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Cowboys and Liberals

| 92 Comments

Judith Warner is a bestselling author and a blogger at the NYT who produces (I have learned today) a blog called "Domestic Disturbances." Her writing was panned by Prof. Kenneth Anderson, who called it condescending. I have only read the one piece of it she wrote, so I won't say he's wrong as a general thing: but I thought this was a piece that showed a great deal of the right spirit. Let me explain.

She writes about attending a McCain-Palin rally in Virginia. She confesses that she intended to go as a joke, and to mock the attendees -- but she ends up being taken by the kindness of the strangers, their hopes for Gov. Palin, and the evident joy of their lives. It scares the hell out of her.

No, it wasn’t funny, my morning with the hockey and the soccer moms, the homeschooling moms and the book club moms, the joyful moms who brought their children to see history in the making and spun them on the lawn, dancing, when music played. It was sobering. It was serious. It was an education....

For those of us who can’t tap into those yearnings, it seems the Palin faithful are blind – to the contradictions between her stated positions and the truth of the policies she espouses, to the contradictions between her ideology and their interests. But Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, “What Makes People Vote Republican?”, that it’s liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.

Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view.
Now that's a start. Let's explore it a bit.

The place to start is the Haidt essay. He begins by noting the famous study that treats conservatism as a sort-of mental condition: "conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death."

He then adds:
Diagnosis is a pleasure... But with pleasure comes seduction, and with righteous pleasure comes seduction wearing a halo. Our diagnosis explains away Republican successes while convincing us and our fellow liberals that we hold the moral high ground. Our diagnosis tells us that we have nothing to learn from other ideologies, and it blinds us to what I think is one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo, step back for a moment, and think about what morality really is.
I would go farther than that, and suggest that the model is self-evidently false. What percentage of entrepreneurs are conservatives in some sense of the word? What percentage of small business entrepreneurs -- that is, those who risk not just something, but everything? Voting habits indicate it's a clean majority -- yet these people are supposed to be 'especially fearful of uncertainty'? What percentage of military officers -- or soldiers of any rank in the the combat arms of the military -- are conservatives? Voting habits, again, indicate a strong majority: and these are the people supposedly afraid of death?

What has happened here is that the halo blinds from the beginning. It blinds people into accepting results plainly at variance with reality, because it answers their preconceptions. It also allows them to discard the fact that these economic questions do have a conservative answer: even Dr. Haidt's explanation, which I will praise on more important grounds in a moment, simply takes as read that conservatives who are poorer are voting moral rather than economic interests. In fact, they have a different concept of where their interests lie.

There is something deeply worthy in the Haidt piece -- what is far more important than the wrongness of the concept that conservatism is a mental state to be diagnosed, rather than a philosophy to be explored and considered. It lies here:

My first few weeks in Bhubaneswar were therefore filled with feelings of shock and confusion. I dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen. My hosts gave me a servant of my own and told me to stop thanking him when he served me. I watched people bathe in and cook with visibly polluted water that was held to be sacred. In short, I was immersed in a sex-segregated, hierarchically stratified, devoutly religious society, and I was committed to understanding it on its own terms, not on mine. It only took a few weeks for my shock to disappear, not because I was a natural anthropologist but because the normal human capacity for empathy kicked in. I liked these people who were hosting me, helping me, and teaching me. And once I liked them (remember that first principle of moral psychology) it was easy to take their perspective and to consider with an open mind the virtues they thought they were enacting.
"The normal human capacity for empathy" is just what we have so long been missing in this discussion. The implicit advocation that you should try to like the people you are observing, that it would open new avenues for understanding them, is long overdue. Dr. Haidt is to be praised for this insight, but also for being the kind of man who could have it.

Judith Warner has read his piece, and is trying to do what he advocates. She is not -- still not! -- able to understand these women. She is still afraid of them, and that fear of them comes through in her piece in many ways. From her recognition that her children's love for brie might mark her as an outsider here, to the sense that this is all an alien environment she cannot comprehend, it is clear she is afraid of these people, and of a joy she can neither name nor understand.

Yet she is trying to understand it. She is trying to make friends.

Both she and Dr. Haidt ultimately are far from understanding -- reading Dr. Haidt's clinical descriptions is enough to make a man chuckle. Yet I respect their kindness and their humane desire to understand, to have empathy, to like and befriend.

They will probably not quite grasp what I mean when I say that conseratives are not subjects-for-observation but neighbors; and that in choosing "Love thy Neighbor" as their method, they have found the right road. I expect Dr. Haidt will read that as my desire to enact my life in accord with a defined sacred order, to reduce uncertainty and bring meaning to my life.

That is not at all what I mean: what I mean is that, in this world, that is the road most likely to lead to genuine understanding between people. Like Chesterton, I learned that from the world, and then found it reflected in the books.

That, though, is a longer trail. For now, it's enough to take a moment to recognize a good thing, to welcome it and praise those who are trying to make it work.

92 Comments

You are crazy Grim.

Anyone who disagrees with you is inherently evil. This is established fact and you should stop your heresy now.

Cordially,

Uncle J

I'd be more inclined to adopt that perspective, Jimbo, if it weren't for my own occasional evil impulses. :)

Haidt identifies Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Purity, and Respect (for lawful authority and tradition) as fundamental moral values that exist across cultures, and he says:

I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally.

I don't know what these statements are, but I think Haidt is off-base here.

It is just false to characterize conservatives as pro-authority and liberals as anti-authority. In many places (Alaska being not a bad example) you could make a better case for the opposite. It makes a difference who exercises that authority, and I think it makes more difference to the liberal than it does to the conservative. The fairness and justice of the authority makes less of a difference - liberals have been known to, ahem, defend authoritarian regimes on occasion.

Likewise, liberals have a complete set of Purity taboos, growing by leaps and bounds, they're just non- or anti-traditional taboos. Katha Pollit wants to barf when she sees a flag, for example.

I should also point out that Judith Warner's piece, to the extent that she is serious, reeks of Threatened Liberal Purity. Children seem to figure largely in these phobias, including a sinister psychic two year-old.

That may be, my friend: but the same road is right for you, if you want to understand her. Try to love her -- whether or not you can like her -- and you may see something new.

Mr. Wishard;

I think you are misreading Haidt's view of the axes of morality. My reading is not that "liberals" are anti-authority, but indifferent-authority.

#6:

What is the distinction between anti- and indifferent- w.r.t., say, the liberal desire to apply the Fairness Doctrine to talk radio? Or, to reinstitute the so-called "Assault Weapons" Ban, which even the Brady campaign stated was so poorly designed as to be ineffectual?

I think you're all missing Haidt's point. Liberals have a dominating "harm no-one" purity test; all else is not just irrelevant, it's necessarily evil because it contemplates the possibility of harming.

Note that conservatives BALANCE ALL THE VALUES, whereas liberals are unable to "grok" anything but their One Rule. IOW, liberals are rigid and narrow, conservatives are flexible and inclusive.

Take his little survey at yourmorals.org and read the follow-up text that gives you access to.

Personally, I spend way too much time around Marxists (admitted or not) of one kind and another to give much credence to buy that stuff about conservatives being "cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death."

I'm not conservative in the general sense (if pressed, I'd say I'm a true philosophical anarchist who happened to be raised on a farm and thus has a strong awareness of the usefulness of a kind of conservative attitude towards the important things in life), and I thrive in situations of uncertainty and change, whereas the Marxists I know are incredibly cognitively inflexible (those of you who have had a 'discussion' with a dedicated Marxist know what I'm talking about), are hierarchical in the extreme (despite their protestations), and incredibly afraid of uncertainty and change. I don't know how the feel about death.

Most of what passes for a liberal ideology today takes their cues from one stripe of Marxist or another. Feminists of the Shulamit Firestone type abound, as do phony minorities like Ward Churchill. They define, quite tightly, the bounds of 'liberal' thought.

I know a great many 'conservatives' back home on the farm, and practically none of them are cognitively inflexible or hung up on hierarchy (other than the natural kind demonstrated by the exercise of one's abilities), nor are they afraid of uncertainty (farmers live and die with the weather, for gosh sake), nor are they afraid of change (they are wary of change, since their lives depend on yearly success), and they don't appear to fear death any more than the next person (and in fact, being close to nature recognize the life and death cycle).

Looks like one more of the many massive cases of liberal projection to me.

I do agree, however, that those on the Left find it all but impossible to truly think like their opponents, probably because they refuse to believe non-Leftist think in any real way.

Let me see if I’ve got this right.

Essentially, Judith Warner finds it disturbing that these conservatives are blindly, uncritically falling in love with an inexeperienced politician whose tissue-paper-thin resume is being puffed up to grandiose proportions, twisted out of shape to provide some sort of context and support for a hopelessly idealistic agenda that the facts cannot realistically justify.

Shocking. Horrifying!

Liberals would never behave that way !

First of all, Americans have to stop using words like 'conservative' and 'liberal', as neither of these groups match the dictionary definition of these terms at all.

How can an entrepreneur or small-business owner be 'conservative'? How can a staunch free-marketeer be 'conservative'?

How can supremely intolerant, rigid, illogical, and xenophobic people be 'liberal'? Why are they permitted to use favorable words on themselves, when their actions demonstrate quite the opposite?

First, it was 'liberal'

then, 'elite',

now, 'progressive'.....

Why stop there? Why not go the whole hog and call themselves 'post-humans' or 'superhumans'? It would scarcely be less wrong than the words they already use.

Brian H.,

Liberals have a dominating "harm no-one" purity test;

If only! Go spend a few minutes and Kos, or some similar place, and then come back here and try to make that claim with a straight face.

One aside to Grim. The barter arrangement you described in your Blackfive post also has one issue that nobody discussed, but that any bureaucrat would spot in their sleep: there's a bunch of imputed taxes and regulations being avoided and bypassed by such arrangements.

In a fully taxed and regulated world, the work you did for your landlord as imputed rent payment would have to be declared as self-employment income, subject to 15.7% self-employment tax as well as ordinary income tax. There may also be sales taxes involved, as well as numerous worksite regulations and insurance issues and even possible "without-a-license" violations, depending on the type of work you did.

On the landlord's side, there's a bunch of imputed rent not being reported, as well as possible lack of SS withholding for having a "statutory employee" (see what happens if a politician has ever hired a housekeeper), etc.

So, for a perfectly reasonable and equitable arrangement consented to by free adults, you both could be facing big fines and possible jail time for not cutting the government in on its share or its "interests".

My wife sells little businesses, and nearly all of them have some sort of "off-books" arrangements of one form or another. And the more taxes are raised and regulations made more onerous, the more they're ignored and ultimately made a mockery. And inspectors and such are bribed to go away. And your larger point that if all the regulations were enforced and all taxes were collected, life would be far more expensive for (largely poor) customers of such businesses is quite true.

But since the Dems are the party of lawyers, taxes, and bureaucrats, and "populism" that ends up being implemented as expensive and burdensome regulation, they hold no appeal for small business. Not that the R's are all that much better, but they do have a higher percentage of politicians who at least try to "get it".

This is why I'm a "small-ell" libertarian who mostly votes Republican. If you want a society with rule of law, you have to have a small number of laws that people pay attention to. Otherwise, you get an African country where the laws exist purely to enrich bribe-seeking bureaucrats.

And it shouldn't be illegal for adults to come to agreements that benefit each other and don't hurt anyone else.

Sorry to hijack this thread, but the Blackfive thread is three years old...

One of the reasons conservatives can replicate the thinking of liberals, but not the other way around, is that many conservatives were liberals in their younger days, and are thus just remembering the process.

It's the same method of behaviour that many parents replicate when playing with their young children, the remember how they thought and acted when they were the same age.

My experience is that the great majority of liberals are at an immature stage of social development, and that many grow out of it as their decision making processes mature. Some, however, never grow out of that immature state, and what you get are the self absorbed, amoral liberal "elites", who are in fact nothing but over aged, selfish post pubescents.

Re - Foobarista #14:

“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” ~ Will Rogers

#14:

An excellent point. :)

“If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain.” Prime Minister Churchill

Given the modern usage of these words, that pretty much sums it up in a generalization.

William sends.

After a second reading the above quote could be taken as a generalized ad hominem and it was not intended to be so. It was intended to support the argument above about many "neo-"conservatives being able to understand the perspective of modern "neo-"liberals but there being some difficulty in the other direction.
Discussion is good. Reasoned discussion is necessary. And if we can get back to that on the national/MSM level we'll be heading in the right direction.

William sends.
"Everything in life is part of a cycle" William 2008

Haidt's article is interesting and insightful, but I doubt it tells the whole picture. Like everyone else, Haidt has his blind spots that make it impossible for him to judge "his team" in a context outside of itself.

He notes that of the five axes which social conservatives use, social liberals use only two, neglecting loyalty, authority, and sanctity. I think it's probably more accurate to cast those five axes as general components of the human social experience (and probably not the only ones) and that successful groups, if they survive long enough, will develop their own variants of all of them. The sanctity angle is the absolute simplest one to spot-- Haidt offers it as a suggestion for the future, but I've seen enough social liberals elevate the environment to a degree of important that I can only think of as sacred. It leads to conclusions approaching the same level of goofiness that an excess of literalistic religion does, so that while it annoys me, it's certainly no worse than the conservative brand.

(Social conservatives thinking you've got a good record, there? Go look at the incessant attempts to hijack school boards and shoehorn creationism into biology class.)

There are certainly impurity taboos among social liberals, but where they seem to be going wrong is that some social liberals are turning social conservatism itself into the taboo objects. The condescension and-- there is no other word for it-- disgust, all but boils out of some peoples' pores, and begins to target everyone with a different opinion.

Some. Not all. But it seems a lot more prevalent now than it was ten years ago, and even more than it was fifteen or twenty years ago.

(Social conservatives feeling smug in the background? Stop. Seriously, stop. Clean your own house of the Patrick Buchanans before you even think of pointing fingers.)

And when purity taboos are pointed at other people and their principles and their philosophies, one can't help but turn that into a loyalty test. And so I've been seeing, even in my circle of acquaintances, increasing statements to the effect that anyone who disagrees or fails to entirely agree-- not just social conservatives, but even moderates, independents, anyone who will not openly profess agreement-- just can't have their head screwed on straight, is a danger to democracy, and is the enemy.

(Social conservatives? Rush Limbaugh. Ann Coulter. Wipe that sense of satisfaction away.)

And the authority issue seems gobsmackingly wrong to my eyes, because social liberals are overwhemingly ready to use authority in pursuit of their social agendas, just as social conservatives are. (Do I really need to give the examples?)

If there are messages to be taken from Haidt, they're probably two-fold:

1) On the one hand, social liberals are nearly as different from social conservatives as they'd like to think. Haidt misses this, I think, because he's too close to his topic.

2) To the degree that they are different, social liberals seem to greatly subordinate three of those axes of social concern to the primary two that Haidt thinks are still functioning. The structure may seem logical and clean, but humans aren't always logical and clean, and the structure comes away more than a bit lop-sided and unstable in practice.

Grim, this is just great. Thank you for writing it, and thank you for posting it here.

A.L.

Great links, great discussion in the comments. Per the linked Kenneth Anderson essay, it is fascinating that the NYT's editors find Judith Warner's articles to be insightful. Presumably, they've heard of (and perhaps even read!) witty and engaging feminsts like Caitlin Flanigan and Sandra Tsing Loh. But the narrow-minded and sclerotic is to be preferred, as long as it refects our way of thinking.

