Sentences to make you angry (or not)

by on April 11, 2011 at 7:00 am in Data Source, Political Science | Permalink

In a recent paper, James Lindgren of Northwestern reports:

…compared to anti-redistributionists, strong redistributionists have about two to three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days they were angry, mad at someone, outraged, sad, lonely, and had trouble shaking the blues. Similarly, anti-redistributionists had about two to four times higher odds of reporting being happy or at ease. Not only do redistributionists report more anger, but they report that their anger lasts longer. When asked about the last time they were angry, strong redistributionists were more than twice as likely as strong opponents of leveling to admit that they responded to their anger by plotting revenge. Last, both redistributionists and anti-capitalists expressed lower overall happiness, less happy marriages, and lower satisfaction with their financial situations and with their jobs or housework.

Further, in the 2002 and 2004 General Social Surveys anti-redistributionists were generally more likely to report altruistic behavior. In particular, those who opposed more government redistribution of income were much more likely to donate money to charities, religious organizations, and political candidates. The one sort of altruistic behavior that the redistributionists were more likely to engage in was giving money to a homeless person on the street.

This is much more to this paper.  For instance, at the U.S. national level, racists tend to be pro-income redistribution on net.  Anti-capitalist attitudes are associated with higher levels of intolerance.  I thank an MR reader for the pointer, I am sorry that I have lost the identifying email.

1 Steve Sailer April 11, 2011 at 7:31 am

Certainly, my experience on the Web is that liberals tend to be full of hate.

2 Andrew Edwards April 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

To try to pivot this into something more productive, can I suggest that “the other side” is always going to seem more spiteful than “your side”, just because you’re more often the target of their ire?

3 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 9:26 am

Ire, eh? Seems like you make the point for us.

4 Neal April 11, 2011 at 9:54 am

That seems pretty reasonable to me.

To add: if you’re hardcore one way, you will always feel like a persecuted minority.

5 DrSandman April 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm

What is it about reading comprehension that is so hard for y’all? People who _self-report_ being angry, sad & lonely are statists, marxists, progressives, socialists, redistributionists, communists, or whatever the Journo-listed cleared term is for people who are against freedom and for agglomoration of rights at the state.

People who _self-report_ being happy are constitutional conservatives; or, you know, extremists.

I am proud to report that I am happy.

6 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 9:19 am

“Certainly, my experience on the Web is that liberals tend to be full of hate.”

Does that mean one has to be a centrist to get the irony in that?

7 Andrew April 11, 2011 at 10:49 am

If you’ve been paying attention, you’d realize there is no irony. Sailer has a take, I don’t read everything, but anecdotally, I can’t recall anyone really grappling with his take. Dirk comes closest 😉 Maybe it’s a strategy- find something your opponents find so heinous that they can’t even come to grips with it. I guess I should instinctively know why I should hate him too, but I haven’t been granted the progressive revealed wisdom yet.

Similar to Steve, I’ve described that the only times I’ve felt like I was rejected as a human being was by liberals for my views. I don’t even hate them for it (certainly not the way they found it convenient to hate me for misunderstanding my point). It was odd. They were very closed minded. I hope it was sampling bias on my part, but it’s never happened in a classical liberal/conservative setting and I’ve dropped some bigger whoppers on pretty insular examples. So to me, “moderate progressive” is much more of an oxymoron.

8 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 11:20 am

I’m glad you’ve only been made to feel less of a human by liberals. I wish I could say that. When you have a centrist view, EVERYBODY treats you as the enemy. Lifelong liberals think I’m a conservative nut-job and vice versa. It’s impossible to please any of them. As you say, it’s maybe more of the sampling and where you choose to discuss your politics, but I’ve seen some very closed conservative minds as well as liberals. Both often don’t even know their own ideologies. The, “My Daddy voted (party), just like my Granddaddy afore him.”, approach to political science.

What I will no longer waste time on is 100%ers of either direction (possibly what you were referring to with Sailer). They’re all short-term thinkers, and in my own experiences short-term thinking is expensive and unproductive. I will, however, read the views of anyone who can find humor in the lunacy. Keep up the good work Andrew.

9 Andrew April 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Don’t get me wrong, the conservatives were closed-minded, they just smiled and went on about their business. With the liberals, I felt lucky to get away with my life.

The idea of ‘centrism’ as a philosophy does confuse me. It reminds me of Keynes’ analogy about newspaper photo popularity contests.

Do you seek centrism, or do you just find yourself there?

10 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 2:24 pm

“Do you seek centrism, or do you just find yourself there?”

Great question. I’ve never really thought about that, but since I’ve never been very good at arriving where I planned, I’m going to go with “finding” myself there.

Centrism isn’t a philosophy to me. It’s realizing that you can see a lot of really good stuff from both sides, but not being wiling to hitch up to one at the expense of chucking the other. My political views are essentially based on the way I successfully ran my own household, i.e. deciding what’s the long-term, pragmatic, realistically best option, while minimizing the emotional distractions? I saved my money and only spent on what I could afford, so I’m pro fiscal responsibility (ergo conservative). I borrowed money to buy the major long-term purchases such as house, cars, etc, so I could get the benefit of what I wanted now at the expense of carrying charges (ergo progressive). I think of education, defense, energy policy and health care as essentials to long-term national success, but I’m realistic enough to know you only get what you pay for. If someone can give me a long-term sound strategy for improving them, I’m willing to listen.

