Breakthrough Study Proves: Good Luck Causes People to Become More Conservative

The lottery is, of course, a game of pure luck; and a recent study shows that after people win that game of luck, their politics move significantly rightward — the more so as the size of their winnings is larger. Or, as the study’s authors put it, in their headline at an economics blog, “Money Makes People Right-Wing and Inegalitarian.”

Consequently, the often-noted extreme conservatism of billionaires may now reasonably be considered to reflect the fact that (as the authors summed up in their formal paper), “Money apparently makes people more right-wing.”

As regards the authors’ additional “Inegalitarian” claim, their paper provides no support for it, but simply assumes that support for the more conservative political party means that one must, ipso facto, be more “inegalitarian.” This claim of theirs is, in other words, unsupported in their paper, and reflects only their prejudice (even if it’s true).

However, the fact that the researchers couldn’t keep their “inegalitarian” prejudice out of their report does not diminish the importance of their actual empirical finding, that political-party affiliation moves rightward to the extent that a person experiences pure good luck.

The question that the researchers asked respondents here was: “Which party do you regard yourself as being closer to than the others?” Eight options were offered for respondents; and (this being a British population: 27,966 individuals, and 184,045 interviews of them) the majority of respondents were either “Conservative” or else “Labour.” The researchers noted: “There is agreement in Great Britain that Labour is to the left (it has traditionally promoted socialist ideas) and the Conservatives are to the right (it has promoted the free market).”

The researchers are Nattavudh Powdthavee and Andrew J. Oswald. They closed by saying: “To our knowledge, these are the first fixed-effects results of their kind, either in the economics literature or the political science literature.” This would mean that their research here is a breakthrough in the understanding of the widely-commented-upon observation that rich people tend to be conservative and that conservative people tend to be rich. Now, for the first time ever, this correlation can actually scientifically be asserted causally: Wealth causes one to be conservative. (This fact isn’t to deny that there may be other causes of conservatism, but it does make clear that luck is definitely one.)

An important reason why this finding has now been established scientifically is that so many before-and-after interviews were conducted of so many people. This is a landmark study.

It has many interesting implications. One would be that, to the extent that the masses of people in a country are lucky (such as, say, in Australia, where the median wealth is $219,505), people will tend to vote conservative; whereas, to the extent that they’re unlucky (such as, say, in Malawi, where the median wealth is $89), they’ll tend to vote liberal. Of course, where poverty is widespread, honest elections tend not to be held; so, the latter implication might not be borne out in the “elections” (if any) held there. (However, the particular example here, Malawi, currently is democratic. Their President is a progressive woman, Joyce Banda. Her success did not cause her to become conservative. There always are exceptions, and she, fortunately for her country, is one.)


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.




This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Charlie Primero

    Mr. Zuesse is still bogged down in ye old 20th century Left/Right paradigm.

  • So some people embrace one brand of statism (in this case right-statism) over another? This isnt much of a shock

    • cettel

      Get real: Every country is a form of statism; every country has a government; politics is important everywhere; libertarianism is based on a stupid lie. The question isn’t “State or no State”; it’s “What type of state.” It can be either a democracy (the progressive’s choice) or else a dictatorship (the conservative’s choice). An extreme conservative wants outright rule by an elite headed by a tyrant, like either Hitler or Stalin. There are different types of conservative, but most are right-wing and religious (like Hitler), and a few are left-wing and atheisic (like Stalin). But all forms of conservatism are evil, in the view of a progressive, because a progressive demands democracy — a kind of State that libertarians despise, because libertarians derive from fascism, the right-wing form form of dictatorship.
      So: get real; drop your libertarian fantasy.

      • The fact that you think libertarianism is tied to fascism and conservatism shows that you don’t know what the hell your talking about. Then again I expect this from a liberal.

    • cettel

      No, all politicians are statists, because they seek to exercise power in the government; and every society needs government; and the real distinction isn’t between “big” versus “small” government; it’s between good government versus bad government. The “big” versus “small” thing is a hoax; and, as my book,
      They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,
      documents, the number of government employees and the size of the federal debt actually tend to go down under Democrats and up under Republicans. So, this “small government is conservative and big government is liberal” hoax is just that: a hoax, actually contradicted by the data.

      What’s more important is the composition of government-spending, not the sheer size of it.
      Libertarianism is a hoax, which got its start in 1934 when the aristocratic clique who had planned a coup to replace FDR with a pullet modeled upon Hitler and Mussolini had to abort their plan and they re-purposed the organization that they had established for that coup, the American Liberty League, to become instead the first libertarian propaganda organization and the original model for the Kochs’ Americans For Prosperity and Cato Institute. However, the word “libertarian,” as the name of the astroturfed “movement,” wasn’t invented for them until around 1960. The “movement” was actually started by the DuPont brothers in the 1930s, and only copied and expanded later by the Koch brothers.

  • dave john

    Very interesting analysis – thanks. Certainly much to think about in this research.
    A couple of points; Americans use the term “Liberal” differently than Brits – for me its meaning is closer to “Conservative” than “Socialist”. (Raymond Williams’ book ‘Keywords’ has some fascinating essays on these and other contentious political terms.)
    Also, is it right to label Stalin “left-wing”? Didn’t his administration only pay lip-service to genuine Marxian ideas? So was Saddam a lefty? Mao? Weren’t all these tyrants simply wearing various ideologies as a cover for their misrule?

