Features, Politics, Science / Tech

Are Liberals Dying Out?

By now there is a huge body of literature in behavioral genetics, which shows that pretty much every psychological characteristic we can measure is to some degree heritable. This raises a question that has received little discussion beyond academia – what about political views? Are they heritable? And if so, what does this mean for the political landscape of future generations?

The evidence for the heritability of psychological traits is immense. The authors of a recent meta-analysis published in Nature Genetics looked at 2,748 publications surveying 17,804 traits. They found that “estimates of heritability cluster strongly within functional domains, and across all traits the reported heritability is 49%.”

These results shouldn’t be surprising. If offspring didn’t resemble parents to some degree, evolution as we understand it could not occur. Indeed, according to the Darwinian paradigm, evolution takes place through variation and selection.

Imagine, for example, that you wanted to domesticate a wild animal. Foxes are cute, so let’s talk about them. One thing we know about foxes is that some of them are naturally aggressive, while others are more docile. Suppose you decide to mate the most gentle males with the most gentle females. Do the same thing for a number of generations, and eventually you’ll have an animal that more closely resembles a modern dog than a fox.

As it turns out, the previous example isn’t just a thought experiment. Dogs almost certainly evolved from wolves by a combination of natural and artificial selection as they began to engage with people. A landmark scientific study helped shed light on how modern dogs could be domesticated in a relatively small number of generations. The study showed vividly how assortative mating and differential reproduction can transform the characteristics of a population. When a trait is heritable, and organisms mate non-randomly for that trait, the presence of the trait can become both clustered and accentuated in subsequent generations.

Biology and Ideology

Is political ideology like height and aggression and hair color? Is it heritable?

The answer to this question depends on a couple of things. First, it depends on whether people vary in their political attitudes. Second, it depends on the reason why people vary in their political attitudes. It’s the second question that can be a bit tricky to answer. For starters, it is widely understood that there is a correlation between the political views of parents and their children. But this correlation doesn’t tell us much about the source of the resemblance between parents and offspring. Children could reflect the political views of their parents because they share a location with them, or their parents might influence their child’s political views through social means. Peers might also have an impact. So, how can we pull apart all of these factors which might influence political belief?

The most straightforward way to tease apart genetic and environmental influences on the personality traits that underlie political inclinations is to study siblings, and in particular to study identical and fraternal twins. The advantage of a twin analysis is that you can directly calculate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to some trait, including political beliefs.

In a 2014 study, Peter Hatemi and colleagues analyzed a large sample of identical twin pairs from Australia, Sweden, and the United States. Their results are striking. They conclude that the data collected thus far suggests “genetic factors play a role in the formation of political ideology, regardless of how ideology is measured, the era, or the population sampled.” Their findings are based on questionnaires given to the participants to test personality traits that incline people to put more weight on individualism vs collectivism, or on individual liberty vs material equality. The only exception is a question that explicitly uses the phrase “Left-Right.”

Most individuals have some conception of a difference between “left-leaning” and “right-leaning” or liberal versus conservative beliefs. Even so, people have very different and potentially inconsistent opinions about what the “Left-Right” political spectrum consists of. As Hyrum Lewis has put it recently:

The political spectrum creates confusion. It tells us, for example, that both fascist Adolf Hitler and libertarian Milton Friedman are on the “far right,” yet Hitler advocated nationalism, socialism, militarism, authoritarianism, and anti-Semitism, while Milton Friedman advocated internationalism, capitalism, pacifism, civil liberties, and was himself a Jew.

George W. Bush’s big-government, militarist philosophy is considered “right wing” as is Rand Paul’s small-government, anti-militarist philosophy. We say that liberals believe in free speech and conservatives believe in free markets, yet moving to the “extreme left” means clamping down on free speech (as with Stalin or Mao) and moving to the “extreme right” means clamping down on free markets (as with National Socialism).

Asking people whether they identify as being on the Left or Right, then, is not of much help. Better to be more specific when you can. And although “liberal” and “conservative” are also sometimes used in vague and inconsistent ways, political psychologists argue that these terms tend to correlate with psychological traits like openness to experience, sensitivity to disgust, and a tendency to presumptively respect or reject traditional social structures.[1]

The Demographic Divide

Why is this important to think about?

