The Tea Party’s Sacred Cows and the Privilege of Absurdity

Scott Atran in the Huffington Post:

Tea-party-protestor Recent research into seemingly intractable conflicts indicates that, for better or worse, radical movements that have attempted revolutionary changes in society do truly act on what they believe to be their sacred values — core moral principles that resist and often clash with rational calculations. Once locked into sacred values there is a denial of the validity of opposing positions no matter how logically or empirically well-founded. Market fundamentalism — irrational belief in the rational wisdom of the market — is one case that Nobel laureate Danny Kahneman and financial analyst Nassim Taleb have debunked.

Congressional Tea Party holdouts against raising America's deficit ceiling behave as if any compromise on the issue would violate a sacred commitment to honor the Founding Fathers' wishes that government be as disentangled from people's personal lives (and from foreign adventures) as much as the defense of their physical safety allows. This “existential” commitment is a rebellion against “the tyranny of government,” symbolized by increasing taxation. They believe their way will buck the republic's historical trend over the last 235 years toward larger government, and ultimately produce a leaner, downscaled federal authority despite almost certain immediate damage to America's economy and power.

More here.