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Christianity Johnson on 07 Nov 2008 04:17 am

The differences between liberal and conservative thinking

There is a tendency, although not an absolute one, for “conservatives” to be more “religious”, while “liberals” tend to be less “religious”. This video explores some of the reasons for that split, and may be interesting to you if you are interested in the split:

One quote from the talk: “It really is a fact that liberals are much higher than conservatives on a major personality trait called ‘openness to experience’. People who are high on openness to experience just crave novelty, variety, diversity, new ideas, travel. People low on openness to experience like things that are familiar, that are safe and dependable.”

Liberals like a society that is open and changing. Conservatives do not.

The speaker’s goal seems to be to help liberals understand what makes conservatives tick. The speaker tries to develop five foundations of morality, and then compare them between liberals and conservatives. The five foundations of morality are:

1) Harm/care – we have strong feelings about people who cause harm

2) Fairness/reciprocity

3) In-group loyalty – large groups that join together and work together. Tribal psychology.

4) Authority/respect

5) Purity/sanctity

The web site YourMorals.org allowed the speaker to get tens of thousands of data points and see how liberals and conservatives compare on these five foundations. He found:

1) Everyone cares about the first two (liberals slightly more than conservatives, but not a big difference).

2) On the other hand, liberals don’t care one bit about the last three, while conservatives think the last three are very important.

The speaker asks: Aren’t the last three just the morals of xenophobia and authoritarianism and puritanism? This appears to be the crux of disagreement between the two groups.

The problem seen by liberals: Traditional authority and morality tend to block change and tend to repress groups (women, minorities, poor, etc.)

The problem seen by conservatives: Order is really hard to achieve and therefore it is precious. It is really easy to lose.

So it is a balance between change and stability. Anarchy is bad because you end up with death and destruction. Total tribal behavior is bad because you end up with the poverty and backwardness of Afghanistan or tribal Africa. A police state is bad because everyone is locked down. In all three cases, people have no justice, therefore no fairness and lots of harm.

It is interesting that freedom/autonomy is not in the five foundations of morality. Perhaps that is the thing every liberal is seeking. Real freedom would be the ability to do whatever you want without being harmed by others, and without you having the ability to harm others. We could call it harmless freedom.

It is also interesting that the speaker does not question the last three morals, which are rejected by half of the population. Is there a reason why they are rejected? Are there other ways to achieve order besides “the morals of xenophobia and authoritarianism and puritanism?”

The problem that conservatives present with their authority/purity/loyalty mindset is that they want to control other people, and that behavior automatically blocks harmless freedom. The most obvious example today is the conservative/religious desire to block same-sex marriage, even though same-sex marriage between consenting adults is completely harmless.

The speaker closes with this thought: There are many people who are “passionately engaged in changing the world for the better.” The only way to achieve the change is to understand the psycology that drives people to do what they do.

One Response to “The differences between liberal and conservative thinking”

  1. on 09 Nov 2008 at 7:21 pm 1.billy 'riley said …

    yeah, I’d say he’s pretty right on (the commie bastard).

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