Monday, May 18, 2009

Mom And Pop Government

I'm reading Lakoff, or trying to without throwing the book across the room. He's a progressive and is one of the people responsible for Democrats calling taxes "investments" or using language like 'paying your dues'. This is an attempt to reappropriate the term through framing, the opposing framing being taxes as an affliction- best evoked, perhaps by the term 'tax relief'.

Of course, the major problem with this is one frame more closely resembles reality than another. To take the above example, an affliction is almost always something we don't assume voluntarily, while investments are something we choose to do. In addition, with real investments (or places where we actually pay dues) we often re-evaluate based on what we are getting and often stop investing in one thing so that we can invest in something else that seems better to us. Unfortunately, government doesn't allow us such freedom, so it is quite clear taxes are much more like measles than like anyone's 401k.

So why read Lakoff at all given such built in treachery? He's got this model of the right having a 'strict father' model of politics in their heads and the progressives having a 'nurturant parent' model in their heads, which, if true, explains why we can't get the government to stop acting like Mommy or Daddy by voting for either major party. What really got me wondering whether or not Lakoff had any insight into the matter is this whole issue of torture- especially the so-called conservative response.

I didn't think conservatives really thought of government through any parental model, but with much of the right pretty silent or outright protective of those who committed torture, and Dick Cheney practically embodying the strict father model- and apparently proud of waterboarding to boot- I'm starting to think perhaps the right does have a parental model of government. This would explain why we haven't seen a right wing attempt to overthrow the government despite so much provocation over the years; staying true to the strict father would be such a strong identity point, that, if Lakoff is right, many conservatives will simply put up with anything in order to maintain a perceived continuity with something called the United States of America. Sadly, this seems to fit the facts, else there would have been a great uprising in 1972, at the very least.

So how could a people of a more libertarian mindset deal with these supposed parental models? Can we 'frame' issues? If we provisionally accept Lakoff's idea, we can immediately see we trangress both models. Sure, for taxes people ruled by these models would think we were strict father, but then they'd see foreign policy and think nuturing parent- meanwhile we are really neither. Take legalizing drugs as an example- both parental models explicitly don't do that, they simply change their approach to potential drug users. Strict fathers jail, nuturing parents try to re-habilitate in some way. Both cost ridiculous amounts of money and impinge on people's liberty. (Incidentally, if you want true change in someone, you have to think about how to encourage them to change in liberty. A change requiring coercion or massive interference in one's life is not a permanent change and tends to break down one's sense of self-control, making the person feel less capable of making and sticking to a decision.) So far, from what I read Lakoff provides no decent process through which one could re-frame issues in order to communicate the libertarian message more effectively. The primary reason for this is Lakoff's frames for progressives involves, to be charitable, subtle deceptions.

No comments: