Mark, you write that in Jonathan Haidt’s apolitical political quiz, “none of the questions relates to economics; Haidt’s point, which seems right to me, is that politics remains largely a matter of moral intuition.” But there are also no questions on abortion, gay marriage, religious liberty, gun control, search and seizure rights, drone strikes, freedom of the press, domestic intelligence gathering, or virtually any other political topic. (That’s the whole point of the endeavor, to show that he can predict your politics without asking you about your politics.) But you don’t mention any of these other issues.

So you seem to be suggesting economics is not related to moral intuition in a way that other things are. By contrast, in the article accompanying the quiz, when Haidt and his co-author want to demonstrate that social divisions are driven by differences in moral intuition, they go straight to economic policy and camp there:

Just look at today’s most contentious political issues: Will raising the minimum wage increase unemployment, or will it stimulate the economy and raise employment? Is stimulus the most effective response to a recession, or is austerity? Or what about this week’s hot topic: will cutting off unemployment benefits spur people to find jobs, or will it plunge them into homelessness and hunger?

The main reason Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on basic economic facts is that people—including politicians and economists—seek out the facts required by their values. When faced with complicated or ambiguous evidence, human reasoning is notoriously bad at asking “what is the truth?” Rather, we start with a conclusion that we hope is true, and then we ask: “Can I find any evidence to support this conclusion?” The answer is almost always yes. Even when 90% of the research points the other way, just a single study supporting your side will seem utterly compelling, and you’ll find reasons to reject the junk science peddled by the other side.


Nothing would be more helpful to our nation right now than a return to a robust Christian witness on the moral intuitions that undergird economic systems. John Paul the Great would be a wonderful model to follow in this regard.

Articles by Greg Forster

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