Publius on Legal Fiction wrote this great post:
RUSH LIMBAUGH AND THE ROOTS OF BEING "SOCIALLY LIBERAL" http://lawandpolitics.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_lawandpolitics_archive.html#108718678827963239
My response there was this:
You gave a pretty good shorthand on how empathy serves as the building block of the core liberal moral system, and how that translates into policy and politics. The building block of the conservative moral system is the Moral Order, i.e, who has moral superiority over and responsibility for whom, e.g., God over people, people over animals and rest of nature, adults over children, men over women, whites over blacks, straights over gays, co-nationals over foreigners, etc. The whole conservative moral system grows out of this.
Moral Order is, further, enforced through discipline and insistence on obedience (sound like GOP?). Children are brought up, in conservative hoseholds, through strict parenting, based on folk-behaviorism, better known as "carrot and stick (or rod)" approach. Unfortunately, 100 years of psychology show that human brains do not work that way. Even many animals do not act according to self-interest (i.e., avoiding the 'stick-inviting' and doing 'carrot-inviting' activities).
According to conservative parenting system, discipline in childhood results in self-dicipline in adulthood. Again, unfortunately, 100 years of psychology show that this is mistaken. While kids raised in nurturant homes learn self-reliance and confidence, the kids from conservative strict homes retain insecurity and reliance on outside reinforcement (e.g., not thinking with their own heads because they are afraid). They, thus, develop "external locus of moral authority".
Having external locus of moral authority means that such people are much more likely to join groups led by charismatic leaders with absolute authority, the group being a gang, a church, a terrorist organization, or a political party. Such people may ferociously follow David Koresh, or George Bush, or Chairman Mao, or Adolf Hitler, or Saddam Hussein.
This also explains why, in general, conservatives need to join churches and attend services regularly, while liberals, equally religous in numbers, tend to keep their beliefs private and do not like to attend church that often. Liberals trust themselves to build their own moral and ethical norms and do not have a need to have those imposed from the outside.