Conservatives’ Yin to Liberals’ Yang

Moral Psychology’s Argument for Appreciating The Other Side

Jonathan Haidt is one of my favorite thinkers on moral and political psychology. I recently re-watched his 2008 TED Talk, “The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives”. There are a number of salient points I find worth sharing.

Societies and cultures are incredibly complex systems that have evolved over thousands of years. History teaches us social entropy is constantly at work: without vigilant care, order decays. In your garden you must care for each plant in the way best suited to its individual growth or it will wilt away. Similarly, if each component of society is not properly cared for it will decay into chaos. Haidt’s research found that,

“[liberals] want change and justice, even at the risk of chaos. [Conservatives] want order, even at some cost to those at the bottom. The great conservative insight is that order is really hard to achieve. It’s really precious, and it’s really easy to lose.”

Like the yin is the complement rather than competitor to the yang, liberal and conservative approaches “form a balance on change and stability.” To avoid chaos, liberals can learn restraint from conservatives. To create a more just society, conservatives can learn enthusiasm for change from liberals.

In an era of increasing tribalism and distrust for those on the other side of the political spectrum it is important to step back and recognize both conservative and liberal perspectives are needed for a balanced and healthy democracy.

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