« Colbert Attacks McCain Attacks Obama | Main | Conventional Wisdom »

Jonathan Haidt - The difference between liberals and conservatives



I listened to this when Zaphod posted it and there are some things I think are great - the "first draft" on the brain and the five areas of morality but I think you have to be careful to differentiate between libs and cons and Dems and Reps because I don't think they are the same thing since the Republican party has massaged the conservative message...(for example - following their assumptions, wouldn't conservatives-Republicans be strong proponents of all aspects of governmental control - not just personal issues?)

I agree that it's dangerous to confuse Dem/Repub with lib/con but if you look at the trends of government interference in our lives from spying to the repeal of habeas corpus to the gay and reproductive rights suppression you will find that the rhetoric of being distrustful of government is false advertising. The Republican party and conservatives for the most part are for government control of all five of the categories listed in this video - with the exception of another authority which are corporations.

I'm not a history expert but it seems that the early days of the Republican party was built more on the ideas of keeping government out of private lives but slowly has become more intrusive for reasons of greed, racism and foreign threats. While on the Democratic side, it's gotten a bit more liberal.

Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but that's my view on it.


I meant to state that the Republican party has drifted toward the conservative crowd for those reasons. Sorry for the confusing reply.

(Not a history expert either but), yes, I believe you're right - the traditional Republican take would be smaller government (at least Federal government). So, you're saying that no matter what they SAY, they really want big government...I guess the marketing of the PERSONAL big government is enough to draw the conservatives. But, why wouldn't regulation sound appealing to them?

The liberal vs conservative, the democrat vs republican, this dichotomy that Jonathan Haidt tries to address, necessary in a country that is highly polarized along the political line is well known and well described here. His solution though is unusual, embrace values from Eastern philosophies.

I wish he had given libertarianism some more time, which is after all that is the western solution to the problem of polarization.

The Ying and Yang, Shiva and Vishnu, they are easily recognizable to people of those regions because that philosophy borrows from a context they readily associate with. While it is important to learn from them I would like to stress that they suffer from one fundamental flaw, which is their failure to accommodate the concept of freedom, something that people in the west highly value.

libertarianism ...the western solution to the problem of polarization

I'm not quite sure I get this?

For the yin and the yang - I'm not sure where freedom comes into it. I'm thinking it's compromise - working together - when neither side ends up being happy with the solution but both end up being satisfied.

Maybe my thinking is fuzzy on all this...

Hi Jill,

I'm married to a Chinese-Malay woman and was married in Malaysia.

The culture there is different in subtle but powerful ways. Here, living with your parents is a sign of weakness, there, strength and a sign you honor your elders. here, i fyou want a wedding that is X, Y or Z, you do it, your mom may agree or not. There, you are EXPECTED to do as your parents desire. Period.

They are full of laughter, love and joy, but in America we can't imagine tolorating many of the things the Chinese culture simply assumes.

Although Malaysia is an Islamic state, they are remarkably tolerant. I am trying to imagine American's gleefully tolorating a group of black burqa wearing women walking on the beach next to a nearly topless woman, each party paying the other respect. I visited Penang Hill, which is home to a Mosque, Catholic Church, a Budhist and Hindi Temple. I visited three of the four.

Let's see how 'free' Americans let people be. Let's build that combination in a small town in Texas.

Btw: I left Malaysia with an entriely different oppinion of burqas. they are NOT a sign of female oppression, as Gen Wesley Clarke will agree. They are the same garment as a Nun's Habit, worn for the same reason 'to show modesty to god'. I am fully against any CRIME against women, includeing forcing the wearing of a burqa, but many women enjoy them, inclduing the infamous Afghan girl from National Geographic fame (wild enraged eyes). She glared at the photographer because he was disrespecting her privacy and took her photo when she was not shielded by a burqa.

You know people generally try to make good of a bad situation. If you live in a society that gives you no choice but to wear a burqa you will learn to make good of that situation and use it to your advantage. Besides in such societies there are truncation selection pressures against muslim women who choose to assert their independence by not wearing a burqa. The bottom line, the fact that people can accommodate aspects from an oppressive ideology into their life does not justify its existence. It just shows that people are resilient.

infamous Afghan girl from National Geographic fame (wild enraged eyes).

very interesting, thanks norm.

robinson, i'm also a big fan of the amazing photo you're referring to. i don't think i would go for "wild/enraged" as a description of the girls eyes, though. did you see the follow up they did last year (i think) where they tracked her down in her present incarnation as an oppressed, submissive baby-making machine? yeah, i know malaysia is a bit more liberal as far as these things go than afghanistan, but still...

