Katherine Mangu-Ward - Katherine Mangu-Ward is managing editor for Reason magazine.
On this, my last day guestblogging for Megan -- thanks again for reading and leaving great comments -- I'd like to engage in a little shameless self-promotion which is actually promotion of someone else's very interesting work.
Haidt calls the system he has built to help answer those questions Moral Foundations Theory, and he has been breaking off chunks of this big idea for the last several years. The latest chunk is his new book The Righteous Mind, which was released this week. Along with his colleagues, he posits that the moral appeals upon which political cultures and movements are based can be broken down into six basic categories: care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. As he puts in it his Reason story, adapted from the book:
Political liberals tend to rely primarily on the moral foundation of care/harm, followed by fairness/cheating and liberty/oppression. Social conservatives, in contrast, use all six foundations. They are less concerned than liberals about harm to innocent victims, but they are much more concerned about the moral foundations that bind groups and nations together, i.e., loyalty (patriotism), authority (law and order, traditional families), and sanctity (the Bible, God, the flag as a sacred object). Libertarians, true to their name, value liberty more than anyone else, and they value it far more than any other foundation.
In an effort to figure out why conversations across the aisle so often degenerate into shouting matches, Haidt (along with colleagues Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek) asked liberals and conservatives to try on each others' ideological shoes, answering a series of questions as they thought their opponents would:
The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the care and fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with statements such as "one of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal" or "justice is the most important requirement for a society," liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree.
Haidt theorizes that this kind of blindness to the real motivations of others is driving discord in Washington and around the country. Our political personalities emerge from a stew of nature, nurture (which is in part a result of feedback from the world on our natures), and the narratives we build up to explain the progression of our own lives and the working of the world around us. But they also wall us off from others:
Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects. Morality binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say
Congressional Republicans and conservative pundits had the chance to signal to Trump that his attacks on law enforcement are unacceptable—but they sent the opposite message.
President Trump raged at his TV on Sunday morning. And yet on balance, he had a pretty good weekend. He got a measure of revenge upon the hated FBI, firing former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe two days before his pension vested. He successfully coerced his balky attorney general, Jeff Sessions, into speeding up the FBI’s processes to enable the firing before McCabe’s retirement date.
Beyond this vindictive fun for the president, he achieved something politically important. The Trump administration is offering a not very convincing story about the McCabe firing. It is insisting that the decision was taken internally by the Department of Justice, and that the president’s repeated and emphatic demands—public and private—had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
The first female speaker of the House has become the most effective congressional leader of modern times—and, not coincidentally, the most vilified.
Last May, TheWashington Post’s James Hohmann noted “an uncovered dynamic” that helped explain the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare. Three current Democratic House members had opposed the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. Twelve Democratic House members represent districts that Donald Trump won. Yet none voted for repeal. The “uncovered dynamic,” Hohmann suggested, was Nancy Pelosi’s skill at keeping her party in line.
She’s been keeping it in line for more than a decade. In 2005, George W. Bush launched his second presidential term with an aggressive push to partially privatize Social Security. For nine months, Republicans demanded that Democrats admit the retirement system was in crisis and offer their own program to change it. Pelosi refused. Democratic members of Congress hosted more than 1,000 town-hall meetings to rally opposition to privatization. That fall, Republicans backed down, and Bush’s second term never recovered.
How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory
One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.
Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.
Invented centuries ago in France, the bidet has never taken off in the States. That might be changing.
“It’s been completely Americanized!” my host declares proudly. “The bidet is gone!” In my time as a travel editor, this scenario has become common when touring improvements to hotels and resorts around the world. My heart sinks when I hear it. To me, this doesn’t feel like progress, but prejudice.
Americans seem especially baffled by these basins. Even seasoned American travelers are unsure of their purpose: One globe-trotter asked me, “Why do the bathrooms in this hotel have both toilets and urinals?” And even if they understand the bidet’s function, Americans often fail to see its appeal. Attempts to popularize the bidet in the United States have failed before, but recent efforts continue—and perhaps they might even succeed in bringing this Old World device to new backsides.
“They’re turning suspects into criminals in one click.”
In early December, a shocking video recorded in the lobby of an apartment building on the outskirts of Beirut surfaced on the internet. The video, posted to an unusual Facebook page called Weynieh el Dawleh—or “Where is the state?”—showed two young men grabbing another man and leading him away at gunpoint.A caption claimed that the men were involved in a drug-related dispute and requested the public’s help in uncovering their identities.Less than a week after the video appeared, a follow-up video was published to Weynieh el Dawleh. It was the same footage from the lobby, but with some notable modifications, including captions noting the full names and addresses of both the perpetrators and the abductee. For dramatic effect, it had an action-movie-style soundtrack, and opened with a message in Arabic: “We asked you for help identifying them,” referring to the men in the video. “And after 48 hours, they have fallen into our grasp.” The accompanying post called on the police to arrest the attackers.
