Mission Impossible

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  1. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    Well, I think there’s something to what Megan McArdle is saying. I do see liberals acting out of an impulse to purity and to loyalty. I’m not so sure about authority, though. It’s confounded.

    But when she says this:

    But if this result holds up, it brings us back to the first point I raised: It may not be so much that liberals don’t care about sanctity, authority, and so forth, as that they are culturally encouraged not to admit that they do.

    I think that what’s at issue is when two of these values come into conflict, which one wins. I am deeply suspicious of arguments about purity and loyalty as pertains to human beings, e.g., race. This is not merely indoctrination, but my own experience with black people, and more frequently with Mexican Americans. When Donald Trump says that they are all criminals, it is meant to be a signal of loyalty to white Americans. No sense of fairness, as far as Trump is concerned, may supersede the loyalty he has for them, the traditional dominant group of America. But my loyalty will not supersede my sense of fairness to these groups.

    However, I still have a sense of loyalty to my group. It’s just that I define “my group” as something that’s a lot less defined by blood ties, and more defined by choices. I love my extended family, I travel thousands of miles to go hang out with my cousins and their children and grandchildren. I’m adopted – there is no blood tie. What ties us together is both the experiences we shared as children and our decision now to come together.

    Now as to purity, and the question of chicken sex. I don’t approve of chickens, much less of carnal relations with them. But do I call it “immoral”? No, because I don’t think it merits punishment. It’s more like I think it’s weird and maybe unhealthy.

    Haidt himself, on the graphs he displayed, never said that liberals don’t respond at all to purity or loyalty or authority. He said they responded less. I think that’s what both posters are missing.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Doctor Jay
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      Doctor Jay,

      Other research has demonstrated that conservatives exhibit a stronger “disgust” reaction, to things like bad smells or the sight of excrement. Another experiment placed a dispenser of hand sanitizer in an office hallway and conservatives were more likely to use it.

      So Haidt is on firm ground in asserting that conservatives hold purity as a personal value, but I think he goes off the rails extending that impulse, which is really about avoidance of disease and such, into the political realm. Otherwise, it would seem they should be fans of the EPA and FDA, which doesn’t appear to be the case.

      And that’s an example of a more general criticism I have of Haidt: that he doesn’t seem to make the distinction that you’re pointing to, of finding something personally objectionable and just leaving it at that versus then extending it to the political process of prohibition.Report

  2. Avatar Brian Murphy
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    says:

    It’s a matter of degree. Liberals still experience the “yuck factor” etc., but much less strongly than conservatives.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Brian Murphy
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      says:

      And to different things, too.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to zic
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        Of course liberals experience revulsion. To different things, as you say, but perhaps more importantly to determining conservatism / liberalism, with different responses.

        A (stereo)typical conservative response to yuck factor is “there oughta be a law against that kind of thing!”

        A (stereo)typical liberal response is “what a creep! I know who’s never coming over here.”

        One reaches for the force of the state, the other reaches for personal avoidance.Report

        • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to dragonfrog
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          That’s only because Republicans control most state governments and have made action on the federal level impossible. Universities, where the left controls, have no problems using all of the mechanisms at their disposal to purge what they consider revolting.Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to LTL FTC
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            Universities are a bit of a weird case, and I don’t think they’re necessarily a very good lens for understanding liberal thinking.

            Comparing liberal to conservative governments (probably have to look outside the USA for that), and liberal to conservative universities (conservative ones do certainly exist) might be more illuminating.Report

            • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to dragonfrog
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              Bans on hate speech are pretty common in left-leaning countries outside the US.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to LTL FTC
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                says:

                Yeah, and that seems reasonable to me – by US standards distinctly a lefty. I think the hate speech laws of my own country (Canada) are imperfect but pretty good, and I definitely prefer them to the US’s model. But that doesn’t mean I support hate speech laws on the basis of “purity” or “yuck factor.”

                Rather, I think that advocating for genocide is actually an activity likely to cause real harm.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LTL FTC
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                Hate speech laws seem to have very little to do with ‘Purity’. They seem to be based in Harm. Or at least *framed* in harm. (Which, as I think I’ve said before, is the actual difference here….conservatives and liberals *frame* thing differently. Liberals would frame littering under Harm, whereas conservatives could frame it under Purity…or also under Harm.)

                Although there is sorta a speech code based in ‘Purity’…the obscenity taboo. Which we normally think of as originating on the ‘right’, but it does actually include the n-word at this point.Report

          • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to LTL FTC
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            You might want to look at the student speech and conduct codes at institutions like Bob Jones and Liberty University before you ascribe that impulse to lefties.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Brian Murphy
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      I’ve been wondering about this, and doing so in the light of the ‘planned parenthood’ videos.