People are selective, especially when searching for long-term mates. Sometimes we respond unconsciously to fitness cues, as when we find symmetrical features and smooth skin attractive. But we also consciously select long-term partners based on shared values and interests. If people tend to marry those who share their basic values, and if the values that shape our political allegiance are heritable, then a small difference in fertility rates between different populations – that is, the number of children people choose to have – can grow into a large difference in the characteristics of a population over a few generations.

This is something that liberals in particular should worry about. There are fairly noticeable differences between the fertility rates in Red States vs Blue States in the U.S. (that is, in states with high proportions of liberals vs conservatives). Predominantly conservative states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alaska have a markedly higher number of births per capita than predominantly liberal states like Vermont and Massachusetts.

While there is a noticeable difference in fertility between liberals and conservatives, it is not clear why. For example, educated people tend to have more socially liberal political views, either because liberals seek out higher education or because higher education tends to lean in a politically liberal direction. The demographic divide might be partly explained by the fact that religious conservatives tend to be less willing to use contraception, and that they more generally tend to value children and traditional family life. Part of the explanation could also be that people often become more conservative when they have children. There is, after all, some degree of flexibility in political beliefs even if the psychological propensities that tend to incline us in one way or another are partly genetic.

Whatever the best explanation for this broad demographic divide, more specific measures of political ideology are especially worth zooming in on. Right Wing Authoritarianism in particular shows high levels of heritability and is correlated with traditionalism and in-group favoritism, both of which contrast with liberal ideals. Right Wing Authoritarianism is a technical term that political psychologists use to characterize a certain kind of conservatism. An example of a statement Authoritarians agree with is the following:

“Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us”

They tend to agree less with statements like this:

“Homosexuals and feminists should be praised for being brave enough to defy “traditional family values”

Liberals might have a reason worry about the future of politics if conservatives who score high on the Authoritarianism scale are having more children.

Secular liberals might also have a reason to worry about the relationship between religiosity (typically associated with social conservatism) and fertility. According to the most recent demographic projections, the share of individuals with no religious affiliation is projected to decline markedly over the next few decades. As Jonathan Haidt emphasizes:

Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don’t really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources into offspring.2

This is not an argument in favor of conservatism or religious belief. It is only an observation that political orientation is heritable, that religious conservatives tend to have more children than liberals and atheists, and that, as the authors of an influential study conclude, “the heritability of [political] orientation in combination with assortative mating may exacerbate the current [political] divide.”

Of course, it is silly to claim that genes fully determine political ideology. We all know people who have different political views than their parents. Moreover, it may be true that many people take their cue about what to believe from high status people like influential celebrities and university professors. If so, to the extent that elites are (currently) more likely to espouse liberal political views, such views may persist and spread to a greater degree than they would if each person was left to her own devices to form a political identity.

Nevertheless, despite cultural trends, the best available evidence suggests that political ideology is heritable, and that people with liberal personality traits currently have far fewer children than conservatives. If this trend continues, it is possible that the reproductive choices people are making today will influence the political climate of future generations. Over the long run, conservatives could end up winning the ideological contest with fertility rather than arguments.

 

Endnotes:

[1] We defer to political psychologists in using these terms in a somewhat technical way that corresponds closely to the contemporary American usage. Both the authors would describe themselves as classical liberals in the sense that we think individual liberty should be treated as a moral default. But classical liberalism of the kind we endorse – espoused by John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, and J.S. Mill – can be thought of as in some ways liberal and in other ways conservative by contemporary standards.

[2] The Righteous Mind, p. 313

Hrishikesh Joshi and Jonny Anomaly

Hrishikesh Joshi and Jonny Anomaly

Hrishikesh Joshi earned his PhD at Princeton University and will be a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor beginning in Fall 2017. Follow him on Twitter @RoundSqrCupola

Jonny Anomaly is a lecturer in the Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law program at the University of Arizona.
Hrishikesh Joshi and Jonny Anomaly

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Hrishikesh Joshi earned his PhD at Princeton University and will be a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor beginning in Fall 2017. Follow him on Twitter @RoundSqrCupola Jonny Anomaly is a lecturer in the Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law program at the University of Arizona.

63 Comments

  1. Iwan Roszak says

    Not only politics–those interested may wish to look up Cyril Kornbluth’s “The marchng morons.”

