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Do Progressives (and Democrats) Have Moral Values?

Updated: May 1, 2022

(In process, April 2022)

Listening to conservatives (and Republicans) one would think not. And, from an economic frame of mind, does it matter what moral values either Democrats or Republicans have? Well, yes, it matters greatly to economic framing and thinking. As Dual Interest Theory (DIT) in Metaeconomics makes clear, it is the moral values that give most of the content to the shared other-interest. So, said moral values temper the self-interest which drives the economy.


Cutting to the Chase


This Moral Values Blog focused on how political moral value systems affect economic efficiency is long, more in line with journal paper length, and, perhaps tedious for some. So, if you do not want to read more than another paragraph or so, here is the essence of it. The Blog draws heavily on Lakoff (2004/2014; 2021), who points to the strict father morality sytem which dominates the Conservative frame on the Republican-side and the nurturant parent morality system which dominates the Progressive frame on the Democrat-side

First, the Blog starts out with a Dual Interest Theory framework which clarifies that the strict (Republican) & nurturant (Democrat) – value systems are likely joint and nonseparable in each person. We each have some of both systems in our brain, likely sourced in the thousands of years of evolution of the human brain. It is just that some people are balanced more in one direction or the other. Think about a balance scale.

Second, the Blog then goes into detail on what Democrats favor. Empathy and nurthuring plays a big role. Also, the self-interest is more of a free child (as psychologists call it, a creative, do own-thing) type self-interest, which is to be nurtured as long as responsible. It can lead to economic efficiency.

Third, the Blog next goes into detail on what Republicans favor. Ego driven self-interst plays a big role, with do-gooders (empathy and nurturing) getting in the way, messing things up. Self-interest is that of an adaptive child, doing what the strict father (moral authority) commands. It is difficult to achieve economic efficiency, as the creativity is suppressed by authority.

Finally, Dual Interest Theory clarifies economic efficency is only possible with good balance in joint Republican & Democrat, joint strict & nurturant systems. And, in terms of political economy, it suggests the way to resolve the conflict in the culture war (2-party warfare ongoing right now) being waged between the strict father (Republican) and nurturant parent (Democrat) value system is to nudge the 2-party system toward a 4-6 political party system. Said system (to include ranked choice voting) would greatly reduce the unproductive and costly intensity of the 2-party culture war to minor skirmishes among 4-6 smaller parties needing to form coalitions to get anything done. A kind of Empathy Politics would emerge and fix the dysfunctional Ego Politics being demonstrated in the culture war of the 2-party system. And, it is the only way to achieve both Inclusive Democracy & Humane Capitalism, both necessary to economic efficiency.

And, there, that is perhaps even too much, but, if you are intrigued, and have the patience, read on for the details!


Dual Interest Theory (DIT) to Understand Both Right and Left, Strict and Nurturant


The very act of voting is a paradox if one looks at the behavior using Single Interest Theory (SIT) in mainstream (Micro)economics. Why would anyone vote, as the heavy costs of studying issues, finding the best candidate, and taking off from work to go vote, well, clearly the costs are greater than the benefits to a person? Dual Interest Theory (DIT) in Metaeconomics resolves the paradox: People vote their shared other-interest, as represented by Democrats voting for the nurturant parent oriented politician and the Republicans voting for the strict father oriented politician. And, people sacrifice self-interest to do so, as made clear in Frank (2004).

And, is it ever in the self-interest of Democrats and Republicans to vote for their party? More often than not, no. Republicans voting for candidates that tout the notion that God (strict father) determines the temperature of the Spaceship are not voting self-interest when the house burns down because of a wildfire caused by extreme drought or is flooded because of an extreme rainfall event. Democrats voting for candidates that work to stop drilling for oil (nurturing the ecosystem of the Spaceship) pay higher prices at the gasoline pump. Voting the moral value system, well, it always involves a bit of sacrifice in the self-interest.

Technically, the payoff in self-interest of IG1 at the voting point C is always less than the self-interest IG3 at point A. And, as Figure 1 shows, the amount of sacrifice in self-interest can also vary greatly, with all manner of possible payoffs in the region between path 0G and path 0M, but, with all indicating a sacrifice in self-interest.




Now, it can be nuanced, and a bit more complex to sort out than as illustrated in Figure 1, in that the location of path 0M will vary by conservative and progressive, and each party may have candidates that represent different paths 0M. Only one path 0M is illustrated so as to not make the figure too complex. In general, however, the conservative path 0M will be shifted away from the public good toward the private good, in that conservatives see public good mainly in the frame of summing up the private good of each person (as with SIT in mainstream Microeconomics, which in effect makes SIT an ideology not an empirical science). So, there is little to no public good that can be distinguished from the private good, and, it never requires sacrifice in self-interest. In fact, in the extreme, the conservative strict father moral value system of path 0M is subsumed under the self-interest of the father path 0G, as in SIT: Father knows best. Said father is very controlling. And, some voters like to be controlled.

The progressive nurturant parent value system, in contrast, is some path 0M that works to influence the location of the self-interest path 0G, but does not control it. Presuming path 0M in Figure 1 is the nurturant parent system path of the progressive, we might find the influence of path 0M resulting in the person moving to some path 0Z. Assuming enough influence implemented in self-control (over the primal drive of self-interest), said person sacrifices a bit of self-interest while gaining in the shared interest driven by nurturing, empathy going in every direction. On the nurturant influenced path 0Z, the person is maximizing the own-interest, not the self-interest. And, on path 0Z, the person is in self-control, self-disciplined, in self-command as Adam Smith referred to it.

