Live Chat with Jonathan Haidt

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Is it possible for liberals and conservatives to get past their differences and engage in meaningful conversation and compromise? Jonathan Haidt, a professor of social psychology and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, published in March 2012, answered your questions in a live chat on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Find out what other viewers wanted to know and what Haidt had to say in response by replaying the chat below.

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  • Grouse Feather

    I’m a progressive with a totally different take on the political issues than what this interview suggests is the liberal or progressive position. 

    In my view, people should work for what they get, but they should also get what they work for. I found this interview stultifying because the interviewee suggested some validity to the conservative notion that most unemployed people are lazy and shiftless and that the government shouldn’t reward them through welfare, food stamps, and unemployment compensation. Fair enough, I buy that, but what I don’t buy is that people who are wealthy earned their wealth! In fact, I believe just the opposite. Many, many, unemployed people, if not most, have worked hard and then through no fault of their own become fired or laid-off. Also, many, many, people, if not most people, who have lost their retirement pensions were screwed by unscrupulous investment bankers and through no fault of their own are now destitute.

     On the other hand, many, many wealthy people, if not most, have never done an honest days work in their entire lives, unless one considers sitting on ones butt all days scheming and conniving to be honest. Most wealthy people don’t deserve one iota of respect from real working Americans because they’ve acquired their wealth either immorally, unethically, or illleaglly. That should be the political debate going on right now because that’s the crux of the difference between liberals and conservatives in my view.        

  • Anonymous

    This had to be one of the worst guests you’ve had on your show in a long time. He’s obviously a conservative and has some very mixed up views. I will not be wasting any of
    my time reading his book.  Manichean ethics indeed. Might I suggest you get a guest who is
    a philosopher (Peter Singer comes to mind). Ethics is the province of  philosophy, not of the Social Sciences. You might also enjoy reading Rationally Speaking ( it's a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York.

  • Bbates13

    What Jonathan Haidt said was that he had been a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who has, through a purposeful effort to research his book, found more of a balance between the two US political extremes.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us – |ALL of us — were able to do that and become capable of seeing things “from the other side”?  No one said compromise your beliefs, but rather to understand the opposition.  Just because the opposition may want to demonize your side doesn’t justify not trying to understand theirs. 

    Capitalism did not win the cold war – democracy did.  Capitalism is competition, and by inference, there must be winners and losers.  How does a winner then have compassion for the loser?  It can’t since there is no compassion in competition, and therefore there cannot be (much) compassion in capitalism.  Part of the Democratic message problem is conveying to the public how we can keep capitalism and yet be a compassionate society.  And I’m sure that it will be complicated, but it is possible:  especially if ALL of us can make a concerted effort to see the other side’s point of view.  Case in point:  the morning of 9/11, a little girl crying and holding on to her mother’s skirt, looked up at her mother and asked “Why do they hate us so much?” and until the United States makes that concerted effort to understand that, one area of our society will continue to be blinded, look through capitalist colored glasses, and live arrogantly.

  • Anonymous

    I find these concepts fascinating.  Especially the concept of karma in this context.   We talk a lot about tribes, and it is my understanding that for tribes to be truly cohesive and effective as a group, that there is an “optimal” size.  The U.S. is a very huge country, both geographically and in terms of population size. And tribes are generally based on place and generational history/memory.  If people do not have a shared history or a sense of place, how is it possible to even begin to approach some form of compromise about governance at the federal level?  It seems to me that we need to get back to community self governance that is on a human scale.  Can democracy survive the test of time when a system grows so large that the voice/morals/needs of community or tribe can’t even be heard or have no influence?    

  • Bbates13

    Haidt’s concept of Karma is a little off…..there is a lot more to Karma than what was presented in this interview, including the “moral” concept of helping others:  if you turn your back on the truth of helping others, your Karma load will be increased dramatically — not good……

  • prharnett

    A very troubling selection for this week’s guest — “karma” as an explanation for widespread and increasing structural inequality… Wow… Whether or not a ruthless, sociopathic faction within our society believes certain “losers” deserve their fate is irrelevant — aren’t we passed that debate? I am — and so are the vast majority of the viewers of this program. Are we “progressives” still trying to engage “fellow Americans” who believe our fellow citizens who “fall” upon hard times through little or no fault of their own should just die? Isn’t it pathetic to continually reach out to “fellow Americans” who reject all notions of collective fraternity while they increasingly embrace exclusive notions of deservedness? Mr. Moyers, why give someone like Jonathan Haidt significant airtime on your program? He seems decent — he isn’t. Mr. Haidt represents a growing number of well-educated, privileged liberals who find themselves moving to the right as the vast majority of Americans find daily existence increasingly difficult. How should we understand someone who “says all the right things” yet comes to all the wrong conclusions? Why would someone as intelligent as Haidt “come to all the wrong conclusions?” Perhaps he isn’t decent. Perhaps he and people like him have become a significant part of the problem. As someone who greatly respects your contribution to our common culture, Mr. Moyers, the decision to invite this particular guest merits reflection. How about Charles Ferguson, Simon Johnson, or Michael Lind — three first-rate thinkers who recently released books most relevant to our current situation? It’s an election year, Mr. Moyers — please give airtime to influential Americans who find the growing inequality trends deeply problematic not those intellectuals who seemingly understand our current situation but actually “muddy” the waters with indifference, obfuscation, and frankly, meanness. 

  • Barbara

    I watched the show last night, June 1.  Health insurance does NOT necessarily mean that you will receive healthcare.  Are viewers aware of this?  

    Due to the side affects of cancer meds 12 years ago, I must see a specialist every 2 months for a check up.  Even though I only earn $11.24/hour–no benefits (and yes, I did graduate from college and paid off my entire student loan without griping about it), I must purchase healthcare costing $279/month.  

    WITH insurance, an appointment is averaging $200.  I am on a payment plan.  If the clinic’s financial dept decides that I must make higher payments, and I am unable to do so, I am turned into a collections agency, even though I never missed a payment.  Still, I pay the $279/month, EVEN IF I CANNOT AFFORD TO HAVE AN APPOINTMENT. 

     I do not smoke, drink, or use drugs.  I do not have dangerous hobbies.  Most of my food is purchased at Sprouts, so I can have good healthy eating habits.  

    It saddened me that some Americans cheered at the end of the show that they  would prefer to see persons die because they do not have insurance, even though INSURANCE DOES NOT GUARANTEE MEDICAL CARE.  
    Regarding retirement–are viewers aware that if a person has a 401K and is under 59 1/2, they are forbidden from receiving food stamps or med-i-cal?  Working poor with a 401K are required to loose it all first—(at penalties totaling about 40% per my CFP).   P.S.  The 3 day Walk and the American Cancer Society do not assist low income working cancer survivors with medical care. Thank you 

  • Papagato

    I think this guy was one of the worst guest you’ve had on your show.  His view of Karma is skewed.  His belief that those who are on welfare ,unemployment or other forms assistance are lazy and undeserving was troubling and what I find wrong with the right. I know you know the numbers who die each year due to lack of health insurance and it is not because they didn’t save or work hard enough to get it. Bankruptcies a majority of which are due to medical bills with many of them insured but finding their insurance wasn’t as extensive as they thought or just outright being denied.  There are facts and there is objective truth. Don’t we hear enough of the side this person was pushing on everyday cable and network news? I am very disappointed in this weeks show.

  • Papagato

    Let me add he repeatedly contradicted himself .  One that stands out was near the end when he attempted to chastize those who place motives on actions, of course the examples he gave were those who use racism and corporate influence(let me take a wild guess and say he was speaking of the 99%’ers) and then he ascribed motives by saying congress was brought by money and corporate influence. Another was his saying that we should understand the right because all they were against was taking from one to give to the undeserving  losers or lazy(my paraphrase).  Well how about the signs that said keep your government hands off my medicare? It seemed that all he was saying is that progressives should see and try and understand the correct and deserving views of the right.  

  • Ericc327

     No, I think you need to listen to him again. He is not saying that he believes that those who are on welfare ,unemployment or other forms assistance are lazy and undeserving. He is saying that many conservatives believe that those who are on welfare ,unemployment or other forms assistance are lazy and undeserving. 

  • Ericc327

     Of course he contradicted himself. Did you not hear the part where he said, “We are all born to be hypocrites; that’s part of the design” (6:10 from the start of the video)? I think his point is that contradiction exist, and everyone does it.

  • Anarasa

    The interview with Jonathan H. was revealing. He does a good job of defining the ideological differences between conservatives and liberals, but I think he’s being extremely generous to the  conservative right in not mentioning that the ones who have money want to keep it and get more without the government intervening (and by manipulating the government) They want to stay on top .  The “boots up” philosophy of “since I did it so can you”  of the past decades was very different from the society we have today. If the conservative right gets what they want, it will create a caste society which is the antithesis of what our democratic society was built upon.  The middle is already on a downhill slide.  Some factions of society aren’t on the same playing field.  They’re so far down they have to move mountains just to get to middle class.  Many federal programs were enacted to equalize opportunity for those on the lower rungs of society. 
    Question #1- Is the aim of the conservative right to create a caste system?  
    And a Health System Question#2-  Would a conservative walk calmly over the dying body of a person who can’t afford welfare, and say, “Tsk, tsk tsk… shoulda gotten medical insurance when you coulda!”When push comes to shove will they walk the talk on all their ideological beliefs??   

  • charles

    I went to the site (YourMorals.Org) and tried to do the evaluation but it ignored my answers and put in a empty result. Disappointing.

  • Clb

    Fascinating analysis but it doesn’t get the job done. The a priori bases of arguments on both sides are not exploded so it doesn’t get near the crux of the biscuit.  Too much effort reinventing; the weakness of reason was shown by Galileo when he disproved Aristotle’s physics, duh. Oddly ancient values are still valid (e.g., Aesop) which shouldn’t be news to anyone. Maybe that’s the real problem, no one remembers history.

  • Bob Clark

    It seems sensible to generally recommend against demonizing your “opponents” or treating them as if they are evil. However, do you admit there can exist people or groups that act with what might be considered evil intent?  You seem to generally dislike corruption for example. If so, is evil a matter of kind or simply of degree?  What standards should be used to distinguish “true” evil?  You seem to see values as group based but is there a role for individual conscience in making these judgments or is that merely an illusion? 

  • Anonymous

    Conservatives live in the world of “principles” and everyone else lives in the real world. For Ron and Rand Paul to espouse allowing an  uninsured, thirty year old to die, possibly unemployed and leaving a widow and children is true hypocrisy. Did they not take a Hippocratic Oath? Where are the principles of integrity and honesty? These are the “white men” who want to dictate to women about their reproductive decisions!

    Liberals and moderates do not believe in anarchy and irresponsibility. They see human nature as a work in progress. Maybe they are too forgiving but they do not want to live in a totalitarian state.

  • Plyihcky247

    Social Psychology.   Haidt merely opens the doors to understanding social politics of the day.  Many of the comments listed here affirm the conclusions of his studies.   Why is it that we are always threatened when new ideas encounter the old ones ?  It goes to the heart of Haidt’s observations.   I have been a proponent of elevating politics above its current winner take all attitude.  If we can’t agree to disagree and find commonality we ALL are doomed.  History has shown humanity the error of arrogance many times.  

  • DonalR

    We all possess some level of hypocrisy.   Dealing with it comes from analyzing our positions for consistency.  I was recently attacked by a conservative contingent in a discussion about bailing out American banks.  I was ridiculed for suggesting the conservative notion that they should not have been rescued.  No sooner had they finished that argument,  they began castigating Obama for bailing out GM.

    Your talk and book aim to provide information about our biases in order to overcome the limitations they engender in order to get to mutual dialogue.   Do you have a sense for which section of our society will likely understand and apply your lessons, if any?    If you suspect a particular group is more inclined to adopt your ideas, why are they more prone to change?

  • Alan Powell

    I thoroughly enjoyed the interview, it was provocative and seemed fair.  In an effort to know and understand conservative mindset, I have been engaged in a private chat group for several years, where I was often the only left-leaning participant amongst a regular cast of conservatives.  I have become intimately familiar with the reasoning and motives driving conservative Christian politics.  Which is why, during the show, while you were describing the conservative position, I found myself noticing an important omission.  The role of religion, and the choices of a “Christian nation”, which makes up so much of conservative rhetoric.
    There is a stark contradiction here.  On the one hand, conservatives argue that religion and God cannot be removed from the believer’s heart as they engage the world.  They wish to infuse society with religious icons, reminders, and professions of their superior morality, which is due to their commitment to Jesus and his teachings.  On the other hand, as conservatives express their political ideals, where citizens make their choices and suffer the consequences, good or bad.  Conservatives often show open disdain for the poor, and as you pointed out, the grasshopper shouldn’t be rewarded for fiddling the days away when there was work to be done.  But here’s the rub- Jesus never invoked merit as a criteria for helping other human beings.   Jesus asked for neither payment nor an insurance card to heal the sick.  Jesus never described the people at the bottom as deserving of their lot in life.  Too often, rugged individualism, conservative politics, and rampant capitalism, are antithetical to the philosophy of Jesus.
    Are we all hypocrites?  Yes, no doubt.  But that said, not all hypocrisies weigh the same on the core values scale.  If I tell you I eat only local food, and you see me eating at a big chain restaurant that serves commercial food, it is true, I have committed hypocrisy.  Pardon the generalities… Conservatives claim to worship a peacemaker while they embrace weapons, all things military, and war.  Many also are giddy for the death penalty.  They are told not to judge, yet remain the most harshly judgmental people I’ve come across.  They seek to place the Ten Commandments up everywhere they can, while advocating for things that break many of them. 
    To sacrilize the nation and the flag, to say a Pledge of Allegiance, might be construed as taking another God. 
    Conservatives seem to want graven images everywhere, despite the prohibition against them. 
    Remember the Sabbath?  Keep it holy?  Give me a break!  Not while there’s lawns to be mowed, stuff to sell, and money to make. 
    If they aren’t allowed to bear false witness, just how can the republican spin machine, conservative political strategy, or Fox News be allowed to go on as usual? 
    No coveting?  Then you can’t have our form of capitalism, which seems to exist simply to make us covet so that we keep consuming.  Advertising, marketing, public relations, are all finely tuned to push all the buttons that make us covet things, because after all, money is the most important thing.  Oh… wait… Jesus warned against that too.  Is there a single part of Conservative politics and worldview that lines up with the religious philosophy of Jesus?
    No, not all hypocrisies, and therefore not all hypocrites, are created equal.  I guess I want to know why you left out the religious component to the analysis of those who invoke it and cloak themselves in it so often.  It provides the ethical background against which any analysis of conservatives must be viewed for proper context, the context, I might add, conservatives themselves insist is at their core.
    Thanks for the chance to express my opinion.

  • Papagato

    Yet all the examples he gave were of the left.  Infact he said he started out as a liberal and by his studies became more coonservative.  That infact he was agreeing with the conservative mindset that he found to be more correct.  He even tried to explain away the audience reaction to the uninsured person . “Let him die.”  The fact of the matter is that many of vthose 18,000 who die each year due to lack of health insurance is not due to the failure of their actions but the failure of the state.

  • Papagato

    I’ve heard his argument before.  He was saying that conservatives were upset because they beleive that liberals disturb karma.

  • Papagato

    Well said!

  • Shepherd2121

    Ever read E. F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful”?  What do you think of his ideas?  Sample quote:  “…from bigness comes impersonality, insensitivity, and a lust to concentrate abstract power.” Hence Schumacher’s title, “Small is Beautiful”

  • Shepherd2121

    Karma is all bull roar.  Using it to buttress his arguments.  It is a religion and idiotic.  People try to find something they cannot understand to get out from under their depressions.  He must be clinically depressed.

  • Anonymous

    The reason the LEFT is short on action and ideas is because Liberal spokes persons hang onto the microphone like it was a **** sex toy. SHARE THE WEALTH ******’s!
    Has Democrats/Liberals given a voice to the common man in the last 30 years. Even with the Occupy Movement is concerned the good jobs are going to the rich/well-connected youth. The average Joe in the trenches doing all the work and wearing out shoe leather are rarely rewarded for their effort.

    The Left doesn’t pay, they expect the base to volunteer and donate to keep the Democratic/Liberal elite in the comfortable lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to. When have you ever seen the average community organizer get a publishing deal? (NOTE: even though people such as myself have one HELL OF A STORY TO TELL! It’s the equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater. Everyone running to the exits stepping on anyone who gets in their way… (I’ve got the wounds to prove it, lol)

    In 2002 I got a hand written letter from Howard Zinn called my writing “vivid and compelling” after I sent out sample chapters)

    The reason the RIGHT is always out doing the LEFT is because Republicans/Conservatives incorporate and include their base in everything they do. They GIVE A VOICE TO THE AVERAGE Conservative wacko. How many Conservative nobodies have been well paid to fight for their agenda? How many up and commetrs have been given well-paid jobs at FOX News? How many average morons have been given a lucrative book deal? A LOT!