I found Warner's article to be pretty representative of a class of people that live in cloistered enclaves that discourage contact with "outlanders." Warner's observations reveal a great deal about herself and these echo chambers rather than provide any useful insights about the people she was ready to mock.

She must lead a pretty pathetic life to have so many twisted fears and obsessions.

Mr Jackson:

When "correctly" viewed, every life is pathetic[1]. There of course is the infamous "nobody I know voted for him" attitude that you indirectly point out: to the extent she got to know these aliens, Warner is doing at least a bit better than that. And there probably are some folks in, say, Idaho who are just as cloistered. How the ratios compare, I can't say.

But regarding cloisteredness, as it happens, a close relative of mine is canvassing for a candidate these days. He says he gets a lot of "Get the Hell off my porch!" That reaction, the perception of intrusion, the lack of a sense of neighborliness / willingness to spend time, is at least as significant to me as the pros and cons of whichever candidate he might be promoting.

Don't know what will change that, if anything can.

Thanks for the post, Grim.

[1] With apologies to Tom Lehrer

"If only! Go spend a few minutes and Kos, or some similar place, and then come back here and try to make that claim with a straight face. "

I agree. If leftists had the power to send Christian conservatives to gas chambers, they would without a moment's hesitation.

GK #25: I am not convinced that they would limit their efforts just to "Christian conservatives." Did you happen to read the comments appended to the Judith Warner piece ? I certainly found them illuminating . . .

I've been trying to email you press releases but they bounce back from the redirected email address.

We had a demo aggainst sharia law

[Mr Gash: Whom, specifically, were you trying to reach? --NM]

#8 from Brian H:

"I think you're all missing Haidt's point. Liberals have a dominating "harm no-one" purity test..."

I don't think so.

In any case, the killer is how they define "no-one" to make less than human and fit for slaughter vast numbers of innocent and defenseless human beings. I think it was Stalin that once said: "Person: problem. No person: no problem." This is how liberals do it: when a helpless human being is in the way, first they are defined as a non-person, and then they are physically eliminated. And whoever objects to this, liberals hate with a truly venomous hatred.

This is why there are people, such as myself, who could readily reconcile with a lot of liberalism, at least the sort that Armed Liberal advocates, but who when presented with liberalism as a package will always reject it.

Francis Cardinal George of Chicago (link):

"The unborn child, who is alive and is a member of the human family, cannot defend himself or herself. Good law defends the defenseless. Our present laws permit unborn children to be privately killed. Laws that place unborn children outside the protection of law destroy both the children killed and the common good, which is the controlling principle of Catholic social teaching. One cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good."

My opinion is the same.

(Except that I'm pagan, not Catholic. But this is not a stance that depends on the doctrines of a particular religion; rather it follows from a basic view of the value of human life that underpins multiple religions.)

You could not fit a thin sheet of paper between Armed Liberal's opinions and mine on some topics, including very emotional ones such as how to indoctrinate children to prepare then against school shootings.

But all these topics are much less important than the tacit definition of "human". Which human beings are effectively less than human and outside the common good is decisive.

If leftists had the power to send Christian conservatives to gas chambers, they would without a moment's hesitation. [GK, #25]

Think you might be stereotyping a little, GK? Did you entirely miss the point of Grim's post? Or are you among the significant number of conservatives who cannot empathize with the actual liberal positions?

I'm only picking on GK because he had such a perfect quote at the current end of the thread. But this is a theme I see a lot: "Those guys on the other side? They believe, every single one of them, this horrible thing! I know that because I have seen a blog comment where one of them said exactly that! They are all evil!"

This kind of straw man argument may be satisfying, but it gets no one anywhere. And focusing on this kind of argument, this kind of satisfaction, is endemic on both sides of the aisle.

The quite interesting claim from the article Grim is commenting on, is that liberals are less likely to understand the point of view of conservatives, than the other way around. That's interesting and worth discussing. (Thanks, Grim.)

But if your conclusion from this is that you and your friends on the Right are all Good, and those terrible people on the Left are all Bad, then you might start looking for the beam in your own eye, before trying to take the mote out of someone else's.

This is why there are people, such as myself, who could readily reconcile with a lot of liberalism, at least the sort that Armed Liberal advocates, but who when presented with liberalism as a package will always reject it. [#28]

David Blue,

Since when is liberalism, or conservatism either, presented as a package that you have to accept all or none of? Are there people, on both sides, who will say mean things to you if you fail to accept their favorite plank in the platform? Sure. Are you such a shrinking violet that this sends you weeping away? I don't think so.

#29:

My pleasure.

#28:

My respects.

#30 raises a reasonable objection -- but that is one of the things I find I feel more strongly about as I grow older.

#30 from Beard:

"Since when is liberalism, or conservatism either, presented as a package that you have to accept all or none of?"

Since the invention of "coalitions", a concept older than stew and only a bit more recent than dirt. And since concepts and practices ceased to come in hermetically sealed boxes, each with no relation in practice or logic to any other.

Of course I don't go: "a key tenet of liberalism is unacceptable, therefore anything practiced by anyone who is or has recently been considered to be conservative is right".

But with a b=vast and terrible social practice that lines people up in parties and coalitions, according to where you stand on it, you get allies and enemies, and these have fairly consistent habits of mind and action, as the requirements of consistency with "the peculiar institution" or the modern machinery of "choice" molds people over time.

David Blue [#28],

I think you are stereotyping the liberal position on abortion as much as GK was.

I consider myself a liberal. I also consider abortion to be a serious evil. However, it is not the ultimate evil. There are a few (very few) situations where abortion is the lesser of two evils. The lesser of two evils is still an evil, but it might be the right choice, given the situation.

Death is dreadfully stereotypical. The nuances are mostly elements in the verbal smokescreen that facilitates the practice; the practice itself is literally: kill - kill - kill. It's like the process that turns live cows into hamburger buns, or the steady work of Stalin's boys filling in mass graves.

The whole thing is not more complicated or morally better founded that the institution of widespread Negro slavery.

And the hostility of liberals to those who object to their institution is of the same kind as the hostility of pro-slavery social elements to those opposed to slavery.

And my point is: to be an abolitionist in relation to either institution does not require a strange Republican temperament.

It does not require a peculiarly conservative mystical sense of history and one's ancestors. (Lincoln Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta, in The Island (2005) had the essential right with no ancestors and no history.)

It does not require peculiar customs of deferring to authority that supposedly conservatives have and liberals have not.

It does not rrequire bizarre and irrational "purity taboos" that conservatives have and liberals have not. Not unless you use the idea of a "purity taboo" to hide the much more concrete realities that the pro-choice side wants hidden.

Death is dreadfully stereotypical [#34]

Uh, I guess so. Have I got it right that you are an absolutist about this? That there is no situation when abortion is the lesser of two evils?

I am on your side in opposing the "abortion on a whim" scenario that is typically trotted out at times like this. (I don't believe this is widespread, but I wouldn't say it is non-existent).

One of my aunts was diagnosed with cancer when she was in the early stages of pregnancy. She refused chemotherapy until the baby was born, and died a couple of years later, leaving her husband with four young children. I respect her enormously for her moral position and her moral courage. (Him, too, actually.) But do I believe that her choice should be required and enforced by the Law? No.

I'm not trying to be hostile here. I'm trying to get clear on your position.

Just to be clear: My understanding of the absolutist position is that my aunts decision would be enforced on anyone in a comparable situation. Is that your position?

That there is no situation when abortion is the lesser of two evils?

Since we've gone off topic -- and as I wrote this post, and can license the diversion if I want -- let me propose one.

