Monday, September 15, 2008

a morality play

What Makes People Vote Republican? by Jonathan Haidt

Republican voters like guns and God and don't like gays and immigrants. They are narrow minded, racist and dumb. They suffer from cognitive inflexibility, they are too fond of hierarchy and fear uncertainty, change and death. Their "moral clarity" is simplistic nonsense.

This pop psychology view leads to elitist righteousness, the wearing of a halo by Democrats

Haidt explores the contrary but also complementing contributions to moral values originating from John Stuart Mill (On Liberty) and Emile Durkheim

Mill envisaged individuals as equal and free and that power was only justified to prevent harm to others. This position draws support from the partly innate moral values of
(1) protection from harm, especially violent harm (harm-care values), and,
(2) the importance of fairness, reciprocity, rights and justice (fairness-reciprocity values).

These values appeal to liberals and libertarians. Hence, liberals tend to be opposed to war, guns and support minority or oppressed group rights and often sympathise with these groups as victims (immigrants, gays, blacks, women etc.)

However, social groups have other values apart from those stressed by Mill.

Durkheim pointed to the collective interest, to social binding, the suppression of selfishness and the need to punish deviants and free riders. For him the basic social unit was the hierarchical social family rather than the free individual. Durkheim recognised the danger of anomie or normlessness. For the social good, self control is more important than self expression, duty more important than rights and group loyalty more important than the interests of minority groups.

Hence, from Durkheim, Haidt adds three new values to those above:
(3) ingroup-loyalty (historically, arising from tribalism)
(4) authority-respect (social rank and mutual obligation can be cohesive)
(5) purity-sanctity (what is regarded as degrading and what is regarded as noble)

He describes social morality as like an audio equaliser with five slider switches, for Republicans, but with only two switches for Democrats.

In the current election it makes very good sense for McCain to choose Sarah Palin as a running mate with a deep appeal (one that he lacks) to the Christian social base. The outpouring of elitist social righteousness from many Obama supporters (documented in ... twenty first century witch) illustrates that they don't get it - and hence they risk losing the unlosable election. When the main focus of your campaign becomes that your opponent is a liar and his running mate is a witch, then you are in trouble.

It's well worth reading the Haidt article in full and the rest of the discussion from The Edge contributors.

2 comments:

Carl Gundel said...

Republicans love guns for various reasons. Most people around use the argument that they need a gun to protect themselves from criminals, or for hunting, but the 2nd ammendment loves guns because the British forces would confiscate firearms from the American colonists. The Federal Government is getting bigger and bigger. At some point they will inevitably try to disarm the public because that's what a government does once it gets to be too powerful.

I hold many conservative views but I'm not a Republican. I just don't understand how married people are to the Republican Party. Most people are happy to call themselves Democrat or Republican, and they automatically are committed to the choices of the party. This is true even though if the parties don't hold to the same platform over time. Seems like people just don't think anymore. Each person needs to know what he or she believes in and why. Our two party system is unhelpful because it doesn't provide a meaningful environment for nuanced discussion, but only polarized thinking. This is something that people need no great encouragement to engage in.

As for the Republican ticket, I'm very unhappy with McCain as presidential candidate. Palin seems like a very bad choice to me also (call me cynical). Wrong form and no substance, but plenty of overconfidence.

I'm going to vote for Bob Barr. A vote for your conscience is never a wasted vote.

Bill Kerr said...

TED video: Jonathan Haidt: The real difference between liberals and conservatives

Well worth watching