The Moral Foundations of a Fiscal Crisis

It takes a social psychologist--specifically, Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia--to explain the current fiscal impasse, or so I argue in a new column for the FT.


One is driven to ask what accounts for the pathological reluctance of politicians in this country to compromise, or to see the smallest particle of merit in the other side's arguments? This goes far beyond disagreement over facts or economic theories. It is more than a "culture war", too, as usually understood: this is not just a clash between contending visions of the country's future. It is more personal than that.

Haidt explores the contrasting moral intuitions of liberals and conservatives, and locates their failure to communicate in their respective, deeply entrenched beliefs. The resulting dysfunction has a tragic aspect, I argue:


The tragedy of American politics - it is nothing less - is that these two moral communities [liberals and conservatives] not merely fail to recognise the other's crucial contribution to US success, but have actually come to despise each other. It is the depth of this hostility that animates progressives in the Democratic base and the Tea Party activists who are battling to seize control of the Republican party. The foundations of the crisis of governance are moral.
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