Sunday, September 09, 2007

Government as Mommy or Daddy?

After getting elected to Amherst Town Meeting, I felt it was my duty to keep an open mind and try to see issues from all sides. So I'm trying to get a handle on exactly what it means to be "progressive," because I bet that's the label that most Town Meeting members would give themselves, if they were forced to choose a label.

Rob Kusner (bicycle riding Select Board guy, and arch-nemesis of bicycle riding Golf Course Crusader Larry Kelley) pointed me to George Lakoff and the Rockridge Institute.

I've read "On Freedom" and "Thinking Points," but found it really hard not to tear their pages up into tiny little pieces as I read, for two reasons:

1. I was looking for utilitarian arguments for the progressive agenda, and instead I found advice on making the progressive agenda palatable to The Masses.

2. I don't fit into either of the two fundamental political "frames." I felt like a Buddhist listening in on an argument between Muslims and Christians; I believe in a Middle Way that makes all their arguments about whether or not Christ was the Son of God or just a prophet irrelevant to me.

According to Mr. Lakoff, progressives argue using the "Nurturant Parent" frame. Conservatives, the "Strict Father" frame. That's true, but there's a third frame-- the "Government is Not My Parent" frame of libertarians. There's a comment on the Thinking Points discussion page that sums it up nicely:
The problem with both the "Strict Father" and "Nurturant Parent" models is that both assume We the People are mere children to be guided to and fro, by either a strict father or a "nurturant parent" (whatever that verbal gobbledygook means).

We're not. We the People ARE the government. You will not find the word "leader" anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. There's a reason for that. We don't elect our "leaders." We elect our "representatives." They are our deputies. They hold those positions by our consent, and are sworn to act on our behalf.

We the People are the source of civil legitimacy, and thus We the People are morally responsible for what our representatives, our deputies do.
-- crissieb
I'm proud to represent part of my neighborhood in Town Meeting. But I'll never forget that everybody who voted for me is a grown-up, capable of deciding for themselves what's best for them.

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