Jonathan Haidt is political psychologist. He describes himself as a former liberal who has become a centrist. Probably, in a couple of years, he’ll call himself a conservative. He is a student of something called political psychology.
Haidt believes liberals are morally tone-deaf and that Republicans understand moral psychology. Liberals are WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic). They don’t understand patriotism, the fear of disorder, and disgust at sexually debasing behavior. As evidence of this disconnect, he asked the following question to people in two Brazilian cities and one American city. A man buys a chicken in the supermarket and before putting it the oven copulates in secret with the bird. Everybody thinks this is wrong, according to Haidt, except the “weird”. I’m not going to ask this question of friends or relatives, some of whom belong to the alleged ‘weird’ class. I know most of them would feel that bestiality is repulsive.
As you can tell, I don’t completely trust Prof. Haidt methodology. I also think Prof. Haidt ignores a much larger problem-the conflict between corporate liberalism and traditional progressive left-wing values. Yes, the phrase traditional progressives sounds like an oxymoron. Historically, progressives respect unions and distrust corporate power. Corporate liberals are anti-union and strongly pro-managment.
I’ll give you an example of corporate liberal thinking. Earlier this month Tomas Lopez was fired from his lifeguard job at Hallandale Florida. Mr. Lopez was fire because he went to rescue a swimmer drowning near his station. Unfortunately for Mr. Lopez this section of the beach was outside of the area Jeff Ellis Associates, a lifeguard outsourcing firm had contracted to serve. Even though he defied corporate policy, most people thought Tomas Lopez was hero.
To people who believe in the market, modern management theory, and the genius of the executive class, the ‘leaders’ of Jeff Ellis Associates were the heroes. On July 17th, Steven Pearlstein was interviewed on the Hear and Now, an NPR afternoon talk show. Mr. Pearlstein is a columnist for the Washington Post. He believes Jeff Ellis Associates should be applauded for their brilliant business practices. Outsourcing has made the economy so efficient we would be fools to question this movement. Mr. Pearlstein sums up his views as follows,”No one is asking you ever to exercise discretion. The system has the intelligence. They don’t need people with intelligence.”
Mr. Pearlstein is a self-described Obama democrats. Mr. Pearlstein is also a corporate shill. Ron Paul said, “Obama is not a socialist, he’s a corporatist.” This seems to be a fairly accurate description of the current administration. A kind of managerial ethos seems to dominate everything in Washington, finance, health care, education. Objections to corporate dominance seem less radical than old-fashioned and pointless. People like Mr. Pearlstein thinks paleo-liberals simply don’t understand the modern world. Prof. Haidt believes there is a vast army of peasants waiting to fight the radicals of Central Park West.
One last petty point. Actually, no radicals have moved to the Upper West Side since about 1982. The rents are too damn high. There are a few old timers left from the ‘Panic in Needle Park’ era. The old Boho neighborhoods of New York have turned into a playground for the MBA class. They keep a few old artists around to add local color.