Continuing: Are the two tribes alike or different!


Holland and Mooney diverge: Are the two tribes alike or different?

Are “conservatives” basically similar to us “liberals?” Or are they basically different from us? Are they perhaps not fully human, due to the way their brains work?

Down through the annals of time, wars have emerged from questions like these. Tribal members, convinced of their greatness, have always tended toward the claim that The Others are totally different.

Something is wrong with the brains of The Others! They don’t seem fully human!

We humans are wired to think that way, but thinking that way is quite dumb and quite dangerous. Last week, Salon posted an interview in which Joshua Holland and Chris Mooney batted these topics around.

Holland hails from Moyers & Company. We’d say he’s a bit of a “red ass.” In his introduction to the interview, we saw him leaning toward “basically different” (see yesterday’s award-winning post).

In our view, Holland continued to lean, rather hard, in his opening question. As Holland leans forward, is he out over his skis?
HOLLAND (10/31/13): Chris, let’s talk about morality. I’m personally offended by the tea partiers’ resistance to giving uninsured people health care. I find it a bit shocking that a political movement could be so filled with animosity toward the idea. But according to NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt—and other scholars—conservatives have a different moral compass entirely. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Historically, such people have argued for war.

In this case, Holland is “personally offended” by the views of The Others. To him, their views are driven by “animosity.” He finds their outlook “a bit shocking.”

And uh-oh! When Holland reviews the work of Haidt and other scholars, his sense of alarm seems to grow. He believes they have said that conservatives “have a different moral compass entirely.”

Wow! As hotheads have known through the annals of time, you simply can’t reason with people like that! You’ll find Holland in The Iliad, cast as headstrong young Diomedes.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Holland that he is exhibiting the very traits he will lay on conservatives as the interview proceeds. But at this point, Mooney replies. He takes a much more moderate view, just as Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, does in his ancient reply to Diomedes.

As he starts, Mooney says, “Absolutely,” seeming to agree with Holland. But this is mainly a point of tribal courtesy. From that point on, Mooney talks Holland down.

In each of the highlighted points, Mooney is disputing what Holland has said:
MOONEY (continuing directly): Absolutely. There are many people doing research in the psychology of politics. Jonathan Haidt is a pioneer in the psychology of morality and how that feeds into politics, and it really helps with something like this where you have strong emotional passions that are irreconcilable on the left and the right.

So what you’re describing is his moral foundation of “harm,” which liberals tend to feel more strongly about. These are emotions relating to empathy and compassion–measured by the question of how much someone is suffering and how much that suffering is a moral issue to you. How much is caring for the weak and vulnerable a moral issue to you?

It’s not that conservatives don’t feel that emotion, but they don’t necessarily feel it as strongly. They feel other things more strongly. So to Haidt, this explains the health care debate because liberals feel, most of all, this harm-care-compassion thing. Conservatives feel it a little bit less strongly, even as they have this other morality. Haidt compares it to karma—it’s really interesting—where basically, you’re supposed to get what you deserve. And what really bothers them is somebody not getting what they deserve. So the government getting involved and interfering with people getting what they deserve is really bad. That, I think, is the clash.
Again and again, Mooney seems to reject the claim that Those People “have a different moral compass entirely.”

According to Mooney, liberals and conservatives feel the same moral impulses. It’s just that the two groups “tend” to feel different impulses more and less strongly.

It isn’t that the two tribes are “different entirely.” Liberals “tend to feel more strongly about” the moral foundation Haidt refers to as “harm.” As Mooney explains it, “It’s not that conservatives don’t feel that emotion, but they don’t necessarily feel it as strongly.”

Already, one major difference has opened up between the two figures. Holland has said that the two tribes are fundamentally different. According to Mooney, it’s a matter of degree.

Down through the ages, lovers of war have argued like Holland. This has led to death and destruction of the type tribals adore.

Tomorrow: Holland unsheathes his A-bomb


  1. "According to Mooney, liberals and conservatives feel the same moral impulses. It’s just that the two groups “tend” to feel different impulses more and less strongly." - b. somerby

    hitler liked dogs.

    {hmmm, i wonder does thought nazi godwin like dogs.}

    1. This isn't the same thing at all. Dogs were irrelevant to Hitler's other actions. In this case, empathy is central to beliefs about health care. Somerby's point is that BOTH sides of the debate feel empathy but they emphasize their shared feelings to different extents. Reducing this to even conservatives like dogs misses that point entirely. But what else is new?

    2. Right, the Koch brothers spend untold millions of dollars trying to persuade people not to buy insurance as a way of expressing their empathy for the uninsured.

