Saturday, February 26, 2005

First labeling, now framing

James Leroy Wilson has written another thought-provoking piece this week, this one appearing at Partial Observer. It is called "The Vision Thing", and it deals with the issue of framing certain topics for discussion and debate.

Wilson goes over the various successful attempts of framing by mainstream conservatives and progressives alike, with examples such as "single payer" health care (by progressives) to promote efficiency and shift thought away from socialism and "tax relief" (by conservatives) to make what would be a deficit enlarging tax cut for the rich sound more innocent. He also acknowledges how libertarians have lacked success in this tactic, and provides a few examples of frames that could make libertarian positions look more appealing:
It’s not easy. The purpose of framing the debate is to force opponents to accept your terms and then be forced to defend the opposite position. For example, the medical marijuana issue might be coined the War on the Sick. The War on Drugs could be re-christened the War on Minorities. Concealed carry laws must be framed within the right to self-defense, like being opposed to muggings and rapes.

Not all frames have worked, or done any good. It is absurd for anyone to support Corporate Welfare, but it isn’t going away. Neither is America’s World Police, or its Messianic foreign policy. “I believe the rich ought to support themselves.” “I think other countries ought to govern themselves.”

Those are some good ones, and here are a few that I have thought of:

The minimum wage: Keeping poor people out of the workforce.
Universal health care proposals: Injecting steroids into the worst of our health care woes.
Sin and/or consumption taxes: Promoting black markets and their associated criminality.
Restricting access to natural supplements/medication: Why must we declare war on Mother Nature to promote good health? Isn't this just a favor for pharmaceutical firms who fear competition?

I'd provide more, but these things are harder to come up than it appears. Sunni Maravillosa came up with a good one in an article she wrote awhile back called "Permission Slips". She uses the term "permission slips" to refer to the many examples where government requires one to have a license for something. If you promote licensing, then you are in effect promoting the idea of forcing people to acquire permission slips from the government before engaging in a particular activity. That's not exactly the type of thing that I'd expect adults to have to do while living in a free society.


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