Conservatism as Small-Circle Thinking
Rice University’s John Alford, associate professor of political science, co-authored a paper in Science in which he studied a group of 46 adults with strong political beliefs. Those individuals with “measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq War”. Conservatism is fear-based. Fear constricts our sense of self in space and time and relationship, and is fundamentally the wrong response to an interdependent world where systemic and inclusive thinking is needed in order to survive. A classic example of this is the conservative romance with market mechanisms. Market mechanisms can work very well if everyone makes their decisions based on their individual assessment of the inherent worth of the stock being traded. But investors are actually driven largely by their perceptions of how much other people value the stock (http://www.physorg.com/news141015420.html). These inter-dependencies result in volatility and market crashes. So you need to understand markets using “large circle” thinking to make good choices about when and how they are and are not appropriate. But conservatives are famously blind to these vastly destructive effects because they conflict with their central commitment to small-circle thinking.