In a Time of Universal Deceit, Telling the Truth is Revolutionary.
Saturday, July 13, 2024

George Lakoff: What Conservatives Really Want


–Dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011.

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.

Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.

Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the president has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.

Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.

In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama accurately described the basis of American democracy: Empathy — citizens caring for each other, both social and personal responsibility — acting on that care, and an ethic of excellence. From these, our freedoms and our way of life follow, as does the role of government: to protect and empower everyone equally. Protection includes safety, health, the environment, pensions and empowerment starts with education and infrastructure. No one can be free without these, and without a commitment to care and act on that care by one’s fellow citizens.

The conservative worldview rejects all of that.

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

The market itself is seen in this way. The slogan, “Let the market decide” assumes the market itself is The Decider. The market is seen as both natural (since it is assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate moral authority, there should be no power higher than the market that might go against market values. Thus the government can spend money to protect the market and promote market values, but should not rule over it either through (1) regulation, (2) taxation, (3) unions and worker rights, (4) environmental protection or food safety laws, and (5) tort cases. Moreover, government should not do public service. The market has service industries for that. Thus, it would be wrong for the government to provide health care, education, public broadcasting, public parks, and so on. The very idea of these things is at odds with the conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to people who don’t deserve it. Taxation cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life, a civilized society, and as necessary for business to prosper.

In conservative family life, the strict father rules. Fathers and husbands should have control over reproduction; hence, parental and spousal notification laws and opposition to abortion. In conservative religion, God is seen as the strict father, the Lord, who rewards and punishes according to individual responsibility in following his Biblical word.

Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science should have authority over the market, and so the science of global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend conservative values themselves, the devil’s own means can be used again conservatism’s immoral enemies, whether lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women’s doctors.

Freedom is defined as being your own strict father — with individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do. To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.

This is the America that conservatives really want. Budget deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life.
What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.

Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-American — the top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.

Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.

Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called Democratic Communication Disorder. Republican conservatives have constructed a vast and effective communication system, with think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast holdings of media, and booking agents. Eighty percent of the talking heads on TV are conservatives. Talk matters because language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have not built the communication system they need, and many are relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values and complex truths.

And Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done. “Benefits” are pay for work, not a handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.

Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.”

Is there hope?

I see it in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands citizens see through the conservative frames and are willing to flood the streets of their capital to stand up for their rights. They understand that democracy is about citizens uniting to take care of each other, about social responsibility as well as individual responsibility, and about work — not just for your own profit, but to help create a civilized society. They appreciate their teachers, nurses, firemen, police, and other public servants. They are flooding the streets to demand real democracy — the democracy of caring, of social responsibility, and of excellence, where prosperity is to be shared by those who work and those who serve.

George Lakoff is the author of The Political Mind. His website is

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38 thoughts on “George Lakoff: What Conservatives Really Want”

  1. A few philosophical tidbits…

    “There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.” – Plato

    “If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.” – Socrates

    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

    “The death of dogma is the birth of reality.” – Immanuel Kant

  2. As a final note, each of us regardless of how well off or poor have a responsibility to some degree
    to their fellow citizens. That’s what sense of nation and community is all about.
    -Carl Nemo

    >> Yes Carl, fellow “citizens” being the focus. The borders are wide open.
    I’m speaking of illegal Latino, Chinese, Russian, Cuban, you name it, they come here and no longer wish to assimilate. No, a great many (as of late) have come here to take advantage of us.
    Sound jaded?
    I call it like I see it.
    Those on here may see it differently and that’s a respectable opinion.
    I’m fine with people having differing opinions.

    So I’ll just abdicate my responsibility as a functioning, sovereign, thinking member of society
    and go with the flow.

    >> Yes griff, and that also works with religion. The “rapture” crowd are waiting on Jesus, fulfilling a self-fulfilling prophecy of “Biblical proportions.” (Pun intended)

    I have a sneaking suspicion Jesus ain’t fixing this mess for our lazy butts. We’re all gonna have to roll up our sleeves, dust off our brains and get moving.
    Action and reaction.
    Simple cause and effect.
    No Heavenly intervention is coming.
    It’s time to build the ark because the rain is picking up and falling down.

