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Progressives Won the Social Culture War: Can Libertarians and Conservatives Win the Economic Culture War?
March 20, 2013, 7:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Progressives Won the Social Culture War: Can Libertarians and Conservatives Win the Economic Culture War?:

Jonathan Haidt In a
smart analysis over in the journal Democracy, New York
University psychologist Jonathan Haidt sets out the campaign map
for the looming war between Progressives and Economic Liberals.
First, he declares that it’s all over except for shouting in the
decades-long Social Culture War between the religious right and
secular liberals:

Issues related to sexuality, drugs, religion, family life, and
patriotism were particularly vexing, and many people over 40 can
recall the names of battlefields such as Mapplethorpe, needle
exchange, 2 Live Crew, and the flag-burning amendment. But the left
won a smashing victory in the 2012 elections, including the first
victories at the ballot box for gay marriage.

The Culture War has moved on to the Economic Theater in which
the fight is over the size and cost of government. Using insights
from his moral foundations
theory
which probes how people put their together moral beliefs
based on six different foundations – Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating,
Liberty/Oppression, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and
Sanctity/Degradation – Haidt delineates the battle lines for the
culture war in the Economics Theater. To make a long story short,
Haidt’s data suggest that leftwingers chiefly rely on the first
three moral foundations, Care, Fairness and Liberty, whereas folks
with a conservative bent construct their sense of morality using
all six. At stake are the hearts, minds and votes of the younger
generation:

The millennial generation has been raised on a diet of
tolerance, diversity, and a reluctance to make moral
judgments…hey have little fondness for hierarchy and tradition,
so it will be hard to woo them with appeals based on the Authority
foundation. And they have no visceral sense of disgust at
homosexuality, and have been socialized to be as inclusive as
possible, so arguments about sexuality derived from Sanctity will
fail to move them.
But the millennials also realize they are likely to get a raw
deal when it comes to taxes and entitlements. They are well aware
that previous generations borrowed heavily to subsidize their own
retirement years, and left the generations to come holding the bag.
They are likely to listen carefully to arguments about fairness,
taxing, and spending from both parties.

How each side regards Fairness and Liberty defines the frontline
in the Economic fight. Fairness comes in three forms. The first is
procedural – are the rules impartial or rigged (think crony
capitalism). Leftists and economic liberals differ over
distributive fairness – who deserves to get what. Leftists insist
on equal outcomes whereas libertarians and conservatives want to
reward people in proportion to their contributions. Data from
Haidt’s moral foundations survey shows just how deeply the moral
intuitions of Progressives and Economic Liberals diverge over
distributive fairness:

For example, consider this item, which pits equality versus
proportionality: “All employees in a job category should be paid
the same, regardless of productivity.” Among subjects who call
themselves “very liberal,” 30 percent agreed. But just 3 percent of
our “very conservative” subjects did. Liberals had to think about
it, but for conservatives it’s a no-brainer: Imposing equality of
outcomes in the absence of equality of inputs is a violation of
fairness as proportionality.

First thought: Liberals are kidding, right? Apparently not.
Of course, all Americans value Liberty. Libertarians and
conservatives stress negative liberty which refers to the absence
of obstacles that block human action. Progressives favor positive
liberty which refers to having the power and resources to choose
one’s path and fulfill one’s potential. Republicans are seen as the
Party of Wall Street whereas Democrats come off as the Party of
overweening Nanny-Staters.
Ultimately, Haidt’s advice to Republicans and Democrats for
winning over younger voters is for both parties to move in a more
libertarian direction: Republicans should give up their opposition
to gay marriage and agree to end the drug war; Democrats should
back off on race-based affirmative action and agree to rein in the
regulatory state. Sounds like good advice to me.
Haidt’s whole essay, “Of
Freedom and Fairness
” is worth reading. See Haidt’s recent talk
in New York on why “It’s Hard To Gross Out a Libertarian” on
Reason TV:


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