretly run by a Freemason conspiracy. Your point?

35

James 03.30.12 at 2:28 pm

It is really much simpler. Let me quote from studio 60 on the sunset strip

Harriet (conservative): I don’t even know what the sides are in the culture wars.

Matt (liberal): Well, your side hates my side because you think we think you’re stupid, and my side hates your side because we think you’re stupid.

36

ajay 03.30.12 at 2:28 pm

The apparent suddeness of the onset of full-out derangement is easily accounted for by (1) ajay’s remark @ 13

I tend to have that effect on people.

37

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 2:30 pm

also: Italy paid Libya (with Qaddafi) to run prison camps for immigrants: is there something similar between US and Mexico?

And even after a republican victory, the laws of US would be more liberal towards immigration than the laws in Europe: so, I fully agree with Otto Pohl on this issue.

rf: Does it make sense to consider each European country and each US state as isolated cases? In both situation, immigration policy is done at a larger level (Schengen and Federal).

38

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 2:34 pm

I’ll bet a nickel that Mooney doesn’t argue that “republicanism” is genetically influenced

And I will bet a shiny new dime that Mooney’s book is about “the Republican brain.” Because that’s its title.

39

J. Otto Pohl 03.30.12 at 2:38 pm

The news reports show that there have in fact been shootings of Black Africans attempting to enter Spain from Morocco. In September 2005, newspapers reported that five Black Africans were shot and killed trying to enter Spanish enclaves. How frequently this happens, I do not know, but I suspect a lot more than the Europhiles at CT will ever admit.

40

DaveL 03.30.12 at 2:39 pm

The irony of a mostly-left-of-center blog discussing whether in fact a group of people they dislike is genetically inferior… well, to quote the hackneyed phrase, “it burns.”

41

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 2:40 pm

Otto, add also the many, many people that die every year trying to cross the Mediterranean without getting caught by the immigration police.

42

kent 03.30.12 at 2:44 pm

@ Mason @ 35:
Mooney called it ‘The Republican Brain’ because he knows marketing. The argument itself is not about Republicans per se. I’ve read chunks of it online … can’t remember where or I’d link. I thought it was amazon’s “read inside the book” feature but as I look now that only seems to provide a very few pages …

43

Hektor Bim 03.30.12 at 2:47 pm

ajay,

American presidents don’t talk about cleaning out suburbs with high pressure hoses, like Sarkozy (as Minister of the Interior) did.

Also, as an aside, even now the level of casual racism expressed at sports events in Europe would never be tolerated in the US.

I’m not sure I agree a hundred percent with J. Otto Pohl, especially three “fars”, but I am always surprised at the tolerance for racism expressed by European public surveys.

44

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 2:50 pm

I think it would be more accurate to say: mainstream immigration policies in Europe are to the right of the American right.

That is: American right is advocating polices that are already implemented in Europe.

45

Modulo Myself 03.30.12 at 2:50 pm

The irony of a mostly-left-of-center blog discussing whether in fact a group of people they dislike is genetically inferior… well, to quote the hackneyed phrase, “it burns.”

How is this discussion ironic? Also, it doesn’t seem like a lot of people are buying the heritable theory, which is good, because it’s along the lines of trying to learn about shallowness by reading the Kardashians on twitter.

46

rf 03.30.12 at 2:52 pm

manta 1976

J Otto’s claim appeared to be that the European right is more extreme than the US right on immigration, so I don’t know what benefit looking at immigration policy at the federal level in the US or Europe would have, as the policy would not exactly be representative of the right.
You could claim US immigration policy is more ‘progressive’ than European (I don’t know if that’s true) but when you’re making judgements about who’s right wing is more extreme I would think it becomes so subjective to be almost redundant. (And there are a lot of factors influencing immigration policy that have no relevance to xenophobia)
Personally I think you need to look at it country specific in Europe, I don’t know about region specific in the US. Once again anecdotally, going primarily on family that live throughout Europe and countries I have lived in, Britain’s political culture seems far less openly hostile to immigration than say Switzerland’s or Frances. Then again I only speak English so I can’t really judge.
I’m not disagreeing with J Otto, just thought the point was to general.

47

Aulus Gellius 03.30.12 at 2:52 pm

Ugh. In almost any sentence where it appears, at least in a political context, the phrase “a complex mixture of genetic endowments, individual environments and social conditions produces. . .” could be replaced with “there are. . .” with, as far as I can tell, no loss of meaning. Or am I missing something? (Granted, my scientific knowledge is very limited. However, I’ve read a lot of claims like this, and I’m confident that at least 98% of them were crap.) All this “some combination of genetics and environment” stuff is, here as in stupid racist pseudoscience, (a) a way of sounding scientific without saying anything and (b) a set-up for the inevitable and utterly unjustified “actually, it’s just in our genes, no doing anything about it” move. I hope the actual book has something more serious to say.

48

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 2:55 pm

rf, to judge a political movement I look at what it does when in power.

When American right is in power the policies it actually implements are on the left of those already existing in Europe (e.g., it did not abrogate the Jus soli).

49

faustusnotes 03.30.12 at 2:56 pm

This idea is ridiculous.

50

marcel 03.30.12 at 3:03 pm

Bob McManus @17: you you must be seriously misguided &/or confused to conflate macro-economics with science.

Bloix @24: Your commentary on the role of authority is largely on target, except for one thing. I don’t imagine most people who deny religion and accept science are willing to depend on religion for anything important in their lives, but most people who accept religion and deny science are unwilling to give up science based technology or, especially, medicine. Why? In the one case, outsiders cannot see the practical usefulness of the results from that which they deny(including, often enough, profits!)[1], while in the other, they can. This informs my acceptance of science and the relevant authorities.

[1] I emphasize practical here, since religion has clearly inspired important parts of artistic tradition. I’d be very reluctant to give up the works of Bach or Vivaldi, for instance, even if it meant that all humans had more reasonable views of either science or religion.

51

David Carlton 03.30.12 at 3:06 pm

Someone may have already made this point, but there’s evidence bouncing around the web that concervatives have become *more* distrustful of science over time; that hardly fits with any sort of genetic predisposition. In any case, the presumption is that people base their trust on rational weighing of facts. That, of course, is nonsense. Most of us, most of the time, on most issues, farm that weighing out to others; life’s too short to do it all ourselves. Even those of us who do it for a living do this; those who don’t (most people) do it far more. Thus the decision for most of us isn’t, “Who’s right?” but “Who do we trust to tell us?” What has changed for conservatives thus isn’t their view of science so much as their view of *scientists.* Conservatives trust scientists less because they increasingly see them as political adversaries, and they see them as political adversaries because scientific issues have become increasingly politicized. Global warming, I think, is the key issue here. The implications of what scientists say have unpleasant implications for the way conservatives live, reinforced by their unpleasnat implications for some very powerful interests. The Right increasingly operates in a closed loop, with a vast communications machine dedicated to telling people that there are vast conspiracies against their liberties afoot [Lefties are hardly immune to this, BTW]. BTW, you will also note the irony that Mooney attributes conservative attitudes to authoritarian personality traits, when this is actually a *rebellion* against authority. Given that among the would-be authorities being rebelled against is Mooney, I’m not surprised that he misses this point.

52

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 3:07 pm

Bloix @24 is very good. And in general, the unanimity of this thread is heartening.

I suspect that when John Q. responds to the comments here, he will say that this was a quickly written, off the cuff post (the typos suggest it) and that on reflection, he doesn’t think Mooney’s argument is helpful. It’s even possible he’ll reveal the whole thing is a parody or hoax. The phrase “brave in following the scientific evidence wherever it leads”, which sounds exactly like Andrew Sullivan on The Bell Curve, certainly raises some suspicions.

53

Tom Bach 03.30.12 at 3:13 pm

I with JW Mason @ 48, this is either a hoax or a parody.

54

Tom West 03.30.12 at 3:15 pm

Yea Gods, since when is Crooked Timber channeling Steve Sailer (brain science is true, accurate and your destiny!) and Bryan Caplan (many, if not most, people aren’t fit to vote) and maybe even Lenin (the enemy of the people cannot be reformed – only eliminated).

Okay, yes, overstatement, but this is awful on so many levels.

How about a simple rule that any book, article or post that assumes that *any* significant segment of the population is less than fully human be dismissed out of hand – full stop. No closer examination, no “let’s look at the science”, just dropped.

55

rf 03.30.12 at 3:18 pm

Manta 1976

The American ‘right’ doesn’t get into power, Republican party elites that make references to immigration and abortion to get elected do. The European anti-immigration right appears to have even less influence at federal level.
Why is US immigration policy more liberal than European? I don’t know, perhaps the US political establishment care more about cheap labour than the anti-immigrant sentiments of their constituents. How can you divorce a populations ‘reaction’ to immigration from their very specific historic or geographic circumstances?

Are Europeans more hostile to ‘immigrants’? Once again I don’t know, perhaps Germans are more hostile to the Turkish, the French to North Africans, the British to Pakistanis, the Irish to Eastern Europeans and Nigerians, Texans to Mexicans, Floridians to Cubans etc.
But as I said the US, for whatever reason, doesn’t appear recently to have produced legitimate political leaders like Le Pen or Wilders. But then neither has Ireland, or Britain, leaving aside the BNP which is isolated and, rhetorically, far less extreme.

But I dont want to divert this thread, so will leave it there.

56

Uncle Kvetch 03.30.12 at 3:18 pm

Just on the basis of the fact that citizenship in the US is determined solely by birth US policy is far, far, far more liberal than any European country.

This is patently untrue. I see no reason to take any of the rest of your argument any more seriously than this.

57

Bob Miller 03.30.12 at 3:22 pm

We are doomed.

As soon as the word gets out that Left and Right are genetically determined, the Left is going to be on the receiving end of a eugenics program.

(Unfortunately, I’ll be away from the Internet for the next 72 hours, so I won’t get to keep following this thread.)

58

Scott Martens 03.30.12 at 3:23 pm

I thought this might be an April Fool’s Day joke accidentally posted early, but the book is on Amazon and most of the content is in Mooney’s Mother Jones article posted… about 5 hours ago.

59

rf 03.30.12 at 3:27 pm

“Just on the basis of the fact that citizenship in the US is determined solely by birth US policy is far, far, far more liberal than any European country”

One final point, as far as I can remember up to the middle of the 2000s Ireland had this policy, but we didn’t have many immigrants. Then we began to have immigrants, decided to have a referendum on this policy, and no longer have it. What can that tell us about anything?

60

MPAVictoria 03.30.12 at 3:33 pm

“I’m expecting him to prevail.”

Prevail against whom? And to what end? I

61

Steph 03.30.12 at 3:33 pm

I also think the point in 24 about authority is accurate and a large part of it. People trust the authorities they trust. I suspect most people who reject the science on climate change and maybe even evolution don’t perceive themselves as rejecting science so much as picking between scientists, as filtered by the communities or subcultures they are in. In a way, I think this is a change from earlier reactions to arguments for evolution, where it was more science vs. church.

That it’s a matter of choosing between seems even more apparent on economic issues or legal ones. The number of people who went from probably never even having heard of the Commerce Clause to self-anointed experts on what it means, from reading various RW blogs, etc. was immense. And this relates to the point about more education making people more intransigent. People are great at finding ways to justify ideas they have, and smart people are even more skilled at such arguments. Whatever it is that allows people to be self-reflective about their own positions is something other than simple education, but it is especially difficult when the ideas are seen as related to one’s own self-worth, and I think the nature of the partisan battles are such that people are really invested in their sides being right. Just look at how many conservatives will jump on an issue just because liberals or Obama or the like is on the other side. Coming around to a liberal idea is seen as a defeat, so the guard is up to prevent it.

With respect to the comparison to earlier times, I think part of that is a loss of any kind of consensus authories. Seems to me, though I have no personal memory of it and could just be over-idealizing some aspect of the past, that there was more of a mainstream cultural respect for the media, for politicians and business leaders and important scientists and church leaders (esp. mainline Protestant types), and so on in, say, the ’50s. Sure there were subcultures where that was less so — I think a lot of this is regional — but there was some general respect for what we might call the elites. Now, the growth of rightwing media and the explosion of authories on the internet and the prior tearing down of all kinds of authories means that there’s little of national force to counter whatever subculture one is in or chooses to affiliate with. I used to think Cass Sunstein’s fear about the internet and polarization was silly, but the US does seem to be getting much more self-segregated by ideology and culture, as well as class, and this makes it even easier to discount or be unaware of arguments that counter your ideas.

62

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 3:44 pm

rf, I would not worry about derailing the thread: JQ was (successfully) trolling the internet…

63

Salient 03.30.12 at 3:46 pm

To those who are making patient explanations to JQ about this, if you click on the “The Republican Brain” link (copied here), you’ll see it’s actually a link to a blog post, where Mooney has put a graph up showing the drastic decline in Republicans’ trust of science since 1974 (in the mid-70s, R and D trust of science are about equal). To quote:

[Gauchat says of the graph] These results are quite profound, because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives. The key question to pose, after reading Gauchat’s paper, is why this occurred.

64

Substance McGravitas 03.30.12 at 3:53 pm

I’m looking forward to the book on Republican penis size.

65

Salient 03.30.12 at 3:56 pm

Blast it, that sounds incoherent. Never mind about the “To those who…” bit (it was a fragment of a deleted sentence)

That is the whole point of The Republican Brain, where I assert that we need a nature plus nurture account to understand why conservatives deny science and reality. And all of this stuff Gauchat is talking about is sociology—aka, “nurture.” It’s very real, undeniably so—but is it the whole story? I doubt it.

You think: uh oh, here comes the ‘nature’ part. What will Mooney say about nature?

as the “New Right” emerged in the U.S. in the wake of the cultural battles of the 1960s and 1970s, it mobilized strong forces of authoritarianism—e.g., psychological rigidity and closed-mindedness. In this era, driven by hot button “culture war” issues, authoritarians moved to the right, leaving behind the Democratic Party, particularly in the South. These were the so-called “Reagan Democrats.”

…oh. So authoritarians have always been around, but only recently was their nature directly appealed to by the Republican party. A previously politically-divided group of people^1^ swung strongly for one party, and the participation of these folks in the party has led to a more authoritarian view.

Not really an iron-clad argument — of course not; it’s a blog post — but not as bad as it might sound in a quick summary.

^1^Perhaps the sociobiology argument would add, …people whose defining characteristic is genetically determined swung strongly…

66

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 3:58 pm

@63 The fact that Mooney presents data refuting his argument, doesn’t mean they don’t refute his argument.

Anyway, what do you think, Salient? Do you think conservatives are hostile to science because they are genetically predisposed to reject evidence-based arguments?

67

christian_h 03.30.12 at 3:58 pm

Yeah I am quite certain this is a hoax, but like JW Mason also relieved to see the unanimous opposition to the genetic thesis…

As for the US right vs. the European right: I see no need for a competition (or smugness in either direction) – they both are horrible. Taking certain policies and comparing is a fool’s errand, imo, since for historical reasons racism and other modes of oppression are structured differently in Europe than in the US, and also structured differently between different parts of Europe. Racism isn’t less in one place than the other – it is merely different.

68

christian_h 03.30.12 at 4:02 pm

I don’t believe there’s a “genetic” disposition towards authoritarianism (what is that btw – I always perceived it as one of those convenient terms liberals invent as a means to indicate their superiority over both those to their right and those to their left, like “totalitarianism”) any more than there is a genetic predisposition towards distrusting science.

69

Stephen 03.30.12 at 4:04 pm

ajay@23: “I don’t think you could find a serious contender for the leadership of a European country saying that the cure for illegal immigration would be a heavily militarised border zone with the authority to shoot to kill.”