    I see this nation as a wounded person laying on the train tracks. All of this “political” discussion equals two individuals “discussing” how to move this person before the train in the distance arrives.
    …and the discussion continues as the train approaches.

    There’s a time to understand the situation and a time to remedy the situation.

    Which brings us back to the topic of this thread.
    “What do conservatives want?”
    Ask the liberals, the answer is so close there’s nary a difference of opinion.

    • The rapture crowd. Ha. Ain’t happenin’ folks. Grow up already. No free rides, no get out of tribulation free cards. That’s why you see

      That’s why you see so many Christians supporting Israel, like Tom Delay. They can’t wait.

    • I believe you’re off the mark on that last point, eve.

      It depends on whether you’re talking about regular folks or those we’ve annointed.

  3. “Budget deficits are a ruse”

    Excerpt from article and forget the rest of the mush that followed. I’d suggest the author do some real research besides just spittle laced bullet points. Come into the town where I live and sit down with the Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, Town Manager and Board of Selectmen. Discover the intricacies of attempting to plan for a future with health care costs eating up 10% of your budget. Take a close look at some public sector contracts that through the years have never addressed a continuation of benefits that are rare indeed in the private sector. Try to plan for capital expenditures where you have just about reached your debt obligation. New firs truck? Forget it! Think of mandated programs – state and federal – that now have reduced funding. Examine the unfunded pension obligations. I could go on and on with each line item.

    I hear “sources of new revenue” and I just crack up. In my community we have the lowest median income of any town in the county. A listed unemployment rate of 12%. Dropping housing prices. There is no revenue. In Massachusetts we have prop 2 and 1/2 that provides override options. Four have failed. The money is not there.

    Magnify this by community after community and you see that what is happening in Wisconsin, NY, NJ and countless other states is a reaction to a fiscal reality. Right now fiscal conservatives and pragmatic Democrats/Republicans with one iota of fiscal sense know the perfect storm has come in. It has been happening in Europe and now it will happen here.

    I am a retired – as is my wife – public service employee. I can certainly appreciate the gains made through the years since we were both active participants but this is simply wake up and smell the coffee time.

    I offer no solutions regarding this mess but sooner or later politicians of all ilk will have to have reasonable discourse on solutions. Good luck with that.

  4. Modern conservatives and modern liberals alike are traitors to their roots. Both have become totalitarian in their belief that government can cure all social ills while ignoring the natural order and the human condition.

    Both believe that government force is required in all aspects of on’e life in order for one to be socially responsible. Both take a collectivist view of society, chopping us up into groups to fight each other for rights that should be the same for all.

    Both believe in the sanctity of the State and the purity of its intentions. Both believe that more is better than less when it comes to government power. Both believe that society is incapable of caring for itself and others without their omnipotent and overwhelming guidance.

    Both are dead wrong in every thing they do.


    • That’s a great book… I highly recommend it… and it makes mince meat of everything Lakoff has said… written over 60 years ago. The best $10 you’ll ever spend.

      Great leviathan is not the answer to moral and ethical support of our fellow humans. In fact, the chopping up of us into groups to battle each other for the spoils of the political system is just the opposite of morals / ethics, and as you have stated, it’s the modus operandi of all our politicians.

      Personal independence has been cast as something way too scary… we must fear the satanic terrorists et al, even though we understand fully that our own politicians terrorize us far more [regularly] than any of the bogey men they throw up as targets for our foreign policy adventures (wars).

      Interesting how, at this very moment, the Middle East is bulging with renewed personal and societal independence from the totalitarians those people have come to understand… and thus hate. Our time will come.

      • “Our time will come”…extract from post/reply

        I surely wish it would come Almandine, but unfortunately if and when it does come, we’ll be standing on the wreckage of our civilization and everything we once held dear.