    Look at all the millions thrown at the Tea Party movement… I’VE been volunteering my precious time for Democrats/Liberal causes for half a lifetime and not once have I ever been given a free dinner, let alone being rewarded for all my hard work and creativity. OOOOhhhh Nooooo, not only do I not get rewarded but the TOP people on the LEFT have plagiarized my writing and ideas and palmed it off as their own. Even though I have dated/time stamped blog posts to prove I was WAY AHEAD OF MY TIME! See the work for yourself, start at and follow links.

  • Lucius

    Prof. Haidt makes a case that left brain and right brain types need to learn to speak to one another across a conceptual and perceptual divide.  But what happens when xtian fundmentalists teach little children that genocide is not only acceptable but endorsed by their ‘god’? How is that chasm bridged?  See…

    The problem is not that each ‘side’ maintains different values and sees the world differently, but that there are folks on one side that are deranged sociopaths in positions of influence.  Now I know Prof. Haidt would call that ‘demonizing’, but it’s also calling a spade a spade.  Teaching children that the exterination of unbelievers is perfectly in accord with the ‘wishes’ of their insane ‘god’  goes well beyond simply maintaining different value.  This hearkens back to Germany of 1939.  All values are not created equal.

  • Lucretia

    As Prof. H. says, if I got it right, once one’s views have become sacralized, then it is impossible to consider evidence to the contrary.  

    Phillip Slater’s Pursuit of Loneliness was the sociology text used when I was at junior college – the basic premise being that scarcity causes us to form protective groups that can only survive if other groups do not.  As Haidt claims, to those who believe they have accomplished all in a vacuum of self-will, it will seem reasonable to let the ‘others’ die, or become slaves, or entertainment in an arena filled with violence and expressions of team loyalty, or cannon fodder in wars of acquisition.

    Then of course, we wonder if there can be innocents in a word of self-worth as determined by self-effort.  What about abandoned babies and grandmas?  What about a person enslaved, then set free?  (Human trafficking is not same thing as the Civil War)  Or what if a person had a father who sent her brothers to college and her to a bordello? 

    I am sincere and want to see how these questions can be answered in ways that help me rest my weary conscience.  Thank you for reading.

  • mellifluous

    I have no doubt that if “demonization” were to become a reprehensible tactic unfit for social discourse that progressives would come out way ahead, because we tend to imbue more humanity to our opponents and employ more perspective in our arguments, hysterical conservative claims to the contrary.  I recommend — despite our self-deluding and hypocritical natures — that we endeavor to tell the truth and to keep facts and issues in perspective.  I contend that the reality of our current situation is alarming enough that telling the relevant truth without distortion and hyperbole — in so far as is possible, even of complete objectivity is an illusory ideal — should be sufficient to convince reasonable people still possessing functioning consciences.

    I would hope that at least some of the rest can be swayed by shame.  There are some aspects of our current economic and political systems that are arguably evil and to the extent that they champion them, proponents of the status quo deserve to be demonized.  I have found the phrase “That’s a lie and you’re a liar” to be useful in putting things into perspective.  Calling “b***s***” doesn’t necessarily endear one to an antagonist or advance the discussion, but at least it allows an exchange to proceed — or not — on the basis of facts rather than unearned respect for dogmatic or idiologically-based opinions.  I wonder whether Professor Haidt would prefer such truth-based inquiry to demonization.

    Part of the problem with “conservative” and “libertarian” analyses of merit and productivity and reactionary objections to redistributing income is that they devalue the commons and fail to account for the wealth acquired in this country through the agencies of land theft and slavery.  Here in Ohio, the Republican administration pushes through legislation that enacts ALEC-written exemptions to the environmental regulations for the fracking industry:  If your drilling rig makes me, my family, perhaps my community sick without my consent, you reap profits but you’re not even responsible for the costs of our medical care, let alone lost income or well-being, how is that not redistributing wealth? BTW, I think the morality underlying the fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” presumes full employment, where our economic system presumes a reliable supply of cheap labor to ensure — arguably to subsidize — corporate profits.

    I think it’s a demonstrable fact that Republicans have been working assiduously for over a generation through the agency of the War on Drugs to bring back slavery under another name.  I think that mountaintop removal in order to mine coal is a crime against nature, and the practice of fracking may prove to be a program of mass poisoning and destruction.  Why not characterize proponents of these policies and practices as evil, especially when many of them are so prone to demonizing environmentalists and advocates for civil rights?

  • Joanne G.

     I worked in the private sector continuously for 39 years, earned a good living and paid my share of taxes.  I want a society where karma functions, but where there is also help for those who didn’t earn their misfortune (think kids raised in poverty by dysfunctional or absent parents, or people who are mentally ill and without family or resources).  The sad fact is that ALL of society pays the price for the “victimized”, whether government picks up the tab, or not.   People who’ve been left on their own, and are desperate, will likely make choices that are socially harmful.  Those who’ve made more successful choices can isolate themselves, but they’ll still pay a price in the form of more police, bigger prisons, less safety and security for themselves and their families.  Government will have to grow bigger to protect the fortunate from the unfortunate.  

    The Let-Karma-Work tribe and the Help-the-Victimized tribe need to see the real cost of failing to compromise.

  • Lucretia

    Joanne G hits the nail, we want kharma to function without addressing the fact that the model of kharma, dharma, moksha, samadhi, nirvana, these all exist under the aegis of a Deific force that is Good and that will subjugate evil, according to whatever the (hubristic) humans define evil to be.  Leviticus scares the devil out of me!  Those readers who start thinking hiniyana right about now get to the realization that we in our mere mortality have No Clue as to the workings of the Mysteries, but if we meditate on the Precepts (compassion to all) then we be cool when the deal comes down. 

  • JOM

    The right-wing embraces total hypocrisy.  They want small government (they say) but when it comes to abortion rights, birth control, women’s health issue…..then they want BIG government to jump in and regulated everything according to their right-wing beliefs.  How does one overcome this contradiction when trying to discuss issues with the hard right?

  • Mike W

    A question for Professor Haidt – You have said that liberals value individualism over community while conservatives value community over individual rights.  But there are many examples of communitarianism among liberals, going back at least as far as the Community Action Agencies from the 1960s. Currently, there are the Transition Initiatives, as well as Eat Local and Buy Local movements. These are based on a liberal view of the world – that climate change and resource scarcity are real problems and that  local resilience will soon be essential – but, even so, they hardly reflect indifference to the values of community. Conservatives, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly libertarian. The idea of individual sacrifice for the common good seems to be anathema – whether it be paying higher taxes or relinquishing their “right” to carry concealed weapons into bars or day care centers. Your comments, please.

  • Lucretia

    Some say that Art is the force that can break down compassion fatigue, or denial of one’s own culpability in the suffering of others.  A photo, a song, a movie, a celebrity who brings credibility and exposure to the cause of eradicating suffering.  Once the conscience is no longer able to love Bob Dylan and hate Occupy, for example, the idea is that hearts soften.

  • Momwu

    I would like to think that as human beings, we have evolved beyond ants and grasshoppers.
    I don’t see anything wrong about lending others a hand when they stumble. This is not to say that they are given the royal treatments.  Are the poor and sick given the royal treatments?

  • Maggie

    I have a couple of concerns about fairness as proportionality:

    1) I think that the current ratio of CEO salaries to median worker salaries is about 300:1 in the U.S. I cannot honestly believe that CEOs work 300 times a hard as their average workers. Where is the fairness and proportionality in that? And that is just in this country–if we consider work at a global level, everything is totally out of whack, with agricultural workers and others laboring much harder than Wall Street traders, for example.

    2) Christians who are familiar with the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) are aware that the owner of the vineyard paid the same daily wage to all the workers, whether they started at dawn or worked only 1 hour. Granted that the owner says that he is free to do what he wants with his own money (v. 15), but my contention is that fairness as karma/proportionality only works when there is generosity rather than greed. Consider cultures, such as some Native American ones, where a person’s wealth is determined not by how much they have accrued, but how much he/she can afford to give away.

