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The Righteous Mind

Book notes for "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt

Review:

I enjoyed this book, while reading it I was constantly taking notes as it sparked off all sorts of interesting thoughts on morality, communities, religion, rationality, etc. Haidt is convincing, and I agree with many of his conclusions, although am unsure about a few points (see notes).

--

If I believe that moral subjectivism is true, then it is important to understand others' moral intuitions.

From watching myself and others it seems clear that people are not reasoning from first principles when making moral judgments. One example is how they smoothly change their reasoning depending on the parties involved (rich vs poor, left vs right, cute puppy vs tasty cow). Are these intuitions universal? Are they learned, innate, both? Based on these answers, is there a clear core of moral intuitions that are common to all, that could guide our decisions?

In this book, Haidt first argues that morality is intuitive, and that rationality is used post-hoc to rationalise the choices we make.
In the second section, he investigates differences in moral views between different populations, and breaks them down into 6 foundations of moraliry. In the third part, he looks at how our 'groupishness' allow us to organise ourselves into larger communities, outside of kinship groups. 

He concludes that morality is a set of norms, values, psychological mechanisms, etc. that allow us to suppress self-interest and cooperate in large groups.

It is important to remember that this is not a normative argument that Haidt is making. He describes morality but does not make claims (in most of the book) about which, if any, foundation is "correct".

Random notes:

1) Moral intuitions, post-hoc rationalization:

"If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas—to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to—then things will make a lot more sense.

We see for example that brain damage can shut down built-in moral heuristics, forcing people to try and reason from first principles. Clearly we almost always rely on intuition, not reasoning.

But Damasio’s patients could think about anything, with no filtering or coloring from their emotions. With the vmPFC shut down, every option at every moment felt as good as every other. The only way to make a decision was to examine each option, weighing the pros and cons using conscious, verbal reasoning.

He uses the metaphor of a rational rider on an intuitive elephant. If the elephant has made a decision, the rider does what it can to provide reasons and justify itself to others. This explains many behaviors we see, such as the "This idea is unpleasant to me, therefore it is clearly wrong" style of argument:

"Radical reformers usually want to believe that human nature is a blank slate on which any utopian vision can be sketched. If evolution gave men and women different sets of desires and skills, for example, that would be an obstacle to achieving gender equality in many professions. If nativism could be used to justify existing power structures, then nativism must be wrong. (Again, this is a logical error, but this is the way righteous minds work.)

2) Peoples' moral intuitions do not stop at harm, they frequently prohibit actions that seem to harm nobody.

"If Turiel was right that morality is really about harm, then why do most non-Western cultures moralize so many practices that seem to have nothing to do with harm? Why do many Christians and Jews believe that “cleanliness is next to godliness”? And why do so many Westerners, even secular ones, continue to see choices about food and sex as being heavily loaded with moral significance?

Utilitarianism is based on care/harm however. If there are many moral foundations as Haidt suggests, then does this invalidate utilitarianism? Assuming we are trying to capture human values in a consistent system of morality, should we not try to incorporate all the foundations?

One could say that, since care/harm seems to be universal (all cultures recognize this moral foundation) and the first acquired foundation (children recognize harm as immoral before other foundations), might it not still make sense to prioritize care/harm?

If we allow other foundations we will run into conflicts, for example if legalising prostitution reduces rape (some evidence of this in UK) we have a conflict between care (prevent rape) and santicity (selling sex is bad). If we always defer to harm in these cases (I believe we should, but some will not) then the other foundations are only usable when there is absolutely no harm involved (which is fine, but makes them somewhat impotent.) And, if we do not defer to harm, how do we make that choice?

It looks like I can see an argument for a morality based on harm to be correct still, but is this not just rationalization on my part again? Many progressives seem to put equality above care (ie. they seem to want equality more than growth, if growth would result in increased inequality), this is a common moral foundation, I have no objective basis to say it is wrong, and we end up right back at the beginning. Of course, I should not have expected thinking about moral intuitions to simply pop out an objective moral system! As Haidt later states:

any effort to define morality by designating a few issues as the truly moral ones and dismissing the rest as “social convention” is bound to be parochial. It’s a moral community saying, “Here are our central values, and we define morality as being about our central values; to hell with the rest of you.”

What to do..? I think it comes back to the Mills harm principal, and why preserving freedoms is important. If we allow freedom where it does not violate the harm principle, people should be able to live according to something approximating their personal moral matrix. If we allow more, smaller communities, the differences can be more fine-grained. As long as we allow people to freely move between those communities, people should end up in a much more optimal state than now.

3) The many foundations also seem to explain why utilitarianism feels un-sexy. Maybe in my heart, I want to be able to say that freedom trumps all!, and become a natural-rights type, but in utilitarianism it does not. Nothing trumps harm.
I would then be subject to all the foundations and yet having come to the conclusion that utilitarianism is correct, via rational thought rather than intuition, I would feel the need to justify these other intuitions using utilitarian arguments  like "freedom increases utility by allowing people to choose what is best for themselves", but truly I would be working backwards from intuitions about liberty, fairness etc. 

Seems likely!

4) Throughout the book, Haidt highlights the 'strangeness' of western individualistic societies like the UK and the US:

"Shweder offered a simple idea to explain why the self differs so much across cultures: all societies must resolve a small set of questions about how to order society, the most important being how to balance the needs of individuals and groups. There seem to be just two primary ways of answering this question. Most societies have chosen the sociocentric answer, placing the needs of groups and institutions first, and subordinating the needs of individuals. In contrast, the individualistic answer places individuals at the center and makes society a servant of the individual.

5) Humans care very much about what others think of them. A community of humans will therefore naturally tend to a common set of values (at least outwardly).

"Leary’s conclusion was that “the sociometer operates at a nonconscious and preattentive level to scan the social environment for any and all indications that one’s relational value is low or declining.” The sociometer is part of the elephant. Because appearing concerned about other people’s opinions makes us look weak, we (like politicians) often deny that we care about public opinion polls. But the fact is that we care a lot about what others think of us.

True unconformity is painful and difficult, therefore rare. It is much easier to be part of a group that is going against the mainstream. It is very difficult to be a lone dissenter. We are built to hate this feeling, since it isolates us from the group and leaves us vulnearable.

