Saturday, March 24, 2012

Liberals and conservatives - it's in our programming

It helps if you think of humans as biological robots with varying programming ...

Politics, Odors and Soap - Kristof -

... “The Righteous Mind,” by Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia psychology professor, argues that, for liberals, morality is largely a matter of three values: caring for the weak, fairness and liberty. Conservatives share those concerns (although they think of fairness and liberty differently) and add three others: loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity...

It has some face validity; it certainly fits my own values (hint - 'respect for authority' is not one of them, which is a bit of a disadvantage in corporate and military settings). I don't think it captures the full difference however; conservatives [1] and liberals have very different attitudes towards the (non-genetically related) weak. Perhaps in conservatives of all colors, cultures, times, and places loyalty is tied to notions of tribe (race) and family. The unrelated weak are a distant abstraction.

It also doesn't fully explain the historical paranoia of the American right (peaking again) in a whitewater world. For that we need to look at responses to novelty as well as to threats to power, tribe, and authority.

The model isn't complete then, but it's useful. It's easier to live with America's conservatives if we understand it's not their fault. Liberals and conservatives just have different operating systems; politics is our essential interface.

[1] So are libertarians a form of conservative or a third branch? They are less interested in caring for the weak than many conservatives.

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