DIT sees, too, the possibility of what Lakoff (2004/2014) refers to as biconceptualism, a Human with both strict & nurturant value systems (in contrast to an Econ, as in SIT, with only strict father values), which DIT suggests are likely joint and nonseparable. Such a voter operates on path 0Z. That is, a biconceptual finds common ground across the moral values on the Right & moral values on the Left, as in a joint strict & nurturant moral system. DIT would point to the need to treat said balance as an empirical question.

Lakoff (2004/2014, loc 161) claims the biconceptuals are the Independents on the political spectrum. Both progressives and conservatives, both Left and Right, both Democrats and Republicans, work hard (and it is essential in order to win elections) to attract said Independents to vote for the Left or Right candidate. Convincing an Independent is about working to shift the balance of strict & nurturant within the Independent toward the frame of moral values favored by the Democrat or Republican candidate running for office.


Conservatives More Effective at Nudging the Vote for Moral Values

Lakoff (2004/2014) makes the case that the moral values framing has been judiciously used by the Right to win elections, and, to gain more influence in the judiciary (e.g., the Federalist Society is now the go to source for the Right to find judges to nominate and appoint). The Right has been far more effective at identifying and building commitment to the strict father path. The Right acts on the fact, which is what DIT also supports empirically, that people vote the shared other-interest (Lynne 2020, Chapter 6), i.e., people vote the moral value system, vote the path 0M, preferred by same. Voting is about electing people for political positions to represent the shared moral value system within the political party, and often people vote against own self-interest to do so (Frank 2004). Voting is about maximizing the own-interest through voting the shared other-interest, not the self-interest, with moral values the driver.

In fact, the political conversation about values, moral or otherwise, over the last 30-40 years has been framed and is dominated by the Right. As the title of George (2013) proclaims, it is all about The Rhetoric of the Right: Language Change and the Spread of the Market, with even the Left using the same language. So, as a counter to the dominance by the Right, I am going to start the story here by looking first at the values of the Progressives most of whom identify with the Left.


Self-interest Embeds the Moral Value System in the Invisible Hand


Virtues are swallowed up by self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea (LaRochefoucauld, quoted in Hodgson 1999, p. 139)


The virtue of prudence as represented in self-interest tends to swallow-up the other virtues shared with the other, in the other-interest. The other virtues especially include temperance, but also justice, courage, faith, hope, and love. Said other virtues are represented in varying combinations and focus within the conservative strict father system and the progressive nurturant value system.


So, path 0G of the conservative holds the strict father morality system, the latter path 0M subsumed under path 0G in Figure 1. SIT in Microeconomics supports path 0G choice. As a result, because it also embeds the strict father moral system, SIT represents an ideology of the Right, which focuses on the private good rather than the public good.


On the nurturant parent side, self interest 0G becomes the same as path 0M in Figure 1, so, in effect, again the path 0M has been subsumed under the path 0G (now of the progressive). It, too, is an ideology, now of the Left. It is operating in the space of path 0M in Figure 1, focused on the public good rather than the private good.


Dual interest theory (DIT) brings economics back into the realm of science, staying away from the ideology of self-interest with embedded moral value systems, through the vehicle of the visible hand. DIT sees the visible hand opening the moral value system --- as represented in the empathy based, ethics-based other-interest --- for mindful consideration of the content of said system. DIT sees the empirically based need to consider the content, searching for sufficient reason to favor some content. DIT points to the essential need to find balance in the strict & nurturant value systems, in the private & public-good, searching for sufficient reason to choose some path 0Z.

Moral Value Choice Needs Sufficient Reason


So, before we go to the details, the debate over the best value system with good balance in private and public good is really about a volitional pragmatism based search for sufficient reason (after Bromley 2006; see reviews in Lynne 2007; 2009). One must have sufficient reason --- fact and ethics based --- to favor some value system over the other to best address some particular problem or issue. It is about an empirical --- data and testing --- based pursuit to find what works best. It is, in effect, a non-partisan based look at the experiential and science based reality of which value system along the continuum of the political spectrum works the best for real people. It is about mindfully erasing the invisible hand, and replacing it with a visible hand that works better for everyone (Samuels, Johnson, and Perry 2011)

Fortunately, Dual Interest Theory (DIT), because it is built on an empirical foundation rather than an ideological foundation like is SIT, can be used to frame the question: Is the strict father morality system (father knows best), the best system? Is the nurturant parent moral system the best system? And, as DIT suggests, the likely most relevant question is: Which combination and balance in the joint strict & nurturant system is the best? And, best for what? So, the big question is: What is the best political structure, as in number of political parties and, how a person votes (e.g. perhaps use rank choice voting)? And, in every case, we seek sufficient reason to choose what is best, and, the best way of finding out. But, before we head down that road, we need to first give some scientific context to the notion of alternative value systems, as said systems relate to how the brain is configured.


Strict and Nurturant Value Systems: Really Old News in Psychology


Breaking out of value systems into different forms really connects to a wide and deep set of scientific knowledge in psychology, social psychology, sociology, economic psychology, economic sociology, behavioral and neuroeconomics. One of earliest breakouts was that of Berne (1961), who pointed to critical parent (Lakoff strict father), nurturant parent backgrounding in the human brain, which interacted with the adaptive child and free child. And, overall, there was an adult in charge, the controller working out the internal tension.

