THE BLOG
08/15/2013 03:40 pm ET | Updated Oct 15, 2013

LIBERALS v CONSERVATIVES How Does the Divide Come About?

Every baby born will sooner or later end up on the scale of political association. Statistically, of course, most will gravitate somewhere toward the middle, with smaller shares filling out to each extreme in a standard bell curve. Why? Is it possible that something in their genetic makeup is involved? That might be hard to believe, but it's hard to argue against thinking about the possibility, and maybe even researching it.

The most obvious answer, other than genes, is that circumstances, conditions and parenting must have a lot to do with how a person's views and attitudes are shaped. In other words, the classic "nurture" argument. Studies have shown that most children identify with the political party of their parents - liberals beget more liberals, and conservatives more conservatives.

But thinking about those factors on a strictly anecdotal basis undermines much of their credence. For example, it is hardly uncommon for children to differ politically with their parents, even if a majority "stay the course" in the family political alignment. That could be a generational matter - studies also show that young people are more liberal, but grow more conservative as they grow older.

One would think that conditions--poverty or wealth--would be something of a predictor of a person's political leanings. But, again there are plenty of exceptions to be observed, and plenty of research to show that when it comes to politics, people are emotional, rather than rational, creatures.

And, the same applies to the circumstances a person experiences growing up. Education levels superficially do not correlate very well with the divide; nor does raw intelligence.

So what could it be?

Other such divisions are readily available: some people are "day people," others, night owls; some are 'born optimists' while others see doom around every corner; some look forward and others back; some people were screamers as babies and some placid.

What might account for those differences and also how people see the political world around them?

Perhaps some people are born with an ingrained status quo mentality and others are born with more curiosity that seeks change for the betterment of society.

The definition of a liberal embraces the idea that such a person is open to changes that might improve the world as they see it and as it affects them.

The definition of a conservative surely includes a desire on the part of people so inclined to conserve what they see about them and what they believe is good for them and the world they live in.

Some people innately feel that if the world around them gets better that will improve their lot as well. And some people feel that improving the world around them is likely to diminish their situation.

OK. So why worry about this subject and speculate about it, if that is simply the way it is and will always be? Because if the critical factors determining how people get divided in this world were better known and understood, it might be possible to find antidotes to knee-jerk reactions, and identify a process that would move more people to a rational and reasonable center. That would certainly help ease the logjam that our political system has become, beset by extremes that dominate discourse and stymie compromise.

If it turns out that people are genetically programmed to see their world in a certain way, there may be ways--if individuals are so disposed as with medical choices--to deal with that with genetic modifications.

That does sound like strong medicine--almost to the point of overkill--but is akin to efforts to deal with paranoia, bi-polar and other disorders of the mind which most people, so afflicted, desperately desire.

While most people are probably not bothered by their political labels or affiliations, there surely are enough who do care, but simply do not know how to deal with it. And, this no doubt applies across the whole bell curve of distribution.

Hopefully, there is somewhere out there a curious social scientist to take this nubbin of an idea further?

Perhaps by the year 3000 we will have a more perfect world, IF we are still on Earth?