Up to the year 1989 you could find the leadership of several European countries not only saying, but energetically ensuring, that the cure for illegal emigration was a heavily militarised border zone (walls, watchtowers, wire, landmines, what not) with full authority to shoot to kill.

Every one of them, of course, good conservatives (in the sense of upholding a 19th-century doctrine into the late 20th century) and even Republicans (DDR and all that).

Oddly, there doesn’t seem to have been a genetic basis: or if there was, after the departure of the Soviet troops an astonishing number of genes suddenly mutated.

70

William Timberman 03.30.12 at 4:07 pm

I admit that among my friends I enjoy calling the Koch Brothers and the Arizona Legislature crazy, and denouncing Mitt Romney a low-life panderer rather than a master of the Art of the Possible. I’m also permissive when it comes to ad hominem arguments against people whose political positions seem to me to be grounded solely in some sort of mental derangement.

But such judgments are meant to be taken as comedy, and low comedy at that. This post, it seems to me, is likely to lead to something which isn’t funny at all. I really wish I could blink a couple of times and make it go away.

71

Frank in midtown 03.30.12 at 4:08 pm

A constant desire of business met a changing marketplace of ideas:
1. Business interests are always desirous of avoiding recognizing social costs associated with their business activity.
2. Large gain in marketshare by entrepreneurial evangelical churches from hierarchal mainline protestant churches.

The first provides the funds to market the population toward their interests, and the second provides a population more open to that marketing.

72

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 4:15 pm

You think: uh oh, here comes the ‘nature’ part. What will Mooney say about nature?

You know what he’ll say? He’ll say that you political views are shaped by your “political genes.” No, seriously:

Scientists are already showing that average “liberal” and “conservative” brains differ in suggestive ways. These differences may be related to a large and still unidentified number of “political” genes—although to be sure, genes are only one influence out of many upon our political views. But they appear to be an underrated one.

I remain hopeful that John Q. doesn’t really believe the argument of this post. But Mooney clearly does.

73

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 4:22 pm

christian, I think that comparing policies indifferent countries is not a fool’s errand, but quite the opposite the basis for good government.

For instance, one could have compared US health care policies with European ones, realized that the results of US ones are atrociously bad, and tried to improve the situation by adopting e.g. the British or French or Italian system.

Reversing roles, one could compare US and European immigration policies…

74

Stephen 03.30.12 at 4:23 pm

jwmason@10: “In a given societies, height will be moresensitive to genetic variation than to chance or minor environmental differences.”

Sorry, no. That would be true if all societies were like the later 20th/early 21st century US: which is not in fact the case.

After the astonishing achievements of liberal capitalism in providing large amounts of food even for the poor in the US/Australia/NZ and, rather later, in most of W Europe (and arguably elsewhere), height in those regions has for some time been determined mostly by genetic factors. Before that, the poor, especially the urban poor, ate badly and were shorter than average, genes or no genes.

75

chrismealy 03.30.12 at 4:26 pm

I’m willing to believe there are people who by nature are generally more fearful (I think I’m one of them), and as far as I can tell the evidence suggests in America they’re generally rightwingers and reactionaries, but I don’t think they have to be (I’m not). I think it’s possible for a left to capture the votes of the fearful types. So instead of hunting for the conservative gene how about hunting for a more appealing left?

76

chrismealy 03.30.12 at 4:28 pm

Height is determined by nutrition and infectious disease. Egalitarian societies (where everybody has access to health care and clean water) are taller than other equally rich, less egalitarian societies.

77

Rob in CT 03.30.12 at 4:28 pm

Blech.

78

ISOK 03.30.12 at 4:41 pm

So the idea is that there could be a genetically-determined trait — i.e., one written into our DNA — whose measurable effects can only be seen since… the mid-70s???

I’m with Rob in CT.

79

Stephen 03.30.12 at 4:42 pm

Re being right wing and hostile to science: where on this spectrum can we fit Trofim Denisovich Lysenko? Or Thabo “AIDS is not caused by HIV” Mbeki?

80

christian_h 03.30.12 at 4:47 pm

Manta (73.): Sorry, I apparently wasn’t clear. Of course you are right that comparing which policies work and which don’t can be useful. What I meant to say is that taking policies on one issue, comparing them, and then using that comparison to argue whose “right” is “more racist” or “less racist” is a fool’s errand.

81

Stephen 03.30.12 at 4:53 pm

Chrismealy@76: my point exactly. In egalitarian societies where everybody, rich or poor, has fairly adequate or equally inadequate access to health care, food and clean water – basically, either pre-farming or post-capitalist – the average height is fairly tall [1] because environmental factors are slight, and variation in height is largely genetic. In societies where the rich are well-fed and the poor aren’t, the rich are still tall (Edward I of England was well over 6 foot tall) but many of the poor are short, irrespective of their genotype.

1. Obvious exceptions: deep forest, far cold north, selection for being either small or short and fat.

82

Henry 03.30.12 at 4:57 pm

The _American Political Science Review_ just published an article on genes and politics (PDF).

Abstract:

bq. Political scientists are making increasing use of the methodologies of behavior genetics in an attempt to uncover whether or not political behavior is heritable, as well as the specific genotypes that might act as predisposing factors for—or predictors of—political “phenotypes.” Noteworthy among the latter are a series of candidate gene association studies in which researchers claim to have discovered one or two common genetic variants that predict such behaviors as voting and political orientation. We critically examine the candidate gene association study methodology by considering, as a representative example, the recent study by Fowler and Dawes according to which “two genes predict voter turnout.” In addition to demonstrating, on the basis of the data set employed by Fowler and Dawes, that two genes do not predict voter turnout, we consider a number of difficulties, both methodological and genetic, that beset the use of gene association studies, both candidate and genome-wide, in the social and behavioral
sciences.

83

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 5:10 pm

Stephen @74: Yes, that’s what I meant. Poor phrasing. I was just using this as an example of a trait where there is undoubtedly some genetic basis for variation, but where claims that this means that it is resistant to social influences are patently untrue. For example, Chris Mealy is right that more egalitarian societies are taller.

So instead of hunting for the conservative gene how about hunting for a more appealing left?

Bingo. It seems clear that the appeal of arguments like Mooney’s is to liberals who see that theya re losing the political argument and can’t, or don’t want to, build a more popular politics. So they look for excuses to give up, or to appeal to authority instead.

I would add that if many people are skeptical of science, it might in part be a quite rational response to the way they’ve been treated by the liberal-capitalist order of which science is part. I like Richard Lewontin’s recollection of joining Carl Sagan for a public debate with some Arkansas creationists:

Sagan and I drew different conclusions from our experience. For me the confrontation between creationism and the science of evolution was an example of historical, regional, and class differences in culture that could only be understood in the context of American social history. For Carl it was a struggle between ignorance and knowledge.

The whole essay is a superb take on these issues.

84

geo 03.30.12 at 5:12 pm

What matters is not why people hold one or another belief but why one or another belief becomes influential. If belief in geocentrism, or phlogiston, or the ether, or the fixity of species, promised to help, however indirectly, prevent any movement toward popular, democratic control of social and economic life, then anyone holding that belief, or convincingly pretending to, would be lavishly subsidized, promoted, and publicized by those who want to keep control of the economy and society just where it is at present. And a fortiori for particular aspects of policy: if democratic action to control anthropogenic global warming would diminish the profits of the energy industry, then those who (sincerely or not) deny anthropogenic global warming skillfully enough to retard popular comprehension of the need for that action will never lack for sponsorship.

What’s the matter with Kansas/conservatives? Sorry to be tedious, but Marx answered that question long ago: “In every epoch, the ideas of the rulers are the ruling ideas.”

85

JW Mason 03.30.12 at 5:13 pm

86

Witt 03.30.12 at 5:16 pm

Very good to see scientific skepticism being applied to this kooky and frankly offensive argument. I agree with a great deal of the criticism in this thread, including HP at 28 and SN at 29.

Regarding Pohl’s claim that Just on the basis of the fact that citizenship in the US is determined solely by birth US policy is far, far, far more liberal than any European country:

This is, as Uncle Kvetch and others have noted, nonsense on several levels:
1. There is a sizable, vocal, and politically viable anti-birthright citizenship movement in the US.*

2. Harsh state-level anti-immigrant laws passed in the US in the last two years include those that deny some immigrants the right to a public water supply, medical care, and schooling. That these laws are being litigated up to the Supreme Court has not stopped many of them from being enforced in the meantime.

3. Having recently spent some hours with German and French visitors to the US talking about just exactly these issues, I can say with confidence that the US is both more liberal, flexible, and effective at immigrant integration than Europe, and has anti-immigrant sentiment that is more hatefully mainstreamed, in the form of political leaders who run on anti-immigrant platforms and policies, as well as individuals who take it upon themselves to deny immigrant children and adults health, safety and education.

*To see how many Republican state legislators have introduced bills to abolish birthright citizenship in the last few years, you can consult the handy compendium of immigration-related laws generated by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

87

geo 03.30.12 at 5:17 pm

PS to 84, in case anyone objects that the rulers themselves don’t believe in phlogiston or the ether: I think it’s fair to amend Marx’s magisterial dictum to: “the ideas the rulers want to be the ruling ideas will be the ruling ideas, or will at least have a hell of a head start.”

88

Salient 03.30.12 at 5:22 pm

Do you think conservatives are hostile to science because they are genetically predisposed to reject evidence-based arguments?

No. I misread Mooney as saying “nature” was metaphorical for people moving from one party to another without changing their views, and “nurture” was metaphorical for people changing their views.

There are definitely “genetically predisposed” medical conditions, so to speak. So, I could be persuaded that someone with a medical condition is likely to have had genetics influence that outcome. I’ll note that there’s a horrible definition-ambiguity here: ‘authoritarianism’ is treated like a medical condition for the purpose of linking it to genetic predisposition, and then it’s treated as a behavioral trait for the purpose of linking it to preferred political objectives. I think linking the authoritarians’ authoritarianism to genetic predisposition is a too-clever-by-half way of accidentally letting them off the hook.

It’s like when researchers linked alcoholics’ alcoholism to genetic predisposition: I’m not saying they got the wrong answer; I’m saying they were asking a question that is irrelevant for social/political purposes. The medical condition of alcoholism is emphatically not the behavioral trait of alcoholism. No matter whether the predisposition exists or not, we need to get the alcoholic some help, and their behavior is just as damaging to those around them. Finding that some people are more genetically predisposed to alcoholism, that alcoholics are more disposed to fits of rage, and that alcoholics start trending to vote Democratic in 2020 {let’s say because Dems decide to support freer alcohol sales policies}, would say nothing about whether Democratic voters tend to be alcoholic, much less that “votes Democrat” is any kind of biological condition with meaningful genetic predisposition.

I would say authoritarians have substantial input into the policies generated by (local as well as national) Republican politicians. I would say that their authoritarianism is not a medical condition. It’s social-political authoritarianism. There’s a difference, so to speak, between suffering from a personality disorder, and being evil.

89

Salient 03.30.12 at 5:24 pm

And to be honest, I’m not even sure we have solid evidence of genetic predisposition for the medical condition category ‘personality disorder’ — but I’ll leave that one to folks with greater awareness to hopefully pick up and speak to…

90

rea 03.30.12 at 5:28 pm

When American right is in power the policies it actually implements are on the left of those already existing in Europe (e.g., it did not abrogate the Jus soli)

They would do it, but for the fact that it would require amending the Constitution, which is very difficult and can’t be done with a simple majority of Congress.

91

James 03.30.12 at 6:26 pm

rea@90 – amending the constitution aside, there isn’t even a majority on the right (or left) for changing the birth = citizen laws. The right is for immigration, only they do not want to pay for any additional money to cover social programs that new immigrates might consume. The left is for immigration, only they do not want new immigrates to take jobs away from union members.

92

vacuumslayer 03.30.12 at 6:27 pm

Well, I just wish we could get to the bottom of why conservatives are by and large so awful. Then again, the world will always have assholes. There probably IS nothing to be done about it.

93

Manta1976 03.30.12 at 6:48 pm

Christian, I get your point now, and I think I agree with you.

rea, Bush & Obama managed to get rid of Habeas Corpus, due process (for people the government does like), and the authority of congress to declare war (Libya…): the constitution makes things a bit more difficult, but where is the will, there is a way.

Witt, I respect your experience, and immigration law in Europe is (probably) less uniform than in USA, thus it is a bit difficult to talk about European policy. However, if you are an _illegal_ immigrant you often get imprisoned & expelled; what makes the difference is how difficult can be to enter legally.

94

bob mcmanus 03.30.12 at 6:59 pm

Does this discussion of genetic inferiority sound at all familiar to anyone conversant, say, with the progressive or populist eras?

Scott Nygren, Time Frames but doesn’t matter, any ole critical theorist:

Fanon’s colonial subject, positioned by imperialist domination as an object, occupies a site of intensely conflicted representations. The conflation of subject and object either triggers a recognition of identity as Symbolic masquerade and site of reinvention, or the misrecognition of identity as truth collapses into contradiction and madness.

Since I believe liberalism and neo-liberalism are the prevailing ideologies, (Cochrane and Prescott aren’t running the economy; DeLong and Krugman just aren’t running it quite as much as they want) even if they haven’t achieved totalitarian control, and that neo-liberalism is an imperialist ideology far more than old conservatism…

…it makes some sense to me to try to apply some post-colonial critical theory to Republicans…as the colonized, colonial subjects, the abject. “Oh their primitive superstitions and social practices…etc”

Anybody out there done any work yet?

95

Colin Danby 03.30.12 at 7:02 pm

I just want to join the chorus of skepticism FWTW.

How many people, in general, relish “evidence challenging their beliefs”?

Also, as is not uncommon in these discussions, “conservative” is being used as interchangeable with “Republican” and both to designate some fixed type. I realize it’s possible in surveys in the contemporary U.S. to get many people to make a sort of tribal identification with one of two camps, and this is an interesting cultural fact, but it may not be more than that.

Having been around for a little while, the fact that particular positions can switch valences so easily (e.g. a health insurance mandate switches from being the conservative alternative to single-payer, to socialism incarnate) makes me wonder what ideological categories really mean out there in the world.

96

bob mcmanus 03.30.12 at 7:09 pm

94: There is a story today about Santorum letting slip a partial n-word.

So Obama can be pretty much who he is in public, but Santorum and his friends have to wear a mask, hide their selves in public. Isn’t that the way of the colonial subject?

97

js. 03.30.12 at 7:27 pm

Bit late to this, but seems to me chris essentially refutes the thesis in the very first comment:

Since there are so few black Republicans, I find it hard to believe that genetics play any large role.

Exactly.

98

js. 03.30.12 at 7:27 pm

Total blockquote fail there. The second sentence is a quote from chris (@1).

99

John B 03.30.12 at 7:44 pm

Re Salient @63 – The linked chart showing that in 1974 conservatives and liberals liked science equally is interesting as you say. At some point farther back in history conservatives likely hated science even more, when Darwinism suggested that the Bible had reality problems. So the chart suggests that between the Scopes Monkey Trial and Richard Nixon, something apparently happened to make conservatives like science. Antibiotics? The A-bomb? Sputnik? Could those conditions be recreated (hopefully without new explosives)?

100

Stephen 03.30.12 at 7:46 pm

JW Mason@83: we agree in some ways but not altogether.

There are some societies (African pygmies, Inuit) where the genetic selection for shortness, an advantage in thick forest/great cold, is such that no matter how well fed and egalitarian they are, they’ll still be short.

But in societies where the genetic background is such that, given a good environment, people could be tall, than the more adequate the environment – not necessarily egalitarian, the US is not by any reasonable standards egalitarian but the poor are very well fed – the greater the average height.

And width. Only in the US have I seen fat beggars.

