Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Psychology of Redistribution

I'm glad I'm not the only one who notices this stuff.

Julian Sanchez points us to an interesting piece example of the left's psychology of redistribution, perfectly displayed at Firedoglake, "Republicans: “Take Away the Car Keys”":

Conservative ideologues looking to punish workers and the American middle class for auto industry failures are driven by an authoritarian worldview George Lakoff calls the strict parent model.

Senate Republicans see their opposition to the rescue of Detroit as whipping the children. They are not that different from the failed father who thinks his follies can be overcome by beating the wife and kids. Politically, they seek to avoid responsibility for the nation's economic woes. It's not the strict authority who's at fault. It's the misbehaving children. Conservatives think they must take away the keys to the car.

The strict parent worldview is not now and never has been compatible with democracy or economic egalitarianism. But it's always been part of American culture, and most of us carry at least some residual consequence of its cognitive gene. We may be committed democrats, but we laugh along when a boss at work quips, "This is not a democracy." Or we raise our children in a traditional strict model fashion. Lakoff calls this "biconceptualism." We use the strict model in some parts of our lives, and it's opposite, the nurturant or shared responsibility model, in others.

The authoritarian model has been culturally conserved by shrewd neo-Calvinist religious manipulators and free market extremists who recognize that wealth and power trickle up. Both models go way back. According to Hannah Arendt, Jan Patocka and other philosopher/historians, it was with the emergence of the polis from the household and the birth of Greek democracy that family organizational models were metaphorically mapped onto larger social and political groupings. (It's also true that the influence is reciprocal, as feminist theorists correctly point out. Patriarchal social organization leads to patriarchal families, and vise versa.) ....

The automobile industry is a shared, collective endeavor. What do we, the American family, want to make of it? We want affordable, safe, fuel-efficient, environmentally sound cars built by committed workers who are rewarded for undertaking this task on our behalf.

Framed this way, the financial rescue of Detroit can be seen as the moral endeavor of citizens taking responsibility for ourselves. Blame and punishment become less relevant. Current auto industry leadership might or might not need replacing. Certainly, punishing workers is insane. If we must lend our tax dollars to the effort, so be it. In return, the industry must agree to morally sound practices.
Read Sanchez's response here, although I really like this from the comments:

Leftists always try to psychoanalyze their opponents when they can’t answer their argument. It goes all the way back to Marx. Its easier to try to cast the argument against unions in terms of irrational emotion than it is to refute the actual points under debate.
Enough said ...

10 comments:

Van Zan said...

And that little quote attributed to Shannon Love in the comments there is not, in turn, psychoanalyzing the Left ...?

People from all sides psychoanalyze their opponents.. An opponent's position can seem so preposterous to them that the only rational explanation for it seems rooted in aberrant psychology.

Shannon Love also writes "I think Republicans want to reform the unions because they see them as organizations who institutions that seek to suppress productivity, innovation and cost effectiveness. I don’t think we have to dig any deeper than that."

Well... we do have to dig deeper, unless we want to disservice Republicans by dismissing their attitudes to unions as being so one dimensional and shallow.

Donald Douglas said...

Van Zan .... you prove her point.

Van Zan said...

Well I always like to do my bit.

I drive a Ford, by the way.

Grace Explosion said...
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Grace Explosion said...
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JBW said...

Jesus, Grace: spare us all the Christian babbling and get this god of yours to bail out the auto industry already; he must have the cash on hand: he's God, right? Otherwise, try to discuss economics and politics when you comment on a post about economics and politics.

As to the Big 3 problem, I'll say this again: it smacks of rank hypocrisy that congress virtually threw 700 billion at the banking industry, which came to them with a 3 page document as their plan for recovery, while they're now making the auto industry jump through so many hoops to receive a fraction of that amount.

shoprat said...

committed workers?

Clearly he knows nothing of the UAW.

It's only commitment is to the wallets of the union leadership and the Democratic Party.

The Original David said...

I'm not exactly sure where this idea that the proposed auto industry bailout is a redistributive payoff to the unions came from, but I've seen it repeated elsewhere. Did Limbaugh or one of the Fox News talking heads popularize it?

Anyway, the unions and the active employees and workers that they represent are generally creditors of the firms, and senior creditors at that. The bailout is a bailout of equity holders and less senior creditors who would be wiped out in bankruptcy. Senior management might lose their jobs and some hypothetical future value of options and reserved stock in a reorganization, but their deferred compensation and golden parachutes written into their employment agreements would be largely secure.

The Republicans are playing this very well. The legislators who will be around next year can appear principled (some may even be so) while Bush makes sure that their friends among the equity holders are not actually hurt by the legislative posturing. It is good hard ball politics and won't affect the economic outcome at all.

The difference between a Big-3 bankruptcy and the airline bankruptcies is that they sell a durable good with a significant future service component while the airlines sell a relatively immediate service. What is the value of the 5-year 100K-mile warranty on new car sold by an insolvent manufacturer? One would either have to be an idiot or the recipient of an enormous discount to buy a new GM or Chrysler these days. Ford is talking tough and is obviously relatively better off, but the Professor was wise to buy the Honda.

Anyway, just in case any of you have grown a little bit weary of the vapid ideological posturing on this issue, you might want to read some informed analysis pro(?), con, both(?). There has been quite a bit more professional debate about this, but these three are a fairly accessible and comprehensive sample of the big ideas.

I enjoy a good round of partisan name calling as much as the next guy, but some of the current issues are interesting in their own right.

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Righty64 said...

The auto industry is a collective endevour? Why we can say that about any industry, right? There is no logic about this rant. As far as the original $700,000,000,000 bailout/rescue, it has proven to be the fiasco I warned it would be. And really, both the management and labor unions bear responsibilily for this mess. Management for caving into antiquated union work rules, pension payments and the like. The unions for making these unrealistic demands in the first place. BTW, I think that you may have pointed this out, Donald, but there already is another auto industry in this nation. And they are led by Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Hyundai. And, they will come en masse if one of the American auto makers goes completly belly-up. Here is an interesting bit o' psychobabble I would like to see. A loser city on the decline (Detroit) led by a loser industry (American auto makers). Is there any coralation? Maybe someone could suggest this for the Firedoglake crowd.