    I might be willing to go along with fairness as proportionality IF there were some sort of global neutral arbiter who allocated the necessary goods and surplus wealth of the planet in a truly just manner.


    comments: “let’s take, ‘Stop punishing success, stop rewarding
    “if people work hard, they should succeed. If people don’t work
    hard, they should fail.
    And if anyone bails them out, that is evil. ” “You
    should not bail people out who have
    failed, especially if it’s because of lack of hard
    work, take from the successful and give
    to the unsuccessful. And it keeps rewarding failure by giving out
    welfare and other payments to people who
    aren’t working.”Mr. Haidt analysis amount to sweeping
    the dirt under the carpet, turn blind eye to the evil.
    The facts is, he failed to bring to surface the
    so called “reverse psychology” used by conservatives,
    governments etc. Placing the blame on working
    people as evil, as Hitler did balame the Jews.
    The conservatives were ripping the award for
    failure! Trillions of dollars went for
    failure in bonuses, bailouts to AIG, FREEDY MAC, FENNY MAY,
    GM, CITI etc.

  • Anonymous

    This sounds pretty similar to what I’m reading in George Lakoff’s “Moral Politics “. Is Haidt familiar with Lakoff’s notion that conservative morality is based on a “strict father “model whili liberals use a “nurturant parent metaphor?

  • Dana

    Given the rancor on The Hill and the blatant hate rhetoric of political campaigns across the country, what is your advice for the common person who hopes to vote for “better”? How are we to find candidates who don’t want to play sandbox politics (“it’s mine and you can’t have it!”) when the political machine seems determined to churn out the status quo? Is our only alternative to write in and hope for the best? Until there is campaign reform, it looks like the only candidates from whom we are allowed to choose are clones of the ones we seek to replace (sigh). Your insight would be most appreciated. Thank you!

  • Clindy

    Why is it that most discrimination is exercised by political conservatives under the guise of religious morals?

  • Cindy

    It may have something to do with the cost of the education required of those CEOs.  They should make more money than a blue collar worker.  Just like a doctor should make more than a CEO, after spending nearly a decade in school.  With our health care system, doctors make little more than the blue collar workers these days.

  • mellifluous

    Sorry — I used the word ‘imbue’ in the second line when I meant ‘ascribe’.

  • Aelizabethloder

    Mr. Haidt, your insights are very interesting and I recognized myself and some of my conservative relatives.  The information that you positied about why conservatives think the way that they do does make sense to me and I will honestly try to use that information when I am at family dinners and thinking “how could someone related to me be such a friggin’ MORON?”.  In fact much of what you said answers that question and I appreciate that.  There was one thing you said that really bothered me.  You told the fable of the ants and the grasshopper and that conservatives believed in the ants doctrine.  I confess I am an atheist however I have to say that Aesops fables is not the book that I hear the conservatives talk about.  It is the Holy Bible, which I have read and I never remember Jesus saying “sorry sucker, you should have worked harder, die”. 

  • Marilyn Ross Madison

    I am puzzled as to why Mr. Haidt, who appears to be intelligent, simplifies the argument against the “liberal” moral issue taking care of our fellow human beings, saying that it makes logical sense to reject social programs because of people refusing to work and the issue of enabling laziness.  Clearly, there is some of that going on, and it is frustrating to everyone.  But, it is also very clear to me that welfare and other social programs were not made for the purpose of enabling people to be lazy, which Mr. Haidt sees as a result of favoring certain groups (minorities?).  That is an example of  ignoring all of the real reasons for social programs. 

    I am a psychiatric social worker with a master’s level education and (luckily, I believe) a master’s level job.  I see people who do not meet criteria for social security disability and other social programs when they are clearly unable to work, in my opinion.  Many of them keep trying to work, with both physical and mental disabilities, and would it would, indeed, be a boost to these person’s self esteem if they were able to hold down a job.   There are very very employers who are generous enough to hire (or retain) these people, because it becomes clear that they are not going to be a business asset, as hard as they try.  Additional education does not solve the problem in many cases, even though it is attempted.  Poverty and disabilities are often not a result of being a member of a group that is disenfranchized, but that can be a contributor.   I live in a small town with few minorities, but jobs are difficult to find.

    I, myself, am at retirement age, but am unable to retire because my retirement income will not be enough for me to survive.  Yes, I do indeed believe that the rich should contribute more to sustain the rest of us.  I believe I work at least as hard as they do, as do many of my clients.  I actually believe it helps the whole of society to have a more reasonable distribution of resources.  I believe it is good economic policy.

  • Marilyn Ross Madison

    In the comment I just posted, I accidentally typed, “there are very very employers”, but meant to say “there are not very many employers who are generouse enough to hire…”

  • Marilyn Ross Madison

    I wish that I could participate in the live chat on Tuesday, but I will be at work.  I trust that someone will defend people who are in need of help, in order to survive, including those people who “fall through the cracks” and often die as a result (often seen as “indirect” or “secondary”, if recognized as at all connected to their poverty).

  • Lucretia

    Not to personalize, but there are many others like me.  I taught high school inner city, rural, and rough.  My entire career was a fight against the early privatizers, Alan D. Bersin  in San Diego was my first sup.  I was finally forced out when I tried to move to another state and was not allowed 14th amendment rights to keep my job.  Now I gave all I had, and have very little.  Without unemployment and part-time work, I would be homeless.  I did work hard, I didn’t want to stop teaching.  It wasn’t my fault or choice. 

    Maybe there will be some way for us to realize it’s just kharma, and let it all roll over us without a whimper.

  • RRB

    Do you feel that ultimately if each individual reaches a point in a given society and realizes that Power does not equal Control  of anything other than themselves, that there is a chance to co-survive  as a species and with all earths creatures?

  • Rich Fuerch

    I have read most of Mr Haidt’s book.  I will not aqllow myself to be plsced in a nice, neat category like “liberal” or “conservative”  I like to think of myself as a rationalist and problem solver;  I don’t buy slippery slope arguments, and I wil not make decisions based on ideology.  I think having an opinion based only on ideology removes the neccesity of rational thought.
     I have many good friends who are ideological conservatives, and find that I cannot get a rational asrgument throught to them, if their opinions are ideologically based.  I believfe they simply turn off their rationalminds, or change the subject.  These are intelligent people I am talking about.  How do I get throught to them?

  • Jan Kuykendall

    Thank you for this thought provoking interview by a self described centrist.  It obviously aroused some interest and response!

  • Lbotwinick

    In the TED talk from 2008 you discuss 5 foundations and in the interview with Bill Moyers you reference 6.  It sounds like the 6th is loyalty.  Can you speak about how that one came to be added and how it factors in?   I really like the message about thinking outside our own moral frameworks to try to figure out how to make progress.

  • Lbotwinick

    …I meant to say it looks like “liberty” is #6

  • NM Virtual Assistant

     When we say “people” who fall through the cracks, are without help, unemployment benefits, health care, or other means of self-support, we really have to insist on putting the right faces on “those people” by looking at the poverty statistics around the world. These people are women and children and elderly women – collateral damage, non-combatants, unfortunate bystanders, unarmed innocents, etc. Many of us are educated, smart, socially enterprising and … barely making it, if at all. With the nuclear family nuked and community building not part of our conversation (it will be if we are going to bypass wall streets and regulators) not to mention our reproductive function/choices (basically personal ethics, morals, beliefs, etc.) legislated, then women will die because they are poor. If the economic and environmental conditions are any indicators – women dying are of no concern vs. the so-called fiduciary duties of CEO’s and wealthy stakeholders. Women are the only ones who are eventually going to reach out to help others and not because there is wealth to be gained in doing so but because compassion must become the new heartbeat.

  • NM Virtual Assistant

     Personalize! Thank you for sharing your story; yes, it’s very common and I hope you will not become homeless. Millions are at-risk and die without much of a whimper.

  • NM Virtual Assistant

     There used to be some truth to this before high density urbanization, industrialization, and the techno-everything society. Packed inside a market-driven sardine can without an inch of fertile safe topsoil and laws against growing your own food (zoning laws)… working hard for whom does what now? Oh yeah… you can drive to the supermarket and buy an egg for $1.50 and a tomato for $1.00 (a good organic one will cost a bit more) and the big ag companies, oil giants, and supply chain conglomerates can pocket the change. Begin again.

  • Ewolf97

    I agree that people should take responsibility for themselves financially. However, when you have a small group of people that have control over the economic environment as Wall St. does, and can thus create a depression as in the 1920s or a recession as in 2008, then the field is no longer fair or equitable to all parties. Those with modest incomes are forced to pull themselves up by their bootstraps in an environment they did not create and that was created by speculation and gambling on the part of those who have control over the economic environment. 

    Thus, those in control should provide some degree of safety net to those they harm. 

