We move on to how conservatives and liberals see the world differently, and why:

JONATHAN HAIDT: When it gets so that your opponents are not just people you disagree with, but when it gets to the mental state in which I am fighting for good, and you are fighting for evil, it's very difficult to compromise. Compromise becomes a dirty word.

Preview: How do Conservatives and Liberals See the World?

May 29, 2012

Our  country is more politically polarized than ever. Is it possible to agree to disagree, and still move on to solve our massive problems?  Or are the blind leading the blind — over the cliff?  This weekend on Moyers & Company, Bill and moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries.

Watch and share a short preview above.

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  • leftofcenter

    The disagreement is because of several key areas. Money, power, what’s my “fair share” of something. Then, a refusal to deal with reality when it’s staring you in the face on both sides.

  • Scott Zwettler

    Read the book called Moral Politics by George Lakoff to get an excellent perspective on this subject.

  • Anonymous

    George Lakoff’s linguistic insight is far more revealing than  the more simplistic tit for tat view offered by Jonathan Haidt. The fact is that most of us are witness to an irrational debate between leftists and rightists who know better but are putting on a show, and they do this as a stalling tactic so the people can’t bring their wealthy clients to account. Moyers has fallen way short here in his educational mission. “Sorry folks that’s all the time we have, and we’ll re-examine this subject in 2016.”

  • Amanirb

    How can anyone possibly critique the show when it hasn’t even aired yet?  A 29 second preview certainly doesn’t provide enough information to say that Moyers falls short, or that his guest has a simplistic view?  Did I miss something here?

  • AgTip

    It is two moral systems tilting at one another.  The conservatives need an adversary to give them an identity.  They are quite warlike.  One side white, one side black.  The Democrats, tho’, what’s up with them?  There are large problems facing ALL of us and the Dems, altho’ more open-minded than the Repubs, do not hang together like the Repubs.  Will this clear up when the problems become worse?

  • AgTip

    Perhaps, Gradyleehoward, you should watch Jonathan Haidt’s dissertation on the two moral systems on TED Talks.

  • Steve Cross

    I’ll be interested in seeing what is said.  On the “teaser”, at least, it’s suggested that both liberals and conservatives see each other as evil.  It implies that both are wrong.  However, as a card-carrying liberal I don’t see conservatives as “evil” as much as just being wrong.  I think they represent a small minority who wants to game the system to their economic advantage.  “Compromise” would be acceptable if there were mere policy differences.   But, what the Republicans want cannot be acceptable in a world that we all have to live in.

  • Anonymous

    wonder when the Republican Party lost its independence. The interesting thing
    about American politics is that sometimes you can’t tell when a coup d’état has
    occurred. Because Republicans represent American Bidness, as opposed to the
    American people, every once in a while the “bidnessmen”, whom I now call The
    Dukes, get it into their heads that they want to run things a bit more
    directly. So, they start writing scripts for their employed sword-carriers,
    whom I sometimes call The Barons, such that their employees appear a bit . . .
    well crazy. That is generally the first sign of the coup d’état. The next sign
    is that the words tumbling out of the mouths of the employed sword-carriers
    suggest something so antithetical to our American values that one must assume
    the employers, the Dukes, have become unhinged.
    While the royal Republicans and their crazed teabagger serfs continue to speak
    about becoming fiscally responsible, something one does not normally
    associate with republicans, their only actions so far, as the loyal opposition
    now recently in charge, are to propose severe limits on personal freedoms,
    i.e., attacks on abortion policy, responsible family planning policies, and, of
    course, their old favorite Gay and Lesbian couples wishing to marry. They seem
    oblivious to the plight of ordinary working people currently seeking in vain
    for employment. Of course, they also are not normally associated with caring
    about ordinary Americans.
    Since our current economic plight was brought about through republican policies,
    e.g., huge tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens, coupled with complete freedom
    of action for our greediest and least mentally competent citizens—bankers—one
    might have thought they would lay low for a while. But no, they are now all
    about reducing taxes further and eliminating any and all programs that benefit
    the American Middle Class. It’s interesting to observe the change in philosophy
    between the old robber baron days, and now. In days of yore, people of the ilk
    of Henry Ford understood that, in order to have any customers willing and able
    to buy his products—Ford automobiles—he would have to help create a middle
    class. People would need decent paying jobs so that they could afford not only
    a place to live and some food, but also one of his cars. Now, the robber
    barons, people like the Cock Brothers and Rupert the Magnificent, seem not to
    understand that the great American Middle Class is what made America the
    powerhouse it has been for the past fifty years. At one level, they seem intent
    on destroying the educational engine that helped create the Middle Class—the
    public school system in America. And at another level, they are doing their
    best to reverse Henry Ford’s policies by sending jobs abroad to China and other
    undemocratic societies. Their focus on low cost as the sole criterion of
    American Bidness, eliminating criteria such as quality, seems aimed at
    eliminating the Middle Class.
    You have to ask yourself . . . what the hell are they thinking? Are they that
    stupid, that short-sighted, and that greedy???
    We’ll have to watch and wait, I guess, to see how the next chapter in the great
    republican coup d’état plays out in this best of all possible worlds.
    In the meantime, I plan to continue getting my News from Stewart and Colbert.
    At least, they make me laugh. It’s safer for my TVs also. I’m less likely to
    throw a rock through the TV screen.