There is a medical condition in which a zygote will embed itself, not in the uterus as is normal, but in the tubes connecting it to one of the ovaries. The baby, as it develops, will eventually prove fatal to the mother -- but at an earlier stage of development than it has any chance of survival outside the womb.

In this case, I think the moral issues around abortion clearly favor abortion. It can be reduced almost to an equation: If you choose to abort, the mother lives but the baby dies. If you do not, the mother and the baby both die.

Yet the mathematics aren't enough, if there is a moral principle at stake. That principle is that it can never be moral to intentionally kill an innocent.

Even here, though, we can see that it can work: this is the one situation where the baby, in a sense, is not innocent. Though through no intentional act, it is going to kill someone in a predictable manner.

This is the one case where I think abortion can always be justified. I'm not sure if it can ever be justified in any other case: though, at least so far, I have been willing to leave the question to individual consciences rather than to advocate for new laws to restrain them. Still, as I said, the question bothers me more as I grow older.

"Think you might be stereotyping a little, GK?"

Not really. I don't call them 'liberals' (as they are very illiberal). I call them leftists.

Go to DailyKos, TheLeftCoaster, Firedoglake, etc. There are daily wishes for death to decent people like Tony Snow (whose death they rejoiced heavily), John McCain, etc.

"I'm only picking on GK because.."

You have disproven nothing. This does not mean YOU are genocidal, but a lot of leftists are.

"The quite interesting claim from the article Grim is commenting on, is that liberals are less likely to understand the point of view of conservatives, than the other way around. "

This is unsurprising, because most 'conservatives' were leftists in their younger, less mature years. I think, in many cases, one has to have had exposure to leftism in order to become appalled by it, and then fully appreciate free markets, meritocracy, and the benefits the US has given to humanity.

The reverse is not true. Almost never does a 'conservative' become a leftist later in life. The one or two that have are overexposed in order to mask their rarity.

As leftism is a 'default' worldview that takes less intellectual rigor to adopt, and appeals to people's base emotions, it is adopted by young people, and the few who can never mature past that state. That is why 'conservatives' can fully articulate the leftist dogma, but leftists cannot understand the same.

Bang-on piece. Thanks so much, Grim.

I have no problem with the idea that if someone is going to die, the adult lives, in the same way that if there are two men in the desert with a bottle of water that will only get one of them to an oasis, who lives? The one who already has the bottle in his hand. That is already, standardly, part of the "absolutist" position.

I'm not interested to divert the thread to this kind of discussion though. I didn't mean to say, in effect: forget what Grim was talking about; my topic is more interesting.

-

My point is that there are specific issue-based reasons to be conservative or liberal that are very "hot" and personal and that can and do overwhelm the supposed differences in temperament that underlie liberal and conservative identities and choices. It can be the other way round. Choices shape you, and they line you up with some people and against others, with some practices and institutions and cultural elements and against others, regardless of your original temperament.

Gun rights is a hot issue. I think it's because of this issue that Armed Liberal has drifted far enough off the liberal reservation that other liberals constantly try to expel him as a heretic, and conservatives keep telling him "come in, the water's fine". But, he sticks to his party, so that's not a strong enough issue to illustrate my point.

Anortion definitely is strong enough. And that doesn't exclude other issues, like the war on terror or whatever it is, also being strong enough.

"Gun rights is a hot issue."

Et qui non habet, vendat tunicam suam et emat gladium.

A relevant commandment, Luke 22:36: one lived in Colorado today.

Death is dreadfully stereotypical. The nuances are mostly elements in the verbal smokescreen that facilitates the practice; the practice itself is literally: kill - kill - kill. It's like the process that turns live cows into hamburger buns, or the steady work of Stalin's boys filling in mass graves.

Hey, there's that celebrated social conservative mental flexibility and empathy I've heard so much about!

Without exacerbating the abortion discussion above, I note that one of the questions on Haidt's Morality Quiz is:

It can never be right to kill a human being.

And the respondent chooses from six responses between "Strongly Agree" and "Strongly Disagree".

I assume that not even a Buddhist monk could "Strongly Agree", because Buddhist monks have been known to kill themselves. The response to a question like this tells you little or nothing about morality or politics, since I would expect strong agreement only from a kind-hearted child.

The other questions also seem to be aimed at a low level of sophistication, if not loaded, like this one (which I assume falls under the "Purity" category):

I would call some acts wrong on the grounds that they are unnatural.

Hmm, what sort of act might be considered unnatural? Listening to Led Zeppelin 4 backwards? Chasing beer with whiskey? Taking Andrew Sullivan seriously on any subject during an election year?

How about reading Camille Paglia out loud, in bed with a woman? Call me a sicko, but I've done it.

In short, I want to give Haidt points for trying to do the right thing here. But scientifically, this is all screwed up, even by "social science" standards.

Here's how gun rights got dealt with in Australia (link):

I don't think there's any reason on Earth why people should have access to automatic and semiautomatic weapons unless they're in the military or in the police.
- John Howard

I hate guns.
- John Howard

And basically that was that. The ancient common law right to keep and bear arms was simply obliterated, and it's not coming back, because fear of guns feeds on fear of the unknown, and the comprehensive elimination of gun culture means that guns as a daily reality are known to so few people that nobody cares much politically if gun-owners and would-be gun-owners are treated fairly or not.

Now, would you say John Howard met all the tests of a conservative or not? The sense of the past and tradition - that's John Winston Howard, after Winston Churchill, by the way - the sense of deference to traditional figures of dignity such as the Queen, and so on?

I'd say it's obvious.

Yet policy was something else entirely. And obliterating an entire thread of traditional culture went with that.

Beard #29: "Think you might be stereotyping a little, GK?"

Excerpts from the comments posted at the NYT in response to No Laughing Matter :

“There really are 2 Americas and you visited the scary one.”
“Some of those seemingly nice, friendly, smiling faces mask deep seated prejudices, bigotry, and xenophobia.”
“Women like Palin scare me.”
“Democrats now feel that Republicans don’t deserve any respect.”
“Know your enemy!”
“Prof. Haidt is right – I DO look down my nose at women who think Sarah Palin is going to be good for women – or for men & children.”
“This is about the great success in the use of divide-and-conquer tactics by ... the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”
“Thompson and Maclean appealed to the insecurities of the audience ... ”
“The conservative mindset ... is essentially a fearful mindset that is common in people who find the world threatening or difficult to cope with.”

( from the first 29 comments, out of 212 total )

Just curious. Suppose you were to overhear a group of your neighbors discussing you in this fashion.

What, exactly, do you feel would be an appropriate response? What would your reaction be?

Aside from abortion (to stipulate for a brief moment), is there anything Palin stands for that is 'anti-woman'? I've seen some crazy heated rhetoric is theoretically mainstream publications attacking Palins womanhood, but i've yet to see an actual point, aside from her abortion stance.

Abortion is a special case in American politics in my opinion (or it should be). It also happens to reflect perfectly the premise of Grims post. I think most pro-lifers understand quite well the pro-choice argument. Consider- conservatives by and large want the government out of peoples lives. However when the rights of 2 people come into conflict, government is often the only possible arbiter. We can honestly and ardently argue over what that means in reference to abortion (or should be able to).

I think to a large degree pro-choicers, and the Palin arguments prove it, fail to comprehend the pro-life point at all. There truly is a belief that people are against abortion to subjigate woman. This is an astonishing failure of imagination. If anything the pro-choice argument would seem to require more subtlety to grasp. The pro-life argument couldnt be more straightforward.

Essentially a pro-lifer is claiming that there is a conflict of 2 human rights and the helpless life deserves the benefit of government protect (and they may claim this loudly, rudely, disgustingly). The pro-choice side is claiming the opposition is arguing in bad faith. This isnt an invitation to debate, or even to scream at each other. This is staking a claim with the intent of invalidating the others sides standing to even be involved in the discussion. To silence them.

