?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

So I'm a bit late to the game with this trifecta of links, and maybe what I have to say has already been said elsewhere, but what the hell:

How To Keep Someone With You Forever -- a concise guide to some extremely effective techniques for stringing someone along in a shitty job or relationship by placing them into a "sick system". There's some remarkably high-quality material in the comments here, particularly about sick institutional systems. Keep those bits in mind if you read them.

Please ignore the title of Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative. In light of the proposition that this article makes (more on which momentarily), that distinction is really rather meaningless (ditto). In the last few years, there's been some interesting psychology research that bleeds over into sociology and political science; it identifies five dimensions of moral reasoning, and their fieldwork indicates that "liberals"1 value two of these dimensions most highly (fairness, harm/care) while "conservatives" value all five (the other three being loyalty, authority, and purity) about equally. Rebecca Goldstein observed, and Greta Christian recounted, that the virtues of fairness and prevention-of-harm are reciprocal -- or, in their terms, "universalizable" -- whereas the other three are not. When two people deal with one another, they can agree on what they consider fair, and for everything else there's the time-honoured standard of equality before the law. The simplest reciprocal statement of a moral standard in the harm/care dimension is the old libertarian saw, "Your right to swing your fist stops at my nose," and we extend this to our systems of criminal and tort law. And these are indeed universalizable; mathematically, the same "fairness function" and "harm/care function" are defined for every pair of people in the set that constitutes that society, and F(x,y) == F(y,x). Not so for the other three; if standards of morality in these dimensions provide that X and Y must treat one another differently when X is a [draft-dodger | war protester | thought-criminal], or when Y is a [cop | Party official | Alpha], or when one of them is a [rape victim | Untouchable | Jezebel], F(x,y) != F(y,x).

I took a couple of the surveys on Haidt's site (the ones they'd used in their studies) and, big surprise, I prioritize the fairness and harm/care dimensions highly and come out far lower on the other three. Which is kind of funny, because while I'm sure my neocon reader thinks I'm a Flaming Libruhl, most of my actual liberal/progressive friends find me quaintly conservative and most Europeans think I'm frighteningly right-wing. I suspect many of my objectivist/libertarian friends fall into the same camp. (In before Rand-wank: I'm sure you've met lots of objectivists who were shitty people. I don't befriend shitty people. Carry on.) But anyway, it seems rather daft to identify this particular clustering as "liberal" and another as "conservative", as those terms have to do with altering or preserving the status quo, as the case may be2. I don't have a better term for it -- "reciprocal moralist" is pretty clunky -- but it would be nice to see something more, you know, descriptive rather than the supposedly prescriptive but aggravatingly mutable-over-time terms commonly in use now.

And for the hat trick, How Conservative Values Create Sick Systems, which synthesizes the theses of the two articles above to criticise jingoism, the Southern Strategy, the financial crisis ... none of those directly by name, mind, but those are just the first things that pop to mind.

But what I actually want to talk about is the US two-party system. Well, mostly the Democrats. But generally the entire system.

I probably hear it most from LGBT quarters, but I've noticed a growing sentiment that the Democratic Party has a number of constituencies that it's perfectly happy to throw under the bus when it's convenient. But these constituencies continue to vote staunchly Democrat, because bones do get thrown from time to time, and these successes are trumpeted as reasons why it is imperative that you, the queer/black/disabled/&c voter must spend your time, your money, your social capital, to get us through THIS NEXT CRISIS!!1!

I mean, maybe it's just the mailing lists I've ended up on by way of signing petitions or whatever, but goodness, the language of emotional involvement and cyclic crisis is right there, everything will be "better when", but so much has to be done right now that it's enough to wear anyone out ... are mailing lists for, oh, I dunno, creationism in schools or banning abortion quite so stridently demanding?

For that matter, is there a perception among some conservative constituencies that they're being thrown under the bus? I do not know these things, and am looking forward to seeing what comes up in comments. Arguably this is how the Tea Party got started, and why it contains such a baffling consortium of moderate libertarians angered by eight years of flagrantly irresponsible Republican spending and fundagelicals who think the GOP isn't "conservative enough": they all left at the same time and it was a sort of association of opportunity.

