Krugman is right to bring these matters up. Markets are not provided by nature. They are constructed -- by laws, rules, and institutions. All of these have moral bases of one sort or another. Hence, all markets are moral, according to someone's sense of morality. The only question is, Whose morality? In contemporary America, it is conservative versus progressive morality that governs forms of economic policy. The systems of morality behind economic policies need to be discussed.
Most Democrats, consciously or mostly unconsciously, use a moral view deriving from an idealized notion of nurturant parenting, a morality based on caring about their fellow citizens, and acting responsibly both for themselves and others with what President Obama has called "an ethic of excellence" -- doing one's best not just for oneself, but for one's family, community, and country, and for the world. Government on this view has two moral missions: to protect and empower everyone equally.
The means is The Public, which provides infrastructure, public education, and regulations to maximize health, protection and justice, a sustainable environment, systems for information and transportation, and so forth. The Public is necessary for The Private, especially private enterprise, which relies on all of the above. The liberal market economy maximizes overall freedom by serving public needs: providing needed products at reasonable prices for reasonable profits, paying workers fairly and treating them well, and serving the communities to which they belong. In short, "the people the economy is supposed to serve" are ordinary citizens. This has been the basis of American democracy from the beginning.
Conservatives hold a different moral perspective, based on an idealized notion of a strict father family. In this model, the father is The Decider, who is in charge, knows right from wrong, and teaches children morality by punishing them painfully when they do wrong, so that they can become disciplined enough to do right and thrive in the market. If they are not well-off, they are not sufficiently disciplined and so cannot be moral: they deserve their poverty. Applied to conservative politics, this yields a moral hierarchy with the wealthy, morally disciplined citizens deservedly on the top.
Democracy is seen as providing liberty, the freedom to seek one's self interest with minimal responsibility for the interests or well-being of others. It is laissez-faire liberty. Responsibility is personal, not social. People should be able to be their own strict fathers, Deciders on their own -- the ideal of conservative populists, who are voting their morality not their economic interests. Those who are needy are assumed to be weak and undisciplined and therefore morally lacking. The most moral people are the rich. The slogan, "Let the market decide," sees the market itself as The Decider, the ultimate authority, where there should be no government power over it to regulate, tax, protect workers, and to impose fines in tort cases. Those with no money are undisciplined, not moral, and so should be punished. The poor can earn redemption only by suffering and thus, supposedly, getting an incentive to do better.
If you believe all of this, and if you see the world only from this perspective, then you cannot possibly perceive the deep economic truth that The Public is necessary for The Private, for a decent private life and private enterprise. The denial of this truth, and the desire to eliminate The Public altogether, can unfortunately come naturally and honestly via this moral perspective.Read the rest at Huffington Post
Economics and Morality: Paul Krugman's Framing
by George Lakoff, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and Elisabeth Wehling, graduate student in the Department of Linguistics, UC Berkeley
I think that this summary of "conservative versus progressive" — really contemporary American neoliberal conservative and contemporary American progressive liberal — is a bit stereotypical. Moreover, it fails to distinguish traditionally political conservatives from Rothbardian/Randian Libertarians, and indeed conflates them, even though there are significant differences. The same can be said for moderate to conservative Democrats, e.g., New Democrats, relative to progressive Democrats.
If I were stating this, I would make clear distinctions and aim for a more neutral characterization of the different frames. All factions sincerely believe that their frame not only represents reality as it is, but also as it ought to be.
Indeed, strange as it may seem, probably most people that are considered criminals do not see themselves as bad or immoral, but just realistic, operating in terms of the law of the jungle with positive law imposed over it as a thin veneer and in the interest of the have's.
However, I think that the point is well taken that the framing issue is at bottom philosophical, and that the different frames are based on differing view of human nature, as well as of morality and ethics. These presuppositions need to be clarified and examined in the light of both reasoning from shared principles, such as are expressed in the founding documents and laws, and scientific knowledge.
And certainly reinforcing your own position by talking about it rather than talking down the opponent's position, which just calls attention to it, is the way to switch on one's own framing in other people's minds and to open those neural pathways.
Clonal also directs us to Manufacturing Public Opinion at Global Economic Intersection. Its not only about propaganda but also cognitive science, worldviews, and personality types. Good read.