Angyal (1965) had something quite similar with the autonomy, homonomy, and heteronomy dimensions of the brain and mind. Connecting same to Berne (1961), the child wants autonomy but needs to pay attention to being in homonomy with the nurturant parent represented in the wider community. Said homonomy would serve to temper the self-interest of the free child. And, when homonomy failed to temper the autonomy, because of a failure in self-command, self-discipline by what the child (self-interest) wanted, well, then the critical parent needed to step in. The critical, strict father, the higher authority had to step forward in heteronomy, to control the self-interest. The adaptive child had to be engaged with control by the higher moral authority.

Cory (1999) uses paleontology and neuroscience based understanding of the brain while pointing to the reptilian core --- the child-like ego. The brain also has a mammalian sourced region, the parent-like empathy. It also has the adult in charge, the balancer and controller of the ego & empathy. The ego was primal, the empathy tempered, with sufficient self-control to ensure it happened.

And, going even further back, Plato told the story of the empathy oriented mare being teamed with the ego driven stallion, a team pulling the chariot in command by a driver who had to balance the forces. Elster (1979), too, speaks of the need to bind the child to the mast of the ship (nurturing failed, so strict father needed to step in) else the sirens of the egoistic-hedonistic desire would pull said self-interest off onto the rocks.

All of said framing (and, there is a lot more, see Lynne 2020), led to the proposition in DIT of the ego-based self-interest, the empathy (ethics)-based other-interest, and the rational and disciplined controller taking command, in self-command, in self-control over the balancing of the joint self & other-interest. The strict father moral values and nurturant parent moral values are carried in the other (shared with the other, yet internalized to own-self)-interest.

Progressive Values


It is vital—for us, for our country, and for the world—that we understand the progressive values on which this country was founded and that made it a great democracy (Lakoff 2004/2014, loc 107).


Lakoff (2004/2014) makes the case that the founders of the US were progressives with progressive values, in contrast to the claim that said founders were conservatives. As Lakoff (2004/2014, p. 47) clarifies: When the United States was founded, politics and personhood had come together … in the progressive direction… (demonstrated in) the defining passage of the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The framing was all about nurturing, it was a nurturant parent moral value system, which is used by progressives. And, just what is the content of such a nurturing system? Italics shows quotes from Lakoff (2004/2014).


The basic progressive vision is of community—of America as family, a caring, responsible family. We envision an America where people care about each other, not just themselves, and act responsibly both for themselves and their fellow citizens with strength and effectiveness (p. 137).

In DIT terms, it is about empathy based, ethics based, forming of a community of shared other interest with nurturing --- empathy based nurturing --- a key aspect of same.


We are all in the same boat—that’s what democracy means. Red states and blue states, progressives and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. United, as we were for a brief moment just after September 11, not divided by a despicable culture war (p. 137).

So, Right and Left are both on at least a tad of common ground in the progressive moral value system. Said somewhat differently: The narrower shared other-interest in each realm of Right and Left also has part of the foundation in a commonly shared other-interest of Right & Left. It seems the Declaration of Independence suggests the essential need for it. It is not about Right OR Left, but rather about Right & Left, in good proportion.


The progressive core values are family values—those of the responsible, caring family. You could characterize them as caring and responsibility, carried out with strength of commitment and effort (p. 137).

Empathy-based shared other-interest starts with family, however it is configured.


Details of the Nurturant Parent Value System (pp. 137-138)


Protection, fulfillment in life, fairness. When you care about someone, you want them to be protected from harm, you want their dreams to come true, and you want them to be treated fairly.

DIT points to asking the role of empathy in the market forum on the way to finding the exchange price P. It seems empathy based other (shared with the other person in the exchange)-interest would be essential to a fair trade, and, to protect both parties to the trade, to find a fair and safe price P. And, what is fulfillment in life? DIT posits fulfilment cannot be completely monetized as is essential in a market forum: Fulfilment likely requires interacting in a variety of other forums, which are more often about priceless value V and not just price P.


Freedom, opportunity, prosperity. There is no fulfillment without freedom, no freedom without opportunity, and no opportunity without prosperity.

DIT has substantively different take on freedom, seeing it as only possible on some path 0Z in Figure 1, a path of not only seeking self-interest but also seeking that which is shared with the other, and, then, what the other can go along with. Freedom is about prudent seeking of self-interest, characterized as being tempered and representing the virtues of courage, justice, faith, hope, and love. It is not about being free to choose as one pleases, but rather about an ethics based consideration of that which the other can go along with, and freely chosen without authoritarian control by said other. And, such freedom also requires satisfactory levels of income and wealth --- prosperity --- that goes beyond mere survival. A survival wage (even though earned with hard work) is not a freedom wage, as it keeps people being able to become and to do what each person is best at so doing: Extreme income and wealth disparity must be avoided in favor of finding optimal inequality, which is essential in order to attain freedom, opportunity, and prosperity from hard work.


Community, service, cooperation. Children are shaped by their communities. Responsibility requires serving and helping to shape your community. That requires cooperation.

DIT posits cooperation evolves with empathy based forms of interaction. Competition on path 0G, which comes out of the ego, needs to be internally tempered with shared interests of path 0M in order to find the best levels of community and service on path 0Z. Said path 0Z is a path of cooperation.


Trust, honesty, open communication. There is no cooperation without trust, no trust without honesty, and no cooperation without open communication.

Notice the focus on empathy-based shared interest, in contrast to ego-based self-interest. It is about mindful caring, community, justice, freedom with responsibility, cooperation, prosperity for everyone, and trust built by empathy going in every direction. It is about mindfully --- open communication ---building an ethical system reflected in a shared other-interest that everyone can go along with.