"What takes real courage is braving the outright incomprehension of the people around you, when you do something that isn't Standard Rebellion #37, something for which they lack a ready-made script.  They don't hate you for a rebel, they just think you're, like, weird, and turn away.  This prospect generates a much deeper fear. (Yudkowsky)

6) I still have difficulty grasping the idea of a morality that focuses on groups. Haidt would probably suggest that this is due to my western moral matrix.

But if you live in a non-WEIRD society in which people are more likely to see relationships, contexts, groups, and institutions, then you won’t be so focused on protecting individuals. You’ll have a more sociocentric morality, which means (as Shweder described it back in chapter 1) that you place the needs of groups and institutions first, often ahead of the needs of individuals. If you do that, then a morality based on concerns about harm and fairness won’t be sufficient. You’ll have additional concerns, and you’ll need additional virtues to bind people together.

I Have trouble seeing what this actually means. Surely a group is made up of individuals, so putting a group 'first' must somehow map to helping the individuals in that group. You just treat different individuals differently depending on who they are?

7) Haidt suggests we are selfish (natural selection) yet also team players (groupish - due to group selection), and that it is this groupishness that allowed us to move beyond kinship bonds and create large societies.
 
"Morality binds and blinds. I will suggest that human nature is mostly selfish, but with a groupish overlay that resulted from the fact that natural selection works at multiple levels simultaneously. Individuals compete with individuals, and that competition rewards selfishness—which includes some forms of strategic cooperation (even criminals can work together to further their own interests). But at the same time, groups compete with groups, and that competition favors groups composed of true team players—those who are willing to cooperate and work for the good of the group, even when they could do better by slacking, cheating, or leaving the group. These two processes pushed human nature in different directions and gave us the strange mix of selfishness and selflessness that we know today.
[...]
I’ll show that our groupishness—despite all of the ugly and tribal things it makes us do—is one of the magic ingredients that made it possible for civilizations to burst forth, cover the Earth, and live ever more peacefully in just a few thousand years.

He is not optimistic of the idea that we can use this feature of human brains to bring around 'world peace' however. The mechanism is to make us altruistic to the tribe, not to all humanity:

"If the hive switch is a product of group selection, then it should show the signature feature of group selection: parochial altruism. Oxytocin should bond us to our partners and our groups, so that we can more effectively compete with other groups. It should not bond us to humanity in general.

Surely we could bring ourselves to see humanity as our 'group' though? Or sentient beings? Civilisation seems to show us that we are able to identify with arbitrarily large groups, so it should be possible.

Chapter breakdown

Chapter 1: Rejects the idea that morality comes from rational deduction based on the idea of harm alone. People seem to use rationalization to justify their intuitions. Morality is wider in non-individualistic cultures, and includes things such as purity, etc.
Chapter 2: Moral intuitionism. Intuition comes first, rationality is used for post-hoc justification. Justifications are used to convince others. If you want to convince someone of a moral concept, you should target their intuition, not the rational rider, since he is not in control.
Chapter 3: Evidence showing that moral judgments are intuitive. Friendly elephants can change your mind, but not enemy ones.
Chapter 4: Studies showing intuition coming first in moral reasoning. Rationality as a source of morality is an illusion.
Chapter 5: There is more than one dimension to morality. We are "WEIRD", we are not normal.
Chapter 6: Description of 5 moral foundations. Their origins and modern triggers. How they are used by left and right.
Chapter 7: Another foundation: liberty/opression
Chapter 8: Conservatives appeal to more foundations than progressives
Chapter 9: Humans are both groupish and selfish. The evolutionary origin of groupishness: group selection
Chapter 10: The hive switch. People are built to find joy in small groups, in group vs out group
Chapter 11: The importance of faith
Chapter 12: Conclusion, politics

Table of contents:

Part I: Intuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second 
1. Where Does Morality Come From? 
2. The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail 
3. Elephants Rule 
4. Vote for Me (Here’s Why) 
Part II: There’s More to Morality than Harm and Fairness 
5. Beyond WEIRD Morality 
6. Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind 
7. The Moral Foundations of Politics 
8. The Conservative Advantage 
Part III: Morality Binds and Blinds 
9. Why Are We So Groupish? 
10. The Hive Switch 
11. Religion Is a Team Sport 
12. Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?

Highlights:
Location: 77
This book is about why it’s so hard for us to get along. We are indeed all stuck here for a while, so let’s at least do what we can to understand why we are so easily divided into hostile groups, each one certain of its righteousness.
Location: 94
I chose the title The Righteous Mind to convey the sense that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.
Location: 107
Our righteous minds made it possible for human beings—but no other animals—to produce large cooperative groups, tribes, and nations without the glue of kinship. But at the same time, our righteous minds guarantee that our cooperative groups will always be cursed by moralistic strife.
Location: 117
If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas—to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to—then things will make a lot more sense.
Location: 120
Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.
Location: 145
I’ll show that our “higher nature” allows us to be profoundly altruistic, but that altruism is mostly aimed at members of our own groups. I’ll show that religion is (probably) an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together and helping them to create communities with a shared morality.
chapter 1

