Additional Content: The Moral Roots of Politics

We are now ready–at long last–to explore political and ideological diversity. If we had skipped the previous five steps and jumped right in here, you might have had a negative visceral reaction to writings from “the other side.” Your “elephant” would have said “no way!” and your “rider” would have worked overtime to find ways to reject alien ideas. But now you understand the value of viewpoint diversity for improving your own thinking (Step 1), you remember the injunctions of the ancients to be less hypocritical, self-righteous, and judgmental (Step 2), you recognize the awesome power of motivated reasoning and confirmation bias (Step 3), and you realize that we all live within one or more moral matrices (Step 4). It should now be easy to enter other moral matrices with a mindset of curiosity.

For simplicity, we will focus on the two main “sides” or philosophical traditions in American politics, which we will label “Progressive” or “Left,” versus “Conservative” or “Right.” Many Americans refer to the Left as “Liberal,” but we have avoided that term because Americans use it very differently than most of the rest of the world, where “Liberal” typically refers to one who is in favor of economic liberty, i.e., free-markets, strong property rights, and individualism. We cover that worldview under a third heading: “Libertarianism” or “Classical Liberalism.” Libertarians tend to lean left on social issues and right on economic issues.

The term “Progressive” forms a clear and simple contrast with “Conservative”. A Progressive is one who tends to question existing arrangements and wants to bring about change, typically toward greater openness and equality. Think of the lyrics to John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” A Conservative, in contrast, is typically one who is wary of rapid change and who works to preserve the order, wisdom, and stability conferred by existing institutions and practices. (If you prefer the terms “left wing” versus “right wing,” those are fine too.)

Please click on the images below to enter each moral matrix:

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