Monday’s Mtg: Why Are We More Conservative Than Other Countries?

Our own Jim Z. who works for an international  human rights organization, asks, “Why are Americans so much more conservative than people in other rich countries?”  Well, last April we discussed the flip side of that, why socialism never took hold here.  That, I thought, was a great meeting.  We debated the usually cited factors that kept the American Left from getting  much traction in the 20th century:  Our racial divide, the Cold War and its discrediting of the Left, widespread post-war prosperity, the American “character” of rugged individualism, etc.

Is asking why we’re (relatively) so conservative the same question with the same answers?  I think so, but only to a point.  After all, look again at the major causes I just mentioned.  Are they as powerful as they were 30 years ago, or 20?  Communism’s dead and gone.  The racial divide has evolved and its character is rapidly changing as a result of demographic changes.  The American economic dream is flat on its back and social mobility is stalled.  Assuming we are continuing to drift rightward (itself debatable), how long can that persist in the 21st century?

On Monday, I’ll open by quickly summarizing the factors that most people believe make Americans more conservative than our OECD peers.  I’ll be very brief since we did this last year.  Then, perhaps we could debate whether these impediments to a more liberal society (or bulwarks against it, if you prefer) can withstand coming demographic and economic pressures.


  1. What does it mean to say that Americans are more “conservative” than electorates in other rich countries?  How do we know this?
  2. Why have we been this way historically?  Which factor has been the most important?
  3. What about national “character?”  Do Americans just have different political values than people in other countries?  Why would this be true?
  4. Are we continuing to drift to the right politically, or is all this more smoke than fire?  Or, could the Right’s resurgence at least be just temporary and/or cyclical?
  5. Does our system of government (Senate apportionment, checks and balances, etc.)  provide a natural bulwark against a more activist government?



This should be a lively one!  Tell a friend.  (You do, don’t you, hand out CivCon schedules to interesting people you meet?)


One response

  1. deuel woodward | Reply

    Where have all the liberals gone…long time in passing. Conservatives are proud of being conservative. They have done their best over a period of decades to turn liberal into a pejorative term. Wimpy liberals haven’t fought back. Liberals are more bashful than unabashed. I am proud to be a liberal. Me and Paul Krugman. A liberal is tolerant, broad-minded, and generous. Some people would quibble over the generous part in these stingy, non-Keynseian times. If liberals started speaking out more often & more vociferously, I’d be more optimistic about the 2012 election.

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