    • Clark Hardesty says

      Interesting HOWEVER when “right leaning” policies are attributed to “left leaning” politicians the dems/libs/msm endorse those policies in many instances. So, if it’s Obama doing it, to liberals/dems GREAT regardless (within limits) of what “IT” is. Same policy attributed to Bush or Trump, BAD FOR THE PLANET AND PEOPLE (children and the elderly) WILL DIE.

  2. Santoculto says

    Many ” liberals ” are so foolish, dishonest, hypocritical and arrogant that I see no problem that they will soon disappear. In fact, in a perfectionist eugenic scenario, the psycho-cognitive profile of this group is likely to be drastically altered, maintaining the positive characteristics they may have. Many atheists and agnostics are not really exactly atheists or agnostics, or we tend to confuse them with a more generalized and factually correct type of thinker. Even because to define himself as an atheist, it is only thing you need to say is that you does not believe in the existence of a god. In relation to the rest of matters, you are “free” to believe whatever you want. The biggest and shockingly pathetic problem of self-declared atheists lies in the fact that, as it seems most, believe or use the ”theory”/fact of evolution as an argument against creationism, but:

    – not to apply it among humans and subsequently buying a creationism 2.0, with a scientific appearance.

    Yes, the problem of a demographic increase of conservatives can be a bad thing especially with respect to creativity and its use in society, since being very conventional is almost an antonym to “not be creative, not appreciate creativity” . An exponential surplus of supporters/sustainers & sentinels and society will ossify, will stand stop in time, see the Muslim world.

    On the other hand, a predominantly liberal environment can perhaps select by types that adapt to this environment, not to mention the miscegenation that can have an effect on the increase of “liberalism”, because people of identity minorities tend to identify themselves as such, namely mixed-race people.

    • Santoculto says

      Would be fantastic if this PSEUDO-intellectuals disappear from earth surface… a little goodbye 😉

    • LukeReeshus says

      The biggest and shockingly pathetic problem of self-declared atheists lies in the fact that, as it seems most, believe or use the ”theory”/fact of evolution as an argument against creationism, but:

      – not to apply it among humans and subsequently buying a creationism 2.0, with a scientific appearance.

      Many of those people are not liberals, in the classical sense, but authoritarian leftists—essentially, neo-Marxists. Their psychological profiles tend to cluster around the agreeableness trait, which is why they prefer to avoid arguments and just call people who disagree with them names. “Real” atheists, on the other hand, tend to enjoy a good philosophical scrap.

      As always, political labels can be “vague and inconsistent.”

      • Santoculto says

        Yes, this kind of political label is American. Here in Brazil, liberal has another meaning, completely different from the American especially in the economic aspect. The liberal is just like a centrist, with a strong ” right ” leaning toward social / cultural and economic values, but already heavily affected by cultural Marxism, or at least on average. The liberal here in Brazil is like a moderate Libertarian, although there is also a fluency in relation to this type. The major difference between the typical liberal and the libertarian here in Brazil is that the second go strongly to neo-leftism in terms of individual freedom.

        I do not think that the ideological or political labels are totally inconsistent, only that, depending on the country and the application of the term can become artificially confused. In the US liberal and conservative is especially in behavioral terms, it is emphasized in that sense. In Brazil the term liberal is [more] emphasized from an economic perspective. In Brazil and in other countries it seems that the old cultural Marxism, alike to Italian fascism, is still strong, whereas in the US, cultural neo-Marxism has predominated. Possible explanation: leftists believe that for a very unequal country only the proletarian revolution can eliminate this ‘damn inheritance’. In contrast, in a country like the United States where poverty is not so strong, although it is very unequal, in any case, because it has very rich people anyway, the tactic gramscist seems” more adequate ”.

  3. Jim Austin says

    Are liberals dying out?

    I don’t think so. Rather, liberals have been going leftward. Liberals have long jettisoned free speech in favor of suppressing politically incorrect speech. They’ve caught up with the far left in other ways. Liberals now regard their opponents as evil, beyond the pale of civilized respect.

  4. I do think that the labels are getting in the way of formulating a useful hypothesis.

    It seems reasonable to hypothesize that most adults in their reproductive years who want to reproduce, and who have formed the kind of stable adult relationships that are necessary for successful reproduction, will always favor what is known and stable over what is unknown and possibly unstable.

    It also seems reasonable to hypothesize that if what is familiar and stable is also under attack, those in their reproductive years with a mind to reproduction can be expected to vigorously defend the known over the unknown.

