(HOST) Recently, commentator Edith Hunter has been reading a book about morality in politics. The book’s premise is that liberals are just as moral as conservatives – only governed by a different set of moral values.
(HUNTER) I have made lots of mistakes. I was reminded of one of mine as I listened to the President lay down another ultimatum recently.
The mistake I made 40 years ago (I’ve made others since) involved an ultimatum I laid down when we had two Fresh Air guests. I can’t remember what sin had been committed, but I knew that one of the boys had to have been the culprit.
Normally, after our morning chores, I took everyone swimming. When I discovered the “sin”, I took the boys aside and said there would be no swim until one of them confessed. A big mistake! High on my list of virtues was telling the truth. High on their list of virtues was loyalty to one another. Two authoritarian approaches clashed. No one got to go swimming, and I never discovered who the culprit was.
Some recent house guests gave me the book Moral Politics, by George Lakoff. The subtitle is How Liberals and Conservatives Think. His thesis is that there are two basic moral systems controlling ethical thinking in our country. The author calls one “Strict Father Morality”, which, by and large, controls the thinking of conservatives. The other he calls “Nurturant Parent Morality”, the controlling moral system of liberals.
Highly valued in the Strict Father Morality is the system of rewards and punishments handed out by the authoritarian leader. I was exercising the Strict Parent Morality that day many years ago. Under this system, if people are not rewarded for being moral and punished for immorality, there would be no morality. Social programs coddle people instead of teaching them to fend for themselves.
The Nurturing Parent Morality, on the other hand, emphasizes helping those who cannot help themselves and protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Liberals believe in reaching out to those in need.
The author discusses, from the two perspectives, such topics as college loans, abortion, Head Start, the death penalty, Medicaid and so forth. Author Lakoff argues that the Strict Father Morality is out of touch with humanity. It is a culture of blame. It divides society into those who deserve to be rewarded and those whose who deserve to be punished. It is not only unhealthy for children, but also for society.
A very provocative book. The person who gave it to me advised reading it from the back, forwards. Good advice. It is tough going at first but well worth the struggle.
This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.
Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center. She spoke from our studio in Norwich.