Judges are crazy too
Empathy -- sideshow or prelude?

What this country needs is a good spanking


Spank W
hat single factor best predicts who voted for George W. Bush?  

Party affiliation?  Race? Income? Level of education?  

Well, it turns out that one's atitude toward corporal punishment trumps them all.  

At least that's what Jonathan Weiler, co-author of Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, says. Weiler made this assertion in a talk he gave at the Clinton Library back in February 2011.  The correlation between corporal punishment and voting Republican held in the 2008 presidental election as well.

Weiler doesn't think that all Republicans believe "spare the rod, spoil the child."  But he does believe party affiliation reflects the same worldview as one's approach to child-rearing.

Weiler believes the divide in American politics is basically personality-driven.

On one side are people who believe issues are simple, choices black and white, and tradition a reliable guide to action; on the other are people who think issues are more complex, choices less clear, and change inevitable. 

Over the last 40 years, he says, an accumulation of issues -- from race, to feminism, abortion, and gay rights -- have become politically salient.  Where people stand on each issue depends in large measure on their basic sense of right and wrong. And he has the data to back up the assertion. 

What divides us, he believes, is our fundamental notion of how the world should work. At one extreme are people who trust authority, believe in clear moral distinctions, and consider tradition a good guide in making decisions.  At the other extreme are people who think people have to figure things out for themselves, issues are more complex, and change inevitable.  

Weiler terms these fundamentally different worldviews "authoritarian" and "non-authoritarian." He estimates that about 20% of the electorate believes in a maximum measure of authoritarianism, while 10% are at the other end of the pole. That third of the electorate is apparently enough to create political gridlock. 

It's a provocative theory and dovetails with Jonathan Haidt's research on moral foundations, which I discuss in Otherwise.

Unfortunately, Weiler doesn't seem optimistic that there is a bridge across this particular divide. 

 

 

 

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