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Maslow's Lens


During the election campaign, I noticed that Kerry's supporters tended to be very vocally grass-roots, whereas Bush's supporters, while likewise eager for their guy, were less likely to do such things as protest or gather into larger groups. I'm making a generalization, and I could be wrong, but in my opinion, it's a tendency of Democrats to swarm together to accomplish a cause. Republicans tend to be less grouped about it. Within their own circles, they link arms. But I think Republicans as a group are less likely to be as obvious.

In support of my argument, look at how it was the conventional wisdom that a larger turnout in the election would favor Kerry. Democrats find safety in numbers. They are concerned about the world's opinion of the US, where Republicans are more concerned about the our basic needs of safety and security - and screw the world's opinion if they don't like how the US secures itself.

At the root, I believe that Democrats and Republicans believe pretty much the same things. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Kerry supporter, for example, who believes that the US should not secure and defend itself. Most do. Likewise, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a Bush supporter who doesn't want to help those down on their luck, if they can help. Homeland security is not the sole territory of Republicans, and compassion and willingness to help others are not exclusively the hallmark of Democrats. (In fact, red states donate more money to charity than blue states, relative to income, but I suspect in part this is due to religious beliefs.)

An OODA loop is a mechanism developed by a fella named Boyd to describe how we make decisions. Essentially, we bring in information, we filter it according to our experiences, we then process it and act. OODA = Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Keep that in mind as I move forward...

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who developed a well-known pyramid called the "hierarchy of needs." Maslow's premise was that we first concern ourselves with providing for for our basic needs - food, water, shelter - before we move on to satisfy other needs - love, relationships, personal growth, etc. Here is the order of his hierarchy:

1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.
2) Safety/security: out of danger
3) Belonging and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted
4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition
5) Self-actualization, or realizing one's full potential

Whether you lean left or right, all of these are necessary and healthy to who you are.

I read somewhere recently that the difference between a liberal and a conservative is the perception of the relationship between the individual and the state. Liberals see an important and close-knit relationship between the individual and the state, where conservatives regard such a relationship with less esteem.

If you relate that concept back to Maslow's hierarchy, the difference between a Republican and a Democrat is that a Democrat is more likely to view the 3rd and 4th tiers in a broader perspective. Academic recognition, civil involvement, international acceptance... these are, in general, more esteemed by liberals than conservatives.


To a firm Democrat, Maslow's 3rd and 4th tiers of acceptance and approval and community are integral to Maslow's 2nd tier of safety and security. Hence, "it takes a village." This is why Bush's foreign policy scares Democrats - it doesn't really care what the world thinks.

"Safety and security in community."

To a firm Republican, Maslow's 2nd tier is separate from and a precursor to the 3rd and 4th tier. Strong military, 2nd Amendment rights... rugged individualism doesn't really trust others to provide safety and security. This is why Kerry's foreign policy scared conservatives - the UN is the last institution they trust.

"Safety and security - then community."

Who's right? Actually, both, and I think timing is the key.

The OODA concept dictates that our experiences will orient us in problem-solving. I'm going to think through some scenarios and present them later...

At the moment, I find all of this fascinating to consider.


Read the whole story of "Maslow's Lens"
Tags: maslow | politics
by Brett Rogers, 3/3/2005 11:08:14 AM


Oooohhh, very nicely done. I think the difference between a liberal and a conservative lies in what is most important to you... at that exact moment in your life.



Posted by Jody Halsted, 3/3/2005 10:34:58 PM

Yes, Jody, that's exactly it. Over the weekend, I'll post my follow-up to this. There's a book that I read a while back called "The Collapse of Complex Societies." It's a very good study of many civilizations and instead of pinning their collapse on a single cause (earthquake, revolt, war, etc), it pins the blame on something unexpected and yet completely obvious. Which of course ties into this discussion very well.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 3/4/2005 8:15:48 AM

Nice entry. It's rare to see a political entry in the blogosphere that is coherent all the way through. Often political entries degrade into petty jabs at the other side. Good job exploring this topic. I also highly recommend "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond relating to your last comment.



Posted by Mike Gorski, 3/7/2005 11:45:40 PM

Thanks Mike! I'll check out that book. Nice wording in the title already - "choose to fail or succeed." Very true.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 3/8/2005 9:58:04 AM

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