George Lakoff: Two Fundamental Principals of Conservatives

July 2, 2017 | By | 4 Replies More

Why do conservatives tolerate Donald Trump? Why do Trump voters tolerate Trump when it means that they will be hurt by GOP legislation regarding health care and many other things?

George Lakoff argues “Voters don’t vote their self-interest. They vote their values.” He sets out two largely unspoken principals that guide conservatives:

1. In the Strict Father Family, father knows best. He decides right and wrong. It is the father’s moral duty to punish his children painfully when they disobey.

Harsh punishment is necessary to ensure that they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world.

What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. In this conservative view, the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving while the rich deserve their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility, not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you, not society. You are responsible for yourself, not for others.

2. Moral Hierarchy. Distribution of resources occurs pursuant to a moral hierarchy, a modern day chain of being.

The Conservative Moral Hierarchy:
• God above Man
• Man above Nature
• The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak)
• The Rich above the Poor
• Employers above Employees
• Adults above Children
• Western culture above other cultures
• America above other countries
• Men above Women
• Whites above Nonwhites
• Christians above non-Christians
• Straights above Gays

The boiled down answers offered by Lakoff:

Being taken care of by “the government” is seen as immoral because it gives the government an authority above strict father principles.

The Mandate to buy insurance went directly against self-responsibility overall, giving Americans responsibility for their fellow Americans. It also went against the laissez-faire market ideology because it put constraints on insurance companies.

And why do conservatives love tax breaks for the rich? Because, in the Conservative Moral Hierarchy, the rich are better than the poor. The poor deserve their poverty. They rich deserve their wealth.


Category: Politics, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. And all this with Genesis 4:9 in hand ;-).

    Makes me think back to the scruffy guy with one tooth left in his mouth, fulminating against Obamacare on a street corner in a run-down city.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    The argument against Obamacare on the grounds that it requires people “to buy health insurance they don’t want” has always struck me as absurd. If you drive a car, there’s a chance you’ll cause an accident, so state laws require everyone to buy liability insurance. Likewise, as long as you’re alive, there’s a chance you’ll need healthcare, so what is so outrageous about requiring everyone to buy health insurance?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Grumpy: I’m amazed at some of the rhetoric out there. For instance, some conservatives had publicly protested Obamacare in that it makes some people who aren’t sick pay for those who are. But that is the fundamental basis for all insurance. We all buy in, and only some of us (the “lucky” ones) make claims. My main question is whether they have deluded themselves to the extent that they don’t realize how foolish their arguments are, or whether they are consciously and intentionally flinging bullshit around in order to get the votes of those voters who are dim-bulb enough to be persuaded by this reasoning.

  3. Heather D Miller says:

    Just stumbled on your blog, Erich. It’s refreshing to find people who get it. As far as, “…whether they are consciously and intentionally flinging bullshit around in order to get the votes of those voters who are dim-bulb enough to be persuaded by this reasoning…? The way I see it, yes, that’s exactly what’s going on.

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