Conservatism Isn’t Radical—It’s “Modular”

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Conor P. Williams

Conor Williams on Twitter. More background here.

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  1. Avatar M.A.
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    says:

    As I continue to examine what’s being said on talk radio locally, I’ll try to keep this framework in mind. I might even keep some notes on what arguments fit into what frameworks.

    It has seemed very odd to me that self-professed christians in the right wing can be opposed to social security net programs, programs to support food and housing for the poor, and programs designed to encourage and enrich education for poor children.Report

  2. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
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    This essay validates Jonathan Haidt’s work.

    “In a study I conducted with colleagues Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, we tested how well liberals and con­servatives could understand each other. We asked more than 2,000 American visitors to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a ‘typical liberal’ would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a ‘typical conservative’ would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were by comparing people’s expectations about ‘typical’ partisans to the actual responses from partisans on the left and the right. Who was best able to pretend to be the other?

    “The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as ‘very liberal.’ The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the care and fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with statements such as ‘one of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal’ or ‘justice is the most important requirement for a society,’ liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree.”

    In other words, conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. More precisely, conservatives’ version of liberals matches liberals’ version of themselves better than liberals’ version of conservatives matches conservatives’ vision of themselves.

    This is an important finding for many commentators on the Right because it gainsays one of the central claims of liberals, that is, that liberals are more open-minded, empathetic, imaginative, and tolerant than conservatives are. The study indicates, rather, that when it comes to facing the other side, liberals lean toward caricatures and extreme cases, and this tendency rises the more liberal they are.”

    http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/liberals-conservatives-and-the-haidt-results/46113Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      While I don’t really agree with the last paragraph, this has related to something I have been saying a long time: conservatives are more likely to have an understanding of liberals than vice-versa. I don’t think it’s intrinsic, though. Rather, I think it’s because it’s extremely hard for most conservatives to avoid liberalism if they’ve lived in a city (as most will), go to college (as many will), or consume popular entertainment (as almost all will). The same isn’t exactly true in the inverse.

      (This is, of course, a very broad overgeneralization. A lot of liberals understand conservatives very well. And a lot of conservatives are rather clueless – insistently obtuse, muchtimes. But I speak of the land of generalities.)Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman
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        Will, how does this relate to the common, i mean very common, accuasation by conservities that liberals are socialist, hate america, commies, etc??? I’m not seeing a lot of understanding there. It really hard to find any conservititve media that doesn’t trade in that sort of bs. And as someone who lives in a red state, i don’t see a lot of clear understanding of what liberals want. speaking in generaliites of course. even the R’s on this lovely site don’t seem all that clued in most of the time.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak
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          says:

          Liberals love to generalize.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak
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          says:

          See my other comments. Conservatives (in my experience) like to start at the absolute and then work their way backwards. There is a preference, among the right, to communicate in these terms to a further degree than revealed when pressed. My experience with the left is that of Obi Wan Kinobi… “Only the Sith believe in good and evil” followed later in the movie by “The Sith are evil!”Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak
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          says:

          That sort of thing grates on me as well.
          I believe that the tendency is to view those negative terms very broadly.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to greginak
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          says:

          I can’t speak for any “R’s” that might follow this sight, but I know there are more than a few conservatives who follow the site as a very fine window into what I might characterize as Liberals of Good Will. So in one sense, we get to study the best of you in your natural habitat.

          In fairness, I really couldn’t name a good conservative site that would be comparable… so you are hamstrung on that count.

          As to why we don’t comment much? Well, as much as I admire Tod Kelly (and really, I do – that’s not a platitude to what follows) when he started his recent column on SSM by effectively requiring that the other side not reference Religion, Tradition, the Constitution, and a few other items that are clearly bushel baskets hiding their bigotry, that really highlighted that even the best of men on both sides cannot escape “epistemic closure.”

          I cite the above not to rehash an SSM discussion, but to observe that many conservatives have taken to heart MacIntyre’s _Whose Justice, Which Rationality_ thesis. I’m not sure we even share a common framework for debate anymore.

          Regarding the original post I rather agree that the Republican party has incoherent boxes that bear no relation to any consistent political or moral philosphy; I too would like to see Christian theories applied to conservative economics, but what of Dorothy Day’s criticism of the Left’s infatuation with Bigness and State sponsored solutions over and against the family? I’d like to see those boxes re-assessed too. I don’t mean that as a Tu quoque defense of the R’s, but really as an invitation to the D’s … Communitarian Christians could go either way – right now both parties are puting impediments of purity that prevent us from supporting either party in good conscience.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Marchmaine
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            Marchmaine, let my first reaction be an openhanded and warm invitation to comment more frequently. This is trenchant and worthwhile commentary, both on the SSM post and on the issue at hand.

            My second reaction is one of effusive, blushing thanks for saying that we are the best of the liberals, combined with a bit of squirming discomfort at impliedly having that label applied to me. I’ve never really thought of myself as a “liberal” although I agree with the liberal or Democratic party position on a variety of issues.

            Substantively, I agree that the lens of structural and intellectual criticism aimed at the right in Conor’s original post would be very productive indeed aimed on the other side of the aisle. And I agree that the political actor who takes policy cues from Christian morality (in good faith) might easily find a home in either party and with either a “conservative” or “liberal” label applied with comfort.

            Cheers, and please do jump into the fray more often! You already know we don’t bite. I mean, we don’t bite very hard. Well, except for Snarky with those creepy teeth. But you know what I mean.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Burt Likko
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              I suppose these terms Liberal and Conservative just do too much work on too many fronts to have any useful categorical nuance.

              If it helps, you’re all just Enlightenmentarians to me.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Marchmaine
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                says:

                I can totally live with “enlightenmentarian.”Report

              • Avatar Rod in reply to Burt Likko
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                Except I can barely pronounce it…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Rod
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                says:

                And I’m not sure why that unpronounceable word ought to be construed as a dig on us. If he sticks around, maybe he could enlighten me.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Dig? That’s one cool moniker.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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                Thanks! It’s a nice little hat, but I prefer my Stetson. And since I have your ear, could you explain why enlightenmentarianism is such a bad thing? I’m honestly not clear on where the missteps occurred, or why we ought to move in another direction.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
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                I don’t think he is saying that it IS a bad thing. He acknowledged that liberal and conservative are pisspoor terms and that enlightenmentarian might be a better one for us. From my vantage point, any “dig” you read into that is because of what you make of the word (and one you seem to admit not knowing what it means).Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater
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                I think the Enlightenment was a praiseworthy age (for the most part). I’d wear a badge identifying me with the ideals of that time with pride. And I don’t think it was intended as an insult or even a backhanded compliment. And if it was, then I’d appropriate ownership of the insult the way Green Bey Packer fans appropriated the intended-to-be-a-slur label of “cheeseheads.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                I get the feel that he uses it in a way similar to how I consider you all “well-intentioned technocrats”.

