Ashley Herzog

For liberals, the health care debate apparently boils down to the psychological qualities of the two sides. Nice people want socialized medicine, and mean, selfish people don’t. Last week, blogger Amanda Marcotte declared that an individual’s support for the public option—including taxpayer-funded healthcare for illegals—depends on whether that individual developed “a sense of empathy in early childhood.” (Yes, she really said that.)

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As long as liberals are going to play psychologist and turn a serious policy debate into petty speculation about their opponents’ emotional states, they should read “Makers and Takers” by Peter Schweizer. Afterward, they might just shut up about liberals being nicer and more generous than the rest of us.

As the American Spectator’s Richard Kirk wrote, Schweizer presents “peer-reviewed sociological data that show liberals are generally more selfish, more focused on money, less hardworking, less emotionally satisfied, less honest, and even less knowledgeable about politics than their conservative counterparts.”

By studying the highly regarded General Social Survey, Schweizer found that conservatives were much more likely to say they get happiness from putting other’s needs ahead of their own (55 percent to 20 percent), and that they would “endure all things for the one they love” (55 percent to 26 percent).

What was that about “empathy” again?

Conservatives also proved to be less selfish in questions relevant to the health care debate. While 71 percent of conservatives said that they had an obligation to care for “a seriously injured spouse or parent,” only 46 percent of liberals agreed.

No wonder they want the government to do it.

The General Social Survey consistently finds that conservatives give more of their time and money to the less fortunate. For example, conservatives are more likely to volunteer for charitable activities than liberals (27 percent to 19 percent). Arthur C. Brooks, author of “Who Really Cares?” found that charitable donations average $2,210 for conservatives and a paltry $642 for liberals—and that’s after excluding donations to churches and other religious organizations.

And despite their self-righteous posturing, the people aggressively pushing Soviet-lite policies in Congress are the least generous with their own money. Schweizer reviewed tax forms and found that Al Gore gave $353 to charity in 1998—or .18 percent of his income. At least Gore was slightly less stingy than John Kerry, who didn’t give a single cent to charity in 1995. As a percentage of income, left-wing villains Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Dick Cheney have been more generous donors over the years than Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and Michael Moore.

Not surprisingly, liberals score lower than conservatives when quizzed on government and economics, which is probably why they think the health care debate should be a question of who developed “empathy in early childhood.” (In case you had any doubts about Schweizer’s research, he also found that 40 percent of liberals say they value “being popular,” compared to only 26 percent of conservatives. In another column, Amanda Marcotte proved this true when she sneered that being a young conservative “means giving up any hope whatsoever of being cool.”)

At the end of the day, Schweizer concludes, liberals want the government to be generous so they can avoid being generous on a personal level. Let the taxpayers feed the poor, shelter the homeless, even take care of other people’s gravely injured parents and spouses—because they don’t want to.

Remember this the next time a liberal portrays the health care debate as a battle between the selfish and the selfless.

Ashley Herzog

Ashley Herzog can be reached at