The best one line description of a centrist I can think of is: If you find yourself frustrated that all the partisan bickering on blogs by otherwise intelligent and articulate people is disproportionately higher than the productive stuff you learn, you may be a closet centrist.

11 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 8:59 pm

“With the liberals, I felt lucky to get away with my life.”

Not recommending this, but If you’d like to get a feel for what that’s like on the other side, try discussing gun control in a southwest Virginia bar.

12 Jack Davis April 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm

When you have a centrist view, EVERYBODY treats you as the enemy. Lifelong liberals think I’m a conservative nut-job and vice versa. It’s impossible to please any of them.

I consider myself a centrist too but I have a more optimistic view. I can agree with both leftists and rightists some of the time, so I can be friendly with both sides. We can talk about the issues we agree on and skip the contentious ones. Plus I can date (and have) both liberal and conservative women, which is great.

13 Evan April 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm

My experience is that that is true for a large number of web liberals. However, that might be the effect of the Internet, everyone knows that people can get meaner on the Internet, since they can’t talk to you face to face.

However, I have to say I find that VDare site you post at all the time to be just as hateful and disgusting as the various lefty socialist websites I visited. You personally aren’t like that, your articles tend to be fairly cheerful and display some level of common human decency towards your opponents. But (for example) that Jared Taylor guy you debated with, and that anonymous person who said you were evil for mildly praising interracial marriage, they were both terrifying. You can just feel the slimy hatred exuding from them.

I don’t see why you choose to associate with those people, I’m sure you can do better than them. Maybe the fact that they agree with you on certain issues that are important to you has blinded you to their general lack of basic morality. But they’re really making you look bad. VDare is to immigration what PETA is to animal rights, they both actually make people less supportive of the positions they epouse.

14 David Zetland April 11, 2011 at 7:47 am

Wow. This is a MASSIVE result for in the libertarian v. big state debate…

I don’t think that it applies AS MUCH in countries where redistribution is among similar people (e.g., Japan or Scandinavia), but you can see the root of the “immigrant” problem in these countries with big redistribution networks.

Oh, and what about sneaky redistribution via subsidies, price controls and government purchases (e.g., defense spending in TX)?

15 Jeff J April 11, 2011 at 7:54 am

Ignorance is bliss.

16 Loren F. File April 12, 2011 at 6:46 am

Smile when you say that.


17 a April 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

“For instance, at the U.S. national level, racists tend to be pro-income redistribution on net. Anti-capitalist attitudes are associated with higher levels of intolerance.”

Tyler seems to be really scrounging now. His blog is supposed to be
“small steps for a better world.” When people pointed out that Paul
Ryan’s plan was not very ethical, he asked that people stop
“moralizing” (he attached the adjective “lo-quality”, but I don’t think he
would have liked “hi-quality” moralizing either). Obviously, he’s very
uncomfortable by redistributionalists, and I guess the best spin one
can put on it is that he realizes that, in fact, his anti-redistributionalist
tendencies contradict his supposedly moral urgings; and to keep his
sanguinity, he scrounges for any item against redistributionalists.

Still searching for a superior moral justification of selfishness? Sorry, Tyler, you’re not going to find it.

18 Andrew April 11, 2011 at 8:19 am

Money is just a symbol for something real, right?

19 Andrew Edwards April 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

By the way the author of the paper, i you click through, comes off as almost hilariously biased. Note the title: “What Drives Views on Government Redistribution and
Anti-capitalism: Envy or a Desire for Social Dominance?”

As though those were the only two possibilities.

20 DSDan April 11, 2011 at 9:18 am

That’s a hilarious title. Coming next: “Progressives: Evil or Just Stupid?”

21 Tom April 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Just stupid

22 widmerpool April 12, 2011 at 4:53 am

In my experience they are, although people are good at self-delusion.

23 Brandon Berg April 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm

You’re misreading the title. Understandably, since it’s a bit ambiguous, but this excerpt from the abstract clears it up:

“According to one view, largely accepted in the academic social psychology literature (Jost et al. 2003), opposition to income redistribution and support for capitalism reflect an orientation toward social dominance, a desire to dominate other groups. According to another view that goes back at least to the nineteenth century origins of Marxism, anti-capitalism and a support for greater legal efforts to redistribute income reflect envy for the property of others and a frustration with one’s lot in a capitalist system.”

So in the title, “Social Dominance” refers to the conjecture that opposition to redistribution is driven by desire for social dominance, and “Envy” refers to the conjecture that support for redistribution is driven by envy. It isn’t an assertion that support for redistribution must be driven by one of the two.

What’s interesting about this paper is not that it proves conclusively that leftism is a long-winded rationalization of the “Gimme gimme gimme!” instinct, but that it rebuts the obnoxious assertions from the left that pro-capitalist, anti-redistributionist sentiments are positively correlated with, driven by, or even synonymous with racism and other forms of bigotry.

24 James Lindgren April 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

You wrote:

“What’s interesting about this paper is not that it proves conclusively that leftism is a long-winded rationalization of the “Gimme gimme gimme!” instinct, but that it rebuts the obnoxious assertions from the left that pro-capitalist, anti-redistributionist sentiments are positively correlated with, driven by, or even synonymous with racism and other forms of bigotry.”

