Arnold Kling  

Two Aphorisms

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Steve Horvitz highlights a quote from Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain:


It is through exchange that difference becomes a blessing, not a curse.

Alex Tabarrok nominates that for sentence of the year.

Next, Jonathan Haidt writes,


politics is more like religion than it is like shopping

Read Haidt's entire essay. I think that what he calls liberalism might better be called classical liberalism. I think that modern liberalism is much more religious than he allows. I've made that point about Haidt before.

UPDATE: Several commenters mention the discussions of Haidt's views on the site. I think my own comments, linked above, are as good as any. But James Fowler has a long and interesting comment, including this tidbit:


many people are actually dishonest when they talk to pollsters. Typically, about 20-30% of the people who say they voted in an election actually did not.

I think it is interesting how many people accept the basic premise that Democratic voters are rational, while voting Republican is something that has to be "explained." My own view is that all voters are irrational. Combine that with the fact that I typically vote, and you can see the relevance of Bryan's deleted scene.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (6 to date)
E. Barandiaran writes:

Read also the several comments on Haidt's essay that follow it in Edge 256. They provide a good sample of the views and biases that you can find in academia today.

N. writes:

I second that, and would like to see a thread here dedicated to some of the responses.

Here is the link:

http://www.edge.org/discourse/vote_morality.html

Obviously, you need to read the Haidt piece first.

Jim Glass writes:
politics is more like religion than it is like shopping

A psychiatrist who did brain scans of political partisans in action compares it to drug addiction.

Steve Roth writes:

If political "religion"--like religion in general--is believing things that are not supported by evidence, then the most full-throated conservative response to Haidt's essay (Michael Shermer's) contains a passage that is a propos:

Although Republicans defeated Democrats 25 to 20 in the 45 Presidential elections from 1828 to 2004, in the Senate Democrats outscored Republicans 3395 to 3323 in contesting 6832 seats from 1855 to 2006, and in the House Democrats trounced Republicans 15,363 to 12,994 in the 27,906 seats contested from 1855-2006.

This "evidence" is utterly divorced from reality.

1. The Republican party didn't exist until 1854.

2. The Republican party was founded as the "liberal" party of abolition, up against Democrat Stephen Douglas's self-proclaimed "conservatives." (Anybody read Lincoln's Cooper Union speech recently?) It didn't achieve its current unalloyed "conservatism" until well into the 20th century.

A thinking person has to ask: why does a leading conservative voice have to resort to throwing around at-best meaningless numbers (at worst, "lying") in order to support his...religion?

ChrisA writes:

I think Haidt's essay should really have been "why are there social conservatives", not "why do people vote republican". The republicans attract a lot of support from people who are free market oriented, who don't necessarily care about god, guns and flags (like me for instance). These people are a significant part of the Republican support and are not mentioned by Haidt. The democrats need to understand that it is their economic programme as well as their social programmes that lose them support.

Also, referencing the Palin effect, values or personality based voting could actually be the most rational type of voting of all. After all on practically every issue you can find intelligent people disagreeing, in other words the answer to social problems is not decidable by rational analysis. In electing someone who values we agree with, we can be more sure that they would take a position similar to ours, rather than electing someone who is clever and believes they have special insight.

Daublin writes:

The one odd thing about the piece to me is that Haidt talks about Democrats as being less moral, more like "shoppers". There are two things odd about it, really.

First, the shoppers he describes sound a lot like libertarians, and traditionally libertarians have felt more welcome in the Republican Party.

Second, it doesn't sound like the ardent Democrats I know. They passionately *believe* that their party is the one true way. To name one example, look at how Democrats respond to price gouging. It inspires a basically moral response of disgust, and whenever I challenge believers that maybe this moral disgust might be making things worse, they have a very hard time even considering it. The digust reaction is so strong that it drowns out a rational discussion about which way makes people better off.

Did perhaps Haidt's surveys not ask the right questions? Perhaps with different questions he would have found moral responses from Democrats as well.

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