                To focus on “what is he *REALLY* saying” is stuff we can dig into once we have him commenting drunk on a weekend evening.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Rod
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                says:

                That may be Lib. But he included himself in a group of “communitarian Christians” who find our persistent exclusion of Christian-based arguments to be problematic. And symptomatic: apparently of our “enlightenmentarianism”.

                It may not be a dig in the conventional sense of a smack down, but the implication here is that we’re somehow doin it wrong. Personally, I think excluding religious-based thinking from determining (as opposed to informing, say) policy prescriptions is one of the greatest achievements of the enlightenment. So I asked him about that.

                {{I also notice I somehow understood the word “moniker” to mean “gravatar” in part of my response, which is strange… }}Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater
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                Well, it wasn’t offered as a dig… but one could certainly weild it as one. If and when I do, I’ll be sure to use all caps and/or a frowny face: You damn Enlightenementarian Cheesehead Technocrats GET OFF MY LAWN.

                But to answer your substantive question, I offer it in the sense that MacIntyre uses the term Encyclopaedist to distinguish a Rival version of moral inquiry.

                So yes, we are Rivals (clarity ought not be an impediment to friendship, no?); no, I don’t share your first principles (I suspect); No, I don’t think you are doing it wrong, but I don’t think you are doing it right either.

                I’m not bright enough to be the apologist for an entire philosphical school, so don’t ask; but since you’re curious, that’s where I’m coming from.

                (and I’ll likely regret having posted this once I sober up.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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                Ahh good. You came back!

                Thanks for the explanation. That lays out some of the ways in which we might disagree, and in what sense we may be rivals, and in what sense you think enlightenment thinking might be inadequate or lacking. Along those lines, it’s quite likely that we do in fact hold different first principles. But do we do so necessarily? contingently? are we capable of arriving at an agreed upon set of first principles? That’s in interesting philosophical discussion, one about justification and self-evident truths and what not. And we might end up being rivals on that level.

                Another question, tho, is whether our differing first principles requires us to be rivals. That is, do our first principles determine differing sets of policy prescriptions each of which is inconsistent with the others? I think that might be the more interesting rivalry, but hashing out our disagreements about policy would require us to return to first principles.

                So let’s start there (if you wanna get into this, it’s cool if you don’t), with first principles, by addressing the view you expressed just above: that enlightenment thinking isn’t doing it wrong, but isn’t doing it right either. What do you see as the ways enlightenment thinking is insufficient as a school of thought informing our views of political economy?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                “Another question, tho, is whether our differing first principles requires us to be rivals. That is, do our first principles determine differing sets of policy prescriptions each of which is inconsistent with the others?”

                Fantastic question.

                I smell a post… maybe even a GUEST post…Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Yes, interesting questions on which I’d like to comment…after I land from coast to coast flight.

                I don’t think I’m the right person for some of what you are looking for, but I’m happy to try to punt intelligently.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Marchmaine
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                says:

                When I do my guestpost (It’s still mulling in my head), can you PLEASE comment?
                It’ll be called “The Cornerstone of the Community”Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Kimmi
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                says:

                I look forward to it.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine
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            says:

            Dude. Comment more. We need views like yours. Seriously.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Marchmaine
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            says:

            I actually come here to have arguments with what I think of as Conservatives of Good Will.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      This is supported (somewhat) by the communication theory work of Ernst G. Beier.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      The problem is that this is really the most extreme interpretation of their data possible. If you actually look at the numbers, nobody got it right, either when talking about the other side or when talking about themselves. It’s a task that we’re just really bad at. That liberals are worse than the other people who were pretty damn bad could admit a bunch of possible explanations, none of which have been tested, certainly not the extreme one described above.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
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        It is fair to ask “which group of people do you think will be better at ‘putting on the cloak of their ideological opponents?” and guessing that the open-minded, enlightened, educated people who are trained in thinking like their bigoted and closed-minded opponents?

        If it turns out that the open-minded, enlightened, educated people are not as good as putting on the cloak of their ideological opponents as the ignorant hillbillies, it’s fair to theorize about why.

        If you don’t like the aforementioned hypothoses, what’s yours? (I hope it’s vaguely testable, repeatable!)Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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          It is fair to ask that, and a lot of other things. I don’t think this study does ask those things though. I think it gives a fairly odd task to undergrads and gets somewhat predictable but, standing alone, difficult to interpret results (people are bad at putting themselves in other peoples’ shoes, particularly in strange tasks in which one has to think pretty abstractly, and the fact that people have trouble thinking abstractly about people who agree with them as well makes this an even more plausible explanation).. This, by the way, is what ANY psychologist who’s been trained in research methodology would think about a stand alone set of studies with one basic methodology. Give me more data, they would say. If I see studies that test Haidt’s interpretation, and come out consistent with the predictions that interpretation makes, I’ll be happy to take it seriously (if you want, I’ll even propose some experimental designs). Until then, I’m going to think like a scientist, because it is friggin’ science we’re talking about.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
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            says:

            Until then, I’m going to think like a scientist, because it is friggin’ science we’re talking about.

            Really? It feels like sociology to me.

            Let’s posit an alternate universe where the toothless hillbillies are worse at putting on the cloaks of their betters than people like us are at pretending to be ignorant: would you have the exact same reaction (questioning how difficult it is to interpret results) or would you see it as a “water is wet, film at 11” kind of study?Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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              Jay, if there’s one consistent feature of my approach to research in general, to new methodologies and new hypotheses more specifically, and to social psychology in particular, it’s extreme skepticism. So yeah, it probably would be my reaction to data that looked like this about just about anything else.

              By the way, because Tom’s quote doesn’t really describe it, here is what the data says before people continue on talking about a study they know shit about:

              Liberals and conservatives were asked to answer certain moral questions, designed to be consistent with moral values that Haidt’s previous work (and this is important to note, it’s all Haidt’s work: no one else has replicated this stuff, really) had shown to be associated with liberal and conservative worldviews. They were asked to answer them either as a typical liberal or a typical conservative. So, there are four possible conditions: liberals answering as typical liberals, liberals answering as typical conservatives, conservatives answering as typical conservatives, and conservatives answering as typical liberals (there are moderates as well, but we’ll leave them out for the moment).

              Everyone (including the moderates) got the directions of the values right: that is, all of the political groups were able to demonstrate the direction of the differences in values between liberals and conservatives (that is, the values Haidt has identified in previous research). The problem is, they all overestimate those differences: liberals answered as though liberals were more extreme (that is, that the difference between them and conservatives is greater) than they typically are and they answered as though conservatives are more extreme than they are; conservatives did the same. Liberals’ exaggerations were worse than conservatives, by a small but statistically significant amount (what that amount means, we don’t know, because the study doesn’t test that, and the scale is specific to this methodology and we don’t know how it maps onto anything but that methodology). So, there ya have it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
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                I took a shower and now I feel bad.