Or, if you look at it from the other direction, perhaps the Democratic Party is playing the Keep Them With You Forever game with its disaffected membership more effectively than the GOP did. And what bugs me -- what really, really bugs me -- is the rah-rah-loyalty, rah-rah-authority rhetoric that emanates from the White House just as strongly today as it did three years ago. Seriously, guys, we have a president who asserts that he can eavesdrop and order hits on American citizens with impunity. This is fucked. People are not flipping their shit every day about this why?

The system is sick. The system is not about proportionally representing the interests of the citizenry. The system is about perpetuating itself. It does so, on all of our backs, and will continue to do so until we can fix it or get the hell out.

1 Scare quotes used from here on out. Note, FWIW, that in Belgium, "liberal" means someone whose beliefs in the US would register as far right-wing.
2 I can see the argument that a system which perpetually seeks to maximize its ability to provide fair treatment for its members and reasonably protect them from harm would always be evaluating its performance and looking for ways to improve, so that might indeed be a system that resists the status quo by design, arguably describable as "liberal".

Tags:

Comments

( 66 comments — Leave a comment )
jsl32
Nov. 6th, 2010 02:25 am (UTC)
you know those four rules in the first link are basically how infants (and to a lesser extent children under age 5) work, right?

maradydd
Nov. 6th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC)
Oh, totally. Maturation is all about learning how to interact with other people. The thing with children is that they do grow up over time. The behaviours described are dysfunctional in adults and organisations composed of adults.
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 02:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jsl32 - Nov. 6th, 2010 03:14 am (UTC) - Expand
whswhs
Nov. 6th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
I looked around at the five-values site for a while, and found that, first, the people who are doing that survey have noted "libertarian" as a possible separate category, and second, they note that an interest in the universalizable moral principle of liberty may be a sixth general moral norm separate from the other five.

The phenomenon of throwing under the bus you describe has a long, long history in American politics. As I understand it, a lot of nineteenth century women got involved in political activism on behalf of ending slavery, starting saying that maybe women should have rights too, and found the rest of the antislavery movement ready to throw them under the wagon . . . which led to the emergence of that era's feminist movement.

There is a widespread sentiment, which has even gained recognition by some Republicans, that the Republican Party abandoned its core values of constitutionalism, limited government, fiscal conservatism, and the free market under Bush, and became a big government party—measured for example by the shift from surpluses under Clinton to deficits under Bush. A lot of people either stayed home in 2008 or voted for Obama on the theory (my own, for example) that given what the Republicans had become, they needed to either change or die off. In this last election, the Republican pitch has been to go back to those core ideas, and it appears that they picked up a lot of "fiscally conservative but socially liberal" voters as a result. Whether they'll stick with what won the election for them remains to be seen. Those seem to be the core of the Tea Party's self-definition . . . but the Tea Party isn't particularly enthusiastic about the Republican Party; I've seen comments quoted that what they're trying to achieve is a takeover bid on the Republican Party, and that if the Republicans don't come through it will be time to kill them off and start a third party. So I think you could call that a "thrown under the bus" sentiment nearly too big to be visible.

Take a look for Paul Hsieh's column "Dance with the One What Brung You" on Pajamas Media; it has some comments on this.

Incidentally, I came out of the past two years of Obama resolved that it was time for the Democrats to be crushed and flee to the wilderness for some soul-searching; my criteria for voting included "anyone but a Democrat." (On the other hand, I couldn't bring myself to vote for Fiorina, who might have had a chance of winning, because of her position on abortion; I voted for Lightfoot instead.) But the statements by Obama I've seen quoted don't sound as if he has the slightest sense that he needs to change. It's going to be an interesting two years.
heron61
Nov. 6th, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
I looked around at the five-values site for a while, and found that, first, the people who are doing that survey have noted "libertarian" as a possible separate category, and second, they note that an interest in the universalizable moral principle of liberty may be a sixth general moral norm separate from the other five.