    • cettel

      Re. your “is it right to call Stalin ‘left-wing’?”:

      Yes, it is, because the left-versus-right polarity is a split between only the two polar-opposite ends of conservatism, where “conservatism” is defined as faith-based believers, or believers upon the basis of some fixed (or “canonized”) Scripture, rather than on the basis of no Scripture at all but purely the findings of empirical science (which is just now starting to exist in the “social sciences”). Stalin’s first Scripture was the Christian Bible, and he spent 5 years studying for the priesthood before he switched to the atheistic Scripture of Das Capital and other Marxist works, to which he did adhere, as best he could interpret them (and he was a bright fellow).
      There is an extensive empirical scientific literature that by now exists in the field of personality psychology regarding the conservative personality; and all of it supports the view that I just expressed that conservatism is faith-based belief, as I defined it here. Robert Altemeyer did the most research on this, calling it “Wight Wing Authoritarianism,” but when he visited the Soviet Union he was surprised to be finding there that the most conservative people were turning out to be left-wing authoritarians, active members of the Communist Party. Their Scriptures were Marx-Engels, and they answered his questionnaires in the same way that Republicans in the U.S. and members of conservative political parties in the West did. So, for example: Joseph R. McCarthy was really just Joe Stalin raised in the U.S.
      But there have now been so many researchers who have found this, that a more extensive response to that question would be too lengthy. However, I should also at least make note of the other remarkable finding by Altemeyer near the end of his career: he found that conservative leaders tend to score high on a different version of his conservatism scale — one that’s closer to the various psychopathy scales that have been validated in psychological research. Conservative leaders aren’t so much interested in adhering to their alleged Scripture, as they are in simply rising to power among the people who do. It’s the dominance-submission thing that fixates them even more than their “Scripture.” And (since all Scriptures are by nature authoritarian) they can quote extensively form their Scripture to justify that. But their real high comes from holding and exercising power.

      • dave john

        Thanks for taking the trouble to explain. I’ll look at Altemeyer.

      • dave john

        On a different point Eric, I was looking at the Amazon page for your book “Christ’s Ventriloquists” and noticed you’d also penned another work entitled “Why the Holocaust Happened” – which wasn’t listed. I’ve never felt satisfied with the explanations I’d seen before so found this particularly interesting. Is this too big a topic to ask for some comments?

        • cettel

          Well, I did there the only study that has ever been done into Hitler’s own writings and notes and letters and reliably reported statements to his friends, regarding the question of when the idea of exterminating all of the world’s Jews first entered his mind and how it evolved and developed up into and through the Holocaust until his suicide and final Political Testament. Basically, what I found, citing his own statements, and also placing them into the context in which each was said — the problems that he was facing at the time, the purpose for which he said it (for example, he spoke very differently to his supporters than he did to people he considered enemies or potential enemies) — what I found was that he first formulated his theory for the ultimate Holocaust-to-come in 1919 when he was recovering in the hospital from his WWI war-wounds. He was looking then for the source of “original sin” because he came to the conclusion that God was punishing him, but he didn’t know why. So, he figured it must be his own share in “original sin” because he couldn’t see anything in himself that God would punish him for. He went to Genesis 3, where the snake entices Eve to eat the apple, and then Adam bites it and God announces his curse on all Mankind. In the New Testament, the snake is presented as the father of the Jews; so, Hitler concluded that he, Hitler, was being punished for a Jewish ancestor that he thought he had (which he actually didn’t have, but this had been the local gossip when he was a child), and at that moment, he decided to enter politics, with the aim of exterminating all of the snake’s descendants, so as to please God. He took very seriously such biblical statements as from “Jesus,” John 8:44, Matthew 23:33 & 27:55, and Luke 19:27; and from Paul 1 Thes. 2:15-16. He referred, in his 1919 private notes, to “The Bible — Monumental History of Mankind.” He also took very seriously Revelation 20:1-7, where the snake is eliminated for 1,000 years, and Hitler derived from all of this, including over a hundred different lines in the Bible, his theory that if only he could eliminate the Jews for 1,000 years, and cause a Thousand-Year Reich or reign of God, then God would bless him into “Paradise.” He was serious when he told a group of followers, on 18 December 1926, “The teachings of Christ have laid the foundations for the battle against the Jews as the enemy of all Mankind; the work that Christ began, I shall finish.” Then, on 26 April 1933, he told the Papal representative, “I am doing what the Church has done for 1,500 years; I am simply finishing the job.” There was no objection from that representative, nor from the Pope; but, later, the Pope did urge Hitler not to kill Catholics who had “Jewish blood.” Hitler declined to accommodate him on that request. Hitler was never excommunicated; and, at the Pope’s authorization, a solemn Memorial Mass was held in his honor on 6 May 1945 following Hitler’s suicide. Never was Mein Kampf placed on the Church’s banned list.
          For Hitler, WWII was the way to carry out the Holocaust; the Holocaust was not the way to carry out WWII.
          Scholars don’t want the public to know any of this; and, above all, not the big picture, which I’ve just summarized here. But they can’t object, because I used only the most solid of sources. So, they do what they usually do when something comes along that they want to kill: they simply ignore it. While the work was in manuscript one of the world’s leading scholars of Hitler and the Holocaust even admitted to me, after reading it, “Mr. Zuesse, if your book is ever published, it will be a very important book, VERY important!” I asked him, “Oh, will you please be so kind as to give that to me in writing; it might help me to find a publisher.” He answered: “I could never do such a thing — it might destroy my career.” He was only being realistic about that.

          • dave john

            Once again I’m in your debt. It’s hard not to agree with your quoted scholar – that’s some explosive information! I guess from your comments it proved impossible to publish such an iconoclastic book? Sounds to me like information that should see the light of day…
            Btw, I’ve read the first third of Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” and really enjoying. He’s funny as well as informative and authoritative and I’ll finish rest today.

  • joewannabe

    today i found a quarter.
    i will vote for kochsbloomberg

  • wunsacon

    Eric, thanks for the article.