Progressive Moral Values Point to Several Principles (pp. 138-139)


Equity. What citizens and the nation owe each other. If you work hard, play by the rules, and serve your family, community, and nation, then the nation should provide a decent standard of living as well as freedom, security, and opportunity.

Equity points to value V overriding price P as needed, e.g., paying elementary public school teachers based on what is contributed as represented in priceless value V rather than a survival wage of price P. It seems many incommensurables characterize the real Spaceship on which we travel around Sun every year, with the best balance in price P & value V an ongoing empirical question.


Equality. Do everything possible to guarantee political and social equality and avoid imbalances of political power.

As DIT suggests, a less than tempered system just naturally goes to a Scroogism, with extreme concentration of wealth and the power it can buy (empirical question). The next step is then Authoritarianism & Oligarchism & Religionism (another empirical question, but history seems to bear it out). Progressive values point to the need to temper the excesses of Scroogism in order to avoid the especially “bad-ism” of the triad of “isms” that inherently emerge unless excesses are tempered (see Lynne 2020, on the need to temper the excesses).


Democracy. Maximize citizen participation; minimize concentrations of political, corporate, and media power. Maximize journalistic standards. Establish publicly financed elections. Invest in public education. Bring corporations under stakeholder control, not just stockholder control.

As DIT clarifies, public education is essential, especially a widely shared public education about the duties and responsibilities of a citizen, not just a consumer. It does not preclude private education (e.g., religion framed schools), but it sees the essential need for seeing the key role of a joint private & public – education system, with the best balance an empirical question. It is the only way to guarantee producing journalists who seek facts and add transparency to the system, educate citizens so voting has content beyond just emotional appeals to moral values. And, most importantly, perhaps, it brings the shared other-interest of labor, consumers, communities, and the Spaceship system into view in tempering the self-interest of corporations and other owners of business enterprise. Public financing of elections (empirical question) would also go a long way to reducing the influence of wealth on power.


Government for a better future. Government does what America’s future requires and what the private sector cannot do—or is not doing—effectively, ethically, or at all. It is the job of government to promote and, if possible, provide sufficient protection, greater democracy, more freedom, a better environment, broader prosperity, better health, greater fulfillment in life, less violence, and the building and maintaining of public infrastructure.

As DIT clarifies, economic efficiency generally depends (empirical question) upon good balance in the private & public good, in the market & government: Some path 0Z in Figure 1 is likely to be the best path. Both private & public good are essential to the other (empirical question), as it is about the jointness and nonseparability of each element. Government is also often the representative, through the Law, of the ethical (and moral values carried in same) system that everyone can go along with.


Ethical business. Our values apply to business. In the course of making money by providing products and services, businesses should not adversely affect the public good, as defined by the above values. They should refuse to impose wage slavery and corporate servitude and so should work with unions, not against them. They should pay the true costs of doing business—not externalize, or offload, those costs onto the public (for instance, they should clean up their pollution). They should make sure their products do no harm to the public. And rather than treat their employees as mere “resources,” they should see them as community members and assets to the business.

DIT clarifies the role of empathy-based shared other-interest; another way to say it, DIT sees the key role of ethics, in that empathy is the mindful first step on the way to forming the ethical content of the shared other-interest. So, unions can play a key role in bringing ethical reflection about compensation and working conditions to the table, as can worker cooperatives, and labor representatives on corporate boards. It is about finding optimal inequality, which means compensation with adequate incentives while avoiding wage slavery and corporate servitude, avoiding extremes at both ends. It is also not ethical to pollute and otherwise wreak havoc with the Spaceship system, such as in excess carbon loading which is driving severe and erratic weather events. At the Spaceship level, an ethical business is also an efficient business, made possible only with good balance in business & spaceship-sustainability.


Values-based foreign policy. The same values governing domestic policy should apply to foreign policy whenever possible. Protection translates into an effective military for defense and peacekeeping. Building and maintaining a strong community translates into building and maintaining strong alliances and engaging in effective diplomacy. Caring and responsibility translate into caring about and acting responsibly for the world’s people; helping to deal with problems of health, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation; population control (and the best method, women’s education); and rights for women,

DIT sees the empathy based other-interest spread widely, going in every direction, between all countries and all travelers on the Spaceship on which we travel together around the Sun. NATO is an example at trying to operate with empathy, not just ego driven self-interest, Empathy based other-interest works to find common ground among all Travelers, as in the shared other-interest in peace, not war.


The economy. Investing in an economy centered on innovation that creates millions of good-paying jobs and provides every American a fair opportunity to prosper. The economy should be sustainable and not contribute to climate change, environmental degradation, and so on.

In progressive framing, the economy is embedded within the Spaceship system, everything is internal. The notion of an externality, a key idea in SIT, is shown in DIT to have little meaningful content, with empirical support for the progressive frame about embeddedness. Empirical testing needs to be done as to which works better: SIT framing which sees Spaceship systems as just sources for raw materials and places to dump waste, seeing said systems as part of the economy, in contrast to DIT seeing the economy as embedded within the Spaceship system


Progressive Values and Principles Point to Policy (pp. 139-140)


Security. Through military strength, strong diplomatic alliances, and wise foreign and domestic policy, every American should be safeguarded at home, and America’s role in the world should be strengthened by helping people around the world live better lives.

