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Opening Arguments

Happy warriors

Liberals seem depressed by the studies showing that conservatives have the edge when it comes to being happy:

An explanation for the happiness gap more congenial to liberals is that conservatives are simply inattentive to the misery of others. If they recognized the injustice in the world, they wouldn’t be so cheerful.

I suppose that's better than the "ignorance is bliss" argument that conservatives are just too dumb to understand how miserable they should be, but it's still typically condescending. You'd think that "conservatives are happier" would be counterintuitive, since they're the thinkers and liberals are the  feelers, and emotions are what can take us to emotional heights. But what liberals feel is that everybody is getting screwed all the time and only redistribution of everything can make things right; envy is not conducive to happiness. Conservatives think hard work and talent should be rewarded and that people need to take more responsibility for their own actions. The accepting of reality instead of succumbing to the impulse to always change it brings a "truth will set you free" sort of happiness.

Of course I am just as likely as anybody else to be full of it, because I am no less prone to see things through the filter of my own politics; that myopia leads us to conclusions favorable to our own group and dismissive of the other. The answer might be a whole lot simpler. Conservatives are more likely than liberals to be married (53 percent vs. 33 percent), and conservatives who practice a religious faith outnumber religious liberals nearly four to one:

Whether religion and marriage should make people happy is a question you have to answer for yourself. But consider this: Fifty-two percent of married, religious, politically conservative people (with kids) are very happy — versus only 14 percent of single, secular, liberal people without kids.

The most intriguing part of the studies (and the one that might get us closer to the truth of the matter) is that extremists of either stripe are happier than moderates:

People at the extremes are happier than political moderates. Correcting for income, education, age, race, family situation and religion, the happiest Americans are those who say they are either “extremely conservative” (48 percent very happy) or “extremely liberal” (35 percent). Everyone else is less happy, with the nadir at dead-center “moderate” (26 percent).

Uncertainty breeds unhappiness. If you know what you think and think what you know is right, you live with less doubt, which makes you happier with your lot. That doesn't make you right, of course, just certain:

What explains this odd pattern? One possibility is that extremists have the whole world figured out, and sorted into good guys and bad guys. They have the security of knowing what’s wrong, and whom to fight. They are the happy warriors.

That's me, happy warrior, always willing to speak the truth softly in response to someone else being wrong at the top of his voice. Heh.