by Madeleine Kando
In an article in the Guardian of June 5th, Jonathan Haidt gives an alternative answer to the question 'Why Do Working Class People Vote Conservative?’. According to Haidt, the generally accepted ‘duping hypothesis’, which says that the Republican party has duped working class people into voting for them by putting the focus on cultural and moral issues rather than on economic issues, is not the real reason.
He points out that voting on a national level is more about a moral vision than about specific policies. That is true, but out of that moral vision flow the policies that a country adopts, so the usefulness of that statement is a bit doubtful.
Haidt goes on to say that most Americans don’t want to live in a nation based primarily on caring. That’s what families are for. Really? How can a family care for its children if the society doesn’t provide specific policies that allow it to do so? If you cannot afford health insurance, you are pretty much up shit creek, no matter how much you care about your children.
Politics on a national level 'Is more about a moral vision that unifies a nation and calls it to greatness than it is about self-interest or specific policies. In most countries, the right tends to see that more clearly than the left.' That's it? No explanation, no facts to back up the statement? What about all those (left leaning) countries in Europe that have created the European Union? Is that not the ultimate vision of unification, not just for one nation, but many?
Haidt, in this article and elsewhere, compares the moral mind as being like the tongue, an organ that is sensitive to a variety of moral flavors. He identifies six moral flavors: care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation.
The first three, care, fairness and liberty are equally important to both conservatives and democrats. But on loyalty, authority and sanctity, Conservatives have a hands up, says Haidt. The immediate question that comes to mind is: loyalty to whom? As societies become more enlightened, the group to which loyalty is given expands. We are moving away from the tribal. Loyalty to a clan is no longer required or desirable. And is loyalty truly a basic ingredient of the moral cuisine, or is it more like an artificial flavor?
On the subject of authority, I would think that placing exceptional value in authority is not always a good thing. In fact, I might want to replace that ingredient on the moral palette with ‘freedom of thought’ or ‘critical thinking’.
Sanctity/degradation: I agree that certain things are sacred, but they have acquired their sanctity status because they were considered true. So I would replace the sanctity flavor with the 'truth' flavor. Truth is far more morally valuable than sanctity, and much less prone to subjective interpretation. Sanctity is so intertwined with culture, whereas truth has the advantage of being cross-cultural.
Morality's ultimate purpose, if it's the right kind of morality, is to increase human well-being. If in-group loyalty, respect for authority and purity/sanctity fulfills that purpose, then they are legitimate candidates for the moral palette. If they don't, they should fall by the wayside.
Besides, who says that Haidt's analysis is correct? It is possible that fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity are simply facets of a more general concern for harm/care (See Richard Harris' article 'A Response to Jonathan Haidt'). In that sense, if a conservative finds it very important to not blaspheme, is it truly because he finds it immoral or because he doesn't want to go to hell and be harmed?
In conclusion, if the working class is not duped by the Conservatives into voting against their own interest, then they are voting against it because of a misguided sense of morality. When a society moves away from allowing the majority of its citizens to fulfill their ‘capabilities’, as Martha Nussbaum calls it, by removing social safety nets and allowing extreme inequality between rich and poor, then the morality of that society is misguided and should be revisited. I disagree with Haidt and believe that Democrats have a stronger sense of morality. That is why I am a Democrat. leave comment here
Saturday, June 9, 2012
by Madeleine Kando