Back in 1993, The Washington Post made headlines by describing religious conservatives as “largely poor, uneducated and easily led.” It was a silly thing to write, but resonated because it seemed to prove what many already believed: Liberals and members of the mainstream media (I repeat myself) don’t think conservatives are very intelligent.
Very little has changed.
“Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice,” announced a recent study by LiveScience.com. Its story was linked to by the mainstream Yahoo! News. “Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice.”
Prejudice is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Jesse Jackson sees it everywhere, while many others are amazed at how little we see these days. So let’s set that aside and focus on the more concrete claim here: That conservatives are dumb, since our beliefs “stress hierarchy and resistance to change.”
Of course, it isn’t conservatives that value obeying hierarchy. “Intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command must still remain the rock upon which states are built,” wrote liberal philosopher William James about a century ago. James was the first to use the phrase “moral equivalent of war,” which spawned a series of government wars: War on drugs, poverty, cancer and so forth. Each war expanded the government’s power over various spheres of American lives.
As Jonah Goldberg wrote recently, James’ student, “liberal philosopher John Dewey, hoped for a social order that would force Americans to lay aside ‘our good-natured individualism and march in step.’”
And here’s the point: Conservative ideas tend to stress individualism. We think people ought to be free to succeed (or fail) on their own merits. Liberal ideas tend to stress a lack of confidence in people.