    3. The Koch brothers are in politics for the money. They are not an example that can be generalized to the rest of the voting populace, conservative or not.

    4. Explain to me, what monetary incentive could they have to spend vast sums of their fortune trying to persuade people not to buy health insurance.

    5. They are trying to undo Obamacare by persuading people not to buy insurance, because without the larger group of relatively healthy people in the pool, the plan won't be sustainable. By discrediting this attempt at broadening access to health care, they attack government initiatives so that future efforts can be claimed to be unworkable too. Beyond that, I see this as an attempt to roll back government services and perhaps lower taxation by reducing government spending on entitlements. They may have specific interests in the health care industry that might be affected by Obamacare -- I don't know enough about their wealth to speculate on that.

    6. @Anonymous: "They are trying to undo Obamacare by persuading people not to buy insurance, because without the larger group of relatively healthy people in the pool, the plan won't be sustainable."

      Actually, the whole system is probably unsustainable...'s just unsustainable sooner if healthy people opt out.

  2. I guess Bob is right that Mooney's view is more moderate than Holland's. However, Mooney's view is so bizarre that I think Bob's statement ought to be turned around: Holland's view is more outlandish than Mooney's.

    E.g., Mooney wrote a whole book explaining why the Republicans deny science.

    However, according to the current Atlantic magazine (not a conservative publication), Mooney's entire book is based on a false premise:

    "The Republican Party Isn't Really the Anti-Science Party.
    Conservative conflict with science on evolution and global warming has been exaggerated—while liberals get a free pass for their own failings."

    1. DinC,
      Just so you know, the Atlantic article was written someone whose bio appears like this on their site:

      Mischa Fisher

      Mischa Fisher is a former Republican science-policy staffer and legislative director in the House of Representatives.

    2. It isn't about whether conservatives support science initiatives. It is about whether conservatives are willing to change their minds about key beliefs in the light of conflicting evidence, which is a strongly held value of science. For example, in the light of evidence that abstinence only sex education does not work (even to achieve their own stated goals), conservatives are unwilling to abandon the program. That is a fundamentally anti-science approach to letting empricism guide decision-making.

  3. Holland is "personally offended by the tea partiers’ resistance to giving uninsured people health care." Mooney merely thinks that conservatives are unfeeling. Of course, programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA don't give medical care; they give medical insurance. The actual care comes from doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical companies, etc. Mooney and Holland pretend not to know that the government has to take from people what it gives to other people, The government "gift" of health insurance actually means that, rather than pay for our own care, we're paying for the care of others, with a government bureaucracy as a pass-through on the payments.

    So, how good is the actual health care "given" by the government? According to the How Medicaid Fails the Poor, the care actually provided by Medicaid stinks.

    Thomas Sowell presents a view somewhat opposite to Mooney’s and Holland’s. He claims that liberals like “giving” medical care to people, because that allows liberals to feel good about themselves, particularly when they ignore the possibility that their “gift” isn’t actually working very well.

    1. Mooney doesn't call them unfeeling. He says they are feeling. He says the value of justice (letting people get what they deserve in life) is more strongly held than the value of care. Whether Medicaid has problems of not, it is being compared to no care at all, which is the alternative people on Medicaid are facing. All people like giving to others because it makes them feel good. At the core of empathy is an emotional reaction to the suffering of others that is decreased when that suffering is reduced. People who tend to give less are those who reject the negative affect that arises with empathy, often because they have less developed emotional regulation and coping skills. The idea that one must wait until they have the best possible gift before giving anything at all is patently ridiculous.

    2. You’re confusing insurance (Medicaid) with care - they are not the same thing. The above-mentioned study concluded that people with NO INSURANCE did better than those with Medicaid. It did not draw any conclusion about why this should be.

  4. DinC,
    There is also those who think liberals like giving care to those less fortunate because the "free market" system to do so is a failure.
    Put me down as one liberal who wants to help the less fortunate, because business has been stiffing labor for 30+ years.


  5. OK, I'll bite:

    "Down through the ages, lovers of war have argued like Holland. This has led to death and destruction of the type tribals adore."

    Holland = liberal tribal

    Tribals adore death and destruction

    Ergo, Liberals love death and destruction.

    There you have it folks - the blogger knows something that no poll has ever shown - it is always conservatives, Southerners et al who are always more in favor of war - as measured objectively.

    Blogger is scraping the bottom.

    Perhaps time for ........ ZIMMERMAN?