Exactly. Most of the differences between redistributionists and opponents of redistribution are small, but they tend to be in the opposite direction from what is generally accepted in academics. in the field, opposition to income distribution is used as a measure of how committed to social dominance (and by implication, racism) one is. That is almost certainly wrong.

BTW, this is not actually a new paper; it was part of my Ph.D. thesis at U. of Chicago.

James Lindgren
Northwestern University

25 Wilson April 11, 2011 at 8:08 am

This is consistent with the Gerber et al study …

… and with my one (libertarian-leaning) anecdotal experiences. My more progressive friends just seem to view every topic as The Most Important Thing Ever, and a failure on the part of the government to ‘do something’ to be absolutely cataclysmic. I’m fairly moderate as far as most libertarians go, but I find the idea that levels of human suffering or economic want consistent with what I might call a ‘boo-boo’ pretty foreign.

26 Andrew April 11, 2011 at 8:24 am

As in the end of the world is coming by us running out of fossil fuels or global warming or….BOTH!!!

27 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 9:11 am

…and even sooner if you do them both at the same time.

28 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 9:10 am

“…fairly moderate as far as most libertarians go”

Isn’t that an oxymoron, like “Baywatch Actress” or “Airline Food”?

29 Michel Michel April 11, 2011 at 8:16 am

Ok, let’s assume that the more you have, the less you want to see redistributed. It seems a quite reasonable assumption under rational behaviour. It is plausible that you’ll be more happy in general, ‘cuz money buys happiness. It’s also likely that you’ll give more to charity.

It has a certain nietzschean flavor (the happy aristocrat, full of good energy VS the angry pauper, full of spirit of revenge) and it’s not completely uninteresting, but of course completely irrelevant for the political debate, where it would be a slightly sophisticated version of ad hominem.

30 Usems April 11, 2011 at 8:44 am

Except your assumption is not correct. Run a correlation of income or wealth against political attitude and it tends to argue slightly for the opposite position or neutral, depending on the study.

A far better explanation is in Bryan Caplan’s “The Myth of the Rational Voter.”

31 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 8:24 am

Given that envy seems to be an important component of the redistributionist fervor, how far behind can anger be?

32 Dean Sayers April 11, 2011 at 8:30 am

How surprising that those who don’t support the extant model of property dispensation might be more angry, and (shockingly) want to take revenge on a social order perpetuating the same. As Michel Michel points out above – you’re probably more likely to have less of a discretionary budget to give to charity in the first place. What’s most infuriating about this solipsistic morality is how cunningly it dodges the very real questions of the extant property order.

Hilariously, a reader comments above how “leftists want the government to do more,” seemingly placing the libertarian milieu on the side of “anti-authoritarianism.” Why is it that sites like are describing the very real power plays occurring in the banking/government systems, while the right wing is stuck on provincial morality?

As I pointed out before – ,a href=””>if you want to know who rules, follow the gold – not your own disinterested morality play that conveniently places property (and the extant graft-order) on the moral high ground.

33 Loren F. File April 11, 2011 at 8:36 am

In late 1930’s Germany were the Socialists and Communists angrier than the dominant political ideology? Perhaps the Mr. Lindgren’s paper just shows that the anti-redistributionists are winning.


34 Anon April 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

The Nazis were redistributionists. But their redistribution went to different people, and some people they wanted to redistribute out of existence.

35 Simon April 11, 2011 at 8:37 am

When the author includes controls for income, the magnitudes of the between racism/intolerance and redistributive attitudes drop by more than 50%. Given that there is substantial measurement error in income (and you’d really want to include permanent income anyway rather than transitory), it seems possible that income is responsible for this entire phenomenon.

Rich people are happier and less frustrated because they have more money. Rich people don’t like redistribution because they don’t want to lose their money. Rich people are more likely to give to charity than poor people because they have more to give away (charitable giving is a normal good). I don’t see what the big deal is; these are not novel findings.

36 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 8:43 am

Why do you assume that it is primarily rich people who are against redistribution? Given that there are far more non-rich voters that rich ones, how do you account for the difficulty that the tax-increase, soak-the-rich tub thumpers (I’m thinking mulp, for example) have in persuading them to vote for tax increases on the rich?

37 Jeff J April 11, 2011 at 9:19 am

Propaganda. It works.

38 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 9:40 am

Oh, I get it. They’re stupid. Let’s add condescion to the list.

39 Jeff J April 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

People are susceptible to marketing and propaganda. If you think that makes them stupid… well, those are your words, not mine.

40 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

No, they aren’t stupid. They are, however, often misinformed, and usually it’s their (including me) own faults. If you choose to get your “news” only from the sources that tell you what you want to hear (right, left, green, radical, extreme, whatever), your only real choice is what flavor of Koolaid do you want to be poisoned by.

41 Popeye April 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Take a chill pill, dude. Is there something wrong at home?

42 Marian Kechlibar April 12, 2011 at 4:11 am

The other side does propaganda as well, and I would count propaganda of leftists as their best product.

In extremis, the former Soviet Union was much better in propaganda than in everything else, including keeping their own population fed and clothed.

