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Loyalty vs. justice

Matthew Trudeau Photography via Wikipedia

Regular readers here know that I find Jonathan Haidt’s “moral foundations theory” a very useful tool for understanding the minds of conservatives vs. the minds of liberals. However, I part company with Haidt when Haidt asserts that the moral foundations of conservatives and the moral foundations of liberals are equally valid but just different. My claim is that the moral values of conservatives are inferior. For my previous posts on this subject, search this blog for “Haidt.” But, just as a quick reminder, Haidt’s theory identifies liberals’ primary moral values as justice, fairness, and caring. The primary moral values of conservatives are authority, loyalty and purity. In this post, I want to raise a new complaint against conservative moral values: Conservative moral values are pervertable. But liberal moral values are sound, even under stress.

Yesterday was Aug. 21, 2018, the day Paul Manafort was convicted and Michael Cohen pleaded guilty. Those who previously were too blind to see the criminality and treason of Donald Trump (and of those who surround Trump) ought to have a clearer picture now of what Trump is. Trump’s “Tweets” today reveal a great deal about the conservative notion of loyalty. Trump praises Manafort and calls him “brave” for refusing to “break.” In Trump’s mind, loyalty (to Trump, naturally) is a higher and braver virtue than justice under the law. In Trump’s mind, to betray the conservative value of loyalty for the liberal value of justice means that a person has broken. The depravity of such a view is flabbergasting, but most conservatives won’t even think to question it.

Here is the New York Times headline:

My claim is this: The primary liberal values cannot be perverted. Justice will not harm those who have done no harm. Fairness will not harm those who are fair. Caring will not harm those who care, nor those whom they care about. But the primary conservative values all have a lurking dark side. Where does loyalty to the wicked lead? When authority is wrong, where does loyalty to authority lead? What if an idea is pure, but also wrong?

Conservative values can be valuable if they can yield to higher values. But in our Trumpian age, conservatives can hardly even see the higher values of fairness, justice, and caring. Authority, loyalty, and purity are what matter in their world.


  1. Michael Alan Gambill wrote:

    I think you may be a bit naive about the virtue of liberals. The values may be (maybe) good but a human being will inevitably pervert even the best of values. Isn’t that what Trump is also doing?

    Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Trump isn’t perverting “the best of values.” He is corrupt to the core, a sociopath whose only real value is Trump. Try applying my point just to what history has recorded about the presidents of the United States, who are expected to exemplify our highest standards. What value did, say, Jimmy Carter inevitably pervert?

    A conservative mind would say that the sexual foibles of Bill Clinton were worse than Richard Nixon’s attempts to subvert an election while actively working to defeat the law and the Constitution. I’d be unable to convince conservatives otherwise, which only supports my point.

    In any case, I think you miss my point. My point is about collective values, not individuals. My point is not so much about the monstrosity of individuals such as Trump, but rather that such a large percentage of the population, blinded by inferior values, can’t even see what Trump is.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink
  3. Ken wrote:

    Notice Michael’s line of argumentation. 1. An ad hominem attack on the author’s intelligence. 2. An amazingly hazy false equivalence (liberals are just as bad as conservatives!) without any supporting examples. 3. The absurd suggestion that Trump has been acting out of “the best of values,” and not out of self-interest, narcissism, and greed.

    When Obama began to betray liberal values, liberal voters got in his face about drone strikes, the lack of a public option, and not persecuting the financial services industry. That is fairness and justice in action. Perhaps I’m assuming too much, but what I see here is a perfect example of blind loyalty to authority, no matter how depraved and corrupt the authority figure is.

    Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  4. Tom wrote:

    A Senator from one of the smaller (population wise) western states being interviewed commented on his supporters: They wish he wouldn’t tweet so much, but they love his policies, what he’s doing for the country. This Gary Trudeau cartoon from 8/12 sums up our legislators pretty well.

    Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink
  5. frigast wrote:

    I don’t know you, but nevertheless after your two opinionated remarks in your small two-liner, I’ve got a pretty good picture 🙂

    ‘… but a human being will inevitably pervert even the best of values.’

    Sorry dear, being a human myself, I sincerely have to take exception to such statement 🙂
    Try reading some philosophy and you might get another picture on we, the humans 🙂

    – and what’s that, are you calling my good friend David for naïve – that’s a joke, right ??
    If there is one things David isn’t that’s naïve 🙂
    He’s well read, well informed – and well-balanced (among other things :-))

    Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  6. tom wrote:

    Fox and Friends conducting Exclusive interview now. “Respectful” interviewer patiently listening to the orange man ramble on lie after lie.

    Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 8:08 am | Permalink
  7. Dan wrote:

    Liberal perfectionism is dangerous, too. It’s akin to purity – it’s expensive dieting, bourgeois spending, it’s sending kids to private schools or homeschooling because public schools aren’t good enough. It’s the vindictiveness of not accepting what the majority are willing to settle for. It’s wanting to band-aid a problem with spending without having the patience and resolve to fix it at the root. It’s not reflecting on oneself and performing the emotional or mental gymnastics to seek an alternative solution. Mainstream politics, liberal and conservative, are guilty of that. Trump is the megathrust eruption of all the worst traits of those two ideologies.

    Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  8. Henry wrote:

    I guess Trump would say – “he’s a good guy.” Since he, Trump,is a crook of the highest order. I find while talking to the Republicans I know here, they don’t even mention that the law was broken. Only that Mueller is digging shit up because “all you liberals want to get at Trump.” When I sent a note of Manafort’s verdict & Cohen’s confession to those republicans, they asked where did I get the information, and I said Washington Post and they replied, “oh what do you expect!” Geez, how stupid people can be.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 1:18 am | Permalink
  9. Dan wrote:

    Henry – I have a friend who is, as long as I’ve known him, one of the most reasonable, rational people I’ve ever known. When Trump started to run for office, I was amazed that he came out in support of him given Trump’s entertainment personality and lack of political experience. It defies logic the support he gets.

    The idea of “fake news” even permeated my friend so much that he began to read local human interest stories, with the same skepticism he applied to national political news. I had to explain that just because something isn’t necessarily newsworthy doesn’t make it “fake news” in the conservative meaning of those words. They can’t even apply the true meaning of fake news to what is actually fake.

    That said, I think the tide might be turning somewhat. I’m hopeful at least that the ones that have remained reticent to vocalize their continued support of him have changed their tune even if they’ve yet to come out of their hidey holes. He is such an embarrassment, you’d think the type of people that want to legislate shame into our policy would see that.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 9:15 am | Permalink

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