Thursday, March 24, 2016

7. The Conservative Advantage

Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind continues. 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
6. The Moral Foundations of Politics

Today it's chapter 8: "The Conservative Advantage."

1. Haidt begins with a fun comment on how useless John Kerry's rhetoric was as a presidential candidate because he didn't connect solidly with the various moral taste buds. His bottom line for the situation in 2005: "Republicans understand moral psychology. Democrats don't" (181). "Republicans have long understood that the elephant is in charge of political behavior, not the rider, and they know how elephants work. Their slogans, political commercials, and speeches go straight for the gut."

The exception for Haidt? Bill Clinton, who "knew how to charm elephants." He concludes his introduction with the claim that Republicans connect with all five moral taste buds of the book thus far: harm, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Democrats tend to be cerebral and connect only with a version of harm and fairness of the buds he's mentioned so far.

"Conservatives have a five-foundation morality" (184). That doesn't mean they're right. It just means they have a better chance of hooking people, just like you're more likely to hit the target with five bullets than with only two. They tend to hit more taste centers.

2. Haidt, his associates and students, have done lots of research with people correlating their political identifications with their answers to a moral inventory. The study has repeatedly corroborated their theory. Liberals tend to score very high on harm and fairness, while scoring very low on loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Conservatives score roughly the same on all five.

They even tried the experiment by seeing what kinds of dogs attract a person. "We found that people want dogs that fit their own moral matrices" (188). "Liberals want dogs that are gentle... and relate to their owners as equals." Conservatives "want dogs that that are loyal... and obedient." Both sides want clean dogs. :-)

The study applies to churches and what is preached. Unitarian preachers use more words having to do with care and fairness. Southern Baptists use more loyalty, authority, and sanctity words.

3. In the summer of 2008, Haidt thought Obama might be headed down a similar ineffective path and wrote an article titled, "What Makes People Vote Republican." His first piece of advice to liberals, amazingly? Assume that conservatives are just as sincere as liberals. :-)

Some philosophy...

Haidt pits John Stuart Mills (1800s) as the moral theorist for the liberals, while Emile Durkheim as the same for conservatism. Mills assumed that the best society is a place where people are free to do anything unless it harms others, and people band together voluntarily to work for the common good. He saw the individual as the basic unit of society.

Durkheim saw the hierarchically structured family as the core of society. He suggested that networks of groups that shape the actions of individuals are most appropriate, "self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one's group over concerns for out-groups" (192).

Here's a quote! "The president is the high priest of what sociologist Robert Bellah calls the 'American civil religion'" (193). Let me follow with another quote: "Is it any wonder that [Democrats] have done so poorly in presidential elections since 1968?" The president must "perform the transubstantiation of pluribus into unum.

4. The response to Haidt's article, what makes people vote Republican, was predictable on the Republican side. The biggest objection was by those who are conservative because they are opposed to tyrrany and disproportionality. They want to fight oppression and overthrow the tyrant. "Sic semper tyrannus." Haidt came to recognize this as a weakness in his five moral taste buds approach, so he added a sixth--oppression/liberty.

He then tries to trace origins for "overthrowing the tyrant" from an evolutionary perspective. Following the theory of Christopher Boehm, he suggests that once people invented weapons, bullies who merely functioned with strength could be overcome by anyone. Bullies who only take what they want are now ousted. "Murder often seems virtuous to revolutionaries" (202).

"The Liberty foundation obviously operates in tension with the Authority foundation. We all recognize some kinds of authority as legitimate in some contexts, but we are also wary of those who claim to be leaders unless they have first earned our trust" (201).

So there is a tension between forces that want there to be an authority structure and forces that resist overbearing authority.

5. Liberty/oppression triggers both liberals and conservatives. Social justice is an example of an "oppression" trigger for liberals. An authority that does not earn the respect of their people. Equality triggers the liberty foundation for liberals.

But the word "liberty" triggers it for conservatives. "Liberty University" - pro-authority in the home, but not control by a secular government. Libertarian, except in the home.

6. The concern for disproportionality led Haidt to adjust what he covered in relation to fairness. He concluded that "egalitarianism seems to be rooted more in the hatred of domination than in the love of equality per se" (209). He had earlier assumed that the idea of fairness was mostly about "reciprocal altruism," You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. But his further research (he talks about the origins of the Tea Party here) has led him in a different direction.

For example, one study showed that people would rather punish cheaters than to advance in relation to their self-interest. This suggests a different origin for egalitarianism than self-interest.

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