It’s not easy to sum up the difference between conservatives and liberals in a single sentence, but you might say the difference lies in how we view personal freedom. It’s not everything, but it is definitely a central part of the ideological divide.
Conservatives tend to believe in personal responsibility. Your life is what you make of it. Whether you’re born in squalor or born with a silver spoon in your mouth, it is the choices you make that define your life.
Liberals, on the other hand, believe that circumstances are everything. If you were born poor, you will surely remain poor. If you were born black, you will surely not succeed in a racist society. To them, the man or woman who rises above their station in life is an anomaly. A statistical outlier barely worth mentioning.
But this is all theory and philosophy. Researchers wanted to find out if these differences in ideology could go deeper. And in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they have concluded that there is an interesting link between political philosophy and self-control.
The study was conducted in three separate stages, using more than 300 participants. Lead author Joshua Clarkson said that the studies proved that those who identify as conservative tend to exert a stronger sense of self control than those who identify as liberal. “Conservatives,” Clarkson said, “tend to believe they had a greater control over their outcomes, and that was predicting how they did on the test.”
Conservatives, he found, are driven by a belief in free will. Each individual is responsible for their own outcomes. This belief, he found, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you believe that you have the power to change your own life, you are much more likely to actually do so. This finding could shed light on everything from economic opportunity to dieting.
More than that, it should serve as a clear blueprint to politicians and educators and parents. It serves as a firm rejection of this movement to steal personal responsibility from the culture. We are sliding further and further down the Blame Everyone Else rabbit hole, and it is having a tragic effect on the country. Minorities are told they don’t have a prayer, and they internalize this message.
Clarkson stopped short of saying “conservatives were better” than liberals or those on other points of the political spectrum. He said the study merely provided us with another way of looking at the concept of willpower and self control. Also not addressed in the study is the question of causation and correlation. Are conservatives better able to self-regulate because they believe they can? Or are people with a large reservoir of self control more likely to seek out conservatism?
Either way, the study should impart an unforgettable lesson. The old maxim is true: Whether you believe you can or you believe that you can’t, you’re right.