    Really, 5000 years of recorded human history should suggest that loyalty to family, the tribe and and to the native ideology should be as hard wired as anything can be if there is any value at all in the ideal of socio-biology.

    • Anomaly says

      EK: I agree. All of your points are good. The labels are tricky business, and often unhelpful. Even more difficult to deal with is the fact that “conservative” or “liberal” traits don’t always cluster together.

      It may still be worth exploring this line of reasoning though. In Israel, for example, the ultra-orthodox have far higher fertility rates than secular and politically liberal Jews. Who knows if this will have significant effects, but there are reasons to suppose it will.

    • Carla Delastella says

      The biological explanation for why people favour a particuar political ideology is superceded by the economical one. If the status quo is detrimental to my livelyhood i will oppose it regardless of whether i want to procreate or not and if it supports to my livelyhood i will favour it.

  5. I think this is a case of Americans generalizing their own particular situation to the world. In the country of my origin,

    – Many children of nationalists became communists; while today there are a lot of children of communists who are fierce nationalists – while their own children are internationalist liberals;

    – 2 out 3 children of the WW2-era nationalist leader (in the nationalist vs. communist civil war!) joined the communists and denounced their father and brother whose deaths they applauded; the grandson however, became a nationalist politician, denouncing his father and embracing his grandfather’s legacy;

    – The most conservative politician has zero children;

    – The most liberal politician has 4 children;

    – I’ve seen far too many politicians completely change their stated political views (i.e. go from pro-Russian anti-Western extreme nationalist to pro-Western pro-American pro-European liberal) to believe that ideology is deeply ingrained in a large portion of the population.

  6. Erwin says

    The answer to the title is “yes”. And nothing of value will be lost. Liberalism is an end-stage of thinking. It is hypocritical (it excuses islam for behaving in a certain way while blaming christendom for the very same thing), it is very hateful and it there seems to be a strong hive-mind / group-think among liberals. They all claim to be free-thinkers but they always end up thinking the very same thing and hate others for not doing so. History can continue safely without it.

  7. But indoctrination can overcome natural political proclivities. So if liberals control the institutions that inculcate political views, conservatives’ alleged evolutionary advantage isn’t worth much.

  8. Santoculto says

    Conservatives have a very long evolutionary history of conformity/passivity or respect for authorities.

  9. I discussed this matter before:

    Who’s Having the Babies?

    Of course, the rate of change, given the breeder’s equation, is slow. It could theoretically reverse at any time. But indeed, if sustained, we’re headed for a much less liberal future.

  10. Bill Haywood says

    A difficulty I see with the article is that symbols and ideology are so flexible I do not see how you can confidently correlate specific ideas with genes. As the Soviet Union broke up, there were (and still are) die hard communists who wanted to stick with or go back to the old system. So you have people defined as leftists, who are actually trying to conserve the old system. Show me a conservative martinet who’s principal of a high school, and I’ll show you a Soviet commissar sending people to the gulag. Similarly, you have Tea Partiers and Neocons today who claim to be conservative, but are actually attempting radical changes that would return to a past that never actually existed. You have conservatives claiming to believe in individualism, but politically they fight for benefits for their own collective — the rich and privileged. In the 1960s, your young rebel types went up against government militarism, they were leftists. Today, your angriest rebels are libertarians. The same population of middle class whites, but going in different political directions depending on the decade. I don’t dispute that there may be genetic factors buried somewhere in ideology, but the suggestion that a particular creed will rise or become extinct because of demographics I find extremely reductionist. Today’s liberals espouse much the same political positions as Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, who would be a leftist by today’s standards. Symbols shift in meaning too quickly to be tied to genes with any specificity. You may be able to identify some genetic tendencies affecting people’s politics, but it’s gonna have to be a loose connection that can accommodate reversals in meanings that can occur in a single generation. “Conservative” and “liberal” are way to specific and contingent to be tied to genetics, just as you cannot use heredity to explain the difference between Portuguese and Italian.

    • Santoculto says

      ”“Conservative” and “liberal” are way to specific and contingent to be tied to genetics, just as you cannot use heredity to explain the difference between Portuguese and Italian.”

