Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Real Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives

A great video by psychologist Jonathan Haidt with a wonderful take-away message at the end of his presentation. Highly recommended!
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most. And he challenges all of us to step outside of our moral Matrix and pledge to work toward a more civil, productive political process. (Recorded February 2008 in Monterey, California. Duration: 18:42.)

Here is a more provocative essay by Haidt entitled "What Makes People Vote Republican?". (HT Jason) Arnold Kling has several posts on Haidt here, here, and here.Will Wilkinson has a video interview Haidt about the psychology of morality and an article about why Democrats should pay more attention to Haidt and less to Lakoff. Wilkonson appears to be a big Haidt fan and writes:
Interestingly, I think Jon and I have a pretty fundamental disagreement about the implications of his theory. I think it actually helps to vindicate the authority of secular liberal morality, and, together with social indicators data, gives us reason to push for a more thoroughgoingly liberal culture. Jon thinks it helps us see what’s valuable in conservative moralities, and that we need a sort of balanced moral ecosystem of different kinds of moralities. Sadly, this all came up at the end, and we didn’t get to dig in as much as I’d have liked.
Haidt is also the author of The Happiness Hypothesis, a book I've had on my to read for some time now. I may have to bump it up a few places.

For the record, I completely agree with Haidt -- liberals and conservatives need each other and have a lot to learn from one another. I wish more people would begin to dialogue better and stop demonizing their political opponents.


fboness said...

Haidt mentions conservatives as Republicans in several contexts but, never mentions Democrats (or socialists or communists) by name in assocoiation with liberals. I think that confuses the definition of liberal. From his work, I read liberal as meaning classical liberal but after he uses the conservative/Republican pairing there is the unspoken/assumed liberal/Democrat pairing which is erroneous. That definition of liberal is the Democrat/socialist left. That is about as far from classical liberal as you can get.

So no, I don't completely agree with Haidt because I don't completely understand his terms.

thinking said...

The idea of starting a new post-partisan era is a big part of what the Obama campaign is all about.

And sure, Democrats and Obama and his campaign are not perfect. Certainly, some of Obama's supporters, without the campaign's saction, go even more overboard.

However, in this election cycle, there is no doubt that it is the Republicans who have resorted most to demonization of the opponent. Compare the nominating conventions of the parties.

Obama's main argument comes down to this: the Republican policies are failures and we cannot afford more of the same. Whether one agrees with that or not, it's largely a substantive argument.

However, McCain's main thrust against Obama is to question his character: to accuse him of being unpatriotic, to accuse him of placing ambition above country, to accuse him of being "elitist" (whatever that really means), to accuse him of being a "celebrity", in short, to paint him as not one of us.

Just today McCain released an ad with racist overtones as reported by Time Magazine.

This is the legacy of Karl Rove, whose philosophy is to divide people and conquer. It won Bush 2 narrow victories, but served as a slow acting poison to undermine his ability to govern. McCain and his running mate has already proven that he could never bring this country together.

thinking said...

Apologies to a type above...the last sentence should read:

McCain and his running mate have already proven that they can never bring this country together.