101

Bruce Wilder 03.30.12 at 8:09 pm

Question
There’s a chart at:
http://www.desmogblog.com/conservatives-versus-science-new-scientific-validation-republican-war-science-and-republican-brain-thesis

http://scienceprogressaction.org/intersection/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Gauchat-Figure-11.png

It shows the gradual decline in conservative trust in Science over time.

It also shows a remarkable, indeed dramatic, decline in “moderate’s” trust in science in the 1970s.

Does Gauchat (or anyone) have a read on what the “moderates” were doing?

Personally, I would hazard an alternative hypothesis, that centrist weak-mindedness and moral bankruptcy has been more devastating to American politics than conservative craziness. It is the increasing inability of the centrists to recognize conservative crazy, which causes damage — not the constant of conservative crazy.

102

Omega Centauri 03.30.12 at 8:18 pm

I think the argument for genetic selection (weak or strong), was that humans, -and indeed most primates) seem to have a sense of moraility which is at least partly prewired in the brain. The thesis is that some of these moral senses, such as fairness predispose one towards the “liberal” end of things, and others such as purity loyalty and authority, predispose one towards conservatism. Now in the context of living in an environment where a deadly infection can be acquired, purity -and its enforcing emotion -disgust, can be seen as having survival value. In any case the claim is made that subjects administered psychological tests designed to tease out the relative strengths of these moral senses strongly predict voting behavior. Assuming this research holds up, you then have the usual questions of cause versus effect (does associating with a group that emphasizes some moral sense more than others amplify some traits and dampen others). Also to what extent are such traits inhertited, versus influenced by the environment…..

Its hard for me to see how this has much impact on science versus anti-science. I suspect that, given a highly partisan society, it comes down to people placing more importance on winning their peer groups cultural/political battles, versus seeking the truth. And then choosing to be anti-science, if science is deemed unhelpful to their choosen cause.

103

Frank in midtown 03.30.12 at 8:27 pm

Have we already had a thread on J. Haidt’s TED talk on moral roots of conservatives and liberals?

104

vacuumslayer 03.30.12 at 8:41 pm

I suspect that, given a highly partisan society, it comes down to people placing more importance on winning their peer groups cultural/political battles, versus seeking the truth.

I think there’s ample evidence in this thread that liberal-leaning people actually are rather fond of seeking truth. Had this been an entry on a wingnut blog, they’d be falling all over themselves to agree with its conclusions (assuming it said mean things about liberals). There’d be no hesitation, no call for citations, no skepticism. Just “Yeah! Their side sucks!”

Now, of course, their side does suck…but I’m not sure there’s any easy or pat reason we can point to and say definitively why. It may just be that some people are assholes, as I said upthread. So, then I guess we could ask why assholes exist. Hell, only the FSM knows.

105

logern 03.30.12 at 9:09 pm

Now, with The Republican Brain Chris pushes the argument a step further with the question: why are Republicans the way they are, and what, if anything, can be done about if?

Is the political spectrum a feature of the variation of evolution in the survival of the species? I mean, why not?

Every once in awhile people hiding in the mountains fearful of the end of the world have their day and some catastrophe befalls all the rational folks living in shadow of the mountain.

But survival of species was maintained, which is what evolution is there to achieve.

If that’s not a scientific explanation for Rush Limbaugh, why I don’t know what is.

106

Witt 03.30.12 at 9:11 pm

This point from David Carlton at 51 is worth repeating:

Thus the decision for most of us isn’t, “Who’s right?” but “Who do we trust to tell us?” What has changed for conservatives thus isn’t their view of science so much as their view of scientists. Conservatives trust scientists less because they increasingly see them as political adversaries, and they see them as political adversaries because scientific issues have become increasingly politicized

Right. Although that does open the question of why and how scientific issues have become politicized. I suspect that sociologists and anthropologists (or historians of science, maybe) have some explanations, or at least theories about this.

The why and the how also have to do with the *direction* in which an issue becomes politicized. One thing that the Komen controversy sort-of unearthed was the degree to which Komen has managed to make breast cancer charity field about “early detection” and “the cure” rather than, say, analysis and regulation of the most significant carcinogens.

107

J. Otto Pohl 03.30.12 at 9:33 pm

I see Uncle Kvetch is a liar. It is certainly true that citizenship in the US is accorded to everybody born in the US who is not a foreign diplomat. The children of African students, Mexican illegals, and even European tourists all automatically get US citizenship upon birth in the US. It is in fact enshrined in the US constitution. In Europe this is not the case. Instead it is very difficult to get citizenship in a European country if your parents are born outside of Europe. This policy does have a disparate impact and I believe intent at limiting the number of European citizens who are not White. But, of course for American Leftists the EU has become the new USSR and can do no wrong.

108

Meredith 03.30.12 at 10:00 pm

I apologize for not reading through all the comments…. Any argument which concludes that Group X is anti-science, and that Group X’s anti-science views have a specific genetic basis, is so divorced from the actual science of genetics that the whole argument is incoherent.

109

Daniel 03.30.12 at 10:32 pm

When is the original piece that does the trolling, does the writer (JQ) get banned from commenting on his own post?

Please count me as a vote in favour of a summary lifetime ban for anyone making this tired, unfunny and unoriginal joke.

110

chris 03.30.12 at 10:39 pm

Also, as is not uncommon in these discussions, “conservative” is being used as interchangeable with “Republican” and both to designate some fixed type.

Note the slipperiness of “is being used”. Several different people saying several different things on a thread in which Mooney’s name is on the top is not equivalent to Mooney saying all those things at once, or believing them.

I think the argument for genetic selection (weak or strong), was that humans, -and indeed most primates) seem to have a sense of moraility which is at least partly prewired in the brain. The thesis is that some of these moral senses, such as fairness predispose one towards the “liberal” end of things, and others such as purity loyalty and authority, predispose one towards conservatism.

And I suspect that this relatively abstract thesis is what Mooney is actually talking about, sensationalist titles notwithstanding.

Have we already had a thread on J. Haidt’s TED talk on moral roots of conservatives and liberals?

Is it very different from Lakoff’s?

111

Bill Benzon 03.30.12 at 10:46 pm

Well, I’d think Lakoff’s theory is about favorite metaphors grounded, if I recall, in family types. Nothing about genes there. But, Haidt, he’s an evolutionary psychologist. & he’s got a new book to sell. Here he is in conversation with Robert Wright:

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/9376?in=62:12&out=67:06

This is where he talks about genes:

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/9376?in=62:12&out=67:06

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Bill Benzon 03.30.12 at 10:48 pm

Haidt: “Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative is as heritable as anything else.” But, there’s not specific genes for anything. So it’s a pattern thing that we don’t understand.

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Mick 03.30.12 at 10:52 pm

I think it’s a lot simpler than conservatives being somehow innately reality denying. Politics is fundamentally a legalistic game where the legal representatives of different interest groups use rhetoric to advance their interests.

Remember the US invasion of Iraq? The evidence did not suggest that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, evidence was used to push a case for invasion. When it became clear that the evidence could no longer stand up the argument for invasion was simply changed. In short, the evidence did not matter-it only mattered to those pushing for an invasion in that it could bolster the rhetorical argument proponents of the invasion wanted to use. When the evidence stopped saying what they wanted it was unceremoniously discarded, the evidence did not matter, the truth did not matter!

Conservative politicians have traditionally represented the political interests of large corporations who also use evidence in this way. When it advances their agenda it is used, when it does not it is obfuscated, attacked or discarded. Big tobacco and big oil stand out as the most well known culprits, but the entire public relations industry is geared towards this kind of behaviour.

In short, conservative politicians wilfully denying the ample evidence of scientific truths like climate change or evolution is simply a large-scale example of what happens in the courtroom. Legal representatives laud and promote experts they agree with or attack and belittle those they do not-the actual truth does not matter, winning the case matters. Conservative politicians are simply battling to promote the interests of their backers in the court of public opinion.

114

lemmy caution 03.30.12 at 11:43 pm

“I think it’s a lot simpler than conservatives being somehow innately reality denying. Politics is fundamentally a legalistic game where the legal representatives of different interest groups use rhetoric to advance their interests.”

There is a lot to this. Note that the anti-science beliefs are greater among educated conservatives because they are better able to figure out what will help their team.

115

Linnaeus 03.30.12 at 11:47 pm

Bloix @24:

I believe that the scientific method, as practiced by people who have achieved posts of distinction in universities, produces truth. And I believe this in large part because my parents believed it, and they sent me to schools where I was taught to believe it. So my belief in the truth of evolutionary theory is as much a result of my faith in scientific authority as it is in my understanding of science. And my faith in scientific authority comes from my background: a middle-class northeastern secular family, son of a scientist father and a college-educated mother, with more years of my own secular higher education than I like to admit. I accept that universities are a source of knowledge, and I do not accept that churches are a source of knowledge.

As an aside, this observation is pretty much central to Steven Shapin’s argument in A Social History of Truth. Folks here might be interested that book if they haven’t read it already.

116

js. 03.30.12 at 11:51 pm

But given the update (in the OP), this just sounds like Corey Robin with some sensationalist It’s the genes! (but only kinda sorta actually) thrown in. No? I mean, what if anything is the appeal to genes or biology or whatever adding?

Agreed on the point about the asymmetry though. Fairly obvious, I’d have thought.

117

John Quiggin 03.31.12 at 12:11 am

@Bloix/Linnaeus – this seems even more essentialist than (the cartoon version of) Mooney’s position against which you are arguing. Do you really think that the relative value of scientific and religious knowledge depends only on your upbringing and social circumstances?

118

Keith Edwards 03.31.12 at 12:19 am

Moony’s argument is BS. The reason American Conservatives are anti-science these days is that science, as it’s practiced on the national level in the US, no longer supports Conservative goals. Back in the 50s and 60s the majority of scientific research was geared towards building atom bombs and wiping out commies. Now it’s all about figuring out how evolutionary biology got us to this point, and what we can do to alleviate anthropogenic climate change. Or, as the conservatives put it, forcing godless, homosexual Darwinism down our throats and undermining Holy Capitalism by perpetuating the myth of Global Warming. Of course Conservatives don’t like science in the 2st century. It’s no longer reinforcing their bigotries.

119

js. 03.31.12 at 12:29 am

RE: Bloix (27):

In a way I’m quite sympathetic to (most of) what you’re saying. As a description of how people’s beliefs are often formed, I think there’s a lot there that entirely right. At the same time, let’s not lose sight of the fact the methods of science do in fact produce truth (to put it rather unhappily), and the methods of revelation, e.g., do not. If nothing else, you can get fairly strong abductive arguments that show this (and in fact, I think we can do better than that, but whatever). So really, when I trust science, it’s not a matter “faith” in anything like the sense in which someone might have faith in Jesus, e.g. (I should maybe note that this is not supposed to endorse everything that goes by the name of “science”—another way in which it’s not a matter of faith.)

120

Colin Danby 03.31.12 at 12:30 am

1. Chris @110, the OP uses the term “conservatives/Repubs.” I think comments on a post can legitimately address the wording of that post.

2. John, the trouble with your supplement is that when you start generalizing about your impressions of “people on the left,” as much as “people on the right,” the argument turns into complete mush. E.g. Huffington Post, which would certainly be identified as part of the left blogosphere, has long featured pseudoscience. It’s not hard to make lists of crankeries, some with no obvious political bias, others with … but I see no coherent way to weigh them up, and call one political perspective crankier than another.

121

Watson Ladd 03.31.12 at 1:10 am

JQ, what about two genetically similar populations with very different values?

Salient, if someone has a personality disorder that makes them carry out premeditated murders, but otherwise act identical to a normal person, I think they are morally guilty of those murders. All causation is physical, why single out some for special opprobrium? (This in response to your last question)

Mick, what about liberals and rent control, or cancer caused by radio waves? All politicians want to win, regardless of the evidence.

122

Kaveh 03.31.12 at 1:15 am

Bruce Wilder @101: Personally, I would hazard an alternative hypothesis, that centrist weak-mindedness and moral bankruptcy has been more devastating to American politics than conservative craziness. It is the increasing inability of the centrists to recognize conservative crazy, which causes damage—not the constant of conservative crazy.

This.

bruce mcmanus @95: 94: There is a story today about Santorum letting slip a partial n-word.

So Obama can be pretty much who he is in public, but Santorum and his friends have to wear a mask, hide their selves in public. Isn’t that the way of the colonial subject?

I’ll follow up on Bruce’s hypothesis: because the prevailing social and moral order is (neo)liberal, conservative crazy is seen as outside that order, it can describe itself in terms of weapons of the weak, like humor (Limbaugh and Coulter are ‘entertainment’), and liberal social critique isn’t able to recognize it as a real threat (‘invade their countries, take their oil, and convert them to Christianity’ is ‘just hyperbole’) and moderates continue to tolerate it on the pretext that ‘they’d never actually do any of those things’ (like what people said about the Nazis when they first came to power).

The thing is, Santorum really can’t be who he really is in public, but Bill Maher can. Doesn’t make him powerless. The whole familiar formula of the powerless struggling against the powerful is still too rooted in liberal assumptions about what constitutes power, and fails to recognize that subversion, assisted by some real sources of power (lots of money, or lots of popular or institutional support), can really be effective. And we get absurd moments like Obama spokesperson Valerie Jarrett promising that the newly-elected administration would “speak truth to power”.

123

Peter T 03.31.12 at 2:46 am

“Science” is being bandied around here as if it were some very special – almost holy – and difficult type of reasoning. When it comes to the natural world, people have always largely reasoned “scientifically” (Gatherer One: I think we should look for yams on the south bank – it’s sunnier and wetter; Gatherer Two: Yeah, but the debris says there was a recent flood, so they will have rotted. I think we should go further upstream…. and so on). It just got systematised, and turned out to be really useful, interesting and challenging once a certain amount of knowledge had been accumulated.

If I had to put my finger on the reasons for the change I would nominate two – there’s a lot less slack in the system than there used to be, so people are less able to shrug off challenges (things are all tied together, so it’s much harder to have one’s own patch and ignore what’s happening in others), and the pressures on the overall system are intensifying. Denial is one option, a rather frantic technocratic tinkering is another, and an increasing appetite for radical solutions is a third. The Republicans exhibit all three in varying proportions, the Democrats are more inclined to the tinkering.

124

Peter T 03.31.12 at 5:19 am

The above post was tangential to the topic. But I see no point in adding to the chorus about the (non) genetics of party preference.

125

Giampiero Campa 03.31.12 at 6:46 am

Jonathan Haidt (University of Virginia) argues in his book, “The Righteous Mind” that morality is a basic aspect of human mind that binds (and blinds) people into groups and give us tribalism and genocide on one end and altruism and sainthood on the other.

Republicans have done a better job (maybe due the lack of other alternatives) of using morality-based arguments and words to push people towards using what Daniel Kahneman calls “fast” thinking, which operates quickly, automatically and effortlessly but is highly susceptible to making a lot of mistakes. In a sense this is a kind of thinking that is devoted to quick justification, not truth-seeking.

Another related book is “Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not”, by Robert McCauley, which highlights how religion is based on fast thinking and science on slow thinking.

Interesting stuff, perhaps it should be taught in schools …

126

Robert 03.31.12 at 6:47 am

I find Quiggin’s update unhelpful in one way. It’s all about his beliefs, but doesn’t clarify what Mooney’s thesis is.

I’ve read a few of the papers that Mooney builds on and don’t recall the specific ones I read as being about genetics at all. Some I found amusing. I didn’t like a recent one about how conservative ideology mediates a tendency for low IQ people to be bigoted. This contradicts my doubt that intelligence can be measured along a single dimension.