43 Simon April 11, 2011 at 9:48 am

Rich people are much more opposed to redistribution than poor people; there is a significant negative relationship between income and redistributive attitudes. You can get that right from the linked paper (Fig. 9). The political economy of redistribution is complicated and has nothing to do with my argument. I did not say anything about the level of support for redistribution, only its gradient with respect to income.

44 Neal April 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

This is very interesting. Caution in interpretation: it would be irrational to, without controlling for potential confounding variables, conclude on the basis of this correlation that redistributionists are intrinsically less emotionally stable and unhappier.

(Would pro-capitalists have been as happy in the USSR as in the US?)

45 Loren F. File April 11, 2011 at 11:59 am

Nope! The results have nothing to do with Capitalists or Communists or redistributionists or anti-redistributionists. It has to do with winners and losers. The losers are always angrier and less happy. That doesn’t mean they are right or wrong though.


46 chris April 11, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Hmm, Loren has a good point. In the U.S., at least, the pro-redistributionists are on a 30-year losing streak at the moment and continuing to lose ground under Obama. Would the same viewpoint/happiness/anger correlation hold somewhere redistribution is having more political success, like Sweden?

47 Andrew Edwards April 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

racists tend to be pro-income redistribution on net

Reminds of the old Engels line that anti-semitism is the socialism of fools.

I’d love to know the definition of “racist” used.

48 celestus April 11, 2011 at 8:49 am

Well, I have heard that one of the core philosophies of liberalism is “everything about the world, as it is, is morally wrong” with the distribution of income being one part of the “everything.” It would be unsurprising for believing the above to be strongly associated with anger.

Interesting that the author rejects the (Hansonian?) thesis of social dominance, though clearly you are using the results of the paper in accordance with that thesis.

49 Andrew Edwards April 11, 2011 at 8:58 am

celestus, I’m not sure that’s a correct characterization of the core philosophies of liberalism. Though I can understand the confusion – I think the cause of your confusion is that when someone pushes an issue to the front of political debate, it’s because they think something is wrong – therefore most of the time people are talking about things they think are wrong.

50 Jamie_NYC April 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

No, I agree with celestus: I’ve heard one former liberal describe his former ideology (or rather, feeling) in therms that “everything is always wrong”. So, it could be that liberals are right, and that bad things that happen in the world are good reason to be constantly angry (see “ignorance is bliss” meme above), although, even if so, you still have to decide what to do about it, or that this anger comes from inside, and they are just finding rationalizations for it (I think that’s what the paper’s author alludes to).

Depends on the problem, I guess. Everyone gets angry sometimes.

51 Andrew Edwads April 11, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Jamie you may be confusing wry self-deprication for a philosophical program. For example, it is very hard to provide a thumbnail summary of Rawls which is “everything is always wrong” without leaving out some rather important bits.

52 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 9:02 am

No, they wouldn’t and many tried to get out of the USSR and other peoples’ republics. These governments usually frowned (so to speak) on such efforts to vote with your feet.

53 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 9:07 am

“Not only do redistributionists report more anger, but they report that their anger lasts longer.”

Would that not depend on whether the “redistribution” is heading in your direction or not?

54 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 9:09 am

I agree that any such evaluation of personality/behavior/political beliefs is problematic. Nonetheless, I do enjoy the “lefties” (can I use that term?) getting there collective pants in a wad over the suggestion that their motives are not as pure as the wind-driven snow.

55 Popeye April 11, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Man you’re angry. Are you mentally ill or something?

56 Jess April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Yes, Rich here displays the sort of corrosive all-encompassing overwhelming blind incapacitating incoherent mind-numbing partisan furious rage that we only see on the part of anti-redistributionists. How can logic and human decency stand in the face of such unthinking anger? Oh yeah the study is obviously a Koch Bro’s plot.

57 Dana April 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

I guess the conclusion we’re supposed to reach is that support for progressive taxation is a sign of mental instability.

Were any of these angry, outraged, mad at the universe, etc., anti-redistributionist Tea Partiers interviewed for this study?

58 joan April 11, 2011 at 9:44 am

Many if not most of the Tea Partiers were not anti-redistributionist, they were just angry because Obamacare took money from Medicare to pay for poor people’s healthcare instead of theirs. People who favor redistribution from young to old instead of rich to poor are still redistributionist

59 Ken S April 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

This may be a good point if it is true. The standard assumptions about social dominance in the current academic literature that the author of this paper speaks about at least give a consistent account of people’s behavior even if its hard to prove it by simply asking them some questions that may or may not be linked to their actual behavior.

60 Dana April 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

This dynamic had occurred to me, but you summarized better than I would have, and I did not appreciate the generational implications. Puts the campaign ads about Obamacare of “forcing seniors out of Medicare and into a government run health care system” in an interesting light.

61 BK, MD April 11, 2011 at 9:35 am

interesting fact: lindgren is a frequent poster at where he had to turn comments off from most of his posts. anyone want to guess why? he was tired of commenters pointing out massive flaws in his partisan hackery. that he wrote a paper like this is no surprise and i will be willing to bet large sums of money that it falls apart with even casual scrutiny given his history.

62 Andrew Edwards April 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

You should read it actually, it’s pretty funny. He actually spends several paragraphs speculating about whether Marx was a closet anti-semite whose socialist thinking was motivated by being indebted to jewish moneylenders. It’s truly a work of art.