      And it’s got me wondering if this is the case, why so many surgeons are conservatives and farmers.

      Something doesn’t add up here, to be honest.Report

  3. Avatar LWA
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    I read both articles, and as a conservative-turned-liberal with a conservative disposition they strike me as “praising by faint damns”.

    Instead of accusing liberals of being impious and disloyal, the accusation is hypocrisy.

    The implication is clear, that liberals have a set of tribal loyalties and sacred totems just like conservatives.

    This is a tremendous retreat for cultural conservatism. If Dreher admits that liberals have a sense of the sacred, he can no longer just wave the banner of sanctity- he now has to explain and persuade why his totem is somehow superior.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to LWA
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      I’ve never seen an argument that liberals didn’t have a sense of sacred; merely that they held the wrong things sacred. Nearly a hundred years ago Chesterton said that not believing in God didn’t mean you believed in nothing, but that you believed in anything.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    I think there is a subset of the left that does care about purity. However, I don’t think these people often vote Democratic. There is a reason the LGM crowd makes swipes at people like Fire Dog Lake for being “Leftier than Thou”. There is a small section of the American left that never liked the Democratic Party and/or political compromise. These are the people that made cracks about Republicrats from 2000-2004. This was a big thing among Nader supporters at college in 2000.

    However, I recall seeing polls that said Democratic Party supporters want their politicians to compromise and will take getting something over nothing. The same polls said GOP voters would rather have their politicians stick to ideals and get nothing over something.

    There are some liberals who dislike Clintonian triangulation and they are getting more power in the party. This partially explains the rise of people like Warren and Sanders. Or Paul Wellstone’s old line about being part of “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

    As for loyalty, there are partisan Democrats (hi!) and the LGM attack of “leftier than thou” at people like Freddie is obviously a variant of loyalty. I describe myself as a loyal Democratic Party member.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Saul Degraw
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      Saul Degraw,

      This isn’t the sense of “purity” that Haidt is talking about. His questions deal more with issues of personal and sexual purity.

      You’re closer to the mark with Loyalty but here it’s more a matter of degree, with conservatives more likely to adopt a sense of unconditional fealty that liberals tend to lack.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Road Scholar
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        @road-scholar

        “Liberals, always ready to throw each other under the bus” 😉

        I had another vote for the loyalty issue. Perhaps this is why the 20 percent or so of Americans Jews who vote Republican go hyperbolic against people like me who are liberal (and the majority of American Jews). We somehow are being disloyal to Judaism by voting Democratic and vice-versa.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    Too damn early for this…

    I don’t find the liberal yuck factor much of an issue. I do worry about the conservative yuck factor primarily because conservatives tend to be much more interested in codifying the yuck responses into law without making a solid case that there is an actual harm to be addressed.

    This is not to say that liberals aren’t open to making law out of yuck factors, but liberals are less likely to focus on yucks of an interpersonal or intimate nature, which means the yucks they do focus on trend toward issues with stronger justifications (not that I necessarily agree that such cases should be dealt with through the law, but the cases are stronger).Report

  6. Avatar greginak
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    Haidt does some interesting work but the incessant framing as liberals vs. conservatives really hurts his conclusions. I know the L v C dichotomy is how we talk but it is crude split at best. Certainly in terms of personality or social psych factors it seems mostly a silly split to use. The political labels, which are usually useful, map poorly onto personality. And why should they, its not like liberal or conservative are even simple labels themselves. People of all ages, places and belief are consider themselves an L or C. The actual political beliefs that fall under each label can be different as we see in the discussions here. There are at least 2 or 3 L and C subgroups. I know people want to find big differences between L and C but the more you look, the more you are projecting.

    And has been pointed out in many conversations plenty of liberal ideas are pushing a conservative desire for stability or support of the family. Plenty of what we call conservative ideas nowadays are far more radical and are aimed at a massive over turning of the society we know.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to greginak
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      This is so true. I have a friend that is very liberal, and a clinical psychologist. Sometimes she will go off on a rant about how we’ve lost so much in terms of social capital and community connection, and I’ll tell her it seems as though she knows what conservatives want better than they do.

      But then, psychology is about understanding what people want, after all.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to greginak
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      @greginak
      And has been pointed out in many conversations plenty of liberal ideas are pushing a conservative desire for stability or support of the family.

      Yup. I keep pointing out that denying an entire class of Americans access to marriage for *decades* has, uh, obviously weakened marriage, because workarounds were created for gay couple and then *straight couples* started using them.

