George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley, has a blunt analysis of conservative support of the automatic spending cuts (the sequester). “They [conservatives] believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them,” says Lakoff. “They take this as a matter of morality. They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.”
Lakoff also explains that progressives (I wish we could all agree to say “liberal,” but I digress), believe in a government built by citizens to care for citizens. The overarching idea is that we don’t have true freedom and liberty unless we can help lift people up who are disenfranchised through no fault of their own. “In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business,” says Lakoff.
At the heart of conservative moral code is personal responsibility. There is a beautiful lack of introspection by conservatives to make the idea of “maximal personal responsibility” plausible. They simply do not acknowledge their reliance on the services of others. Human beings do not exist in vacuums, unaffected by the world around them. Our actions affect other people. The actions of others affect us. Some actions can be bad, like crime. Some actions can be good, like that government-funded road you use to get to work.
Forget about plausible, in a country of over 300 million people and a planet of over 7 billion, the idea of “maximal personal responsibility” is simply untenable. As the human population of this planet continues to grow, some people are going to have to put aside their selfish ideas of absolutist liberty and freedom.
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