Politics is Basically About Moral Convictions

Marxists and Marxoids always insist that politics is about economics: class conflict explains everything.

There is something to this, but it is also true that people generally act politically because of their moral beliefs: what they consider to be right and wrong.* George Lakoff’s penetrating book, The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Centory Politics with an 18th-Century Brain explains this quite clearly.

For example, we always have to remember that, however they try to disguise it, the Republicans are deliberately removing funds that lower-income people rely on for medical care and transferring them to the Richie-Riches. And doing this for no other reason than that they think the former don’t “deserve” the financial support, and the latter do, even though they are very comfortably off already.

The reason for their beliefs about who “deserves” government money and who doesn’t is basically that they think it’s not the role of government to give “hand-outs,” that every individual is responsible for supporting themselves or, if necessary, accepting charity. The key point is that, to the conservatives, this is a firmly grounded moral view; it’s all about what is right and wrong, and they are immovably convinced that their moral view is correct. 

Changing moral beliefs that people cling to is about the hardest thing you can try to do.

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*One way of seeing this point is to consider that, even though supporting policy X over Y would benefit a person materially, and this person understands that clearly, it is always possible that she or he might come to the conclusion: “Yes, I would be losing a lot financially by supporting more government action on this matter, and thus higher taxes on myself, it would be the right thing to do.” That might not be the usual way people think, but sometimes they actually do.


qedd© Jon Johanning 2011