                I was using “you” as a substitute for “them” and I shouldn’t have. I apologize. I was wrong to do that.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris
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                Chris, for the record I take a “soft” view of these things, esp claims to social science, which I believe is easily as much art as science.

                IOW, if the lunkheaded conservatives test to be more empathetic than the “open-minded” liberals in faithfully describing each other’s positions—“getting into the other guy’s head”—then at least it argues against the self-serving “right-wingers are insular dolts” narratives

                The Right isn’t truly radical—it’s stultifying. After all, radicals bring capacious intellectual resources to bear upon any number of political conundrums. Their ideas are broad and creative.

                the reader is often obliged to endure. Finish high school and don’t get [or get somebody] knocked up. Then we can discuss your capacious intellectual resources.

                And I must add that the art of Haidt’s science rings true for moi. I spend a lot more time protesting that I’m not an unfeeling monster or an idiot then I get to spend exhibiting my capacious intellectual resources and my broad and creative ideas for ameliorating the human condition.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Tom, if this data helps show that college-aged liberals are at best no better than conservatives at putting themselves inside the other guy’s head, then that’s fine. I think that’s true. I just don’t think this data shows that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                I spend a lot more time protesting that I’m not an unfeeling monster or an idiot then I get to spend exhibiting my capacious intellectual resources and my broad and creative ideas for ameliorating the human condition.

                Hmmm. I have an idea on how to rectify this problem. Spend less time defending yourself and spend *more* time talking about solutions. Seems pretty simple, no?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Chris
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        Okay. Setting aside the question of how you describe yourself and get it wrong, the whole point of the study was relativity–that is, “how does my idea of what other people are like match up with their idea of what they are like?” The study doesn’t actually care what either team says about itself–only whether the other team says the same things.Report

    • Avatar Rod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      Actually, what you’re saying, Tom, and what the OP is saying aren’t incompatible. I live in a very conservative part of the country; my county went something like 80 to 20 for McCain in the last election. So most of the people I know around my home town are conservatives. And they’re, by and large, really nice people. Good, lend-you-a-hand, kind of neighbors.

      But the public face of conservatism has seriously hardened up over the last few years. Seriously, the Tea Party hasn’t been good for you guys from a PR perspective. Shrill, no-compromise, ideologues with a strong undercurrent of racism and homophobia thrown in for good measure. It just seems like your tribe has gotten weird lately.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod
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        It’s always Pin the Tail on the Racist, Rod. [Haidt agrees.] As the defenders of the weak and powerless and oppressed, the left must scout up some oppressors or lose its raison d’etre.

        The 1960s were like so great, you could even call Pat Moynihan a racist. [And to be non-snarky, there was plenty of racism to oppose.]

        These days, the pickins are much slimmer. And I can assure you of one thing, Rod—nothing delights your average conservative more than a black one. If you could answer something like Haidt’s

        yourmorals.org

        test with a proper conservative head, you’d know that it’s far less resentment for layabouts on welfare than it is about so many lives are destroyed by generational poverty.

        I’m a helluva lot angrier at your party and its disastrous policies than I am at your victims.

        From a review of Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple

        Dalrymple is particularly good on the squeaky-wheel syndrome that is so characteristic of modern social services. Defy your circumstances; manage to get some scraps of education; win some decent, if low-level employment; stay out of trouble; stay off the dole; maintain some minimal standards of honesty and chastity; and see what happens to you! If you are lucky, the authorities will ignore you; if not, they will actually harass you. Should your less disciplined neighbors make your life a misery, you will get no help from police or social workers. But if you follow your peers into the world of dysfunction and dependency, all the attentions of England’s extravagant welfare state will be lavished on you. You will be given a free apartment furnished with all modern appliances, a regular supply of money, free medical attention, and the doting ministrations of “health visitors,” “case workers,” “counsellors,” and so on.

        Americans may find it surprising that most of the people wallowing in this slough of ignorance, illiteracy, promiscuity, bastardy, intoxication, vice, folly, lawlessness, and hopelessness are white English people. Much of what is described here is the sort of thing Americans instinctively associate with this country’s own black underclass. There is some satisfaction, I suppose, though of a very melancholy kind, to be drawn from the revelation that sufficiently wrong-headed social policies, persisted in with sufficiently dogged refusal to face simple truths, will visit moral catastrophe on people of any race.

        I assure you, Rod, that there are few on the American right who wouldn’t yes, jump out of their seats to applaud such a speech. But you’d be misreading their reaction: they’d be applauding that somebody had the guts to say it.

        Their satisfaction would truly be of the most melancholy kind.Report

        • Avatar Rod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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          My point is that you and I wouldn’t be having this particular conversation four or five years ago. The election of BHO drew forth a particularly ugly strain of … well, I’m not really sure what to call it… Radical Conservatism, maybe? to the public stage. And there is definitely a tinge of racism to it. Deny it if you must. Hell, maybe you honestly haven’t seen or heard it in your circles, but all of a sudden jokes about fried chicken and watermelons a the white house were in vogue in certain venues. I’m not working from news reports and talk radio, though it’s there as well; I’m coming from personal experience among the salt-of-the-earth farmer and rancher types in the “heartland.” I guess as a white guy with a shaved head, they assumed I would be sympathetic to that view or something. (In actuality, I shaved my head in solidarity with my bride of almost three decades and her fight with cancer and the chemo that caused her to lose her beautiful head of hair.)

          As for the poverty angle, if our disagreements are technical and empirical then that’s at least potentially soluble. The problem I have is when you hear these broad, sweeping statements that are clearly based more in ideology than empirical fact. It just shuts down conversation.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Rod
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            I don’t think Obama’s election brought forth anything radical, but I think I must have a different definition of radical from the ones liberals use to describe modern American conservatism.

            What it did bring to the surface was something that was already there underneath, of course: the same sort of reaction we saw to Clinton in the 90s, and we would have seen with any Democratic president, supplemented by a healthy dose of racism. I know we’re not supposed to say that word, but it’s undeniably true. Its unfortunate, but at least it reminds us that what’s always been there is still there. Some people in this country had started to think that it wasn’t. Some people still do.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Chris
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              Reactionary conservatism plus long-seated racial resentment, really.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                Right. I remember in both 2008 and 2009, hearing things I hadn’t heard since I was a child growing up in the Old South in the 80s. I knew it was always there, but it had been embarrassed to show its face for a long time. Suddenly, there’s a black dude running for and then being elected and inaugurated as President, and it’s not embarrassed anymore.

                That said, reactionary conservatism is hardly radical. Again, if you want radical conservatism, find those dudes who still think Pius X was cool.Report

              • Avatar Rod in reply to Chris
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                Isn’t conservatism supposed to connote a kind of caution toward change? That’s not what I’m seeing; instead it’s all tear it up by the roots and burn it down. That’s why I have trouble with what to call it. They call themselves conservatives but they’re awfully liberal in what they want to change. “Radical” conservatism, “reactionary” conservatism; they’re both oxymorons if you think about it.

