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Subject: Politics + Values + A Hypothesis to Discuss rss

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Oliver Kiley
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Disclaimer: I’ve been hypothesizing and mulling over a political thought a lot lately, which will I will describe below. Perhaps it is an obvious observation, but I’m curious to dissect it a little more and see what other people think.

There are a great many political views. I’ve found the Political Compass (http://www.politicalcompass.org/analysis2) to be an interesting way of thinking about different political viewpoints, namely that there it uses a left/right axis/continuum relating to one’s economic perspectives (the left being communism, the right being essentially total free market). The y-axis relates to our social perspectives and the degree to which social/moral behaviors are to be governed. At the bottom is anarchism/libertarianism and the top is authoritarian/fascism. I don’t really want to debate the value/or merits of this political compass, its just a lunching point for the conversation in terms of thinking about people’s political perspectie.

My real question is two-fold:
(1) How do people’s core values/ethics/morals translate into their political tendencies?
(2) What factors shapes people’s values/ethics/morals? Are there factors that "interfere" with people acting/voting in alignment with their values/ethics/morals?


(1) To hypothesize on the first question, How do people’s core values/ethics/morals translate into their political tendencies?:

I think there are many value/ethical propositions that individuals face. The relative importance individuals place on different value propositions, as well as their stance on a particular proposition is likely going to shape their outward political expression.

Some of these value propositions include things like:

-- How much emphasis should be placed on individual freedoms at the potential expense infringing on other peoples’ freedoms?

-- What is the balance between impacts to an individual versus impacts to the overall public? To what extent do you value acting in your own best interest versus working towards the public’s interests?

-- How much do you value short-term benefits/gains relative to long-term benefits/gains?

-- How risky should we be as a society or as individuals? What is the balance between risk and reward? How much energy should be spent mitigating risk?

-- How important is equity in society? Should everyone have the same access to the same quality of goods and services or not? What good and services should everyone have equal access to (if any)?

There are countless other similar kinds of questions no doubt, and I’m sure we can debate the nature and phrasing of any of the above. But I really feel that people’s answers to these types of questions tend to feed into their outward political leanings. They certainly do for me. And the answers in my mind tie into all kinds of questions about the role government should play in society, the extent/depth of that role, and how operations/policies are conducted.

Many of these value propositions might also be informed by deeper personality traits and core values. Degrees of selfishness, attitudes about risk, instant gratification needs, empathy, etc. Which leads into the second question:

(2) What factors shapes people’s values/ethics/morals? Are there factors that "interfere" with people acting/voting in alignment with their values/ethics/morals?

As far as what shapes people’s values, I think there are some likely (obvious?) answers:

- Family "inherited" values as a consequence of upbringing
- Education and critical thinking
- Religious/spiritual beliefs
- Media exposure/source
- Broader community where you live / people you talk with regularly
- Significant life experience

How do you think these factors might interact to shape people’s values? How might any of these interfere with people acting in alignment with their values? When do these (or other) factors cause people to challenge and reevaluate their values?

For instance, I really worry about the quality and message in most mainstream media sources. The focus on sensationalism, expert "opinions", and sound-bytes ... coupled with the fact that a great many news outlets are extraordinarily biases, I think can skew people’s understanding of reality and its complexities. People hear one thing, but it often isn’t the whole story.

Likewise, the community where people live is going to exert some pressure on individuals to feel or think a certain way. One can always choose to ignore that pressure, but many people have a hard time going against the grain. What do you think?

I’ll quiet up now and let other share their thoughts.
 
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Moshe Callen
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I think a key issue is to what extend one thinks morality can and should be legislated.Thus for example, some in the extreme would like to see their morals imposed on everybody. Others would not go so far by any means but if their notion of morality could be enforced via popular vote, they would at least be fine with that. Finally some consider morality a fundamentally personal issue which should not be imposed on others, even if encouraging others to choose to live a certain way is okay.

I've phrased this above in terms of societal mores and morality but fiscal policy is not fundamentally different.
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Rich Shipley
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These are interesting questions, but a bigger factor than anything else seems to be ignorance. People pick a team and believe whatever their guys say, no matter how divergent from reality. Others might not pick a team, but figure whoever is yelling the loudest must have a legitimate grievance.

