Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The liberal colonisation of western elites: why?

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave a defensive speech on Brexit today and was duly patronised on the talk shows by Remain liberals in their characteristic, languid upper-class drawl.

I wonder yet again why western capitalist elites seem dominated by liberals. The phenomenon is too widespread to be explained by purely national histories. From the Clintons to the Camerons to the Merkels the caste is pervasive.

I turn again to Jonathan Haidt and Moral Foundations Theory, quoting him from this previous post.
"Think of it like this: Evolution gave all human beings the same taste receptors — for sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami (or MSG) — but cultures then create unique cuisines, constrained by the fact that the cuisine must please those taste receptors. Moral foundations work much the same way. The six main moral taste receptors, according to MFT, are:

Care/harm: We feel compassion for those who are vulnerable or suffering.

Fairness/cheating: We constantly monitor whether people are getting what they deserve, whether things are balanced. We shun or punish cheaters.

Liberty/oppression: We resent restrictions on our choices and actions; we band together to resist bullies.

Loyalty/betrayal: We keep track of who is "us" and who is not; we enjoy tribal rituals, and we hate traitors.

Authority/subversion: We value order and hierarchy; we dislike those who undermine legitimate authority and sow chaos.

Sanctity/degradation: We have a sense that some things are elevated and pure and must be kept protected from the degradation and profanity of everyday life. (This foundation is best seen among religious conservatives, but you can find it on the left as well, particularly on issues related to environmentalism.)

"As with cuisines, societies vary a great deal in the moralities they construct out of these universal predispositions. Many traditional agricultural and herding societies rely heavily on the loyalty, authority, and sanctity  foundations to create rituals, myths, and religious institutions that bind groups together with a strong tribal consciousness.

"That can be highly effective for groups that are often attacked by neighboring rivals, but commercial societies (such as Amsterdam in the 17th century or New York City today) are far less in need of these foundations, and so make much less use of them.
Jonathan Haidt and his co-workers found that modern political tribes project differently onto these six dimensions.

Source: Wikipedia

Liberals are motivated almost entirely by the Caring dimension and Fairness, which they tend to interpret as equality of outcome. We might also observe that liberals tend to value self-control and eschew displays of physical aggression. Playing by the formal rules demands both.

Conservatives score less on Caring, stronger on Fairness which they tend to interpret as equality of opportunity, and are supportive of their own institutions via Groupishness.

Libertarians are like Mr Spock in Star Trek: cool and unemotional, detached and strongly autonomous as shown by their focus on Liberty - freedom from interference.

Modern capitalism in its full, globalist, multi-ethnic majesty is a kind of ecosystem-filter for these different moral types.

As I mentioned in the previous post about the current state of Russia, capitalism works best - as a network of anonymous economic relationships distributed over time and space - with a system of rules in place to enforce property rights and ensure transaction-integrity.

The point about rules is that they should be impersonal, not unduly biased by power and stable. In turn this requires an enforcing state which upholds associated values. These, however, can easily conflict with common psychological drives.

  • Universal abstract rights can undermine particularist family, kin and ethnic interests
  • Formal process requires the replacement of arbitrary force to resolve disputes
  • A safety net is needed to keep the masses from toppling the elites.

In MFT terms, this prioritises Fairness and Caring, and undermines the kinds of particularism expressed in the three Groupish dimensions. In theory Libertarian Freedom might suit an idealised capitalism but in reality its disengaged state-model is just ineffective and dangerously uncaring.

If these points carry a ring of truth then it's no surprise that liberals are so strongly selected for when populating elite positions, particularly within the state apparatus and organs of elite ideology like the media and social sciences.

When Groupish, 'populist' conservatives come to power, propelled by disgruntled in-groups, liberals react with fear and loathing seeing the threat to their carefully-crafted model of atomised society composed of formally-equal individuals.

They are right to do so: as discussed in the previous post, authoritarian leaders privilege their supporters while demonising others as out-groups. This can end in tears.

But .. the tenets of liberal ideology are so tendentious, so self-serving, and often so plainly delusional and damaging to the social fabric that sometimes, something just has to be done.

I think Theresa May clearly understands this, which makes her deference to the liberal establishment besieging her so depressing.


Is it possible to run a free, productive, dynamic, inclusive capitalist society without its natural ideology of social atomisation, blank-slate equality and hyper-individualism?

You might want to read this.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say though, that the developing UK-EU "negotiations" are a little reminiscent of the old STL versus EU disagreements & "compromises" that existed in ESPRIT days. "We" certainly had a different view of the (technology) World than the ESPRIT "partners".


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