Stand Up Straight-40-42
Stand Up Straight
Creamer Dec 2009
Pretitle: Listen to
your Mother Subtitle: How Progressives Can Win
THE BATTLE OVER VALUES -- THE RIGHT IS WRONG
C 40 Two Contrasting Sets of Values
Traditional progressive values have served as the foundation for the
expansion of human freedom that has been the central theme of American
history. These values define what most people mean when they discuss
civilization and human progress. They underlie the great documents that
we live under.
Yet these values have been under have been under constant, effective
assault -- in the United States and elsewhere -- by radical
conservatives that embrace a very different set of values.
The author uses the writings of George Lakoff to describe the
differences between progressives and conservatives. Lakoff uses
the terms "strict father" for conservative values and the term
"nurturant parent" for progressive values. Other book reports
describe several of Lakoff's books so I will not repeat all of that
here. The author devotes several pages to describing Lakoff's
work (pages 360-362). The author goes into considerable
with several contrasting views between the two value system so I will
briefly report on them.
Contrasting Views of the Nature of Right and Wrong
Progressive morality is inherently optimistic. It assumes that human
beings are innately good -- to be nurtured so their innate goodness can
flourish. It focuses heavily on one's responsibility to take action to
improve the lives of others and ensure that they flourish. That is what
progressive values are about.
Contrasting Views of
Reality and History
Fundamentalist conservatism holds that morality is a bifurcated view of
reality. It implies that an ideal reality -- an essential state -- exists
independent of material reality. That ideal reality defines good, evil,
beauty, and truth and is only indirectly reflected in the material
world in this view the spirit -- or souls -- of human beings exist
independent of material reality.
Progressive morality assumes that human beings, their thoughts and
spirits, are part of one unified material reality. Humans are
viewed simultaneously as products of this history and as creators of
their own futures.
Contrasting Views of Causation
Fundamentalist conservatism assumes that all events with moral
consequence involve direct causation: when a single agent purposefully
acts to influence another. One agent; one entity affected.
The only actions which can be considered to be morally wrong are those that
directly harm another human. Actions which take place over a period of
time or involve multiple steps are not moral issues. Thus to set up an
educational system that doesn't teach or fail to provide sufficient
food when people are hungry are not moral issues. And if you ask about
responsibility, these are the responsibility of their parents so any
moral laxity would be the fault of the parents.
Progressive view humans as products of complex historic processes, and
the future is something humans can effect by their behavior today.
Contrasting Views of Interdependence The
conservative moral system is a radical committment to self-reliance.
We are all morally responsible individually, we have a free will that
is independent of social context. In a religious context it is possible
for someone to be "born again" and achieve salvation. Individuals are
held responsible to proselytize other individuals with the Gospel --
but salvation has little to do with group or collective action.
Similarly, economic success is seen as virtuous since one's individual
discipline has been responsible for their achievement.
Progressive morality presupposes that we are all interdependent, even
those whose work is often invisible in society. It is not essential
that one person lose so that another person can win. It assumes that if
we all move into the future together, we will all be better off.
Conservatives have a zero sum morality, progressives have a positive sum morality.
Contrasting Concepts of Competition
The conservative moral system assumes that everyone is responsible to
pursue his own self-interest. This moral assumption is the ethical
embodiment of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of competition. There is a
moral imperative to pursue one's own self interest, because if everyone
does so, we will all be better off. (The logical inconsistency here is
that if economics is defined as a science, the task of science is to
make the invisible -visible.)
Progressive morality holds that we are mutually interdependent so that
if our actions in pursuing self-interest damage others, or the goods
that others require (such as air, water, education, etc.), it is our
responsibility to ameliorate these actions.
Contrasting Concepts of the Common Good
In a fundamentalist conservative moral universe, the common good is
served as each individual pursues his own interest, That done, the
"invisible hand" will do the rest.
In the progressive moral system, the common good is served if everyone
is responsible for himself and for each other. The
falsity of the fundamentalist conservative moral outlook is easily
seen in what is been called "the tragedy of the commons" and in the
book by Jared Diamond, Collapse.
Contrasting Views of the Role of Government
In the author's view, progressive morality sees the role of government
as doing for individuals what they cannot do for themselves and to
perform the services that all citizens need. The author sees the
conservative view as being one of the complaining against
"collectivist" thinking and believing that progressives would like to
see us all "march in lockstep" -- making individuals dependent upon
government. I agree with his progressive definition but I think that
the conservative moral stance is that government should be limited to
areas in which their conservative moral standards are upheld and
punishment is the method by which this is done. The areas in which they
support government actions are typically limited to the courts, the
police, and the military.