  6. AnonymousNovember 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM, I agree that abstinence doesn't work very well today. However, that policy did work pretty for many centuries. BTW note that birth control and abortion also have failed to prevent a huge number of illegitimate births.

    Berto, failure is relative. I don't know how the US would work today, if there were no welfare at all, but merely private charities. However, the pure free market system is a thing of the long-ago past. I will suggest that even poor people may be better off in (free market) Hong Kong than in (government helping) mainland China.

    BTW, note the bait and switch tactics where the government uses the excuse of helping the needy to take control of people's lives. E.g,, pre-school might be useful for poor, inner city kids, but that leads some proponents to push for universal preschool. In America, the fact that 12% of the people had no health insurance served as an excuse for the government to run or control 100% of health insurance, and to substantially control how health care will be provided.)

    1. David,

      I'm not sure what you mean when you talk about "free market" Hong Kong as if it were free from any social welfare systems. As I understand it, Hong Kong has universal health care for its residents (under a system that isn't the same as Obamacare, but it is universal nonetheless).

    2. I don't see how requiring people to buy health insurance from commerical carriers amounts to controlling 100% of health insurance. We were paying for that 12% already in much less cost-effective ways. If we are going to pay for them, why cannot we require them to be treated preventively by existing health care facilities instead of using costly emergency rooms for primary care?

      You are conflating 100% (universal) access to free preschool with mandatory preschool.

      Mainland China and Hong Kong have very different histories. There are too many things that differ to make a straight-across comparison of the impact of free trade.

      Private charities in the past included: (1) poor houses and work houses; (2) church charities supported by mandatory tithing, available only to church members; (3) being shipped to America or some other colony for failure to pay bills; (4) other indentured servitude; (5) being pressed into the military; (6) begging and starving.

    3. The government “controls” health insurance by forbidding insurance companies to sell policies that don’t meet HHS-established coverage - even when people want to purchase such policies. It is the equivalent of banning compact and sub-compact cars, arguing that people would much prefer owning full-size cars, even if they cost more than they would otherwise wish to pay.

    4. Has anyone ever bee n able to "keep their health insurance" for more than one year?
      Seems rates, premiums, and coverage change annually.


  7. Most social science academics are conservative, so we can safely assume there is no inherent bias in this rigorous field of scientific inquiry.

  8. What the Republican party relies on these days is responses that are primarily tribal or regional - the party would be nothing like it is without the deep South. Unless you think there has been selective migration - which seems very implausible as a reason for the degree of polarity - the attitudes are cultural. If you grew up as a white person in the South, you tend to hate and fear black people and non-Christians; probably you just hate Yankees in general. There may well be some kind of inherent or genetic differences between conservatives and liberals in any given region, but the major regional and party differences are unquestionably cultural and learned.

    1. What about Southern white people like Bill Clinton or Elvis Presley, who grew up liking and respecting black people? Southerns have more contact with African Americans and thus more chance to know and like them. Further, even slavery had its paternalistic side to it, which was rooted in benevolence. Not every slave owner was despicable, although the institution certainly was, regardless. Some were like Thomas Jefferson, troubled by how to resolve racial issues and living lives intertwined with black people's lives.

    2. "Not every slave owner was despicable,..."

      like anything else, there are some worse than others, but it was a despicable institution and anyone who made a profit off it was also despicable.

    3. Right. "Sure, there were evil, mean slave owners, but my ancestors treated their slaves just like family." How often do we hear that?

      Sorry, but "owning" another human being like you own a barn or a tractor or a mule is despicable. Always

  9. What about the selective bias of the person who listed these studies and not others?

  10. This smacks of that old new age dictum, "Men major in the masculine and minor in the feminine; women major in the feminine and ... yada, yada, yada....

  11. read them. then comment on the substance.

    dont thank me. we all need help at times.

  12. Bill, no one is going to trudge through your reading list. It is a lazy way of arguing. If you have a point, state it.

  13. AnonymousNovember 12, 2013 at 1:27 PM
    I don't see how requiring people to buy health insurance from commerical carriers amounts to controlling 100% of health insurance.

    I would agree, if that was all the ACA did. But, the ACA allows the government define the scope and price of the insurance. It allows them to decided which procedures, drugs, and devices are covered for which people, and which ones are not. The price, which is set by the government, can determine what is or isn't done.

    On top of all the enumerated powers given to the government by the ACA, there are lots of other things the government can get away with. E.g., Obama exempted a couple of thousand organizations from the burden of the ACA. If a Republican replaces him, I guess that Republican could undo Obama's exemptions and instead exempt a couple of thousand of his buddies, or of organizations that have donated to him..