      Yes, *legally*, a lot of those only applied to gay couples, but *socially*, once you start accepting ‘partner’ as the endpoint instead of ‘spouse’, that word is going to be used for straight couples also, and now…they’re done? They don’t ‘need’ to get married, because ‘partner’ is just as good.

      Good job breaking marriage, Republicans.

      Irony of ironies, this might start reversing itself now that gay marriage is legal. I’m sure somewhere out there there are gay couples that have realized that now that they *can* get married, the insurance company is demanding they *do* get married to share insurance. And socially it will start happening too.

      There’s an interesting episode of White Collar that addressed this, when gay marriage became legal in the New York…a main character ended up breaking with her lesbian partner, because when gay marriage became legal, her partner seemed to think it was obvious they’d get married, because she thought of their relationship as already ‘married’, just not legally…and the main character *didn’t* think of it that way. (This is one of the reason we have ‘marriage’…to make sure everyone in the relationship is on the same page, and then announce that to the world.)

      With marriage actually on the table for gay people, a ‘lifelong relationship with someone’ become a much more obvious target.

      Plenty of what we call conservative ideas nowadays are far more radical and are aimed at a massive over turning of the society we know.

      Remember, overturning our entire income tax system with a sale tax is ‘conservative’, but adjusting the percentage of income tax collected upward by a few points is not.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to greginak
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      greginak: Haidt does some interesting work but the incessant framing as liberals vs. conservatives really hurts his conclusions.

      Absolutely. This is a huge criticism I have of Haidt and similar work. In the first place, he relies on self-identification which is known to have a bias towards “conservative” with something like 20% of people who objectively hold liberal policy positions calling themselves conservatives. The opposite cohort of cons calling themselves liberals is very small. He also barely acknowledges the existence of libertarians. His book only mentions them twice and the second instance he doesn’t even use the word, referring to them instead as “economic conservatives.” Forget about communitarians (e.g., Catholic traditionalists); they simply don’t exist in his world.

      As a consequence, all of this sort of political social psychology research tends to have unimpressive regression coefficients, on the order of .3 or .4 at best. I suppose they’re so used to human beings being “noisy” and messy research subjects that it doesn’t occur to them to question some of their paradigmatic assumptions.

      A paper that Chris was kind enough to provide the link to a few months ago actually tackled this issue. What they did was take a data set of responses to the rwa (right wing authoritarianism) questionnaire and split the questions into economic and social categories, similar to the Nolan Chart. Then they applied some manner of statistical cluster analysis wizardry and found that the respondents fell into six distinct categories: socially and economically Liberals, socially and economically Conservatives, socially Liberal and economically Conservative (libertarians), socially Conservative and economically Liberal (communitarians, although they didn’t name them as such), and two final groups that were both economically moderate but socially Liberal and Conservative respectively. The correlations tightened up considerably under that analysis.

      Now that’s a definite improvement, but personally I still have issues with that. First, why two “dimensions” rather than three or more? Second, I question whether “social” and “economic” are the best dimensions for analysis. For example, is prostitution a social or economic issue? Sorta both, huh? And finally, they stuck with the Liberal vs Conservative paradigm as directions along the chosen dimensions. Really, all that “Liberal” really means in this context is “policy choices typically held by folks who are identified as, or who self-identify as, Liberal in the contemporary American political milieu.” Similarly for Conservatives of course. Any serious political psych research should simply abandon those labels as meaningless for the purpose.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Road Scholar
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        @road-scholar

        What would be a better set of vectors?

        I pretty much agree with (what I think) you’re saying — that translating this to political binaries is poor research. So it’s interesting to think of how to frame these assessments-of-self in some way that’s informative instead of misleading.

        The cost of so much of being mislead here, from the writings of the right that I’ve read, pretty much means they’ve been discussing things with the left presuming they’re missing three of the five cards they should be holding in their hand.Report

        • Avatar Autolukos in reply to zic
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          If you’re going to use only two axes, I think the economic-social pairing makes a lot of sense for contemporary western democracies. Using two has the advantage of producing nice, diamond-shaped graphs, which I support as both a baseball fan and an internet libertarian.

          Even as someone who thinks they are useful, I have two primary criticisms.

          First, presenting them as axes loses a lot of information about the issues within each category. Someone who supports high regulation and low redistribution might end up in the same place on the economic axis as someone who supports low regulation and high redistribution without having much actual policy agreement.

          Second, they simply don’t deal with important questions. I think this is clearest when looking outside the modern west: historically, the proper form of government has been massively controversial in both theory and practice: the French Revolution didn’t set off wars because the revolutionaries enacted a different mix of social and economic policies but because they fundamentally challenged the legitimacy of monarchy. In the twentieth century, both communist and fascist movements sought tightly-controlled societies with planned economies; needless to say, they were not allies.Report

        • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to zic
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          zic: What would be a better set of vectors?