63 E. Barandiaran April 11, 2011 at 9:38 am

These days strong redistributionists (or progressives) are asking themselves why we are losing. For example, read

Indeed they ignore the obvious answer –most voters like neither to be looted nor allow other voters to be looted. When discussing taxation, progressives must remember that even if Harberger triangles are small, voters don’t like monopolies that abuse market power to loot them as customers.
Tyler, I hope you provide a serious analysis of the Laffer curve to remind progressives who own the money that voters earn from their present and past work.

BTW, read this post and the comments,0,3556310.story
to know what some progressives think a good solution may be (reading it I got the impression that they are being advised by an Argentine, with a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard).

64 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 9:38 am

Wait a second here! Do you mean to tell me that “redistribution” is a euphemism for moving wealth from the rich to the poor. For decades now, I thought it meant getting the wealth into the hands of the already top 10%. How could I have been so blind? I feel so used.

65 E. Barandiaran April 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

I agree with you that there has been some redistribution of the “Hood Robin” type. That is how politicians in general –progressive politicians in particular– finance their campaigns and enrich themselves. Progressive intellectuals continue preaching to their power-seeking comrades but sooner or later they discover the truth and have no choice but to blame the opposition (read the links in my earlier comment).

66 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 10:54 am

Agreed, but as a centrist, to me it’s glaringly equal on both sides. Both parties have a primary agenda, and it’s to redistribute wealth to those of their ilk, not necessarily their voting base. The voters are only “paid off” for their votes at the lowest price possible. Everything else ends up in the hands of the wealthy either way.

The Democrats have essentially the same M.O., but I’ll use the GOP example only because it’s less subtle: Use power to ensure the top 10% of the population end up with 90% of the wealth (percentages arguable…example only). As a result, 90% of their campaign “financial support”, but only 10% of the vote required to get that power, comes from that “primary base”. That won’t work.. 10% of vote won’t get them elected, so they have to broaden that voter base by getting the middle, upper/lower, middle, sideways, whatever class to believe they will benefit by increased employment from the capital investment by the top 10%. If that isn’t enough votes to sway the centrists and independents to their cause, they have no choice but to stir up the far right, whose only expected pay off is ideologist policy reform. The Democrats are more diverse and complex, but use essentially the same model.

One thing I do know is that Rupert Murdoch cares for the plight of lower-middle-class whites making $40K a year, about as much as the Kennedy’s care for the plight of poor blacks.

67 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

How did the GOP ensure that 10% of the population ended up with 90% of the wealth? Did they set them up in businesses and force people to buy their products? And how does taking less of a cut in a person’s income constitute giving them something? If I confiscate your car, but give you back the iPod that was in the center compartment, would that be a gift?

68 Jamie_NYC April 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

He, he. Rich, you can’t talk like that to liberals. They get… angry.

69 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm


I’m waiting for his answer – it should be interesting.

70 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Oh, that’s easy. Just answer these 3 questions.

1. By what percent of the U.S. population is 90% of the wealth held?
2. Did the policies of the Democrats cause, or positively influence in any way, that to happen?
3. If no, then whose did?

71 Rich Berger April 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm

You made an assertion which I questioned. You dodged my questions, which is certainly your right. I knew you didn’t have an answer.

72 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Sorry Rich. I did answer your question: “How did the GOP ensure that 10% of the population ended up with 90% of the wealth?” You added a couple of analogies to underscore it, but they had nothing to do with my post.

You’ve just had your arms and legs cut off, and now you want to call it a draw. Who are you, the Black Night from the Holy Grail?

73 Careless April 12, 2011 at 8:54 am

By this logic, the Republicans are responsible for the tsunami, too. Those bastards!

74 Tom April 12, 2011 at 10:52 am

In this case, it’s not even a flesh wound.

75 Michael Foody April 11, 2011 at 10:12 am

Being economically marginalized probably makes you more angry and more pro redistribution. That makes sense. It’s also not that surprising that racist attitudes are associated with being poor. I know that the studies controlled for the log of income and found still significant results but with intolerence playing only a small role.
You can’t totally handwave these results, but I think a lot of caution is in order in using these results to convince yourself that your fellow capitalists are the good guys. Being good is a luxury, afforded to you by power, contentment, and happiness. Gratitude is and should be significantly contingent on ones external circumstances being fortunate.

76 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

Well articulated. The only difference between being a “conservative” and a “progressive”, is that the conservative hasn’t yet had his wealth wiped out, business go bankrupt, at the same time one of his kids needed a life-saving, $750K medical procedure.

77 Andrew April 11, 2011 at 11:28 am

But not because the conservative actually did prudent things with his wealth and insurance decisions, right?

78 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Good one. You’re right, I should have worded it differently to make it unbiased. How’s this:

…the conservative hasn’t yet had his wealth wiped out, and business go bankrupt, due to meddling and overtaxing by Nancy Pelosi and her gang of thieves, at the same time one of his kids needed a life-saving, $750K medical procedure. 😉

79 Anotherphil April 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

George Soros, the Kennedys and all the other mega-millionaires in Congress that want to reach in one pocket to put it in another all “had his wealth wiped out, business go bankrupt, at the same time one of his kids needed a life-saving, $750K medical procedure.”

Wow, when did this happen to ANY of them?

