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Part 3: The Puzzle of "Liberal" Obama's Support for the TPP

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In the long run, then, these leftist and rightist inclinations tend to be in tension for most people, since an excessive focus on your own power and achievement might make you lose touch with how that power and achievement could negatively affect others. Conversely, living with intent to do right by others all the time may run so much against the grain of self-interest that it can distract leftist do-gooders from taking practical steps towards power and achievement.

Thus the down side of right wingers by my definition is that they are much more likely to be rights-abusing psychopaths (or tools thereof) than left-wingers and also more likely to support destructive and oppressive political policies, while left-wingers are somewhat more likely to be disorganized, motivationally anemic, and ineffectual.





The left-right dimension and the liberal-conservative dimension should be thought of as independent from each other, like north-south and east-west on a map of the world. The names left and right translate easily into west and east, and liberals and conservatives can argue over who gets to be north. The empirical evidence for conceptualizing ideology this way comes from cross-cultural work on values by psychologist Shalom Schwartz and to some extent from Moral Foundations Theory work by psychologists Jesse Graham and Jonathan Haidt. The way I have described "conservative" (vs. liberal) derives from the Schwartz dimension of "conservation" vs. "openness to change." That dimension correlates with what Graham and Haidt call "binding morality"--a morality concerned with "ingroup", "authority" and "purity". The way I have described "left" (vs. "right") derives from the Schwartz dimension of "self-transcendence" vs. "self-enhancement." That dimension correlates with what Graham and Haidt call "individualizing morality"--a morality concerned with "care" and "fairness" for others.

Schwartz explicitly treats these two dimensions as independent from one another, like an elevator that goes up and down and a moving walkway that runs from one side of each floor to the other. Two dimensional models allow for using 2-dimensional shapes--like circles--to frame one's thinking about things. Indeed, in the Schwartz model, ideological positions are not presented as points along a line, but rather as wedges in a circle , where steady movement from the outer edge of one wedge to the next will eventually lead you all the way around the circle.

Graham and Haidt's research provides as much evidence as Schwartz's does for a two-dimensional understanding of values/ideology because "individualizing" and "binding" are also independent, perpendicular dimensions. But Graham and Haidt collapse the interpretation of their findings into one dimensional discourse: i.e. left-liberal vs. right-conservative . They define left-wing liberals as being lower-than-average on binding morality--Ingroup, Authority, Purity; and higher-than-average on individualizing morality--Care and Fairness. Right-wing conservatives, of course, they define by the opposite pattern.

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Ian Hansen is a social psychology professor specializing in cultural and political psychology and a part time activist on behalf of the good things in life.

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