                Sometimes language gets in the way of communication.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Rod
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                Eh, I don’t see it. I don’t see anything that’s all that different from the anti-New Deal sentiments that have been part of American conservatism since the 30s. The only new thing is a notably more strident rhetorical strain, but it’s nothing more than that, rhetoric, and it’s mostly about how radical the American left (which is to say, center-left liberals) is becoming.

                There’s an odd sort of symmetry here. As in Haidt’s study, everyone’s exaggerating the otherside. Look, the commies! Look the fascists! I sometimes wonder if the rhetoric has become so polarizing because that’s the best way to make the two sides look like they’re actually all that different.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris
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                UPDATE: The “conservatives” are the ones trying to figger out how to pay for the New Deal. Medicare too.

                Refresh your memes. The GOP hasn’t fought the New Deal since Goldwater.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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                Tell that to the Paulites.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris
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                Tom, that’s just plain old baldface false. Conservatives want to dismantle the new deal. Obama and the Dems actually want to sustain the new deal, which includes paying for it.

                There’s a bit difference there.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris
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                Mr. StillH2O, your attack is 50 years out of date. I just left.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris
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                You gotta do better than that Tom. The Bush admin wanted to privatize SS. The Ryan plan intends to privatize Medicare. How is what I said inaccurate?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris
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                I don’t have to do anything except leave in peace, Mr. Stillwater. Haidt’s thesis stands, and has gathered yet another illustration. Y’all don’t get it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Chris
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                > The Bush admin wanted to privatize SS.
                > The Ryan plan intends to privatize Medicare.
                > How is what I said inaccurate?

                Neither of those things is a dismantling?

                Note: I think privatizing Social Security is a bad idea; the whole advantage of Social Security is that no matter what’s going on in the general economy when you retire, your SS check is there. Privatized, it potentially goes down the hole with the rest of your investments if the economy is bad when you retire… and the odds of that happening are just as good as not, really.

                Privatizing Medicare… well, that’s another question. That’s fairly complicated.

                Now, besides the fact that I disagree with the privatization of Social Security, I can see an honest argument that the private sector could possibly do this better. I think you’re trading into two possible bad scenarios; you’ve got the greater economy sucks problem, which I already mentioned, and you have a “too big to fail” problem as well. I’m not sure why trading this for the current incarnation is a win. I haven’t yet seen a well-structured plan for making it a win.

                But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to do so.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Chris
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                says:

                How are they NOT dismantling?

                You haven’t actually explained how they’re not dismantled when you privatize them. Turning universal senior programs into privatized versions dependent on personal contribution and ability to pay on one hand, and an indexed to less than inflation subsidy for health insurance on the other does, fundamentally alter them in a way that guts the program in question.

                Just because a lawn mower and a BMW are both powered by gasoline doesn’t mean you can just take one away and give the other to someone and claim you haven’t taken away their car. (Or lawnmower)Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                Pin the Tail on the Racist. Check, see above. And so, I hereby Turn the Other Cheek. Go for it, brother. But I’m running out of Cheeks.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t think all conservatives are racists. Maybe not even most. But the racists came out of the woodwork for this one.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Not Racist, but #1 With Racists.

                Or, possibly, more racist than most care to admit. Certainly the record on race from the conservative camp is not good, not to mention the record on interracial marriage, racial issues in voting, and then gender equality issues.

                There seems to be plenty of bigotry to go around and when I have been examining the commentary on talk radio recently, I must conclude that either the show hosts are racist themselves or they are deliberately pandering to a racist audience.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                But why turn the other cheek? Why not explain how you’re not a racist? I mean, that’s what we do here, right?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Why not explain how you’re not a racist? I mean, that’s what we do here, right?

                I guess that’s what you do here, but it’s wrong.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Upon further review, I’m like superhoping your tongue was in yr cheek with that last one, Mr. Still, and that I owe you an apology.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom, you’re the one who doesn’t get it. You accuse people of calling you a racist. And instead of explaining how your not a racist, you lament the fact that people call you a racist. I’m not sure anyone has ever called you that, but the fact that you’re content to think that they have, and content to ‘turn the other cheek’ to the accusation, all the while condemning them for something that they haven’t done but which you think is false just seem like a victims way out.

                If your not a racist then either step up and explain why you think the accusation doesn’t fit, or stop complaining about it.

                It’s the incessant complaining that’s unseemly.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                If your not a racist then either step up and explain why you think the accusation doesn’t fit, or stop complaining about it.</blockquote.

                And I was so hoping you were saying this with irony, not seriousness. Dang. Charlie Brown and the football again.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Sorry about that. No irony intended.

                Tom, just to be crystal clear here: I don’t think you’re a racist. I’ve not heard a single person at this site accuse you of being a racist. Yet forsomereasonorother you think lots of people think you’re a racist.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Thx, Mr. Still. Haidt said in an interview something along the lines of the Left seeing itself as the protector of the weak, the oppressed. This indeed requires playing Pin the Tail on the Racist.

                Reactionary conservatism plus long-seated racial resentment, really.

                Stuff like that passes without raising an eyebrow; it’s just part of the lefty menu.

                You don’t notice it, but I do. In fact, I’m so inured to it, I let it pass 95% of the time. But it was germane to the topic and Haidt, so I noted it. Basically, any meta- about the 2 sides is gonna end up in racism—another corollary to Godwin’s Law, that

                As an online discussion of conservatism grows longer, the probability of racism being invoked approaches 1

                Fortunately, most of ’em don’t need to grow long atall. They cut right to the chase.

                😉Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                I haven’t read enough of Tom Van Dyke’s commentary to determine whether I would believe him to be a racist or not. So I hold no judgement there specifically.

                In a more general sense upon examining writings and discussion by conservative commentators and radio hosts recently, it is readily apparent that there is an attempt by conservatives as a group to appeal to those who are racist, via signaling and dog-whistling. This is why my previous reply regarding the Simpsons commentary, Not Racist, but #1 With Racists.”

                Protip: if you’re saying something, and a statistically significant number of those cheering you are most definitely racists, then you might want to rethink your approach.Report

          • Avatar Simon K in reply to Rod
            Ignored
            says:

            We went through this crap with Clinton too. Its not new. It just seems to get worse every time.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod
            Ignored
            says:

            You and I aren’t having a conversation, Rod. You’re attacking, I’m getting out of your way.Report

            • Avatar Rod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              Tom, I’m not accusing you of being a racist. I’m just reporting my own personal experiences.

              At this point… well if it feels like it’s cutting to close to the bone… maybe that’s your problem.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod
                Ignored
                says:

                It always ends up with alleging racism, Rod, or insinuating it. Mr. Stillwater just wrote the comment of the year, intentionally, I hope. Our work is done here.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          yeah, you find me twenty Black Panthers, and then you tell me that conservatives love ’em.
          (note: Black Panthers, as defined by “were in that group during the 70’s” — not the registered hate group the new black panther party–i think the SPLC has it as a hate group, at least..)Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      *snort* Yeah, but it’s only conservatives who think burning someone’s house down is a fun prank.
      Ten points if you know where i’m talking about.
      Twenty if you’ve been there.Report

    • Avatar Jeff in reply to Tom Van Dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      I think that conservatives are being dishonest with themselves about what they believe. Let’s take ‘one of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal’ as an example, and leave off hunting and factory farms (since those don’t count for some reason).