      Next time try ”you cannot use heredity to explain the difference between portuguese and spanish”, 😉

      • Andrew Miller says

        >Next time try ”you cannot use heredity to explain the difference between portuguese and spanish”

        This is not entirely true but it’s much truer than Bill’s claim. I’ve never seen a comment go from “absolutely brilliant” to “criminally retarded” so quickly.

      • Santoculto says

        Even more sense it’s to compare spanish Galicia and Extremadura with Portugal.

  11. Thursday says

    “While there is a noticeable difference in fertility between liberals and conservatives, it is not clear why.”

    I’ll try to find the study, but IIRC this is entirely mediated by traditional gender roles. Conservative women prefer to stay home and have kids.

  12. Carla Delastella says

    “These results shouldn’t be surprising. If offspring didn’t resemble parents to some degree, evolution as we understand it could not occur. Indeed, according to the Darwinian paradigm, evolution takes place through variation and selection.”

    Being flexible in your political ideology would however have a bigger survival advantage than being hardwired from birth to hold a certain political ideology without the ability to adapt it in new environmental circumstances. So, it is not possible to deduce that political ideology must be inheritable and genetically determined on the basis of how the evolutionary mechanism works. It might just as well have evolved the cognitive ability to change one’s political ideology depending on circumstances and on the basis of evidence. Offspring of parents who have the ability to change their political ideology would resemble their parents in that they have the same ability to change it.

    • Jimmy Bobbins says

      Carla Delastella is spot on. I’ll add to that that the authors of this article don’t explicitly state the operationalization of the traits that are being measured (“Conservative” and “Liberal”: what do you mean? How do you measure that? Why don’t you explicitly state the trouble surrounding the demographic instruments you chose?). Are you assuming that ideology isn’t constitutive to conduct, or that it isn’t open to change by means of education? You should really state that clearly because, as of today, none of those thesis have been proven right (or wrong).
      Also, Thursday may have both an appealing and plausible hypothesis to explain the relationship between fertility rates and political views of both groups. I believe you guys might have messed up cause and effect: there is a strong correlation between income/level of education (socioeconomic status) and a wide variety of practices (reproductive and political conducts among them), and according to theory the first explains the second, not the other way around.
      I agree with Stuart Chambers, although your “purely demographic” (?) hypothesis is interesting, your lack of academic rigor is conspicuous.

  13. Stuart Chambers, Ph.D. says

    Hopefully, the authors’ amateurish, ideologically driven thesis was learned from other ideologues; thus, their research interests can change in a different direction with a gram of academic rigor.

    • Dennis says

      How is the thesis ideologically driven? The authors explicitly say this is not an argument for conservatism, or religious belief. And they self-identify as classical liberals. Looks like Stuart Chambers’s inability to challenge specific arguments and instead dismiss the authors as “amateurish” and ideological is himself driven by a desire to find ideology behind everything he disagrees with.

    • Santoculto says

      Good OPINION, know you need argue, preferentially in polite ways. I know your mother gave you a good education, i have faith#

  14. Identifying what’s actually being selected for is a significant issue. For example, almost all women and most men are simply ideological followers, so innate propensity to liberalism is mostly something else. Just to illustrate, I’ll risk reductio ad absurdum and state that, with special relevance given our abysmal fertility, among modern Western women, the willingness to have children is selecting for the biological trait ‘willingness to have children.’ (‘Resistance to an entirely material world view by age 25’ or ‘willingness to submit to a man in everyday life by age 25’ might be two reasonable proxies.)

    Before he died last year, Henry Harpending was very interested in Amish selection. Between their high fertility and their mechanisms for purging the main breeding population of doubters, aficionados of ‘Der English’ lifestyle and other square pegs, the Amish are selecting, very rapidly in evolutionary time, for qualities Henry originally described, along the lines of my own half-joking tautology, as ‘Amishness.’ He later amended that to ‘plainness.’ In any case, perceptive readers will see the difficulty in applying ordinary language to the actual process of selecting for higher or lower proportions of alleles X, Y and Z.

    I would suggest that, to a lesser degree than the Amish, the entire Western branch of the White race, is currently selecting for Henry’s ‘plainness.’

  15. Conservatives are the most Darwinian of all. They are tribal, and conservative groups compete with one another for dominance. Liberals are modern, post-tribal, and less competitive, seeking ways to appreciate people who are different, and cooperate and trade with them. Conservatives lower their numbers through outright war and resistance to social and technological advances. Liberals prevented the Cuba Missile Crisis – the world was on the verge of the ultimate triumph of conservatism in the extinction of the human species.