        One thing people fail to realize as that when many of these writings were launched from the pens of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard with a most modern influence on Ron Paul is that the world’s population wasn’t burgeoning at the 7 billion mark and the U.S. now at 310 million up from the 100 million at the dawn of the 20th century. With an everyday growing shortage of raw materials and food to drive our modern civilization especially “peak oil” we’re on the edge of the abyss. When these early writers launched their theories, the world was still on a gold standard and the British Pound was the world’s reserve currency. Then post the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 along witht the income tax, it turned our government loose to do a “job” on its citizens during the next 100 years. We’re now suffering the near end result of many years of synthetically created boom and bust cycles at the behest of the the shadowy central bankers that own our collective butts, lock, stock and barrel.

        We’ve been destroyed by profligate government spending with us all being stuck with an absolutely unpayable, astronomical level debt load. We have mad men and women at the helm of state still pushing “Empire Americanus” down the world’s collective throat while our central bank, the Federal Reserve has reversed course from being traditional inflation fighters to rabid counterfeiters hell-bent on creating synthetic inflation with false hopes to spend our way out debt. Insanity running amok is the order of the day at out highest levels of government down to the lowest citizen.


        In a mad world only the mad are sane. — Akira Kurosawa


        Carl Nemo **==

        • We’re not done yet… unless everyone takes your tack and gives up completely. I do, however, expect it to be the social equivalent of war to put things back on track. This is – and will be even more so – an exciting time for those willing to step up and make a difference.

          As for the Austrians of whom you speak… theirs were not theories, but observations as to how humans choose their actions and the resultant economy when left unfettered by [govt] force. The number of actors and the breadth / depth of resources to be traded is scalar.

          Madmen are eventually constrained from their illegitimate actions.

          • Our time may come, but will the majority of people have even the slightest idea what the outcome should be? I highly doubt it. It’s easy to fight against, much harder to find some thing to fight for.

            Wisconsin is a prime example. Protesters on both sides haven’t much of a grasp on the big picture.

            • Interesting that… I was re-reading a passage in Liberalism just last week that was talking about the boundaries of totalitarian economic control and the eventual awakening of the masses that will always come in response. How bad must it get to produce that?

              It only took a century or so to get here… as control of the economic system got tighter and tighter – supported by evermore socio-economic bribery to keep the ignorant classes in line – but time is growing very short since we have little more wherewithal. We’ve hit the wall and the jig is up… the only question is whether we allow ourselves to be fully, completely, irretrievably [to honor Carl] squashed into the dustbin of history.

              Many among us have already figured it out, and some are already in positions to make a significant difference. The societal problem with our current fiscal morass is the time-honored homily “We’ve been down so long it looks like up to me!” I don’t think it’s what he meant, but Obama was right when he recently said that education is what’s needed for the future. Chop chop.

              • Have you read “Wild Swans – Three Daughters of China”? It’s an autobiographical family history through three generations by Chinese writer Jung Chang – an incredibly riveting story of life in China before and after the “awakening of the masses” under Mao.  Jung Chang’s mother and father were dedicated communists who revered Mao.  As they came to realize more than a decade later, Mao did not end totalitarian rule of the masses as he promised – he just changed the rules. There is no utopia. The “masses” cannot on their own run a nation. It may seem that they can act selflessly in unison when they are working to overthrow a common enemy, but once the enemy is defeated their many variant self interests wreak dissension and leave a power vacuum. The lesson of history is that some dictator or dictatorial group will then seize control.  Life in old feudal China was terrible for the peasants.  In the “workers’ paradise” under Mao it was terrible for everyone – peasants, middle class, intelligentsia, professionals – except for Mao’s favored inner circle.  As the saying goes “be careful what you wish for”.

                    • The Gospel according to Mises.

                      A philosophizing 1927 German is the last word in modern liberalism?

                      C’mon guys, get a grip!!

                    • Well Troll, old buddy –

                      Your ignorance is showing big time. Mises had nothing but contempt for what would become known as modern liberalism – progressivism – socialism, as it were – which is nothing more than the moochers play book.

