I mentioned Jonathan Haidt some time ago — he’s the social psychologist who argues, among other things, that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives, not least because conservatives consider factors in their moral choices to which liberals may be (willfully or otherwise) blind. At the Daily Telegraph, Tom Chivers, who leans left, has been reading Haidt’s book. He mentions that gulf of understanding:
They asked two thousand Americans to describe their political leanings (liberal, moderate, conservative) and fill out a questionnaire about morality, one-third of the time as themselves, one-third of the time as a “typical liberal”, and one-third of the time as a “typical conservative”. The clear answer was: self-described conservatives and moderates were much better at predicting what other people would believe. Liberals, especially the “very liberal”, were by far the worst at guessing what people would say, and especially bad at guessing what conservatives would say about issues of care or fairness. For example, most thought that conservatives would disagree with statements like “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenceless animal” or “Justice is the most important requirement for a society”.
But that’s not the QotD. That comes later in the essay, where he says:
My fellow liberals, in particular, should remember that conservativism is not necessarily cruel and selfish, or dogmatically anti-Enlightenment, but an alternative theory about the best way to provide the best for society. It believes that some institutions are worth keeping in place, because institutions (including religions and nation states) build social cohesion; that people require some constraints and accountability to prevent them acting badly; that we should emphasise what is similar about people, not what is different, if we want our group to rub along. Whether or not those statements are correct, they are not evil.
If Haidt’s book can accomplish that much, perhaps more people should read it.
H/T: Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt e-newsletter.