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.