  • Maggie

     I don’t disagree that education, ambition, ingenuity, and a whole host of other talents play a part in material success, but so do luck, privilege and the ability to manipulate the rules of the game. In our current system, we have neither neutral regulations nor truly impartial referees. As someone once said, the only actual kinds of fair in life are the county fair and the state fair.
    Even if we do look at fairness as proportionality, who says that the equation of Rewards = f (effort) has to be a linear one? For non-geeks, that is another way of saying rewards are dependent upon or a result of effort. There are all kinds of equations besides hyperbolic ones (the current wealth distribution) and kind conservatives seem to think is immanent (Each person’s share = total wealth of nation divided by population). Regretfully, there’s no way of placing illustrative graphs in this comment section.

  • Maggie

     I don’t disagree that education, ambition, ingenuity, and a whole host of other talents play a part in material success, but so do luck, privilege and the ability to manipulate the rules of the game. In our current system, we have neither neutral regulations nor truly impartial referees. As someone once said, the only actual kinds of fair in life are the county fair and the state fair.
    Even if we do look at fairness as proportionality, who says that the equation of Rewards = f (effort) has to be a linear one? For non-geeks, that is another way of saying rewards are dependent upon or a result of effort. There are all kinds of equations besides hyperbolic ones (the current wealth distribution) and kind conservatives seem to think is immanent (Each person’s share = total wealth of nation divided by population). Regretfully, there’s no way of placing illustrative graphs in this comment section.

  • Sandy

    If conservatives are so adamant about “karma”, shouldn’t they be concerned with the mean spirited approach and attitude they take toward less fortunate in our society?

  • Sandy

    If conservatives are so adamant about “karma”, shouldn’t they be concerned with the mean spirited approach and attitude they take toward less fortunate in our society?

  • Cathryn

    What is the healthiest, most wise way to respond to being “demonized” so it can stop and the open- minded conversation of issues can start up again? Will you teach this skill? Please count me on that class. Thanks so much

  • Cathryn

    What is the healthiest, most wise way to respond to being “demonized” so it can stop and the open- minded conversation of issues can start up again? Will you teach this skill? Please count me on that class. Thanks so much

  • Rex

    Your theory of truth as something shared in, by, and for a community is surely necessary. But is it sufficient? Are not personal and unique truths (the plural is deliberate) also required.? I think of poetic and artistic truth associated  with what is usually called genius. In his essay “Experience,” Ralph Waldo Emerson writes “we believe in ourselves as we do not believe in others.” Does not every community depend on such leadership?

  • Rex

    Your theory of truth as something shared in, by, and for a community is surely necessary. But is it sufficient? Are not personal and unique truths (the plural is deliberate) also required.? I think of poetic and artistic truth associated  with what is usually called genius. In his essay “Experience,” Ralph Waldo Emerson writes “we believe in ourselves as we do not believe in others.” Does not every community depend on such leadership?

  • el catofiche

    Yes he’s such a terrible person he holds views which happen to differ from your own! OMG what a concept! Yes I too just hate it when I’m confronted with views different form my own. I love bashing Republicans and conservatives on how their thinking is so closed minded and dogmatic. But when someone confronts me with a well thought out opinion that happens to differ from my own, do I even attempt to examine the flaws in my own line of thinking? Oh hell no. 

  • el catofiche

    Yes he’s such a terrible person he holds views which happen to differ from your own! OMG what a concept! Yes I too just hate it when I’m confronted with views different form my own. I love bashing Republicans and conservatives on how their thinking is so closed minded and dogmatic. But when someone confronts me with a well thought out opinion that happens to differ from my own, do I even attempt to examine the flaws in my own line of thinking? Oh hell no. 

  • Robert Rexford

    I was a hospital administrator in Calif. I take issue with the part of the program when Wolf Blitzer asked  an  audience about the fundamental Moral question  of what should society do when a 30 year old uninsured was seriously insured and needed intensive medical/surgical emergency care. The audience seemed to believe this man made his choice not to buy insurance, and the jeers seemed to indicate he should be left to die!
     The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)[1] is a U.S. Act of Congress passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation
    Act (COBRA). It requires hospitals to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare
    treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay.
    There are no reimbursement provisions. Participating hospitals may only
    transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment under their
    own informed consent, after stabilization, or when their condition
    requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the
    treatment.[1]So to suggest hospitals turn away critically ill patience without insurance is both immoral and illegal exposing hospital to serious lawsuit from dumping emergency patients. Besides what it was your family member who could not afford exorbitantly expensive medical insurance. Should he be left to die outside the Hospital ER?

  • Robert Rexford

    I was a hospital administrator in Calif. I take issue with the part of the program when Wolf Blitzer asked  an  audience about the fundamental Moral question  of what should society do when a 30 year old uninsured was seriously insured and needed intensive medical/surgical emergency care. The audience seemed to believe this man made his choice not to buy insurance, and the jeers seemed to indicate he should be left to die!
     The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)[1] is a U.S. Act of Congress passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation
    Act (COBRA). It requires hospitals to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare
    treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay.
    There are no reimbursement provisions. Participating hospitals may only
    transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment under their
    own informed consent, after stabilization, or when their condition
    requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the
    treatment.[1]So to suggest hospitals turn away critically ill patience without insurance is both immoral and illegal exposing hospital to serious lawsuit from dumping emergency patients. Besides what it was your family member who could not afford exorbitantly expensive medical insurance. Should he be left to die outside the Hospital ER?

  • Michael Peterson

    Interesting but largely  descriptive rather than explanatory.  You could use a big helping of Structural Functional Anthropology . In my world the dichotomy is “Urban Logic” vs “Rural Logic” or perhaps the Rugged Individualism and The Barn raising.  Perhaps you should spend a week or two watching Rawhide, The Rifleman and Wagon Train.  I would also suggest you take a tour of Rural Churches or at least watch The Farm Reports “Home Church” Segment.  Living in the Country the world is pretty cut and dry, whereas in the city it significantly less clear. The Sheriff no longer can say “Check your guns with me and I’ll give them back to you when you leave town”.  Where is Will Rogers when you need him most. Saying there is a divide is not enough to bridge the gap.

  • Wally

    I was heartened by your discussion about what liberals and conservatives need to do to work together. There was however a problem with the ant story. The real ant story is as follows:

    The rich ants hired the grasshopper to do a job that was too dangerous and paid so little, that the rich ants would not do it. Unfortunately the grasshopper was hurt and had to be taken to the hospital. The rich ants said they were truly sorry, but since he had been hired as a private contractor they could not help him with his medical bills. Since he had only been able to work low paying jobs, after paying for food and rent he could not afford medical insurance. To make things even worse, his recovery took the whole summer and he was unable to plant his garden. Finally at the end of summer, after using all of his savings to pay as much of his medical expenses that he could, he got behind on his rent and he was evicted.

  • Michael Peterson

    Interesting Wally…. But I Heard it like this…  

    The grasshopper Held a note on the Ant mound and had been diluting the ants shares to pennies on the dollar. So the ants  revolted and cut off the Grasshoppers head after the Grasshopper decided that the ants food was worth more to him if monetized rather than keeping the ant mound a going concern.

  • BLB

    Negotiation / mediation literature has long described how
    defining a “problem to be resolved” in terms of a clash of values (rather than
    in terms of interests) creates impasse and deadlock (you can’t compromise your
    values!). Conservatives have perfected this way of framing all problems as
    absolute values issues and if they stop doing this they will lose their power
    to block things. Since this is so effective for them, why would they be
    interested in Haidt’s plea to stop “demonizing” the liberals or to mingle/talk
    with liberals? How do we escape this values escalation conservatives (helped by
    a lazy media) perpetuate without seeming to devolve into moral relativism?

  • BLB

    I am deeply skeptical of a chart Haidt showed on the
    original interview claiming that conservatives placed equal and high value on
    all the values shown, while showing liberals as a “bleeding heart, anti-authority”
    stereo type greatly favoring compassion and totally disregarding loyalty and
    authority. Please explain the research. 

