Saturday, June 02, 2012

Brilliant overview: Why you vote the way you do

The Week does it again with a brilliant summary/introduction to Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind.

I'm skipping the fascinating genetic analysis. Consider only Haidt's summary of the heroic "grand narratives" liberals and conservatives have adopted to explain their views.

From the liberal/progressive side:
[T]raditional societies were unjust, repressive, and oppressive. People who valued autonomy, equality, and prosperity struggled against the forces of oppression, and established modern, liberal, democratic welfare societies. But the struggle for a good society in which individuals are equal and free to pursue their self-defined happiness is not over.

. . . Authority, hierarchy, power, and tradition are the chains that must be broken to free the "noble aspirations" of the victims.

In my research, I have sought to describe the universal psychological "foundations" of morality. My colleagues at and I have identified six in particular, six clusters of moral concerns — care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation — upon which all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals. . . .

Smith's liberal narrative derives its moral force primarily from the care/harm foundation (concern for the suffering of victims) and the liberty/oppression foundation (a celebration of liberty as freedom from oppression, as well as freedom to pursue self-defined happiness). In this narrative, fairness is political equality (which is part of opposing oppression). Authority is mentioned only as an evil, and there is no mention of loyalty or sanctity.
Now, says, Haidt, contrast that with a typical modern conservative narrative. This one, Haidt says, was extracted by Emory University clinical psychologist Drew Westen from major speeches by Ronald Reagan:
Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and undermined America by building up the federal bureaucracy and choking off the free market. They opposed God and faith. They took money from hardworking people and gave it to welfare queens. They worried more about the rights of criminals than those of victims. They pushed the sexual revolution and weakened the family by promoting first a feminist agenda and then a gay one. They cut military spending, disrespected our soldiers, and burned the flag. Then Americans decided to take their country back from those who undermined it.
With such wildly disparate narratives, can these two groups even talk effectively one with (or to) the other?

Sorry! You'll have to read the article to find out!

Oh, how I love The Week! (By the way, the "four free issues" offer is still open. I just checked.)

Freebie: While I'm on the subject of loving The Week, let me note their weekly Contest in which they ask people to come up with answers to questions related to current news articles. Totally for fun.

For example, the next (June 8) issue of the magazine, due any day now, will contain answers to the following question: "Facebook and Twitter are so addictive because they tap into a hardwired human instinct to tell other people about ourselves, new research at Harvard has found. Please come up with the next blindingly obvious thing researchers will find out about humankind."

Last week's contest--and the two answers (of three printed in the magazine) that most tickled my funny bone:

The number of PhDs receiving food stamps and other public aid tripled to 34,000 over a recent, three-year period. We asked you to come up with the title of an arcane PhD thesis least likely to result in a job.

THE WINNER: Modern Heraldry: Deconstructing the Seemingly Apolitical Lapel Pin's Post-Modernist Semiotic Signification -- Carla Holtz, Stanardsville, VA

THIRD PLACE: Urinary Tract Infections of the Common Earthworm: Implications for Organic Farming -- Russell A. and Kathleen I. Joki, Meridian, ID
blog comments powered by Disqus