    • NevskyBaby says

      Is the liberalism that lowers reproductive rates a maladaptive mutation?

      • Good point – not in an overpopulated world. It just becomes necessary to hold conservative barbarians in check. “The taming and domestication of religious faith is one of the unceasing chores of civilization.” -Hitchens

  16. NevskyBaby says

    Hard Darwinian materialists dreaming of that third-child voting block edge for their families in local elections…? Didn’t Chairman Mao once say something about out-f^cking the West? The gay gene did better over time when culture forced it to marry and breed and remain in the closet, letting it spread? From a pure Darwinian view, clearly the gene that replicates most is fittest, even if there is collateral damage to individual survival rates, shortened lifespan, etc. Actually, breeding massively and dying young is best for resource allocation to favor young fertile individuals and ‘weed out’ the unfertile older ones?

  17. NevskyBaby says

    Is there a maladaptive mutation that has spread through Europe and traveled across the oceans, poisoning the gene pool with a religious mania characterized by delusions/fetish of scarcity, enviro-climate impending doom, and, oh what is it called, that doom and gloom outlook that the final days of history are upon us…?

  18. SteveP. says

    also, the birthrate divide is partially based on income. The less well-off believe children are a poor mans riches while happy successful couples dont need to live vicariously thru offspring.

  19. Liberals are by definition, the deviants of society. If science can identify liberal genetics, especially in vitro, we have a real opportunity to allow women to choose to abort deformed fetuses that contain the liberal gene. No one wants a child with violent, sociopathic, sexually deviant, racist tendencies, and aborting potential liberals is a great way to remove them from the gene pool.

  20. Over 20 years ago, James Taranto used this same kind of analysis to show that, but for the “missing voters” due to Roe v Wade, Gore would have won Florida by some 50,000 votes. He dubbed it “The Roe Effect” (Google it). The future belongs to those who show up.

  21. Joe says

    I don’t know what the field of the authors is, because the article doesn’t say. But they are definitely not scientists, and they are worst kind of barely intelligent hacks making a living in academics. The idea that OPINIONS are genetically programmed is completely idiotic. I know there have been some hacks (cited in the article) who have put forth that idea elsewhere, but it is nonsensical.

    “Why would children have similar opinions to their parents? We must study this!”.

    It’s called “learned behavior”. They are taught, and/or gain it by osmosis and imitation.

    They write stuff like this, and then wonder why people don’t buy their claims about evolution and global warming?

    • Dennis says

      Joe: your comment just makes you look bad. The authors clearly deny every proposition you attribute to them. Better to read and reflect, and maybe follow the links to academic papers, before you comment. That way you can engage with the arguments rather than attacking a straw man.

    • neg_entropy says

      You ignored the twin studies. The point being that twins who were separated at birth yet still strongly correlate in political beliefs are a powerful argument for nature OVER nurture.

  22. The problem with this argument is the idea that what we today call ‘liberalism’ is has changed wildly over time. The self-flattering version of liberalism usually used in social ‘science’ in no way resembles either the actual beliefs contained in liberalism nor the temperaments of the people who profess the belief-system. What’s more, the claims to innovation and a love of change are obviously fraudulent, as supposed progressivism has been striving desperately to maintain the status quo for decades.

    It goes even deeper, however; what is there in a progressive or liberal program that cannot be found in Hammurabi’s code? At root all the various versions of socialism are retreads of the same paradigm: God-king/Cult-of-personality + Priestly caste/educated elite + poorly educated commoners who live only to do as their betters tell them. Seems like the same system to me! So in that sense, a progressive or socialist or communist is the true archconservative, looking for a Pharaoh to lead him to paradise.

    THAT bedrock belief-system underlies all leftist thought and could be considered heritable, as it’s had thousands of years to work its way into our genetics. What we call conservatives today are the true rebels, attempting to buck the trend of millennia. Going back to the mean, as liberals desire, with themselves as the educated elite of course, is hardly innovative in any way. We can only be glad that they were so quick to embrace foolish ‘new’ ideas, which makes them less likely to reproduce, and perhaps the experiment of government by the people can survive their most recent attacks. I don’t care whether you call your divine leader Lugal or Imperator or Mikkado or General Secretary of the Communist Party, I don’t plan on bending my neck.