Security is better ensured through empathy based other (shared with all Travelers on the Spaceship)-interest. Said other-interest works to temper the ego-based drivers in globalization and trade. Empirical testing needs to be done of the proposition that trade needs to be tempered by the empathy-based, widely shared other-interest across all trading partners, not just the ego-based self-interest of the exporting country (e.g., like has been the case in China for decades, who is running a huge trade deficit with other countries on the Spaceship, which is about excessive self-interest on the part of China).


Health. Every American should have access to a state-of-the-art, affordable health care system.

It clearly makes DIT based sense to build a medical system based in empathy-sympathy-compassion, as has been found by medical researchers (see Trzeciak and Mazzarelli 2019). Empathy needs to temper the ego-based and inherently excessive search for profit in the medical system, tempered by empathy going both directions as between patient and medical personnel, as the empirical evidence in Trzeciak and Mazzarelli (2019) makes clear.


Education. A vibrant, well-funded, and expanding public education system, with the highest standards for every child and school, where teachers nurture children’s minds and often the children themselves, and where children are taught the truth about their nation—its wonders and its blemishes.

Education needs to nurture, not control young minds. The nurturant parent frame just simply works better, overall, albeit some strict discipline can also play a role. Of all the categories, it is perhaps none more apparent than education for the need to balance the joint strict & nurturant moral value system to make for the best educational system, pointing to many empirical questions about what works best.


Early childhood. Every child’s brain is shaped crucially by early experiences. We support high-quality early childhood education.

Early childhood education perhaps more than any other needs a nurturant teacher, and nurturing frame of mind. DIT points to the need to empirically assess the role of empathy-with the student and with the teacher and with the parent, empathy going every direction, on the way to shaping the best brain in a child.


Environment. A clean, healthy, and safe environment for ourselves and our children: water you can drink, air you can breathe, and food that is healthy and safe. Polluters pay for the damage they cause.

Nurturant framing includes the ecosystems, all living creatures, on the Spaceship. It is about joining in empathy-with the entire system of the Spaceship, which is essential to sustain same. It seems the only way to sustain the Spaceship is through empathy-with every system on said Spaceship, and the extent of which it is to temper the self-interest an empirical question.


Nature. The natural wonders of our country are to be preserved for future generations, and enhanced where they have been degraded.

Preserving and conserving the natural wonders makes sense not only in the value V sense, the priceless value V of natural wonders, but also relates to sustaining the Spaceship. Natural systems operating around natural wonders are essential workers in sustaining the Spaceship.


Energy. We need to make a major investment in renewable energy, for the sake of millions of jobs that pay well, improvements in public health, preservation of our environment, and the effort to halt global warming.

The Spaceship is mainly powered by the fusion sourced energy of the Sun. It is essential to build and maintain energy systems that run on that renewable source, as represented in direct solar collection, wind, and hydro-power systems.


Openness. An open, efficient, and fair government that tells the truth to our citizens and earns the trust of every American.

An inclusive democracy based in reality and facts, experience about what works backed by science when possible, is essential to a viable, sustainable, and humane capitalism. And, said humane capitalism is the only workable “ism” based on all of human experience and science.


Equal rights. We support equal rights in every area involving race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.

Equal rights are simply the indicators for empathy going every direction, finding that which the other, every other, can go along with.


Protections. We support keeping and extending protections for consumers, workers, retirees, and investors.

Protections for every Spaceship traveler simply reflect nurturance of every traveler. It is about tempering the arrogance of self-love, the arrogance of self-interest with that which the other can go along with. Said temperance ensures protecting each other from the other.


Progressive Values, Principles, and Policy Jointly Work to Build a Stronger America


Effectiveness in the world, our economy, our educational system, our health care system, our families, our communities, our environment, …

An inclusive democracy giving context to a humane capitalism is effective.


Broad prosperity (with) markets constructed for the broadest possible prosperity, as opposed to the exponential accumulation of wealth by the wealthy coupled with the corresponding loss of wealth by most citizens—and with it the loss of freedom and fulfillment in life.

Inclusive democracy giving a humane capitalism ensures everyone has a piece of the action. It is about optimal inequality, leading to minimal political chaos, economic efficiency, and the happiness made possible by it.


Americans want and deserve a better future—economically, educationally, environmentally, and in all other areas of life—for themselves and their children. … The proper goal is a better future for all Americans.

Inclusive democracy & humane capitalism ensures the better future for all Americans.


Effective government is what we need … progressives live by the best values of both families and communities: mutual responsibility, which is authoritative, equal, and based around caring, responsibility (both individual and social), and commitment.

As DIT makes clear, and consistent with the nurturant parent morality system, it is about seeing the essential role of person & community, person & government representing said community, market & government. It is not about minimizing one while maximizing the other: It is about finding good balance in the joint and nonseparable effective_market & effective_ government.


And, can progressives be brought together? Many claim the disparate views are splintering the progressives on the Left with losses to the more highly organized and focused conservatives on the Right. What could be done?


Progressive Frames Need to Build Toward Common Shared Interest (p. 135)


Local interests. (progressives) come from a farming community, or a high-tech region, or a city with a military base, or a home base with a large racial or ethnic minority population—

So, someway must be found to find common ground across the local interests.


Idealism versus pragmatism. a pragmatist …willing to compromise … an idealist … unwilling to compromise. Idealists tend to accuse pragmatists of not having ideals … pragmatists criticize idealists, saying “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

DIT suggests the need to find the common ground, perhaps best found with a kind of volitional pragmatism in the search for sufficient reason. It seems the pragmatists may need to reach out to the idealists and start the conversation about the reasons.


