How small - of all that human hearts endure - that part which laws or kings can cause or cure.

NameSamuel Johnson
Life1709 - 1784
There is, and has long been, a significant difference between the French and the English attitudes toward life. Samuel Johnson also lived in the Enlightenment. He saw the French philosophers looking for some magic formula which would help the Kings and governments to create more happiness in the world. Extremely good intentions, he said to himself, but then, with typical English skepticism, he added: do good philosophical intentions really lead to equally good consequences? His answer was: rarely! Samuel Johnson was a conservative man. That tribe has one basic conviction in common: man's nature is, by and large, given. Most are religious and say: "given by God". Some modern scientifically inclined persons tend instead to say: "given by our biologically inherited genes". The result is the same! As was mentioned as a comment on Cicero, monozygotic twins are surprisingly similar in many ways, even when they have been separated at birth and meet only as adults. To some 80 percent these twins have the same outlook on life. They are, by and large, equally happy or equally unhappy. Modern science
gives biological support to Samuel Johnson's conservative statements. The actions of kings and parliaments may be far less efficient than they themselves love to think. Let us imagine that culture or nurture has some 50 percent influence on the subjective sense of happiness of an individual. Even if that were the case, we are confronted with one important question: whom should we trust in handling the non-biological influence on our lives? Can we rely upon ourselves and our family? Or should we trust in the State? Johnson was highly skeptical towards trust in kings and legislators! He would surely have been a "neoliberal", had he lived in our times, trusting, like Adam Smith, in the "market". Which also means that the responsibility for how we handle our lives is put on ourselves and our families. That is the conservative outlook. Socialists put the blame on capitalist society, and responsibility on the state. Behind that difference we can find another and a deeper one: is man by nature kind and altruistic in general, willing to help anybody, or is man's kindness restricted to his own kin? Young idealists want to believe in general generosity; conservatives, as Samuel Johnson, in a more kin-restricted altruism. Is that question still not central to the understanding the human predicament?