"I don't think you understand Cosa Nostra, Cosa Nostra means the boss is your boss!" Neil Dellacroce, the under-boss of the Gambino crime family
http://blog.ted.com/2008/09/17/the_real_differ/ Jonathan Haidt on the moral differences between liberals and conservativsm
"A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors." Edmund Burke
A famous modern social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt argued that the main reason why liberals and conservatives often struggle to find common ground is that their moral lenses are fundamentally different from each other. Liberals tend to base many of their political views on principles of care and fairness, while conservatives tend to base theirs more so on authority, sanctity and loyalty. Haidt's insight plays a cardinal role in explaining the moral foundation of the dispute between the two opposing factions whose worldviews clash in most countries. The specific socio-cultural values of progressives and conservatives tend to differ from country to country, the underlying moral values tend to remain consistently static. The ensuing analysis of how the differences between the moral lenses of progressives and conservatives not only sheds light on the fundamental motivations of representatives of both ideologies, but also leads to significant questions regarding the apparent tragedy of modernity, the desirability of preservation of traditional values and the merits of a hierarchical power-structure that prominently features centralized authority.
Haidt contended that even the most progressive of nations need conservatives because it is impossible to build a good society without espousing values of authority, sanctity and loyalty. Mostly owing to these values, conservative communities generally have a higher group-cohesion than than liberals. Although their communities often repress the liberty of individuals and undermine the ethic of care more so than the liberal societies tend to, they usually avoid the sense of anomie or social isolation that many members of modern, Westernized and highly individualistic societies incur. Anomie is a term that Emile Durkheim coined referring to the state of mind a socially uprooted person commonly experiences; such a person operates predominantly based on his own moral compass and is generally disinclined to accept social mores, ethical values or moral convictions that other communities endorse. While such resolute autonomy of moral reasoning sounds admirable and even enviable, man is not a solitary animal and Durkheim's studies have shown that isolated individuals are more likely to commit suicide than those who are well-connected. It is rather striking that the suicide rate in Japan increased dramatically after many of the nation's communities transitioned away from being tightly knit to individualistic and Westernized. Another modern sociologist, Dag Leonardsen documents these findings in a provocative book "Crime in Japan: Paradise lost". Another implication of anomie is that suicide is not the only crime that an uprooted individual is more likely to engage in than a well-connected one. In general, people who are benevolent tend to be members of a close-knit community and outsiders typically have a much more difficult time being charitable as consistently as in-group members do. That is one of the main reasons why Church-goers are more likely to donate to charitable causes than members of secular organizations and church-goers are more likely to engage in acts of kindness when they are in the company of similar others than in the company of strangers.
Jonathan Haidt also noticed that conservatives tend to reason about moral problems from the standpoint of the ethic of community while progressives do so from the perspective of the ethic of autonomy. In other words, the former are more likely to assume that the morally correct judgments are those that are sanctioned by their communities and the latter tend to think that an action's moral integrity is often measured by how well it maximizes the freedoms of the individual. The ideas I have shared with you in the previous paragraph cast doubt on the effectiveness of the ethic of autonomy. When most people need to be in a close-knit community in order to maximize their potential to be benevolent to others, the assertion that the ethic of autonomy serves the public good is rendered dubious, if not altogether implausible. Certainly, we will find a measure of sanctimony, dissimulation, impression-management and even down-right prevarication in conservative communities where many will attempt to portray themselves as more virtuous than they truly are. Nonetheless, their affectations do not annul but the fact that they are more likely to engage in benevolent acts than those who are less well-connected. Remarkably, the ethic of community is not only valuable from the perspective of the public good, it tends to reward the benevolent actor in light of the fact that members of tightly-knit communities are more likely to be happy than those who lack the warmth of close bonds with their communities.
The dark-side of conservatism, as well know, is that it can be repressive of the rights of individual, and at times even callous. This leaves us with one question, should we celebrate the fact that the ethos of a "small-town" are becoming increasingly less-common in the Westernized milieu of globalization where values of individualism, professional detachment from traditional values and the ethic of autonomy are honored. Or have we lost something that was truly of vital significance? Is the story of modernization a triumph of egalitarian values of social justice over misogyny, xenophobia, ignorance and crypto-fascism or is it, contrary to the expectations of many progressives, yet another manifestation of the timeless theme of "Paradise Lost"? If it was possible, would we better off turning the clock back and reversing the trends of the progressive era that took place in the late 19th century, did the God of the Old Testament truly condemn Adam and Eve to a life of misery by opening their eyes to the depravity they were already surrounded by? Is ignorance truly bliss, can we go so far as to say that evil did not exist before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit that led to knowledge of the existence of evil? Were the Old Testament philosophers correct in their statement of "he who increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow" (Ecclesiastes 1:18) or were they closer to the truth in a statement far more compatible with our Westernized, progressive sensibilities "a fool's life is worse than death" (Sirach:22)?
As you may see the philosophical confrontation between the values of liberals and conservatives may be founded on a timeless theme of the book of Genesis that has recurred in the history of most civilizations thereafter. Although there is much to be said in favor of the conservative point of view, I will conclude this note with the observation that in some respects, political liberalism served social justice by opening up the minds of ordinary people to issues such as institutional oppression, political corruption, racism and a host of other injustices that progressives of most countries continue to combat today. The question is, were these moral achievements reached at an acceptable price and if not, what can we do to uphold the values of social justice without losing our sense of community or becoming socially uprooted.