Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Psycho Cons

Dan Riehl points to a study by Berkeley social scientists Jack and Jeanne Block:
Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.
At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals. ...


The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity. The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.

Right. And this got picked up by Ben Domenech at the OP (Other Paper), who notes the irony: "Whiny, socially warped, borderline insane - if that's true of conservative kids, how do red states ever find good public school teachers?" (Get it?)

Just as I was preparing to violently fisk this obsolete "pseudo-conservatives are all incipient fascists" crap, I was cruising the Corner and saw that Jonah Goldberg beat me to it:
Ever since Theodor Adorno came out with his scandalously flawed Authoritarian Personality in 1950, liberal and leftist social scientists have been trying to diagnose conservatism as a psychological defect or sickness.
Adorno and his colleagues argued that conservatism was little more than a "pre-fascist" "personality type." According to this school, sympathy for communism was an indication of openness and healthy idealism. Opposition to communism was a symptom of your more deep-seated pathologies and fascist tendencies. According to Adorno, subjects who saw Nazism and Stalinism as similar phenomenon were demonstrating their "idiocy" and "irrationality."
Psychological counseling, many argued, could cure these maladies. But for some it was too late. In 1964, an ad in the New York Times reported that 1,189 psychiatrists determined that Barry Goldwater was not "psychologically fit" to be president.
Exactly. Adorno and the so-called "Frankfurt School" theorists were German leftists who had fled Nazi Germany and spent the rest of their careers in the United States laboring to convince American liberals that every slight uptick in the GOP vote was a sign that brownshirts would soon be goosestepping down Main Street. This left-wing heritage of political paranoia is today carried on by the likes of Michael Moore, George Soros, Ralph Neas, Abe Foxman, Barry Lynn, Barbra Streisand, etc., etc. The weird thing is how a claim so transparently rooted in the Left's irrational fears is never second-guessed by those who take it as gospel when these "experts" say that conservatives are crazy.

Three points:

1. A main reason Adorno & Co. so misdiagnosed the situation is that they came from what my late friend Balint Vazsonyi called the Franco-German tradition. Continental Europe has a completely different political history and philosophical worldview than what Vazsonyi called the Anglo-American tradition. Here's the difference: In England and America, our tradition is liberty. It is liberty which Anglo-American conservatives seek to conserve, not some ancien regime or imperialist tradition. No German intellectual (left or right) in 1933 could comprehend the politics of, say, Sen. Robert Taft because Taft was seeking to preserve a system of ordered liberty that no German in 1933 had ever experienced.

2. Not long ago, I read a nifty little tract by an AEI scholar about criminal recidivism (I've got it around here somewhere, but not sure where), in which the author makes a basic point most people don't understand: Social science can "prove" anything. Set the standard of evidence low enough, don't use "control" groups, fail to account for all variables -- the sloppy, lazy, biased or mendacious social scientist can always find a way to "prove" whatever point he wants to make. To cite just a couple of the most well-known social science hoaxes, Margaret Mead "proved" that Samoans lived in Edenic bliss and Alfred Kinsey "proved" 10% of men are homosexual. You may recall more recently how Michael Bellesiles "proved" that few American colonists owned guns. So anytime you ever read how experts have "proved" something that seems to contradict common sense, trust your common sense.

3. I was a class clown from the time I started school. I am a total non-conformist, and my personality is about as "rigid" as Robin Williams. As a child, I was athletic (playing youth football, baseball and soccer) and adventurous (hunting, camping, Boy Scouts, motorcycle riding). In high school, I was involved in marching band, show choir, and student theater. In college, my chief recreation was chugging pitchers at the Pub. I've sang and played in rock bands, and I'm still a vicious karaoke singer. I've DJ'd in nightclubs and spoken to dozens of public gatherings. Given all these personal traits and life experiences that contradict the theories of these left-wing headshrinkers -- and given the broad diversity of my conservative acquaintances -- I can state without fear of contradiction that Jack and Jeanne Block are full of crap.

Crazy? Sure, I'm crazy, just not that kind of crazy.

-- McCAIN