Page:4
But if you are not a liberal or libertarian Westerner, you probably think it’s wrong—morally wrong—for someone to have sex with a chicken carcass and then eat it. For you, as for most people on the planet, morality is broad. Some actions are wrong even though they don’t hurt anyone.
Page:7
Rationalism has a long and complex history in philosophy. In this book I’ll use the word rationalist to describe anyone who believes that reasoning is the most important and reliable way to obtain moral knowledge.
Page:8
Kohlberg found a six-stage progression in children’s reasoning about the social world, and this progression matched up well with the stages Piaget had found in children’s reasoning about the physical world. Young children judged right and wrong by very superficial features, such as whether a person was punished for an action.
Page:8
But during elementary school, most children move on to the two “conventional” stages, becoming adept at understanding and even manipulating rules and social conventions. This is the age of petty legalism that most of us who grew up with siblings remember well (“I’m not hitting you. I’m using your hand to hit you. Stop hitting yourself!”). Kids at this stage generally care a lot about conformity, and they have great respect for authority—in word, if not always in deed. They rarely question the legitimacy of authority,
Page:10
it was careful and honest scientific research. But by using a framework that predefined morality as justice while denigrating authority, hierarchy, and tradition, it was inevitable that the research would support worldviews that were secular, questioning, and egalitarian.
Page:12
In other words, young children don’t treat all rules the same, as Piaget and Kohlberg had supposed. Kids can’t talk like moral philosophers, but they are busy sorting social information in a sophisticated way. They seem to grasp early on that rules that prevent harm are special, important, unalterable, and universal. And this realization, Turiel said, was the foundation of all moral development. Children construct their moral understanding on the bedrock of the absolute moral truth that harm is wrong. Specific rules may vary across cultures, but in all of the cultures Turiel examined, children still made a distinction between moral rules and conventional rules.
> Utilitarianism would fit this moral intuition well. but humans are not so simple!
Page:15
If Turiel was right that morality is really about harm, then why do most non-Western cultures moralize so many practices that seem to have nothing to do with harm? Why do many Christians and Jews believe that “cleanliness is next to godliness”? And why do so many Westerners, even secular ones, continue to see choices about food and sex as being heavily loaded with moral significance?
Page:16
Shweder offered a simple idea to explain why the self differs so much across cultures: all societies must resolve a small set of questions about how to order society, the most important being how to balance the needs of individuals and groups. There seem to be just two primary ways of answering this question. Most societies have chosen the sociocentric answer, placing the needs of groups and institutions first, and subordinating the needs of individuals. In contrast, the individualistic answer places individuals at the center and makes society a servant of the individual. The sociocentric answer dominated most of the ancient world, but the individualistic answer became a powerful rival during the Enlightenment. The individualistic answer largely vanquished the sociocentric approach in the twentieth century as individual rights expanded rapidly, consumer culture spread, and the Western world reacted with horror to the evils perpetrated by the ultrasociocentric fascist and communist empires.
> Individualism in contrast to Chinese kinship groups for example (see Fukuyama)
Page:18
Most of the thirty-nine stories portrayed no harm or unfairness, at least none that could have been obvious to a five-year-old child, and nearly all Americans said that these actions were permissible (see the bottom third of figure 1.1). If Indians said that these actions were wrong, then Turiel would predict that they were condemning the actions merely as violations of social conventions. Yet most of the Indian subjects—even the five-year-old children—said that these actions were wrong, universally wrong, and unalterably wrong. Indian practices related to food, sex, clothing, and gender relations were almost always judged to be moral issues, not social conventions, and there were few differences between the adults and children within each city. In other words, Shweder found almost no trace of social conventional thinking in the sociocentric culture of Orissa, where, as he put it, “the social order is a moral order.” Morality was much broader and thicker in Orissa; almost any practice could be loaded up with moral force. And if that was true, then Turiel’s theory became less plausible. Children were not figuring out morality for themselves, based on the bedrock certainty that harm is bad.
Page:20
Even in Chicago, Shweder found relatively little evidence of social-conventional thinking. There were plenty of stories that contained no obvious harm or injustice, such as a widow eating fish, and Americans predictably said that those cases were fine. But more important, they didn’t see these behaviors as social conventions that could be changed by popular consent. They believed that widows should be able to eat whatever they darn well please, and if there’s some other country where people try to limit widows’ freedoms, well, they’re wrong to do so. Even in the United States the social order is a moral order, but it’s an individualistic order built up around the protection of individuals and their freedom.
Page:24
That made for twelve groups in all, with thirty people in each group, for a total of 360 interviews. This large number of subjects allowed me to run statistical tests to examine the independent effects of city, social class, and age.
> Sounds vaguely like data mining based just on that sentence!
Page:25
There were separate significant effects of city (Porto Alegreans moralized more than Philadelphians, and Recifeans moralized more than Porto Alegreans), of social class (lower-class groups moralized more than upper-class groups), and of age (children moralized more than adults). Unexpectedly, the effect of social class was much larger than the effect of city. In other words, well-educated people in all three cities were more similar to each other than they were to their lower-class neighbors.
> Could this not be just a result of different levels of education?
Page:26
It was hard to see how a rationalist could explain these results. How could children self-construct their moral knowledge about disgust and disrespect from their private analyses of harmfulness? There must be other sources of moral knowledge, including cultural learning (as Shweder argued), or innate moral intuitions about disgust and disrespect (as I began to argue years later).
> Could harm be the only innate intuition, and the rest culturally learned? Maybe the other foundations correlate with religion, this would allow for harm to be the basis for other seemingly victim-less foundations. If you have sex with a chicken, god is harmed. I am not convinced this is true however.
Page:28
Yet even when subjects recognized that their victim claims were bogus, they still refused to say that the act was OK. Instead, they kept searching for another victim. They said things like “I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t think of a reason why.” They seemed to be morally dumbfounded—rendered speechless by their inability to explain verbally what they knew intuitively.
chapter 2

