Complex Systems

George Lakoff, a noted UC Berkeley linguist has describe the major difference between liberals (progressives) and conservatives as the way they view the world. Specifically progressives see the world as a result of complex interactions and conservatives see the world as “one-off” events. Mining coal is a smart decision because coal is plentiful and relatively low cost, says a conservative. Mining coal, may be ok if burning coal can be done so that green house gases are not produced (because they will hurt the environment), says progressives.

It should be therefore little surprise that progressives see the need to increase taxes in order to pay for government services while conservatives see no good coming from higher taxes, and that taxes as a limitation on their freedom to use their person property (money) as they wish. Both views are providing a disservice to Americans because they are only acknowledging a part of the problem.

If conservatives do not wish to pay taxes, then in the ideal world they should not use any of the government services that are provided by taxes. Roads, schools, airports, national defense, local police, and the internet are examples that conservatives use everyday that result from taxes building the US’s “common wealth”. I have not heard any main stream conservatives say that. These conservatives say, “I am just against health care, or social security, or bail outs for auto companies, or some similar government expenditure”.

Progressives see health care, or other social programs as part of a complex system of interacting parts of everyday life. Progressives may base their arguments on “rights” for each citizen to have health care, or food to eat, or shelter for them and their family, but behind this statement is a belief that if society does not provide for those who can not provide for themselves, lawlessness will breakout as these people take things into their own hands.

The progressive view, however, is very difficult to communicate because the connection between government programs and the results we see in everyday life is difficult to trace. In addition, it is difficult to prove a negative if you have taken the precaution already. (If you don’t eat you breakfast, you will not study well in school. So if everyone eats their breakfast, will everyone study well at school? Maybe not, especially if they come from dysfunctional homes. Breakfast may be important, but is not all that might be necessary.)

The Bush tax cuts will occupy a lot of media attention in the next few weeks. Politicians will almost assuredly avoid any complex discussion of why allowing the cuts to lapse without renewal is the right or the wrong approach. The Democrats are talking about half the baby. They would keep the cuts for the middle class and allow them to lapse for those earning over $200,000. The Bush tax cuts were a travesty for a number of reasons, like we could not afford them, but they were glaringly unfair since the rich got far more of a break (as viewed from someone who believes in progressive taxes).  To restore the higher taxes just on the rich seems unfair too.

It seems a daunting task to even attempt to discuss taxes holistically. Never the less, some one or some organization has got to lay out a story before the spin meisters take over.

Politicians will be the last persons we should expect to speak out sensibly on this subject. But if not them, who?

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Explore posts in the same categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, George Bush, Politics, Republican Party

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