Is Moral Foundations Theory Useful?

According to Jonathan Haidt (Moral Foundations Theory), progressives tend to care about three main things:

1) the welfare of people,
2) fairness, and
3) liberty (freedom from tyranny).

Conservatives, according to Haidt, care about all three of those things as well, but they also care about three other things:

4) loyalty to their groups,
5) obedience to tradition and “legitimate” authority figures, and
6) purity (avoidance of things and actions they deem “disgusting”).

The progressive vision (and that of many left-leaning Libertarians) is straightforwardly about people’s welfare, fairness, and autonomy. It’s about creating systems that work well for everyone for the most part. And they aren’t all that worried if the new system upsets tradition or enables people to do “disgusting” things. They can also tolerate a little bit of cheating of the system as long as the overall effects are positive.

Progressives are frustrated when conservatives appeal to authorities other than science and reason, and when they hold up “progress” in the name of traditional moral codes, or when their group loyalty gets in the way of cooperating with other groups.

Conservatives are frustrated when Progressives work to undermine their traditions, are permissive about behaviors they consider “disgusting” or wrong, or undermine loyalty to the body politic or reduce the group’s ability to defend itself against other groups.

These portraits are obviously vastly oversimplified, and many individuals on the left and right won’t fit these stereotypes. But as far as generalizations go, they seem both fairly accurate and useful — able to explain both the content and tone of the debates between left and right around the world.

I wonder how this model might help us forge more productive dialogues across the left-right chasm.