I think this is a microcosm of liberal-vs-conservative debate in the last 30 years.

There are also secondary arguments, such as: what pro-lifers really want is to impose a theocracy, because they are fanatical Catholics or other Christian misogynists. This goes with frequent reminders that it is unacceptable to use theological reasoning in government. Therefore, the pro-life position is not only bigoted but legally and constitutionally unacceptable. It cannot issue in good law, and is not part of the legitimate discussion. In sum: shut up, they explained.

"...is there anything Palin stands for that is 'anti-woman'? "

Women, blacks, Jews, etc. who do not subscribe to leftism are not really women, blacks, Jews, etc.

In fact, Palin has done the 3 things that little girls dream of :

1) Become a beauty queen.
2) Marry and have a large number of children
3) Rise to the top of her field as a successful career woman, with her husband supporting her fully.

Palin has achieved all three of these dreams. Most women don't manage even one. If anything, Palin is a combination of three successful female archetypes.

Mark:
If anything the pro-choice argument would seem to require more subtlety to grasp. The pro-life argument couldnt be more straightforward.

Excluding the flaky people, both liberals and conservatives will agree that human life is too important to be eliminated by individual decision, barring such extreme circumstances as self-defense.

As a general rule, pro-life and pro-choice people will disagree over whether a fetus constitutes a human life.

But it seems to me that the pro-choice side must agree to this statement: "Potential human life (meaning a human life that WILL exist unless it is absolutely prevented from doing so) is so far inferior to existing human life that it can be eliminated, without showing cause, by individual decision."

I can understand the pro-choice position, but I can't understand someone who won't accept the moral implications of it. No more that I could understand someone who thinks you could fight a just and necessary war without hurting people.

Let me just step back for a moment to John Howard and the conservative temperament.

The sympathetic side of the new analysis of conservatism above goes only to temperament, or to doctrine in a very, very abstract sense. By temperament, you may be prone to getting feelings that things are taboo. And that, as far as it goes, without allowing you to say that any particular thing is or could be taboo, is all right. I'm OK, you're OK, even conservatives are OK, yay!

That's good as far as it goes, even if it is a little patronizing. But it doesn't go far enough to allow as legitimate any conservatism that could sustain itself.

If that is all conservatives are allowed, then no right, tradition or aspect of culture stands on a firm foundation unless it could not be opposed by anyone with a conservative temperament. John Howard's swift way with Australian gun rights shows how a wind that sweeps away everything that somebody somewhere with a conservative temperament would be willing to do away with leaves you with not even a lean-to to live in.

Nortius (#24),

Well, if the scope of government, especially of the federal government, were scaled back to its justifiable, constitutional proportions: these "leave us along" folks would still not be interested in having politicians marketed to them, but I'll bet they would be less prickly about it.

GK:_Ace of Spades has a superb article on what attracts people to leftism, and why it is intoxicatingly attractive to the intellectually insecure._

Yes, my phD in chemistry makes me "intellectually insecure". Bullshit. You want to justify conservatism as the "smarter politic", just as Pharyngula (google it) wants to justify that aethists are the only people looking at a realistic view of the world. You're just the conservative flipside of what this article is talking about.

I think you go too far, alchemist. I did not read that as saying that only the intellectually insecure are attracted to leftism. It is as valid to say that those insecure in the face of radical social change are attracted to social conservatism; it does not mean that all conservatives are afraid of radical social change.

What is the distinction between anti- and indifferent- w.r.t., say, the liberal desire to apply the Fairness Doctrine to talk radio? Or, to reinstitute the so-called "Assault Weapons" Ban, which even the Brady campaign stated was so poorly designed as to be ineffectual?

An anti-authority point of view would not support the Fairness Doctrine, which is authoritarian. An indifferent point of view embraces such authoritarianism when it's useful for implementing important goals, and rejects such authoritarianism when it's not. I frequently hear comments of "how can liberals support X and not Y" where X is some authoritarian imposition on people's lives and Y is something similar (e.g., supporting our incredibly intrusive tax code but not monitoring the phone calls of suspected terrorists). It seems wildly inconsistent to conservatives, and it is, but not because of intellectual incoherence on the part of the liberals. To them, it's like arguing "well, you used a blue handled hammer yesterday, but today you've got a red handled one. Why can't you be consistent?". The dispute is really over whether authoritarianism is a relevant moral dimension, not consistency per se (because if it is irrelevant, so is the inconsistency).

Mark Buehner, #46:

I think most pro-lifers understand quite well the pro-choice argument. Consider- conservatives by and large want the government out of peoples lives.

I have not seen great evidence of that, even here, which is an island of sensibility in the net, in more ways than one. Example:

I think to a large degree pro-choicers, and the Palin arguments prove it, fail to comprehend the pro-life point at all. There truly is a belief that people are against abortion to subjigate woman. This is an astonishing failure of imagination.

Not so much. Very, very few women on the left wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "Those goddam Republicans! They want to subjugate me, and this pro-life nonsense is just another way to do it!" Seriously, that's cartoon logic, and no woman I have ever spoken to has espoused anything like that, although I will allow that there might be a wingnut or two out there with that position.

On the other hand, they are very tired of being subjugated and reduced to breeding stock (and yes, I have heard that phrase once or twice, when someone was particularly annoyed) as a side effect of socially conservative policies. This is not just abortion policy, but flows through the full spectrum of socially conservative positions on reproduction, from abortion, to trying to curtail sex education, to trying to limit access to contraceptives.

And speaking of bad faith, there is also a real disagreement over whether a lump of cells without so much as a single nerve cell can meaningfully be considered as a life worth preservation, without the invocation of some higher being which may not exist and, if it does exist, willfully refuses to provide any clarification on the issue.

If you want to argue in good faith, you'll at least wave at that point.

The pro-choice side is claiming the opposition is arguing in bad faith. This isnt an invitation to debate, or even to scream at each other. This is staking a claim with the intent of invalidating the others sides standing to even be involved in the discussion. To silence them.

This is not unique to the pro-choice side, unless you (and all social conservatives) consider comparisons to Stalin as an invitation to debate.

The level of unearned self-congratulation in this thread is amazing.

(And no, I don't expect to convince anyone here to change their opinion on abortion. I gave that up a long time ago. But please, please, please, don't walk away from this with the idea that you're somehow empathically superior to social liberals through virtue of a better understanding of their position when you lack that understanding. You will become everything that, in this thread, you claim the liberals are.)

"Aside from abortion (to stipulate for a brief moment), is there anything Palin stands for that is 'anti-woman'?"

Is she? Most of abortions are historically made on females.

As an European the Haidt text at least was rather weird and on limit made me remember eugenics and what i have read of XIX Century dicussions of Negros abilities or lack off them. I felt very uneasy of bringing political discussion to this apparently scientific level. Science and Politics is the mirror side of Politics and Religion and when too much connected usually brings the worse of Human beings.
Anyway in "fairness/reciprocity foundations" that he attaches to the left i see in it much more on the right.

Quoting from the Ace of Spades article:

bk.So, if one wants to conceive of oneself as an intellectual, one can either actually become an intellectual -- which frankly takes a lot of work and reading, much of it terribly boring -- or one can simply believe what Noam Chomsky tells one.

bk. ...someone who does not believe these things... represents a threat to their egos.

Look, there is a big problem with this left-leaning movement. But I would argue that this problem exists in all movements. Again, the website Pharyngula is a aethist website which partially blogs about the silliness of religion (which I am less interested) but is basically the spearhead for scientists defense of science from creationism.

Again, the people PZ Meyers battles call him a heathen, threaten him, call him intellectually dishonest, all while INTENTIONALLY LYING to make their case. Again, many of the proponents of ID Theory don't know the science, but by reading one poorly written misleading paper, they think they have the authority to challenge scientists on the data.

