The Unhappiness of the Left

by Leveret

Following are some indisputably established facts.

Those on the left spend more time in formal education than conservatives do. They earn more money and spend more of their own money on themselves (and give considerably less of it to the needy, incidentally).

But they are much less happy than the conservative-minded, as the American social scientist Arthur Brooks illustrated in Gross National Happiness a few years back.

The left’s response was to cry “Of course! We have empathy and sadness in the face of injustice, whereas conservatives don’t give care and aren’t so troubled.” (see here, for example). This explanation, though very convenient to the explainers, fails to account for the left’s personal miserliness towards those less well off than themselves.

In NRO, Denis Prager posits several alternative explanations here. The whole thing is worth a read but this was the bit that stuck out for me :

Perhaps we are posing the question backwards when we ask why liberals are less happy than conservatives. The question implies that liberalism causes unhappiness. And while this is true, it may be equally correct to say that unhappy people are more likely to adopt leftist positions.

Life is hard for liberals and life is hard for conservatives. But conservatives assume that life will always be hard. Liberals, on the other hand, have utopian dreams. At his brother Robert’s funeral, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy recalled his brother saying: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

Utopians will always be less happy than those who know that suffering is inherent to human existence.

That this touches on ancient truth is supported by the following sayings of Marcus Aurelius:

Very little is needed to make a happy life

Adapt yourself to the environment in which your lot has been cast, and show true love to the fellow-mortals with whom destiny has surrounded you.

What sayeth The Rhetor?


3 responses to “The Unhappiness of the Left

  1. All very well for Marcus Aurelius, he was at the top of his society’s ladder. While I accept that sufering and inequality are inherent truths of the human condition I am not going to discount utopianism out of hand. Without it I doubt we in the free world would find our selves enjoying many of the freedoms we hold dear. As for happiness well that is more about employing yourself in a fufilling manner then which side of the political spectrim you hail from.

  2. But surely the point is that different temperments or dispositions draw people to certain policies?

  3. Also, Marcus Aurelius didn’t have it that well. His son was girly and uninterested in philosophy, whereas the son he really wanted, Maximus, just wanted to go back to Spain. Then, his son killed him, became emperor, restored the games and built the colleseum, whereas Marcus Aurelius wanted to return Rome to SPQR rule, abolished gladitorial combat and gave freedom to the gladiator who later became Maximus’ trainer.

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