    Looking at his chart, I would have to classify myself as a
    conservative on the values scale he uses, but I am deeply liberal – I simply do
    NOT want to see BLIND obedience to corrupt authority and I see the requirement
    for BLIND loyalty as an invitation to devolve into  McCarthyism, fascism, and Nazism and the type of mob
    mentality we witnessed in those debates when the audience screams, “let him

  • Red Wetherill

    We enjoy the diversity of your guests and their comments. Last night, however, I thought that Jonathan Haidt tended to be simplistic, particularly in drawing a distinction between the hard-working ants who deserve success and the lazy grasshoppers. Those are indeed the extremes, but in between are the mass of people who struggle with lives of “quiet desperation” and the inability to gain a foothold in the present system.  This is summed up by a front page headline in this morning’s Oakland Tribune, ” Neediest students priced out”. I expect that forty years hence, with perhaps some years in the working world, Professor Haidt will be a little less assured in his conclusions.
                                                  Red Wetherill, Alameda CA    6-4-12

  • Dawn Peterson

    Taking responsibility for oneself seems like a fundamentally good thing. Do you actually think though that we of the 99% live in a world that’s fair? Why do big farmers get subsidies and little farmers get foreclosed? Why do big corporations like oil companies get subsidized? Why don’t they take care of themselves?

  • Pete Smillie

    How best to persuade “believers” to consider facts/reality? 

  • Matt

    Dr. Haidt, 

    Is it possible to hold a political election in contemporary America where social psychology   influence tactics are not used upon the American people? 

    Every year, the political tacticians continue to dig deeper into their bag of tricks to sway undecided minds, and further entrench those who already agree with them, so I’m curious if there is a system that can be devised that somehow puts us beyond these petty, unsavory persuasion games.  

  • T.A. Rutledge

    Thanks to Mr. Haidt for his sharing his experience!

    His last appearance on the show included a clip from a Republican debate featuring a question directed to Ron Paul regarding a hypothetical involving a man who made a decision to drop his health insurance only to  find himself in need. Some in the audience (at the debate) were heard shouting “let him die”. Mr. Haidt then shared a story from Aesop – the moral being if one doesn’t provide for their own life they deserve to die.

    What if we could go back to the debate and ask how many in the (debate) audience were Christians? What if they were to ask how many  expected to go to heaven? What if we asked them to explain the mechanism by which they planned to gain entrance into the presence of God? The answer might well be through God’s sacrifice of His Son – The Christ.

    If God is willing to forgive us of our failings, shortcomings, faults, intentions, ideas, thoughts, aspirations, etc…if God is willing to give us His Son as satisfaction for our own failings, if Christ came and died for us – who are we to make any substance of the idea of “Karma” – getting the things we deserve. If this is true for others,  it is true for us. Will we then accept the fate we have earned – an eternity separated from God – our bed in Hell. We made the bed…we earned it…we deserve it – why, then, not accept the responsibility for our actions and take our deserved place.

    Many might say “But, this is different” – I argue it is NOT different. If God is willing to forgive us our failings and shortcomings – who are we to hold anything against our brother or sister? Who do we think we are? What right do we have to turn our heart from those in need – regardless of their intent? (We’ve only to examine our own lives).

    Many verses of scripture refer to the Love Of God and His will that we learn to take on the Heart and Mind of The Christ..Do we continue to deny our brother and out sister – or mother and our father – do we turn ourselves against our own family (The Family Of The World)?

    We are all members of the same family! Our only hope is to learn to love with the dedication and strength of the Heart, Spirit, Soul, and Mind of The Christ.

  • Eric Strunz

    I think Haidt would agree with you Red, but he was making a general point about free-riders. As he said, there are a number of important reasons to have a societal safety net. However, this interview wasn’t focused on justifications for welfare, but rather the basics of moral psychology. In that context, I think the fable is a useful example to better understand “fairness” as an intriguing societal value.

  • Eric Strunz

    Haidt considers himself a Jewish secular humanist (as noted in his book “The Happiness Hypothesis”) and has indeed come from a liberal background, though he does seem more centrist now. However, Haidt is not arguing ethics here; he’s discussing how most humans fundamentally perceive ethics. That’s an important distinction. He doesn’t suggest what policies  we should enact; he proposes how we should debate potential policies to enact.

  • Eric Strunz

    Question for Haidt: How do we disseminate these findings and realize the changes you’ve outlined (e.g. refraining from demonizing political opponents)? As you note in your work, our lawyer minds are adept at minimizing challenging new evidence, like these discoveries about moral psychology. How do we translate this information into behavior change? 

  • Michael Peterson

    My Question: Why do they think what they think?

  • Paul Nulton

    Dr. Haidt
      To exorcise the demonization, you’ve suggesting putting Dems and Repubs back into the same cocktail parties.  Can you give us centrists more about how to communicate from sub-conscious to sub-conscious through ideological barriers?

  • Devanssjc

    I’m a big fan of Jonathan’s ideas. They explain a lot. But I’m confounded by one position conservative take regarding the governments role in the issue of personal responsibility. Conservatives object to a personal mandate for healthcare. This flies in the face of fairness as Jonathan recognizes it in conservatives

    They are ok to restrict personal choices on drugs, marriage, and abortion, but not requiring people to have insurance. In fact, I see no reason for conservatives to be more or less distrustful of government than liberals, and history supports this, simply look at the 60s. In fact, conservatives recognize authority as a moral imperative, they don’t seem to recognize it in the core principles of a democratically elected representative government.

  • Anonymous

    Question for Haidt: if you had unilateral power to amend the constitution, what changes would you make that might create a legislative system that is built with an understanding of the effects of moral psychology?  How might such a system incentivize group reasoning among our politicians, in order to compensate for their own individual biases and sacred ideas?

  • Chris

    Live Chat question: If the problem of the Left is that our views are not “sacred” enough to gain traction with the majority of Americans, how does  a party/or candidate do that?
    Must we become as dogmatic as the Conservatives?

    I disagree that Conservatives “see” things clearer than Liberals. I do agree that we look at the world in very different ways. If the Conservatives seek fairness they have a funny way of showing it.  In my opinion they are too ruled by fear and suspicion to be fair. I guess that’s exactly where you’d say the hypocrisy is.

    If only this equation (hard work = success) actually worked in the real world. Then I could understand they’re distaste for Government & the so-called Nanny state.

    As for Karma, I’m still waiting for Karma to catch up with those who destroyed the pensions at Enron;  the “1%’ers” that made billions off the credit default swaps, the oil companies that permanently pollute this planet; etc.

    Unfortunately, and now to this country’s peril, Liberals’ lack of organization has left them drowned out of the most important conversations about the direction of this country.

  • Flowergaea

    Initially, the individual mandate was a conservative idea cooked up by the Heritage Foundation.  They became against it when Obama embraced it. 

  • Flowergaea

    I enjoyed this show and your perspective, but do you really see both positions currently in American politics as Equally valid….?  One of our political parties has moved so far extreme to the right and they control the party.  Their goal, as they themselves have stated, is to drown governement in the bathtub and cut as much as possible.  But in the drowning of social services the government should provide, including such things as maintaining highways and infrastructure to aid all people, this extreme party also supports even more tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, and no regulation of the institutions which by their risky behavior has brought our country to its knees. 

  • Flowergaea

    Where I live the Republicans are doing everything they can to kill the public schools.  Things have gotten so bad that teachers are taking early retirement if they can, and by starving the schools, only the poorest children who have no other choice are now left in my region’s public schools. 

  • Flowergaea

    When I was a kid, it was considered unseemly to not reward workers with the profits that they helped earn.  My dad was an engineer who talked warmly about the value of those who worked on the production line at his company.  When in the 70s, there was a downturn, the workers were protected first.  My dad willingly took a paycut, as did other executives. Can you imagine that happening today? 

  • Guest

    Okay, but CEOs should make 231 times more than the average worker?  You also can’t equate what doctors make with blue collar workers, most of whom are in service jobs barely surviving.  I have friends who are young doctors.  They are doing very, very well financially. 

  • Flowergaea

    Mr. Haidt, I would like to know what we should do about unemployment and all the suffering that is out there, which I see every day in my work at a non profit? What about all the kids who are going hungry right here in America.  The Republican ideas have been more cuts, particularly to programs like WIC, more austerity, and more tax breaks to corporations and to the “job creators.”  The people who lost their jobs in the current lesser Depression didn’t deserve to do so.  If they didn’t save enough, like the ant and the grasshopper story, maybe it’s because they weren’t earning enough to save. It’s not easy to live on $10 or less  an hour.   

  • Isabel Penraeth

    Social science research consistently asymmetries between liberals and conservatives on measurements such as disgust and fear, with conservatives coming out being more fearful and having more core disgust. More than a few partisan liberals seem to feel this research proves their viewpoint’s innate superiority, perhaps even being a evolutionary improvement on the species. I read one academic paper that concluded that one positive asymmetry (for the conservative viewpoint) that conservatives were happier was really because they were less intelligent. Assuming these asymmetries are being accurately measured, and aren’t just a result of a bias in the social sciences, how does one argue that they do NOT mean the liberal viewpoint is evidence of innate superiority in the person holding the view?