  23. Hannah Katz says

    While the European and European American liberals tend to have few or no children, they seek to replenish their ranks by bringing in third world immigrants who believe in collectivization and have lots of children, so long as someone else is paying.

  24. Universal Analogue says

    In socialist Canada, with its relatively high proportion of irreligionists, liberalist governments are pushing more and more subsidized preschool/daycare programs, ostensibly to get children out from under their parents’ ideological influence, with the aim of earlier statist indoctrination in irreligionist collectivist sentiment. In the most recent federal election, our Liberal party successfully tapped into the indoctrinated leftist youth cohort, along with the potent nostalgia of the gentrifying boomer population that in its youth voted overwhelmingly for our current Prime Minister’s father. Here in Canada, we don’t do a lot of heavy thinking about important stuff; we leave that to the “intelligentsia” who by some genetic miracle seem to know intrinsically what’s best for all of us. In the evolutionary social context, the liberal elites are simply assuring their own long-term economic survival at the expense of the unwitting proletariat.

  25. Wil Golden says

    If I may throw in another factor:

    Think about the results of abortion policy. Who tends to have more – Conservatives or Liberals? My impression is that Conservatives tend to have many fewer abortions than Liberals. Factors for this will be debated – I have an opinion as to why, but do not offer one here, merely what I believe to be an objective fact.

    Therefore, my impression is that Liberals, on top of all the other factors above, are killing off their own “seed corn.” This may in the long run be even more of a factor than red state / blue state, or any of the other factors discussed above.

    For your consideration,

  26. jxxx mxxx says

    How is it that this great article completely missed the impact of abortion on “fertility rates” i.e. more liberals (in blue states or Sweden) are more likely to abort their offspring and in so doing are effectively aborting liberalism

    • Santoculto says

      More formally self declared liberals of non white races, seems.

  27. Jimbino says

    What if what’s eminently heritable is a gene for rebellion against the politics of one’s parents?

  28. Republicus says

    it is quite clear that the left seeks to import 3rd world immigrants to fortify their depleting ranks. Quite rightly, the conservatives are opposed to this.

  29. Republicus says

    the paradox is leftists keep moving to red states to avoid blue state taxes and stagnation, then vote blue in their new states, bringing the taxes and stagnation with them. what is needed is for blue states to start turning red.

  30. Santoculto says

    Liberal believers have no evolutionary agenda, they live a kind of end of (human evolutionary) history as if everything now is possible or even banal to be sustained, specially their own “biological” group at least in terms of physical, physiological and psychological group.

    Highly individualistic people believe that they are the end itself, and not a bridge as was brilliantly exposed by Nietzche. This explain partially why the lower fertility rates and even a chronic OVERALL irresponsibility with the future.

    It’s not exactly about universalism (what is right is right) OR moral objectivism but existential individualism ( I’m a end in myself, if I will have kids or not, with a person of color or not, it’s don’t matter, I don’t care about my own biological group because everyone to me is a individual). It’s not a problem to see people as they are, individuals. But it’s not the way humans has operated/behaved in evolutionary perspective. Most people don’t see themselves only as individuals and don’t treat other as “only-individuals”.

  31. Not Malthus says

    The only “evidence” presented in this article that conservatives have more children than liberals is that Red States have higher fertility than Blue States. That is nowhere close to proving that conservatives have more children than liberals. For one thing, it doesn’t take into account differences among states in age cohorts — Florida would have less “fertility” than New Mexico simply because more Floridians are older and post-reproductive. (Also, it doesn’t factor in when a child is born; from the perspective of population evolution, one child at twenty is worth two at forty.) If I recall correctly, the ethnic group in the US with the highest fertility is Hispanics, and Hispanics are more liberal than the population at large. Also note that fertility can change suddenly and sharply, like the extreme drop in fertility in Iran, among a relatively conservative population. One certainly can have an interesting discussion about the heritability of ideology, and its potential long-term impact on population ideology, but this ain’t it.

    • Anomaly says

      Not Malthus: you’re right that our evidence is limited, but that’s because it’s a short essay that’s supposed to stimulate thought, not an academic paper. More stark evidence comes from this week’s Economist, as I mentioned to a commenter above. The ultra-Orthodox in Israel have far more kids than secular and liberal Jews, and at younger ages.

