Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's a Liberal?

I've been getting that question a lot lately. And if you're like me you searched the Internet for the best explanation and probably wasn't satisfied.

The best explanation to me was expressed by George Lakoff in the introduction to "Framing the Debate" by Jeffrey Feldman.

"What does it mean to be a progressive? The fundamental values are empathy and responsibility to act on the empathy-responsibility both for yourself and for others. From these values, others follow: community and self-government that is both protective and enabling. Protective self-government includes not just the police and the military, but also consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection and safety nets. Enabling self-government requires freedom, fairness, opportunity and shared prosperity. The process of self-government requires the use of the common wealth to provide infrastructure, plus political equality, maximal participation, and cooperation, which requires trust, which requires honesty, openess, and accountability."

Order Framing the Debate on Amazon here.

That's what I believe.

Additional George Lakoff-

The above are traditional values and they leads to traditional American moral and political ideas:

  • Empathy leads to a focus on others as well as oneself, and to the idea that causation is systemic and complex, as well as direct.

  • Responsibility-moral, legal, and financial-is both individual and social.

  • Character is having empathy and acting responsibly on that empathy.

  • Moral action is both socially and individually based.

  • The role of the government is to maximize freedom, both freedom from harm and freedom to pursue happiness; that is, to be both protector and enabler.

  • As protector and enabler for all citizens, government requires the use of the common wealth (taxes) to provide the needed infrastructure for both individuals and businesses: police, the military, disaster protection and relief, and systems that permit transportation, communication, banking, courts, fair and honest markets, fair and honest elections, protection of the environment and public property, education, maximization of health, availability of housing, and so on.

  • Moral functions in society require public accountability and, therefore, government regulation and access to the courts. Privatization and deregulation shift governance from the accountable public sphere to the unaccoutable private sphere. Privatization and deregulation of services should be avoided when moral functions are at stake, e.g., food safety, drug safety, environmental protection, honest banking, and so on.

  • War is inherently destructive and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary for the protection of the population.

  • Moral action involves empathy and responsible action in response to that empathy.



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