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Home arrow History arrow Life History Evolution and Sociology: The Biological Backstory of Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010

Industry and Honesty

Murray finds industry to be a founding virtue; and very justifiably so, as it is conspicuous in the life of Washington (Padover 1955/1989; Fowler 2011), the letters of Jefferson (Boyd and Butterfield 1950; Cappon 1988), and the lineage of the Adamses (Bemis 1956; Nagel 1999; Brookhiser 2002; Ferling 2010). One of 13 virtues toward which Franklin struggled (Franklin 1916; Morgan 2002), industry, or industriousness, was preached from the pulpit (Middlekauff 1999), practiced by the people (Tocqueville 1945), and inculcated in the children (Greven 1977) within the bourgeois heritage of Puritanism (Morgan 1961; Ziff 1973; Breitwieser 1984; Howe 1988). Then there is honesty, another founding virtue; one that, as Murray shows, was stressed by Honest John Adams (Chinard 1990). That self-governing peoples needed to be self-restraining peoples, while quoted by Murray in a rather obscure epistolary exchange between Adams and John Jay, was no select example, but a fervent article of faith for the young and even middle-aged Adams, as it was for many founders (Smyth 1931; Shaw 1976; Thompson 1998). When he waxed pessimistic, Adams sometimes doubted the virtue of the American people, but never doubted their need to be virtuous (Adams 1992). The association between virtue and republicanism was an object of received wisdom easily traceable to, among other sources, Montesquieu (1748/2009) and his survey of modern and ancient governments. Doubt about this need for a virtuous citizenry was rare, with Federalist number ten being the most conspicuous example; an essay wherein Madison suggests that variety of factions, essentially checking one another in vice, could compensate for a want of intrinsic restraint (Hamilton et al. 2011). Still, long after federalist ten, it was thought that the citizenry of a republic, no more than the sovereign of a monarchy, could be “averse from obedience, hostile to religion and to established law” (Dalberg-Acton 1907/1993, p. 93).

Within modern personality psychology, industry and honesty are cooccurring traits subsumed within conscientiousness,3 the super-trait (Dumont 2010; Hertler 2014) comprised of the following six facets: Competence, Order, Dutifulness, Achievement Striving, Self-Discipline, and Deliberation (Costa et al. 1991). Relevance to industry and honesty is seen, not only across conscientiousness’s six facets, but across its six factors.4 As previously reviewed (Hertler 2016), factor analysis of conscientiousness yields three factors related to industry, industriousness, order, and self-control, and three factors related to honesty, responsibility, traditionalism, and virtue (Roberts et al. 2005; Hagger-Johnson and Whiteman 2007). Developmentally stable (Donnellan and Robins 2009) and decidedly heritable (Bergeman et al. 1993), conscientiousness induces effort (Rothbart et al. 2009) and imparts “motivational stability within the individual, to make plans and carry them out in an organized and industrious manner” (DeYoung and Gray 2009; p. 335). Conscientiousness mediates the genetic component of job satisfaction (Ilies and Judge 2003) while also predicting high supervisor ratings (Barrick et al. 1993), job stability (Viinikainen et al. 2010), punctuality and attendance (Conte and Jacobs 2003), income (Rentfrow 2014), negative reactions to unemployment (Boyce et al. 2010), satisfaction by high income (Boyce and Wood 2011), career planning (Taber 2013), and voluntarily assumption of additional roles at work (Bowling 2010). On the other hand, self-reported measures of conscientiousness empirically predict honesty (Horn et al. 2004) and levels of independently measured integrity (Murphy and Lee 1994) while being negatively correlated with infidelity (Nowak et al. 2014), plagiarism (Siaputra 2013), tax evasion (Widiger and Lynam 1998), and antisocial behavior (Krettenauer et al. 2013).