Biconceptualism. … (many) progressive(s) … have some conservative views, total progressives will accuse (said person) of being a conservative; biconceptuals tend to accuse total progressives of being dogmatic or extremists.

DIT provides the important insight, through pointing to the real possibility of overlapping and joint value systems, that everyone is a biconceptual, including the conservatives. It is in human nature to have both ego & empathy, the capacity and need for both strict & nurturing frames of reference. The hope lies in finding empathy-based overlap that everyone can go along with.


Radical change versus gradual change. Radicals accuse gradualists of not being truly progressive; gradualists accuse radicals of being impractical and hurting their own cause by not using slippery slope tactics.

DIT points to the need to practice self-command, as in tempering the self-interest drives by radicals to go too fast and gradualists to go too slow. It is about finding an empathy-based shared interest in getting something done, rather than failure on either of said fronts.


Militant versus moderate advocacy. Militants are loud, aggressive, and punitive, and sometimes use strict father means to nurturant ends, and see moderates as being cowards or insufficiently caring; moderate advocates think that militancy offends people and causes a reaction against their cause.

DIT points to empathy-based, ethics-based search for that which the other can go along with, broadly shared. Both militants and moderates need to walk-in-the-shoes of the other frame, and temper self-interest tendencies.


Types of thought processes. Progressive values can be weighted toward different areas of concern: socioeconomic, identity politics, environmentalist, civil libertarian, spiritual, and antiauthoritarian Each thought process has consequences in choosing what causes to pursue, how to rank priorities, how to use political capital, where and how to raise money and what to spend it on, who your friends and acquaintances are, what to read, who to pay attention to, and so on.

DIT again points to the essential need to find common ground, thinking in terms of the shared frame of nurturing, with the starting point being mindful empathy of the other. So, mindful empathy of the other in socioeconomic difference, different identities in politics, a variety of environmental concerns and focus, seeing libertarianism even workable as long as it is a libertarian paternalism, empathy with alternative spiritual frames, and, yes, even empathy with authoritarians who feel threatened by the diversity accepted widely by progressives.


Progressives are well-positioned to find common ground. Why? Well, nurturing starts with mindful empathy, which progressives need to now engage in joining in empathy-with other progressives.


Conservative Values


The strict father model begins with a set of assumptions: The world is a dangerous place, and it always will be, because there is evil out there in the world. The world is also difficult because it is competitive. There will always be winners and losers. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. Children are born bad, in the sense that they just want to do what feels good, not what is right. Therefore, they have to be made good. What is needed in this kind of a world is a strong, strict father who can protect the family in the dangerous world, support the family in the difficult world, and teach his children right from wrong (Lakoff 2004/2014, pp. 4-5).


The highest conservative political principle is the Maintenance of Conservative Authority—the preservation, support, and extension of conservatism itself (Lakoff 2016, p. 427).


Conservative values build on basic assumptions about the nature of all the travelers on the Spaceship, which is inherently a bad, perhaps even evil place. It is a kind of dog-eat-dog place, always with losers dominated by winners. Children are inherently egoistic-hedonistic, and perhaps even narcissistic, so said children have to be disciplined and made good. Physical punishment is not only appropriate but absolutely essential to produce the good. And, the only way to accomplish same is in a traditional heterosexual family with a strict father at the head of same. And,


…if people are disciplined and pursue their self-interest in this land of opportunity, they will become prosperous and self-reliant. Thus, the strict father model links morality with prosperity. The same discipline you need to be moral is what allows you to prosper. The link is individual responsibility and the pursuit of self-interest (p. 5).

The frame of the conservative strict father morality system sounds very much like Single Interest Theory (SIT) in Microeconomics: Think path 0G in Figure 1. It is all about pursuing and maximizing self-interest, albeit a self-interest bounded by the moral system specified by the strict father: Think path 0M of the strict father subsumed under path 0G defined by the strict father. The market is inherently moral, producing said moral order, another theme in SIT as applied in the frame of Market (Neo)Liberalism (Whyte 2019): Again, the strict father moral system of path 0M is defined as identical with path 0G, the self-interest path (and, in the extreme, the vertical axis of Figure 1, with no shared other-interest in view).


Conservative Framing Claims Adam Smith


…the connection between the strict father worldview and free market capitalism. The link is the morality of self-interest, which is the conservative version of Adam Smith’s view of capitalism. Adam Smith said that if everyone pursues their own profit, then the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand—that is, by nature—just naturally. Go about pursuing your own profit, and you are helping everyone. This is linked to a general metaphor that views well-being as wealth. Apply this metaphor to Adam Smith’s “law of nature”: If everyone pursues her own self-interest, then by the invisible hand, by nature, the self-interest of all will be maximized (p. 6).


The notion that Adam Smith was all about self-interest, and somehow it is inherently moral, as in some law of nature, is a distortion. Such framing might come from focusing all attention On the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Smith 1776/1789) while ignoring The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Smith 1759/1790). To Adam Smith, it was anything but an inherently moral invisible hand; rather it is about a mindful consideration in a visible hand of that which the other could go along with. It was about tempering the arrogance of self-love which is the underlying character of the pursuit of self-interest only. Said tempering was to come from the empathy-based, moral sentiments based, consideration of the other. It was about the resulting moral sentiment within an ethical system being consciously considered. It was about other forums in community working to temper the market forum, so, the conservatives (and SIT) get this one wrong, at least if wishing to be true to the framing by Adam Smith, who saw path 0Z.


