The Politics of Deserving

THE POLITICS OF DESERVING and PSYCHOLOGICAL POLITICS
Without judging…
Underneath much of Blue politics is the idea that we should take care of everyone: homeless, healthcare, refugees, etc.
Underneath Red are two ideas:
1 Deservingness-Do these people deserve help, especially if, as in the case of drug addicts, they are making very poor choices.
This includes
“you want to take my hard earned money and give it to THEM???”
and
2 We can’t afford to take in and take care of everyone. Again
“you want ME to pay for THEM?”
“Them” often has racial overtones (which this post will not get into)
Blue very often diminishes the personal responsibility of people for their choices and does a poor job of understanding how it feels for someone working hard and still struggling to see someone who is either “undeserving” or a foreigner getting government help, help which is taken from their hard earned taxes, which is what really happens.
Red diminishes the very real cause and effect of non personal forces which produces so many social problems and does not acknowledge the huge changes in the basic structure of jobs and the economy, the reality that many jobs do not pay enough to live on, or how US foreign policy has created many refugees.
Q: usually asked by blue-why does red ignore and often support government programs advantaging big business and the rich.
A: deservingness. Wealth is seen as a result of good moral character, “the best people”. Winners. Also for the christian conservatives wealth is seen as a sign of God’s favor, poverty a sign of sin, and sinners deserve punishment not support, while good people deserve support. (Calvinism) This is usually subconscious, not explicit.
This is the reason why in general Red is against any program that helps the common people and for any program that helps the wealthy.
When one reads a lot of the conservative comments on FB and ESPN, where a lot of the comment boards devolve into politics, many of the comments show a basic disdain for lower income people and a belief that these people have their problems as a result of their own defects and/or poor choices. These people are seen as “losers”.
Reading liberal comments, the attitudes are reversed: people are to a large extent considered helpless victims of greedy bad corporations and rich people who exploit them ruthlessly. People are not held accountable for poor choices, while there is a basic negative judgement of the wealthy for allowing social ills such as poverty, homelessness and hunger to exist.
In addition there is the issue of shame. For many Americans one of the basic sources of pride is taking care of yourself. Taking aid from the government is seen as shameful, a sign of being a failure, although this attitude is not extended to business subsidies and tax loopholes.
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Essentially deservingness comes down to a yes or no moral judgement:
“you want ME to pay for THEM??? They don’t deserve it. People are responsible for making good choices and working hard and if they don’t they deserve to suffer”,
often accompanied by
“and it is morally wrong to bail them out, especially by taking money from good (deserving) people and giving it to bad (undeserving) people, penalizing the good and rewarding bad behavior”.
or
“it’s our moral obligation to take care of people, no matter what mistakes they have made”, usually accompanied by
“We have money for ___ (war, tax breaks, etc, all of which trigger their own issues of deserving or not)”, we can take care of people” and
“It is morally wrong to let them suffer if we can help”.
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There’s your politics in a nutshell. Along with the disagreements on the technical details of policies, each side judges the other as being not just technically but morally wrong.
See the work of George Lakoff.
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