Why take this battle on? Because the idea that someone intelligent is not Christian damages their egos.

Moving on, One of the problems I have with studies like these is that the blanket 'liberal/conservative' monikers are thrown in. I think if you 'spectrumize' the results between hard left and soft left (and vice versa for republicans) what you would get is a much more nuanced response.

I for one, consider myself a liberal, but I spend a good chunk of my time reading literature, blogs and news outside of my 'liberal' only viewpoint. I believe that all of us only see part of the problem, and only by debating (and eventually understanding) our weaknesses we will find better solutions. That's why I'm here at WOC.net

However, as I've noted before, most blogs are now insulating thought, instead of becoming a 'marketplace for ideas'. The original post notes this insulation and says "hey, there's a problem here, let's look closer" Curiousity=Good. Ace of Spades (which GK quoted) merely says: Look, most leftists are intellectually lazy. That's why their liberal". Jumping to condemnation = bad.

"Not so much. Very, very few women on the left wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "Those goddam Republicans! They want to subjugate me, and this pro-life nonsense is just another way to do it!"

But judging by whats coming out politicianbs and the media these days, this isn't just a fringe attitude. Palin is absolutely being accused of being willfully 'anti-woman'.

This is my point- Joe Biden says Palin would be a step backward for women. All they can point to is her anti-abortion stance. Hence anti-abortion is a step back for women. And hence either they think pro-lifers are idiots who cant comprehend the implications of their belief, or they do understand and intend to subjugate women. Lets not pretend this is uncharted waters. Dems argued for years the Reagan intended to feed the elderly cat food. Ultimately this line of argument is made to disqualify the other side from the argument, not to win the point.

"And speaking of bad faith, there is also a real disagreement over whether a lump of cells without so much as a single nerve cell can meaningfully be considered as a life worth preservation,"

Certainly! That is exactly the conversation mainstream pro-choicers WONT allow us to have. The political question relevant to abortion is at what point does that clump of cells equal a human being. Conception? Brain development? Birth? Certainly not some arbitrary 'trimester' that a court chose because 9 is divisible by 3! But again, even discussing the idea that a fetus could be a valuable human life is grounds for a leftist witch hunt, especially if you are a woman making the argument. Pro-lifers love to have this argument. They want to take it to the ballot box. Pro-choicers want an arbitrary court decision to stand and anybody arguing different to be branded 'anti-woman' instantly.

"And no, I don't expect to convince anyone here to change their opinion on abortion. I gave that up a long time ago. "

You won't find many people with my position on abortion. I believe the courts made a bad ruling on bad law. I also believe abortion should be dealt with at the ballot box and in the political arena. I further believe it should be voted legal (as it would in most states), as all things being equal when 2 conflicting rights come into opposition, we should err on the side of less government. But WE should do it. The courts grabbing more power to reduce other government power isnt a good exchange. The worst part of Roe is that it froze abortion in time and basically removed it from the political sphere where some understanding might have been reached. Instead of putting out the fire its created a backdraft where any oxygen reignites the debate with a fury.

#54:

Thank you for the clarification. I understand what you mean by the terms now.

Come on, Mark...! (#58)

You've got a guy on the conservative team and in this thread throwing around the Stalin firebomb.

Can you see that the witchhunts, the incendiary language, the bad faith, and the failure to understand are not unique features of the left? That the right does not have some blanket claim on greater empathy? That the right's belief that they have a superior understanding of their opponents does, in fact, remove the motivation to really understand?

Is that small concession so damned hard to make in the face of evidence just a few dozen comments prior?

Marcus- i absolutely agree that both sides have fire bomb throwers, both sides have crazies. Of course!

The difference is the people in question in the conservative movement post on blogs. On the left they end up chairing committees in Congress, become spokespeople for major movements, and anchor television networks. I don't see a lot of high profile officers of the republican party who accuse democrats of bad faith (there are some). I DO see a lot of high profile democrats who accuse republicans of bad faith, and i see it all the time.

Let's be clear, it's not Palin's pro-life position that many women take as extremely hostile, it's the no exception for rape. It's requiring women to nurture and care for a fetus against their will. It's the temporal extension of the first invasion.

#62:

If I may use your comment to steer the discussion gently back to the original point: that's just the kind of matter that could usefully be discussed in an atmosphere of mutual good will and respect. There are reasonable arguments, for example, for why a baby (or fetus, if you insist) should not be held responsible for the rape committed by its father; and for why we might not choose to apply the death penalty to the child, when the SCOTUS has said that it may not be applied to rapists who father children.

Yet in order to talk about such things, we first need that atmosphere of respect. In an atmosphere of fear and concern (such as Judith Warner describes feeling herself), it is very difficult. She is trying, though, to understand and like the people: and in so doing, she may come to where she can have the discussion without feeling fear about its consequences. It's not a foolish position, but it's one she may need some confidence to consider.

As some have noted, this is a two-way street. I agree that such a position requires a lot of women who worry about being rape victims (as well as those who actually have been). We should try to be friends to them also.

#63 from Grim:

"#62:"

"If I may use your comment to steer the discussion gently back to the original point: that's just the kind of matter that could usefully be discussed in an atmosphere of mutual good will and respect."

OK.

#60 from Marcus Vitruvius:

"Come on, Mark...! (#58)"

"You've got a guy on the conservative team and in this thread throwing around the Stalin firebomb."

That would be me, right? In post #34?

I had a problem: I needed to underline the grim, un-nuanced, routine concreteness of killing many, many thousands of innocent, defenseless human beings - at whatever stage of development - year after year after year. It's hard to do this without making the concrete image a bad one, like Uncle Joe, just because this is such a bad thing to do.

I'm not interested to derail the thread with "bomb throwing", OK?

#60 from Marcus Vitruvius:

"Can you see that the witchhunts, the incendiary language, the bad faith, and the failure to understand are not unique features of the left?"

Sure.

#60 from Marcus Vitruvius:

"That the right does not have some blanket claim on greater empathy?"

But they might. It's contingent. It's open to examination. To say that any sort of generic nasty behavior, alluded to in a loose enough way, is not "unique to" a particular movement is to say something certainly true, given human nature. But a claim that one side has greater empathy than the other is open to examination in the light of evidence. It might be true, or it might be false.

#60 from Marcus Vitruvius:

"That the right's belief that they have a superior understanding of their opponents does, in fact, remove the motivation to really understand?"

That's not an obvious, certain truth either. Far from it.

#60 from Marcus Vitruvius:

"Is that small concession so damned hard to make in the face of evidence just a few dozen comments prior?"

That's not a small concession, it's several large ones, and yes it's too much to concede for nothing but the asking.

I'd second Grim. I dont think the no-rape exemption position pushes somebody out of the realm of polite company. Isn't there something to be said about the logical consistency of the position, if nothing else? Whether or not you agree with it, it seems like a good place to have a discussion. Instead its treated as a good place to eject dissenters from the public square.

Okay, Mark, fair enough.

But understand my perspective here: A thread congratulating itself on the superior conservative understanding of liberal viewpoints went on at some length without ever going into any detail on the sensible and non-trivial objections of the liberal position.

It-- understandably, I think-- rankles. I'm not even a liberal, and it rankles me, just as it rankles when I see liberals trivializing or misrepresenting the conservative positions.

Also, I have to take this opportunity to point out some sensitive new age conservatives like Ann Coulter, who advocates conversion by the sword; Tom DeLay who in the congressional record blamed the Columbine shooting on the teaching of evolution; Jerry Falwell, who blamed 9/11 on pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians, and who considers AIDS to be God's punishment not just on gays and lesbians but on anyone who tolerates gays and lesbians; and Pat Robertson, who believes that homosexuality causes hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, and terrorist bombings. And maybe meteors. Jury's still out on that one, I guess. Those last two aren't in congress... they just run churches.

