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Forum Post: Moral Foundations of OWS and the Tea Party--written by a 9th grader for HW

Posted 10 years ago on Dec. 14, 2011, 8:50 a.m. EST by amirflesher (0)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The Moral Foundations theory (http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/mft/index.php) is hard to summarize, but its a system that was formulated to try and understand why morality varies so drastically in different cultures. There are five main foundations comprising the Moral Foundations Theory, and they are Harm and Care, Fairness and Reciprocity, In-group and Loyalty, Authority and Respect, Purity and Sanctity. Sometimes Liberty and Constraint is considered a foundation. You can take an online test at Haidt's website to find out how much you value each foundation. But this theory doesn't only apply to individuals. It can be applied to groups of like minded individuals. Haidt's research indicates that self identified liberals' sense of morality is based primarily in care/harm and fairness, while they do not much value the other three foundations. Conservatives, on the other hand, value all five foundations, but value harm/care and fairness less than they do the other three foundations. Haidt has also specifically applied the Moral Foundation Theory to Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.

When visiting Zuccoti Park to test his Moral Foundations theory on the OWS protest, Jonathan Haidt found that the main moral foundation was,, fairness. This shouldn’t come as a shock, because the protestors of OWS really want nothing but to be treated equally and fairly. They feel that the government is influenced too much by corporations, and this negatively impacts those who fall in the 99% range (the non-rich people).

The OWS protest is also about fairness because it is very into taking and giving back. I mean, a huge part of the reason that everyone is so mad at the corporations and Wall Street is because they have sort of just taken without giving. And I think that the people of OWS really not only want to be treated fairly, but they want everyone to work fairly as well to receive what they earn.

Haidt found that fairness as the number one moral foundation of OWS was followed by care and then liberty. These both also pretty much tie in with the fairness that OWS is calling for. The three moral foundations that weren’t really high on the list for the protestors of OWS were loyalty, sanctity, and authority.

But for the Tea Party, Liberty is definitely their number one foundation. The Tea Party very strongly believes that the government shouldn’t have so much influence over us like they do now. They feel that the people of the United States should be able to do what we feel like doing, as long as it is harming no one.

Interestingly, with a study done on 152,000 people of the Tea Party, Haidt found that the people of the Tea Party are actually somewhat more like liberals than Conservatives. Libertarians are only closer to Conservatives on 2 of the 5 main foundations- care and fairness. But with the other three foundations, group loyalty, respect for authority and spiritual sanctity, they were found to be much closer to the liberals’ moral foundations.

To me, in general, this Moral Foundation theory does make sense. I mean, the results I got when I took the test were pretty much right around where I thought they would be. I feel like, for the most part, that they kind of tied right in with my beliefs.



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[-] 1 points by justicia (58) from New York, NY 10 years ago

Another fundamental difference btw OWS and the Tea Party is that TP adherents are only concerned about constraining government power. They ignore private corporate power that thrives on "crony capitalism" (government subsidies, e.g.) and corrupts our politics. I've yet to hear anyone from the TP explain how corporate power an abuses will be checked if there is no countervailing power to rein them in. Neither consumers nor shareowners are able to do so because both are disorganized and lack the information necessary. (Corporate disclosure in securities filings are nothing but cleverly packaged lies, as Enron and the dotcons, Lehman, Bear and the bankrupt banks have shown.)

So, to our TP friends, I ask: how are We the People to be 'free' in a society in which economic power is concentrated in institutions that are not accountable to anyone?

[-] 1 points by Stephen (5) 10 years ago

Justicia, you have misused the word “capitalism.” “Crony capitalism” is an oxymoron. This comes clear when you understand that Capitalism is laissez-fair; meaning an unregulated market place. Capitalism in one breath is – “you get to keep all the wealth you produce to use as you see fit.” You mean to say “Corporatism.” Our society is based on a corporatist political system where there is a symbiotic relationship between private enterprise and government – government protects the enterprise and the enterprise performs certain governmental functions. On the other hand, Capitalism is a far right political ideology based on clear principles – constitutional limitation of government, rule of law, an unregulated marketplace. A far right extremist is one who is all of those things to the extreme. Anything to the left of this orientation is a variant of Socialism. Under Socialism, all problems have political solutions and in pursuit of these solutions every action of the state is justified. Under Capitalism, government is not in the solutions business; its only role is to protect individuals and associations of individuals as they endeavor to discover solutions. A capitalist believes that all solutions are ultimately solved in the marketplace, but only if the marketplace is free of force, fraud, and coercion. This is the essential difference between the Tea Party Patriots and OWS.

[-] 1 points by justicia (58) from New York, NY 10 years ago


The laissez-faire capitalism you describe has never existed anywhere at any time. Governments have always been part of and essential to the operation of markets, for better and worse.

Modern markets -- especially in our globalized economy -- are built on contractual relationships. What is a contract but a mutually agreed on set of obligations enforceable in a court of law. Ultimately, behind every contract is the power and authority of the state to make the parties perform as promised. And it is the state that not only interprets the rights of the parties but decides the extent to which it will recognize and enforce those rights. In our system, this is done through the courts which apply laws adopted by our elected representatives.

So, when you say that under "Capitalism, government is not in the solutions business" nothing could be further from the truth. If you've studied economics, you know that there are many areas of "market failure" where the market does not deliver necessary social goods (providing for the common defense, public infrastructure, etc) and government -- i.e., We the People, not private corporations -- provide them.

But, you still have not addressed my question. How are you going to keep the marketplace "free of force, fraud and coercion" if there is no power that can counter the concentrated centers of wealth (whether in corporations, feudal families or individual billionaires)?

[-] 1 points by kingscrossection (1203) 10 years ago

I took it and my purity was down.

[-] 1 points by demcapitalist (977) 10 years ago

I would say that no one in OWS or the tea party thinks our banking system should be run like a giant welfare program for billionaires. The argument happens when we discuss how we got there and how we can get to a better system.