Having established that industriousness and honesty, valued by Murray as part of the American ethos, are synonymous with conscientiousness, it now remains to review the unequivocally strong associations between conscientiousness and the K selected life history. These associations are both physical and behavioral (Hertler 2016; Figueredo et al. 2006; Brumbach et al. 2009). First, conscientiousness is predictive of a slow life history strategy in that its relationship to mortality is as powerful as systolic blood pressure, as per a classic longitudinal study (McCann 2005). A meta-review by Friedman (2008) surveyed 194 studies and found that conscientiousness was inversely related to all of the following unhealthy and risky behaviors: “tobacco use, diet and activity patterns, excessive alcohol use, violence, risky sexual behavior, risky driving, suicide, and drug use.” Conscientiousness promotes health behaviors (O’Connor et al. 2009; South and Krueger 2014) but is furthermore independently predictive of longevity (Friedman 2008) among American presidents (McCann 2005) and the people they govern (Friedman et al. 1993, 1995; Martin et al. 2007). In other words, conscientiousness temperamentally induces medication compliance, exercise, and healthful eating, while continuing to evidence correlates with longevity even when controlling for these, and a multitude of other potentially mediating variables. Conscientiousness is similarly associated with high viral suppression and slow disease progression (Roberts et al. 2009; Hill et al. 2011). In the presence of type-I diabetes it predicts delayed renal deterioration (Brickman et al. 1996) and reduced mortality (Christensen et al. 2002). It likewise predicts slow disease progression amidst HIV infection (O’Cleirigh et al. 2007) and cancer (Cardenal et al. 2012). Conscientiousness does not just slow the progression of disease, it negatively predicts disease development. As Friedman (2008) reports, conscientiousness is inversely correlated with the development of “diabetes, hypertension, sciatica, urinary problems, stroke, hernia, TB, joint problems, and a variety of mental illnesses and substance abuse problems.” Consistent with previous research (Terracciano et al. 2008; Wilson et al. 2004; Weiss and Costa 2005; Martin et al. 2007), a 17-year cohort study found that “each 1 standard deviation decrease in conscientiousness was associated with a 10 % increase in all-cause mortality” (Hagger-Johnson et al. 2012). In all these ways conscientiousness serves as a proxy for somatic effort, a hallmark of the slow life history (Figueredo et al. 2006).

Second, conscientiousness is predictive of a slow life history strategy because it instills a future-oriented time horizon (Schechter and Francis 2010), imparting all the behaviors that follow from such an orientation (Figueredo et al. 2005; Friedman et al. 1993; DeYoung and Gray 2009). MacDonald (1997) suggests that “downward social mobility” of the kind described in Coming Apart is associated with low conscientiousness and the relative inability to “defer gratification, engage in sustained work,” and “persevere in long term goals.” On the contrary, as Figueredo et al. (2005) state, high “conscientiousness relates to the use of long-term strategies, desire for control, dependability, and behaviors that reflect those preferences. ” Conscientiousness confers a nonconscious temperamental assumption that hardships can be preempted; an implicit belief in personal agency and so an orientation to self-efficacy. The conscientious and the slow life history strategist alike occupy an explicable world in which caution reduces risk, effort rewards, and it is wise to invest in the future because there will be a future to face. This is contrasted with the hyperbolic discounting and present orientated r selected (Frederick et al.

2002). In addition to accruing resources, the conscientious slow life history strategist displays loss aversion (Figueredo et al. 2014), a form of risk taking that functions to protect hard-won resources, and risk aversion (Moller and Garamszegi 2012), an anxiety-based trait that inhibits rash bids to obtain high-risk resources (van Schaik and Isler 2012). Thus the slow life history strategist will work a nine-to-five for a steady paycheck, defend those earnings vigorously, but forgo the windfall for fear of the shortfall. For all these reasons, conscientiousness is incorporated into life history assessment measures (Figueredo et al. 2013) and life history conglomerate variables (Figueredo et al. 2007; Rushton et al. 2008). In sum, conscientiousness, and the industry and honesty that it subsumes, is part of a larger life history strategy (Hertler 2016).

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