      Conservatives are more likely to use corporal punishment in training animals (heck, they were the ones complaining about the Eeeeeeeeevil Gubmint intruding into their lives for saying that teachers can’t beat kids, and limiting the amount of beating parents are allowed). They’re less likely to support no-kill shelters. They’re more likely to support dog-fights.

      This is not to say that conservatives go around kicking dogs, but I think that a little critical examination will show that liberals are actually more correct on this particaular question than conservatives, even about themselves.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jeff
        Ignored
        says:

        They’re more likely to support dog-fights.

        Wait, what?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          This is actually an interesting question. If you looked at whites-only, I believe this to be true (though I would reframe it to say “they’re more likely to oppose making dogfights illegal). However, if you include minorities, I think the calculation might change significantly. In the south, cockfighting is the sport of hicks and minorities. I suspect support for dogfighting would be lower, but not all that differently distributed.Report

  3. Avatar karl
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m not qualified to critique Haidt’s methodology (even if I could understand it), but what does a response to “one of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” mean? No one is for torturing the pet cat, but if a liberal thinks that conservatives have a greater tolerance for hunting and factory farming and if a conservative thinks of these activities as more beneficial than hurtful — what do their responses really tell us?

    That said, one of the things that impressed me with conservative thinking when I was coming of political age (late 60s, early 70s) was that their grasp of human nature and how it affects public policy outcomes seemed better set in the real world than that of the far left.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to karl
      Ignored
      says:

      This brings up a good point, which is that in the Land of Generalities, conservatives are often less clear on what they believe than liberals. I think that is at the heart of a lot of the GOP’s problems, these days.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        By which I mean, there is a dissonance between “defenseless animal” and thinking about food. Most likely, they answer with the thought of abusing one’s pet. Even though, surely, more animals are hurt in the course of making food than any other way. There are some parallels to this and “less government” (with some huge blindspots and equivocations, but spoken with absoluteness all the same).Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        So just to be clear: When someone asks “is it okay to hurt a defenseless animal”, liberals understand that the question is actually about factory farming, whereas those insistently obtuse conservatives think that the question is about hurting defenseless animals.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to DensityDuck
          Ignored
          says:

          How are factory farmed animals not defenseless? Do cows have lasers mounted on their heads that I wasn’t aware of?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to DensityDuck
          Ignored
          says:

          Would you disagree with the statement that more animals are hurt in the process of making food than in what conservatives are likely to have in mind?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck
          Ignored
          says:

          Well that’s close Duck. And a good effort. But I think it’s that the term ‘defenseless animal’ is understood by liberal (at least in the example being discussed) to mean factory farmed animals, and by the conservative to mean the pet cat.

          So by that reasoning, if conservatives weren’t so obtuse, they might understand that some liberals actually mean something different by the term.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            But liberals are taking the test pretending to be conservatives, eh? Double whammy.

            I do think a proper refudiation of Haidt needs to do better than spacecows.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              My whammy was limited to Duck’s understanding of conservative’s understanding of liberal’s understanding of terms, not a complete whammy on how each side’s understanding of the other sides understanding is wrong.

              So, yeah.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              I would imagine Haidt is right, at least within the frame of his study. Its consistent with his other work that says liberals reason from only two moral foundations – harm and and fairness – where conservatives have another three – in/out group, authority and purity. Liberals find it hard to understand why conservatives value these things. I don’t think it necessarily reflects badly on either group, but it makes sense within Haidt’s framework.Report

              • Avatar karl in reply to Simon K
                Ignored
                says:

                “Liberals find it hard to understand why conservatives value these things.”

                That rings true, especially as those three are seen by many liberals as, at best, antisocial and, at worst, dangerous.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Simon K
                Ignored
                says:

                I think what you mean here is that the liberal concept of conservatism values “in/out group”, etcetera.

                Although I suppose it’s possible that you don’t read the news or anything, and honestly believe that no liberal ever made a personally-undesirable decision in the interest of maintaining a unified front against the opposition.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                The in/out group value being important among conservatives and not among liberals is not a liberal construction, but rather Haidt’s construction from the results of his survey. Assuming I understand this right.

                Liberals do have in/out group loyalties, though not in a way that shows up in Haidt’s work (and I would argue, in a lesser capacity in the overall than conservatives – certainly a more subtle capacity).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                It seems strange to *criticize* liberals for attributing ingroup/outgroup thinking to conservatives when that’s sorta the paradigm of contemporary conservatism. At least, contemporary cultural conservatism.

                That you go on to say it’s a conclusion Haidt comes to based on the evidence of his study only supports the claim that in/outgroup thinking is a real phenomenon.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Errr, my point was that it was Haidt arguing that in/out group is a conservative value and not a liberal one. Duck suggested otherwise (that it was liberals saying this), unless we are to be under the impression that Haidt is a liberal. I’m not criticizing liberals for attributing ingroup/outgroup. That’s what Haidt does.

                (I don’t think it’s false. I do think it’s more complicated than it initially appears. But I think that ingroup/outgroup, as explicitly defined, is more a conservative thing than a liberal thing.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah. Sorry about the confusing language, but I’m agreeing with you. The case for conservative in/out group thinking established, even by Haidt.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Haidt self-identifies as liberal.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                So does Mickey Kaus. There is how we self-identify, and the role that we play. Haidt is acting as an apologist for conservatives. That doesn’t make him one, but it does make his role in all of this not that of a liberal partisan.

                (I will agree that it’s poor wording on my part. The one time I act on the side of brevity…)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Not really…
                Question: You say you used to be a liberal but are now a centrist. Why the change?
                Answer: I have the personality traits, occupation, social network and lifestyle of a liberal. It was over-determined that I would be a liberal. But in 2005 I changed my research direction. I had previously studied how morality varied across nations. After a second Democratic challenger lost to George W. Bush, in part because they failed to make compelling moral arguments, I began to study left and right in the USA as though they were different cultures. Which they are. I tried to apply a cultural psychology framework to the research, meaning that I tried to understand each side from inside. I tried to get a feel for what each side held sacred, and for what values and virtues they were trying to implement in their political and economic programs. At first I disliked watching Fox News and reading National Review. But within a year, I began to see that the conservative vision of morality, history, and economics was just as coherent as the alternative liberal vision.
                Once I lost my feelings of repulsion and anger toward conservatism I discovered a whole world of ideas I had never encountered. Some of them struck me as quite good, e.g., the value of institutions and traditions for creating moral order; the principle of federalism (which failed spectacularly on civil rights, but is valuable in most other cases); and the glorification of earned success while being critical of efforts to achieve equality of outcomes without attention to merit. I now hold the view that left and right are like Yin and Yang. As John Stuart Mill put it in 1859: “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.”