Understand, I'm not out to make social liberals into paragons of virtue, here. They're not, especially. But I don't have to, because social conservatives aren't, either, especially.

Oh, I know, I know. "It's different." No one on the right really takes Falwell (before his death) or Robertson or Coulter seriously, right? It's different.

Or maybe both the right and the left tend to discount their own cretins and exaggerate their opponents'.

grim, I guess one question is whether such a greater understanding is available on the eve of election. One data point is this election poll that shows 29% of Democrats think it is wrong for Palin to run for Vice President due to "the fact that she has young children," and an additional 12% of Democrats think it might be wrong depending on the circumstances. Either I have been missing the development of the Dr. Laura liberals, or Democrats (and Republicans) are claiming beliefs based first on partisan advantage.

#67:

The election has definitely raised tensions in the short term. There's a certain constriction of acceptable dissent because of the stakes.

Still, it is now that these articles came up. I think that's a positive sign. I agree that it's more likely that you'd find good-will growing in the wake of an election, or distant from an election, because the stakes of considering the opposition's position reasonably are lower at that time. However, the fact is that they're doing it right this second -- or trying to do it, at least. I think that's a fine and praiseworthy thing, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge it and try to reach out in a similar spirit.

PD Shaw, #62:

Let's be clear, it's not Palin's pro-life position that many women take as extremely hostile, it's the no exception for rape. It's requiring women to nurture and care for a fetus against their will. It's the temporal extension of the first invasion.

I think that is true for some, but not all.

I also don't know if you mean "many" in the sense of, "A large numeric quantity" (whatever that threshold number may be), or in the sense of, "a majority of women unhappy with conservative abortion policy," or some other meaning.

Mr. Blue, #64:

That would be me, right? In post #34?

You're very perceptive.

I'm not interested to derail the thread with "bomb throwing", OK?

Then don't do it. Especially not while you're patting yourself on the back about your superior understanding, empathy, and insight into the opposition's thought process.

But they might. It's contingent. It's open to examination. To say that any sort of generic nasty behavior, alluded to in a loose enough way, is not "unique to" a particular movement is to say something certainly true, given human nature. But a claim that one side has greater empathy than the other is open to examination in the light of evidence. It might be true, or it might be false.

It also puts the burden of proof on you, and you-- personally, you-- are doing a damned bad job of it.

I like GK's point in #11, because I think the terms Republican/Democrat/Conservative/Liberal are probably too broad for what I think we are discussing which is specific brand of elitism among progressives.

Christian Lander's new book received a glowing review from Benjamin Schwarz who summarizes its key demographic finding about progressives (White People):

a good deal of the progressives’ attitudes, preferences, and sense of identity are ingrained in an unlovely disdain for those outside their charmed circle. In Lander’s analysis, much of their self-satisfaction derives from consumption . . . and much of that consumption is motivated by a desire to differentiate themselves from the benighted. Sushi, for instance, is "everything [White People] want: foreign culture, expensive, healthy, and hated by the 'uneducated.'" And whatever its goals, the ACLU is beloved by White People, Lander satirically but not wholly unjustifiably asserts, because it protects them "from having to look at things they don’t like." At the top of this list is anything that has to do with Christianity"—an aversion, Lander discerns, rooted not in religious enmity but in taste (Christianity is "a little trashy"), formed largely by class and education. To those of this mind-set, the problem with a great many Americans is that they don’t "care about the right things."

In fact, he asserts in a somewhat atypical aside that betrays the steel behind his joshing, White People "really do hate a significant portion of the population."

The notion that Progressive views are the result of market manipulation is humorous, but I think the larger issue is not whether people of different belief systems intentionally or neglectfully misunderstand the beliefs of "the other." The issue is the extent to which we have a group organizing its identity around rejecting the values of a group in our demos.

I think Marcus makes a fair point, and it did occur to me on first reading that self-congratulation like this had a strong waft of irony to it.

I do think there is a legitimate cultural difference here though. Or more accurately, an ideological difference.

I think William F Buckley coined the idea that any movement not actively conservative will trend toward liberalism over time. I think this is correct. Conservatism is unique as it requires more discipline to not cede individual power to the government as opposed to empowering government for a given problem. And once ceded it is very rarely (and hardwon) dispersed back. This was Jefferson's point in his famous quote about watering the tree of liberty.

Mark Buehner, #71:

I think you're right that there's a difference in culture, but try as I might, I cannot really express it to my own satisfaction.

When I get close, I realize that I'm narrowing the scope of what I'm saying so much that it verges on useless, and it leads me to believe that this might be a cyclical effect, with more than one group cycling on each "side".

Honestly, I am not trying to make the social liberals look like saints, even though I agree with many of their positions. I've had too many friends and acquaintances piss me off too thoroughly with their sanctimonious bullshit over the past eight years to have many illusions. Hell, I've been the bearer of too much sanctimonious bullshit, prior to that, to have many illusions.

And I do think it's a discussion worth having, although it's going to be extraordinarily difficult to have without falling back into the "We're so cool," mindset. That's just human nature.

No one seeks the truth if he's convinced he's already got it.

Larry
It is the other way around. they were conservatives once and found on certain issues liberalism was the correct way to go. Liberals confusing comes from not reading Marx and falling for conservative notions of group think. If they read Max properly they would recognize there is a very small differences between the excesses of the two strains of thought.

Robert (#73),

Help a fellow out. What is the antecedent to this comment?

One problem in general political debate is excessive aggregation. We say "liberals" or "conservatives" as a shorthand for more involved explanations. The problem is that these don't match up very well with reality. Am I conservative? Not in the "social conservative" sense of the word, yet I find myself in discussions frequently where that is assumed merely because I support some "small government conservative" position. "Conservatives believe" and "liberals believe" don't work — even narrowing it slightly to "progressives believe" doesn't work.

Let's take a contentious, black and white issue: abortion. On abortion, we use final qualifiers like "pro-choice" and "pro-life". But what bunk. Most "pro-choice" people only favor unrestricted individual choice on abortion and maybe sexual issues, while favoring restricted choice on many other issues. Many "pro-life" people also support the right of lethal self defense and are in favor of wars abroad when necessary to protect the US or advance her foreign policy interests, not to mention largely being in favor of the death penalty in at least some cases. In reality, life is way too complex for the taxonomies we use in political discussion.

And yes, I'm guilty of using these shorthand terms myself. They ease discussion. They also cloud meaning. Maybe what we really need to do is to lay out taxonomies, even if only for WOC, of different conservative and liberal type groups, and then we could specifically use those shorthand terms without nearly as much murkiness and overgeneralization.

Marcus V. (#55),

Sorry, but it's the far-out leftists who keep talking about "breeding stock", not the pro-lifers.

Mark B. (#58),

With all due respect (as I find your insistence on getting the abortion question out of the courts and into the legislatures very welcome), but your statement "when 2 conflicting rights come into opposition" elides over such a vast difference in significance that it overthrows the very point you're trying to make.

Let's take it out of the realm of abortion for a moment. You and I both have (a) a right to life, and (b) a right to property, which includes the right to exclude unwelcome others from that property. So, if I enter your house, and you later decide you don't want me there, you can ask me to leave and I'm committing the crime of trespass if I don't. But you can't just kill me at the moment; you'd be charged with Murder 2 in just about every jurisdiction in the US. Even in Texas, that famous exception for making some allowance for deadly violence in defense of property, doesn't just give you carte blanche at all times. It's only when I enter and demonstrate hostile or dangerous intent that your killing me would be considered justifiable homicide in most places.

The analogy is obvious: if the mother's life isn't threatened, an abortion is depriving one party of life for the convenience of the other. Can you show anything else in common or statue law, anywhere in the entire Anglosphere, that's remotely comparable?

