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Moral dimensions of political tribes

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanDecember 6, 2007 3:46 PM


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Watching Beyond Belief 2 I was interested in Jonathan Haidt's contention that liberals and conservatives exhibit alternative valences on five different "Moral Foundations." In short, liberals tend to emphasize "Harm" and "Fairness," and manifest little interest in the values of "Loyalty," "Authority" and "Purity." In contrast, conservatives tended to have a more balanced weighting of values across all five dimensions, as well as deemphasizing the first two components in relation to liberals. My own immediate thought was, "Where do I fit in?" I assumed I would be closer to liberals here because on social issues I tend to align with that camp. So took the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, and below the fold are my results. My own value is in green, while liberals are blue and conservatives red.


This seems exactly right to me. My own self-conception is that I tend toward libertarianism. Note that on "Fairness" I match the conservatives. This makes sense, libertarians are generally "fiscal conservatives" and we tend to be less sympathetic than liberals to arguments based on economic fairness or justice. On the other hand, on "Authority" I match liberals. Again, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why that might be when you consider the typical libertarian attitudes toward direction from on high. My moderate values on "Loyalty" is a reflection of the fact that I am somewhat of a nationalist libertarian insofar as I accept that the nation-state is a legitimate and necessary organizational structure, and I personally have a strong consequentialist derived sentiment which favors viewing nation-states as being more than simply enforcers of contracts between consenting adults (this is where I am not very stereotypically libertarian). As far as my attitude toward "Harm," I'm a pretty vanilla utilitarian. Finally, when it comes to "Purity" I go farther than even the typical liberal. Here this might be my hard-core reductionist materialism coming through, I don't really believe that anything has an essence, everything is simply a collection of atoms, so talk of an act or object being pure or impure seems totally incoherent to me most of the time. In fact I would suggest I go further than most liberals as I tend to be reflexively suspicious of opposition to new technology based on the fact that it is "unnatural" (e.g., genetically modified organisms).

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