I'm curious as to the contents of the survey. I may never have the time it takes to answer the questions though. When I finally get the time, I'll have forgotten to do the task.

How do other political views fit into this, like libertarianism? Does everyone fundamentally fit on a liberal/conservative spectrum or are there other spectrums that must be used to classify people?


If you look closely at his graphs, he had the full spectrum represented, with Moderate, I believe, in the middle.

to be careful to differentiate between libs and cons and Dems and Reps because I don't think they are the same thing since the Republican party has massaged the conservative message...

Both Dems and Republicans are liberal and conservative. It's not about whether or not their should be authority or whether or not there should be diversity. It's about who.

Cheney is not religious and his daughter is not to be criticized for being gay. I'ts not really hypocrisy because I don't think he and his like really think being gay is bad.

What they believe is they are the strong ones and they should get the power and they should have all the diversity they want. They think business should have free reign.

On the other hand, the American left wants more regulation of markets and environmental regulation, etc.

So the Republican leader ends up being liberal in terms of what freedoms their "class" should have power and freedom without much limits.

Similarly the Left tends to want to restrict themselves and give power and freedom to the masses.

Why does the poll probably correspond to parties then? Because Republicans pray on the close minded for their votes and Dems prey on the oppressed and rely on the intellectuals for theirs. Selling social conservatives snake oil and feeding their fears is how the r's do their business.

His model is someone flawed in its simplicity.

I do think he is on to something in identifying the essential moral elements of our psyche.

Predated to...

So sorry,

"pray on the close minded "

I'm sure you mean pray FOR the closed-minded. Oh, never mind, I agree with you mostly,

"they believe is they are the strong ones and they should get the power " The Strong would/will roast them on a spit. Civilized barbarians (David Brooks gets it ).

There is nothing like security, calm, and wide open, unthreatened spaces, that ain't dark half the year, to free, and open your mind, the "Doors" of perception indeed.

All kinds of funny business (save a preyer for the morning after) is "free" to be done, because they don't want to pay taxes (which would be necessary for more enforcement). But, with privatized prisons arriving on the scene, Watch out!

my spelling sucks today.

Did I find all of them?

LOL! I love a joke that you need to know the back story to really laugh out loud. *8)

Great vid btw. Great comments too.

I will have to trust you.

someone = somewhat

Thanks for the links, Erick. These were more informative than his talk - and I thought less of Haidt after reading his essay than after hearing the talk. Sam Harris rebutted him well, but not completely enough.

I still think their dumb.


Don't you mean "they're"?

(It is wise to spellcheck when insulting people) ;)

"their" or "there" or "they're"... still, the meaning is clear, and anyone who has had one too many glasses of wine or beer, or anyone with fast fingers (don't go there!) will be apt to make this mistake and it's petty to point it out.

yes and no. Calling someone "dumb" and then using the wrong word....

Lemme see... one might be drunk tonight but the other will still be dumb tomorrow. Who is assigned which characteristic?

Great talk. I'm a lover of developmental psychology, and it's very interesting to see it (and preformed ideas) applied in this kind of study and conversation.

I'm sorry, that was pathetic. I sat through twenty minutes of blah blah blah to hear that liberals and conservatives both contribute equally in differing ways that achieves a functional society.

to quote Albert Einstein "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

If that guy were at an NRA meeting, they would have shot him two minutes into his rants. I'm liberal and I almost wanted to shoot him.

Republicans are not conservative. Democrats are not liberal. I am as liberal as they come. I want the government to have as little place in my life as possible.

Our country is a secular republic. We are not designed for socialism. I am a Libertarian. I do like socialism though. The simple fact is our country is NOT designed for socialism. Socialism leads to corruption when implemented in our system. We socialize BAD investments, and allow the good ones the "luxury" of free enterprise.

You cant have it both ways. The difference between a republic and a socialistic government, is the people. In a strict socialist government, the people care. They are involved. In the US, we dont care about politics, they are boring to us.

With my ideals, we have the Constitution, and it is NEVER crossed. But both parties beat it to death every day.

I would argue that socialism is better, but it requires that people GET INVOLVED. Americans don't care about politics, except when it pisses them off.

Obama, McCain, it doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. We are going to get fucked either way, its just a matter of what hole they put it in.


Support this site

Google Ads

Powered by Movable Type Pro

Copyright © 2002-2017 Norman Jenson


Commenting Policy

note: non-authenticated comments are moderated, you can avoid the delay by registering.

Random Quotation

Individual Archives

Monthly Archives