  • Grace Valentine

    Thanks for reminding us – I’ve seen these kinds of papers too.  From the real world: the teachers I used to work with were liked or not by students, no grey cats in the adolescent world.  Students really did not like conservatives, probly cuz those teachers spent most of their conversation thinking about how to bust students for dress code  or tardy infractions and NEVER talked about their subjects.  I know, anecdotal, but really fair.  I’ve never seen a student speak well of anyone who stood on conservative principal and authoritarian hierarchical relations.

  • Anonymous

     Watch his first TED talk and check out his website for more information.  His research shows that the chart is consistent throughout the world.

  • Anonymous

    Good embellishment Wally.

    When I saw this happen at the debate. I was thinking, what about the people that cannot afford the health insurance. Do you let them die because they choose to feed their kids instead of pay for health insurance. There is so much wrong with our insurance and medical industries that my “bleeding heart” wants to help those that cannot help themselves because we are living in a time that our society is out of balance. I think we need campaign reform, insurance reform, bank reform and medical reform. Banks, insurance companies and hospitals should all be not for profit ventures because their function should be to provide a service to better society, not make a profit. 

  • Mark Early

    Mr. Haidt, a comment and a question that I hope might interest you.  Full disclosure; I purchased your most recent book before the Moyers & Company interview, but only afterward found time to read selected chapters.  An oversight I am endeavoring to correct.  My apologies if a full reading of your book addresses my question already.

    First a comment.  On or about page 170 in the section “The Liberty/Oppression Foundation” you relate the history of our human ancestors in hunter/gatherer groups and explore their egalitarian social structure in comparison to precursor primate hierarchy alpha males and more recently (past 15,000 years) in larger sedentary hierarchical agricultural communities dominated by leaders and an elite class.  What is cited as the basis for egalitarian small group structure (Boehm ?) in “the first true moral communities” is the ability of community members to rein in the aggressive behaviors of alpha males by physical force if necessary.  This explanation didn’t strike me as very satisfying, assuming I understand it sufficiently.  Why wouldn’t Boehm’s “reverse dominance hierarchies” operate in more recent agrarian communities too, albeit in a modified form from smaller hunter/gatherer clans? 

    My I suggest a more practical reason for egalitarianism in the very nature of hunting and gathering itself; random chance discovery of game is more determinate than individual hunter skill.  When small groups of hunters strike off in different directions from camp, it is mostly luck that determines which band finds game first and brings back food to the common camp.  Not the strongest or the cleverest alpha male hunter, but the randomly lucky ones.  In an egalitarian group all members share the food.  One day your little hunting band are providers, next week it’s somebody else’s good fortune.  Given the random perversity of hunting success especially in lean times the best survival strategy is sharing and cooperation.  Strong alpha-males had no overriding contribution advantage to group survival in an environment dominated by hunting luck not hunter skill.   However, when sedentary agriculture and domesticated animals replaced nomadic hunting the random nature of food acquisition receded opening the door for hierarchy and elite control of group resources thru guile, politics and violence.

    Now a question – of sorts.  I have always been fascinated by the work of Isabel Myers and her talented mother.  The personality attributes that flow from categories of MBTI seem on the surface to relate in some ways to your books insightful description of left/right political and social thinking patterns.  In his book “Tides of Consent: How Public Opinion Shapes American Politics”, Prof. James A. Stimson makes a compelling case for tidal flows of changing public opinion on longer time scales than fleeting election cycles.  I am wondering if you see any evidence for moral political shifts that might in part be attributed to long term changes in the ratio of MBTI categories in the general population.  Stated simplistically; if the ratio between ISFP’s and ENTJ’s in the general population shifted from one generation to the next might it drive a change in moral politics?  It gets complicated to consider how politics could be effected if MBTI ratios are also in play between generations, adding friction and interacting with external historical events …. or are changing MBTI ratios (if they exist of course) swamped by stronger community influences ala; nurture rather than nature in your view ?

    Thank you.

    PS.  Original data driven research by Mancur Olson in “The Logic of Collective Action” makes the depressing case that democracy is a scale problem; New England Town Hall democracy does indeed work today as it did at the founding of “our experiment”.  Unfortunately, urban scale groups are inherently dysfunctional owing to the “rational voter problem” which he describes in great detail.  I myself think our founder’s checks and balances are scaled for democracy in their time, becoming inoperable over the generations into our own sad era.

  • Michael Peterson

    In  the Same way that a Gun is pretty much a requirement for rural living. I’ve never owned a gun before but we have rattlesnakes and they bit my dog. I now see value in guns that I never saw before. Should I join the NRA? The fact is that we have two countries with two different sets of expediencies and experiences. As they say… You can take the boy out of the Country but you can’t take the Country out of the boy….. and visa versa… As far as exploiting these differences C. Wright Mills explained that long ago.

  • Anonymous

    “Is there a single part of Conservative politics and worldview that lines up with the religious philosophy of Jesus?”

    Right, I do not get this.
    The only thing I can think is that the Political Right is using the Christians as their base and nobody is questioning the cognitive dissonance.

  • Diane

    In your reference to the Ron Paul healthcare point, you
    state it comes down to personal responsibility. I was “responsible” and
    purchased health insurance from Blue Cross; my policy was $500/month and was a
    “bare bones” policy. On a checkup my doctor freaked out at a suspicious mole on
    my back and said it should be removed immediately. Both my doctor and BC told
    me the procedure would be covered. One month after the procedure I received a
    bill for $300, the amount BC would not cover. The itemization area stated that
    I had two procedures. I called BC to ask (1) why I had to pay $300, and (2)
    what was this second procedure. Their response was that the first procedure was
    the removal of the mole; the second procedure was – get this – the *stitching*
    of the mole.  And because they won’t pay
    for two procedures in one day I was responsible for the bill. That same year,
    BC’s CEO got a ten million dollar bonus. Please explain to me how I am the irresponsible lazy
    grasshopper here…

  • Diane

    Forgot to mention that this policy was the only one I could afford as I’m self employed and live week to week…

  • Don

    Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature cites your work on the six moral foundations and seems to suggest that the age of sacrality and the age of authority have been succeeded by the Humanitarian Revolution, which focusses more on compassion and equality. Do you believe that there is a hierarchy of values that are healthiest for society or do you believe in a rough equality of values?

  • Don

    I am a Disciples of Christ minister. Progressive Christians are more of a cross between liberals and conservatives; we have higher regard for sacrality, authority and loyalty than most liberals. Do you see any other groups that could be a bridge between liberals and conservatives.

  • Grace Valentine

    Question for Dr. Haidt:  How can an individual protect herself when she is being demonized by her employer?  Many other teachers who lost their jobs went thru demonization: close supervision that when unsuccessful in finding problems, then resorted to the personal attack.  In 2001 Jaime McKenzie (The Answer) quoted me commenting that an early reform was without substance.  Diane Ravitch published the same opinion in 2010 in her book on the reform wars, The Death and Life of the American School System.  

    The reformer I criticized was not an educator, and is most recently known for his part in the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.  However, I have been completely demonized by this powerful force and it’s minions. I have not had a good day at work or a full night’s sleep since 1998.  Is there anything I can do?  I need to work, and it’s very hard to convince people that as a teacher I have anything at all to offer their businesses.  I have tried to find protection with the New Mexico Human Rights Division and the EEOC, both have without consideration of my evidence, found against me (courts favor employers) supporting the unfounded accusations that my personality is grounds for being forced out of the profession.

  • Barry Ulrich

    Today is Election Day. I am a Clerk at a Polling Precinct and will not be able to take place in the chat. Why was this chat scheduled for today? I’d like to have been a part in it!

    My comment/question: Why do the conservative Christian voters seem to be so unChristian? They seem to be unwilling to display the characteristics of being a Christian – forgiving, non-judgemental, and willing to help the less fortunate.

  • Neal Ortenberg

    for Jonathan Haidt:

    your Five Foundations of Morality model it seems to me that each of the factors
    influences and interact with each other and those factors are strongly
    influenced by ones background. Much of our background we do not choose. For
    example, we do not choose our genes, our parents, the country or culture we are
    born into, the environment we are raised in, or the “tribe” we belong to and
    how the society around us supports or discriminates against that “tribe.”  Particularly in regard to the care and fairness factors, how do you see the relationship between these two
    factors and how do you integrate the fact that we all come from different

  • Maggie Newman

    Re: your sanctity/degradation scale
    Does sanctity necessarily require an acceptance of transcendence or a non-corporal dimension to reality? I see many in the environmental movement as perceiving the living planet or Gaia as sacred, complete with taboos against eating GMO’s etc.