                      Classical liberalism is exactly the opposite of the govt-as-Robin-Hood syndrome… it’s a system based on personal responsibility for one’s actions, and the socioeconomic community that flows from it. Classic liberals “serve” their fellow beings and derive just profits in the process.

                      So if you want to get your own grip, go to MIses, buy the book and spend a little time with someone who could actually show even you the way forward. It’s clear you have no clue at this point.

                    • Right, it’s what I call Jeffersonian Liberalism versus the Socialism that passes for Liberalism/Progressiveness today. That’s why I always say I’m a Jeffersonian Liberal, but people call me conservative.

                    • Sorry if I wasn’t clear… I meant get a grip on reality!

                      Next you’ll be riding your bicycle around the neighborhood in a white shirt and black pants, knocking on doors and asking folks if they have heard the Word of Mises, the great Framer of the Argument.

                      Mises… say, did he find his Gospel on some tablets out behind a burning garbage can, or something? I wonder if he knows where Al Capone is buried?

                    • Boy you really got me !!!!

                      Pop said, keep your mouth shut and let folks only think you’re a…… guess he didn’t get to you.

                • I wasn’t implying that Mao was liberal – obviously he was not. My response was to your “awakening of the masses” as a solution. And my point was that these big movements to overthrow the existing tyrannical orders in order to “liberate the masses” themselves became tyrannical.

                  • But modern-day “liberals” are Maoists. Ha. Go figure.

                    An awakening of the masses doesn’t necessarily engender overthrowing any thing. It merely means that we Americans are finally figuring out that we’re getting screwed, to put it mildly, and it’s time to seek a new direction.

                    Many may laugh (logtroll) at the idea of this old-fashioned liberalism, but it just so happens to be the ideals that this country was founded upon.

                    What has become of us since we switched over from a mostly, but not perfect, liberal system and allowed the banksters and corporations to run the show these last hundred years or so?

                    Are we better off? The endless inflation, the dollar has lost 96% of its value since we abandoned the gold standard and adopted a Keynesian system, the unceasing raising of taxes and fees that still doesn’t cover half of our expenditures, real unemployment over 20%, more poverty then ever, a widening gap between the Priveleged Class and the rest of society, the decimation of the middle class, endless boom/bust cycles, the abandonment of a free market system, and an ever-encroaching monstrosity of a federal government.

                    If you ask me, any one that still believes this government is either capable or willing to fix what ails this country are the crazy ones, be they “liberals” or “conservatives.”

      • The thing that irritates me most is the nature of partisan politics in general, and how they make adherent, frothing robots of their worshippers.

        The Democrats have failed us.

        The Republicans have failed us.

        And yet the faithful remain loyal despite decades of failures. Any alternative policy shift not condoned or espoused by either party is automatically discarded by pundit and public alike.

        Third parties are a case study in cognitive dissonance, i.e. holding two conflicting views at once. The system has failed, but I’ll continue to support the system. A third party is not viable because it’s outside the system that is an absolute failure. So I’ll just abdicate my responsibility as a functioning, sovereign, thinking member of society and go with the flow.

        We only have two choices, and they both suck.

        • Yup, I keep getting told I wasted my vote by voting third party. My reply now is to ask, “What did voting for Obama and McCain get you? How did voting for either of them make our country better?”

          I used to say voting for the lesser of two evils is still a vote FOR evil. But the above works just as well anymore for most debates.

  5. The article content describing old time conservatives is spot-on. Either fortunately or unfortunately post the depression and WWII, slowly but surely a “Great Society” emerged like it or not.

    Our entire paradigm has turned into a complex “tank” just like the ocean with all the creatures working and cooperating in a biodiverse manner to keep the tank healthy albeit on an unconscious, but natural level.

    Things were going fine for some time until starting with the Reagan/H.W. Bush era in the 80’s that deregulation of essential utilities, transportation (air), rail, communications and a host of other services were turned loose into an encouraged environment of “blue sky” pirate capitalism. “Bring on the Competition!” was their corporate mantra.