School officials should be following the post-crisis blueprint from Pennsylvania State. Instead, they’re making things worse.
East Lansing, Mich.—The chairman of Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees said he had to get something off his chest.
It was the board’s first regularly scheduled meeting following the criminal-sentencing hearings of the former sports-medicine doctor Larry Nassar. And Brian Breslin, facing an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the university’s faculty, had already indicated he would not step down. But then he struck a different tone. Breslin’s “conscience would bother [him],” he said, if he didn’t speak his mind.
The crowd of hundreds gathered there—already quivering with anger over the Nassar debacle—seemed to perk up in anticipation of some further statement on the scandal.
Instead, Breslin touted the $550 million rare-isotope accelerator that the Department of Energy placed at MSU in 2008; the board had just received a progress report on the facility, which has been an economic driver in the state. The accelerator is a signature achievement of the longtime MSU president Lou Anna Simon, who resigned in January amid criticisms of her handling of the Nassar scandal. Breslin recalled that the federal government had planned to locate the project in several different places but that Simon persuaded lawmakers to put it all in East Lansing. “So at some personal risk I take in saying this, whatever else her legacy may be, there would not be a Michigan State University without the leadership and organizational skills of Lou Anna Simon,” he said.
Much more than time separates the 27th president from the 45th: from their vastly different views on economics, to their conceptions of the presidency itself.
As Donald Trump’s executive orders punishing steel and aluminum imports threaten a trade war around the globe, Republicans on Capitol Hill are debating whether to reassert Congress’s ultimate constitutional authority over tariffs and trade. This isn’t the first time the GOP has split itself in two on the question of protective tariffs. But the last time, just over 100 years ago, the Republican president’s policies were the exact opposite of Trump’s.
William Howard Taft—in his opposition to populism and protectionism, as well as his devotion to constitutional limits on the powers of the presidency—was essentially the anti-Trump. Unlike the current president, and his own predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft refused to rule by executive order, insisting that the chief executive could only exercise those powers that the Constitution explicitly authorizes.
A new six-part Netflix documentary is a stunning dive into a utopian religious community in Oregon that descended into darkness.
To describe Wild Wild Country as jaw-dropping is to understate the number of times my mouth gaped while watching the series, a six-part Netflix documentary about a religious community in Oregon in the 1980s. It’s ostensibly the story of how a group led by the dynamic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh purchased 64,000 acres of land in central Oregon in a bid to build its own utopian city. But, as the series immediately reveals, the narrative becomes darker and stranger than you might ever imagine. It’s a tale that mines the weirdness of the counterculture in the ’70s and ’80s, the age-old conflict between rural Americans and free love–preaching cityfolk, and the emotional vacuum that compels people to interpret a bearded mystic as something akin to a god.
The debate around sexual-harassment legislation is playing out in the Maryland General Assembly, where reform advocates say leadership is loath to embrace changes.
In Maryland, legislative sessions run 90 days, from January through early April. On the final day of each session—commonly referred to by the Latin term sine die—the capital city of Annapolis lets its hair down. There is dining and dancing and parties galore as aides, lawmakers, and lobbyists celebrate having survived the season.
A few years back, at one sine die soiree hosted by a legislator, a former Annapolis aide (who requested anonymity because she remains involved in Maryland politics) took to the dance floor. “I was dancing a little bit by myself,” she recalled. “All of a sudden I hear, ‘You’re packing a little bit more than I thought back here!’ I turn around, and this legislator is dancing right behind me. I was like, ‘Ooookay. This is a little weird. I know your wife and kids.’ So I tried to subtly move away.” The legislator followed, recalled the ex-aide. And then: “He got aroused.” The young woman made a swift escape, and, she informed me, “I have not spoken to that legislator one-on-one since.”
The ability to opt out of a neighborhood school increases the likelihood that a black or Hispanic neighborhood will see an influx of wealthier residents.
When Francis Pearman was studying at Vanderbilt, he and a fellow graduate student noticed a striking phenomenon in Nashville: White, affluent families were moving into low-income neighborhoods without sending their children to the neighborhood schools.
“We were really curious to see what that relationship looked like at the national level,” said Pearman, now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
When he and that student, Walker Swain, looked at national data, a pattern emerged. The ability to opt out of the neighborhood school increased the likelihood that a mostly black or Hispanic neighborhood would see an influx of wealthier residents.
“As school choice expands, the likelihood that low-income communities of color experience gentrification increases,” Pearman said.