kitchen table math, the sequel: Civil Politics .org

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Civil Politics .org

I've just found out about Jonathan Haidt's website, Civil Politics, which is mentioned in a Nicholas Kristof column. The resources page looks interesting.

In keeping with my small-l libertarianism, such as it is, I generally take an all's fair in love and war attitude towards "hyperpartisanship." I figure, let 'er rip.

On the other hand, I don't enjoy hyperpartisanship, especially....

Anyway, it looks interesting.

update 1:37pm

from the site:
To help liberals understand (and be civil to) conservatives:
  • Read this paper on the psychological foundations of morality and ideology, by Jon Haidt and Jesse Graham.
  • Read Ch. 9 of The Happiness Hypothesis, on the psychological dimension of divinity, which tries to explain what many religious people find objectionable about a purely secular culture.
  • Read this book on the moral world of a "religious right" community, interpreted by a sympathetic sociologist (Spirit and Flesh, by James Ault).
  • Read this book, one of the founding works of modern conservative thought. (The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. By Russell Kirk).
  • Read this article on the lack of ideological diversity in psychology, and why the exclusion of conservatives harms the scientific and pro-social missions of psychology: Redding, R.E. (2001). Sociopolitical diversity in psychology: The case for pluralism. American Psychologist, 56, 205-215.
  • Read this essay: What Makes People Vote Republican, by Jonathan Haidt, on

To help conservatives understand (and be civil to) liberals:
  • Read this book on how diverse modern societies can keep some of the richness of traditional ways and identities while avoiding the ugliness of identity politics. (Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. by Anthony Appiah).
  • [we need more here: what essays can transmit the essential insights and compassion of liberalism in a way that conservatives will "get" and not be turned off by? Please send suggestions to haidt at]
    I think the answer to "essential insights and compassion of liberalism" conservatives will "get" is probably liberal books on education reform.

    Anything by E.D. Hirsch, anything by Siegfried Engelman, "Work Hard. Be Nice.," maybe even John Taylor Gatto.


    Anonymous said...

    The book is a nice gesture, but what if you don't feel like being civil? What if you actually like the back and forth - is that allowed? You know, if you do it with a smile on your face? (lol!) Can you still rip into it?

    I was pretty much lambasted recently for my opinion, my convictions, the way I raise my family, what I say - for pretty much my whole existence. I was also accused of saying something I did not say, because of the other person's preconceived ideas about me. I lived. So did the other person. We aren't exactly best friends, but it was a so-so discussion.

    Independent George said...

    I really want to establish a political Turing test. Take random samples of people, grouped based on both their political leanings and their knowledge/interest in politics (as revealed by examination rather than self-assessment), and put them on the opposite end of computer terminal from political professionals. Have them role-play different positions on various issues, and then each decides whether the other person was sincere in his belief.

    Catherine Johnson said...


    I don't follow -- what would that show? (I'm talking to Independent George.)

    Allison said...

    Here's the problem. I DO understand liberals. I am simply turned off by their interest in feelings, intentions, and the general sense that a) "something must be done" about a given state of the world, and b) if "something must be done", it's best to use the State to do it. You can't make me not be turned off by that.

    If a "problem" defies all solution, then it's not a problem. It's a FACT. I find that our visions of what the facts are don't agree at all.

    Independent George said...

    I've just been battling a sneaking suspicion that conservatives generally understand liberal ideas better than liberals understand conservative ones. It could very well be that I've been living in blue country my entire life, but every time I "come out" as a conservative, people are always shocked and dismayed because they don't have the slightest clue what it means or what I actually believe (as opposed to what they think I believe). As someone who started out liberal and was steadily pushed (and not pulled) to the right, I'm wondering if it's something inherent to the ideas, or if it's just a product of the environment (when you live in someplace the that votes 90% democrat, there's really not much incentive to understand the other side).

    Anonymous said...

    I was watching a nature show last night and found myself very conflicted. It was about this particularly severe drought in one region of the Serengeti plain (I've forgotten the name of it). At the start the focus was on a pride of lions that was starving to death. At the end of the story, the drought had ended and the pride, though diminished, was returning to its natural state.

    For me it was an emotional roller coaster. I'd never seen such a ravished pride. You could see every bone in their bodies and several cubs had already died horrible deaths. It was very disturbing to see such beautiful animals in this condition. But by the end of the show I was rooting for their prey and looking away as the lions brought down a young zebra.

    It was a classical conflict between my emotional side and my rational side. I know perfectly well that this is the way of nature but still hated to see lions suffer and was horrified to see them clamped onto the throat of a beautiful young animal.

    This, I think is the more appropriate fulcrum for our political divisions. Liberal, conservative labels mask the underlying emotional-rational conflict. It is this conflict that drives the division, in my opinion.

    People we label liberals are dominated by their emotions and conservatives are dominated by rational thought. That's not to say that liberals can't be rational or conservatives lack emotion. It's just which of the two forces dominate the decision making processes.

    I'm very conservative and analytical. As such I enjoy digging into the third and fourth order effects of decisions. I see many many liberal policies as having perfectly understandable emotional roots with disastrous third and fourth order effects. I'm sure that emotionally driven people see conservatives as heartless because, for them the third order effect doesn't exist.

    Like the lions restored to perfect health; it really makes you feel good and your emotions are high. Then you realize, oh no, now they're killers!