Hmm, I'd not encountered more than brief mentions of adding liberty onto the value list, I'd love to see more data. I'm guessing that adding that dimension would be a useful way to separate right and left libertarians from one another and to distinguish left-libertarians from progressives. I hope someone pursues this data.
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xthread - Oct. 19th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Oct. 19th, 2011 10:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xthread - Oct. 19th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 7th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 8th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
michiexile
Nov. 6th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
I now want to spend more time with the World Values Survey, and see if those 5 axes are somehow intrinsically there and findable with our topological methods. Curses! ever more and more research projects I don't spend enough time on!
maradydd
Nov. 6th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
Or, for that matter, might there be a way to discover additional axes?
heron61
Nov. 6th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
and their fieldwork indicates that "liberals"1 value two of these dimensions most highly (fairness, harm/care) while "conservatives" value all five (the other three being loyalty, authority, and purity) about equally.

I've seen several studies about this, and they all said that conservatives valued loyalty and purity more than fairness or harm avoidance.

The simplest reciprocal statement of a moral standard in the harm/care dimension is the old libertarian saw, "Your right to swing your fist stops at my nose,"

I'm impressed at how different our view on harm avoidance is. I see this particular moral dimension very differently - for me it's at least as much about what we owe to other members of our society and what we are obligated to do for them, and not merely our responsibility not to actively harm others. Of course, for me both fairness and harm avoidance are intimately tied in with John Rawls "veil of ignorance"

For that matter, is there a perception among some conservative constituencies that they're being thrown under the bus?

In the 80s & 90s, I ran into lots of rhetoric from fundys about how the GOP said it supported them, but really didn't. I've also some dialog in the 00s from libertarians about how the GOP is now pandering to social conservatives and big money and doesn't care about them.

The big issue that keeps this going is the Republican base and the various officials in the GOP are quite open in their loathing for GLBT people, feminists, and pretty much anyone who isn't the right sort of straight white Christian. Similarly, the Democrat base and the Democratic party are (quite rightly IMHO) appalled by reactionary social conservatives, racists, and objectivists. So, the far left (at least by US standards - actually more like the center-left by the standards of actual civilized nations) have no useful choice but to vote Democrat, and the far right has no useful choice but to vote Republican.

The two-party structure is a mess, but as long as there are not viable alternatives (and the various attempts at third parties have clearly shown that w/o major structural changes, there aren't), what we have is perfectly rational behavior on the part of people significantly to the left and the right.

Until the US become less strongly polarized (which I hope means it becoming more like the Western European social democracies, but YMMV) or until something major happens to change the two-party system (I think option 1 is possible, and option 2 is impressively unlikely in anything other than a situation that results in some failure mode for the entire nation), then these voting patterns will remain the best choice. In short, voting for people who occasionally do things for you beats the heck out of voting for people who are appalled by you and do their best to not support your causes.

A parliamentary system with proportional representation would help in some ways, but honestly it just moves the problem w/o solving it. The ultimate problem is that the US contains a greater diversity of opinion than any other first world nation that I know of (at least in terms of having these opinions held by a significant portion of the population - for example, member of the BNP would mostly be right at home with the tea-baggers, but BNP allegiance in the UK is quite small, and such views are held by at least 1/6th of the US). The only actual solutions that I can see is for one side to actually win the Culture War or for the nation to divide. As long as the liberal side won, I'd accept either approach as a vast improvement over the current situation, but I don't expect either one to happen in the next 10-15 years, although after that demographic trends are very hopeful for a liberal victory.
whswhs
Nov. 6th, 2010 03:34 am (UTC)
That's the trouble with the harm/care dimension: It conflates "inflict harm on others" with "refuse to grant benefits to others." That in itself is flatly contradictory to libertarian and Objectivist ideas on the subject, and thus prejudges the ideological issues—and makes it difficult to categorize libertarians and Objectivists, who are dead set against "inflicting harm" but think that if you don't protect "refusing to grant benefits" you are yourself inflicting harm. At a deeper level, equating the two is much more a European than an American way of looking at the issue.
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 06:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maradydd - Nov. 6th, 2010 04:48 am (UTC) - Expand
paka
Nov. 6th, 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
That's always been the problem with the Dems. The everyone-to-the-left-of-Nixon nature of the Democratic party makes them uncomfortably inclined to compromise, and all you need is the Republicans doing something - anything - to force Democrat posturing into basically being reactive. Even the best reactive policy out there doesn't look half as good as being proactive.