By the way, studies show that studying mainstream economics makes you more likely to follow the economists’ predictions in the prisoner’s dilemma. Is there a gene for becoming an economist? Once again, that’s not the kind of speculation I found in the literature.

127

Salient 03.31.12 at 7:40 am

Salient, if someone has a personality disorder that makes them carry out premeditated murders, but otherwise act identical to a normal person, I think they are morally guilty of those murders.

Setting aside the weirdly paternal tone, I still have to wonder, do you ever type one of these {name of person}, {painfully basic statement that seems to imply disagreement with person} lines in and then think, no, wait, if this feels to me like a reply that needs to be made, I must be misunderstanding the basis of disagreement, or some such thing? Consider this reply:

Watson, I do not think that every instance of excessive alcohol consumption is evidence that the consumer suffers from alcoholism.

Versus this reply:

There’s a language snag here. The medical condition of alcoholism obviously doesn’t account for every instance of excessive alcohol consumption, and only a small portion of those who regularly drink excessively are, in the medical sense, ‘actually’ alcoholics.

Similarly, the allegedly genetically predetermined condition of authoritarianism (as a personality disorder) obviously doesn’t account for every instance of vocal support for human-rights-breaching enforcement of authority, and only a small portion of those who support suppressing their opponents to the point of violating their human rights are, in the behavioral-disorder sense, ‘actually’ authoritarians.

The problem is clearly that we don’t have a good verb for the thing that authoritarians characteristically do too much of. With alcoholism, it’s easy to use different words to distinguish the condition (alcoholism) from the behavior (drinking excessively). With authoritarianism, we’re missing the appropriate parenthetical replacements in that sentence. (Or at least they’re not springing to mind.)

128

Guido Nius 03.31.12 at 10:43 am

There’s a gene for everything except, unfortunately, for replacing missing screws in Ikea furniture.

129

chris 03.31.12 at 11:32 am

Republicans have done a better job (maybe due the lack of other alternatives) of using morality-based arguments and words to push people towards using what Daniel Kahneman calls “fast” thinking, which operates quickly, automatically and effortlessly but is highly susceptible to making a lot of mistakes. In a sense this is a kind of thinking that is devoted to quick justification, not truth-seeking.

Isn’t this kind of thing what the word “truthiness” was invented to describe?

I think there very well may be some genetic component to a type of mindset that would tend to accept truthiness and not keep digging until you reach truth, and that’s obviously very relevant to some people’s political leanings in the present-day US, however valid it may be to say that the same mindset would reach other substantive views in other times and places.

“Someone is wrong on the Internet” and related concepts describe a peculiar near-compulsion *that some people have and others don’t*. Lots of people go through their lives not particularly concerned by when others are wrong on or off the Internet, but for some, it just bugs them and they can’t leave it alone.

Obviously that type of person is going to be uncomfortable in a political movement that flirts with creationism, AGW denial, etc., and it’s not at all implausible to me that there could be some genetic influence on a person’s tendency to be uncomfortable accepting factually wrong statements even when they are rhetorically useful — the kind of person that can’t resist undermining their own side’s sales pitch with all the qualifications and exceptions that someone with a different mindset would sweep under the rug to close the deal.

Finally, in the weak sense of a gene “for” something — having the gene makes you more likely to do the thing than not having the gene — there are obviously at least a few genes for Republicanism, given the environments of the present day U.S.: SRY is one, light skin another. But this may be unfair since so much of their expression runs through the way other people treat you based on your possession of those genes, and how that influences your experience of society and the public sphere — it’s not really the kind of thing Mooney might be talking about, is it?

Well, actually, SRY might really be a gene that changes your way of thinking, by way of various hormones, but that’s a whole other can of worms — it’s very hard to distinguish the “real” effects of SRY on the brain from the effects that come from how other people treat you based on what morphology you’re born with.

130

Tim Worstall 03.31.12 at 12:56 pm

@51:

“What has changed for conservatives thus isn’t their view of science so much as their view of scientists. Conservatives trust scientists less because they increasingly see them as political adversaries, and they see them as political adversaries because scientific issues have become increasingly politicized. Global warming, I think, is the key issue here. The implications of what scientists say have unpleasant implications for the way conservatives live, reinforced by their unpleasnat implications for some very powerful interests.”

Not that I am a conservative in the US sense but does this actually surprise anyone?

On this very global warming point, we’ve vast swathes of the green/environmental left insisting that the IPCC scientific results mean that we must pull back from globalisation, must re-localise the economy. Yet the IPCC results are built on the economic models of the SRES which already assumes, in coming to the conclusion that global warming is a real problem that we should do something about, that further globalisation is part of the cure. The two globalised families of scenarios, A1 and B1, produce better results than the re-localised ones, A2 and B2. Fewer, richer, people with lower emissions.

If science is so abused to tell us what just ain’t so then shouldn’t people lose trust in those doing that telling?

Or JQ’s above argument about nuclear. Fukushima showed that when absolutely the worst thing possible happened to a reactor (a non-Chernobyl one) then the health effects of this were so minimal that we’ll never actually be able to identify anyone at all who dies from the radiation exposure. We’ll not even be able to note it statistically the effect is going to be so small.

Yet this is taken as scientific proof that reactors are too dangerous to use?

Agreed, they might be too expensive, but too unsafe? Even George Monbiot was persuaded the other way around.

If science is being abused shouldn’t people lose faith in that science?

131

Ben Alpers 03.31.12 at 1:50 pm

Sorry, JQ. Even post-update, my response is Rob in CT’s: Blech

I do think that JW’s response @83 bears repeating:

It seems clear that the appeal of arguments like Mooney’s is to liberals who see that they are losing the political argument and can’t, or don’t want to, build a more popular politics. So they look for excuses to give up, or to appeal to authority instead.

Contemporary liberalism really seems to hate politics and to be constantly looking for excuses not to engage in them. As Dahlia Lithwick has been arguing, if the ACA gets overturned by the SCOTUS, the loss will, in large measure, be due to the willingness of liberals to let the right define the healthcare reform debate in this country before and after the ACA’s passage. The Administration and the Democratic political leadership in Congress felt it was much better to focus exclusively on rounding up votes on the Hill before passage, and then to consider it all to be water under the bridge afterward.

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Uncle Kvetch 03.31.12 at 1:58 pm

I should know better than to bother with Otto, but I really don’t like being called a liar.

Instead it is very difficult to get citizenship in a European country if your parents are born outside of Europe.

In the case of France, at least, this is not the case.

A child born in France to foreign parents may acquire French citizenship:[3]
at birth, if stateless.
at 18, if resident in France with at least 5 years’ residence since age 11.
at 16 upon request by the child and if resident in France.
at 13 upon request by the child’s parents and if resident in France.
if born in France of parents born before independence in a colony/territory in the past under French sovereignty.

There is nothing “extremely difficult” about it, only a bureaucratic formality.

But, of course for American Leftists the EU has become the new USSR and can do no wrong.

Otto, the chip on your shoulder is visible all the way from Ghana. Get a grip.

133

Jexpat 03.31.12 at 2:12 pm

Kevin Drum posits an interesting (and one would think, obvious) question:

Why Are American Conservatives More Anti-Science Than European Conservatives?

“…the problem I have with Chris’s piece is this: temperament is universal, but Republicans are Americans. And it’s Republicans who deny global warming and evolution. European conservatives don’t. In fact, as near as I can tell, European conservatives don’t generally hold anti-science views any more strongly than European progressives.”

See: http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/03/why-are-american-conservatives-more-anti-science-european-conservatives

Although I haven’t read Mooney’s book yet, either, his articles on various progressive sites suggest at least one key difference between the groups:

“Fox News is the Key “Feedback Mechanism” — whereby people already inclined to believe false things get all the license and affirmation they need.”

More here: http://www.alternet.org/environment/154709/the_strange_conservative_brain%3A_3_reasons_republicans_refuse_to_accept_reality_about_global_warming/?page=entire

This sort of siloing with reinforcement of demonstrable falsehoods occurs not only on Fox “news,” but has proliferated throughout the broadcast media in America since the repeal of media regulation- to the extent that, in many communities- that’s nearly all there is.

Even in purportedly “mainstream” publications in the most progressive communities in the states- in the Oregonian for example, one sees editors elevating cranks- with no data of their own and laughably misconstrued (or downright dishonest) analysis to the same level of prominence as those who’ve worked their asses off and published credible, peer reviewed work.

To a lesser, although no less dysfunctional extent, we see this with conservatives and reactionaries in Australia, too- and it’s reinforced in Murdoch publications.

Nevertheless, it seems from my observations that antipathy toward science as a whole, in comparison seems to be issue focused, and often driven by shortsighted greed factors (i.e. Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it”) rather than the outright rejection and conspiracy theory that’s required by the Republican tribe.

Economics? That’s another matter.

134

christian_h 03.31.12 at 3:14 pm

Jexpat (133.): But what on earth does that have to do with any genetic predisposition towards anything at all? All it suggests is that many many people are being cleverly lied to in a way that takes advantage of the cultural formations that American society produces – the myth of rugged individualism, the myth of just rewards for hard work, the idea of man taming nature (an idea that would be rather ridiculous in Europe where nature has been tamed for along time), the idea of American exceptionalism and so forth.

135

chris 03.31.12 at 3:27 pm

Or JQ’s above argument about nuclear. Fukushima showed that when absolutely the worst thing possible happened to a reactor (a non-Chernobyl one) then the health effects of this were so minimal that we’ll never actually be able to identify anyone at all who dies from the radiation exposure. We’ll not even be able to note it statistically the effect is going to be so small.

Tim has a point here. Both the death toll and environmental effects of Fukushima Daiichi are far less than those of, say, Deepwater Horizon — despite the fact that Fukushima was hit with a massive external natural disaster, while at Deepwater Horizon, the man-made activities *were* the disaster. And this shows that *nuclear* power is too dangerous to use?

Nuclear power is like air travel: actually safer than the alternatives, but feared disproportionally to its real dangers because of the spectacularness of the incidents when something does happen.

So I think it does stand as proof that cognitive biases and sloppy thinking aren’t just for Those People (although I don’t mean to imply that the extent is equal, either).

“Fox News is the Key “Feedback Mechanism”—whereby people already inclined to believe false things get all the license and affirmation they need.”

So why doesn’t the Torygraph have a similar effect? I find it hard to believe that there aren’t conservative media organs in non-English-speaking countries too.

136

J. Otto Pohl 03.31.12 at 4:05 pm

Waiting at least 13 years in most cases is a lot more difficult then obtaining citizenship instantly. At any there simply is no equivalent in the US of Le Pen so my point about the European right which has its roots in Fascism being much more extreme than the US right stands.

137

Andrew F. 03.31.12 at 5:00 pm

The great part about this argument is that it justifies the treatment of arguments from Republicans and conservatives with greater skepticism than arguments from Democrats and liberals, since the former are authoritarian/fascist personalities scrambling to grab any justification while the latter are more likely to have considered alternative viewpoints and will therefore reflect more considered and qualified views.

In other words, the argument is an awesome example of how confirmation bias can act on multiple levels of thought. Here, we not only jump on a dubious study to confirm what we’d like (Republicans/conservatives are irrational, particularly when they disagree with us), but – even better – the study supports the further deployment of confirmation bias (discount Republican/conservative arguments).

But all that said, I’m a moderate, and, alas, the study linked shows my group to have the least trust in science (as the study describes it) over the period examined, or (to describe it more accurately) the group self-identified as moderates has the lowest average proportion who express the highest level of “confidence” in the “scientific community.”

138

Linnaeus 03.31.12 at 5:16 pm

John @ 117:

Do you really think that the relative value of scientific and religious knowledge depends only on your upbringing and social circumstances?

No, I don’t think that. I thought that Bloix’s earlier statement resonated with some work by STS scholars like Shapin that argues that there is a social component to truth, in particular, trust. The idea (and admittedly, I’m oversimplifying here) is that because we can’t confirm independently everything that we know, we put trust in those who, for various reasons, are in a better position to make claims about the truth of something. This trust is socially conditioned; we come to it by virtue of factors like education, social class, upbringing, etc. But I wouldn’t argue (and Shapin doesn’t either) that the relative value of scientific and religious knowledge relies only on these things.

Now maybe that’s a trivial point or one that doesn’t address the discussion at hand very well. I brought it up because I thought it a useful caveat when we get into discussions about the role of heredity with respect to social constructs like politics.

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Barry Freed 03.31.12 at 5:16 pm

Way to read a comments thread there Andrew F.

And to Rob in CT’s blech above I add my feh.

140

bianca steele 03.31.12 at 5:22 pm

Kaveh@122

You make a lot of sense. There are enormous differences, however, between the alternate universes where the people who dominate are: neoliberal[1], “American liberal,” and “liberal meant Rockefeller Republican when I was a lad and I’m darn well not going to change for anybody.” Bill Maher’s show is called “Political Correctness” for a reason. I suspect neoliberals tend to be counted among moderates—“moderate” is a term of high praise for David Brooks, and I don’t think he’s just catering for the “liberals” and trying to get them to pull the lever for “R”—and the chart linked above shows moderates have the same level of respect for science as conservatives. These factors are important when considering who justifiably feels they’re excluded.

The above, on the other hand, does not actually address any group’s beliefs about science or about scientists or about the connections between science and politics–unless I’m missing something quite obvious.

[1] not to mention neoliberal and socially libertarian

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bianca steele 03.31.12 at 5:50 pm

I mean of course “Politically Incorrect”–posting on an empty stomach again.

142

Norwegian Guy 03.31.12 at 6:33 pm

the European right which has its roots in Fascism being much more extreme than the US right stands.”

While I agree with you that probably every European country have less liberal immigration policies than the US, the relative levels of racism on the respective right wings will depend on the cut-off point in time. In 1968, i.e. just missing your four decades in comment #17, George Wallace got 13,5% of the votes in the presidential election. This would have been a quite good result for a European far right candidate – 34 years later Le Pen got 16,9% in the first round and 17,8% in the second round of the French presidential election. There are parts of the American right that has its roots in Jim Crow Apartheid, which in many ways were as racist as some parts of European fascism were. On the other hand, if you move the cut-off point back before 1945 the European far right would become the most racist one again.

My impression is that the levels of concern/opposition to immigration in the USA is roughly similar to that in many European countries. Of course, it varies quite a bit between different European countries, though perhaps not to the extent that election results for such parties/candidates do. And many right-wing populist parties in Europe doesn’t really have its roots in fascism. For instance, the Progress Party in Norway are remarkably similar to the US Republicans in both many of their policies and in their voter demographics.

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Chris Bertram 03.31.12 at 7:11 pm

There’s no basis for the assertion that _ius soli_ citizenship regimes as such are more progressive than _ius sanguinis_ ones: both grant citizenship to some people with a weak claim to membership and deny it to some people with a strong claim. In practice, nearly all Western societies operate a mixture of the two. In any case, generalizations about “Europe” in this respect are just ignorant, since both traditions can be found as the historical default, depending on the country. Plenty of people die trying to get across the Med, and plenty of people die trying to get from Mexico to the US. Both sets of deaths are disgusting.

The people trying to claim that there isn’t a US equivalent of Le Pen: well that’s an impossible claim to judge because you can always narrow or broaden the criteria for being a “Le Pen” … but are xenophobic white nativists a significant part of the Republican base – of course they are. And the politicians who recently enacted harsh anti-immigrant laws in Louisiana and Arizona (and maybe other states too). Do they qualify as Louisianan and Arizonan Le Pens? Modulo some local cultural variation, they don’t look all that different to me.

This isn’t a transatlantic pissing contest.

