November 07, 2016

The strange way Leftist psychologists measure conservatism

Conservatism is NOT simply "opposition to change"

Leftist psychologists have long worked with a concept of conservatism that is very different from what conservatives actually think.  Their idea of conservatism is a caricature.  Their oldest caricature is that conservatives are opposed to change.  Tell that to Trump and his supporters! All the conservatives I know have a whole list of things they would like changed in the world about them.

So where did that strange definition come from?  Easy.  Conservatives oppose LEFTIST changes.  Leftists are all about change and are very authoritarian about it.  Note Mr Obama's aim to "fundamentally transform" America.  If that's not authoritarian, what would be?  So the changes that conservatives oppose are Leftist attempts to boss them around. Mr Trump articulates that.

It's an extreme demonstration of Leftist closed-mindedness that they can conceive of no other explanation for opposition to their policies than a general opposition to change.  The reasons conservatives give for opposing Leftist changes -- e.g. "That has already been tried and it failed" -- are simply not heard or not believed by Leftists.  To them there is no rational reason for opposition to the changes they want.  So opposition to change generally has to be the explanation for what conservatives do and say.

And an inadequate understanding of conservatism leads to dead-ends all the time.  Robert Altemeyer's recent work on "Right-wing authoritarianism" was based on a definition of conservatism as opposition to change and his set of questions ("scale") designed to detect conservatism ended up not detecting it at all.  High scorers on his scale were roughly as likely to be Democrats as Republicans when it came to voting.  Just to rub that in:  The highest scorers on his scale were actually Russian Communists! Altemeyer put a lot of work into his efforts to measure  conservatism but ended up with an abject failure on his hands.  Conservatism is nothing like what he thought it was.

There is actually a larger tradition among psychologists about what conservatives think -- a tradition that goes beyond opposition to change.  Conservatives are also said to have a large body of extreme thoughts about all sorts of things. Some examples:

* Patriotism and loyalty to one's country are more important than one's intellectual convictions and should have precedence over them.

* Treason and murder should be punishable by death.

* The English-speaking countries have reached a higher state of civilization than any other country in the world and as a consequence have a culture which is superior to any other.

* In taking part in any form of world organization, this country should make certain that none of its independence and power is lost.

* Certain religious sects whose beliefs do not permit them to salute the flag should either be forced to conform or else be abolished.

* When the dictator Mussolini made Italy's trains run on time, that at least was an important thing to achieve.

Statements such as the above do draw on tendencies in conservative thought but are expressed in an extreme and aggressive way.  But conservatives are generally rather moderate people so would disagree with such statements.  The first statement could be reworded to attract conservative agreement as:

* Patriotism and loyalty to one's country is important

The last statement would be most likely to attract conservative agreement as:

* "I have never heard of Mussolini"

And so on.  So in their haste to demonize conservatism, Leftists create a set of "conservative" statements that conservatives don't actually agree with!  No wonder then, that agreement with such statements does not correlate with voting conservative.

So the research into conservatism that Leftist psychologists do is not actually about real-life conservatism at all.  They waste their time. They fail to do what they aim to do.  They know nothing about conservatism.

So how come that they keep up such foolish behaviour?  Easy.  Leftists rarely talk to conservatives.  They get their ideas about conservatism from one another.  They live in a little intellectual bubble that is hermetically sealed against the big bad world outside, with all its inconvenient facts.

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