                http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/05/15/jonathan-haidt-answers-your-questions-about-morality-politics-and-religion/Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Wow, Kazzy, thanks for sharing. (I’d vaguely thought that he had quasi-disclaimed his liberalism, but did a quick scan and couldn’t back it up and so conceded the point since I know at one point he did identify as liberal.) That actually mirrors my own ideological evolution a little over a decade ago. I had to get over some initial disgust in order to get a better idea of the conservative worldview. There are limits to the extent that I ever fully “bought in”, but even having backed away from where I was, it’s really hard to go back to where I was before I left liberalism.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t think Haidt is acting as an apologist for conservatives. Tom makes it sound that way, but really Haidt is acting as a publicist for Haidt.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                The two are not mutually exclusive.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s true, but he never really seems like an apologist. He does seem like a bit of an agitator, with his “All my colleagues are liberals, so I’m going to be different” schtick, but it’s made him a lot of money, so I don’t take it seriously. For the reasons I described elsewhere in the thread, it actually pisses me off.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Will-

                I just happened to read that yesterday. I thought the name sounded familiar, but didn’t connect it with the guy who I’ve seen discussed here a few times. I actually tried one of the value test thingies and found it weird and confusing, for what that’s worth. Just glad to share.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Why attack Jonathan Haidt the person? And yes, I think it’s fair to say he’s become an apologist for conservatives.

                Me, I’m an apologist for all sorts of folks. I’m not an evangelical and especially not a creationist, but I can see the world as they do. Man is not a cosmic accident, and for that great liberal William Jennings Bryan to oppose evolution was to oppose eugenics, and the mechanistic, non-teleological view of being, of life itself, that it’s a bitch and then you die.

                If any of you lefties were under attack from all sides, I’d do apologetics for you too. I might have to admit you’re a commie, but I’d hasten to add that that doesn’t make you a bad person.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom-
                Who is attacking Jonathan Haidt the person?Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                Nope. Haidt’s previous academic work says conservatives value in/out group, authority and purity. This study is consistent with that, which isn’t surprising given it was done by the same guy, and if you take that model seriously, it may cast this in a rather different light than the one Tom was aiming at it. I have no idea whether Haidt is a liberal or not.

                Personally, I think any headline conclusions drawn from the kind of survey data Haidt uses are worthless.Report

            • Avatar karl in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a spacecow. Agree or disagree?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              Tom, I checked out “yourmorals.org”, and the one test I looked at was… well, let’s just say that I think it has serious methodology problems.

              (this one: http://www.yourmorals.org/stereotypes_2.php)

              Of course that’s going to show reflexive results. It’s practically engineered to do so. There is no “neither”, no “both”, no gradiation between the two poles. Shoot, “Someone who cares deeply about the wellbeing of the country.” – that can even be a *negative* stereotype, if you read the question a certain way (I could think that Democrats *care* more deeply about the wellbeing of the country, but they’re worse at *fostering* the wellbeing of the country *because* they care more than they think, and there’s no nuance there).

              If I tell you to pick one of two answers: “your side sucks balls” or “the other side sucks balls”, confirmation bias does all the work for your instrument. This is a terrible test!

              Is there a particular one here you liked?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                No, Pat. This is not Haidt’s only work on the subject, and in the end this always comes down to dogging or defending the methodology, a pointless endeavor. But I appreciate you looking at the site. We’ll see how much better minds than ours succeed in burying Haidt. I just find him more interesting than, as you put it, “your side sucks balls” or “the other side sucks balls,” and I do apologize for hijacking this thread from that usual programming. My bad.

                Me, I got a lot out of this: IMO, Haidt was proved right in the efforts to prove him wrong. I get it now, and surrender the floor.

                Don’t think of pink elephants. In this case, they didn’t!Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                I took the “moral social issues” section too; the questions aren’t great there, either.

                I can see what he’s trying to suss out, and I’m not saying he has no leg to stand on whatsoever, but I’ve read enough survey instruments to know when I’m being led (or when the author of the instrument is trying to lead me). Really, this doesn’t pass the test for a decent instrument.

                Granted, it’s hard to do a decent instrument on the web and get people to go through it. I’ve tried to get people to fill out surveys before and I know that you have to sacrifice nuance for numbers of respondents, but that also has a serious impact on what you can say about your primary results. Not much, basically, “This looks interesting, but it needs a lot more study”.

                Here’s an example:

                “Most conservative Republicans are motivated in part by their hatred of poor people.”

                That’s a poor question, for a number of different reasons.

                Now, if you’re looking to identify with the *language*, as opposed to the thought behind it, that might mean something. But then all you’re really showing is that “people who like politics and identify with one party are likely to identify with buzzword language associated with that party”. That’s not a particularly spectacular result.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                When I think of “poor people” I tend to think of certain friends from my youth. A pair of boys who were raised by (social-security age) grandparents in a small house after losing both parents in a car crash. Another pair who spent 3 years living cramped into their grandmother’s small home after a house fire destroyed their home and the rest of the time was eaten up getting the insurance company to pay and getting the rebuilding done. A rather nice mormon family who lived down the street, whose daughter I dated for a while, who spent a year and a half on welfare when the father couldn’t find construction work due to labor strikes and subsequent pretext-based retaliatory firings of all union workers. When I think “poor” I don’t think in derogatory terms, I remember people I knew who were definitely “poor” when I was young.

                Contrast to listening to right wing radio as I’ve made a project of recently; to hear them talk you’d get the feeling everyone who is “poor” is trash, living in trailers or housing projects, failing to use deodorant or bathe, growing long unkempt and unmanaged hair, harassing people on street corners, trying to get pregnant to increase government benefits as much as possible, or otherwise being completely undesirable in some way, shape or form.

                I particularly find it interesting to hear the hatred of long or voluminous hair, since as it turns out the morning and afternoon hosts for the local talk station are both skinhead-bald. I suspect they may have personal image and projection issues.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Thing is, the “trash living in trailers”, etcetera, are defined by themselves (and by the government) as “poor”. It is not conservatives saying that these people are underprivileged and require assistance.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                > In the end this always comes down to dogging or
                > defending the methodology, a pointless endeavor.

                That’s the way you do social science, though, Tom. It’s all about the methodology. The findings are only interesting inside the limitations of the study.

                Saying that’s a pointless endeavor… well, by that light, you have to toss out science as evidence in the discussion.

                And it’s not like there aren’t dozens of meta studies on survey instrumentation creation, and how to construct them properly. There *are* books on the subject. You have to read them in most social science research fields.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              “a proper refudiation of Haidt needs to do better than spacecows.”