Contrasting Views of Freedom
Progressive concepts of freedom involve opportunity, freedom from
poverty, and security. Individuals should be free to pursue their own
interests and dreams and to make their own commitments and find meaning
in their lives. This is basically a restatement of Franklin D.
Roosevelt's four freedoms speech. Another way of looking at progressive
freedoms is to look at the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The Fundamentalist Conservative view of freedom involves a radical commitment to pursue individual self-interest without any recognition that the exercise of freedom requires opportunity or responsibility to others.
The Right-Wing Counter-Revolution
Conservatives beginning with Goldwater in 1964 and later on with Reagan
have embarked on a plan that would take us back to the social
conditions of the late 1800's. It is our job as progressives to retake
the defensive in this historic battle.
The Religious Manifestations of Radical-Conservative and
Fundamentalist religious values. whether they be Christian, Jewish, or
Muslim, all rely on on on adherence to "strict father" morality. They
all rely on male-dominated father figures, a concept of moral law that
requires strict adherence to prescribed rules and rituals and assume
that human beings are innately sinful and must be prescribed from
violating the moral law. They all rely heavily on discipline. They all
tend to prefer a theocratic state in which there moral values are
Progressive Christianity sees God as a nurturant parent, offering
unconditional love and grace. Jesus in the progressive tradition is a
model for living. His life was the embodiment of progressive
values, of empathy and responsibility. The model for Christian life in
the progressive tradition is simple:
love your neighbor as yourself.
C. 41 What Are Progressive Values?
Values are the criteria we use to set priorities and make decisions.
Fundamentalist conservatives frequently question the values of
progressives, here is a short list so that we never need to search for
1) The fundamental goal of action is to promote human survival and
success -- to allow all human beings to flourish. This
precept is at the root of both progressive religious teaching and
secular progressive moral thinking. As a specific example, the author
offers the 10th chapter of the book of Luke: the parable of the Good
Samaritan. He also offers the opinion that for some, this does not go
far enough. For them, our neighbor, should be taken as meaning of life
2) Empathy Empathy is not only critical ethically; it is the central task of political organizing. Empathy is what helps us understand other people
emotionally. There has been a great deal neurological and
psychological research on this recently and there seems to be a whole
group of nerve cells, called the mirror neuron system, which enables us
to feel what other people are feeling by watching their responses. The
only people who do not have this system are sociopaths.
3) Responsibility Progressive values require that each person be responsible for himself and for all people. Again this seems to be based in brain neuron functioning.
4) Competency Progressive values require a heavy emphasis on
developing the capability of everyone to exercise his responsibility
for himself, and for each other.
Empathy and responsibility provide the motivation -- the will -- for
moral action, competency gives the ability -- the wherewithal -- to act
in a moral way. We need to develop the skills, knowledge, technologies,
work habits, and procedures that allow people to meet their
responsibilities -- and confidently select and achieve goals.
5) Equality Progressive values require that every human being's
success and survival as just as important as everyone else's -- both
individually and as groups.
6) Democratic Society Progressives believe that in order to
maximize the success and survival of all people, power must be defused
7) Hope Progressives have an optimistic view of human beings. We
believe that hope trumps fear.
- We must be assured it that the interest of every individual and
group are represented in social decisions. Each person has to have the
power to hold decision-makers accountable.
- Democratic societies are necessary to assure that the society
does not make the decisions that benefit elites, but are destructive of
the entire society. Historically this problem has been one of the major
factors when societies fail or collapse.
8) Unity -- We're All in This Together
We believe that our goal as a society must be to empower every few
person on earth to live up to his or her potential as a human being.
The only way to benefit each of us individually, is to benefit all of
9) Nonviolent Resolution of Disputes Progressive values call for
the creation and protection of nonviolent methods of dispute resolution.
The power of individuals to harm others has increased so much that we
cannot afford to rely on violent methods of dispute resolution.
10) Fairness and the Rule of Law
11) Individual Privacy and Minority Rights
12) Tolerance for Diversity, Innovation and Critical Thought
13) Self Respect, Mutual Respect
14) Responsibility to Future Generations -- the Long-Term View
(the Cathedral Builder Mentality).
15) Economic Efficiency and Democracy. The goal of human economic
systems is to maximize the primary values of human success and survival
and all the progressive values that flow from it. Economic
systems are human creations. They were created by humans to to satisfy
human needs. They do not, as conservatives sometimes argue,
involve "laws of nature." Economic systems have moral
consequences. They need to be constantly reevaluated to make sure that
they are satisfying the needs of the society as a whole, not just a
The Conditions for Market Competition In Adam Smith's theory of competition, there are several conditions must be satisfied, these are:
If these are all true, Adam Smith's statements are appropriate. However
even then it is necessary to create regulatory structures that enforce
the "rules of the game." Market competition cannot function without
courts and laws.
