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Home Ideas, Issues and Arguments Reframing: How To Do It, When and Why The "Introduction" chapter to "The Little Blue Book"

The "Introduction" chapter to "The Little Blue Book"

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The "Introduction" chapter to "The Little Blue Book"
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Introduction: The Importance of Moral Frames
[to political discussions]

By George Lakoff & Elisabeth Wehling
Key: underlined text made for emphasis are by me, JGW, and additional remarks in [square brackets] are also mine, JGW, the editor-highlighter-annotator of their remarks otherwise reproduced verbatim (without alteration) below

'The central issue of our time is what kind of country America is and ought to be, that is, what system of values should govern us. First, we must understand that all politics is moral: every political leader says to us that we should do what he or she recommends because it's right, not because it's wrong or doesn't matter. And today our politics is governed by two different [polarized & polarizing] views of what is right and wrong.

The [insincere] progressive view, mostly [inadequately discussed] in the [historically mildly effective] Democratic Party [from the 1950s-1970s], is that democracy depends on citizens caring about each other and taking responsibility both for themselves and for others. This yields a view of government with a moral mission: to protect and empower all citizens equally. [Perhaps Greens can articulate this mission much better.  For Democrats...] The mechanism for accomplishing this mission is through what we call The Public, a system of public resources [often ignoring the poorest of the poort, but otherwise] necessary for a decent private life and a robust private enterprise: roads and bridges, education, health care, communication systems, court systems, basic research, police and the military, a fair judicial system, clean water and air, safe food, parks, and much more [but mostly for the middle- and upper-classes].

Conservatives [today and with increasing ferocity for the last 35-40 years, as their forefathers were in the 1920s only to become silenced by FDR's New Deal] hold the opposite view: that democracy exists to provide citizens with maximum liberty to pursue their self-interest with little or no commitment to the interests [and well-being] of others. [IMO, this is a perversion of "totally selfish and self-centered -- but moral and neighbor-loving - right-wing libertarianism," call it the extremist's Ayn Rand point of view, justifying the "let all who disagree with me die" attitude -- and as expressed as often vicious vocal hatred -- of many on the right today.] Under this view, there should be as little of The Public [Good] as possible. [Universal Health Care, free education, more frequent affordable and on-time public transportation, social security, a minimum safe healthy standard of living -- including housing and food -- for all.] Instead, as much as possible [of that public good] should be relegated to what we call the Private. [A.k.a. private sector, a.k.a. privatized for the profit of private companies and corporations.] The Private is comprised of individuals (private life), businesses owned by them (private enterprise), and institutions set up by groups of individuals (private clubs and associations). The Private is, for conservatives, a moral ideal, sacrosanct, where no government can tread, whether to help or hinder, regulate, or even monitor. No one should have to pay for anyone else. Private [selfish] interests should rule, even if that means that corporate interests, the most powerful of private interests, govern our lives through a laissez-faire [unrequlated] free market. Citizens are free to sink or swim on their own.  [This is what cut-throat unethical capitalists call "caveat emptor," or "buyer beware!"  As in: we don't need to tell you the truth about this or that product or service, or the enormity of the risk you accept in buying it.  We just need you to buy it! This also is what the the Ayn Rand conservatives call Social Darwinism, with no apologies to Charles Darwin who had an entirely different understanding regarding the well being and survival of a species, not just of the individuals who are members of that species.]

Each moral worldview [of political party members] comes with a set of issue frames. By frames, we mean structures of ideas that we use to understand the world. {In the case of Greens: we would use our worldviews to understand how the world really works, which more of the public realize is what Carl Marx was talking about 150 years ago and socialists still talk about today, and to realize our world could work so much better for the greater common good.  Furthermore it could work better by "our greater influence on governance" than have the horrible compromises the Democrats have conceded to Republicans in the last 30-40 years.] Because all politics is morally framed, all [public] policy is also morally framed, and thus the choice of any particular policy frame is a moral choice. Americans are now faced with two sets of moral choices, [the lame Democrat's tattered liberal choices, and the radical right Republicans scorched earth choices,] each leading the nation in [more polarizing] opposite directions. [When there is increasing polarization, the only "politics" remaining is "who will dictate policy?"] Nowhere is this [polarization] clearer than in the issue of health care, so let us look at this example in some detail.

Rudolph Giuliani, in his 2008 run for the presidency, likened health care to a product, using the example of a flat-screen TV. Not everyone, he argued, deserves a flat-screen TV. If you want one, work for it and save up for it. Similarly not everyone deserves health care, but you should be free to buy it if you want it. Like a flat-screen TV, health care is in this view a product. If you want a product, you can make the money for it and buy it, and if you can't afford it, too bad. But if you don't want a product, no one, especially not the government, should be able to force you to buy it. The should be unconstitutional -- outside the powers of government.

The problem, of course, is that this is a metaphor.  Health care is not literally a product built in a factory and transferred physically from a seller to a buyer. It cannot be crated and shipped. You cannot return defective health care and get a refund. Yet the metaphor of health care as a product survived the [2008 Obama] presidential campaign and was even adopted by the Democrats.

Giuliani introduced his TV metaphor in the spring of 2008, but after the election that fall, Barack Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, [a would-be Gandhi-like mediator who first tries to find some common ground in the differing beliefs of waring parties,] used the same [Republican] metaphor while reasoning to a different conclusion.  [I.e. Obama was trying to leverage the GOP-created "common knowledge" their propaganda machine had created among the majority of the US citizens, irregardless of their party affiliations,] and [reinforce the] understanding of health care as [a commercial] product, not a public necessity,] so he appealed to reason while still using the right-wing reframed propaganda language.  This turned out to be a very unrealistic and counter-productive tactic that reinforced the public's belief in the "right-ness" of the right-wing's moral frames.] In formulating his health care act, [now the enacted Affordable Care Act attacked relentlessly by a Republican Congress since Obama signed it into law,] President Obama placed the product metaphor in the context of the commerce clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, which gives Congress the right to regulate commerce. If health care is a product that is bought and sold across state lines, then Congress can regulate the selling and buying of it. The Affordable Care Act is based on that metaphor and Obama's interpretation of it.  [This seems very reasonable on the surface of the argument.  But that is not how devious Republicans "reason" these days.]

What that did was impose a [moral economic] frame [the GOP cut-throat capitalist frame] on health care -- a frame from the market economy. Notice what is not in the frame: if health care is a product, it is not a right. Providing health care is thus not a moral concern; it is [entirely] an economic matter. The word affordable [in "Affordable Care Act"] fits the economic frame, as do words like market, purchase, and choice.

Obama seemingly did not even consider a Medicare-for-all model of national health care. Medicare involves a tax, and conservatives had vowed not to raise any taxes, seeing them as the process by which the government takes people's hard-earned money and wastes it.  Obama also did not think he could replace the powerful private health care industry, so he chose to work with it. Doing so, however, would require regulating it, and the most straightforward constitutional [legal] basis for congressional regulation is the commerce clause. This meant [to Obama] that health care had to be framed in terms of the market.



Last Updated on Monday, 09 March 2015 03:59  

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