Reason magazine has an interesting article on the increasing political divide in this country. It's no surprise to anyone that moderation is decreasing and battle lines are hardening. Jonathan Haidt explores the reasons for this and has developed a pretty good theory. Even though I think there's some anti-conservative bias in there, it rings pretty true to me. What do you think?
Here he give a thumbnail sketch of the Moral Foundations Theory he has constructed for analyzing ideology:
Moral Foundations Theory, which outlines six clusters of moral concerns—care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation—upon which all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals.
Political liberals tend to rely primarily on the moral foundation of care/harm, followed by fairness/cheating and liberty/oppression.
Social conservatives, in contrast, use all six foundations. They are less concerned than liberals about harm to innocent victims, but they are much more concerned about the moral foundations that bind groups and nations together, i.e., loyalty (patriotism), authority (law and order, traditional families), and sanctity (the Bible, God, the flag as a sacred object).
Libertarians, true to their name, value liberty more than anyone else, and they value it far more than any other foundation. (You can read our complete research findings, including our report on libertarians, at www.MoralFoundations.org.)
The Liberal Narrative
Go take the Moral Foundations Questionnaire and see how you stack up against liberals and conservatives. Once you register, go to the "Explore your Morals" tab and scroll down past the first box of surveys where you will find the Moral Foundations Questionnaire.
“Once upon a time, the vast majority of human persons suffered in societies and social institutions that were unjust, unhealthy, repressive, and oppressive. These traditional societies were reprehensible because of their deep-rooted inequality, exploitation, and irrational traditionalism.…
But the noble human aspiration for autonomy, equality, and prosperity struggled mightily against the forces of misery and oppression, and eventually succeeded in establishing modern, liberal, democratic, capitalist, welfare societies.
While modern social conditions hold the potential to maximize the individual freedom and pleasure of all, there is much work to be done to dismantle the powerful vestiges of inequality, exploitation, and repression.
This struggle for the good society in which individuals are equal and free to pursue their self-defined happiness is the one mission truly worth dedicating one’s life to achieving.”The Conservative Narrative
The Reagan narrative goes like this:
“Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and erected an enormous federal bureaucracy that handcuffed the invisible hand of the free market. They subverted our traditional American values and opposed God and faith at every step of the way.
…Instead of requiring that people work for a living, they siphoned money from hardworking Americans and gave it to Cadillac-driving drug addicts and welfare queens. Instead of punishing criminals, they tried to ‘understand’ them. Instead of worrying about the victims of crime, they worried about the rights of criminals.
…Instead of adhering to traditional American values of family, fidelity, and personal responsibility, they preached promiscuity, premarital sex, and the gay lifestyle…and they encouraged a feminist agenda that undermined traditional family roles.
…Instead of projecting strength to those who would do evil around the world, they cut military budgets, disrespected our soldiers in uniform, burned our flag, and chose negotiation and multilateralism.…Then Americans decided to take their country back from those who sought to undermine it.”
Reagan campaign rhetoric doesn't quite paint an equivalent narrative to the reasoned liberal one he uses, but that's a minor quibble. He doesn't do it to denigrate those of us on the right; he does it to show how conservatives, unlike liberals, use all six foundations.
Like any survey it has it's flaws related to how respondents interpret the meaning of words, but I found it interesting. Here are my results. Blue is the liberal average, Red is the conservative average, and Green is my score.