But Haidt’s second major discovery is far more consequential: the concept of “the conservative advantage.” Based on painstaking cross-cultural social-psychological experimentation, Haidt establishes that the moral foundations of liberals and conservatives are not just different, they are dramatically unequal. The liberal moral matrix rests essentially entirely on the left-most foundations [i.e. Care/Harm, to a lesser extent Fairness/Cheating]; the conservative moral foundation—though slanted to the right—rests upon all six [value categories, i.e. Care/Harm; Fairness/Cheating; Liberty/Oppression; Loyalty/Betrayal; Authority/Subversion; Sanctity/Degradation].
This is a stunning finding with enormous implications. The first is that conservatives can relate to the moral thinking of liberals, but the converse is not true at all. Haidt, who is liberal himself, elegantly explains how and why conservatives will view liberals as merely misguided while liberals tend to view conservatives as incomprehensible, insane, immoral, etc.
Another implication is that liberal prescriptions tend to be incredibly single-minded as compared to those of conservatives. Haidt uses the metaphor of a bee hive to illustrate. A liberal, finding a bee in the hive suffering from injustice, is motivated more or less exclusively by the desire to get justice for the bee. A conservative, being partially driven by the Care/Harm foundation, also desires to alleviate the injustice, but tries to find a solution that also contemplates the survival of the hive itself.
Liberals seek to create justice and equity; whether doing so harms core institutions simply doesn’t enter into their moral reasoning. Conservatives, in contrast to their typical caricature, do care about justice and fairness, they merely cherish vital institutions relatively more. If there’s a conflict, conservatives will err toward protecting institutions. [This is somewhat simplistic insofar as many conservatives will also think that destroying such institutions is unfair and unjust.]
Sadly, “The Righteous Mind” proves irrefutably that trying to explain to liberals that their solutions might undermine vital institutions is fruitless. They cannot and will not relate, or even concede that such concerns fall into the realm of moral reasoning. The good news is that a coalition can be built among the rest of us who understand that destroying the hive to benefit the lone bee results inescapably in suffering for all.