the left-wing moral shortfall.

“Imagine visiting a town,” Dr. Jonathon Haidt writes, “where people wear no clothes, never bathe, have sex in public, and eat raw meat by biting off pieces directly from the carcass.”


Dr Haidt’s site is, where i got my fibre tested. I’m the green bars. You can see that I consider Harm and Fairness to be important moral values. I am less convinced on Loyalty, Authority, and Purity, as moral values.

The main point of the graph is not that my low scores reveal me as base, ill-bred and exquisitely suited to a career in politics.

It’s the difference between the blue lines and the red lines. Blue is the scores of people who identify as ‘liberals’ (in the American sense). Red is conservatives. They consider three extra categories to be just as morally important.

Included in these is ‘purity’. Liberals might consider the scene described in the intro as ‘in poor taste but not hurting anyone’. Conservatives might view it as immoral, on a par with harming someone. (Now, nobody’s saying liberals don’t care about loyalty, respect for authority and purity. But they might see these as functional or aesthetic concerns, rather than moral concerns.)

This explains the weird bits of your bible to a secular person.  The stuff about shellfish, pigs and menstruation. Apparently some people feel these as moral issues.  Now this doesn’t mean they’re right. We’re not obliged to acquiesce to someone’s homophobia just because they feel its a moral issue.  But it does give us perspective that can help win arguments.

Note this: conservative morals are not offset by a major shortage on the things that liberals care about. Conservatives actually care about what liberals care about and more!

On the upside this gives them an unreciprocated perspective on issues that matter to liberals. On the downside they are far more likely to find their moral views contradicting each other.

So what?

Well, let’s have a look at a little quote from a website called It’s talking about closing Guantanamo Bay :

Obama’s hypocrisy and brutal inhumanity in light of recent events shocks even the most jaded among us. Americans had to listen to his daily tongue lashing about our morals and values as he defended closing Gitmo (home to the worst war criminals), admonishing us for the benign use of waterboarding in order to save thousands of American lives, and in his latest attempt to create a “torture” prosecutor.

Yet what was done at Gitmo was all done in defense of this dear country. It is a testament to our moral authority that Gitmo exists. Saner men would have lined up the enemy in front of a firing squad. It is a tribute to our moral superiority that Gitmo guards wear splash guards on their heads to protect against flying excrement and urine.

Obama’s strange attraction to savages and despots is repugnant and enormously dangerous in a world teetering on the brink. I, for one, am sick of being preached to by a man who increasingly seems to be devoid of the basic decency that is inherent in those who have the genuine moral sense to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong.

It seems nonsensical, until we understand that these people see ‘loyalty’ as a moral code.  This means actions that protect the group (in this case America) can be warranted even when they may (to a liberal) seem ‘unfair’ or ’cause harm’.

Both sides think they are acting ‘morally’ and ascribe hidden motivations to the other. Liberals conclude the ‘american thinkers’ are racists;

While they think liberals hate freedom/America/God/etc/etc.

What Dr Jonathon Haidt’s research does is provide the first phrasebook for translation between conservatives and liberals. America needs it.

If you do surf to, let us know what you think of the survey. Do you line up with what you expected?

What do you reckon about Dr Haidt’s theories? Are they on the money?? Are they even useful? Share your reactions below.

Published by


Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

6 thoughts on “the left-wing moral shortfall.”

  1. nice blog Jas! Very interesting.
    I took the quiz, got 5.0, 4.2, 1.7, 1.2, 0.0. Pretty straight forward questions, I’ll do the others and see what they’re like.

    The most interesting part of the quiz for me was the fact that when asked for your religion, the only options for non-religious types was “No Religion”, where as most secular people would regard atheism as very different from agnosticism.

    There’s a debate going on right now on the Age website about religion v secularism, pretty interesting. The guy who wrote the main article I know from uni.


    1. Thanks Rob! I thought it was an amazing topic. I stumbled across it a couple of years ago and have been looking forward to writing it up!

      Re: your point about the religion question, if you do select no reilgion, another little box pops up that says:
      And within the ‘no religion’ category, which denomination or label best describes your religious affiliation now?

      Anyway, I read your friend’s article on beautifully written!


  2. None of your major points make sense.

    I can’t see that “wear no clothes, never bathe, have sex in public, and eat raw meat by biting off pieces directly from the carcass” has anything to do with a lack of loyalty, authority and/or purity. Or with the questions of whether gays should serve in the military or whether Gitmo should be closed.

    A tiny number of Orthodox Jews (who may be politically liberal, conservative or middle of the road) are the only people who “feel” (sic) that “the weird bits of your bible … about shellfish, pigs and menstruation” are “moral issues”. And even they believe that they are moral issues only for themselves. They don’t see anything immoral about a Gentile eating pork or shellfish or failing to perform Jewish rituals re menstruation.


    1. Hi Ronk

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Haidt’s point about the bathing and the public sex is that they contravene standards of ‘purity’. These are viewed as moral issues by some people.

      To me, the idea that purity could be a moral, rather than simply a functional concern was a revelation! You’re right that most people don’t care about shellfish anymore, but some ‘purity’ issues still run deep in conservative politics.

      Haidt argues that feelings of disgust drive a lot of morality. I might feel disgust if I see discrimination. General Peter Pace might feel disgust if he thinks about gay people.

      Anyway, that’s it from me. Hope you’re enjoying some of the ideas on this site!



  3. Can you name one person (other than an Orthodox Jew)whose objection to wearing no clothes, never bathing, having sex in public, and eating raw meat by biting off pieces directly from the carcass, is that they “contravene standards of purity”? Sure nearly everyone would agree that these things are somewhat immoral, but only because they infringe other people’s rights.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s