By Bryan Caplan
Neuroticism – the tendency to experience negative emotions like anger, fear, and sadness – is a pillar of the Five Factor Model of personality. Human beings routinely attribute their emotions to external circumstances. For proximate causes, they’re often right. The underlying reality, though, is that some people – the highly neurotic – naturally focus on negativity.
Which brings me to one of my pet theories: neurotic politics. Quick version: When neurotics turn to politics, they find an infinite series of reasons to feel bad, which helps them stay one step ahead of the realization that their fundamental problem is inside their own heads and can be fixed by no one but themselves.
In light of my pet theory, I was struck by this passage in War and Peace:
“This is what they have done with Russia! This is what they have done with me!” thought Rostopchin, an irrepressible rage welling up in his soul against the someone to whom what was happening might be attributed. As often happens with hot-tempered men his wrath had taken possession of him while he was seeking as object for it.
There is decent evidence that anti-market people are more neurotic, but is there a broader literature on neurotic politics I should know about?