Monday, August 09, 2010

George Lakoff 2.0

Okay so cognitive linguist George Lakoff has shown that there are two core frames when it comes to politics:

The nurturant parent model; and the
Strict father model.

Even though all people have both core frames in their heads, in progressives the nurturant parent model is active and in conservatives the strict father model is active.

It seems to me that Lakoff does perhaps the best job of any living person of explaining political worldviews and why progressives and conservatives think the way they do.

But here's the thing.  Which model is factually correct?  Both models make claims that are empirically provable.  Does the nurturant parent model actually lead to healthier, more creative kids (and later society)?  Does the strict father model lead to better behaved, more moral kids (and later society)?

In almost every case, the evidence from the social sciences shows that the nurturant parent model is more likely to lead to healthier creative people and societies. 

Take for example the recent "multiyear study that shows that spanking kids makes them more aggressive later on." Progressive claim that spanking causes all sorts of psychological problems in kids that later leads to aggressive or criminal behavior.  Conservative claim that spanking leads to more moral citizens.  But it turns out that only progressives are factually correct. 

Or take tax cuts.  Progressives claim that government spending (on infrastructure) is the best way to stimulate the economy.  Conservatives claim that tax cuts (for the rich) are the best way to stimulate the economy.  But you can actually measure the multiplier effective of each approach -- and it turns out that the multiplier effect of government spending (1.59) is much greater than the multiplier effect of tax cuts (0.29).  

But what's weird about Lakoff is that he seems to stop at merely pointing out the differences in worldview -- without going the next step and arguing that the correctness of each worldview can be measured through scientific evidence.

The Prop 8 trial illustrates the point that I'm trying to make.  By going to trial, supporters of marriage equality were able to put all of the evidence on the table.  And it turns out that it is empirically provable that marriages involving couples of the same sex lead to just as healthy and happy relationships, families, and societies as marriages involving opposite sex couples.  By contrast, the opponents of gay marriage had their strict father model of morality but no scientific evidence to back up the validity of their claims. 

See that's the thing.  In almost every case, the conservative worldview is not only different, it is factually incorrect.  So it seems to me that not only should we point out the differences in worldview between progressives and conservatives, but we should always go the next step and explain that usually only the progressive worldview is factually correct in the real world.