  • Schindlingeric

    Here is how I see the two parties. The Republicans take all your money and call you lazy. The Democrats take most  of your money. They do leave you enough to buy a fast food meal and bus fare so you can get to work… That is unless big business has outsourced your job to a third world country.

  • Davideros


    As with the prson mentioned above, you have not even SEEN the program yet. That you say “Moyers has fallen way short here” when you’ve seen nothing yet flies in the face of reality.

  • gary rethmeier

    vividly accurate!  …and frightening!

  • Flaggship

    well siad steve……

  • Michael

    Thank you Bill! 

    Another possible topic to cover ASAP would be the loss of civic education in schools.  Even Maryland, a very blue state, now is largely abandoning their Social Studies program because the standardized tests don’t cover that material, so they are including it in Reading instead of as a seperate class?  This is a huge topic that only you could provide the time required to dig into the meat of this issue. 

    Please contact me or anyone else who could provide you more information about this death from within.

  • Anonymous

    As I noticed that the GOP was increasingly trying to ‘villainize’ the word ‘Entitlement’, I wrote my three so-called legislators and President Obama asking that they kindly refer to these things with respect and as ‘Earnedaments’, that was about a year ago… They all seemed too quick to whore our already paid-for due-to-us funds to appease the ignorati and cowardly lions they so cravenly prey upon.

    Even more GRATING is the term ‘income inequality’. Really? Give me a break. It’s ‘responsibility inequality’. Let’s call it what it is. ‘Income inequality’ not only is not the right reason for changing course, but it’s just plain wimpish to beat all hell. Cease the echoes of victimhood and start playing prosecutor. Start hammering those who do not wish to make their required tax obligations for not meeting their own mantra of personal responsibility.

    I pondered, when I heard the SOTU, if President Obama was pulling a double entendre as he closed his remarks on ‘income inequality’ with ‘it’s just common sense’. Did he also – or really – mean, ‘Common Sense’, Paine’s epochal pamphlet?

    If all will humor me – I quote two of the most powerful paragraphs from Paine:

    “In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of
    government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude,
    that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after
    it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for, though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

    Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.”

    The insidious claims of jealousy as motivation are vomit inducing to say the least. That vile breathing dogpile that was in the suit during your OWS shoot seems to be oblivious to the rules and tenets of democracy. It is not for him to choose where his money goes. It is for society to determine to how best use that which is paid in taxes for the strengthening of itself to the degree and in the ways that it, itself deems necessary.

    Talk about Arrogant Philanthropy (oxymorons, anyone?).

    What the * puked out was this “I give to you of my great wealth, these comparative scraps to show my magnanimity and humanity to others. I’m such a wonderful guy! See – we don’t need taxes after all. I’m a stupid fool telling you this because the truth is – I could care less how many of your kids die because I am not responsible enough to understand my own country’s doctrines. In fact, it doesn’t bother me at all that your kids will die in wars related to my greedy interests. You be responsible now, and pay for my economy destroying errors. ”

    That’s what * said.

    This post has been edited by moderator.

  • Bamsdaddy

    Its nice to hear some “sanity”  at least being called for in the room. If we cant find common ground then where are we headed? Will we fight over control of the steering wheel until we all just drive off of a cliff? With all the “media antagonists”(not blaming the media, Lol) -Over the top political rhetoric & the more common than not complete disregard for factual accuracy out there i dont see the sky clearing any time soon. Being a progressive myself  I’m just as guilty as anyone for “demonizing” the opponent. ill NEVER understand much of the Rights motives, morals or economic “theories” but i know the current gridlock in DC could be worse than something as “unthinkable” as a Bauchmen White House! See, there I go again…..  @bamsdaddy 

  • Anonymous

    To Bill Moyers,
    in your very next segment you exemplified what Haidt stated is the error that is making our nation weaker; you demonized the other side, you sacrilized a specific philosophy.  But, you wouldn’t be where you are if you weren’t excellent at doing that very thing. Haidt is trying to get us to examine the heart of these two philosophies, and the media keeps driving the wedge.

  • Bq

    It seems like it would be quite an interesting exercise to compare George Lakoff and Jonathan Haidt – there are a lot of basic similarities but probably a laundry list of differences as well.  

  • Anonymous

    It seems that “motivated reasoning” has a lot to do with this issue.  People have the attitude “please do not confuse me with the facts… my mind is already made up [for me... often by my partisan party leadership].”  As I see it… our “representatives” have stopped representing us in favor of their large corporate contributors and partisan politics fueled by extremist radio/tv commentators. 

  • Anonymous

    The circumstances of Paine’s time were completely different; the United States was an ethnic nation-state during the colonial era, made up mostly of British and others of NW European stock. Today, why would I want to help some inner city miscreant named Ty-quan who has never help a job, is addicted to drugs, and has fathered 6 kids out of wedlock by age 30, none of which he takes care of? Those are not my people, and they are not citizens of my country.

    Your position is utterly perverse; you seem to be demanding that the active, strong, industrious citizens that give this country its strength and vitality give the fruit of their labor to prop up the weak and insidious hordes that are destroying it.