          Good question! I’ve been noodling around with this for a few months now (Hey, everybody needs a hobby. Amirite?), and keeping in mind that everything I believe I know about social psychology and political science is self-taught from the internet, I’ve got something of my own theory.

          Politics addresses concerns in three primary arenas which I use to construct my axes: First is the arena of relationships between and amongst groups. Call this the Security axis. The second arena concerns relationships between and amongst individuals within a group. Call this the Fairness or perhaps Justice axis. The third arena concerns the relationship between individuals and the group. Call this the Liberty axis.

          Now, I arrange these axes orthogonally but rather than placing political orientations within a volume such as a cube, I constrain them to lie on the surface of a spherical wedge. So imagine taking, for example, an orange, cutting it in half, then cutting one of those halves in half again, and finally halving one of those halves. The curved surface that results is a right, equilateral, triangle, a figure that’s only possible on the surface of a sphere. Call that the Political Sphere (Heh). If your sphere is hollow, like a pingpong ball, and you let it rest on the corners and look straight down on it, it looks like a triangle with bulgy sides. Now take another triangle like the first, rotate it sixty degrees relative to the first one and place it on top. Now it looks sort of like a flower with six petals. Sorta pretty. (And yes, I bought a compass and protractor just to play with this idea. Hobbies!)

          Now we get out the crayons! Starting… well, anywhere really, but I start with a pointy bit at the top for reasons that will be apparent later, create a standard color chart starting with yellow and color wedges clockwise orange, red, purple, blue, and green.

          The Security axis forms the diameter between red and green. The Justice axis is the diameter between blue and orange. And the Liberty axis runs between yellow and purple. You can likely see where this is going by now. The red zone represents Social Conservatives, the blues are Liberals, and the yellow is the land of Libertarians.

          The Security axis is the most well-studied in the So-Psych literature and drawing from that I place Tribalism at the red end and Openness at the other. Haidt discusses the Fairness or Justice axis in some depth. One conception of Fairness, equality or egalitarianism, lies on the blue end and the other conception, proportionality or “getting what you deserve” on the orange end. Finally, the Liberty (or perhaps Duty is a better word; I’m uncertain) axis runs from Individualism on the yellow end to communilism in the purple.

          In addition (there’s more??!!), you can chart a “dimension” I call the Circle of Concern, starting at the Yellow with the individual and moving clockwise, expanding through peers, the tribe, co-religionists, socioeconomic class, and ending with universalism. It’s a snake eating it’s tail thing since the individualist prefers precisely one person over everyone else compared to the Universalist. It’s like the meme of the atheist disbelieving in exactly one more god than the monotheist.

          And finally, finally, moderation vs extremism is represented by distance from the center of the figure. Centrism lives in a smaller circle in the middle surrounded by a concentric ring representing Liberal Reason, folks who harbor some disagreement but can form livable compromises. Around that is the ring of ideologues who aren’t ever going to agree much on compromises but aren’t willing to kill each other over it. Lastly, the “petals” are where you find the extremists; your communists, fascists, anarchists, theocrats, etc.

          So, yeah. I’m sure this is more of an answer than you were expecting or wanting but I’ve been stewing over this for quite some time. And… it just seems to work. I would love to see some experimental validation of these ideas but that’s not something I’m in a position to do. Make of it what you will.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Road Scholar
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        @road-scholar
        This is a huge criticism I have of Haidt and similar work. In the first place, he relies on self-identification which is known to have a bias towards “conservative” with something like 20% of people who objectively hold liberal policy positions calling themselves conservatives. The opposite cohort of cons calling themselves liberals is very small.

        It might be interesting to see how many people who call themselves conservatives while not apparently wanting any conservative policy actually do so because, for example, they *do* think Purity or Ingroup is important (Although not important enough to put into law), and that’s what they’re trying to signal.

        But, yes. Any study that relies on self-identification is near nonsense.

        As a consequence, all of this sort of political social psychology research tends to have unimpressive regression coefficients, on the order of .3 or .4 at best. I suppose they’re so used to human beings being “noisy” and messy research subjects that it doesn’t occur to them to question some of their paradigmatic assumptions.

        Indeed. All political analysis seems to be built on a set of assumptions that are based, almost entirely, on what a bunch of people were saying very very loudly in the mid-90s.

        Hell, conservativism *isn’t actually very old*.

        Now that’s a definite improvement, but personally I still have issues with that. First, why two “dimensions” rather than three or more? Second, I question whether “social” and “economic” are the best dimensions for analysis.