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Kaveh 03.31.12 at 7:19 pm

bianca: I was really thinking of two different things, one is that those are the political attitudes that are within the Overton window, the other is that I think more than just being aggregates of political positions, each of those attitudes has its own hermeneutic assumptions that almost always go with it. Liberals, moderates, and neoliberals tend to underappreciate the connotative function of language.

re the OP, this whole discussion reminds me of something Barthes argued about myth in Mythologies, that myth is essentially a tool of conservatives and fascists, and antithetical to the goals of the left. His definition of myth is semiotic, but it sounds like ‘fast thinking’ referred to above is close to Barthes’ ‘myth’.

I don’t agree with Barthes about myth being conservative, I don’t think there’s anything about social democratic, leftist, or liberal positions that myth is antithetical to, or vice versa. If there is a ‘myth gap’ it’s a historical accident, the aggregate result of choices that have been made.

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asdf2 03.31.12 at 7:27 pm

Discussions of genetic and environmental influences tend to degenerate into disputes that reflect an impoverished model of causality.

To think clearly about this kind of question, one must work within a conceptual framework that takes for granted the ubiquity of multiple causal influences, none of them determinative in themselves, not all known, and having collective effects subject to situational constraints. Without this conceptual framework, sensible, nuanced statements are almost inevitably construed as saying something different, crude, and false. Noise ensues.

For example, in this context, asking for evidence that particular genes cause x generally indicates confusion, as does the idea that genetic predispositions can’t incline people toward y today because y didn’t exist in the past. In general, for any variable human characteristic z, one should assume by default that genetics has an effect on its statistical incidence because genes are deeply entangled in the causes of everything about us. The sign and significance of an effect are legitimate topics for discussion; the idea that there is an effect (though possibly negligible) should need no more defense than that idea that the wind outside today isn’t perfectly still.

Note that regarding the reality of genetic influences (on whatever) as undermining the moral basis for liberalism implies that liberalism is (or should be) contingent on what may be false. This view sets a low bar for justifying evil, and inevitably encourages the left to take a stance on factual, scientific questions based on non-scientific grounds.

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JW Mason 03.31.12 at 8:03 pm

Well that’s an unedifying update. I don’t see how

there’s no such thing as a genetic predisposition to be a conservative/Republican.

isn’t a direct contradiction of

political views are genetically determined

If you want to withdraw the post, that’s great, but you should say so and not pretend you’re just clarifying. Otherwise you risk looking like you suffer from a genetic predisposition to respond to challenges to your beliefs by doubling down. :-)

More to the point, if you believe the first sentence, then you believe Chris Mooney is wrong. You don’t write a post praising his book, you write a post debunking it — or sarcastically mock-praising it, as I had hoped, wrongly it seemed, was what was being done here.

(And yes, I know there was the caveat afterward. But you don’t write “X is true, if only partially and indirectly,” unless you think there is some significant sense in which X really is true.)

More broadly, the idea that the only reason ordinary people could hold conservative views is that their personalities are defective in some way, whether based on their genes or otherwise, is as nice an example as you could ask for of proposing to dissolve the people and elect another one.

As Tom West said upthread,

How about a simple rule that any book, article or post that assumes that any significant segment of the population is less than fully human be dismissed out of hand – full stop.

Personally, for my own peace of mind I’m just going to assume that when John Q. wrote the original post he was drunk. We’ve all been there.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.31.12 at 8:53 pm

What Geo said in 84 about dominant ideology.

But also, if I was one of these ‘conservatives’, I would’ve immediately responded that nothing’s wrong with not ‘trusting’ science, because skepticism itself is a big part of the scientific method. And to that my response is: fair enough.

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Bloix 03.31.12 at 9:08 pm

#117 – “Do you really think that the relative value of scientific and religious knowledge depends only on your upbringing and social circumstances?”

Of course I don’t think that, and I thought I was clear in stating that I believe in science as source of knowledge and I deny that religion is a source of knowledge.

But I also said that I am fully aware of my own state of gross ignorance and I do not claim to have the ability to make independent judgments on the great majority of issues relating to scientific knowledge. I accept scientific knowledge as true because I accept scientists and scientific institutions as sources of authority. That’s not a statement about the value of scientific knowledge. It’s a statement about how I – and, I believe, most educated people – “know” things.

One of things an educated person learns early in education is to associate what he or she has been taught with what is true. We learn to accept that information gained from approved sources of authority is knowledge on a par with information gained from personal experience. From our earliest childhood, we are praised when we master information given to us by our parents and teachers and show that we can repeat and manipulate it in approved ways. And we come to believe that knowledge from certain approved authorities is no different – and may be even more reliable – than knowledge from other sources, such as experience. But not everyone has that sort of upbringing, and not everyone’s parents and teachers have the same approved authorities.

An example:

I know from personal experience that some dogs I have known – a heart-breakingly beautiful samoyed mix, for example – haven’t cared for chasing sticks and balls, while others would do it hour after hour.

I “know” from reading Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, why that is.

But although I accept the two forms of information as both being knowledge, they are not all the same.

I have no competence to judge whether the Coppingers are right, and even if I had the ability to do so, I am never going to devote the time and energy into mastering the debates over canine evolution. The best I can do is to find authorities that seem persuasive to me, and accept them.

I am old enough to have believed things espoused by scientists that were later shown to have been false – not merely false, but terribly damaging. “Refrigerator mothers,” for example, as the cause of schizophrenia. It’s true that they were shown to be false by other scientists. But my acceptance first of their truth, and later of their falsity, had very little to do with my personal powers of reason, and was almost entirely the result of my acceptance of the authority of the mainstream of scientific opinion.

And it seems to me that educated non-scientists are often unaware that their opinions are a result of their acceptance of authority. People who have much less understanding of science than I do seem to think that they have formed independent scientific judgments on questions like evolution, global warming, the biological sources of sexuality, and on and on.

They can’t possibly have done so, any more than they could have an independent judgment on the truth of the theory of relativity, and yet they think they do. And they don’t seem to aware of what it means to know something on the basis of scientific evidence, and what it means to accept that something is true on the basis of acceptance of science as authoritative.

let’s not lose sight of the fact the methods of science do in fact produce truth (to put it rather unhappily), and the methods of revelation, e.g., do not.

149

Bloix 03.31.12 at 9:14 pm

Sorry – that last sentence was another commenter’s comment that I was going to respond to but didn’t have time to get to (and didn’t want to weary other readers with) – it’s not my statement. It’s true (that is, I believe it to be true) but it’s irrelevant to my point.

150

Eli Rabett 03.31.12 at 9:26 pm

All due respect to John and Chris, but this whole thing is bass ackwards. A good place to start is the first comment here “Since there are so few black Republicans”.

There are so few black Republicans because the party, starting in 1964 threw them out. Before the New Deal, blacks were majority Republican. The benefits of the New Deal attracted many of them to the Democrats, but there still was a large core of blacks who remembered the Civil War, the racism of the southern democrats and more.

They were tossed aside when the Republican Party leadership saw the advantage of doing so and attracting the racist core of white Democrats in the south of the US.

The point is not that Republicans are anti-science because they are Republicans, but that the Republican party has reshaped itself to attract anti-science people and repel those who are not (aka RINOs).

Choice, not chance

151

John Quiggin 03.31.12 at 11:52 pm

I think I need a rewrite rather than just an update. I’ll take my time over this and try to get it right next time.

152

Steve Williams 04.01.12 at 12:56 am

Agree with Chris Bertram on ‘the Transatlantic pissing contest’ about who is meaner to immigrants. It doesn’t work, because the situations aren’t really comparable. And it’s not clear what a good comparison would look like, or what good metrics would be. If the case is ‘where is immigration a more salient issue?’, then the answer is clearly Europe (I mean politically salient, rather than empirically salient). Ditto for the location of the most high-profile, clearly anti-immigrant politicians.

However, this isn’t evidence by itself that European political culture is more hostile to immigrants. European politics is more fragmented, with national legislatures of even small countries having as many as half a dozen parties, compared to America’s duopoly. So racists in Europe can be visible without (necessarily) being influential, whereas maybe in America they simply get sucked into the outer part of the Republican ‘big tent’. It does happen that politicians make hostility to immigration a big part of their campaigns; Tancredo’s aborted Republican primary run in ’08, for example. However, the size of the ‘big tent’, and the fact that illegal immigration is actually useful for the much larger part of the tent, big business, means the nativists don’t get anywhere.

Or, maybe, perhaps they drop out of politics altogether in America. This could be a concern if, for example, they took up domestic terrorism instead. Le Pen, Wilders, Griffin – all horrible people, of course, but they all accept the results of democratic elections, and none has, to the best of my knowledge, actually hurt anybody. Maybe, just maybe, in Europe, somebody like Timothy McVeigh might have been a frustrated wannabe MP instead of a domestic terrorist outside the system. In other words, maybe it’s better to keep your enemy right out in the open where you can see him.

Sorry for long-winded thoughts. It’s an interesting question, but in the end I think the two situations, and wildly different political cultures, are too far apart for making any useful final decisions.

153

Matt McIrvin 04.01.12 at 1:13 am

Tom Tancredo is totally the American Le Pen.

154

nick s 04.01.12 at 3:36 am

there has been no equivalent to the popularity of organizations such as the BNP, Vlaams Blok, or National Front in US politics either during the more than four decades I have been alive.

Matt McIrvin somewhat beat me to this, but anyway…

The glib answer is “well, there’s no need, given the existence of the Republican Party.”

The less glib, but functionally similar answer is that American politics structurally enforces a broad two-party system; there has equally been no equivalent to the rise of Die Grünen in the US, but that doesn’t mean environmental politics has had no impact. Positions and statements comparable to those from the BNP/FN/VB can be found without much effort within the elected Republican Party, e.g. gobshite Congress types like Tancredo and Steve King of Iowa, countless state legislators. Challenges from the left and right come in primaries, not general elections; why form a third party when one can benefit from the structural advantages of the two big ones — or even better, dictate the policy of a state party far far away from the tax-sheltered confines of a nonprofit in DC?

As for the main topic, I’m with Bloix, and think that existing models of accounting for how arseholes (figuratively) beget arseholes are more than sufficient.

155

js. 04.01.12 at 4:53 am

This isn’t a transatlantic pissing contest.

CB and various others along the same lines are entirely right of course. But there is still a kernel of truth in what Otto was saying; or somewhere around there. If you put the point quantitatively, it’s going to come out very wrong. But surely it’s true that the historical understanding of nationalism and even of nativism has been quite different in the US than in most of continental Europe, over most or all of the 20th century.

The very particular ways in which questions of national identity in very large parts of continental Europe dovetailed with xenophobia and racism don’t I think have any real correlate in 20th century US history. And given that this history matters, Tancredo is really not Le Pen, nor could there really be an American Le Pen.

156

Sebastian 04.01.12 at 5:22 am

It is kind of crazy to try to compare US immigration and European (whatever that means) immigration. The major countries in Europe don’t come anywhere near the US in long term acceptance of immigrants and even in relatively short terms (1980-1990 or 1990-2000 for example) the US accepts levels of immigration that would, and in fact have caused enormous political problems in Europe. The major counterexample to that broad description would be Sweden, but even there the largest subset of immigrants would be Finnish, providing much less of a cultural contrast between the US and its largest subset–immigrants of Mexican origin. The Swedish political grumblings about Islamic peoples have been triggered at almost a full order of magnitude less than the challenges of cultural integration of Mexican immigrants in the US. And that is taking it as percentages of the whole, if you compare high-immigration Sweden to a regional subset like California, the question isn’t even close.

About 27% of Californians are foreign born. See here

Yes 27%. The Latin American immigrant population *alone* in California, more than half the total, flirts with being as big as all the immigrants in major European countries. California is often compared to France in terms of size of population and economy. French immigrants + those born in France with at least one immigrant parent are estimated to be at about 20% of the population. See here. A similar definition for California would put the number at 49%.

Yes that would be half.

And while the political salience of immigration is certainly above zero in California (with recent attempts to cut off certain social services for *illegal* immigrants though not the majority of immigrants) it doesn’t compare to that of France which has half the amount of immigration.

Trying to suggest that the US is even roughly comparable to Europe in terms of progressive immigration policies over the years is ludicrous. The US is and has been MUCH more welcoming than nearly any European country and it has been MUCH more successful in integrating such an enormous number of people than any of the larger European countries (see especially France and Germany).

And btw, in case it isn’t clear, I think that is a GREAT thing about the US. I wouldn’t change it at all (except maybe to let more people in).

157

bad Jim 04.01.12 at 7:40 am

Mooney’s thesis makes some sense if it’s restricted to America and placed in historical context. In brief, the conservatives of today are much different people than the conservatives of the past. Even Barry Goldwater thought the current crop was rather strange, according to John Dean.

Before the 60′s, the south was solidly Democratic, and arguably economically liberal but socially conservative. The social upheavals of the 60′s, particularly the civil rights movement, caused the south to adopt the conservative label, align itself with the Republican party and largely take it over. This is also described as previously apolitical evangelical Christians becoming a political movement, but it’s largely the same group of people. The typical conservative Republican is now a white evangelical living in a relatively poor or rural state.

The genetic connection seems a bit far-fetched, but to the extent that the phenomenon is regional and associated with static populations, like the south and midwest, it’s not completely implausible. Suppose the population sorts itself in each generation, and the least fearful kids leave town: the risk-takers wind up in the cities or on another frontier, and the authoritarians are left behind. This matches voting patterns pretty well. This is of course not to say that every American conservative is a white southern bible banger, but the converse is generally true.

This goes some way in explaining why conservatives now place less trust in science than they did forty years ago. Back then, most people, including southern Democrats, described themselves as moderates, since their views were somewhat mixed. Most people treat intellectual issues as a contest between authorities and take sides as a matter of allegiance, and science has always carried a faint whiff of impiety, or even the sulfurous reek of a deal with the devil. In the 70′s and 80′s white rural evangelicals took the conservative label and recast it in their own image, and the subjugation of fact to folk wisdom was part of the bargain.

158

Bloix 04.01.12 at 11:08 am

Here’s a great example of a Democrat, Sen. Tom Harkin, who rejects science in favor of his pre-conceived notions of how the world should work (from PZ Myers):

“Sen. Tom Harkin, the proud father of the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, told a Senate hearing on Thursday that NCCAM had disappointed him by disproving too many alternative therapies.

“‘One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short,’” Harkin said.

“The senator went on to lament that, since its inception in 1998, the focus of NCCAM has been “disproving things rather than seeking out and approving things.”

“Skeptics have complained all along that Harkin and his allies founded this office to promote alternative therapies at public expense, not to test them scientifically. Harkin’s statement at the hearing explicitly confirms that hypothesis.”

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/03/an_honest_admission_from_senat.php

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Joe 04.01.12 at 11:26 am

I always thought Pat Buchanan was the American Le Pen; or rather Le Pen is the French Pat Buchanan.

160

chris 04.01.12 at 1:58 pm

Mooney’s thesis makes some sense if it’s restricted to America and placed in historical context.

I think it makes more sense if you don’t. Authoritarianism/the paranoid style/etc. has shown up in many places and times throughout history. The fact that we call it conservatism here and now shouldn’t obscure its fundamental similarity to, e.g., the Taliban, or dictatorships (in general, and including ones that claim to be of the left), or the Inquisition. I can only come up with negative examples, perhaps because I’m not very sympathetic to that point of view, but maybe there’s some society where it’s been a force for good in some sense, too.

A genetic influence on tendency to become an authoritarian broadly defined is plausible in exactly the sort of way that a gene for wanting to deregulate airlines isn’t. (Immigration is somewhat of a middle ground; because of the tribalism and xenophobia that are part and parcel of authoritarianism, a gene for authoritarianism would very likely also be a gene for a more negative view of immigrants and minorities compared to the gene’s alleles.)

