Conservatism is a Placebo

Conservatism is a Placebo

April 1 is April Fools day in the US, so the internet is filled with faux articles trying to fool people.

The problem with pseudo-medicine is that it is impossible to come up with an alternative medicine so ludicrous that it hasn’t already been tried by someone, somewhere in the pseudo-medicine world. People try . But with a literature that includes the likes of The vital force “reincarnated”: modeling entelechy as a quantized spinning gyroscopic metaphor for integrated medicine

The ancient concept of the Vital Force receives a modern incarnation as a metaphorical multidimensional spinning gyroscope.

as well as homeopathy, Tong Ren, reiki and craniosacral therapy, I suspect that the world of integrative and alternative medicine is immune to satiric exaggeration. No matter what you might invent as a joke, someone is using it for real.

Preparing for NECSS and numerous other deadlines has limited my entries for the blog this week. So instead this April Fools day I will indulge is a little whimsy. A tongue in cheek interpretation of the literature for those of you so inclined. Humor.  Kind of. At least I think it is amusing.


I am always on the look out for examples of the placebo effect. Placebo has no effects on objective endpoints, only subjective endpoints. Placebo makes you think you are better when in fact you have made no measurable material improvement.

My favorite example has been Active Albuterol or Placebo, Sham Acupuncture, or No Intervention in Asthma. With inactive interventions for asthma patients reported they felt better; only with an active intervention did they have measurable improvement.

Now I have a better study that encapsulates the placebo effect: Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness published in science.

Prior studies have suggested that there is a “ideological happiness gap” with conservatives reporting they are happier than liberals and that the more conservative one is , the greater the happiness. However, these studies are based on subjective evaluations, self reporting which is always suspect.

In this study, among other evaluations,  they

examined happiness-related behavior among the United States’ most salient liberals and conservatives: members of the U.S. Congress. We assessed two behavioral indicators of happiness within this group: the use of positive and negative emotional language from a text analysis of the 2013 U.S. Congressional Record and the smiling behavior exhibited in their publicly available photographs.

and found that while conservatives said they were happier, liberals behaved in a happy way.

Relative to conservatives, liberals more frequently used positive emotional language in their speech and smiled more intensely and genuinely in photographs. Our results were consistent across large samples of online survey takers, U.S. politicians, Twitter users, and LinkedIn users.

I conclude that a conservative philosophy is a placebo. Being conservative does not change reality, only the perception of reality. A liberal philosophy is a real medication, it changes reality. Like a placebo, being conservative causes you to think you are happy when you are not. Being liberal really makes you happy.

And like pseudo-medical therapies, which are all placebo, the illusory results of being conservative always seem more impressive than actual results.

Points of Interest 04/02/2015
Points of Interest 04/01/2015