80 chris April 11, 2011 at 10:34 am

In particular, those who opposed more government redistribution of income were much more likely to donate money to charities, religious organizations, and political candidates.

Well, that’s obvious. Many people who favor government-mediated redistribution favor it precisely because they believe that individual charity is inadequate or ill-suited to solving what they consider a collective action problem. (In addition to historically being inadequate to the scale of the problem, private charity also has serious free-rider issues and amounts to a disincentive to compassion, which is perverse.) It is neither illogical nor hypocritical of them to refuse to use the tool they consider wrong for the job.

…even aside from the possibility of inadequate wealth controls already pointed out.

…And I notice “political candidates” on that list: if you lump together rent-seeking and charitable activities, I think there is something wrong with your methodology.

More fundamentally, since it’s government that determines the structure of corporations and allows C*Os to enrich themselves with little thought to shareholder, let alone employee or customer, interests, not to mention casting antitrust concerns to the wind so the corporations can become ever larger, the idea that the resulting massive executive compensation packages don’t constitute “government redistribution of income” is a bit suspect. Corporations don’t exist in a vacuum, but with massive and constant state support.

81 dave April 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

What if you don’t consider what someone else thinks is a problem is a problem? Are you a free rider if you simply don’t want to pay taxes to support their vision, even if you disagree with it.

I think its the opposite, liberals have a view of the world they want to force on people and rather then put up the money for it themselves, so they choose to free ride via taxes to pay for it.

82 chris April 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

How can anyone “free ride via taxes”? You think all liberals have no taxable income? The whole point of taxes is to eliminate free riding and make everyone pay a share, including the people with pro-tax political views.

Of course, whether it is worth using taxes to accomplish a particular goal in spite of the wishes of people who don’t want to contribute to that goal is a political question. But liberals don’t attack the legitimacy of *taxes* when their taxes pay to bomb third world countries, they just attack the legitimacy of bombing third world countries.

83 dave April 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm

If a government spending program will benefit you in some way (monetarily, status, even just giving you a warm fuzzy feeling), but it will not benefit others, then forcing everyone to pay taxes to fund it by paying “their share” of your desired expenditures allows you to spend more then your own money, thus free riding to the desired benefit of the spending via others peoples tax dollars.

84 Brian Stube April 11, 2011 at 10:49 am

Part of me wants to post this to reddit politics and watch the down-votes flow in.

85 Nattering Nabob April 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

Yeah! And so unlike those that nice Chris Christie or, y’know, Rush Limbaugh – no anger there… no sirree… just loving kindness.

86 Nattering Nabob April 11, 2011 at 11:01 am

And all those people who’ve lost their homes while banks make out like bandits… so angry. Why can’t they be happier and more satisfied with their lot and and less envious and redistributivist? Like people in the financial services industry are! They’ve never asked for handouts!

87 Neal April 11, 2011 at 11:18 am

Some people are born with handouts, some ask for handouts, and some have handouts thrust upon them!

88 dave April 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

If bailouts are redistribution, wouldn’t you be anti-redistribution if you didn’t like bailouts.

89 Nattering Nabob April 12, 2011 at 10:07 am

Some bailouts are justified (at least as the lesser of two evils) and some taxation
for the benefit of the poor is justified – what’s bizarre is the default spin that the beneficiaries
of the latter policy are improvident deadbeats shaking down the taxpayer, while those
of the former are just made some honest mistakes – noonecouldanode!

90 Nattering Nabob April 12, 2011 at 10:12 am

“the former are just made some honest mistakes” should be “the former are just folks who made some honest mistakes”

91 Jess April 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm

“Some bailouts are justified”

This is absolutely wrong. The only justification for the bailouts was to reimburse Hank Paulson and his friends for the money they had already lost on their terrible investments. The very small benefits that temporarily went to other parties were purely incidental. Only fools and con-men pretend otherwise.

92 SteveX (formerly Steve) April 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm


What about the bailouts to the auto industry? I remember hearing arguments that they should be allowed to go under, because they had failed in the free marketplace. Propping them up was a waste of tax payers’ money.

Now, they’ve turned it around. They’re paying back their debts, and starting to put out better products. Had they been allowed to fail, what would the unemployment rate look like today, and would the economy be better or worse off?

93 Nattering Nabob April 13, 2011 at 12:02 am
94 G April 11, 2011 at 11:34 am

I’m shocked – shocked – that unsatisfied people would want the status quo to change.

Band aids popular amongst those with skinned knees – details at 11.

95 CBBB April 11, 2011 at 11:44 am

But this is obvious, anti-redistributionists tend to be people who have a lot of money and hence few real problems in life.

96 Dan April 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

at the U.S. national level, racists tend to be pro-income redistribution on net

Previous research has found that Ethnocentrism among white Americans does predict higher levels of support for Social Security and Medicare (social insurance programs), but it’s also associated with lower levels of support for welfare and programs like food stamps (which are seen as benefiting poor minorities).

97 Matt April 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Does know one else think this part is the funniest: “The one sort of altruistic behavior that the redistributionists were more likely to engage in was giving money to a homeless person on the street.”?

