Tuesday, March 15, 2016

6. What makes your political blood boil?

My summaries of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind continue. I've blogged on:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality
5. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind

Now chapter 7: "The Moral Foundations of Politics"

1. Care/Harm
In this chapter, Haidt takes the five moral taste buds (so far) and applies them to politics. The first is the Care/Harm bud. He believes that the evolutionary origins of this moral taste bud is the need for mothers and clans to protect their young. So we have a knee-jerk reaction to a child being harmed and get warm fuzzies over a child at rest. [BTW, we can also believe God created us this way.]

What we want to protect can change. So "we care about violence toward many more classes of victims toay than our grandparents did in their time," like baby seals (156).

2. Fairness/Cheating 
This is the second moral taste bud he addresses. The survival advantage here is that we survive better when we cooperate with each other to a mutual advantage, "tit for tat." Those who give with no expectation and those who only take are both more likely to die. Those who give and take, those who compromise to mutual advantage, are more likely to thrive.

A key insight in this short section was this quote: "Everyone cares about fairness, but there are two major kinds. On the left, fairness often implies equality, but on the right it means proportionality--people should be rewarded in proportion to what they contribute, even if that guarantees unequal outcomes" (160-61).

Some thought this was the key insight from the chapter. So Bernie Sanders says, "unbridled capitalism is unfair because it creates a small number of filthy rich people while stealing from the majority." But Rand Paul would say, "socialism is unfair because it does not reward people for their work and steals from some to give to those who did not earn it."

3. Loyalty/betrayal
"The male mind appears to be innately tribal" (162). "Warfare has been a constant feature of human life since long before agriculture and private property" (163). The Koran treats a traitor much worse than an enemy.

On this human impulse, liberals tend to cull fewer men than conservatives. "The left tends toward universalism and away from nationalism, so it often has trouble connecting to voters who rely on the Loyalty foundation" (164). As a side note, Bernie Sanders and Trump are both connecting with some in this group by their position against free trade.

Unfortunately, they at least aren't acting like they are quite as up to date on the real economic consequences of trade protectionism (see the consequences of the Tariff Act of 1930... It reduced imports and exports by half and perhaps extended the Depression).

4. Authority/subversion
In many cultures, the urge to respect hierarchical relationships is very deep. These relationships ensured that groups did not disintegrate into disorder, which of course makes a group vulnerable to outside attack. Kings agreed to protect and provide order in exchange for loyalty. "Human authorities take on responsibility for maintaining order and justice" (167).

Again, the political right is usually much better equipped to build on this foundation than the left, "which often defines itself in part by its opposition to hierarchy, inequality, and power" (168).

5. Sanctity/degradation
I was impressed with Haidt being able to come up with an example of this taste bud in Western culture, since in general we don't use this bud much. Because we have been a relatively safe culture, we have not worried as much about screening our environment.

He gave a horrific example of a man who agreed to let another man murder and eat him. Since both agreed and participated fully, it would be hard for many philosophers to come up with a reason why this was wrong. It actually reminded me of my third reason why "final justice" is not unloving (which can relate to capital punishment as well).

The origins of this taste bud, Haidt argues, has to do with the "omnivore's dilemma." Creatures that can eat anything face the risk of poisoning themselves. Those who eat everything die. Those who don't explore any new foods may die. The person who explores with caution survives. "The emotion of disgust evolved initially to optimize responses to the omnivore's dilemma" (172).

[P.S. There could be implications here in relation to the OT food laws.]

So there is a human tension between "neophila" (attraction to new things) and "neophobia" (fear of new things). Liberals tend to lean to neophila and conservatives to neophobia. Liberals tend to favor immigration, conservatives resist it.

6. The next chapter will talk about the conservative political advantage. We can already sense what he will say. "It appears that the left relies primarily on the Care and Fairness foundations, whereas the right uses all five" (179). This allows conservative politicians to pull on more moral strings and gives "conservative politicians a broader variety of ways to connect with voters."

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