Moral bases for liberalism

I picked up an interesting article over on Red Letter Christians yesterday (bear with me), pondering whether the Democratic Party has lost sight of Jonathan Haidt’s five core foundations of morality: Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity.

Care means having compassion on the less fortunate and standing up for the underdog, even at great personal cost. Fairness means an emphasis on justice, equal rights and freedom from oppression.

Loyalty: This includes values like team play, military service, patriotism and sacrifice for the group or nation. Liberals are more concerned with individualism and making sure the group or nation doesn’t rob the individual of rights. Conservatives, by contrast, emphasize cooperation and sacrifice for the greater good.

Authority: This is respect for leadership and social order to stave off chaos. Conservatives emphasize that authority is necessary for a civilized society, while liberals are primarily animated by avoiding authority’s abuse.

Sanctity: Haidt defines this as a concern for social purity and the idea that some things are just sacred. The Right has set the terms for this conversation so that “sanctity” is attached to some things but not others: “sanctity of life” connotes a position against abortion but not necessarily against the death penalty, for example. But at least conservatives talking about sanctity at all, even if inconsistently. Liberals have largely abandoned this language and score lowest here of all five foundations.

Author Jana Riess considers that Liberals excel at Care and Fairness, but is this actually fair?  Is Andy Boal actually a conservative?

The answer is not really.  Rather, I think Jana has confused liberals and libertarians.

Or possibly I’m at the social end of the liberal spectrum.

Loyalty – sacrifice for the group or nation.  Essentially a biblical principle, that we serve others.  That our rights are secondary to the needs of society (including the absolute right to get about your lawful business, which gets mixed up with the “right” to do so in a particular way), but as always it’s balanced – that we should be able to exercise our rights as long as it doesn’t stop others from exercising theirs.

Authority – respect for social order.  There is no conflict between respecting authority properly exercised and preventing abuse by authority.

Sanctity – this is where I most disagree with Riess.  I perceive liberals as having the most holistic approach to sanctity of life, for example – that it cannot be measured by your approach to abortion, that it is for all of life, that it requires care and fairness to be integrated.  That freedom of religion also means respecting what others consider to be sacred.

The sixth moral foundation which Haidt cites (as a response to criticism by conservatives and libertarians) is liberty – but this comes back to loyalty to the group, and the principle of “no harm” – is liberty really liberty if it involves invoking yours at the cost of somebody else’s?

There are few parallels between US politics and UK politics, but how does this map to us?  Are our conservatives conservative on these five moral foundations?

The answer is it’s all in actions, not in words.  Preach care and fairness, then reduce taxes on those with spare cash and increase the burden on those who can’t afford to have spare cash (and maybe put money into the already rich).  Preach loyalty to society, then insist that your rights are inalienable.  Expect respect for authority, then complain when the courts and other authorities don’t do as you wish.  Have scales of sanctity.

Andy has a very wide range of interests including Christianity, Lego, transport, music, and computers. Anything can appear in a post.

Andy tweets at @andyboal