Today we present the first of two sets of excerpts from the book, which The Guardian called "a compelling study of the morality of those on the left and right [that] reaches some surprising conclusions." Haidt, by the way, describes himself as a life-long liberal whose research has led him to respect the values of social conservatives.
•We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects.
•If you put individuals together in the right way, such that some individuals can use their reasoning powers to disconfirm the claims of others, and all individuals feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system.
•If you are trying to change an organization or a society and you do not consider the effects of your changes on moral capital, then you're asking for trouble. This, I believe, is the fundamental blind spot of the left. It explains why liberal reforms so often backfire and why communist revolutions usually end up in despotism. It is the reason I believe that liberalism — which has done so much to bring about freedom and equal opportunity — is not sufficient as a governing philosophy. It tends to overreach, change too many things too quickly, and reduce the stock of moral capital inadvertently. Conversely, while conservatives do a better job of preserving moral capital, they often fail to notice certain classes of victims, fail to limit the predations of certain powerful interests, and fail to see the need to change or update institutions as times change.
•Liberals stand up for victims of oppression and exclusion. They fight to break down arbitrary barriers (such as those based on race and, more recently, on sexual orientation). But their zeal to help victims, combined with their low scores on the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations, often leads them to push for changes that weaken groups, traditions, institutions, and moral capital. The urge to help Hispanic immigrants in the 1980s led to multicultural education programs that emphasized the differences among Americans rather than their shared values and identity.
•Liberals score higher on measures of neophilia (also known as "openness to experience"), not just for new foods, but also for new people, music, and ideas. Conservatives are higher on neophobia; they prefer to stick with what's tried and true, and they care a lot more about guarding borders, boundaries, and traditions.