        And I have to question if the dimensions *make any sense* as linear directions in the first place, as opposed to just being one set of random policies grouped at one end, and another set grouped at the other end. You can’t just draw a line between two different broad philosophies and pretend that’s some sort of dimension and that it conceptually makes sense to rate things on that.

        As @Autolukos says below, ‘Someone who supports high regulation and low redistribution might end up in the same place on the economic axis as someone who supports low regulation and high redistribution without having much actual policy agreement.’

        And just as important, depending on how it’s asked, someone who doesn’t support high regulation can end up in the same place as someone who thinks high regulation is very important but currently being done the wrong way. Or someone who honestly thinks it’s a state issue, but that states should regulate the hell out of it. (As opposed to what people normally mean when they want it to be a state issue…)

        And look at social conservatives…they might have. hilariously, narrowed themselves to a few specific issues having to do with sex, so they’re seem easy to rate…but has anyone considered maybe that happened *because* we started insisting that ‘social conservative’ was some sort of line?

        And as people here know, I’m constantly trying to disentangle liberals from progressives, which has totally muddled progressive thought since the liberals jumped ship to the left in the 60s.Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to DavidTC
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          As long as we are piling on…
          Even social liberalism is a tricky concept.
          For instance, the single most charged social issue in recent times is SSM, which is gay people insisting on the legal recognition of monogamous marriage and family formation, the very definition of conservatism.

          Where are the real social liberals, the caricatures from conservative imagination, who want to have sex with lawnmowers?
          Seriously, point me to some public figure of national standing who advocates greater sexual license, like a Hugh Hefner sort, circa 1972?

          I personally find the constant attempts to discover some deep innate determination of political beliefs (e.g., “Liberals are innately brave and open minded! Conservatives are innately fearful and closed minded!”) absurd, mostly because of my own political migration over the years.

          My essential nature is conservative, yet I am more attracted to the liberal camp now, exactly because they seem so grounded in caution and the defense of the social order, i.e., care for the community and the environment.

          A lot of times it seems as though the image of the labels is frozen from the early 70’s and the counterculture battles.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LWA
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            For instance, the single most charged social issue in recent times is SSM, which is gay people insisting on the legal recognition of monogamous marriage and family formation, the very definition of conservatism.

            Right now, in the year 2100 (No, wait, that’s not how time works.), there’s some class learning about political history and they’re getting stuck on the concept that conservatives not only didn’t want certain couples to get married and raise children together, conservatives even attempted to bar that by law.

            Conservatives did that! The pro-marriage people! The people always telling them to get married! The people frowning on the ‘modern’ tread of people not needing all that baggage, and just living together because they love each other. (Which everyone knows their generation invented.)

            A lot of times it seems as though the image of the labels is frozen from the early 70’s and the counterculture battles.

            Almost. The labels are frozen from what the late 80 and early 90s thought about the 70s.

            I personally find the constant attempts to discover some deep innate determination of political beliefs (e.g., “Liberals are innately brave and open minded! Conservatives are innately fearful and closed minded!”) absurd, mostly because of my own political migration over the years.

            I’ve always suspected that was confusing correlation and causality.

            Conservatives aren’t conservatives because they are ‘fearful and closed minded’. To the extent that connection is true, it’s the other way around. Worrying constantly about terrorism and immigration…makes people close-minded towards foreign cultures. Having the political belief that certain things are causing the downfall of civilization, quite logically, makes people fearful.

            For some reason we want to think political beliefs are the *outcome* of how people think, and ignore the fact that, logically, they also *alter* how people think. They are philosophies.

            I mean, for example, there’s not any other way to explain Nazi Germany. Germany didn’t just happen to be filled with people susceptible to Nazism through some sort of genetic oddity…a prevailing political thought at that time in Germany *made* them susceptible to Nazism.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to LWA
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            While sex with objects may be a thing, sex with a lawnmower (I’d imagine) promises to be painful, and not in the kinky way, but in the Darwin awards way.Report

  7. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    I just want to connect two things I’ve seen today. In McArdle’s post she says:

    But many authors reduce it to a single principle, which is usually some variant of welfare maximization.

    And then, I saw where Cornell West posted an unhappy rant about Ta-Nehisi Coates on Facebook. He said, among other things:

    Coates can grow and mature, but without an analysis of capitalist wealth inequality, gender domination, homophobic degradation, Imperial occupation (all concrete forms of plunder) and collective fightback (not just personal struggle) Coates will remain a mere darling of White and Black Neo-liberals, paralyzed by their Obama worship and hence a distraction from the necessary courage and vision we need in our catastrophic times

    I think that’s a pretty sound rejection of welfare maximization. And it makes a certain amount of sense, since it’s possible to understand white supremacy as a form of utility maximization by the dominant group. This is, of course, the problem with having only one axis of analysis.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Doctor Jay
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      Can I ask a question about Cornel West? Is he generally pretty well-respected as an academic or writer or opinion-haver?

