Posted by | March 27, 2012 19:57 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Every couple of years there is a new book that attempts to explain conservatiism to liberals.  I find most of them very dissatisfying concluding that conservatives are stupid (Thomas Frank) or being led along by their duplicitous leaders (George Lakoff). The newest entrant is Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind and I must say I am more intrigued than usual. From a review:

He and his colleagues have compiled a catalog of six fundamental ideas that commonly undergird moral systems: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. Alongside these principles, he has found related themes that carry moral weight: divinity, community, hierarchy, tradition, sin and degradation. . . You don’t have to go abroad to see these ideas. You can find them in the Republican Party. Social conservatives see welfare and feminism as threats to responsibility and family stability. The Tea Party hates redistribution because it interferes with letting people reap what they earn. Faith, patriotism, valor, chastity, law and order — these Republican themes touch all six moral foundations, whereas Democrats, in Haidt’s analysis, focus almost entirely on care and fighting oppression. This is Haidt’s startling message to the left: When it comes to morality, conservatives are more broad-minded than liberals. They serve a more varied diet.

Haidt goes on to bemoan the way that the Internet and moving patterns have increasingly isolated like-minded groups so that they are less likely to engage arguments that challenge their views.  So, instead of having these worldviews potentially enrich each other through discussion and evolution, they become more tribal and isolated.  And we all suffer as a result (except maybe here on Liberaland, where there seems to be a pretty diverse set of viewpoints in the comment threads!).

By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.