Page:36
Darwin offered several explanations for how morality could have evolved, and many of them pointed to emotions such as sympathy, which he thought was the “foundation-stone” of the social instincts. He also wrote about feelings of shame and pride, which were associated with the desire for a good reputation. Darwin was a nativist about morality: he thought that natural selection gave us minds that were preloaded with moral emotions.
Page:37
Radical reformers usually want to believe that human nature is a blank slate on which any utopian vision can be sketched. If evolution gave men and women different sets of desires and skills, for example, that would be an obstacle to achieving gender equality in many professions. If nativism could be used to justify existing power structures, then nativism must be wrong. (Again, this is a logical error, but this is the way righteous minds work.)
> "This idea is unpleasant to me, therefore it is clearly wrong"
Page:40
But Damasio’s patients could think about anything, with no filtering or coloring from their emotions. With the vmPFC shut down, every option at every moment felt as good as every other. The only way to make a decision was to examine each option, weighing the pros and cons using conscious, verbal reasoning.
> Brain damage shut down their built-in moral heuristics, forcing them to try and reason from first principles. Clearly we almost always rely on intuition, not reasoning.
Page:51
Yet moral judgments are not subjective statements; they are claims that somebody did something wrong. I can’t call for the community to punish you simply because I don’t like what you’re doing. I have to point to something outside of my own preferences, and that pointing is our moral reasoning. We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reasons why we ourselves came to a judgment; we reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment.
Page:55
The social intuitionist model. Intuitions come first and reasoning is usually produced after a judgment is made, in order to influence other people. But as a discussion progresses, the reasons given by other people sometimes change our intuitions and judgments.
Page:56
The social intuitionist model offers an explanation of why moral and political arguments are so frustrating: because moral reasons are the tail wagged by the intuitive dog. A dog’s tail wags to communicate. You can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments.
Page:59
I have tried to use intuitionism while writing this book. My goal is to change the way a diverse group of readers—liberal and conservative, secular and religious—think about morality, politics, religion, and each other. I knew that I had to take things slowly and address myself more to elephants than to riders. I couldn’t just lay out the theory in chapter 1 and then ask readers to reserve judgment until I had presented all of the supporting evidence. Rather, I decided to weave together the history of moral psychology and my own personal story to create a sense of movement from rationalism to intuitionism. I threw in historical anecdotes, quotations from the ancients, and praise of a few visionaries. I set up metaphors (such as the rider and the elephant) that will recur throughout the book. I did these things in order to “tune up” your intuitions about moral psychology. If I have failed and you have a visceral dislike of intuitionism or of me, then no amount of evidence I could present will convince you that intuitionism is correct. But if you now feel an intuitive sense that intuitionism might be true, then let’s keep going. In the next two chapters I’ll address myself more to riders than to elephants.
chapter 3
Page:63
But a third of the subjects who had found their code word in the story still followed their gut feelings and condemned Dan. They said that what he did was wrong, sometimes very wrong. Fortunately, we had asked everyone to write a sentence or two explaining their judgments, and we found gems such as “Dan is a popularity-seeking snob” and “I don’t know, it just seems like he’s up to something.” These subjects made up absurd reasons to justify judgments that they had made on the basis of gut feelings—feelings Thalia had implanted with hypnosis.
Reminiscent of the split-brain experiment: "a patient with split brain is shown a picture of a chicken foot and a snowy field in separate visual fields and asked to choose from a list of words the best association with the pictures. The patient would choose a chicken to associate with the chicken foot and a shovel to associate with the snow; however, when asked to reason why the patient chose the shovel, the response would relate to the chicken (e.g. "the shovel is for cleaning out the chicken coop"
Page:63
I had just done the same thing with my wife. I disliked being criticized, and I had felt a flash of negativity by the time Jayne had gotten to her third word (“Can you not …”). Even before I knew why she was criticizing me, I knew I disagreed with her (because intuitions come first). The instant I knew the content of the criticism (“ … leave dirty dishes on the …”), my inner lawyer went to work searching for an excuse (strategic reasoning second).
> Yes, this sounds familiar!
Page:65
Zajonc was able to make people like any word or image more just by showing it to them several times. The brain tags familiar things as good things. Zajonc called this the “mere exposure effect,” and it is a basic principle of advertising.
Page:66
Zajonc said that thinking could work independently of feeling in theory, but in practice affective reactions are so fast and compelling that they act like blinders on a horse: they “reduce the universe of alternatives” available to later thinking.
Page:73
Psychopathy does not appear to be caused by poor mothering or early trauma, or to have any other nurture-based explanation. It’s a genetically heritable condition that creates brains that are unmoved by the needs, suffering, or dignity of others. The elephant doesn’t respond with the slightest lean to the gravest injustice. The rider is perfectly normal—he does strategic reasoning quite well. But the rider’s job is to serve the elephant, not to act as a moral compass.
Page:80
The elephant may not often change its direction in response to objections from its own rider, but it is easily steered by the mere presence of friendly elephants (that’s the social persuasion link in the social intuitionist model) or by good arguments given to it by the riders of those friendly elephants (that’s the reasoned persuasion link).
chapter 4
Page:86
In fact, I’ll praise Glaucon for the rest of the book as the guy who got it right—the guy who realized that the most important principle for designing an ethical society is to make sure that everyone’s reputation is on the line all the time, so that bad behavior will always bring bad consequences.
> Character from 'the republic'
Page:87
Human beings are the world champions of cooperation beyond kinship, and we do it in large part by creating systems of formal and informal accountability. We’re really good at holding others accountable for their actions, and we’re really skilled at navigating through a world in which others hold us accountable for our own.
Page:88
Tetlock found two very different kinds of careful reasoning. Exploratory thought is an “evenhanded consideration of alternative points of view.” Confirmatory thought is “a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view.”13 Accountability increases exploratory thought only when three conditions apply: (1) decision makers learn before forming any opinion that they will be accountable to an audience, (2) the audience’s views are unknown, and (3) they believe the audience is well informed and interested in accuracy. When all three conditions apply, people do their darnedest to figure out the truth, because that’s what the audience wants to hear. But the rest of the time—which is almost all of the time—accountability pressures simply increase confirmatory thought. People are trying harder to look right than to be right.
Page:91
Leary’s conclusion was that “the sociometer operates at a nonconscious and preattentive level to scan the social environment for any and all indications that one’s relational value is low or declining.” The sociometer is part of the elephant. Because appearing concerned about other people’s opinions makes us look weak, we (like politicians) often deny that we care about public opinion polls. But the fact is that we care a lot about what others think of us.
Page:98
The social psychologist Tom Gilovich studies the cognitive mechanisms of strange beliefs. His simple formulation is that when we want to believe something, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe it?”28 Then (as Kuhn and Perkins found), we search for supporting evidence, and if we find even a single piece of pseudo-evidence, we can stop thinking. We now have permission to believe. We have a justification, in case anyone asks. In contrast, when we don’t want to believe something, we ask ourselves, “Must I believe it?” Then we search for contrary evidence, and if we find a single reason to doubt the claim, we can dismiss it. You only need one key to unlock the handcuffs of must.
Page:100
The political scientist Don Kinder summarizes the findings like this: “In matters of public opinion, citizens seem to be asking themselves not ‘What’s in it for me?’ but rather ‘What’s in it for my group?’ ” Political opinions function as “badges of social membership.” They’re like the array of bumper stickers people put on their cars showing the political causes, universities, and sports teams they support. Our politics is groupish, not selfish.