      I admit, the bulk of my exposure to West comes from multiple appearances on Bill Maher, and maybe he’s just not suited to TV or that show’s format (or maybe he was past his prime; happens to all of us).

      But although I am aware the guy has credentials out the wazoo, nothing he ever said there struck me as particularly insightful or clever (or often, even coherent). I almost felt like he was playing up the “absent-minded professor” act to give the impression of genius, but I wasn’t reading it that way.

      If there’s an essay or relatively short piece that proves he’s well-worth paying attention to, can anyone point me at it?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph
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        West always makes me think of William Buckley; very studied attempt to be very erudite and intellectual. Since i saw him bs’ing on some Matrix docs i haven’t been able to take him seriously. That says more about how i view the Matrix docs then him though.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to greginak
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          I assume you mean this one:

          Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to greginak
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          Yeah, I don’t recall specific examples, but I seem to recall a few times when I thought “you just used that big word to impress us, but I don’t think you used it correctly”.

          There’s also a thing he does, that’s I think pretty common to black orators of his generation, where he chooses his words and cadences in a manner similar to a preacher’s (IIRC, he’s the scion of one or more). Lots of repetition and alliteration and such.

          Perhaps due to my own religious upbringing, I don’t always trust that style of oratory when discussing everyday secular matters and politics; its performative nature seems apparent, and I start to worry that I’m being bamboozled somehow by the speaker’s pretty words. I like that kind of florid style in fiction though – Boyd Crowder or Al Swearengen would be examples there.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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        Yes, he is well-respected for his scholarship, though he hasn’t produced much in years.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Glyph
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        What I know is that he is well respected, highly respected, by black intellectuals. Which is why I’m taking an interest. He’s retired now, ten years ago he was taking some heat for not having much in the way of academic product, and there was a discussion about whether this charge was racially charged or fair.

        All of my engagement with him has been as a left-wing black opinion leader. But frankly, I’d take Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates any day. For that matter, I think Paul Coates is more interesting, what little I’ve heard of him.Report

    • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Doctor Jay
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      @doctor-jay
      I am curious as to how you get from Cornels quote to “I think that’s a pretty sound rejection of welfare maximization?” Not saying you are wrong by any means, just not sure how you got there.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to aarondavid
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        says:

        It’s a bit of a leap, I suppose. I take it because I’ve seen this conversation thousands of times before, being a liberal who believes in regulated capitalism. (In fact, I think regulated capitalism is the result of the dialectic process that Marx described. Things just didn’t go quite the way he predicted. But then again, there was a lot of bloodshed in the 20’s and 30’s that got us to regulated capitalism.)

        West, like most Marxists, rejects capitalism. He doesn’t think it can be fixed. Profit maximization is responsible for all the ills he spells out, and he sees little difference between profit maximization and oppression. This is less stupid than it might sound to some, and I take it seriously.

        Because, as I mentioned before, the white supremacy system was about profit maximization for a certain class of white people. And all the other forms of oppression he calls out can be viewed through a similar lens – the economic lens. The solution for people like West is to ditch capitalism entirely – just give up on the project. Obviously, I don’t agree, and most people know that that’s a non-starter, so they work at the edges and throw rocks at important people – such as Obama – to try to get more attention for their cause.

        Nevertheless, I think markets are quite valuable, and I’m not eager to ditch them.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    I think @greginak is spot on here.

    People are a mix of different thoughts and we all have different traits. A lot of my friends think of me as being personally conservative because I am not a very drinker, dislike staying out all night, and don’t like clubs. This has no bearing on my politics/policy choices. Some of the most party hard and hedonistic people I have ever know were rock-ribbed conservatives when it came to domestic and foreign policy. Is this hypocritical on their part? Maybe at times or maybe not.

    I think there is something innate in most people to want things to be trapped in amber in regards to where they live. Colson Whitehead wrote an essay for the Times right after 9/11 and he said that NYC is frozen in time from the moment you move there as a young adult. You want that NYC to last forever. I think this is true for a lot of people and a lot of places, perhaps all places. I am always startled at the development when I go back to NYC and visit my family and walk in my old neighborhood. I remember what was there from the aughts. There are times when I dream about living in a kind of perpetual lazy Saturday or holiday morning in my old Brooklyn or current SF neighborhoods. Nothing changes, all the décor is the same. This is pretty conservative.

