notes on George Lakoff “Whose Freedom?”

Did “freedom” lose its meaning? That is the question George asks and answered Friday, June 9 at the YearlyKos convention. He was wondering this because the way George Bush uses freedom is completely out of sync with the way Lakoff uses the word freedom.

Since the 1500, freedom by the progressive definition have increased freedom enormously. Voter rights, worker rights, access to capital, health have expanded and expanded freedom enormously.

This expansion is what the left thinks about when we talk about freedom. This is not George Bush’s version of freedom. But his version (from the left’s perspective) results in less freedom – less reproductive, more government interference in marriage.

“Freedom” is a contested concept. There are a core set of principles that no one disagrees on. The contest is over values. Most people do not know that freedom is not a contested concept. Freedom is being able to do what you want to do.

Freedom as a concept is centered on physical movement.

“Free will” is a related concept. “Reason” and “Passion” are in contest with “Will”. Will is the arbitrator and a strong will in conservative thought process is demonstrated in how much wealth a person has.

“Government” is about the promotion of freedom. There is a logic that you are not allowed to impose on the liberty of others. What counts on imposing on the liberty or freedom of others.

Physical harm is imposing on the freedom of others.

Justice is about keeping others from harming others. Freedom dependences on justice.

The surprise is that nature and competition is tied to freedom in a negative way. A competition does not impose on the freedom of others. (Oakland A’s beating the Texas Rangers doesn’t impose on the Rangers freedom.)

Does an earthquake impose on the freedom of others? No, this is not contested.

(FYI: Conservatives spend a $250million/year on child rearing “education”.)

For conservatives, the market has to do with competition. The market is a force of nature. Competition has nothing to do with freedom. If the market is manipulated to someone’s betterment, it just means that they compete better than the others in the same game, not that they are imposing on the freedom of others by engaging in stock market manipulation.

If you are a force of “good” then you are allowed to use the devil’s own tools against the evil in the world. NSA spying is using the devil’s own tools against them.

Elliot Spitzer (NY-Attorney General) is a free-market progressive. Freemarket is o.k. but there are rules. Laizze-faire says that government regulation, taxation, courts, and unions get in the way of proper (conservative) market.

The conservatives agree that it was bad that Enron executives lost their 401k’s, but they saw no problem in the way Enron manipulated the energy prices in California.

Conservatives have different view of causation. Conservatives believe in direct causation – crime is caused by bad people, and it has to cause direct harm. Liberals use complex causation, society contributed to the conditions which created the need/opportunity for the criminal to act. For conservatives, when something goes wrong it is the individual not the system.

Progressives have lost the ability to connect Americans’ individual identity with societies identity.

“Liberty” vs “freedom”: liberty is freedom from oppression. Conservatives are convinced that liberals are oppressing the conservatives.

Oppression comes liberals imposing their complex causation interpretation on the conservatives instead of using the direct causation way of looking at the world. So conservatives fail to recognize the power of large numbers of people do a small harm adding up to a large harm. For example, the harm of one person driving a snowmobile in Yellowstone is small, therefore no one should stop 15,000 from doing so.

For conservatives, “Property = freedom”. Property rights and loss of property is tied to freedom (or lack of freedom).

There are two views of religion. In conservative thinking, “essence” is the the fundamental quality that makes a person or thing what it is. For women it is the ability to give birth. So abortion violates the “essence” of women. God is a strict father – church interprets and understands God – and God’s created nature. Therefore you are most free when you follow the church’s dogma.

Fundamentalists are required to spread the truth. Freedom of speech allows you to spread the truth. Therefore, government should allow preaching in schools.

Free market freedom – democracy is inevitable – a bunch of rich people, will not want a dictator so they want elections that they can influence with their money. They are not going to want a leader who is too strong thus balance of powers. Civil control of military to stop dictators from taking control of property. Free press so the wealthy can run their business and make sure no one is taking their property.

Notice that this view rewards wealth, not work.

Biconceptuals can bridge the gap. Need to convince them that they are being oppressed by conservatives.

A related discussion is here

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