His post at Big Think on the value orientation of the Tea Baggers versus the Flea Party upholds the truism that “liberals tend to explain both poverty and wealth in terms of luck and the influence of social forces while conservatives tend to explain poverty and wealth in terms of effort and individual initiative.” This is backed by extensive research in political psychology.
But this study from the University of Chicago has another take. It found that in some cases liberals were more apt than conservatives to attribute blame to individuals when a real life situation proffered by the study’s designers involved an outcome offensive to liberal sensibilities. The inverse too, with conservatives putting the onus on structural forces for blame when the individuals implicated indirectly threatened to tarnish a conservative sacred cow. In the former case, a scenario involving cougars running loose being gunned down by police saw the liberals blame the police officers themselves, not the pressure on them to do something drastic lest a civilian get mauled. As for the conservatives, Marines in Iraq accused of killing civilians saw conservative respondents suggesting the fog of war made them do it, if they in fact did it. The authors conclude: “These results suggest that the ideo-attribution effect-and attributions more generally-are shaped by whether people’s attributional conclusions are consistent or inconsistent with their salient values.”
If there’s a fog of war involved here it appears to be a Cultural one.
Unrelatedly, Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek bashes supposed Luddite thinking on the part of writer Adam Simpson in the Taipei Times, who’s critical of the pace of global automation and its effect on labor. But does Boudreaux misunderstand Luddism? Richard Conniff at the Smithsonian Magazine thinks so. According to him:
As the Industrial Revolution began, workers naturally worried about being displaced by increasingly efficient machines. But the Luddites themselves “were totally fine with machines,” says Kevin Binfield, editor of the 2004 collection Writings of the Luddites. They confined their attacks to manufacturers who used machines in what they called “a fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labor practices. “They just wanted machines that made high-quality goods,” says Binfield, “and they wanted these machines to be run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages. Those were their only concerns.”
This doesn’t strike me as completely disconnected from their popular reputation, just perhaps adding a concern for the preservation of fine craftsmanship to fear of lost jobs. But if it’s true that the Luddites were “totally fine with machines,” you can add this to the history of misunderstood labor agitation, ala Upton Sinclair’s efforts to better the working conditions of factory hands being transformed into a plea for organic farming.