- The product being bought and sold must be a commodity. The products
offered by the various competitors must be interchangeable like corn,
beans, oil, gold, etc.
- Firms must be able to enter and exit a market easily.
- No seller may control a large enough segment of the market to be able to effect the price.
- Consumers must have perfect information about prices and quality.
Sectors Where the Use of Competitive
Markets Are Inappropriate The
most obvious are sectors that are known as "public goods." By their
very nature "public goods" cannot be bought and sold because they are
available to everyone in society, whether one pays for them or not. The
most commonly cited "public goods" our national security and community
safety. Others include police and fire protection, public education,
public lands, criminal and civil justice systems, and roads.
42 The Progressive View of Labor, Wages, Income and the Control of Wealth
Human Beings Aren't Commodities Humans
are the purpose of the economy, not the objects to be bought and
sold. The author presents many statistics that demonstrate that
most workers in the United States have lost money over the last 20 years.
For progressives, there are four major means of affecting the
distribution of income in America's mixed economy:
A High Wage Economy Type --
Bottom -- up Not Top -- down Growth Type --
Forget about Trickle-Down Economics Innovation
in labor saving technology -- the development of processes
and technologies that increase productivity -- do not occur when
labor prices are cheap. They occur when wages are high. A high wage
economy leads to major long-term economic dividends.
The right to collectively bargain wages and benefits fundamentally negates
the ultimate status of the marketplace and determine who gets what.
- Minimum wage and living-wage laws and other laws governing labor rights.
Minimum wages should be living wages. And on January 2, 2007, the CEOs
of the Nations top companies -- those with $1 billion or more in
annual revenue -- made more in the first two hours and two minutes of
the first working day of the year than a full-time minimum-wage worker
will make the entire year.
- Policies that determine who pays for and gets benefits from government.
The combined effects of the tax and service cuts of the Reagan and Bush
eras have shifted trillions of dollars from the average Americans to
the wealthiest 1% of the population.
- Trade Policies
Manufacturing wages have dropped in substantial measure, because there
is a gigantic Third World workforce willing to work for much less than
what is necessary to provide good wages for Americans. United
States trade negotiators have worked very diligently to protect
property rights and have done virtually nothing to protect the rights
of labor to unionize or to have protection from exploitation.
"Trickle down economics" has never worked to stimulate long-term term
economic growth, and it never will. It only works to legitimate the
insatiable appetite of the very rich. The author presents a number of
statistics that demonstrate why bottom-up growth is the way to develop
an economy. Included in this is the fact that during World War II the
highest tax category was 91% but the average weekly pay for workers
almost doubled between 1940 and 1945. Between mid-1943 and mid-1945
America put about a quarter of their take-home pay into savings.
- It incentivizes companies to invest in higher productivity
technology that increase overall productivity and provide real economic
- It creates customers with spending power to drive economic growth.
The Economy and the Long Run
the last 50 years, the US economy has has become more and more
focused on short-term results at the expense of the long-run. This is
called the securitization of assets. 50 years ago a corporation or
individual might own plants, equipment, or computers, today they own securities that can be sold in highly liquid markets.
A summary of several key progressive values when it comes to the economy:
We're All in This
battle with the right in America is far from a simple dispute over
which policies are best for the country. It centers on two very
distinctly different world-views, moral systems, and visions of the
future. In order to win we must ground our arguments, are messaging,
and our imagination in these values. When we ask people to follow us,
they want to know where we want to take them.
- Progressives believe that the market "supply and demand" by
itself is not the "natural" or appropriate means of distributing the
fruits of our economy. We believe that everyone deserves enough income
to provide the basic conditions of human existence in American society
-- A living wage.
- Progressives believe that employees deserve to have that kind of
power over their conditions of employment that can only be provided by
free, independent unions and that unionization should be
encouraged by government policy.
- Progressives believe that private markets should be used
to allocate resources where they are appropriate, but that democratic
governmental structures should be used when they are the most
appropriate including health insurance, Social Security, and many other
key economic activities.
- Progressives believe that trade agreements must always place just
as much priority on the rights of labor and the environment as they do
on property rights. Trade deals should be structured to bring
developing countries up to our standards of living, not drag our
economies towards developing world standards of income.
- Progressives believe in a high wage economy, not "trickle down"
economics. We believe that high wage economies help spur
innovation and activity growth and produces high levels of economic
demand for services and products. We believe that economic growth
is driven from the bottom up, not from the top down.
- Progressive oppose great inequality in the distribution of income
and wealth. These differences do not reflect the relative contribution
of various groups to economic productivity; they cause social and
political polarization and violate the progressive principle in equity
and fairness. They served to concentrate economic power and created an
Next file, Chapters 43-48
Up Straight Router