98 Matt April 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm

*no one

99 Tom April 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Is that a correction, or an answer?

100 Todd Fletcher April 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I’ve experienced this myself. When I was young and stuck in a crappy job, partly because I never finished college, I remember at times feeling a distinct rage at rich people. No doubt it was a means of deflecting attention from the real source – myself. Eventually I got over it, learned a skill and moved up and out. Now I have no sympathy whatever for redistribution.

101 Tony April 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm

It’s easy to be happy and carefree when you have no conscience. Sociopaths are usually fun, cheerful people.

102 Tom April 11, 2011 at 1:54 pm

No, there are usually pretty scary people, like Nancy Pelosi.

103 Darren April 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Has anyone actually read the paper beyond the abstract? I only skimmed it briefly and I’m no expert on study methodology but I it does bring up questions.

1. What’s the justification for using data from the 1985 and 1990 studies only?
2. Only some of the results are statistically significant, when you control for income and education (which he already said are better predictors of racism intolerance) are the results still statistically significant? I’m guessing the sample size isn’t big enough.
3. Why doesn’t he control for age? Generational attitudes would IMO play a bigger role in determining intolerant behavior.

That and just the general attitude taken in his writing should be a red flag.

104 Andrew April 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Who says we have to rejigger our entire worldview based on one paper, and if we don’t rejigger we have to decide the paper has no merit?

105 James Lindgren April 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm

You ask:

“1. What’s the justification for using data from the 1985 and 1990 studies only?”

I used all available GSS data when I started the project (in 2006), 16 studies in all. For some analyses only one year or two years asked the relevant questions, so those are the ones I used (that explains using 1985 and 1990 in some analyses).

“2. Only some of the results are statistically significant, when you control for income and education (which he already said are better predictors of racism intolerance) are the results still statistically significant? I’m guessing the sample size isn’t big enough.”

I reported which results were significant and noted in the abstract: “Similarly, the latent variables traditional racism (Model 3: r=.33) and intolerance (Model 4: r=.36) predict anti-capitalism. Controlling for education, income (log), gender, and age (Models 5 and 6), the effects of the racism and intolerance predictors on redistribution and intolerance are reduced, but remain significant.”

“3. Why doesn’t he control for age?”

As the sentence I quote above says, I do control for age in models 5-6 (figures 9-10).

James Lindgren
Northwestern University

106 idiot April 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I know nobody is going to care, but…it does seem to be that neither the Envy or Social Dominance thesis are incompatible. Those who are rich want to have “Social Dominance” over those who are poor (and could express said dominance through altruistic behavior), while those who are poor are envious of those who are rich.

107 Seth April 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I wonder if redistributionists are more likely to put bumper stickers on their autos.

108 Eric April 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

This paper is ridiculous. In the part on racism, to paraphrase, Lindgren makes the statement: racists favor income redistribution, therefore those who favor income redistribution are racist.

That’s a professor of law making a statement that would get you a failing grade on a high school logic exam. And that’s only one of many gems in this 41 page treat.

Thanks for the laugh, Tyler.

109 James Lindgren April 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

You claim to “paraphrase” me, but then you attack precisely what you added by way of paraphrase (the word “therefore”).

I argue that the evidence tends to show that those who express traditionally racist views tend to favor income redistribuiion and that racist views and redistributionist views are significantly correlated (Table 1). The latter data mean both that redistributionists on average tend to be somewhat more racist and that racists on average tend to be somewhat more redistributionist.

As for making statements “that would get you a failing grade on a high school logic exam,” I think you might want to rethink your point and admit your mistake.

James Lindgren
Northwestern University

110 Jim Glass April 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Did the name “DeLong” jump into anybody else’s mind? (Or “Krugman” for that matter.)

“at the U.S. national level, racists tend to be pro-income redistribution”

Let’s see DeLong report *that* on his blog. 🙂

111 Gabe April 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Did this empirical research change the mind of anyone?

112 Andy Parrott April 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

My hunch is that racists tend to be poor, and poor people tend to be pro-redistribution.

113 mulp April 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm

So, the Tea Party people with their guns and angry anti-government rants and demonstrations are redistributionists?

I just heard a factoid that makes me “angry” about water use in the US: spending on our failing water distribution system in the US is $29B annually while US spending on bottled water is $21B.

One gallon of every six gallons of water processed for drinking is lost in the distribution piping. Spending enough less on bottled water to fix the water pipes would allow a 20% increased population without increasing the amount of water needed.

It is easy to cut the amount of water a city uses in half as has been done in Los Vegas and a large city in Florida to allow the cities to double in size, but this is seen as anti-growth spending and regulation, with the pro-growth people calling for spending on such things as expensive desalinization plants that are subsidized so potable water can continued to be wasted on watering lawns, golf courses, and flushing toilets.

So, if I find wasting water and then having government subsidizing waste so the way water is wasted can stay the same to be frustrating, am I a redistributionist? I am opposed to redistributing the cost of water waste to everyone, as current politics demand in most of the US.

114 dirk April 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I’m an angry capitalist pig. I’m angry about the redistribution of money from young men to old men. I’m angry about all the lives ruined by our stupid war on drugs, both here and in Latin America. I’m angry about the 3 stupid wars we are in and how much that is costing in terms of human lives and wasted resources. I’m angry that my bar tab is so high. It really shouldn’t be so high. They should give me some sort of volume discount or something.