  • Ortenbc

    Thank you for your thoughtful interview.  One point you made was that the Republican brain had a better sense of fairness.  It seems to me, as you described this, that there is an assumption that we are all born equally, with equal abilities and opportunities.  Perhaps what draws the democratic brain more into the “feeling” mode, is the understanding that we do not start out, or experience the world equally, and that perhaps it is more “fair’ to try to even the playing field which calls for more programs, such as preschool programs, health insurance etc.  There also seems to be a notion that if one goes to a white collar job that one is working harder and thus deserves more.  As I walk through my town I see many farm workers who bend their backs in what ever weather we have to provide our greatest necessity, food.  I think they work much harder than most people in our nation and deserve more for their work.  That would seem more “fair” to me.  Thank you for your comments.

  • Grace Valentine

    Does the leopard change his spots?  In the 1960s Judy was a bohemian who identified with the oppressed and embraced the wild, erotic freedom of the culture that gave the repressed teens of the 1950s a free pass to a sexual playground where no rules had yet revealed themselves.  In the 1980s Judy married Bill, converted to his religion (Catholic), and his political views (he was a weapons contract negotiator, with a military pension who of course, was a self-made man).  Now she her children are in their fifties, in hard professional and economic times, and Judy goes on 5 star cruises and buys Tiffany while they do not go to the doctor.  

    When our belly is full, can we even feel the hunger of others?  Is there a fundamental difference in human natures, or are we all the same?

  • Anonymous

    Another brief question: isn’t making reason sacred a good thing, even if you are reasoning by yourself?  If one understands the limitations created by moral psychology, is it not then possible to work to overcome those limitations?  With all your studying, aren’t you now capable of seeing when you yourself are blinded or searching for a single fact to back up an established belief?  Armed with this knowledge, ie. once you know the matrix is there, you no longer need a person with an opposing viewpoint to point it out to you.

    I feel like the fact that most people reason poorly is no cause for removing reason itself from its sacred position.  We are the problem, not reason itself.  It just means we need to improve our reasoning skills, with the help of people like you!

  • R7carina

    In Your True Home, by Thich Nhat Hanh, #229 entitled Jesus and Buddha says:  “Someone once asked me, “If the Buddha and Jesus Christ were to meet today, what would they have to say to each other?” And my answer is, the Buddha and Jesus Christ are already meeting every day, everywhere.  Because Buddhists are the continuration of the Buddha, and Christians are the continuation of Jesus, and they are meeting today everywhere.  We should help make their meeting successful.”   Jonathan Haidt’s insights are helping us do that. 

  • Olddog1800

     People are not ants or grasshoppers, Conservatives may be like ants if they are socailist but not if they are capitalists ants have a structures society where all they do is for the ant colony or the state.
    Grasshoppers are always moving to achive self gratifcation a swarm of Grasshoppers has never looked lazy to me. 

  • Rnb

    The important point here is, we would not be having this conversation if campaign finance reform and ethics were enforced in our political system. When will it ever happen????

    Political Polarization is a DIRECT result of political influence bought and paid for by Banks, and Corporations.

    We have not learned  the real lesson of the American Civil War where corporations and big business bought political parties and sucked our nation into their greed fight.

  • Carol Hunt

    Happy Belated Birthday Mr. Moyers. 

  • Pedro

    Dr. Haidt, your talk was very incisive; I watched it twice. If I may, I have two questions: 1) when you say Republicans are better at understanding our human condition, do you mean understanding it in order to manipulate it only? Because, it seems to me, that being holier than thou doesn’t let them acknowledge their human flaws. 2)  When you say they believe in Karma, it seems like they believe in a Karma that they somehow control to condemn others much like religions do; not the Karma of Hindu and basic Christian beliefs that affect all of our actions.
    Respectfully yours,  Pedro Pérez-Soler

  • MarkReuterPhd

    This is a mere acknowledgement that I found your thoughts to be proundly clear. Truth is that which is………and, your thoughts were in line with truth perceived, and the words/thoughts that you conveyed fit closely (in my mind) with the Internal Truths that are now available through the Writings now revealed through the rational understanding of Emanuel Swedenborg. Thanks again. You pressence of mind and derivative thought are truly reflective of (what I see to be) truth. My Best…..and, My Thanks……Mark Reuter…….and it’s very late and I need to go to bed……

  • Rtoutt

    Once a Moderate Republican–I was a Mental Health consultant to Gov Ronnie’s CA government.
    Never a Registered Democrat–but I think I am-was closer to Dem’s thinking, in reality & reason.
    But, I don’t think to feel very Conservative, nor feel I think always Liberal.  I think & feel that the True Course for America: Return Again to our Original Unique National Theme, “Progressive”.

  • Zarathustra’s friend

    How many Americans
    know about Orwell and Huxley? This is a better question to be asked. How many
    Americans, or let’s make it global to follow the trend, how many people on
    planet Earth know about Shakespeare, Schiller and Goethe? Schiller’s Ode to Joy
    poem was impossible to match with musical notes, so said Beethoven, and if
    Beethoven said it, who will dare to disagree?

    Ignorance is what
    has kept humanity in the dark, and as long as we continue electing politicians
    who know nothing about evolution and the evolution of man’s mind, we’ll be stuck
    with the pursuers of nothingness calling the shots for humanity.

    It’s time for this
    great nation to show the world its greatness. Thank you, Mr. Moyers, to know
    that our men of knowledge and integrity are still fighting for the benefit of
    humanity brings peace to my mind and joy to my heart. This great nation
    deserves to be the leader of the world that humanity desperate needs, and when
    I watch your programs I feel less worried about our future.

    I can bet $10.000,
    metaphorically speaking, of course! that we have people from every single
    nation living in United States of America…The diced are rolled, humanity wins!

    Peace and Love,


  • Bluegrassbloke

    I am prevented from joining my US family from where I currently live, Canada, by prohibitive, unaffordable,  healthcare premiums. Here I pay $64 monthly. To move to Oregon – where they have a plan that covers everyone who needs it – I would pay $775 monthly for partial coverage. So now I stay in BC, living as close to the border as possible, in order to shorten the distances I have to make to the US & family. 
    Incidentally, there is a phenomenon here where US citizens try to marry a Canadian to secure healthcare! How about forged Medical ID cards? Lastly, hop across the border into Canada to get treatment, hop back and never pay the bill. 

  • Billandjudith

    You’re nailed where to begin, Rtoutt.  The Progressives had some deep blemishes, but the right idea about our direction as a country.  Bill.

  • Moyersb

     Thank you! Bill

  • Mleonjanssen

    Politics and religion have become the catalist for power and who is able to throw the most money towards their self serving point of view and has nothing to do with helping people in the real world.    The leadership has become a matter of who is willing to become the fall person in a junk yard battle over personal gain similar to a bunch of teen-agers who run in pacs of gangs.     There is very little left of what we call a democratic system thanks to those who are more than willing to sacrifice others lives in a never ending war for more consumerism.    We need to just step back a few steps and ask ourselves if it is really worth it.    Like my granpa once told me as a boy “It’s too late to shut the gate after the cows get out”.

  • Mona

    European history has a past of conservatist eras and public concern eras.  public concern predominates when there is a problem that needs to be addressed.  someone I work with said he is seeing more of the younger generation leaning towards public concern.  he said there was a car with republican, religious right, conservative bumper stickers and the kids in the back seat saw his peace sign and gave him the tumbs up.  attitudes expressed in America may be shifting.  we have had conservatives concern for themselves (greed and get what you can) and we are now possibly shifting to looking at the whole of society.   

  • Mona

    America is conservatist, but when we need to work together we have pulled together to accomplish what needs to get done – the recent past comes to mind.  the great depression where we pulled together to rebuild the nation and then right on its heels  WWII.  my parents who grew up thru the depression certainly listened when someone they respected said we need to do what needs to be done. 

  • Erasmus B Aiken

     a new survey by Citigroup shows that 23% of small business owners have gone more than a year without
    pay. The study also says that 54% of them have gone without at least
    one paycheck; 38% of them said their employees had worked overtime
    without being compensated; and 18% of them had been unable to make a
    paycheck for their employees at least once.
    During recent years, 78% of the owners have taken less profit, 70%
    have been working more hours, and 69% have used their own funds in order
    to keep their businesses afloat.

  • Guillermo Silveira

    Clean energy jobs will do it!