Many people don't vote in their own interest because they don't understand what their interests might be or how certain policies might affect them. Politicians don't get into policy details in campaigns because people don't really care. Finding a way to depict a simplistic version of an opponent's policy as weird is much more effective.
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Chad Ellis
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Following up on what Moshe says, I think that there are different levels of moral influence on politics. A lot of people wouldn't legislate specific morals (e.g. someone might think that prostitution is wrong but that it should still be legal) but I think on some level we all vote our more general moral principles. For example, if I think prostitution should be legalized this is likely because I give high moral weight to the principle of individual liberty, whereas a utilitarian might care more about the overall impact of legalized prostitution (which could lead to a pro or con position).

If you look at disagreements I have with eknaeur, some of them come from different assessments of facts and what-ifs but others come from a fundamentally different set of axioms about the relationship and moral obligations between individuals and communities.
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See this TED talk:

http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.ht...
 
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Oliver Kiley
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whac3 wrote:
I think a key issue is to what extend one thinks morality can and should be legislated.Thus for example, some in the extreme would like to see their morals imposed on everybody. Others would not go so far by any means but if their notion of morality could be enforced via popular vote, they would at least be fine with that. Finally some consider morality a fundamentally personal issue which should not be imposed on others, even if encouraging others to choose to live a certain way is okay.

I've phrased this above in terms of societal mores and morality but fiscal policy is not fundamentally different.


A difference too is whether we talking about morality in terms of discrete moral issues (i.e. gay marriage, abortion), versus more underlying morals. I.e., what ethical/moral underpinning causes one person to support gay marriage and another to protest?

The Political Compass does separate political viewpoints between societal mores/morality and fiscal morality. Strong liberals (in the US) tend to prefer strong more regulated fiscal policy but less regulation over societal morals. Conservatives tend to be the opposite, preferring greater fiscal liberties but more control on social issues. Libertarians would prefer less control over both.

rshipley wrote:
These are interesting questions, but a bigger factor than anything else seems to be ignorance. People pick a team and believe whatever their guys say, no matter how divergent from reality. Others might not pick a team, but figure whoever is yelling the loudest must have a legitimate grievance.

Many people don't vote in their own interest because they don't understand what their interests might be or how certain policies might affect them. Politicians don't get into policy details in campaigns because people don't really care. Finding a way to depict a simplistic version of an opponent's policy as weird is much more effective.


People picking a team has a lot to do with the TED Talk linked below. I agree too that there is a crazy amount of ignorance. I wonder to what extent it is a consequence of people generally being lazy and not wanting to think, versus it being a failing of media to present clear unbiased information and of the education system to instill better critical thinking and analytical skills rather than focus so much on content that many people just learn over again in College anyways.

Chad_Ellis wrote:
Following up on what Moshe says, I think that there are different levels of moral influence on politics. A lot of people wouldn't legislate specific morals (e.g. someone might think that prostitution is wrong but that it should still be legal) but I think on some level we all vote our more general moral principles. For example, if I think prostitution should be legalized this is likely because I give high moral weight to the principle of individual liberty, whereas a utilitarian might care more about the overall impact of legalized prostitution (which could lead to a pro or con position).

If you look at disagreements I have with eknaeur, some of them come from different assessments of facts and what-ifs but others come from a fundamentally different set of axioms about the relationship and moral obligations between individuals and communities.


I'm intrigued about your last point, that different people have different axioms/values about the relationship between individuals and communities. How do people arrive at these different axioms? Is there an agreeable middleground on this ideology?


The Unbeliever wrote:


Interesting. For those who haven't watched it, the talk contends that there are five key moral underpinnings that are common across cultures, which include morals about:

(1) Harm/Care
(2) Fairness/Reciprocity
(3) In-group/Loyalty
(4) Authority/Respect
(5) Purity/Sanctity

He goes to explain that liberals tend to value #1 + #2 significantly above #3, #4, and #5 relative to conservatives, who tend value all five more closely, although interestingly Fairness/Reciprocity goes to the bottom of importance.

I think the talk was interesting, but I was hoping he was going to do more with the study findings. He basically ended saying we should use this information about our differing moral minds as a basis for being more compromising and less ideologically entrenched on both sides of the political continuum. Which of course makes sense.

But he doesn't really answer the question about what accounts for differences between people. We all have these morals in different ways/expressions, but what accounts for the differences? Can we, by learning more about each other, find better middlegrounds on all of these moral standpoints as a basis for more informed/aligned government?

Thanks for sharing!
 
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