Moral Politics

Conservatives have a “Strict Father” view of morality, and liberals have a “Nurturant Parent” view of morality (according to George Lakoff, author of Moral Politics). (Disclaimer:  These two views are not meant to be reflective of how you are raised or believe children should be raised – it’s simply a mentality.) Now, here’s the nutshell version of Wikipedia’s brief summary on the book (the full section of the article can be accessed here):

The “Strict Father” – the conservative – believes that it is critical to be taught through “tough love” – essentially to be independent, to only rely on yourself, and to attain self-discipline. The world is composed of evils, and you must have a strong enough morality to not give into these temptations (i.e. being lazy). You must also be obedient to authority, especially your parents. And how you develop this self-discipline is through a system of rewards and punishments (hence, the “tough love”) through your parents, because you are just a child and only they know right from wrong. However, this disciplining only lasts through childhood; upon entrance to adulthood, you have to get the “Strict Father” morality right the first time, or you’re screwed forever. It’s a dark world out there – but it’s just, and you get what you deserve.

The “Nurturant Parent” – the liberal – doesn’t envision as distinct of a hierarchy in the family as the “Strict Father” does. It’s less about disciplining your children and more about being supportive and having open communication with all family members, including assisting each in pursuing his or her individual ambitions. It’s founded upon understanding, respect, encouragement, and fostering happiness in everyone. Selfishness and an anti-social attitude are frowned upon. Children develop the “Nurturant Father” morality by interacting with and observing “good people” and “good parents.” Punishment is used only when needed (because children might rebel) – justification from parents is the usual consequence for acting immorally. And developing your morality is a life-long process; you can always use improvement. The world is both just and unjust – there are many who do not get what they deserve (and it’s crucial to improve others’ circumstances).

So essentially, your political views correlate with how you believe you should live life. (It’s probably nothing new, but it only struck me when I read the book.) According to Lakoff, it’s rare for anyone to believe certain elements in both the “Strict Father” and “Nurturant Parent,” you’re either one or the other. And well, just like every other aspect of my life, I found myself to be that rare confounded person who embodied  that hodgepodge of contradictions.

I’m neither the “Strict Father” nor the “Nurturant Parent,” I’m neither a conservative nor a liberal. I have a libertarian perspective on politics – which makes perfect sense, in these two ways:

  1. As a little girl, my parents disciplined me through a system of rewards and punishments. Right and wrong were very black and white. But sometime during high school, there were no more rules. Rather, there were expectations. And if I fell short of the expectations, I’d get a justification from my mom and/or a lecture from my professor dad. And no matter how rebellious of a teenage daughter I was (and oh, trust me, I certainly was), they’d be behind me 100%, unfailingly, in all of my endeavors. I guess you can say that I was raised first by the “Strict Father,” and now by the “Nurturant Parent.”
  2. I’m a free spirit (not a wild child, mind you). I do what I want, and when I want, just because I can – except that I’m mindful of not disrespecting anyone in the process (which means being considerate, etc…and of course, to be a responsible student/worker). I also want to make sure others can do the same. We all have our basic rights. And while I believe it’s critical that we protect those, I still think everything else should be up to our own choosing.

So what’s your political view? Does your personality match it? Or are you just playing by what you’ve been told? Test yourself.


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