Nurturing Do-Gooders “Screw Up the System”


That is, it is moral to pursue your self-interest, and there is a name for those people who do not do it. The name is do-gooder. A do-gooder is someone who is trying to help someone else rather than herself and is getting in the way of those who are pursuing their self-interest. Do-gooders screw up the system (p. 6)

Adam Smith preferred that the do-gooder arose within the own-self, at the station of the impartial spectator. Smith fully recognized the important of the own-self to make for a viable economy, just like in SIT and the strict father morality system. Yet, Smith also fully realized the person would often fail to temper the arrogance, temper the self-interest, in the main because of the failure of self-command, the failure of discipline. The shared other-interest, even when understood, was not always acted on, as self-command, self-discipline failed. Strict father framing presumes such discipline must be forced into the children, with physical (and we might suppose, mental) punishment. Adam Smith was not so naive, and, wrote extensively about the problem of self-command, with the implicit need for the community and the government representing said community to be involved in tempering the self-interest. It was the sentiments, the empathy-with the other, finding that which everyone could go along with (father and children empathizing in every direction), that led to volitional choice --- freedom not coercion --- to find path 0Z.


And, on anyone who could perhaps use some help in participating in the market forum, the presumed only moral forum, also then denying any helping role through other forums like in government:


It is immoral to give people things they have not earned, because then they will not develop discipline and will become both dependent and immoral. This theory says that social programs are immoral because they make people dependent. Promoting social programs is immoral. And what does this say about budgets? Well, if there are a lot of progressives in Congress who think that there should be social programs, and if you believe that social programs are immoral, how do you stop these immoral people? In the strict father frame, it is quite simple. What you have to do is reward the good people—the ones whose prosperity reveals their discipline and hence their capacity for morality—with a tax cut, and make it big enough so that there is not enough money left for social programs. As Grover Norquist says, it “starves the beast (p. 6).”

So, the strict father morality system, even though it would be rejected by most, and certainly by most if not all the progressives, if the true nature of same was revealed, is put into place by reducing and stopping when possible all tax T. All tax T funding is cut or eliminated entirely when the conservatives with operant strict father morality can do so. So, tax T is cut so far that it is impossible to provide such things as safety net programs helping people when jobs are lost, or, jobs simply are not available in a bad economy; social security; public education; public research; public health including Medicare, and, addressing Pandemics; public mail systems; environmental maintenance focused on sustaining the Spaceship; and, even infrastructure as in roads and airports is to be left to private production for private good. All such things reflect moral failure. Only self-interest is to be served. Also, being tax T is essential to providing public good, just like price P is essential to providing public good, it is essential to pay taxes in order to achieve economic efficiency, which is about good balance in private & public-good.


Conservatives Favor Government With Strict Father Controls


Are conservatives against all government? No. They are not against the military; they are not against homeland security; they are not against tax cuts, loopholes, and subsidies for corporations; they are not against the conservative Supreme Court. There are many aspects of government that they like very much. Subsidies for corporations, which reward the good people—the investors in those corporations—are great. No problem there. But they are against nurturance and care (pp. 7-8).

Notice that on path 0G in Figure 1 there is a bit of shared other-interest at play, e.g., funding the military, homeland security. Also, subsidizing corporations is viewed as helping the self-interest, so the shared other-interest with said corporations is in play, subsumed under path 0G in Figure 1. So, people who vote the strict father moral system are also voting against nurturance and care, who many so voting would benefit from, such as public education, health care, and social security: In effect, said voters are voting against their own self-interest.


Foreign Policy is About the Strict Father Nation in Charge


And, on foreign policy and engaging other countries on the Spaceship, it is again about maximizing self-interest with the strict father in charge:


What does it mean, in this worldview (leading to foreign policy), to act in your self-interest? In the most basic sense it means that you act in ways that will help you be healthy and strong. In the same way, by the metaphor (used in the strict father morality system) that a nation is a person, it is good for a nation to be healthy (that is, economically healthy—defined as having a large GDP) and strong (that is, militarily strong). It is not necessary that all the individuals in the country be healthy, but the companies should be, and the country as a whole should have a lot of money. That is the idea. The question is: How do you maximize your self-interest?

Figure 1 clarifies that a country like the US if run on strict father morality framing maximizes self-interest on path 0G while not much empathizing with the other countries who are represented on path 0M. Notice that little in the way of payoff from the shared other-interest is experience on path 0G, albeit not zero. In reality, a better foreign policy (empirical question) would likely entail paying attention to a path 0M which would include the US, and the shared other-interest would be the mutual ground among all countries (e.g., managing carbon emissions), under a nurturant parent morality system. With said system in play, one might expect some best path 0Z would guide foreign policy.


That is what foreign policy is about: maximizing self-interest—not working for the interest of all. … The child nations are called “developing” nations or “underdeveloped” states. … the backward ones. And what should we do? If you are a strict father, you tell the children how to develop, tell them what rules they should follow, and punish them when they do wrong (pp. 8-9).

So, it is SIT applied to public choice, as in Public Choice Economics, about how to interact with the larger community of countries on the Spaceship. Each country is about maximizing self-interest with the strict father laying down the rules. It seems such an approach assures war, as strict fathers do battle with each other. It seems a nurturant parent frame is the only way to achieve peace: As Adam Smith fully understood, and made abundantly clear, it was about empathy based other (shared with the trading partner with others on the Spaceship)-interest that would lead to peace.


