I don't seem to be getting around to general comments on Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, getting rabbit-trailed into interesting side topics instead. Perhaps that is best. Many of you are somewhat familiar with Haidt anyway. If I leap right into the main topics some important and interesting items might get missed.
He notes in two separate sections that conservatives are much more focused on the issue of free riders. First, he acknowledges, somewhat surprised, that conservatives are more generous to others, but notes that they like to keep control over who benefits from their generosity. They are very quick to help those who are clearly innocent victims, or those who are perceived as having been on the short end of luck, such as bystanders or those in extreme weather conditions. But as the causes of the misfortune become more ambiguous, conservatives back off. In the cases of folks who have caused much of their own misery, conservatives are not only uncaring, but often hostile. Liberals, he finds, tend to make these distinctions far less often. Suffering in itself calls out for compassion, and more subtly, we seldom can see cause and desert as clearly as we think we do.
Second, he follows the origin-of-religions idea of those who still hold out the possibility that natural selection can operate at a group level. (Note: though attractive, this has pretty much been eliminated in discussing non-humans, and many popular explanations of group selection occurring among humans have been whittled down to individual selection. It is considered risible by many. Haidt makes a fair case for it occurring in a few limited areas.) It's an Emil Durkheim-descended idea, with Nicholas Wade probably the most widely-read of the current advocates for the position. The connection is that religions, which require sacrifice and increase group bonding with the same actions, offer some selection advantage by reducing the free-rider problem. I have a few objections to this sort of reductionist view, but let that pass for the moment. Community is certainly a Jewish and then Christian theme in the Bible, and it is central to my own theology of both OT and NT. *
Contemplating that the free rider problem is an enormous issue to conservatives, I realised that it is an enormous issue to me personally as well. It may explain nearly entirely my siding with conservatives generally despite my objections to them on many fronts. To not be a free rider is as powerful and animating force for me as I can identify. My children were clubbed by it, sometimes in word, always by example. One does his bit, however distasteful, and there's an end to it.
I make distinctions that many conservatives, or at least the noisier ones, do not, revolving around my fury at their declaring some to be free riders who have had little or no control over their situations. It might be technically true that people with Down's Syndrome are free riders, but I don't respond to the helpless that way emotionally, and I certainly can't find Christian justification for it. You may quote "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat" as much as you please, but Jesus didn't seem to address beggars in that way, nor did Peter and Paul. Yet you can find Christians who draw the circle very widely of who is a free rider and who is not. I find it infuriating.
Yet at some level, I get it. I apply a very high standard to myself on such matters (or did until a few years ago; there are lacunae in the fabric now). I have little sympathy for those who ride free off others - and I have known some quite well. One consequence is that I no longer regard their opinion on any moral issue as having the least weight. If hatred for free riders turns out to be heritable, and a common cause of conservatism, I would put down money that I have plenty of genes that could play out that way.
So, allowing for the usual caveats that this is not an either-or situation, but group tendencies, this is a place where conservative riders who are arguing with liberal elephants would do well to remember that they do not feel quite as strongly as you do about free riders; and liberal riders to keep in mind that conservative elephants care about this a great deal. It will increase understanding.
* I note again. Jesus seems focused on building a new tribe that includes both Jews and Greeks. Whether Jews and Greeks in general, outside of His kingdom, get along better does not seem important to Him.