    Now I don’t know how much it should apply in actual life. I find it understandable but get fed up with extreme examples like Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. There is also the fact that people have a right to move. People should not be confined to a geographic location because of their birth, nor should there be any moral or ethical requirement to stay in an area. Yet communities are important and liberals loathe the general displacement even if it is temporary. This is the fight over NIMBYism.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      People are a mix of different thoughts and we all have different traits. A lot of my friends think of me as being personally conservative because I am not a very drinker, dislike staying out all night, and don’t like clubs. This has no bearing on my politics/policy choices. Some of the most party hard and hedonistic people I have ever know were rock-ribbed conservatives when it came to domestic and foreign policy. Is this hypocritical on their part? Maybe at times or maybe not.

      After nearly 40 years spent with a prof. musician, this always amuses me. Teachers, for instance, seem like one of the hardest-drinking professions I know. And a lot of teachers who are borderline or functional alcoholics take cover in the presumption that because they’re teachers, they’re morally sound and probably drink less. Inversely, musicians are presumed to be partiers; yet most that I know who’ve sustained a career beyond their youthful beauty are extremely sober and don’t party; in fact, they’re working while other people party. The conservatives I know seem 1) to smoke a lot of pot, and 2) to have a more extramarital affairs; and both seem to happen given the cover that because they’re conservative, they’re less prone to such behaviors and/or excused because liberals are much more prone. Or something.

      Which all goes to provoking thoughts of my pedophile, who was such a great guy, like most pedophiles.

      Maybe our choices in ideologies in public are, to some great extent, chosen as covers for what we consider our foibles to be?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to zic
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        says:

        Maybe our choices in ideologies in public are, to some great extent, chosen as covers for what we consider our foibles to be?

        They aren’t ‘covers’.

        People, by default, assume their weaknesses are *everybody’s* weaknesses.

        So if they want to go out and drink all the time, everyone does, so social rules are needed that disapprove of such behavior…not so that no one will ever do it, but so that it will be *limited* to reasonable.Report

  9. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m still trying to grapple with the notion that people realistically believed those on the left were missing some moral/emotional ganglia, and unwilling to contemplate that they simply didn’t comprehend the yardsticks.

    I thought Dreher’s commenters were, for the most part, both kind and insightful about the sudden and unexpected revelation, too.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m still trying to grapple with the notion that people realistically believed those on the left were missing some moral/emotional ganglia, and unwilling to contemplate that they simply didn’t comprehend the yardsticks.

      They had neither the vocabulary nor the prerequisite background in science to be able to say “those people have evolved past our primitive society”.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t know about that, @jaybird

        I just think it’s a long habit of failing to presume that the ‘enemy’ has more in common with you than they hold in difference. In this case, a presumption that they’re stunted in some way.

        Saying that something isn’t in their vocabulary or prerequisite background in science, to me, seems like making the same mistake. (And this is one thing I’ve actually learned to recognize from you, of all people. . . )Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to zic
          Ignored
          says:

          One thing that I have learned to recognize (the hard way) is the whole “religious belief” thing.

          If you take the contents of a religious belief, whatever it is, and put it in a black box and lock the box, you’ve pretty much only got access at that point to “how does the person defend this particular proposition?” or “what allowances does this person make for this particular proposition that s/he does not make for other beliefs?”

          And that’s without even getting into “does this person give a lot of leeway to someone who expresses similar beliefs that they do not give to someone who expresses a significantly different belief?” issue.

          Anyway, all that to say, if you’re one of those folks who sees the Catholic Church following pretty logically from the Orthodox Church, and the Protestant from the Catholic, and the Unitarians from the Protestant, it’s not that difficult to see the modern mindset as just another next link in the inevitable chain of progress.

          If you’re willing to swallow that particular camel, the gnat of “this taboo wasn’t removed, it was replaced” is downright simple to stomach.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            Anyway, all that to say, if you’re one of those folks who sees the Catholic Church following pretty logically from the Orthodox Church, and the Protestant from the Catholic, and the Unitarians from the Protestant, it’s not that difficult to see the modern mindset as just another next link in the inevitable chain of progress.

            Except that the chain’s links are being added along many different vectors; not just mainstream-organized (the next link in your scenario might be Mormon).Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to zic
              Ignored
              says:

              Oh, there are tons of offshoots. The Non-denominational churches and the Unitarian ones are similarly post-Protestant despite going in two completely different directions.

              Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses both give good examples of the weird places descendants can go.