161

Chris Bertram 04.01.12 at 4:24 pm

Sebastian, you would have done better to stick with “it is crazy to compare” rather than then moving on to your comparison. The whole question of “who is an immigrant” and who are the non-immigrants is pretty hard to work out. You switch from comparing a continental power to “Europe” then to individual European states. You switch time-frame too: but comparing the historical record of a colonial enterprise like the US (which needed settlers) to the historical record of Europe isn’t all that meaningful either. Are Hispanic people in the SW of the US to be considered “immigrants”? Really? And what about all those French people with Italian or Portuguese surnames? Or Welsh and Irish people living in London? Immigrants, or not?

162

Sebastian 04.01.12 at 5:38 pm

Chris, perhaps you’re misunderstanding.

“Are Hispanic people in the SW of the US to be considered “immigrants”? Really? ” Umm no, so your sarcastic ‘really’ is unnecessary. I used the immigrant + born in country with one immigrant parent statistic *because that is how immigration is talked about and how statistics are kept in places like France*. I then compared it to California (normally considered quite a good one to one comparison if you don’t want to try to compare every bit of the US simultaneously against every bit of the EU) and illustrated that if you use the French statistical definitions you find that 49% would fall under immigrant or child of immigrant (compared to a mere 20% of France).

Now of course in California, we don’t think of children of immigrants as ‘immigrants’ because we think of them as ‘citizens’. Which was Otto’s point. But if we are going to compare immigration impact, it is worth noting that immigrants + children of immigrants in France = political problem of a greater magnitude than JUST immigrants in California. When you compare like to like (20% to 49%) it is clear that France is having a lot more political trouble over a ‘problem’ with much less magnitude. And that is true pretty much everywhere in Europe. Immigration becomes defined as a ‘problem’ at much lower levels than in the US.

Now that may or may not be because of the soil based citizenship rules, I don’t know. But a fact based community can’t just ignore the fact that immigration freakouts happen at a much lower tolerance level in Europe–even today.

“You switch time-frame too: but comparing the historical record of a colonial enterprise like the US (which needed settlers) to the historical record of Europe isn’t all that meaningful either. “

Huh? I’m relatively certain that it is safe for a reader to infer that immigrants now living (my first set of statistics) and immigrants now living plus their children now living (my second set) didn’t show up in the US during colonial times. But if they did, I would suggest what we really ought to be investigating is how they are living more than 250 years, not how they are integrating so successfully into the US.

163

rf 04.01.12 at 6:17 pm

“it is worth noting that immigrants + children of immigrants in France = political problem of a greater magnitude than JUST immigrants in California….When you compare like to like (20% to 49%) it is clear that France is having a lot more political trouble over a ‘problem’ with much less magnitude. “

As someone that had some sympathy with J Ottos point I’d be interested to know how you can reasonably claim this? (Apart from anecdotally)
And how do you respond to Steve Williams point that “European politics is more fragmented, with national legislatures of even small countries having as many as half a dozen parties, compared to America’s duopoly”, which seems a reasonable explanation for the greater role the far right plays in continental politics, and the reason immigration might be more ‘political trouble’. (If this is true)
You also havent responded to the question of what you define as immigration; movements of people within the EU, from the newer Eastern European states, from more ‘cultually similar’ countries outside the EU, or are we taking about Muslims? (Because thats largely who Le Pen and Wilders are talking about)
Where does internal EU migration fit into the above claim? For example the ‘political trouble’ caused by Spanish immigration to Britain is virtually non exsistent. Eastern European immigration to Ireland wasnt.

164

John Quiggin 04.01.12 at 7:33 pm

@Bloix

Harkin’s failure to gain significant support on the left makes him an exception that proves the rule. NCCAM has its problems, but, as Harkins complaints make clear, it’s producing evidence that has helped to reduce faith in alternative medicine. And there has been no general doubling down on the left in response to this, unlike what has happened in comparable cases on the right.

Similarly, with Colin Danby’s reference to the Huffington Post. Huffpo has started running stuff by Seth Mnookin, a leading critic of the anti-vaxers.

165

Bloix 04.01.12 at 8:11 pm

JQ, I didn’t cite Harkin in order to make a “both sides do it” argument. I did it in order to show that liberals do not innately understand the scientific method as a producer of knowledge. Like everyone one else, they have to learn to accept it. If humans have any relevant genetic disposition, it is to reject the scientific method in favor of personal experience and anecdote. Among other things, acceptance of science requires faith in mathematics, and if human beings have any sort of genetic disposition, it’s that mathematics is not innate and its conclusions are not inherently persuasive.

166

Steve Williams 04.01.12 at 8:47 pm

Matt McIrvin@153

‘Tom Tancredo is totally the American Le Pen.’

Yes, that would indeed have been a laughable thing to say, if that was what I actually said. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, not even close. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough in what I wrote (for the record, stated plainly: I don’t believe there are any useful comparisons to be made of the kind ‘who is the American French Politican X’, because as I said, the two political cultures are too different), but my point was simply that it’s not unknown for prominent American politicians to run on anti-immigration tickets.

167

geo 04.01.12 at 9:31 pm

JQ @164: an exception that proves the rule

How, exactly, do exceptions do that?

168

Phil 04.01.12 at 10:07 pm

This may be a folk etymology in its own right – folk-pedantry? – but I’ve always understood that the ‘prove’ in that phrase originally meant to test or try; the exception puts the rule to the proof, as you might say. Which is luminously sensible and doesn’t come with that annoying penumbra of unresolved paradox – the exception doesn’t *confirm* the rule, it *challenges* the rule and makes you stop and ask if you’ve got it right.

169

Chris Bertram 04.01.12 at 10:18 pm

Sebastian:

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/imm_imm_pop_imm_as_per_of_sta_pop-immigrant-population-immigrants-percentage-state

Has several European countries with higher immigrant populations as a proportion of the total population than the US and many more with proportions that are roughly comparable.

170

JW Mason 04.01.12 at 10:27 pm

I always understood the phrase to mean, a seeming exception that on closer examination, isn’t one.

Anyway, I agree wit Bloix that there is no sense in which faith in science implies receptiveness to factual evidence or resistance to arguments from authority. For everyone except scientists within their own specialty, scientific claims are just as based on arguments from authority just as much as religious claims are. Lewontin:

It is certainly true that within each narrowly defined scientific field there is a constant challenge to new technical claims and to old wisdom. … But when scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe about quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution.

Indeed, in good Jamesian fashion, it could be argued that a believing in a religion that you find from first hand experience helps you cope with life is more evidence-based and empirical — more scientific — than believing whatever your physics teacher tells you.

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belle le triste 04.01.12 at 10:37 pm

168: the proof of the pudding is in the eating <– same deal

172

engels 04.01.12 at 11:06 pm

‘believing in a religion that you find from first-hand experience helps you cope with life is more evidence-based and empirical – more scientific – than believing whatever your physics teacher tells you’

It’s a long time since I was at school but I seem to remember physics lessons containing such things as experiments and proofs.

I’m also pretty sure that ‘scientific’ doesn’t mean ‘helps you cope with life, in your experience’.

173

bob mcmanus 04.02.12 at 12:39 am

Jennifer Pitts, A Turn to Empire

This book asks how thinkers’ views about cultural diversity, progress,
and nationality affected their moral and political judgments regarding
non-Europeans. I suggest that a strong conviction of the rationality of all
people and the fundamental reasonableness of all societies was essential
for robust resistance to imperial expansion and rule. Simple belief in
human moral equality proved to be inadequate for genuine respect for
unfamiliar people and insistence on humane and egalitarian relations with
them.

I am really feeling, without quite understanding, a rage for domination among all factions in American politics. So I read…

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John Quiggin 04.02.12 at 12:41 am

To follow up Engels, it is possible to check with reasonable accuracy whether scientists are in fact basing their claims on research done using scientific methods and when they are making authority claims that go beyond that.

Subject to the usual caveats about the fallibility and provisionality of scientific conclusions, I’d accept Wilson as an authority on ants, Gould as an authority on snails, and neither as an authority on humans.

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John Quiggin 04.02.12 at 12:43 am

@Phil (and JWM) That’s exactly right, and how I intended. We look at apparent exceptions and observe that, when considered more closely, they support the proposition in question. Hence, the exceptions “prove” the rule in terms of providing the test, and the outcome of the test “proves” the rule in the ordinary sense of the term.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 12:53 am

Chris, and none within even passing distance of California, right? And California has a relevantly large enough internal politics that we can make fair comparisons to Germany or France, right? Furthermore, lots of people who count as immigrants in France or Germany DONT count as immigrants in California, because everyone born in California is a citizen. Which I’m pretty sure you’re aware of since that is exactly what Otto brought up.

Rf, I’m not sure what you are asking me. You quote me as saying “it is worth noting that immigrants + children of immigrants in France = political problem of a greater magnitude than JUST immigrants in California….When you compare like to like (20% to 49%) it is clear that France is having a lot more political trouble over a ‘problem’ with much less magnitude. “

You ask how I would back that up. It stands for itself, unless you are suggesting that France isn’t having more political trouble over immigration than California. Is that what you are saying? Assuming that you grant that France does have more political trouble over immigration (or even if you grant that it has the same amount), it is clear that California has VASTLY more immigration than France with less (or if we are incredibly generous for the sake of argument, the same amount of) political trouble. I’m not making any particularly strong claims about WHY that is so. Now maybe it is the case that the US can handle immigrants better because we can pack them into places like California and leave places like Montana relatively immigrant free. I doubt it, considering the amazing capability of California to absorb immigrants, but who knows.

“You also havent responded to the question of what you define as immigration; movements of people within the EU, from the newer Eastern European states, from more ‘cultually similar’ countries outside the EU, or are we taking about Muslims? (Because thats largely who Le Pen and Wilders are talking about)”

We can talk about it under any dimension you want and you’re going to have trouble showing any sort of long term trend that competes with the US, even if we restrict it to just the last 100 or 50 years. But if we’re going to talk about Muslims in Europe, the proper analogy is almost certainly Mexicans in the US (recognizably distinct in culture, somewhat resistant to assimilation, rumors of scary youths). And again Mexicans in the US are a dramatically larger presence than Muslims in Europe. And without border citizenship rights (i.e. a German-like definition of citizen) their ‘immigration’ levels would be even higher.

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bob mcmanus 04.02.12 at 12:53 am

To expand on 173, “rage for domination” isn’t right but “irrational drive to Empire or cultural hegemony” is really awkward, That conditions of Empire create imperialistic and hegemonic ideologies with non-rational basis and, perhaps many such ideologies, right, center-right, liberal, far-left, as were created in the second half of the 19th Century…the discourse is feeling sick and violent. Yeah, me too.

Hell, you don’t care. J S Mill and Max Weber didn’t care, didn’t self-examine or reflect on the way to the cliff’s-edge.

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Matt McIrvin 04.02.12 at 1:42 am

Steve Williams @166: I think you read in sarcasm that wasn’t there. I do regard Tancredo as the American Le Pen.

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Matt McIrvin 04.02.12 at 1:44 am

…though Tancredo’s out of office and hasn’t been in the news much lately, so I guess I should nominate Jan Brewer instead.

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Bloix 04.02.12 at 2:22 am

“it is possible to check with reasonable accuracy whether scientists are in fact basing their claims on research done using scientific methods and when they are making authority claims that go beyond that.”

Unfortunately, it really isn’t. I would say why, except that Lewontin (link at 170) already has – I appear to have been unconsciously channeling him all along.

Just to add as an example that there is no way for an ordinary person who grew up in a church and who knows no geology, chemistry, biology, or statistics to reach a considered opinion that people advocating Intelligent Design are not making scientific claims.

“I’d accept Wilson as an authority on ants, Gould as an authority on snails, and neither as an authority on humans.”

But if Wilson is an authority only on ants, then who cares what he thinks – except for the Orkin man, perhaps? And Lewonin (#170) is arguing precisely that people should accept Gould (and not Dawkins) as a general expert on evolution as applied to humans. If you reject Gould, who are you going to recommend to anyone as an alternative to the Intelligent Design people?

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John Quiggin 04.02.12 at 2:34 am

“Just to add as an example that there is no way for an ordinary person who grew up in a church and who knows no geology, chemistry, biology, or statistics to reach a considered opinion that people advocating Intelligent Design are not making scientific claims.”

You really think that? How about, for example, the judge in the Kitmziller v Dover case. He meets all your conditions, AFAICT http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_E._Jones_III

“If you reject Gould, who are you going to recommend to anyone as an alternative to the Intelligent Design people?”

Leakey is the first name that jumps to mind, but I could give you plenty more if you wanted.

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nick s 04.02.12 at 2:48 am

Now of course in California, we don’t think of children of immigrants as ‘immigrants’ because we think of them as ‘citizens’.

Who is this “we”, Sebastian? I don’t think it is “the set of the residents of California”.

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Sebastian H 04.02.12 at 2:52 am

Whoever it is, it is larger than the set of French people who think of the children of immigrants as citizens. And that is precisely my point…

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Steve Williams 04.02.12 at 3:54 am

Mm, trying again for this comment, without the spam-filter attracting link (sorry if it causes a double post).

Matt McIrvin@178

‘I think you read in sarcasm that wasn’t there. I do regard Tancredo as the American Le Pen.’

Ah, sorry, that’s my bad. I shouldn’t be so defensive. And actually, you’re right, Jan Brewer is a much better example of the gains to be had for politicians embracing nativist populism. After passing Bill 1070, Brewer’s personal approval rating in Arizona shot up by a whopping 20%.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 5:49 am

Sebastian. I don’t, as it happens, accept that you can make a fair comparison between individual European nation states and component states of the US. But if I did, it wouldn’t be hard for me to find US states where white nativists have pushed immigration to the top of the political agenda and have passed more draconian anti-immigrant laws than exist in, say, France. Louisiana and Arizona to name but two.

And yes, I was aware that Otto brought up the _ius soli_ rule and made that claim that this made the US more liberal than any part of Europe, and addressed the point above. To repeat, it is simply false to think that one rule is intrinsically more liberal than the other: both ius soli and ius sanguinis deny citizenship to some people who certainly merit inclusion and give it to some people with a weak claim. Most countries employ some mix of the two (both France and the US do). It is possible to come up with a horrendous list of people deported from the US who entered it as infants and who have no adult connection to another state, for example.

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Robert 04.02.12 at 6:00 am

I’ve been convinced by the literature that looks at scientists naturalistically that there is no such thing as the Scientific Method. This has nothing to do with whether or not some arguments are better or not, by the norms of some community in some place or time.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 6:04 am

Quite, and it is a horrible injustice that those who entered as infants in the US are sent to other countries.

But you’re steadfastly refusing to look at magnitude. Yes, you can find bad examples everywhere on any subject. That doesn’t mean you can’t look at and accurately identify trends and tendencies. You refuse to engage in details. I’ve offered quite a few. You appear to want to speak only in very broad generalities.

It may be false that one rule is intrinsically more liberal than another. I doubt it, but you might be right on that level of hyper-generality.

It is a fact however, that the US as a whole has been and continues to be much more liberal on immigration than any of the major European countries.

It is a fact that places like California exist. Places as large as France. Places MUCH MORE populated by immigrants and their children than France. Places MUCH less politically troubled by immigration than France.

You can find a California in the US. You can’t find that level of immigrant integration in Europe.

So much for the reality based community.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 6:05 am

Funny that this level of factual denial would show up in a thread about Republican anti-science.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 6:39 am

_But you’re steadfastly refusing to look at magnitude._

Yes that’s why I posted the link to a statistical table at #169 above. For example.

