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Lefties too clever by half

Ideas@TheCentre – The CIS newsletter (Sydney), 5 March 2010

This week’s news held an unpleasant surprise for the world’s conservatives and religious. Luckily for them, they were probably too dumb to understand it.

A long-time study by the London School of Economics (LSE) just revealed that being politically conservative or religious goes hand in hand with lower intelligence. The more respondents identified as left-wing or atheist, the higher their IQ. Conversely, conservative or religious convictions correlated with lower intelligence.

The differences were too large to be random. While young adults who thought of themselves as ‘very progressive’ scored 105 points on average, their ‘very conservative’ contemporaries only managed 95 points on the IQ scale. The gap between the atheists and the faithful was smaller, but the non-believers still beat the religious by 103 to 97.

Dr Satoshi Kanazawa, a psychologist at the LSE, has a simple explanation for these patterns. He believes that more intelligent people were better able to respond to new problems and thus willing to question traditional beliefs and values.

Unfortunately, he did not say whether this was, in fact, an intelligent strategy. True conservatives, at least the barely literate among them, could argue that it is not a sign of great cleverness to fiddle with time-tested institutions such as property rights or civility.

In the same way, we may well wonder about the wisdom behind another of Dr Kanazawa’s findings. In previous times, he said, we only cared for friends and families. But the more intelligent among us had left this ancient pattern behind to reach a higher evolutionary level. Lefties are now ‘caring about millions of total strangers and giving up money to make sure that those strangers will do well.’

This may well explain the left’s support of the welfare state and foreign aid. And yet, at least in historical terms, there is no example of a people becoming prosperous because strangers wanted them to be. Again, conservatives would intuitively understand this, although they may not be able to put this thought into a complete sentence.

The LSE findings may not cheer up conservatives, but they don’t need cheering up anyway. According to another study by the Aarhus School of Business in Denmark, personal happiness is far more widespread among conservatives than among lefties. And yet another study, this time by the University of Florida, revealed that conservatives also have higher incomes than the unhappy left-wing ‘intelligentsia.’ Considering all this evidence, perhaps being a leftie is not such a clever idea after all?

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