> Exceptionalness of individualism (see Fukuyama again)
Page:103
Westen found that partisans escaping from handcuffs (by thinking about the final slide, which restored their confidence in their candidate) got a little hit of that dopamine. And if this is true, then it would explain why extreme partisans are so stubborn, closed-minded, and committed to beliefs that often seem bizarre or paranoid. Like rats that cannot stop pressing a button, partisans may be simply unable to stop believing weird things. The partisan brain has been reinforced so many times for performing mental contortions that free it from unwanted beliefs. Extreme partisanship may be literally addictive.
> For example, it feels good to read articles confiirming "our" side is correct
Page:103
the rationalist delusion. It’s the idea that reasoning is our most noble attribute, one that makes us like the gods (for Plato) or that brings us beyond the “delusion” of believing in gods (for the New Atheists).46 The rationalist delusion is not just a claim about human nature. It’s also a claim that the rational caste (philosophers or scientists) should have more power, and it usually comes along with a utopian program for raising more rational children.
Page:104
He used surveys and more surreptitious methods to measure how often moral philosophers give to charity, vote, call their mothers, donate blood, donate organs, clean up after themselves at philosophy conferences, and respond to emails purportedly from students. And in none of these ways are moral philosophers better than other philosophers or professors in other fields. Schwitzgebel even scrounged up the missing-book lists from dozens of libraries and found that academic books on ethics, which are presumably borrowed mostly by ethicists, are more likely to be stolen or just never returned than books in other areas of philosophy. In other words, expertise in moral reasoning does not seem to improve moral behavior, and it might even make it worse (perhaps by making the rider more skilled at post hoc justification).
Page:104
The French cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber recently reviewed the vast research literature on motivated reasoning (in social psychology) and on the biases and errors of reasoning (in cognitive psychology). They concluded that most of the bizarre and depressing research findings make perfect sense once you see reasoning as having evolved not to help us find truth but to help us engage in arguments, persuasion, and manipulation in the context of discussions with other people.
> But reason also gave us rockets.
Page:105
I’m not saying we should all stop reasoning and go with our gut feelings. Gut feelings are sometimes better guides than reasoning for making consumer choices and interpersonal judgments,52 but they are often disastrous as a basis for public policy, science, and law.53 Rather, what I’m saying is that we must be wary of any individual’s ability to reason. We should see each individual as being limited, like a neuron. A neuron is really good at one thing: summing up the stimulation coming into its dendrites to “decide” whether to fire a pulse along its axon. A neuron by itself isn’t very smart. But if you put neurons together in the right way you get a brain; you get an emergent system that is much smarter and more flexible than a single neuron. In the same way, each individual reasoner is really good at one thing: finding evidence to support the position he or she already holds, usually for intuitive reasons. We should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play. But if you put individuals together in the right way, such that some individuals can use their reasoning powers to disconfirm the claims of others, and all individuals feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system.
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Eventually, if the scientific community works as it is supposed to, the truth will emerge as a large number of flawed and limited minds battle it out.
chapter 5
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In 2010, the cultural psychologists Joe Henrich, Steve Heine, and Ara Norenzayan published a profoundly important article titled “The Weirdest People in the World?”2 The authors pointed out that nearly all research in psychology is conducted on a very small subset of the human population: people from cultures that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (forming the acronym WEIRD).
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Several of the peculiarities of WEIRD culture can be captured in this simple generalization: The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships. It has long been reported that Westerners have a more independent and autonomous concept of the self than do East Asians.3 For example, when asked to write twenty statements beginning with the words “I am … ,” Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).
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The differences run deep; even visual perception is affected. In what’s known as the framed-line task, you are shown a square with a line drawn inside it. You then turn the page and see an empty square that is larger or smaller than the original square. Your task is to draw a line that is the same as the line you saw on the previous page, either in absolute terms (same number of centimeters; ignore the new frame) or in relative terms (same proportion relative to the frame). Westerners, and particularly Americans, excel at the absolute task, because they saw the line as an independent object in the first place and stored it separately in memory. East Asians, in contrast, outperform Americans at the relative task, because they automatically perceived and remembered the relationship among the parts.
> Could this just be related to having a writing system based on hanzi, causing them to be very aware of the ratios between shapes in a character?
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But if you live in a non-WEIRD society in which people are more likely to see relationships, contexts, groups, and institutions, then you won’t be so focused on protecting individuals. You’ll have a more sociocentric morality, which means (as Shweder described it back in chapter 1) that you place the needs of groups and institutions first, often ahead of the needs of individuals. If you do that, then a morality based on concerns about harm and fairness won’t be sufficient. You’ll have additional concerns, and you’ll need additional virtues to bind people together.
> Have trouble seeing what this actually means. Surely a group is made up of individuals, so putting a group 'first' must somehow map to helping the individuals in that group. You just treat different individuals differently depending on who they are?
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People are not just animals with an extra serving of consciousness; they are children of God and should behave accordingly. The body is a temple, not a playground. Even if it does no harm and violates nobody’s rights when a man has sex with a chicken carcass, he still shouldn’t do it because it degrades him, dishonors his creator, and violates the sacred order of the universe.
> Here too, what does it mean to say that it degrades him. What does 'degrade' mean. 'Dishonor'. 
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Shweder’s writings were my red pill. I began to see that many moral matrices coexist within each nation. Each matrix provides a complete, unified, and emotionally compelling worldview, easily justified by observable evidence and nearly impregnable to attack by arguments from outsiders.
> For example, see any discussion between Confucianist relatives and liberal me around morality
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We are multiple from the start. Our minds have the potential to become righteous about many different concerns, and only a few of these concerns are activated during childhood. Other potential concerns are left undeveloped and unconnected to the web of shared meanings and values that become our adult moral matrix. If you grow up in a WEIRD society, you become so well educated in the ethic of autonomy that you can detect oppression and inequality even where the apparent victims see nothing wrong. But years later, when you travel, or become a parent, or perhaps just read a good novel about a traditional society, you might find some other moral intuitions latent within yourself. You might find yourself responding to dilemmas involving authority, sexuality, or the human body in ways that are hard to explain.
chapter 6
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“sentiment” (intuition)
> This is how Adams, Hume, etc. use this word, ie. Theory of moral sentiments.
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I didn’t want to make the classic mistake of amateur evolutionary theorists, which is to pick a trait and then ask: “Can I think of a story about how this trait might once have been adaptive?” The answer to that question is almost always yes because reasoning can take you wherever you want to go. Anyone with access to an armchair can sit down and generate what Rudyard Kipling called “just-so stories”—fantastical accounts of how the camel got a hump and the elephant got a trunk.
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Cultural variation in morality can be explained in part by noting that cultures can shrink or expand the current triggers of any module. For example, in the past fifty years people in many Western societies have come to feel compassion in response to many more kinds of animal suffering, and they’ve come to feel disgust in response to many fewer kinds of sexual activity. The current triggers can change in a single generation, even though it would take many generations for genetic evolution to alter the design of the module and its original triggers.
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Would you feel a wave of relief, knowing that he is finally getting an operation that will save his life? Or would you feel pain so strongly that you’d have to look away? If your “dolors” (pains) outweigh your “hedons” (pleasures), then your reaction is irrational, from a utilitarian point of view, but it makes perfect sense as the output of a module. We respond emotionally to signs of violence or suffering, particularly when a child is involved, particularly our own child. We respond even when we know consciously that it’s not really violence and he’s not really suffering. It’s like the Muller-Lyer illusion: we can’t help but see one line as longer, even when we know consciously that they are the same length.
> Is this a moral judgment though, or is it just empathy?
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The five rows illustrate violations of Care (hurting a child), Fairness (profiting from someone else’s undeserved loss), Loyalty (criticizing your nation to outsiders), Authority (disrespecting your father), and Sanctity (acting in a degrading or disgusting way).
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the “wounded warrior” car is an example. This driver is also trying to get you to care, but conservative caring is somewhat different—it is aimed not at animals or at people in other countries but at those who’ve sacrificed for the group. It is not universalist; it is more local, and blended with loyalty.
> great example
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Everyone cares about fairness, but there are two major kinds. On the left, fairness often implies equality, but on the right it means proportionality—people should be rewarded in proportion to what they contribute, even if that guarantees unequal outcomes.
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The original trigger for the Loyalty foundation is anything that tells you who is a team player and who is a traitor, particularly when your team is fighting with other teams. But because we love tribalism so much, we seek out ways to form groups and teams that can compete just for the fun of competing. Much of the psychology of sports is about expanding the current triggers of the Loyalty foundation so that people can have the pleasures of binding themselves together to pursue harmless trophies.
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The current triggers of the Authority/subversion foundation, therefore, include anything that is construed as an act of obedience, disobedience, respect, disrespect, submission, or rebellion, with regard to authorities perceived to be legitimate. Current triggers also include acts that are seen to subvert the traditions, institutions, or values that are perceived to provide stability.
> includes conformity in general?
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any attempt to condemn Meiwes or Brandes runs smack into John Stuart Mill’s harm principle, which I introduced in chapter 5: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” The next line of the original quote is: “His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”
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Whatever its origins, the psychology of sacredness helps bind individuals into moral communities. When someone in a moral community desecrates one of the sacred pillars supporting the community, the reaction is sure to be swift, emotional, collective, and punitive.
> importance of faith
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Mill’s harm principle prevents us from outlawing their actions, then Mill’s harm principle seems inadequate as the basis for a moral community. Whether or not God exists, people feel that some things, actions, and people are noble, pure, and elevated; others are base, polluted, and degraded.
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The Sanctity foundation is used most heavily by the religious right, but it is also used on the spiritual left. You can see the foundation’s original impurity-avoidance function in New Age grocery stores, where you’ll find a variety of products that promise to cleanse you of “toxins.” And you’ll find the Sanctity foundation underlying some of the moral passions of the environmental movement. Many environmentalists revile industrialism, capitalism, and automobiles not just for the physical pollution they create but also for a more symbolic kind of pollution—a degradation of nature, and of humanity’s original nature, before it was corrupted by industrial capitalism.47
chapter 7
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with more than 130,000 subjects. We’ve made many improvements since Jesse’s first simple survey, but we always find the same basic pattern that he found in 2006. The lines for Care and Fairness slant downward; the lines for Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity slant upward. Liberals value Care and Fairness far more than the other three foundations; conservatives endorse all five foundations more or less equally.
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Now imagine society not as an agreement among individuals but as something that emerged organically over time as people found ways of living together, binding themselves to each other, suppressing each other’s selfishness, and punishing the deviants and free riders who eternally threaten to undermine cooperative groups. The basic social unit is not the individual, it is the hierarchically structured family, which serves as a model for other institutions. Individuals in such societies are born into strong and constraining relationships that profoundly limit their autonomy. The patron saint of this more binding moral system is the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness) and wrote, in 1897, that “man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him.” A Durkheimian society at its best would be a stable network composed of many nested and overlapping groups that socialize, reshape, and care for individuals who, if left to their own devices, would pursue shallow, carnal, and selfish pleasures. A Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one’s groups over concerns for out-groups.
> Some measure of this likely necessary for a working society, "importance of faith"
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The Liberty/oppression foundation, I propose, evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of living in small groups with individuals who would, if given the chance, dominate, bully, and constrain others. The original triggers therefore include signs of attempted domination. Anything that suggests the aggressive, controlling behavior of an alpha male (or female) can trigger this form of righteous anger, which is sometimes called reactance. (That’s the feeling you get when an authority tells you you can’t do something and you feel yourself wanting to do it even more strongly.)
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After the sixth round, the experimenters told subjects that there was a new rule: After learning how much each of your partners contributed on each round, you now would have the option of paying, with your own tokens, to punish specific other players. Every token you paid to punish would take three tokens away from the player you punished. For Homo economicus, the right course of action is once again perfectly clear: never pay to punish, because you will never again play with those three partners, so there is no chance to benefit from reciprocity or from gaining a tough reputation. Yet remarkably, 84 percent of subjects paid to punish, at least once. And even more remarkably, cooperation skyrocketed on the very first round where punishment was allowed, and it kept on climbing. By the twelfth round, the average contribution was fifteen tokens.46 Punishing bad behavior promotes virtue and benefits the group. And just as Glaucon argued in his ring of Gyges example, when the threat of punishment is removed, people behave selfishly.
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Liberals have a three-foundation morality, whereas conservatives use all six. Liberal moral matrices rest on the Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, and Fairness/cheating foundations, although liberals are often willing to trade away fairness (as proportionality) when it conflicts with compassion or with their desire to fight oppression. Conservative morality rests on all six foundations, although conservatives are more willing than liberals to sacrifice Care and let some people get hurt in order to achieve their many other moral objectives.
chapter 9
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When I say that human nature is also groupish, I mean that our minds contain a variety of mental mechanisms that make us adept at promoting our group’s interests, in competition with other groups. We are not saints, but we are sometimes good team players.