I would suggest that we are losing our shit about where Obama and the Democrats have failed. But the truly repressive nature of the Republicans keep us voting for these gobblers and cutting them more slack than they deserve. Using abuse as an analogy, it's not that we keep crawling back to the boyfriend who hits us when he's drunk, it's more like we keep crawling back to the boyfriend who hits us when he's drunk because the alternative is the boyfriend who hits us all the time, rapes us, and then tells us he wouldn't need to do that if we were better behaved. Theoretically a parliamentary democracy should be less prone to America's two-parties-only problem, but you see the same thing in Britain; Labour can do whatever they please and people will vote for them because no matter how bad they are, they're not the Tories.

This election has been a wonderful example; there was a Huffington Post article about how many of the Democrats who lost their seats were people who voted against the health care reforms, so really it's rather pointless to be upset that we have Republicans in those seats instead of um, other Republicans.
whswhs
Nov. 6th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Conversely, I supported the Republicans this time, but with feelings of deep suspicion—because I think it all too likely that they'll get to Washington, and compromise with the Democrats, and say that one government program or one deficit or one earmark can't hurt, and then we'll be back where we were, saying, "At least they're not Democrats." Two-party systems aren't fun for either side, partly because of the "race to the middle" that Anthony Downs described half a century ago.
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Nov. 6th, 2010 05:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan179 - Nov. 6th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xthread - Oct. 19th, 2011 04:06 am (UTC) - Expand
mellowtigger
Nov. 6th, 2010 04:55 am (UTC)
I'm just now getting to your article. Too much to take in at the moment, as I'm already burned out from today's post. I think your topic is more general than mine (limited to America's fundamentally sick financial system).

edit: p.s. But your topic makes me glad that I avoided the Republocrats and voted for a marginal 3rd party candidate. :)

Edited at 2010-11-06 04:56 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
jordan179
Nov. 6th, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC)
But what I actually want to talk about is the US two-party system. I probably hear it most from LGBT quarters, but I've noticed a growing sentiment that the Democratic Party has a number of constituencies that it's perfectly happy to throw under the bus when it's convenient. But these constituencies continue to vote staunchly Democrat, because bones do get thrown from time to time, and these successes are trumpeted as reasons why it is imperative that you, the queer/black/disabled/&c voter must spend your time, your money, your social capital, to get us through THIS NEXT CRISIS!!1!

This is very true as regards the Democrats and the LGBT community, for the very good reason that some of the Democrat core constituencies are more hostile to LGBT than is the American average. I speak in particular of American blacks and Hipsanics, and even more so (though they are arguably not a "core constituency" for the Democrats) Muslims.

LGBT also tend to be richer and more professional, on average, than the typical America, meaning that they are hurt more by Democratic policies on the economy and regulation. Pretty much the only things keeping LGBT in the Democrats are (1) tradition, dating back to the 1970's (which is fading), and (2) the Republican religious right (which is not).
whswhs
Nov. 6th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
I find it noteworthy that support for the Democrats in 2008 was clearly a nonlinear function of wealth; people at the low end tended to vote Democratic, but so did people at the high end. The strongest Republican support was from people with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 per household. Do you think that large numbers of people at the high end of the economy were voting against their own interests?
(no subject) - jordan179 - Nov. 6th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
jordan179
Nov. 6th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
Seriously, guys, we have a president who asserts that he can eavesdrop and order hits on American citizens with impunity. This is fucked. People are not flipping their shit every day about this why?

In part, because the mainstream media has convinced a lot of people that a Republican President would be worse, despite the fact that Obama has actually claimed more power than did George W. Bush, and that Obama justifies it less as a war power (and hence temporary) and more as inherent to the Executive (and hence permanent). But actually, people are "flipping their shit" about this, which is one big reason why the Democrats are down in the polls, and lost the recent election.
xthread
Oct. 19th, 2011 04:15 am (UTC)
Let me get this straight - someone expects a Sitting Presiden to take actions that Reduce the power of the Executive?! Seriously?
q_pheevr
Nov. 6th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)

I tried a few of the surveys, and on the Moral Foundations Sacredness Scale in particular, I scored rather higher on "ingroup/loyalty" than I might have expected. I think there may be a problem with the design of the survey here. For example, I said that I wouldn't (for any price) go on the radio and say bad things about my country1 that I didn't believe were true, and I assume this contributed to my "ingroup/loyalty" score. But I also wouldn't say bad things about another country that I didn't think were true, nor would I say good things about my own country that I didn't think were true. What seems to be most relevant in this particular scenario is that I value truthfulness (which might have something to do with fairness or maybe even purity, or which might be a distinct value in its own right).