_So much for the reality based community._

It is telling that you resort to insults now. I don’t deny (for the purposes of this thread) that California is a veritable paradise of immigrant-acceptance. I do, however, affirm that I can find some places in Europe that are more immigrant-friendly than some places in the US. Cherry-picking your pairwise comparisons, as you have done Sebastian, is a poor way to argue for a general thesis though, and it is the general thesis that you sought to advance.

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bad Jim 04.02.12 at 6:43 am

I frankly find it hard to believe that there are educated people who could actually consider the process of science as an authority comparable to revealed scripture. Even if it is outside their area of specialization, they ought to know something about how it works, and in particular they ought to be expected to understand that, in science, an appeal to authority is considered illegitimate.

There have been numerous scientific revolutions within my lifetime. Dark holes and continental drift were once speculative notions but are now key to the understanding of galaxies and earth’s crust. Biology has advanced at a dizzying pace. Keeping track of these changes demands no more than reading skills and a modicum of attention; more to the point, observing the practice puts the lie to the notion that science is just another unquestionable authority of unexamined provenance.

Lewontin was describing a lamentable legal situation, and one in which expert testimony has probably sent innocent people to their deaths, not a model for general intellectual discourse.

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bad Jim 04.02.12 at 7:01 am

And, since in my time zone there are still ten minutes left of April Fool’s Day, to the litany of

* The exception that proves the rule

and

* The proof of the pudding

I’d like to add

* More honored in the breach than the observance

Which in the original appears to mean that it would be better not to do it at all (“it” being a cannonade fired to celebrate the king’s carouse, a practice which the sensitive prince feared would not be approved by the rest of the world).

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Peter T 04.02.12 at 7:13 am

bad Jim has it right on science. Science is not random – it tries for a coherent understanding of the world. So Newton showed that apples and planets and thrown balls obey the same laws – and once he did this is obvious to anyone who takes the trouble to look at any of them (it lets you see why, for instance, a ball moves in a parabola or a two metre fall is much harder than a one metre one). Ditto evolution – you can look at the chicken carcass after dinner with a new eye. Scientific claims can be evaluated by asking how well they cohere. The physicist David Deutsch (The Fabric of Reality) takes the unmathematical (like me) through all the basics on a single volume.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 7:28 am

Oh Sebastian, and just to show that I can do a spurious pairwise comparison involving California ….

California: major immigrant group, from within the regional free-trade area, involved in domestic labour, agriculture and construction. Mexicans. Thousands of whom liable to deportation, blocked at the border, living in fear due to illegal status, thousands actually deported.

UK: major immigrant group, from within the regional free-trade area, involved in domestic labour, agriculture and construction. Poles. Free to live and work and to come and go as they please.

See, it isn’t hard. Does it prove that Europe is more migrant-friendly than the US? Of course not. Can you prove the opposite proposition? No. Like I said, this isn’t a transatlantic pissing contest and, actually, many of the dynamics of the immigration debate are rather similar.

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garymar 04.02.12 at 7:50 am

“The exception proves the rule”. I always thought it indicated that one outlier that the rule didn’t cover. Kind of gives the rule a boundary — so far and no further.

Of course it’s just an expression. “Begs the question” is another such expression. Much as I’m attached to these expressions (like “disinterested” versus “uninterested”) there probably comes a time when they have to be retired. Does that make me a witling, a jackanapes, or a poltroon?

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John Quiggin 04.02.12 at 10:07 am

@garymar Yours is only a minor variant on “the exception tests the rule”

In this case, unlike “disinterested” and “begs the question” the most obvious misreading “The existence of an exception proves the truth of the rule” is too silly to be sustained in normal use, so I think the correct, and useful, but non-obvious meaning will survive, even as the mistake keeps being made.

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LFC 04.02.12 at 11:20 am

Re McManus on Jennifer Pitts, ‘A Turn to Empire’

From the summary of the book on Amazon:

Pitts shows that [19th century] liberal thinkers usually celebrated for respecting not only human equality and liberty but also pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian international politics. Yet such moments represent not a necessary feature of liberal thought but a striking departure from views shared by precisely those late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville saw as their forebears.

Emphasis added.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.02.12 at 12:05 pm

Given that most White Australians supported a total ban on Asian immigration and a the physical as well as legal dispossession of the Aboriginal population not too long ago. I am wondering if Dr Q has any genetic theories as to what changed? Was there as sudden mass genetic mutation among White Australians during the 1960s and 70s that caused them to reconsider their previous racist policies? Obviously older Australians who supported such policies must have been essentially psychologically different from enlightened liberals to the point where rational communication with them was impossible right? So how did Australia survive when for so long most of its population consisted of people that were psychologically beyond the pale to engage with politically? Inquiring minds want to know.

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bob mcmanus 04.02.12 at 12:19 pm

196: 1) I am interested, possibly off-topically, whether (some kind of) cosmopolitanism is an aspect or consequent of Imperialism, extra-territorially

2) But also, I was trying to relate Pitt’s analysis of liberal Imperialism directly to the thread, and JQ’s update does help a little.

“I suggest that a strong conviction of the rationality of all
people and the fundamental reasonableness of all societies was essential
for robust resistance to imperial expansion and rule.” …J Pitts

And Quiggin in his update does essentially say that Republicans, that indigenous tribe irrational unreasonable mostly ineducable, with their alien religion and strange social practices and hostility to modernism…must be ruled by we progressives. It feels familiar.

The usual crowd here will likely not be open to analogizing Republicans/conservatives to the subjects of the British East India Co, or using Edward Said’s tools for understanding those politics, but hey, I study Japan, and somebody can possibly be hegemon and subaltern simultaneously. But I didn’t plan on doing it here until I feel more comfortable with my arguments.

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bob mcmanus 04.02.12 at 12:26 pm

Umm, for the record, not that I disagree. Indeed, Republicans and the territory they control probably must be conquered, subjugated, and ruled. I, too, am an child of Empire.

My guess is that this will bite us elsewhere.

And I think I would rather secede and withdraw.

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sanbikinoraion 04.02.12 at 1:14 pm

“The exception that proves the rule” comes from Cicero; the Platonic form is something like “Shop closed on Tuesdays” indicating that the shop is open every other day of the week. Hence the exception (“not on Tuesday”) proves the rule (“open every day”).

Lucius Cornelius Balbus, later to become Caesar’s secretary and the first non-Italian consul, had been granted Roman citizenship (he was from Gades, i.e. present day Cadiz). Increasingly powerful and widely unpopular, his citizenship was challenged in the courts. Among many arguments, it appears that the prosecutor contended that, since treaties concluded with various peoples included clauses prohibiting the granting of Roman citizenship to their people, Balbus’s citizenship was should also be judged illegal by a generalization of that approach, even though no such clause was present in the treaty with Gades.

In response, Cicero successfully contended, that, since these prohibitions were clearly exceptions to the general policy, it could be inferred that there was no general prohibition on conferring citizenship on foreigners, but that on the contrary it was quite permissible: “if an excepting clause makes it impermissible, where there is no excepting clause, then it is necessary that it is permissible.”

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sanbikinoraion 04.02.12 at 1:15 pm

… and that blockquote was meant to stretch to the end of my comment. If a moderator would like to fix that then delete this comment I’d be grateful.

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Bloix 04.02.12 at 1:52 pm

Judge Jones (in Kitzmiller) sat through weeks of trial testimony and then wrote a 139 page opinion. He was paid to devote the necessary and time and attention to reach a reasoned conclusion. He’s far from an ordinary person.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 3:06 pm

Chris, you seem to be having some serious problems accepting the magnitude of the differences.

First, the immigrant figures you want to rely on are sketchy in the context of a contrast between “born in country citizenship” and “blood citizenship” because in the US, vast numbers of people who would be called “immigrants” in most of the EU are called “citizens” in the US. Breezing right by that obvious problem is just silly. So if you exclude for the US a huge portion of what counts as immigrants in much of Europe you can ALMOST make a few countries in Europe look as welcoming as the US. Magnitude.

Second, cherrypicking part one. Even though I linked it, you don’t seem to accept the enormous magnitude of recent immigrant presence in California. This is revealed when your attempt at counter ‘cherry picking’ goes so horribly wrong. You write “UK: major immigrant group, from within the regional free-trade area, involved in domestic labour, agriculture and construction. Poles. Free to live and work and to come and go as they please.” The Polish population in the UK is about 500,000 and high estimates put it at 1 million. Charitably for your argument we will accept 1 million. The population of the UK is about 62 million. So I will very generously round that up to 2%. On California you offer “California: major immigrant group, from within the regional free-trade area, involved in domestic labour, agriculture and construction. Mexicans. ” Lets compare those actual numbers shall we. Foreign born in California 27% of the population. Mexicans (and ONLY the ones who don’t qualify as citizens by birth in the US) make up almost 14% of the population of California. Add in those with at least one foreign born parent and you get about 25% of the population. In THAT context you can then find that some small thousands of additional illegal immigrants are not allowed. Magnitude. You aren’t even close when invoking the Poles.

Third “cherry picking” part two, you seem to want to object to the use of California (and I presume New York) as discrete or useful subparts. Those cherries are pretty big. California is about 1/7 of the US population. I defy you to find any easily identifiable sub part of the EU which has 27% foreign born and/or 49% foreign born + children of at least one foreign born parent. Cherry picking normally refers to taking a small subpart in one set and ignoring similar relevant subparts in the other set. I’m not taking a small subpart and there exists *no such relevant parallel subpart in the EU*.

Magnitude.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 3:15 pm

_I defy you to find any easily identifiable sub part of the EU which has 27% foreign born …_

London has 33% foreign born.

It is also a pretty big sub-part of the UK (12.5% of the UK population and therefore proportionately similar to California), which, like the US is a state in international law (as the EU is not).

I appreciate your need to nurture your Rumsfeldian fantasies about “old Europe” versus the US Sebastian, but it really is quite pathetic.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 3:23 pm

_I defy you to find any easily identifiable sub part of the EU which has 27% foreign born_

And yes I can do that too. Luxembourg at 38%

Am I not playing fair or something?

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bianca steele 04.02.12 at 3:50 pm

I for one am finding the exchange between Sebastian and Chris Bertram highly enlightening, and that CB’s oppositional stance is exemplary in demonstrating how to further draw a conversational partner. (I hope this was the intention.)

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 4:13 pm

Luxembourg? London? Really? Why not just invoke Vatican City. It is 100% foreign born! Brilliant! Do I get to invoke Los Angeles? New York City? Come on. Interesting that you accuse me of cherry picking and now you are reduced all the way to the city level.

And I’m pretty sure London isn’t 1/7 of the EU. But hey maybe you’re better at math than me.

So with Poles at about 2% in the UK and already rumblings about too many of them, will you suggest that they could get to California’s level of Mexicans (7 times that amount) with no serious political trouble? I suspect not. I also suspect that while you’re quite good at requiring answers you’re noticeably awful at answering even direct questions. So I don’t expect you’ll answer that one either. That is one of the advantages of being a professor, you get to ignore the hard questions.

I note that you’ve ignored the magnitude difference again.

You seem to be quite determined in that. How Republican/science of you.

I can admit that the US could learn a lot from Europe about how to run health care. You’d probably be more effective if you didn’t engage in groupthink about policy sets where the US is demonstrably better. There is no California for immigrants anywhere in Europe. If Poles tried to immigrate such as to become 12% of the population (25% if you include children born in London) we both know that the immigration would get shut down noticeably before it could get to that point.

But I don’t expect you to actually write it. I expect you to pretend I didn’t…

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James 04.02.12 at 4:18 pm

Much of the conflict between conservatives and science revolves around the Liberal idea that findings in a Social Science should hold the same weight as Physics and therefore the results should be acted upon. US centric examples could be gun control, white male patriarchy, spanking, etc, where a fake truth is touted as scientific and therefore a reason to stop all discussion an implement some new law. Since the conservative party already is tarred with anti-science for these cultural reasons, it became much easier politically to ignore the uncomfortable results from the hard sciences.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 4:32 pm

Sebastian: it really is very silly of you to issue challenges like

_I defy you to find any easily identifiable sub part of the EU which has 27% foreign born_

And then to cry foul when I come up with a bona fide example.

To review:

I think it is silly to engage in these pissing contests about US v Europe. You seem intent on doing so. The substance of your argument seems to be to take California as _representative of the US as a whole_ in its friendliness to immigrants and to ignore immigrant-hostile places like Louisiana. (You also seem to want to wish out of existence the strong nativist minority even in California who are keen on border fences and sending illegals home.)

I’m not holding a candle for “Europe” in this conversation (have you even been here ever btw?). Lots of countries in Europe have immigration policies I deplore. But then lots of states in the US have anti-immigrant laws I deplore. In any case, as I tried (in vain it would seem) to point out upthread, because of the very different nature of the associations it is almost impossible to compare like with like.

Should we compare NAFTA to the EU and focus on the permeability of the external borders of those entities? Presumably not. Anyway, there is no free movement of labour within NAFTA (surely a point in favour of Europe). But what about within Europe and within the US? Well Poles moving to the UK isn’t exactly like Oklahomans moving to California. (Though note: when the did try to move en masse, the Californians put up roadblocks and tried to stop them!) .

I’m not unhappy for you to point out the good things about the US in relation to migrants. Just cut out the selectivity put into the service of flag-waving please.

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Sebastian h 04.02.12 at 5:05 pm

So no answer on the Poles in London I take it?

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 5:13 pm

And to be clear, I want to remind you that you are the one who brought the Poles up, I’m merely exploring how bad the example is…

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 5:14 pm

Sebastian it might well be that if Poles in London were to become 12 per cent of the population then there would be a reaction. But you want to make a general point about US attitudes to migration and how they compare to Europe. Since the foreign-born population of Louisiana (which last time I looked was, like California, a US state) is 3.7 per cent and they’re managing to have a full-on nativist panic attack, your general case for US “superiority” can’t be sustained.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 5:16 pm

And the Poles aren’t a bad example. I chose them because they occupy a similar economic niche in the UK to the one Mexican immigrants occupy in the US: construction, agriculture, domestic labour, etc. (A fact you would know if you had any familiarity with the UK at all).

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Steph 04.02.12 at 5:46 pm

I’m glad others brought up Haidt, because I immediately thought of his new book when reading the rewrite and wondered how the two arguments intersect. For the record, I’m skeptical about Haidt’s argument too, for some of the same reasons — what he means by “conservative” doesn’t seem to map onto the US political system well and “conservative” is a category that changes over time — but I’ve also only just started his book, so will reserve judgment.

I continue to think that the issue with science and Republicans and the supposed authoritarian personality common among some conservatives are being conflated incorrectly. I haven’t seen a convincing argument that people reject science because they are authoritarian.

Now, you note that the Republicans effectively use “white tribal/ethnic loyalty.” That seems obviously true, and it’s also true that some people may respond more strongly to these kinds of appeals — that’s consistent with the Haidt argument — and that the Republicans have found a way to appeal to that, rhetorically.

With respect to economic policies, the opposition to so-called “socialism” is hard to square clearly with authoritarianism, as it’s often phrased in terms that sound anti-authoritarian. It’s just that the fear of authority by certain people (the government, the intelligentsia) are used as a basis to give unlimited opportunity to seize authority by others (corporations, the rich). (The government is imagined to favor some groups over one’s own, and to an extent one sees this as less-deserving groups over the deserving, there may be a link with the idea of authoritarianism, but again it seems more complicated.)

I do think some traditional Republicans are more comfortable with the idea that the same old people are in charge, since they see the same old people – rich white men – their kinds of people in some ways. But there’s also a rightwing populist wing that may be ideologically incoherent or substanceless, but also seems to be operating based on different mindsets, including dislike of being told what to do by certain kinds of authorities.