Jeff (#75),

That's a good point. I don't suppose it will work to get folks to substitute the phrase "pro-innocent-life", because it's too ungainly, but that's where the great majority of pro-lifers are--or at least the overwhelming majority of those who don't follow the US Catholic Bishops.

Regarding the other side in this debate, I don't think either side will have an easy time coming up with a similar improvement, as I think they are made up of several significant factions. I don't think it would be remotely fair to lump the reluctantly-pro-choice (i.e. those who think abortion is wrong but think having the government restrict it would make things worse) together with those misanthropes who are unhappy about someone like Palin carrying her Downs child to term instead of aborting (and no, sadly that is not an empty set.)

Or at least I'm lacking enough imagination to come up with a better term; maybe someone else here can do better.

Ouch! 'statue' should of course be 'statute'. Too bad there's no preview here...

Grim,

One of the best things I have read in a long time.

Regards,

/Jaeger

Kirk, #76

Sorry, but it's the far-out leftists who keep talking about "breeding stock", not the pro-lifers.

Yes. In looking back, I see I phrased it badly, but in the incidents I am recalling, it was socially liberal women who did not want to be breeding stock, and felt that that was what the socially conservative policies turned them into.

I did not intend to mislead.

Can you show anything else in common or statue law, anywhere in the entire Anglosphere, that's remotely comparable?

My daughter is dying unless she gets a kidney transplant from me. I refuse. She dies. My reasons for refusal may range from good to bad, but they are mine. I am not aware of any circumstances where my decision is voidable by an instrument of the state.

Can you show anything else in common or statue law, anywhere in the entire Anglosphere, that's remotely comparable?

Yes, but I think the whole abortion thread sort of misses the subject. Abortion is not a policy issue in the United States.

The SCOTUS decided and affirmed on multiple occasions that the political branches are without authority in this matter. So abortion can only be relevant if we are approaching 2/3 and 3/4 majorities in changing the Constiution or if we are talking about judicial appointments. In this respect, there is really no difference between McCain and Palin, or even Guiliani. They may be in a position to appoint someone who may revisit Roe, but I wouldn't point any money on it.

The abortion issue as it relates to Palin is entirely a character issue.

Rats, I tried to cancel post #81, which I thought would draw me into an abortion argument, which the subject of the post is broader than.

Late to the show here, but I feel compelled to mention that when Haidt's article was mentioned
and linked in a post by someone commenting on a thread over at Crooked Timber, the "usual suspects" who regularly post there for the most part not only failed to rise to the bait--they studiously ignored it like the plague.....

PD, i don't think that is entirely accurate. Partial birth abortion is a legislative issue. Its also a good example of how the court decision has stopped the electorate from hashing out the actual core of the issue. At what point does abortion become infanticide and why? Is one foot in the womb fair game?

Which goes back to my point- pro-choice activists dont want people thinking along those lines. For good reason, once you start thinking that way your reasonable person runs into a huge problem with the arbitrary lines we draw. They may 'work' pragmatically, but just about anything works pragmatically when the victims are truly voiceless.

#79:

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

#83:

Do you want me to delete post 81, or would you just like to ask people to please disregard it?

N. Maximus:

Do you consider the GOP creatures from another world or just from another nation since you refer to them as aliens? I have attended anti war rallies to see who attended and what made them tick. Clearly Warner had no intention of allowing anything to intrude into her carefully nurtured fantasies.

Now having people intrude upon your property without your invitation or permission I must admit be pretty popular in Amherst, Berkeley or NY but from my recollections you could be mugged and beaten in front of 400 people and no one would notice. I am sure you consider the offer from a Hari Kirsnia that height of "Neighborliness" at the airport or those old phone calls offering you subscriptions or those wonderful emails from Nigeria.

Because I grew up as part of that alien culture (outside the Olympian heights of NYC, Amherst, Berkeley, or other progressive enclave) courtesy dictated that you politely received anyone who knocked on your door. I have met many people this way, some people who tried to sell my on policies that I couldn't agree to but who were de3dicated and cared enough to get involved. Hats off to them.

Such people have to deal with all kinds of people. And here is why they are so different from Warner. She knows how superior she is. She has little time, and no tolerance for those who do not share her values or outlook. She looks down her nose at such lesser beings.

She is truly sad, doomed to live out a pathetic existence in an echo chamber where she will never hear different ideas, never be able to compare and contrast anything she doesn't care to accept for she alone has been granted the true knowledge and wisdom.

Such people generally are very comfortable in cultures that nurture organizations like the Tailiban.

In closing, viewqe3d from the proper perspective every life has worth and value, and the only pathetic ones are those that refuse to acknowledge their own limitations.

#87: I used the word "alien" in precisely the way it was used in the entry (top post):

From her recognition that her children's love for brie might mark her as an outsider here, to the sense that this is all an alien environment she cannot comprehend, it is clear she is afraid of these people, and of a joy she can neither name nor understand.

[emphasis mine]

That is to say, alien to her. Got me?

I find it impossible to respond to the rest of your post in the manner in which it deserves. Let me just say that I think you think I think things that I do not.

Re your closing paragraph, viewpoint is worth an awful lot. I used the term "correctly" in scare quotes to indicate that, and in an attempt to suggest that the phrase "pathetic life" is one that might profitably be used rarely or not at all, given how limited all we beings are when contrasted with the cosmos. Sorry you missed my point. I'll try to communicate less obliquely in future.

PS: And at the risk of being pedantic, I was using "pathetic" to mean...

Arousing sadness, compassion, or sympathy, esp. through vulnerability or sadness; pitiable.

...whereas it seems you meant it in the colloquial sense:

Miserably inadequate; of such a low standard as to be ridiculous or contemptible.

I was trying to indicate that there's plenty of genuine human frailty to go around, and I use the word "pathetic" to ascribe that sort of thing; I use the word "contemptible" when I mean the other.

(definitions taken from the OED online edition)

"The place to start is the Haidt essay. He begins by noting the famous study that treats conservatism as a sort-of mental condition: "conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death."

Where he goes wrong here is that he's looking at it as most liberals do, and that is in the personal, actual sense. He posits that conservatives are inflexible of mind, live hierarchically, and personally fear change and death.

He, of course, is all wrong.

Conservatives fear change of things foundational to our lives, things we've grown to understand shouldn't be changed, even if you could. That's not fear of change, that's wisdom.

Conservatives are fond of hierarchy in so far as it maintains a civil order, and as far as it relates to the realities of nature and God (as we see it). Liberals seem to have degenerated to the point of abhoring hierarchy for the sake of being contrarian. Where's the wisdom in that?

Conservatives are wary of change and death where it is meaningless. Where meaning can be attributed to it, it is seen to be of the highest value. Again, that's wisdom, not fear.

As noted by many here, those I've known who were the most rigid, hierarchical, and fearful were far to the left.

Hm, that may be a good point. The fear, then, is not that you may die: but that your traditions, your family or your society might die. That would be a more intuitive description, and would account for the propensity of conservatives to volunteer for the combat arms, etc.

It doesn't quite get the "risk" element, though. You and your small business are both taking a huge risk.

Yes, well stated, Grim. But I think it covers the risk element too- the entrepreneur makes personal risk, but that is seen as worthwhile. But conservatives (often entrepreneurs) are averse to certain types of risks, particularly on the level of society and civilization (slippery slope arguments, largely) because of the impact to the greater good. Personal misfortunes can be dealt with, overcome, but society is a big ship, slow and difficult to turn, and once on the wrong heading, it may be too late. Individuals and families can turn to extended families, friends, neighbors, churches, even nations for support when needed, but if society fails, what then? Risk is to be measured, and taken with consideration for the benefits and potential pitfalls. Those who flaunt safety in the face of risk (thrill seekers) eventually get burned, all too often. That sort of fear of risk is, again, wisdom.

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