Conservative Framing is About a Moral Hierarchy


Finally, there is the conservative view of the moral hierarchy. As we have seen, the rich and those who can take care of themselves are considered more moral than the poor and those who need help. But moral superiority on a wider scope is central to conservative thought. The basic idea is that those who are more moral should rule. How do you know who is more moral? Well, in a well-ordered world (ordered by God), the moral have come out on top.

DIT based empirical question here: So, just what version of God works best for real people? Buddhism points to the need for empathy in the best God. Christianity, in the true nature of what Jesus Christ taught, points to empathy-sympathy-compassion playing a substantive role. Most (but not all) religions see empathy as a key player. So, in what sense, empirically speaking, is a strict father (mainly ego-based) morality system better than a nurturant parent (mainly empathy-based) morality system? DIT posits the need for balance in the strict & nurturant, ego & empathy. Also, DIT sees the need for balance in Ich & Du, the title of the book by Buber (1923/1958), which some interpret to mean the balance between the I & God. Which God? The strict God? The nurturant God? A jointly strict & nurturant God?


Here is the hierarchy: God above man; man above nature; adults above children; Western culture above non-Western culture; our country above other countries. These are general conservative values. But the hierarchy goes on, and it explains the oppressive views of more radical conservatives: men above women, Christians above non-Christians, whites above nonwhites, straights above gays.

DIT based empirical question: So, God is a strict father with a huge ego? God is controlling, not allowing for the conservative frame of being free to choose, without any kind of outside control or influence, other than that of the strict father God and the strict father in the heterosexual family? DIT would suggest a volitional pragmatism framed search for sufficient reason, basing it on real-experience and science, about how such a system is somehow the best system. And, arguably the most intriguing question, if the strict father God, who clearly was quite egoistic and critical as well as strict, had it all organized and operated in a mode of command and control, why did said God feel the need to send a Son, Jesus Christ, who had empathy-sympathy-compassion? Just asking. It seems the real God, if there is one (an agnostic here, continually looking for empirical evidence), has both strict & nurturant tendencies in complex, joint combination? It seems the real God, if there is such an entity, sees the need for strict & nurturant, conservative & progressive, democrat & republican? Perhaps said God favors the biconceptual independent frame of mind, a person who does what works best, pragmatically speaking, and, ideology is set aside? Just asking.


God is About Punishment Not About Nurturing


Thus, disobedient children in southern states can be “paddled” in school with sticks by teachers; women seeking abortions must undergo embarrassing medical procedures, and notification of husbands and fathers; African Americans and Hispanics have voting rights taken away; legislation against gay marriage is passed by conservative legislatures. In short, the moral hierarchy is an implicit part of the culture wars (p. 10).

Again, lots of DIT based empirical questions here, as in the effectiveness of paddling, or the effectiveness of embarrassing people seeking certain medical procedures, or how keeping certain groups of people from voting fits within the framing of the founders of the US (or the God, with both strict and nurturant tendencies) who used empathy-based ethics to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Also, in what sense, empirically speaking, is a hierarchical system give better results, as in making for the best “ism” represented in Inclusive Democracy giving context to a Humane Capitalism, that of the nature of what Adam Smith (and other great Enlightenment thinkers) had in mind?

And, in terms of Figure 1, what empirical support can be found for facilitating the self-interest on path 0G only for the people favored by the strict father? It sounds like an authoritarianism --- which always attracts oligarchism, and is often shored-up by religionism --- the deadly triad which ran the Spaceship prior to the Enlightenment. In what sense is that triad, which has a strict father morality system at the core of same, the best? Recall the founders of the US moved the system away from said triad in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787, both of which are consistent with the two books (if one integrates same, as in ego & empathy, ego-based self & empathy-based other-interest) published by Adam Smith in the same period of time.


Several Types of Conservatives have Evolved a Common Set of Shared Interests


Lakoff (2004/2014) also points to the various types of conservatives, and, as Lakoff (2016, p. 427) points out, it is essential to understand that what is perhaps most shared, as represented in the “… highest conservative political principle is the Maintenance of Conservative Authority—the preservation, support, and extension of conservatism itself.” So, it is some combination of the 4-types that works together to stay in authority, stay in power at all costs, stay in command of the economic and political system, and the conservatives have worked to make it happen, have been extremely effective.

There is little Left, left, in the US, and, as a result, the US is being put on Another Road to Serfdom (Kuran 2018), because of extreme Right wing framing. It is just as unproductive and dangerous as being put on the Road to Serfdom (Hayek 1944) by extreme Left wing framing.

Why? Well, because once on the road to Serfdom, Authoritarianism always appears and guarantees Serfdom stays in play, like in China on the Left and Russia on the Right. Said Authoritarianism is also rising on the Right in the US, as well as other Western Democracies, because of extreme inequality in income and wealth, so resentment grows: Authoritarian politicians, like Zombies, arise to fix-it. Western Democracies are ever more moving toward Serfdom therein as well.


Domain of Interest Type of Conservative

Individual liberty Libertarian

World Power Neocon

Business Wall Street

Society and Religion Tea Party


All types of conservatives find common ground around the notion of strict father moral values, the divisions among same now resolved as each type focuses on, agrees to, builds into the shared other-interest, the underlying strict father moral value system. Disparate groups of conservatives vote the strict father moral system without question. Progressives have yet to coalesce around the shared other-interest represented in nurturant parent values, so there is no common ground on the Left, which is why the Right is able to take power.