Simply, one’s stance on whether or not we choose our actions directly vs. whether our choices are the product of genes and environment deeply saturates all of a person’s political beliefs.
Here are a few examples:
Rewarding the Rich: If you believe that people decide to be ambitious, or self-disciplined, or to work 12 hours a day at the office, etc., then you’re more likely to agree that it’s wrong to overtax such people. After all, they chose to be rich, and others have equal opportunity to do so.
If, alternatively, you believe that rich people have a combination of good luck and good genes–which then lead to having a good work ethic, etc.–then you’re more likely to be in favor of highly progressive taxation. After all, they were lucky to be smart and be born into good families, so redistribution is the right thing to do over a certain point of wealth.
Punishment of Criminals: If you believe that people make bad choices, then it is quite natural to want to lock them away, kill them, or otherwise apply harsh punishment. After all, they had the option to do the right thing and they chose not to. Shame on them.
If, alternatively, you believe that poor genes and poor environment are the ingredients of crime, then it’s more likely that you’ll support rehabilitation-based criminal justice, i.e. you isolate then re-educate.
Socialized Education/Healthcare/Etc.: If you believe everyone has been given an equal chance for acquiring basic services, and we know that some people have these services, it naturally follows that everyone should find a way to acquire them on their own.
If, alternatively, you believe that the only reason some people have these things is that they happened to be born in the right place at the right time, you’re more likely to promote programs that aim to ensure these services for everyone.
There are three examples of absolutely core political issues that hinge directly on the question of how much choice an individual has. Now, what variable determines whether someone believes in free will or not? The answer is religion.
According to Christianity, God gave everyone free choice explicitly. It was not an afterthought; it’s part of the doctrine. And those who embrace that belief are logically pushed toward rewarding those who succeed and punishing those who don’t. Once you accept that everyone makes their own choices, as given by God, this is a natural and logical line of reasoning.
Without that belief, however, and given a healthy sprinkling of education, thinking people are left with a different conclusion: People who have their basic needs met tend not to be criminals. People with more education tend not be criminals. And concentrations of these people are located very clearly and predictably based on geography. And since people don’t decide where they’re born, it’s pretty natural to see that people’s outcomes are based largely on the hands they’ve been dealt.
Ok, but where’s the data?
Let’s look at some primary examples. The Scandinavian countries are highly consequentialist when it comes to punishment, they are highly in favor of socialized services, and they tax the rich at a high rate. Why is that?
I believe it’s because they are not religious, and therefore take the logical rather than dogmatic explanation for why people become what they become, i.e. rich people got rich because of good genes, good families, and luck. And criminals became criminals because they had some combination of the opposite fortune.
These countries also enjoy the safest communities, the most educated populations, and the highest ratio of aid-vs-GDP in the world.
Now take the United States and other religion-based countries and you have pretty much the opposite. You have a highly retributivist approach to punishment, you have an adoration of the rich and contempt of the poor, and a strong aversion to the concept of redistribution of wealth.
Why? Because we believe people make their own decisions, and deserve what they get.
And why is that? Because of the illusion of free will propagated by religion. ::