Karma and Conservatism

I don’t know that I buy his broader analysis of political polarization, but the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, as quoted by MoJo’s Chris Mooney, does have one striking insight into conservative moralism:

“My analysis is that the Tea Party really wants [the] Indian law of Karma, which says that if you do something bad, something bad will happen to you, if you do something good, something good will happen to you,” says Haidt. “And if the government interferes and breaks that link, it is evil. That I think is much of the passion of the Tea Party.”

Haidt is speaking of the Tea Party attitude towards the Wolf Blitzer’s famous hypothetical slacker who doesn’t take care of his health and then gets sick and expects the rest of us to take care of him (you know, the one members of a Republican debate audience thought maybe should be left to die). But it’s just as interesting in terms of “constitutional conservative” feelings about market economics. Markets and property rights being, in their view, part of “natural law” (whether inherent or God-given), government interference with markets isn’t just inefficient, it’s morally wrong. This is what glues religiously indifferent libertarians and wildly religious fundamentalists together on economic issues: they share a tendency to view markets as embedded in the structure of the universe as arbiters of the value of human labor and creativity. They cannot be defied without consequences, or the stars might fall and consume the earth.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.