              We should get that on a T-shirt.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            So, yes, when someone asks “is it okay to hurt a defenseless animal”, liberals understand that the question is actually about factory farming, whereas those insistently obtuse conservatives think that the question is about hurting defenseless animals.

            “[I]f conservatives weren’t so obtuse, they might understand that some liberals actually mean something different by the term.”

            There is absolutely nothing in the question to indicate that the phrase “hurting defenseless animals” means anything other than hurting defenseless animals. “But you’re expected to think about all possible meanings of the term!” Oh, so you mean like killing babies that haven’t been born yet? They’re pretty much the platonic ideal of defenseless. “No! It’s impossible for that question to be interepreted as referring to abortion!” And yet you managed to get factory farming out of it.Report

        • Avatar Rod in reply to DensityDuck
          Ignored
          says:

          When I read that, my mind flashed to Ted Nugent.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman
    Ignored
    says:

    On the post as a whole, I’m still digesting it. I think it touches on something very true, though: conservatives (in the land of generalities) very often prefer things be viewed through the prism of their core components. Start with the grand statement, then work their way backwards with exceptions and equivocations. Liberals do this, too, but less frequently and sometimes in the way that a right-hander uses his left hand also. More liberals I know than conservatives seem to think that they are closer to the political center than they are. More conservatives I know than liberals think their position more absolute than it actually is (when you press them on it).

    (Again: Land of Generalities.)Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    “For example, conservatives view policies relating to sexual behavior through a narrow, particular religious lens. When they turn to economics, they set faith aside in favor of Austrian economists, Laffer Curves, and global deregulation. Where foreign policy is concerned, they trade in their economic globalism for strutting machismo—if only to ensure that no future president bows to another world leader. Conservatives have grown accustomed to the mental jujitsu involved in switching modes as they switch issues, and they are careful never to apply a mode out of turn.”

    Maybe so, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t question someone who viewed sexuality, economics, and foreign relations all through the same lens.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      The archetypal liberal – who doesn’t exist, just like the archetypal conservative – presumably would. The logical core of liberalism is maximal equal freedom for all, with obvious disagreements about what does and does not constitute freedom between left and right wing liberals. You can view pretty much anything through that lense.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      I find myself wondering what lenses the liberals view things through…

      “The liberal views sexuality through a lens of their own view of how people ought to do whatever they want, but when they turn to economocs, they look through a lens of authoritarian control to make sure that people don’t engage in perversity, yet again, when they look through a lens of foreign policy, they believe in a soft relativism except when it comes to sexuality or economics.”Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        If you’re hoping that a fairly centrist set of political beliefs born of compromise, essentially, will have a consistent “lens,” you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The same goes, it should be said, for Republicanism: plenty of people think we should let people do whatever they want with their money, except about sex, and except when they’re over there (and especially not when they’re having sex over there).Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            It’s like rain on your wedding day.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            So, you set up a strawman, Chris dismantles it, then you say agree with him?

            There’s something unsettling about that type of argument. Like it’s a lesson rather than a dialogue.

            If there is a point you’re making here, it seems to apply to people generally and not ideologies or political identifications.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
              Ignored
              says:

              The above should be understood more as an obliquely phrased question than a dispute, btw.

              I just don’t understand what point you’re making here.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
              Ignored
              says:

              It’s that I don’t know that the “conservatives” mentioned in the OP actually do switch lenses like they switch marriages.

              For example, let’s look at “When they turn to economics, they set faith aside in favor of Austrian economists, Laffer Curves, and global deregulation.”

              Have you met someone who does *NOT* live on the internet who even knows what Austrian economics even *IS*? I mean, seriously. I’ve met *ONE*. One person in meatspace who knows who I’m talking about when I talk about von Mises. When it comes to the laffer curve, I’ve met as many conservatives who grumble about how it shouldn’t be about giving the government more money as those who say that liberals should appreciate giving the government more money. And, on top of that, when it comes to global deregulation, I don’t know of a *SINGLE* person that I know (and I live in Colorado Springs) who feels that the US should have jurisdiction more than a handful of a miles outside of its borders (and then, only in the ocean).

              Now, I know conservatives who are against gay marriage, who are against higher taxes, and who support a vigorous foreign policy… but if you read them the paragraph that I quoted from the OP, they’d look confused as if they’d never even heard of anything you said (except, maybe, the laffer curve).Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                conservatives need propaganda. they must be taught what they believe.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                My suggestion:

                Foreign policy –> Christian. Do unto others…

                Budget questions –> American exceptionalism. We should have the soundest and tightest budget in the world. No exceptions.

                The bedroom –> Austrian School economics. Utility is subjective.

                Sound good, conservatives?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Lulz. +1.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                > Foreign policy –> Christian. Do unto others…

                Before than can do unto you.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                As opposed to in the bedroom, where having others do unto you is often a lot of fun.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
                Ignored
                says:

                As is their being the soundest and tightest.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I am not sure what you mean by “Austrian Economics”; most of my listening seems to involve discussions of privatizing everything the government currently does, “the free market is the solution” and “the market will sort things out if you remove all regulation and get government out of the way” as a word of gospel from the hosts.

                Based on my own scholarly history, that’d equate to the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith and laissez-faire economics, something which I had presumed debunked long ago with the simple words of J. M. Keynes, “in the long run we’re all dead.”

                It also seems silly to rely on Adam Smith’s long-run theories when it seems the entire stock market exists to satisfy quarterly profit margins and short-term gains.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      Hmm, lemme see here:
      someone who viewed sexuality, economics, and foreign relations all through the same lens.
      That would have to be Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I’m thinking.Report

  6. Avatar Burt Likko
    Ignored
    says:

    You refer several times to application of Christian thought to economic policy. I’m no true Scotsman on the issue of Christianity, but I have seen many examples of Christians offering a variety of interpretations of scripture, all tailored to reach the result that they seemed to previously want before they were challenged with the teachings of their religion. In nearly every instance, I have been told that I do not really understand what the Scripture was aiming at. For example:

    No, no, no, you silly atheist. Jesus wasn’t teaching a lesson about the corrupting influence of money on formerly morally upright social institutions when he knocked over the moneychangers’ carts. You have to understand it in context. He wanted to maintain the ritual purity of the Jewish rites at the holiest site. He was teaching a lesson about upholding social institutions and traditions!

    My point is not to dig into the moral lesson of the story of the assault on the moneychangers or even to offer a dig on Christians in particular. It is to point out that religious teachings, whether Christian or some other flavor, can be rendered quite supple in the hands of someone who wishes to manipulate them to a desired end. So it isn’t fair to impliedly criticize Christian conservatives for deviating from the moral teachings of their religion when they approach contemporary economic policy, because at best the moral teachings of their religion are of ambiguous application to that arena, and at worst there is ample material in the ancient holy books, and ample room to maneuver within the material that is there, to support functionally any policy position imaginable.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      I would go even further and say that the two are removed from correlation.
      It’s more of an issue of the proper function of social institutions; in this case, the government and the church.
      The conservative view is that some manner of choice is required for good and evil.
      If I help the poor, then I do good.
      If I give to the government in order to help the poor, then the capacity for good and evil is diminished.
      That’s the church aspect of it.
      The government aspect of it is the same as it was in Goldwater’s time: Is this the proper function of government? Restated: Is this the reason that we have a government for in the first place? Restated: What, other than government, might fulfill this function?
      To say that a thing is not within the proper function of government is not to address the value of the thing in question; it only addresses the government.Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to Will H.
        Ignored
        says:

        In Catholic Social Theory, that called “subsidiarity.” Basically means putting the responsibility and authority for a particular function at the correct level of society; individual, family, NGO’s (including the Church), as well local, state, or Federal government.