              I wonder how much a modern atheist would have in common with, say, Thomas Jefferson (assuming the “atheist” claim would have had something akin to accuracy rather than being a handy slur). My guess is “precious little”.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      Haidt like every other person out there seemingly was good at hooking onto the #slatepitch gravy chain that finds a market and rides it for all it is worth. “Look here is a self-described liberal who says that conservatives use more factors for decision making than liberals. Doesn’t this make us feel better!”Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, I know that Haidt himself says most moral reasoning comes after the fact. That is, it is in the form of rationalization. So your notion that this means that liberals are somehow less developed is not at all implied by his work. Whether the writers you cite thought that or not is a different question.

      My own take is that I have impulses toward purity, group loyalty and respect for authority, I just hold them with some skepticism.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Doctor Jay
        Ignored
        says:

        My own take is that I have impulses toward purity, group loyalty and respect for authority, I just hold them with some skepticism.

        I think I’m most discomforted by the lack of skepticism displayed by many religious believers; and the ways this allows them to disregard non or different believers.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      Part of this, I think, is owed to the difference between liberalism proper and leftist/progressive moralism. A lot of academic liberalism disavows justification based on authority, purity loyalty etc. Political philosophers who work on liberal theory rather explicitly rely only on harm and or fairness concerns. It also seems to be the case that loyalty, purity and authority bases are at the least under theorised, and are probably untheorisable. In a way, we are all Kantians now and accounts of morality based on loyalty, purity and authority will contain features that we think moral theories ought not to have. So, contra Haidt, I think moral views (or at least political views) which rely only or primarily on the harm and fairness bases can be better supported by reasons than those that rely on the other three bases. Haidt, like a lot of psychologists, makes the mistake of thinking (or at least seems to) that just because we tend to construct reasons after we come to a belief that reasons cannot play a justificatory role. And further he seems to believe that just because most people tend to rationalise instead of reason, that all attempts at reasoning about morality are always going to be rationalisations.Report

  10. Avatar Patrick
    Ignored
    says:

    I think both articles reveal something different… I think social liberals (as opposed to leftists or economic liberals, so we’re talking about overlap with a lot of libertarians here) see some things as matters of morality (fairness and care/harm as close enough for working purposes) and other things as matters of taste (sanctity fits here).

    The question of “do you find certain types of sex acts personally repugnant” is different from “do you find certain types of sex acts inherently immoral”. Plenty of folks might rule on the incest case posited in the hypothetical “this is not morally wrong, but it’s icky”. Elevating “icky” to “immoral” isn’t the equation, though… and refusing to elevate “icky” to “immoral” isn’t casting aside part of your humanity, it’s questioning whether or not “icky” belongs in your moral philosophy calculus in the first place.Report

  11. Avatar Vikram Bath
    Ignored
    says:

    To some extent, this is playing with definitions. Haidt originally used somewhat obvious (in a good way) notions of “purity” and “authority”.

    You can, and people did, come in afterward and ask “well what about environmental purity?” and “what about the authority of environmental scientists?” This was interesting to ask, but I think it’s worth noting that the words have been stretched a bit so as to create what seems like a substantial disagreement when there might not be much of one if everyone were using exactly the same definitions.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Vikram Bath
      Ignored
      says:

      Vikram Bath,

      This. Haidt is referring to the authority of someone like a police officer or religious leader, what you would call “positional” authority. This is in contrast to the authority of the subject matter expert. Conservatives tend to defer to the former; Liberals more to the latter.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Road Scholar
        Ignored
        says:

        I wonder how much of this is just a function of subject matter experts on the subjects in question telling leftists the things they want to hear. Global warming, sure. But economists on rent control or free trade? What do those morons know? They can’t even stop business cycles from happening.Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg
          Ignored
          says:

          Haidt has demonstrated that when people reject clearly logical conclusions, its often that they see a moral flaw in the conclusion.
          They aren’t rejecting the logic, but the unspoken moral boundary that is being crossed.
          The non-harmful taboos, he termed it.
          So for example even broad minded people reject necrophilia, even if they can’t argue with the simple logic that shows it to harmless. It violates a deep understanding most people have of the sanctity of the human person, and the proper role of sexual conduct.

          So in this case, when an economist asserts that “free trade”, i.e., the complex set of laws and regulations governing global commerce increase the wealth of the global poor, liberals like me don’t reject that finding.

          We reject the all the unspoken moral premises behind it.Report

  12. Avatar Autolukos
    Ignored
    says:

    Haidt has been clear for as long as I’ve been aware of his work both that the choice and framing of questions is a major problem for his research and that observing differences in the sources of moral reasoning does not resolve the philosophical problem of what moral reasoning is correct.

    Dreher, in particular, has eagerly ignored these caveats to proclaim that Haidt’s findings are beyond criticism and clear evidence of the correctness of conservative reasoning. Color me amused to find him swallowing a revision with such enthusiasm.Report

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