With just a few days to go before mindless spending cuts take effect under the ill-advised “sequester” plan, it’s popular, among media commentators, to say that “no one likes the sequester.” Linguist George Lakoff thinks differently. Extreme right-wing conservatives may publicly declaim that the sequester is bad news, but philosophically, they love the concept, contends Lakoff. In an article published on February 26, 2013, Lakoff says:
The sequester is not just about money and political power for the republicans in the House. It is mostly about what [extreme conservatives] see as the right direction for the country: maximal elimination of the public sphere.
What’s behind that thinking? Lakoff notes that:
Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.
…[Ultra conservatives] believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality. They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.
Their moral sense requires that they do all they can to make the government fail in providing for the common good. Their idea of liberty is maximal personal responsibility, which they see as maximal privatization — and profitization — of all that we do for each other together, jointly as a unified nation.
They also believe that if people are hurt by government failure, it is their own fault for being “on the take” instead of providing for themselves. People who depend on public provisions should suffer. They should have rely on themselves alone — learn personal responsibility, just as Romney said in his 47 percent speech. In the long run, they believe, the country will be better off if everyone has to depend on personal responsibility alone.
…So for them the sequester is not a “self-inflicted wound.” It is justice.
Read Lakoff’s full explanation here.
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.