    In times prior to this electric companies, phone companies, air lines etc. were only allowed to charge rates that provided a reasonable return on investment which was generally quite good, nominally about 10 % per annum across all sectors, but then the “greedy ones”, newly ensconced ‘conservatives’ realized that this was holding them back from their favorite pastime of price gouging, faux competition and a host of other practices that allowed them to bleed citizens white; I.E., the type business practices that existed prior to ‘trust-busting” in the early 20th century.

    Case in point. When we first hooked our home for cable about 20 years ago it was $17.50 per month for expanded basic service. We went through four cable companies supplying the signal; ie, Rogers Cable, then Cox, then AT&T and presently Comcast. The county gives the cable providers a 10 year lease on the county. They have an oversight board. I’ve listened to hearings, but its basically a “rubber stamp” good ol’ boy session where they always get their rate increase. Today the same expanded basic service for 70 channel, not HD costs $86 per month which includes a leased DVR in addition to the $48 per month I pay to receive my data signal for the computer. The only upgrade was when ATT spent money on infrastructure and upgraded to fiber optic nodes that feed neighborhoods then fan out to feed homes via traditional coax.

    Luckily we have a P.U.D. (Public Ute District) for our electric provider, but just the same we went from 1.7cents per kwh to 8.1cents for the same today, the highest rate in all the PUD districts in Washington State of which there are many. There still those that people are paying only several cents per kwh. Part of the problem was go-go PUD commissioners decided to build a natural gas fired plant about fifteen years ago with the intention of cutting back on the feed from Bonneville Power. Big mistake. Natural gas pricing went through the roof while Bonneville turned their backs on those trying to jump ship. The Bonneville Power Comission was a depression era project to harness the Columbia River water flows with multiple dams along the Columbia with Grand Coulee being the first in the series. The folks living in “Electric City” Washington; the people that built the dam have low rates guaranteed into perpetuity of under several cents per kwh. Bonneville’s prime directive was to supply electricity to P.U.D.’s first with all others second within the state and beyond. Now we supply electricity to southern Californians too.

    So as we march across America we find that our nation has been destabilized by deregulation of basic infrastructural services which allowed the greediest of the greedy ‘conservative’ types who spout a line of conservatism as outlined in this George Lakoff piece to engage in “pirate capitalism’ at its worst. Rather than being satisfied with reasonable rates of return, to them the sky is the limit, consequences be damned to society as a whole, regulation and oversight being dirty words. We’re now paying the supreme price for this folly to be unleashed across America from Wall Street, banks, insurance to the lowly cable and cell phone provider.

    Our government has lost its steerage for many years continuing to grow at almost an exponential rate. We now have 2.2 milllion federal employees sucking on the private sector who do not enjoy the same pay guarantees; ie., COLA (cost of living) increases, deluxe medical and retirement benefits which have COLA too. An enlisted USN chief retiring in 1968 making about $275 per month was up to $1150 per month by 1988 due to COLA increases to his pension. Cola has recently been frozen, but is still iin place . I used the chief’s pension simply as an example since its a story personally revealed to me. Obviously there’s something wrong with this system. Rarely does the private sector enjoy such percs, but is unique to the government sector, including state, county and local in many cases.

    We cannot disassemble our society and go back to a pre-depression era system without chaos and havoc being the order of the day.

    Unequivocally government at all levels has to change course and adopt more Spartan levels of compensation and percs. One of our regulars recently supplied a statistic where the U.S. has lost approximately 42,000 manufacturing facilities since 2000. Our leaders have facilitated the gutting of our manufacturing base. So with massive long term unemployment in the 20% zone, there’s no way government at all levels can continue to operate business as usual with the massive loss of its tax base. Seemingly government at all levels has to reduce its workforce by 20% along with pay adjustment and percs downward into the future. Of course government leadership looks upon the civilians sector as their tax slaves to exploit and to betray as they’ve done to date.

    We’re headed for the rocks of destruction with the possibility of rioting and blood in the streets, up to and including another civil war with the eventual Balkanization of the U.S. no different than the former Soviet Union.

    As a final note, each of us regardless of how well off or poor have a responsibility to some degree to their fellow citizens. That’s what sense of nation and community is all about. The question we must all ask ourselves:

    “AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?”… Genesis 4:9

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Re your statement: So as we march across America we find that our nation has been destabilized by deregulation of basic infrastructural services which allowed the greediest of the greedy ‘conservative’ types who spout a line of conservatism as outlined in this George Lakoff piece to engage in “pirate capitalism’ at its worst.  

      As you correctly state some of the increased costs in society are due to govt bloat and inefficiency.  But you attribute most of the increased costs to greedy conservative profiteers, using as proof a claimed increase in the costs of utilities, phone and cable service and airline fares over the last 20 years due to deregulation.  You are correct in regard to electric and cable service.  Electricity prices gave increased more in deregulated states than regulated states. With regard to cable service they have increased by 59% since deregulation in 1996.  However we should also note the rise of the cost of living in general – gas is 300% higher than it was 20 years ago and housing (even discounting the 2006-2008 boom/bust) is 500% higher. Where your claim falls completely flat is in the airline industry in particular, and somewhat in telecommunications. According to the Air Transport Association, airline prices have FALLEN 44.9 percent in real terms since deregulation in 1978.  Re phone service – long distance calls are cheaper now than before deregulation.  In these two industries the competition that deregulation enabled has been good for the consumer – so the question of whether these industries are making higher profits is really irrelevant.   Would we rather return to regulation, lower profits, decreased competition and higher prices in these industries?   I think what we need to realize is that it is not as simple as “deregulation is bad” and we need to stop “greedy conservatives” who engage in “capitalist piracy” to the detriment of society.

      • “According to the Air Transport Association, airline prices have FALLEN 44.9 percent in real terms since deregulation in 1978. Re phone service – long distance calls are cheaper now than before deregulation.” …extract from reply

        Granted Jackie that airline ticket prices have fallen along with phone service including the introduction of many new communication devices, but there’s more to my linking our national dilemma to deregulation than the price itself which I didn’t discuss.

        Many airlines have gone bankrupt or consolidated since the 80’s. Routes have been modified to the point that it’s difficult to find direct air service to many cities forcing people to fly to the nightmarish “hub airports” then a reverse flight to wherever they needed to disembark; ie, being routed like they are data packets via routers and server based switching networks than humans on business trips or vacation. The quality of airline service sucks bigtime and I’m sure I can find millions of folks that agree with me not including the indignity of over the top airport security post 9/11 that has virtually turned air travel into a former “East German, Stasi controlled” styled boarding environment.

        Phone service sucks bigtime too at least landline companies. I’m so old that I still maintain a landline to my home living in the Qwest Communications territory, now owned by Century Telephone. The customer service stinks as well as their call centers. I dropped AT&T as my long distance service pick and simply use 10-10-987 then dial the number for 3 cent a minute calls within the U.S., Canada and to Germany. It’s saved money bigtime compared to using AT&T as the provider which also stinks in terms of customer service. I dropped using a cell phone service provider via an account with monthly billing to pay as you go by simply buying time. Again, due to our ages, my wife and I and having no children or grandchildren we have no need to talk endlessly on a cell phones and simply use it for emergencies and quick status checks or calls then get off the device. The cell phone game has been turned into a complex, contract driven dog and pony show that literally bleeds people white; ie., people that can least afford such monthly. I have an 10 year old phone that looks industrial grade that could possibly survive an air drop from 10,000 ft and still function. I’ve dropped at the end of my rural drive and left it overnight in the rain and it performed perfectly the next morning. : )

        Anyway I don’t fit the bill concerning a frequent market participant for air travel or phone service. You are correct it’s cheaper, but the ultimate question is the service as good or superior to that of 30 years ago. I think not. To put it simply I think just about everything has degenerated from the kinder and gentler times prior to the Reaganites, Clintonista, Bushista eras of deregulation along with the encouragement of “blue sky” pirate capitalism. They and their rabid supporters have made beaucoup bucks at the American consumer’s expense while creating an inferior marketplace and nation as a whole.

        Things are not well in Gotham City. : |

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Interesting about the airline travails… route structures were set during the time that the industry was regulated, so that lesser cities would have service. The MUCH higher fares paid for it… essentially, airline companies had been granted a collective govt monopoly.

          Deregulation then came to airlines, that had been fat because of the higher fares, and ticket prices began to fall with the deregulated market, i.e., competition. Air travel became MUCH cheaper.

          But, the introduction of higher petroleum prices, followed by the post-9/11 reduction in air travel, caused financial strains that the airlines could not manage profitably, so the mergers, sell-offs, bankruptcies, etc., ravaged the industry. Profits shrank… thus, so did the service.

          That continues today, as we witness fewer planes flying fewer routes, the lack of free meals, snacks, drinks, pillows, blankets, reserve pilots and flight attendants… reductions ad infinitum. Only Southwest Airlines has a business model that has truly thrived.

          Currently, however, US airlines still fly to more cities than ever before, at cheaper prices than ever (soon to go up with Bernanke’s inflation), carrying record numbers of passengers both domestically and internationally (> 600M in 2009). Some would call that superior service when compared with the state of the industry 30 years ago.

          As for the TSA ? Stazi indeed.

        • I agree that those were “kindler, gentler times”. Although I think the dividing line was the 1960’s and not Reagan’s presidency. But I wouldn’t attribute that solely to deregulation and capitalism. Personally I think the Miranda Act and other protection of criminal rights acts and interpretations that followed have also contributed to a worse society. Our devolvement into a society that sues for everything has also contributed. Also re the “beaucoup bucks” capitalists made – yes, but they also created “beaucoup jobs” and “beaucoup availability of consumer goods”. I grew up with one car, one B&W TV and a portable radio that I personally saved up for from babysitting money. All middle class, most working class and even many welfare families today have multiple TV’s, multiple cars, iPods, iPads, computers, cell phones, etc. Some of the loss of “kindler and gentler” has to do with what WE have allowed our priorities to become – and the fact that we have become an “I want” society from top to bottom. I commend you and your wife for not going that route – but again I don’t see that as being caused by deregulation or cured by clamping down on successful capitalists. I don’t see the lack of service you lament as tied to excess profits or capitalism either. In fact, you may remember when the worst customer service came from govt agencies like the DMV and a visit to them was your worst nightmare. Customer service in the private sector was far better, but unfortunately deteriorated over the last 40 years to the level of public service. I don’t fault capitalism for that, I fault the “entitlement” attitude that has become pervasive (people are not appreciative of having jobs), and poor supervision and management which don’t emphasize the connection between keeping customers happy and keeping your job. Although I must say that recently I have noted that some large corporations seem to be putting emphasis on customer service and their agents are bending over backwards to please. BTW – re airline routes. In the 1960’s I remember flying a DC-3 and making 4 stops to get from New Orleans to Memphis. I think flying through a hub service is far preferable. And re consolidation and airlines going out of business – we have also seen the growth of small upstart airlines like Jet Blue and Southwest, which would not have been possible under regulation. They help expand routes and keep fares down. Given all the above I grant that we do have multiple problems – but blaming them all on deregulation and high profits won’t help us change that.

          • It’s nice to see a new “face” here. I think the argument is more about smart regulation as opposed to either over- or under-regulation, and the government’s ultimate refusal to undo bad policy decisions (healthcare, for example).

            Too many times, particularly now, we see regulation (or deregulation) that discourages competition, protects special interests (campaign donors), and interferes with the market (consumer-producer interaction) providing the best possible product or service.

            You are correct in your assessment of capitalism, as it was intended to be. There’s nothing wrong with profiting from a successful business model or product.

            But on the flip-side, when government subsidizes or bails out those that made poor decisions or gambled and lost on a product, those businesses should be allowed to go fail.

            In this too-big-to-fail era of government-endorsed crony capitalism, there are no risks to the businessman for making poor choices, the risk is assumed by the taxpayer.