        In the abstract that’s a fine principle; in fact, everyone thinks that way. But by itself it says nothing about what actually should be done by whom. It’s like stating that people have rights without specifying what those rights should be.

        So it gets used by some people as a cudgel to constantly argue that “X” should always be done at the lowest level of society conceivable, when the theory actually states that putting the onus too low on the totem pole is just as much a violation of the principle as putting something too high.

        In the end it’s a perfectly reasonable but almost entirely useless idea.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod
          Ignored
          says:

          Subsidiarity is a disposition, Rod. When in doubt, go x. Work towards x instead of its opposite, Leviathan. [Disposition ~ philosophy.]

          [The Roman Church tried Leviathan, BTW. Quite Hobbesian. Didn’t work.]

          Me, I’d rather be ruled by the LoOG than by the faculty of Harvard University. [Although no offense—things being what they are—I’d probably rather take my chances with random names from the phone book.]Report

          • Avatar Rod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
            Ignored
            says:

            Yeah… but sometimes you really do need to go the other direction. You at least have to leave that possibility open. Avoiding “one-size-fits-all” goes both ways.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Rod
              Ignored
              says:

              Yes, but I think what you are reacting to is a correction bias… the dominant trend is for greater and larger consolidation of action from the lower spheres to the higher spheres. In this environment, most appeals to subsidiarity are going to emphasize devolution. That may attract some bandwagoner libertarian subsidarists… but we lose them once we do start to advocate for higher spheres to act. Like a lot of Catholic social teaching, it is a principle that bears prudential scrutiny.Report

  7. Avatar Liberty60
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m not overly enthusiastic about the psychological testing of “conservative” v “liberal”, mostly because I have changed over the years from a Reagan fan to self-described “liberal” yet I feel like my basic personality and worldview are the same.

    I have changed some of my views based on new evidence that forced me to admit error (when I began meeting gay people who were astonishingly moral, sober, responsible, it was impossible to think of it as a libertine choice); some views changed because of rueful experience (Yes, Reagan really did prove that deficits don’t matter).

    But through it all, the idea that we should embrace radical unproven social engineering strikes me as bizarrely wrongheaded; The writings of Russell Kirk sound perfectly sensible now. Social Security and Medicare seem like time-tested and valuable institutions.

    The modular analysis in the OP sounds valid, but I don’t think there is even that much thought in the conservative movement; there is unity of purpose and identity, but no single theory could possibly tie all the different tribes together. I don’t think there is even one single member who possesses all the lenses we are talking about.

    I think it is more a coalition of tribes unified by fear and loathing of a common enemy.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Liberty60
      Ignored
      says:

      Until you got to the de rigueur dogging of the Right, this conservative was with you all the way, Lib60.

      “But through it all, the idea that we should embrace radical unproven social engineering strikes me as bizarrely wrongheaded; The writings of Russell Kirk sound perfectly sensible now. Social Security and Medicare seem like time-tested and valuable institutions.”

      Still am.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Tom Van Dyke
        Ignored
        says:

        After dinner and reflection, that last part DOES need a bit of editing.

        Fear and loathing are pretty commonplace motivators even among my new friends on the left. And a nationwide political movement that can capture a majority in government by definition, will be a coalition of tribes.

        But the two political factions are NOT mirror images of each other; they aren’t equal in intensity, loyalty, or ideological coherence.

        The liberals are defending the status quo of the New Deal; the conservatives are advancing a restoration of the Gilded Age [try a less perjorative term- how about “Pre-New Deal”-ed.]

        The insurgents are almost always the angrier- satisfied people don’t march around with signs.

        And for all the headlines about Occupy, I have to admit that the Great Working Middle Class hasn’t embraced it. The numbers of people filled with rage and fear of the Koch Bros is smaller than the numbers filled with rage and fear of illegal immigration, urban riots, terrorism, welfare cheats and the vague unsettling notion of American decline.

        So while the line about conservatives being united by fear and loathing may not be correctly limited to conservatives, there is truth that the right is more angry, more unified than the libs.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Liberty60
          Ignored
          says:

          Conservatives are united by fear! And loathing! Conservatives are united by fear and loathing! And an almost-fanatical devotion to the free market! Conservatives are united by fear, and loathing, and an almost-fanatical devotion to the free market! And fancy wool suits! Oh, damnReport

  8. Avatar Al
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s interesting to compare the French far right with the American right. Marine Le Pen was economically left. Her being on the “right” was defined by nationalism. The American and French conceptions of right-wing are quite different.

    I would argue that conservatism properly understood is not simply about minimizing the state’s role in society. Rather it is about minimizing those aspects of the state that undermine traditional institutions and maximizing aspects that fortify and strengthen them. And its character depends greatly on which institutions are seen as important. The reason why true right libertarians are and will always remain a marginal group is because they desire to simply minimize the state. This may be intellectually simple but is psychologically unnatural and therefore simplistic. One problem with conservatism today seems its own lack of consciousness of this. As a traditionalist I think we would do better to maintain that the state per se is not the enemy.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Al
      Ignored
      says:

      Good points. If you look at many of the left wing western European parties they are left in economic terms but the goal for a lot of spending and gov. is to maintain traditional parts of society. Many countries have a lot of support for parents ( especially moms) to stay at home for a while after birth. That supports traditional family models.Report

      • Avatar Al in reply to greginak
        Ignored
        says:

        To be clear, I think that state economic support for parents generally undermines the traditional family, not strengthens it. But apparently the French far right is less concerned with family structures than with the French national character.Report

  9. Avatar damon
    Ignored
    says:

    “When they turn to economics, they set faith aside in favor of Austrian economists, Laffer Curves, and global deregulation.” Really? Perhaps you can explain how TARP got passed with all those Repubs in Congress then? No, THEY SPOUT these points but they don’t follow them. You essentially say this when you talk about how Conservatives “stand united, shoulder-to-shoulder, in their dogged pursuit of federal spending cuts—except for the military, border control, the War on Drugs, and a handful of other pet projects.”

    Each party has their “mantra” that they use to gain power. Once in power the policies are very similar–spend and borrow. Most of the rest is all noise to maintain the illusion that they are different from the hated “other”.

    Your comments about the so called right are correctly attributed to the left as well.Report

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