James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, March 12, 2005

More on Framing and Stories

Thanks to Greg in Sydney again. Lawrence Wallack on George Lakoff's three levels of analysis for "framing" issues, which I wrote about here. Again, I think this is a must-read for libertarian activists.

Level 1 involves big ideas and universal values like fairness, equality, justice, protection, reward-for-work, family, community, etc. We all share these values in general but interpret them differently. For example, take fairness. Obviously we all value fairness. However, for some, fairness is interpreted as getting your due—making sure you are well taken care of is a key component. For others, fairness is interpreted as an obligation to take care of others—sharing with others is a key component. Obviously, individually we all believe in parts of both, but the larger argument in society is when to apply which.

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Level 2 involves how we classify issue types. Lack of health insurance may be classified as a public health issue, a children’s issue, an educational issue, an employment issue, a moral choice issue, etc. How the issue is classified could result in its getting more traction because it could activate certain Level 1 values. For example, framing health insurance as a children’s issue may activate values that are more friendly to advancing public policy approaches than does talking about it as an employment issue, or that are certainly more friendly than talking about it as a moral choice issue.

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Level 3 involves specific policies or programs that might be developed to remedy the problem. Policies and programs that are in conflict with dominant values at Level 1 have a low likelihood of being accepted at Level 3. One of the main differences between conservatives and progressives over the past generation is that the conservatives have put their resources toward changing Level 1 values and defining Level 2 issues accordingly. Progressives have focused on arguing policy and programs at Level 3. You know the rest of the story.




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