In-group loyalty definitely has a place in my moral system—to take a couple of variations on one of the other scenarios in the survey, I'd help a friend move house for free,2 regardless of whether I thought they'd ever have occasion to return the favour, whereas I wouldn't (under ordinary circumstances) do that for a stranger. But I don't think any of the questions on the survey caused me to give answers that reflect the degree to which loyalty figures in my moral thinking.


1. It's a little unclear, at this point, what "my country" ought to refer to, but I'm assuming it's the country I feel the most allegiance to, rather than the one I was born in or the one I happen to be living in at the moment.

2. Well, preferably for pizza and beer, but yeah, for free, if it came down to it.

maradydd
Nov. 6th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
I had the same problem. I'm thinking about writing to Haidt to see what he has to say about that aspect of the survey design.
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
siliconshaman
Nov. 6th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
At this point, I can't help but think that the US and UK need a third option party, a Rational Party who's policies are based on;
1] Do no Harm [or as little as possible]
2] no ideology, go with what works most efficiently.
3] try to do the greatest good for the most amount of people, without harming minorities [see 1]

Of course, that'll never happen. So we're stuck with abusive, manipulative sick systems... and where if this was a relationship between two people the obvious course would be to leave.
kenshi
Nov. 6th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
Nice bit of psychologizing the opposition, but ultimately a bit of a red herring.

Consider: liberalism overwhelmingly tends to be the ideology of the intellectual class. Why is that? Perhaps because it is highly adaptive and instrumental to the intellectual class' pursuit of power. Liberalism emphasizes individual autonomy above all else, to the point of denying the reality of unchosen determinants in human behavior (among those: social duties, norms, and established power hierarchies).

To whom would this be an advantageous doctrine? Smart people who believe they should have power, of course.

If they currently are out of power, it gives them an endlessly flexible rationalization for tearing down existing power structures and co-opting or replacing them with their own. If they are already in power, the antinomian character of the liberal worldview succeeds in creating more an more chaos...the ideal situation for them to gain even MORE power.

Of course, that can't continue forever, but it's had a very strong run since the English Civil War.
geekosaur
Nov. 6th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)

As someone who identifies with the progressive end of the spectrum*: we hate Obama, he constantly caves to the right, waffles and reneges on things like DADT, and generally looks a lot like the second coming of Nixon. But. As long as we're stuck with a fundamentally broken two-party system, the Democrats are the lesser evil, and our strategy is to advance the Democrats as a party while simultaneously pushing from within away from the party's current effectively center-right position.

(And, reading on before sending this, I see I'm repeating everyone else. *sigh*)


*Notwithstanding the claims from the right, I don't do either communism or socialism; but if you declare that there's a low end to society such that people below it "fall out" and get to fend for themselves, you're setting up a situation where most people fall out, often for reasons outside their control. And the folks who want to move that bar higher have yet to figure out that they are to some extent dependent on the folks they're forcing out the bottom, if only as drones in their machines, and someone who's too sick or weak from hunger to work can't even do that much.
maradydd
Nov. 6th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
With all due respect, I do not think your strategy is working.

As I mentioned in my original post, the Republican Party is breaking under the strain of keeping its constituencies on the hook enough to stick around. I'd like progressives to take a long, hard look at whether their party of choice is really serving their interests, or if it's just keeping them on the hook more effectively than the Republicans have done with their own sympathizers.
(no subject) - whswhs - Nov. 6th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Oct. 19th, 2011 02:38 am (UTC)
Dennis the Peasant's take
"We're an anarcho-sydicalist commune - we take it in turns to act as a sort of 'executive officer of the week'. But all decisions *of* that officer must be ratified at a regular biweekly meeting, by a two-thirds majority (in the case of purely internal affairs)..."
johnstricker
Nov. 13th, 2016 01:28 am (UTC)
Here via twitter
Hi maradydd, just writing to say hello and that I greatly appreciate your writing.

That is all :-) .
( 66 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

July 2015
S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow