Category Archives: Book Recommendations

Haidt’s “Righteous Mind”

I see this cited frequently in cultural/political stuff.  This Jonathan Haidt* guy wrote a book arguing that politics is an expression of our morality, and our morality has several dimensions:

  • Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
  • Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
  • Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
  • Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion
  • Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation

Liberals, according to this, mainly concern themselves with the first two, while conservatives are equally attentive to all five.

Which is horse hockey.  Well, either that, or “liberal” and “conservative” don’t mean what “common usage” suggests they mean.  In fact, in modern political debate, Haidt’s argument is almost exactly bassackward.

Start from the top.  Care?  Liberals very ostentatiously don’t give a shit if their policies actually help or not.  How’s gay marriage going, for instance?  Anyone bother to follow up on that?  Did that loving gay couple ever get those hospital visitation rights that we were told, in story after heart-wrenching story, was the whole reason for gay marriage in the first place?  As I’ve pointed out before, you’d think the Left would at least be doing some victory laps at this point — “haha silly wingnutz, you said the sky would fall if the gays got married, and look!”  But…. nope.  Obergefell might as well have happened in the 17th century, for all the Left cares about it now.  Ditto the Great Society, the War on Poverty, Head Start, and all the other great Liberal crusades of the past 50 years.  They very obviously did the opposite of what they were supposed to, but if Liberals bother to think about them at all — which they only do if you hold their feet to the fire — they just mutter “needs more funding” and change the subject.

Liberals believe, with all their hearts and souls, that they care more deeply than other men.  But they don’t.  Ditto with “fairness.”  Affirmative action is fair?  How about slavery reparations, i.e. punishing people in the here-and-now for something unrelated people did a century and a half ago.  Pick your major that ends in “Studies;” being unfair to entire classes of people is pretty much the entire point.  Here again, Liberals believe, with all their hearts and souls, that they’re all about fairness, but their actions are exactly opposite.

Loyalty.  Haidt says Liberals don’t care much about this.  In reality, it’s pretty much the only thing they care about.  “Argue” with a Liberal on the internet for five minutes, and you’ll have spent five minutes watching your interlocutor trying desperately to outgroup you.  “Point-and-shriek” is the whole of Liberal political discourse; they have no other.  Conservatives care about loyalty, yes, but only to groups in which they have a personal stake.  The Left is always going to the mattresses on behalf of some group they’ve never seen, over “injustices” that exist only in their minds.

What about authority?  This has been a Leftist chestnut since Adorno, but like I always say, you can’t spell “Liberal” without P-R-O-J-E-C-T-I-O-N.  Here are the traits of the “authoritarian personality” on Adorno’s famous F-Scale.  (F stands for “Fascist”).  Any of these sound familiar?

  • Conventionalism: Adherence to conventional values.
  • Authoritarian Submission: Towards ingroup authority figures.
  • Authoritarian Aggression: Against people who violate conventional values.
  • Anti-Intraception: Opposition to subjectivity and imagination.
  • Superstition and Stereotypy: Belief in individual fate; thinking in rigid categories.
  • Power and Toughness: Concerned with submission and domination; assertion of strength.
  • Destructiveness and Cynicism: hostility against human nature.
  • Projectivity: Perception of the world as dangerous; tendency to project unconscious impulses.
  • Sex: Overly concerned with modern sexual practices.

Admittedly I’m so reactionary I make Joseph de Maistre look like a Wymyn’s Studies professor, but that list looks like “How to be an SJW in 9 Easy Steps” to me.

Saving the best for last: Purity.  Remind me: Who is it that’s always passing new rules on what you can eat, watch, hear, say, and think?  I’m pretty sure that, weirdo status whores like Rod Dreher aside, elaborate ritual purity rules are entirely a Leftist thing.  Show of hands: When was the last time you threw, attended, or even heard about a backyard barbecue where someone had to make sure to get soy dogs and gluten-free veggieburgers?  The Left is so all-in on Brahminical purity that they take positive pride in never having read things they disagree with.  They know with metaphysical certainty, for instance, that the “Sad Puppies” are bad writers… and they know this, according to their own words, because they’ve never read the writers in question.

See what I mean?  If I had to adapt Haidt’s theory to the real world, I’d say something like “Liberal morality is based on endlessly congratulating oneself for believing one only cares about care and fairness, using the other three to prop up this entirely unwarranted self-regard.  Conservative morality, on the other hand, pays attention to all five equally.”

Either that, or I’d say “Left” and “Right” are all but meaningless these days…. but that’s a rant for another time.

 

 

*How’s this for an unintentionally revealing statement?  Wiki on Haidt: “Haidt himself acknowledges that while he has been a liberal all his life, he is now more open to other points of view.”  Well, better late than never, right?  Though one wishes it took less than earning a PhD, teaching several generations of students, and writing a big book of psychological theory to get liberals to finally open up to other points of view.

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Book Recommendations: Weimar Republic

We started Rotten Chestnuts with the idea of providing (among other things) a quick reference guide to lazy liberal bullshit — to reveal, in effect, how many of the things “everybody knows” are no such thing.  As such, and following an offline suggestion of Nate’s, I’m asking everyone to recommend some good, quick background reading in their areas of expertise.

By “expertise,” of course, I don’t necessarily mean “subjects you have degrees and certifications in.”  (Whaddaya think we are, leftists?).  But we — the cobloggers and the four regular readers — are better informed than lots of folks, on lots of different topics.  It would be useful to spread the knowledge.  So I ask you to do the following:

  • Introduce the topic;
  • Suggest a book or two that’s a good intro to it; and
  • Add any background you think we need to see its relevance.

For instance, I know a fair bit about certain aspects of history, so I’ll start with one of my favorite topics, the Weimar Republic.

The Weimar Period ran from the end of World War I (November 1918) to Hitler’s appointment as Reich Chancellor (1933).  It’s relevant to our times in a lot of ways, but especially as it shows how “fringe” parties and ideas can sweep through a democratic system.

Unfortunately, most books on the period take Hitler as their starting point.  That’s the problem with almost all modern German history, actually — the past as prelude to Hitler.  Which is fine when discussing the mechanics of popular elections or propaganda, but they’re easily sidetracked into half-assed psychoanalysis.  Even writers like Sir Ian Kershaw feel the need to put scare quotes around phrases like “Hitler’s ‘worldview'” — as if he didn’t have a coherent set of beliefs.  What you need is context, without a lot of heavy breathing about what Nazism means for the human condition.

The best book I know, then, is Richard J. Evans’s The Coming of the Third Reich.  This covers the politics quickly, clearly, and comprehensively.  It leaves out a lot of the cultural stuff that formed the deep background — and Weimar decadence looks a lot like ours — but the political stuff is much more readily applicable to our own day.

The key idea is legitimacy.  The Weimar Republic, though officially a representative democracy, didn’t actually represent anybody.  Germany as a political nation only existed from the late 19th century.  There was no real democratic tradition.  And nobody really wanted “representation” — what most ordinary Germans wanted, it seems, was to have Bismarck back, guiding the hand of an older and slightly wiser Kaiser.  Throw in a massive depression on top of an economy already shackled by unpayable war reparations, and the whole mechanism of “democracy” started to look like nothing more than a make-work racket for otherwise unemployable bureaucrats.  Meanwhile, the only parties that promised real reform explicitly promised that their #1 reform would be the end of representative democracy.

The elites who ran the “elections” took the one issue people actually cared about — national survival — off the table.  Most Germans were worried that Germany — the ethnic group, the culture, the nation — was being destroyed piecemeal.  Chauvinistic France was robbing Germany’s industry, while hypocrite Britain stole her colonies and vulture America stood by to pick at the corpse of her economy.  The non-communist elites all seemed to be in the pockets of international financiers — often, but by no means always, code for “Jews” — while the communist ones actively campaigned to destroy Germanness in the name of international proletarian revolution.  The Weimar government was absolutely illegitimate — it was imposed by fiat in the hated Versailles treaty; it didn’t represent anybody; the only thing it was good at was destroying its own people’s way of life.  Sound familiar?

Which left the Nazis and their fellow far-right* paramilitaries as the only group that would stand up for Germany.  And, of course, the Nazis had the only leader of note….

 

 

*I know, I know.  But as every book of this kind insists on using “right wing” as a synonym for “nationalist,” you’ll just have to endure it.

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