Taking the Purple Pill: Trying to Step Outside the Moral Matrix



This sentence is going to be a random, stream-of-consciousness mess, but I think (for once) my form fits my function: lately, I have been trying my damndest to understand the polarization between liberals and the conservatives in our country, and how this is shaping the current economic policy and the election platforms . . . I've been doing my homework and listening to conservative talk radio-- some Rush Limbaugh and plenty of Mark Levin, and in between the overblown rhetoric, the ranting about Hillary "Rotten" Clinton . . . how she is a felon and a serial liar and the devil incarnate, the disgust with poor people and immigrants, the lack of empathy for people of color, the absolute hatred for the government and its programs and the possibility that our liberties might be curtailed (guns!), the fear of socialism and any redistribution of wealth, the paranoia that taxation and public works projects will just allow the government to get its dirty hands on our money, and like the mafia, take its cut-- as a public school teacher, it's hard to listen to this-- but in between all this vitriol, there is a kernel of an idea that these conservative blowhards are trying to espouse . . . that the government should be smaller and taxes should be lower and regulations should be less and that the best way to produce wealth is an unfettered free market-- and while is think this is true in a limited sense, for certain goods and products, I also think a free market is expensive and volatile with certain things, especially things that we wish to flow: electricity, water, health care, infrastructure . . . we just want these things to be reliable so that other things can work on top of them, and I also think there's a question of externalities, which the conservatives rarely mention . . . but underneath all the hatred there is something to talk about, and I find it interesting that the conservatives don't agree with all Trump has to say, especially on jobs and government infrastructure spending and protectionism and minimum wage . . . meanwhile, the liberals want a revolution-- free college, free healthcare, higher living wages, alternative energy, restrictions on corporations, control of externalities, and equal treatment for all people: rich, poor, immigrant, native, white, black, gay, transgender, and don't mind some redistribution of wealth to encourage this, and I've been listening to the ultra-liberal and fairly funny Citizen Radio to get a bead on some real radical left wing logic and emotions, and while I have more in common with those ideas, they can be really annoying and idealistic and insular and obnoxious as well . . . and it doesn't seem like any of these candidates or their followers are going to do what Jonathan Haidt suggests in his TED talk and "step outside the moral matrix" and actually look at what some smart people have figured out, which is that it's a combination of free markets and regulations that make economies work, and no one knows the exact balance . . . read some Ha-joon Chang to understand "kicking away the ladder," which is how many developed countries arrived at economic stability and wealth through complex and strategic protectionism, tariffs, regulation of foreign investment, regulation on imports and exports, and subsidies-- but then once these these nations (and he uses America, Britain, and his home country of North Korea as his prime examples) have reached a position of economic power, they use institutions such as the WTO and the IMF, treaties, embargoes, copyright law, and tariffs to force impoverished nations into adopting extreme free market policies despite the fact that these countries are not ready to compete in a free market . . . in other words, there's no magic bullet for an economy and it takes a mixture of ideology to understand this, which is what Jonathan Haidt's TED talk is about, his research shows that while there is some consensus between liberals and conservative on fairness/reciprocity and harm/care as valid moral concerns, conservatives tend to be much less open to experience and thus much more concerned with three moral traits that liberals don't interest liberals: purity/sanctity . . . so the strict interpretation of the Constitution . . . in-group/loyalty . . . so "real" Americans and patriotism and military jingoism and Ronald Reagan as God . . . and authority/respect . . . so law and order and belief in the police and a more traditional patriarchy and Christmas and religion and all that . . . and Haidt points out to the mainly liberal crowd (he polled them, and it's a typical TED talk audience: open to progress, science, and new ideas and almost entirely liberal) that BOTH of these mentalities are required to create a great society . . . there needs to be some revolution and progress, but order is also delicate and hard to maintain and actually requires the three moral traits that liberals tend to ignore . . . now Trump throws a bit of a monkey wrench in this because he doesn't seem to be concerned with some typical conservative values-- purity and respect for authority-- and so his economic and policy plans might be something entirely new (and unpalatable in some respects to the "true" conservative) while Clinton certainly can be more jingoistic about the military and more loyal to her group (the Democrats) than a typical rebellious, progress-minded liberal might like and while I know that these two sides are never going to love each other, or even see eye-to-eye . . . conservatives work on a five-channel moral system while liberals work on two-channels, so conservatives will always be annoying to liberals because they care passionately about more stuff and seem angry, and liberals will always seem to be amoral libertine radicals because they don't care about enough things, but we are going to have to embrace the fact that what makes America great is diversity, and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Ronald Reagan are part of that diversity, and those conservative views-- which I often find hateful and ranting and humorless-- are important, just as important as the stereotypical diversity most liberals embrace: multi-cultural, multi-gender, pan-religious, multi-ethnic diversity . . . diversity that appeals to people who are open to all kinds of experience, the diversity that leads to a wide-variety of good restaurants, many of them quite cheap . . . such as the new Tacoria in New Brunswick . . . and that's what this is all about, right?

5 comments:

zman said...

Intellectual conservatives love to complain about externalities until you use that argument against them.

Dave said...

i just love mentioning externalities . . . my examples always seem to include rivers and dead fish.

rob said...

oh, 'this sentence' is the one that's a mess.

Dave said...

i think i really figured a few things out in this one, but now i'm grappling with trump's latest . . .

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