I suspect that I would test high on certain kinds of tests of conservative mindset or personality. I get nervous about change and unintended consequences, I tend to respect authority and structure (which is why I tend to give a decent amount of credibility to scientists, doctors, experts, the legal establishment – the same people I think the right is attacking), I think that people on average are better off when embedded in a society vs. having as much autonomy as possible, even though I value much of the autonomy and opportunity to create my own life that the liberalism of our society has allowed me. But the result of these “conservative” tendencies, under the current political circumstances, is to be threatened by the right and to dislike most of the policy positions taken by the Republicans.

Anyway, given all this, I’m still not sure enough who the authoritarian conservatives are to have a position on whether it is worth engaging with them or not.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 5:49 pm

You’re shifting. The Poles are a horrible example because they are already causing tension at only 2% of the population. I fully endorse the idea that they occupy a similar economic niche in the UK to the one Mexican immigrants occupy in the US. You’re right about that part! No need to be snide about “A fact you would know if you had any familiarity with the UK at all”.

The problem for your argument is that they are causing comparable levels of tension at 1/7 the immigrant penetration. A fact you do know. And that is when I spotted you double the official number of Poles in the UK by giving you the highest informal estimate.

And that is why I suggested you aren’t looking at the magnitude properly. Your comparison isn’t bad because the parallels are bad. The parallels are good. The use of the comparison sucks because Polish immigrants in the UK are already causing serious whining at 2% of the population rather than the 15% you want to compare to for Mexicans.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 5:59 pm

Sebastian: as I’ve reiterated several times, the issue here is your determination to use California as representative of the US as a whole, that’s obviously misleading. Louisiana?

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 6:24 pm

Incidentally, I’d point out another relevant difference in the Poles/Mexicans comparison. The Polish population of the UK has, if we ignore a few thousand WW2 veterans, gone from zero to its present level in ten years. Mexican immigrants in California have been coming and going (and joining their extended families etc) for decades. Indeed they were there before the (white) Americans were. Generalizations about receptivity to migrants across such different contexts just aren’t very meaningful. It isn’t just the level of penetration but the rate of change that matters here. I’d say British society has coped pretty well, on the whole. And certainly much better than Louisiana.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 6:31 pm

California is 1/7 of the population of the entire US. It is more autonomous than cities like London, and easily has its own completely separate ethnic/sociological/cultural dynamics. That isn’t cherry picking, that is taking a well recognized social/political unit and using it as an illustration. The politics of Louisiana have virtually nothing to do with California, while the politics of the UK rather well track onto the politics of the UK.

You chose the illustration of the Poles as a parallel with Mexicans with respect to California. I understand that you don’t like talking about California–though I’m beginning to suspect that it is largely because you don’t like where the facts about it lead, but characterizing it as cherry picking is being dismissive not intellectually curious. California is a political unit, as large as France. It is as economically powerful as France. It has slightly less power in its larger group than France does in the EU. It shares a common currency with its larger political unit. It has its own culture, quite distinct from Louisiana–at least as distinct between those two as between economic/cultural units that you would easily grant me (say Sweden/Germany/Finland/Denmark) and arguably as different as France is from Germany. Essentially you seem to want to complain that it doesn’t have its own army and navy. Ok I grant you that. Brilliant distinction!

In that distinct state, 1/7 of the whole United States, you can find an ASTONISHING amount of immigration. 27% foreign born and 49% foreign born + children of foreign born. And for the most part it functions at least well as your average European state and we have to deal with totally insane Republicans. For the most part, California focuses on integrating its ENORMOUS foreign born population. Now is it an actual paradise on earth for immigrants? No. It exists in the real world with real people and real prejudices. And don’t even start on immigrants from other states in the US–we don’t even count those, even when we think they are weird or undesirable. That is a 37 million person cherry to pick. And you offer individual cities or a bank state like Luxembourg in response? Really? Come on.

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Chris Bertram 04.02.12 at 6:35 pm

Shorter Sebastian: because California assimilates a larger immigrant population than most European states, we ought to conclude that entire United States is massively more immigrant-friendly than anywhere in Europe is.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 6:45 pm

“The Polish population of the UK has, if we ignore a few thousand WW2 veterans, gone from zero to its present level in ten years. Mexican immigrants in California have been coming and going (and joining their extended families etc) for decades.”

Now you’re just falling into stereotyping. The Mexican immigrant population California increased dramatically between 1960 and 1970 (immigration reforms) then almost doubled again between 1980 and 1990, nearly doubled again between 1990 and 2000, and more than 75% of Mexican immigrants arrived within the last 20 years.

So that actually isn’t much of distinction between Poles in the UK and Mexicans in California.

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Sebastian 04.02.12 at 6:47 pm

Shorter Chris: California clearly isn’t social/economic/political unit worth studying about with respect to immigration. Luxembourg however probably has important lessons.

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logern 04.02.12 at 7:16 pm

By the by, the SCOTUS ruling on strip seaches by the conservative majority could mean arrest for civil disobedience could include cavity search. Good thing the Wisconsin protests are over with. (see below) .

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/us/justices-approve-strip-searches-for-any-offense.html?hp

Feel free to delete this comment or put somewhere else. (no pun intended)

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js. 04.02.12 at 7:58 pm

The rewrite is very helpful (thanks!), but still problematic I think, though for slightly different reasons. Take the following two points together:

1. There is a genuinely “conservative temperament” which can’t really be changed (and the latter point is what the appeal to genes stands in for). So:

2. “The political implication, which has drawn some flak in the comments, but which I think is correct is that there is no point in political engagement with authoritarian conservatives.” (quote from JQ)

Here’s what strikes me as a problem. IIRC, some 35-40% of Americans identify themselves as “conservative”. Maybe it’s a bit lower, but it’s at least a 1/3 of the electorate. If (1) & (2) are supposed to be descriptive of this 1/3 or more of the electorate, you have it seems to me given up on democracy entirely.

But presumably, “authoritarian conservative” is supposed to describe some (much smaller?) subset of the above-mentioned 1/3. But how small (and how are we to tell)? More importantly, once this thesis is just about some very small subset fo the population, how interesting or significant is it really? In sum, I think I’ll the reactionary mind over the Republican brain.

(OTOH, I tend to think that almost dilemmas are really false dilemmas, so maybe I’m missing something.)

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Steve Williams 04.02.12 at 8:19 pm

Chris Bertram@216

‘Sebastian: as I’ve reiterated several times, the issue here is your determination to use California as representative of the US as a whole, that’s obviously misleading.’

Yes. This. California is not representative, at all. It has more immigrants, and is more tolerant of those it has. Yet, when it comes time to consider immigration reform at a federal level*, California will still have 2 senators voting on the topic, just the same as Arizona or Louisiana or Alabama. And outside of California, laws clamping down on immigrants are extremely popular. As I noted above, Jan Brewer received an immediate 20% boost in her approval rating for signing Arizona’s recent immigration bill. Before, she was polling in the mid-30s, and after in the mid-50s.

In truth, it may well be the case that America isn’t more hostile than it is to immigrants simply because neither party campaigns – at a national level, at least as a priority issue – on being hostile to immigrants. Often, it’s liberals who complain about party consensus in Washington**, but maybe on this occasion liberals should be thankful for it.

*which could be a long time, since addressing the issue isn’t really in either parties interests.

**for one example – polls regularly show up to 80% of Americans favor treating Israel and Palestine exactly equally in the peace process. It’s a myth that hawkishness on Israel is the only politically viable position. (sorry, not trying to start a conversation on Middle East – just the 1st example that came to my head).

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Steve Williams 04.02.12 at 8:38 pm

Oh, and one final thing on this topic. The fact that California is more welcoming to immigrants than other states is not divorced from the decision-making process immigrants go through in deciding where to live in America. In other words, maybe if the remaining 6/7ths of America were more welcoming, then California’s proportion of total immigrants received might be quite a lot smaller.

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bianca steele 04.02.12 at 8:58 pm

I’ve taken a look at the preview of Mooney’s book, and it’s certainly the case that it would be quite difficult to combine his discussion of temperaments with the argument in Corey Robin’s book (which I’ve almost finished). But Robin does emphasize elements related to personality. The difference may have something to do with Robin’s book being more about ideology than about party politics, and more about powerful individuals than about voters. “Conservative temperament” seems more applicable to voters, something a party will appeal to.

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nick s 04.02.12 at 10:04 pm

California is not representative, at all. It has more immigrants, and is more tolerant of those it has.

And it still includes areas such as the San Diego suburbs, which continues to elect former FAIR lobbyist Brian Bilbray to Congress. The weather’s nice, so I suppose Sebastian’s got that.

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Norwegian Guy 04.02.12 at 10:14 pm

Why not check what surveys of public opinion shows? This and this [pdf] seems to indicate that attitudes to immigration and immigrants are more positive in France than in the US. On the other hand, the UK is more of an outlier in the other direction on many of the questions.

As for jus soli or jus sanguinis, the distinction often isn’t that important. The common way for immigrants to acquire citizenship in Europe is by naturalization, and while the rules are different in different countries it is usually straightforward and relatively easy. But naturalization is hardly uncommon in the USA either.

Regarding Polish immigrants, in many countries that’s not really that large an issue, except among trade unionist and others on the left who fear social dumping. Instead, most opposition to immigration is directed against asylum seekers and other immigrant groups that are considered to more “culturally distant” than what Poles are. Note that many European countries both receive and accept a lot more asylum seekers per capita, and in some cases even in absolute numbers, than the US does.

And I note that if Rick Santorum is nominated, he will surely do much better than Le Pen did in a two-way race. He has embraced the Eurabia-conspiracies of the European far right, and while I’m not sure about his views regarding immigration to the US, he has been complaining that there are too many immigrants in Europe: “Look at Europe. Europe is on the way to losing. The most popular male name in Belgium – Mohammad. It’s the fifth most popular name in France among boys.” If Tancredo or Buchanan is the American Le Pen, Santorum is the American Kjærsgaard.

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Norwegian Guy 04.02.12 at 11:09 pm

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Norwegian Guy 04.02.12 at 11:12 pm

Ah, the HTML and the link got messed up. Trying again:

“The political implication, which has drawn some flak in the comments, but which I think is correct is that there is no point in political engagement with authoritarian conservatives.”

Another conclusion could be, like Bruce Wilder has argued in several other threads, that one of the major problems facing the modern left is its lack of appeal to people with authoritarian inclinations. If a fairly large portion of the population has such characteristics, it’s probably impossible just to ignore them. And appealing to these groups doesn’t have to take the form of Stalinism, social democracy is often considered a relatively authoritarian movement as well. So the particular problems the US left has been experiencing during the last decades could be caused by too much liberalism, and not enough social democracy.

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John Quiggin 04.03.12 at 2:10 am

@js and others. I agree that the conclusion of the post (that one of the two main political parties in the US relies for its core support on authoritarians who are not open to evidence-based arguments) is an unpleasant one. It’s certainly much more convenient for democrats if political power alternates between parties that are not (at least predominantly not) authoritarian and anti-rational.

In political terms, the conclusion I draw is that the only hope is to put the Repubs in the minority, by peeling off people who are not authoritarian by nature or who don’t fit the approved (white, Christian, heterosexual etc) model in one way or another, and to keep them there until some sort of realignment takes place.

As discussed above, lots of people who call themselves conservative do so primarily because everyone else they know is conservative and they don’t think much about politics . Although these people are hard to reach, they aren’t inherently resistant to information, or dogmatically attached to the authorities from whom they get their views. So, for example, the contraception flare-up recently seems to have given lots of women reason to think that conservatism isn’t such a good thing.

So, the group I’m talking about is probably no more than 20 per cent of the population. But that includes most of the activist base of the Repub party, and virtually all of its elected officials who aren’t just Romneyesque careerists.

To toss the question back to commenters who have taken exception to this aspect of the post – do you disagree with this characterization of the Republican base?

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garymar 04.03.12 at 2:34 am

This whole discussion seems dismayingly ahistorical for a Crooked Timber thread. In my own experience everybody changes. Young liberals become crockety old conservatives; children of fundamentalist households transform into lifelong raving progressive atheists. On some axes our children maintain continuity with us; on other axes they become our diametric opposites; and on others they become orthogonal. And then you watch them change as they age too.

So, how permanent is the “authoritarian” personality? Do these traits tend to stay in place a whole lifetime? I see a lot of change in people, but that could just be the confirmation bias of an aging transhuman cosmopolitan metrasexual.

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Salient 04.03.12 at 3:26 am

To toss the question back to commenters who have taken exception to this aspect of the post – do you disagree with this characterization of the Republican base?

…it’s a characterization of evangelicals. Evangelicals are reliably loyal Republicans, sure. But it’s not a personality type so much as a worldview. Arguing that there’s a subpopulation whose personality defect inclines them toward a particular worldview is reasonable enough (and something I’d agree with). Arguing that people with that particular worldview must have that personality defect, though? Or even arguing that they’re likely to have it? …I dunno.

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js. 04.03.12 at 3:53 am

To toss the question back to commenters who have taken exception to this aspect of the post – do you disagree with this characterization of the Republican base?

Well, it’s hard to know what to say to this. If you talk about “temperaments” that “can’t be changed”, I’m thinking about time-horizons on the order of centuries. But of course, major political realignments can happen in 2-3 generations. So, yes, on the one hand, I agree that right now there are large, very large, parts of the Republican base that you couldn’t straightforwardly engage them in rational discourse and thereby expect to persuade them. On the other hand, I do think that what’s more important than simply beating them electorally is building a viable left alternative that can have genuine (mass-ish) appeal, not because it’s demagogic, say, but because—well, sure I’ll say this—it builds class consciousness for example. (Though, while that alternative is being built, please just yes lets fucking beat them (electorally).)

More generally, I guess, the sort of view you’re proposing seems to me to close off the possibility of a genuinely non-demagogic left-democratic politics. And I guess I find this to be unwarranted.

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OutOfTheBox 04.04.12 at 2:27 am

A joiny study by Brookings (lefty think tank) and Hoover (righty think tank) about political polarization found that as individuals we form a nice bell-curve of beliefs as one might expect and that this has NOT changed over the last century.

What they did find is that the two parties are becoming more “pure” when viewed on new-deal style issues.

My own personal theory is that is the proper functioning of a representative democracy — we should expect to pivot on the dominant issue of the day (individual rights vs equality & where do we draw the line) — and stay pivoted until we figure it out.

It happened with slavery — it happened with women’s sufferage — with civil rights — the list goes on.

Some issues are winner-take-all issues… (e.g. the examples above) but I think our current division has a win-win solution. I believe we’ll eventually cap government spending because it’s the only way to be fiscally sustainable… and then the fight will be about priorities intead of promises. And the simple act of forcing congress to prioritize the budget will force congress to help those who need help most and help them in objectively better and better ways as judged by results. That my friends is an economy (ideas chasing limited money) and as it constantly improves its ability to help people in need, people will see that it’s the precise mirror image of capitalism — an economy powered by our collective generosity.

And then we’ll have two “sandboxes” to play in…. the liberty-right will get their capitalism, and the progressive left will get the mirror image — the progressive ideal.

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Andrew F. 04.04.12 at 12:42 pm

This remains a bizarre exercise in confirmation bias, which appears to be driven by an underlying sense that the worst of right-wing talk-radio/bloggers/pundits are exemplary of Republican thinking. The actual data contained in the linked study provide almost no support for an “authoritarian personality” thesis. This is about on par with Robert Nozick’s theory that liberals are so much in favor of strong and paternalistic welfare states because liberals felt more at home, and protected by, the institutional confines and authority of the school – as opposed to libertarians and conservatives, who were more comfortable, and flourished, in the free and fluid environment of the schoolyard and the street.

Just-so stories can be fun for everyone.

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engels 04.04.12 at 1:27 pm

A superlative performance, Sebastian. Bravo!

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