      This won’t affect the gene pool much in a single generation. But if there’s even a small hereditary component to religiosity, and the psychological propensities that lead some to stay in a certain kind of religion, and others to abandon it, these reproductive patterns will affect the genetic composition of future people, and potentially some of the political climate. The question is how much, and that remains to be seen. Psychological traits are just like physical traits, but more complex. They, too, are subject to gene-culture co-evolution.

      • Santoculto says

        Perhaps the difference between a physical trait and a psychological trait is, for example, if you have a certain stature but it fluctuates throughout the day, the week, the year. You measure 1.75 cm today, but tomorrow you can measure 1.78 cm, and the day after tomorrow you return to your average, then in two months your average height drops to 1.67cm, a variable constant. The physical trait is much more difficult if not impossible to change or better to vary, especially when your development cycle ends, in the case of stature, or when it has a certain nature, as in the case of eye color.

        The ”humor” of your stature now, if you no have any pituitary disorder or already have reached your maximum body development, will be the same tomorrow, 30 years from now, until when your body start to de-develop/aging.

        You will not inherit ” neuroticism ”, but the same ” palette of emotional responses ” that everyone has. What you inherit is a intrinsic disposition to express neuroticism in a more intense, constant, and even addictive way, and depending on the environment [human social environments are invariably trans-culturally convergent].

        In this sense, it seems to me that the physiological traits [more internal physical characteristics] will be intermediate between a greater phenotypic or expressive fixation to the physical traits and a greater expressive variation for the psychological traits.

        or níet

    • @Not Malthus:
      “If I recall correctly, the ethnic group in the US with the highest fertility is Hispanics, and Hispanics are more liberal than the population at large.”

      Who says that Hispanics are more liberal than the population at large? They are more likely to vote Democrat than the population at large since they are a minority. When it comes to social issues, they are probably more conservative than the population at large.

  32. cushicle says

    If the thesis of this article is to be believed, then perhaps the question should be posited as to whether ideologically liberal or conservative individuals have dominated reproduction up to this point in history. Is the present moment in time demonstrably more ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ at a societal level than it was in the past. I believe you could fairly easily demonstrate that society is generally more liberal now than it was 100 years ago (for example, the virtual end of colonialism, near universal women’s suffrage) and that that society was more liberal than the society 100+ years before that, etc. so on (ending feudalism, slavery etc.) over the past few hundred years. Did at some point in human history, once people were able to overcome subsistence living and the specialization of labor perhaps, society suddenly start producing more ‘liberals’ than ‘conservatives’? I don’t see how this argument could really be sustained, so it seems the thesis is likely incorrect.

  33. Ken Mitchell says

    The original article used the word “Libertarian” only once, to identify Milton Friedman’s policies. And yet, the “left/right” divide is obviously wrong; why didn’t the authors expand this into a “Libertarian/Authoritarian” dimension? Are the authors so ignorant that they’re unaware of the Libertarian Party, or the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” (https://www.theadvocates.org/) that they cannot perceive something other than the old, phony “left/right”?

    And if the discussion is about “Liberals dying out”, shouldn’t they offer a hat tip to James Taranto’s “Roe Effect” that said precisely that over a decade ago? http://jamestaranto.com/roeeffect.htm

    • Santoculto says

      Authoritarianism is usually a kind of extreme ideological purity, what libertarianism IS…

      No matter if is empty or full, what’s matter it’s extremist anyway.

      the idea of little government is good but libertarianism is not just this, is also the combination of ”little government” + ”humans ARE rational or rationalizable”… already wrong, seems majority of liberts think like that and have i have little hope they will re-think decently about their ideological lines,

      Indeed, if genetic preponderance in behavior become more popularized or even officialized, the idea of little government maybe will have less ressonant to fit logically with this reality, more like indian castes [people work where they are good and useful for society/ marry with those they are complementary] than everyone is free to reach their dreams or desires.

      And in the end some societies seems already have a kind of primitive little government-libertarian-like, for example, poorest african countries where it’s even complicated to say their governments are incompetent because seems they simply no have a [large] government to qualify it.

      What make brazilian favelas very poor instead own people who live there is not a bad government, it’s a absence of government or little-governmental interventions.

      My views.

  34. Rose says

    liberalism is reductionism and degeneracy and darwinian evolution a myth. build on the sand, and foundations are weak. life is about sacred covenant and there is where the Rock is.

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