APSA: Politics Flows from Our Wallets and Our Genes

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At these political science conferences, you sometimes find yourself in an audience that feels way too small for the importance of the subject.

I went to one of these panels this afternoon — "Political Behavior of Firms." I counted 12 members in the audience besides me. One wonders why more political scientists don't care about this kind of thing. After all, U.S. corporations are spending close to $2 billion a year on lobbying.

And apparently, they are getting something for their money. Brian Kelleher Richter, of UCLA, presented some suggestive evidence that U.S. firms get a tax reduction of between $6 and $20 for every $1 they spend on lobbying - not bad at all.

Also interesting: Susan Clark Muntean of the University of California, San Diego, demonstrated that companies that are run closely by one owner contribute a lot more money to so-called "527" issue advocacy organizations than do than firms where ownership is diffused among a lot of shareholders. In fact, these companies are 35 times more likely to contribute groups, and they contribute 500 times as much money. In other words, there are some seriously ideological business owners (of both parties, by the way) who like to throw around some serious money.

And speaking of political ideology ... how is it that we all have the ideology we have, anyway? The next panel was all about one answer to this question: it's all in our genes. (Or as Tom Jacobs asked earlier, is the GOP in our DNA?)

According to Peter Hatemi of Virginia Commonwealth University, four of our chromosomes are highly correlated with our liberal/conservative propensities - the same chromosomes that deal with certain neurotransmitters, dopamine, pheremones, and olfactory senses, by the way.

According to Charles Dawes of UCSD, those of us who have something called the "A2 allele" are much more likely to be highly partisan - something about how that allele makes us much more likely to form social attachments, and hence partisan attachments. And according to John R. Hibbing of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and colleagues, how freaked out we get when we see a giant picture of a tarantula is a sign of deep-seated psychological preconditions that determine how we feel about social rules, conduct, and order - and hence what our political ideology is.

Wonder if there is a gene for how well people handle all the stimuli of these conferences. Well, enough learning for the day. Time to take advantage of the real reason that people come to these conferences: the free food and drink at the evening receptions.