            The bankers made money on the way up, and they made money on the way down. No one has been called to account for any thing, no indictments have been handed down, and no one has so much as been fired. In fact, the very people that orchestrated “the collapse” have either kept their jobs and extravagant bouses, or have been promoted to our saviors-in-waiting.

            Called tech support lately? Ha.

                • Not to sound like the fourth member of a barbershop quartet, but it’s nice to have a fresh opinion expressed through the keyboard of an obviously savvy person. Welcome aboard CHB Jackie Reckseit…!

                  I concur that everything cannot be simplistically linked to deregulation and ‘obscene’ profits… ; )

                  Carl Nemo **==

                  • Thank you ALL for the generous welcome!  It’s nice to read intelligent, well thought out views rather than campaign sound bites.  It certainly looks like we are going down the drain.  I don’t know what the answer is but I know common sense when I see it and when I don’t.  I recently read about Denmark’s unemployment insurance policy.  They give unemployment payments for two years, but at a DECLINING rate, and the recipient must be enrolled in a re-training program in a growth industry in order to receive the payments.  Now doesn’t that make perfect sense compared to what we do, which is to hand someone a packet of money for showing up every couple of weeks and lying about looking for a job?  In fact, I think today you don’t even have to show up – the money comes in the mail.  There is no incentive to get a job and at the end of two years the recipient is no more marketable in the workplace than he/she was before. Why do we fight over whether or not to extend unemployment, when the fight should be over how to best put someone back into the marketplace?  It seems to me that so much of the US is run on the basis of ideology and complete lack of common sense.  How do we spend millions to fund a watchdog agency like the SEC that wasn’t able to identify Madoff’s scheme even when advised about if for two years – and not fire those responsible?  How did we manage to turn ADC (now called TANF), a necessary temporary social service, into a program that encourages teens and other unwed mothers to have more babies and remain on welfare permanently?  The Clinton welfare reform didn’t end all of this; in fact it institutionalized it for one segment of welfare recipients – mothers with children under one year old or mothers with children under five years old who cannot find child sitting services.  So the lesson we teach is – have a new baby every year so you can stay on welfare and get more income for each new baby.  BTW if you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend Star Parker’s – Uncle Sam’s Plantation. She is a self described previous “welfare junkie” who turned her life around.  Easy reading.  As you can see – I have a lot of pet peeves.

                    • From what I’ve read here Jackie you’ll get along fine with all the constructive rabble rousers found on CHB. Good thoughts all…!

                      Just a friendly suggestion for future contributions. Possibly you could divide your thoughts into paragraphs for easier reading. Most of us on the site are old geezers, myself 66, wearing bifocals; so its difficult to read a continuous stream of thought without some divisions concerning a change of content focus. Thanks. : )

                      Carl Nemo **==

    • Regarding your “brother’s keeper” comment Carl, I’m wondering just how far that goes. If you subsidize his health care costs, does that mean you can tell him what and how to eat? exercise? how much sleep to get? wear a motorcycle helmet? seatbelts? take cholesterol-busting drugs? flu shots?

      What about your return on his taxpayer-funded unemployment compensation? Does he need to come on over and mow the lawn to show gratitude? work on town cleanup projects? sit with kids of the marginally-employed to allow them better productivity? serve as a teacher’s assistant to improve education?

      What about the bankers, wall street execs, etc… what’s their responsibility for the largesse they’ve been given?

      • Good point Almandine. I probably should not air my specific remedy concerning our seemingly failed “New Deal” to “The Great Society experiment in “brother keeping”. People might confuse me with Chairman Mao… ; )

        There aren’t enough bulldozers to dig enough trenches to hold my enumeration of slackers, ripoff artists, business types with MBA’s, lawyers and politicians who are mostly lawyers too. My thoughts on this subject transcend class. There’s no shortage of corrupters regardless of their status in society.

        Yes, I am my brother’s keeper, but with strictures and limits for sure… : |

        Carl Nemo **==

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