Jonathan Haidt On the Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives


Are you a conservative who believes liberals have no moral values? Are you a liberal who believes conservatives have no moral values? Either way, you’d be wrong.

Do you believe liberals have an unbiased grasp of reality? Do you believe conservatives have an unbiased grasp of reality? Again, either way, you’d be wrong.

Watch as psychologist Jonathan Haidt tries to lead a group of (mostly) liberals out of their “comforting delusions” (his exact phrase) at the 2008 TED conference, and wonder how successful he’d be in front of a group of Tea Partiers.

11 Comments on "Jonathan Haidt On the Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives"

  1. Vox Penii | Sep 5, 2010 at 9:21 pm |

    Most modern American liberals are not liberals.

    Liberal has the same etymological root as libertarian. Until the mid 1900s, “politically liberal” meant the same things as “libertarian” means in 2010. By the 1940s and ’50s, however, the ideology of progressivism stole the term “liberal” in a deliberate attempt to confuse the issue and make everyone forget that progressives had supported disastrous things like social darwinism, eugenics, central planning and — in many but not all cases — had also passionately championed Mussolini and Hitler.

    Most modern American “liberals” are actually a combination of progressives and Marxists. Progressives via a revitalization of the earlier progressive ideas, and Marxism via the “new left” of Marcuse et al. Attempting to absolve their sins, the left has undertaken an Orwellian rewriting of history, where, for example, Hitler was a right-winger (read the 28-point platform created by the National Socialist German Workers Party in 1920, and try to convince yourself that it’s a right-wing movement — nationalization of large department stores? elimination of profits from charging interest? outlawing speculation on land? “we demand profit sharing in large enterprises” … do those sound like right-wing principles?)

    So my problem with modern liberals (and I used to be one, so I apply this to myself retroactively) is that they generally lack a coherent and thorough understanding of the origins of their ideology. As prominent leftist philosopher Richard Rorty said, “I think that a good Left is a party that always things about the future and doesn’t care much about our past sins.”

    For more information, see Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” and Stephen Hicks’s “Explaining Postmodernism”

    • True as some of that may be, I’d say it’s shallow, almost merely semantic (mostly about labeling and defining others) enough to qualify as a red herring, distracting from what Haidt says. Especially considering how it conveniently skips over the Right’s past and present sins–which I’m fairly sure you don’t care much about–and the points in the Nazi platform that are clearly neither Marxist or progressive, but reactionary .

    • John Brown | Sep 6, 2010 at 5:30 am |

      Your having been a “liberal” doesn’t give you any credence to join the “I’ve been saved” crowd and be all hoity toity. Not only does your line of thinking reek of insipid Glenn Beckisms in shrewdly connecting dots that are miles away while erasing others (i.e. history with a case of alzheimers), you fall victim to exactly what Jonathan Haidt is alluding to… this left/right, liberal/conservative dilemma is a crock. When all is said and done did Hitler consider himself a rightwinger? No. Does tracing the plumed bird (vilified victim of the day) back to its reptilian (petrified tyrant of long ago) ancestor have credence… perhaps. What is most important is recognizing reactionary elements in any movement no matters its appearance. The task at hand is liberty though recognizing that the ones we should most distrust are those that play at being its mouthpiece… pretty much any talking head out there

    • David Frost | Sep 6, 2010 at 8:01 am |

      Looky here we have another Rand Paul follower that somehow believes that the world would be transformed into a utopian paradise if everything was privatized and deregulated. No wonder libertarianisms golden child is from inbredville Kentucky.

      • oslo stanislav | Sep 6, 2010 at 3:44 pm |

        Why try to point out the flaws in the libertarianism by pretending that one state is just stupid by nature? Living in Louisville, KY- I can say we have lots of liberals, conservatives, and libertarianism is a seriously small minority of the political community. I dislike Rand Paul as much as the next liberal, but come on, don’t fall into the trap of calling anywhere not on the coasts stupid. It’s just geographic (and probably economic) snobbery, and below decent debate.

        • David Frost | Sep 7, 2010 at 1:04 am |

          True…I was just trying to drive my point home that I don’t think libertarianism is a well thought out polital veiw that actually is functional in the real world. I’m sorry about that, I had a good friend in the Navy that was from your state…he was a good guy. I’m from Virginia, which still gets the same sort of name calling, especially Appalachia where I’m at. I should have though that through a little better. Anyways stay cool I’m glad to know there are plenty of people there that don’t like Rand Paul either.

      • Concreteblue | Dec 7, 2010 at 1:58 pm |

        Rand is from TX, moron. Born, raised, college……here, I’ll play you…”no wonder such a display of ignorance is from (where ever David Frost is from) “

    • A Bad Joke | Sep 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

      Liberals supported Hitler? Put the bottle down, all I ever see you do is spout nonsense. For a site calling itself disformation, the only disinfo I see is the insanity you insist on vomiting here daily. Lies, distortions, and untruths is all you ever put here. Put your helmet back on and take your meds.

  2. songster1 | Sep 7, 2010 at 1:40 am |

    Aside from the meat of his content which was sort of objective, I was kind of annoyed by his example of the Liberal vs. Conservative museum vistor, where the conservative can’t look at Mike’s David and the Liberal can, this is bullshit!

    There are some, but most conservatives are driven by other things than fear or close mindedness; they simply have a different perspective. It should be obvious to Liberals that an open mind should apply to everyone especially someone claiming that their ideology is already intrinsically “open minded”. I do realize Mr. Haidt did point out tedancies even within his own minded group, but it still seemed hypocrytical to use conservative people as examples of “wrong thinking”.

    In regards to sexuality (which he said conservatives are more prudent) I disagree completely. It seems as though that liberals are just as uptight as conservatives if not more. Larry Flynnts enemies were not only the Christian Right, but also very liberal, “open minded” femenists.

  3. Concreteblue | Dec 7, 2010 at 5:58 pm |

    Rand is from TX, moron. Born, raised, college……here, I’ll play you…”no wonder such a display of ignorance is from (where ever David Frost is from) “

Comments are closed.