    IMHO the President doesn't have the power to decide on his own who shouldn't be burdened with Obamacare. To me, it's like giving the President the right to declare that some company is exempt from paying into Social Security or paying corporate income tax. Nevertheless, Obama got away with his usurpation of power, so I guess all Presidents have that power going forward.

    1. If the ACA requires insurance companies to cover the prior condition of ignorance, then it will all be worth it. At least for DAinCA.

      No, the government doesn't define the scope of insurance. It does set some standards. Arguing against that is the equivalent of arguing for high-premium policies that don't cover hospitalization.

      No, the government doesn't set rates. The insurance companies set them.

      No, the government doesn't decide which "procedures, drugs, and devices" are covered. Except in the sense that the FDA requires that they be safe and effective.

      No, the government doesn't decide which people get which treatments.

      No, the President didn't exempt "a couple of thousand organizations." He gave one-year waivers to companies that provided their employees bad insurance (low caps on benefits). If the companies had been forced to comply with the 2013 cap of $750K, they would have canceled the insurance and waited to cover their employees until 2014, leaving people in the lurch for 2013.

      No, the exempted companies weren't friends of the President. One of the companies was McDonald's. The McDonald's PAC contributes to both parties' candidates, more Republican than Democrat (but even-handedly for their Senatorial campaign committees). As far as I can tell, the PAC didn't contribute to either Presidential candidate in 2008 or 2012.

      No, a Republican President can't undo the exemptions, which will have expired, and no a Republican President won't be able to grant his own exemptions.

      No, the President didn't usurp any power. Any actions he took were granted to him by the ACA.

      Don't you get tired of being this ignorant, DAinCA?

    2. No, the government doesn't define the scope of insurance. It does set some standards.

      The standards pretty much comprise the scope of the insurance. I guess companies could give even more coverage than is required, but the cost might be very high. I think it’s likely that the federal minimum standards will pretty much become the normal coverage

      BTW, your word “some” is spin. You could provide the entire list of standards, so we can see how very extensive they are.

      The government regulates the rates. That means, they have the final say.

      In practice, the government will decide which "procedures, drugs, and devices" are covered. That’s part of the standards. I’m quite familiar with this, because that’s the situation that obtains with Medicare. In principle, an insurance company could cover more than the government requires, but in practice I expect most or all companies to provide only the minimum required coverage.

      I believe the government will have the power (or take the power) to set priorities on coverage. That’s what government plans in other countries do.

      In addition to waiving the requirement of the law for a couple of thousand companies, Obama recently exempted a bunch of labor unions.

      Deadrat – I do have one serious question. Why do you say that a future President cannot provide waivers, as Obama did?

    3. To be clear, I'm going to distinguish between the ACA and the government.

      The ACA sets minimum standards in three categories. This is to eliminate expensive policies with low caps or expensive policies that don't cover hospitalization. You're against this?

      The ACA does not decide what specific treatments are covered. Treatments must be safe and effective. Non-medical treatments are not allowed; unproven experimental treatments may be disallowed.

      State insurance commissions regulate rates. It's true that the ACA doesn't change that.

      What you believe isn't evidence. You believe lots of nonsense.

      Did you even read what I wrote about waivers?

      In 2013, any employer-provided insurance caps on benefits had to be at least $750K. Thereafter, caps were disallowed. But in 2013, employers weren't required to provide insurance. That provision doesn't kick in until 2014. So about 1200 companies essentially blackmailed the gov. They said, "We intend to provide insurance for 2013, but the cap is lower than the ACA mandates. If you don't exempt us, we'll cancel coverage altogether in 2013 and reinstate insurance in 2014." This would leave a lot of people without insurance for a year. So these companies got to keep their plans in place.

      In 2014, the law mandates that all companies (which are large enough) must provide insurance. There are no waivers. 2013 was a special year.

  14. DinC,
    I'm with you,
    Single-payer for all. Take that Obama!


  15. So, DinC, are you against all government regulations on business? Usually conservatives only want non-profits regulated.

    1. I am not against all government regulations on business. There are too many regulations to discuss here. One source says there are over 1 million instances of the words "may not", "must", "prohibited", "required" and "shall" in the Federal Register. I believe all these regs have the force of law.Another source says around 80,000 pages are added to the Federal Register annually.

      Then, there are all the state and local regs...

  16. DinC,
    I'm not against all regulations either. Only those written by corporate lobbyists.
    After all we now know, why the **ck would ANYONE listen to businesspeople?

  17. Businesses?
    3 things:
    Tax 'em, regulate 'em, tell 'em to STFU.