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Morality binds and blinds. I will suggest that human nature is mostly selfish, but with a groupish overlay that resulted from the fact that natural selection works at multiple levels simultaneously. Individuals compete with individuals, and that competition rewards selfishness—which includes some forms of strategic cooperation (even criminals can work together to further their own interests).7 But at the same time, groups compete with groups, and that competition favors groups composed of true team players—those who are willing to cooperate and work for the good of the group, even when they could do better by slacking, cheating, or leaving the group. These two processes pushed human nature in different directions and gave us the strange mix of selfishness and selflessness that we know today.
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I’ll show that our groupishness—despite all of the ugly and tribal things it makes us do—is one of the magic ingredients that made it possible for civilizations to burst forth, cover the Earth, and live ever more peacefully in just a few thousand years.
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In contrast, when early humans began to share intentions, their ability to hunt, gather, raise children, and raid their neighbors increased exponentially. Everyone on the team now had a mental representation of the task, knew that his or her partners shared the same representation, knew when a partner had acted in a way that impeded success or that hogged the spoils, and reacted negatively to such violations. When everyone in a group began to share a common understanding of how things were supposed to be done,and then felt a flash of negativity when any individual violated those expectations, the first moral matrix was born.
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Once our ancestors crossed the Rubicon and became cumulatively cultural creatures, their genes began to coevolve with their cultural innovations. At least some of these innovations were directed at marking members of a moral community, fostering group cohesion, suppressing aggression and free riding within the group, and defending the territory shared by that moral community.
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the reality of the egg industry is that hens live crammed together into cages, and the best laying hens tend to be the more aggressive, dominant hens. Therefore, if you use individual selection (breeding only the most productive hens), total productivity actually goes down because aggressive behavior—including killing and cannibalism—goes up. In the 1980s the geneticist William Muir used group selection to get around this problem. He worked with cages containing twelve hens each, and he simply picked the cages that produced the most eggs in each generation.
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I can see no reason why existing features—such as the six foundations I described in chapters 7 and 8, or the tendency to feel shame—would not be tweaked if conditions changed and then stayed stable for a thousand years. For example, when a society becomes more hierarchical or entrepreneurial, or when a group takes up rice farming, herding, or trade, these changes alter human relationships in many ways, and reward very different sets of virtues. Cultural change would happen very rapidly—the moral matrix constructed upon the six foundations can change radically within a few generations. But if that new moral matrix then stays somewhat steady for a few dozen generations, new selection pressures will apply and there could be some additional gene-culture coevolution.
chapter 10
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My hypothesis in this chapter is that human beings are conditional hive creatures. We have the ability (under special conditions) to transcend self-interest and lose ourselves (temporarily and ecstatically) in something larger than ourselves. That ability is what I’m calling the hive switch.
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collective and ecstatic dancing is a nearly universal “biotechnology” for binding groups together. She agrees with McNeill that it is a form of muscular bonding. It fosters love, trust, and equality. It was common in ancient Greece (think of Dionysus and his cult) and in early Christianity (which she says was a “danced” religion until dancing in church was suppressed in the Middle Ages).
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If we could put oxytocin into the world’s drinking water, might there be an end to war and cruelty? Unfortunately, no. If the hive switch is a product of group selection, then it should show the signature feature of group selection: parochial altruism. Oxytocin should bond us to our partners and our groups, so that we can more effectively compete with other groups. It should not bond us to humanity in general.
> Surely we could bring ourselves to see humanity as our 'group'? Or sentient beings?
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In contrast, an organization that takes advantage of our hivish nature can activate pride, loyalty, and enthusiasm among its employees and then monitor them less closely. This approach to leadership (sometimes called transformational leadership)44 generates more social capital—the bonds of trust that help employees get more work done at a lower cost than employees at other firms.Hivish employees work harder, have more fun, and are less likely to quit or to sue the company. Unlike Homo economicus, they are truly team players.
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Increase similarity, not diversity. To make a human hive, you want to make everyone feel like a family. So don’t call attention to racial and ethnic differences; make them less relevant by ramping up similarity and celebrating the group’s shared values and common identity.49 A great deal of research in social psychology shows that people are warmer and more trusting toward people who look like them, dress like them, talk like them, or even just share their first name or birthday. There’s nothing special about race. You can make people care less about race by drowning race differences in a sea of similarities, shared goals, and mutual interdependencies.
> For example Silicon Valley companies, (intentionally) very un-diverse along certain lines.
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Studies show that intergroup competition increases love of the in-group far more than it increases dislike of the out-group. Intergroup competitions, such as friendly rivalries between corporate divisions, or intramural sports competitions, should have a net positive effect on hivishness and social capital. But pitting individuals against each other in a competition for scarce resources (such as bonuses) will destroy hivishness, trust, and morale.
chapter 11
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Gods and religions, in sum, are group-level adaptations for producing cohesiveness and trust. Like maypoles and beehives, they are created by the members of the group, and they then organize the activity of the group. Group-level adaptations, as Williams noted, imply a selection process operating at the group level. And group selection can work very quickly (as in the case of those group-selected hens that became more peaceful in just a few generations). Ten thousand years is plenty of time for gene-culture coevolution, including some genetic changes, to have occurred.
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In the medieval world, Jews and Muslims excelled in long-distance trade in part because their religions helped them create trustworthy relationships and enforceable contracts. Even today, markets that require very high trust to function efficiently (such as a diamond market) are often dominated by religiously bound ethnic groups (such as ultra-Orthodox Jews), who have lower transaction and monitoring costs than their secular competitors.
> Importance of faith
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The only thing that was reliably and powerfully associated with the moral benefits of religion was how enmeshed people were in relationships with their co-religionists. It’s the friendships and group activities, carried out within a moral matrix that emphasizes selflessness. That’s what brings out the best in people.
> Could something like the EA movement have a similar effect? There is a shared morality and group activities.
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Religions are moral exoskeletons. If you live in a religious community, you are enmeshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarily on the elephant to influence your behavior. But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to rely somewhat more on an internal moral compass, read by the rider. That might sound appealing to rationalists, but it is also a recipe for anomie—Durkheim’s word for what happens to a society that no longer has a shared moral order. (It means, literally, “normlessness.”) We evolved to live, trade, and trust within shared moral matrices. When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and an increase in suicide, as Durkheim showed more than a hundred years ago.
> Importance of faith!