115 Thanatos Savehn April 12, 2011 at 1:19 am

I try lawsuits for a living and have been in the business for 2+ decades. Only one measure of which I’m aware is invariably associated with the propensity of a venireman to award mega-bucks: whether he/she is depressed.

The happiest ditch digger is a better juror (from my civil defense perspective) than the wealthiest bitter banker.

116 Andy April 12, 2011 at 8:23 am

I hardly think that a political contribution by an anti-redistributionist is an altruistic action.

117 Jim April 12, 2011 at 9:38 am

Given all the absurd talk that death-penalty proponents are motivated by vengeance, it is on occasion very worthwhile to point out that “tax the rich” proponents are quite truthfully motivated by vengeance.

118 Tom April 12, 2011 at 11:30 am

To quote a bitter previous presidential candidate- “It’s about fairness”

119 Jason April 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm

“In particular, those who opposed more government redistribution of income were much more likely to donate money to charities, religious organizations, and political candidates.”

I think Chris above gets at my issue, especially with the inappropriate lumping of rent-seeking and charity.

I’d like to add that I think we should consult Robin Hansen; all of these seem like signalling behaviors that have no basis in altruism. “Charity isn’t about altruism.”

The higher degrees of emotional variance in “redistributionists” could result from higher degrees of empathy, more comfort with one’s emotional state or a more complex view of the world. Being just “happy” seems like an over-simplification of life.

120 James Lindgren April 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Personally, I don’t think that giving money to homeless people on the street should count as altruism (because it is probably harmful on balance), but the GSS came up with a set of altruism questions, and I didn’t want to be accused of picking and choosing which ones I thought should count.

Conservatives also were more likely to: “[return] money after too much change,” and help friends by looking “after plants, pets, or mail while [friends were] away.” The list of behaviors is on p 35 of the manuscript.

James Lindgren
Northwestern University

121 JohnP April 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Of course, being happy doesn’t necessarily mean your opinions are right.

122 Michael Carroll April 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Simple. Any interpretation of this that leads us to think progressives are inherently more racist than conservatives is spurious.

Game, set and match.

123 Careless April 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm

What a strange thing to say based on your link.

124 Alan April 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Question: does being unsuccessful or incompetent make one a redistributionist, or do redistributionist views lead one to being unsuccessful and incompetent?

I’m not sure which is the cause, and which is the effect.

125 James Lindgren April 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm

That is a GREAT question and one I’ve been thinking about for a while. As the GSS does more panel studies, I hope to answer that.

Though it’s probably some of both, which is the greater influence?

From looking at some panel data from just 2 points in time, it appears that it might be that on balance the politics tend to follow the success or failure, rather than the other way around, but it’s too soon to tell.

James Lindgren
Northwestern University

126 GaryP April 13, 2011 at 10:45 am

My take:
1) People who are focused on their own lives, working and taking care of their families and themselves, and, are doing so successfully are going to be happier people and they are not going to want the government to run their lives for them. They give to charity because they feel fortunate and what to help other people be happier.
2) People who do not, or cannot, do these things through their own failings (or bad luck) are angry at life and demand someone else take care of them. They are especially angry at successful people (see paragraph 1). They will, even when appropriate, refuse to admit that they have any responsibility for their plight and will not accept that taking care of them is not really anyone’s responsibility but their own (and their family) as would have been the view only a few generation’s ago. They are not ashamed to take charity, they demand it. They frame it as a “entitlement”, not charity, because then they don’t have to feel grateful. Most people that take other people’s money (either by theft or charity) convince themselves that they “deserve it” or the victim is “rich, and won’t miss it.”
In short, self-identified “successful” people are happier and more generous. They don’t want to take from others, they just want to be left alone to live their lives.
Self-identified “failures”, even if they are well off, that aren’t as successful as they feel they should be (hence the angry college professor) want to rob and crush happier people. The dog in the manger syndrome. Often these people have exalted views of their own worth and feel that the world doesn’t appreciate them. They want not only to run their own lives, they want to control others to ensure that they get what is coming to them and that other, less deserving, people are punished and not allowed to be happy.
This is the true divide between liberals (angry, envious people who feel that they should be allowed to dictate every aspect of other peoples lives “for their own good.”) and conservatives (self-confident people who simply want to be allowed to live free and make the best of their lives without being controlled by idiots).
Somewhat simplistic, but this is the basic split between the two mindsets. Conservatives want to exercise their right to “life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness.” Liberals want to control everyone’s lives to ensure that each person gets the amount of life, liberty and happiness that THEY (the liberals) decide each person deserves. Of course, they themselves deserve the best of everything because they are the smartest, most moral, and best people in the world–if only the mean conservatives were killed so everyone could see this fact.
Sorry for the long post.

127 ATGGAATAA April 13, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Tyler, you seem to have an infestation of people whose only notion of progressive political views and motivations are perhaps the most ridiculous strawmen I’ve ever seen. Might want to do something about that. It hardly befits an economist of your import.
As for the study, I have a question for the author. Did you subdivide redistribution and non-redistribution into interest groups to give the data more specificity, like those who who were for redistribution in a specific pattern, or specifically against a certain type of redistribution, and if not, why not?
And, on a side note, did you look at political self-identification?
I will openly admit I have not read the full paper, so my apologies if either of these questions is answered within the portion I did not get to.

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