Sam Harris on liberals and conservatives

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I was just reading a Twitter Q&A with Sam Harris and I liked something he said about liberals and conservatives:

One of the virtues of liberalism is self-doubt and a willingness to consider the other person’s point of view. [But] in the presence of antagonists who don’t have a point of view worth considering (e.g. psychopaths, religious maniacs), liberalism can be a recipe for masochism and moral cowardice. Conservatives tend not to have this problem. But when conservatives are wrong, they often lack the corrective mechanisms of liberals. It’s hard to generalize, but it is worth noting that there is a structural asymmetry here: liberalism can be exploited in a way that conservatism cannot.

That’s pretty much how I see it. I am prepared to admit that conservatives can be narrow-minded and slow to readjust their beliefs. This, after all, is why we they are called conservatives: they want to conserve things. But I think what we need at present are more people to take a stand against the cultural relativism of many liberals. Progressive liberals seem to have been bamboozled by Islamists, race hustlers, welfare spongers, bogus asylum seekers and criminals into supporting these destroyers of society.

Given the choice between being slow to change and so open-minded that you lose your moral compass, I’d take the former.

Maybe Steve Sailer got to the heart of the difference between liberals and conservatives in his review of Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind, :

Everybody is a little bit groupish. Yet how do individuals decide whom to be groupish about?

What Haidt never quite gets across is that conservatives typically define their groups concentrically, moving from their families outward to their communities, classes, religions, nations, and so forth. If Mars attacked, conservatives would be reflexively Earthist. As Ronald Reagan pointed out to the UN in 1987, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” (Libertarians would wait to see if the Martian invaders were free marketeers.)

In contrast, modern liberals’ defining trait is making a public spectacle of how their loyalties leapfrog over some unworthy folks relatively close to them in favor of other people they barely know (or in the case of profoundly liberal sci-fi movies such as Avatar, 10-foot-tall blue space creatures they barely know).

As a down-to-Earth example, to root for Manchester United’s soccer team is conservative…if you are a Mancunian. If you live in Portland, Oregon, it’s liberal.

This urge toward leapfrogging loyalties has less to do with sympathy for the poor underdog (white liberals’ traditional favorites, such as soccer and the federal government, are hardly underdogs) as it is a desire to get one up in status on people they know and don’t like.

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2 comments on “Sam Harris on liberals and conservatives

  1. I’ve no doubt at all that there’s a Liberal mind and a Conservative mind.
    …and then there are tolerant minds, ones that can see both sides of the issue and then try to forge something that takes the best of both worlds. Why is it that this latter type is often not heard?

  2. Thanks for the comment Maurice. However, I think I disagree. For me the liberal mindset is the tolerant one, the one that sees the issue from all sides, no matter how ludicrous. And that’s the problem. As has been said before, a liberal is someone who finds it impossible to take his own side in an argument since he is too busy seeing things from all sides. He is too willing to tolerate and accommodate. The intolerable shouldn’t be tolerated.

    It is also often missed exactly what tolerance means. You don’t tolerate things you like. You tolerate things you dislike. Whether you can spend a lifetime putting up with things you dislike, and making others in your community do the same, is an experiment that liberals are determined to make us all undergo. Personally, I would rather live in a mono-culture like Japan where people actually like their neighbours rather than just tolerate them.

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