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The definition I’m about to give you would have made little sense back in chapter. It would not have meshed with your intuitions about morality, so I thought it best to wait. Now, after eleven chapters in which I’ve challenged rationalism (in Part I), broadened the moral domain (in Part II), and said that groupishness was a key innovation that took us beyond selfishness and into civilization (Part III), I think we’re ready.
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Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.
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First, this is a functionalist definition. I define morality by what it does, rather than by specifying what content counts as moral.
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any effort to define morality by designating a few issues as the truly moral ones and dismissing the rest as “social convention” is bound to be parochial. It’s a moral community saying, “Here are our central values, and we define morality as being about our central values; to hell with the rest of you.”
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a Durkheimian version of utilitarianism would recognize that human flourishing requires social order and embeddedness. It would begin with the premise that social order is extraordinarily precious and difficult to achieve. A Durkheimian utilitarianism would be open to the possibility that the binding foundations—Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity—have a crucial role to play in a good society.
> Importance of faith?
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I don’t know what the best normative ethical theory is for individuals in their private lives. But when we talk about making laws and implementing public policies in Western democracies that contain some degree of ethnic and moral diversity, then I think there is no compelling alternative to utilitarianism. I think Jeremy Bentham was right that laws and public policies should aim, as a first approximation, to produce the greatest total good. I just want Bentham to read Durkheim and recognize that we are Homo duplex before he tells any of us, or our legislators, how to go about maximizing that total good.
> Yes! In a note he says that he liked virtue ethics as a personal ethical system, utilitarianism for public policy. Similar to my current view.
chapter 12
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genetics explains between a third and a half of the variability among people on their political attitudes.14 Being raised in a liberal or conservative household accounts for much less.
> based on twin studies
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To understand the miracle of moral communities that grow beyond the bounds of kinship we must look not just at people, and not just at the relationships among people, but at the complete environment within which those relationships are embedded, and which makes those people more virtuous (however they themselves define that term). It takes a great deal of outside-the-mind stuff to support a moral community. For example, on a small island or in a small town, you typically don’t need to lock your bicycle, but in a big city in the same country, if you only lock the bike frame, your wheels may get stolen. Being small, isolated, or morally homogeneous are examples of environmental conditions that increase the moral capital of a community.
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if you are trying to change an organization or a society and you do not consider the effects of your changes on moral capital, you’re asking for trouble. This, I believe, is the fundamental blind spot of the left. It explains why liberal reforms so often backfire, and why communist revolutions usually end up in despotism. It is the reason I believe that liberalism—which has done so much to bring about freedom and equal opportunity—is not sufficient as a governing philosophy. It tends to overreach, change too many things too quickly, and reduce the stock of moral capital inadvertently. Conversely, while conservatives do a better job of preserving moral capital, they often fail to notice certain classes of victims, fail to limit the predations of certain powerful interests, and fail to see the need to change or update institutions as times change.
> Yes! See Burke etc.
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Russell then explained why both sides are partially right, using terms that are about as close a match to moral capital as I could ever hope to find: "It is clear that each party to this dispute—as to all that persist through long periods of time—is partly right and partly wrong. Social cohesion is a necessity, and mankind has never yet succeeded in enforcing cohesion by merely rational arguments. Every community is exposed to two opposite dangers: ossification through too much discipline and reverence for tradition, on the one hand; on the other hand, dissolution, or subjection to foreign conquest, through the growth of an individualism and personal independence that makes cooperation impossible.
> Yes! B Russel on the importance of faith!
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Care and compassion sometimes motivate liberals to interfere in the workings of markets, but the result can be extraordinary harm on a vast scale. (Of course, as I said above, governments often need to intervene to correct market distortions, thereby making markets work properly.) Liberals want to use government for so many purposes, but health care expenses are crowding out all other possibilities. If you think your local, state, and federal governments are broke now, just wait until the baby boom generation is fully retired.
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If we could just erase the borders and boundaries that divide us, then the world would “be as one.” It’s a vision of heaven for liberals, but conservatives believe it would quickly descend into hell. I think conservatives are on to something.
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That wisdom which contrived the system of human affections … seems to have judged that the interest of the great society of mankind would be best promoted by directing the principal attention of each individual to that particular portion of it, which was most within the sphere both of his abilities and of his understanding. Now that’s Durkheimian utilitarianism. It’s utilitarianism done by somebody who understands human groupishness.
> Adam Smith. A justification for geographical discounting.
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Our counties and towns are becoming increasingly segregated into “lifestyle enclaves,” in which ways of voting, eating, working, and worshipping are increasingly aligned. If you find yourself in a Whole Foods store, there’s an 89 percent chance that the county surrounding you voted for Barack Obama. If you want to find Republicans, go to a county that contains a Cracker Barrel restaurant (62 percent of these counties went for McCain).
> Burbclaves! But if they were independent communities that you could leave at will, surely this would be fine? Everyone can get what they want.
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If you want to understand another group, follow the sacredness. As a first step, think about the six moral foundations, and try to figure out which one or two are carrying the most weight in a particular controversy.
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This book explained why people are divided by politics and religion. The answer is not, as Manichaeans would have it, because some people are good and others are evil. Instead, the explanation is that our minds were designed for groupish righteousness. We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult—but not impossible—to connect with those who live in other matrices, which are often built on different configurations of the available moral foundations.
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And finally, even if there do turn out to be ethnic differences in moral behavior that are related to genetic differences, the genetic contribution to such behavioral differences would likely be tiny compared to the effects of culture. Anyone could have made up a just-so story in 1945 to explain how Germans evolved to be so well suited to militaristic conquest while Ashkenazi Jews evolved to be meek and pacifistic. But fifty years later, comparing Israel to Germany, they’d have to explain the opposite behavioral pattern. (I thank Steven Pinker for this example.)
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My short list of additional points: (1) power corrupts, so we should beware of concentrating power in any hands, including those of the government; (2) ordered liberty is the best recipe for flourishing in Western democracies; (3) nanny states and “cradle-to-grave” care infantilize people and make them behave less responsibly, thereby requiring even more government protection. See Boaz 1997.
> Libertarianism (utilitarian arguments for)
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See Cosmides and Tooby 2006 on how organizing labor along Marxist or socialist principles, which assume that people will cooperate in large groups, usually runs afoul of moral psychology. People do not cooperate well in large groups when they perceive that many others are free riding. Therefore, communist or heavily socialist nations often resort to the increasing application of threats and force to compel cooperation. Five-year plans rarely work as well as the invisible hand.
> see Hayek on family and socety needing different types off coordination