Framing Techniques

Don’t use their language and most importantly don’t accept their implications or framing. Framing is the implicit context that houses a conversation, and usually encompasses the definitions of words that people have accepted entering the conversation. Accepting their framing is a mistake.

Not only does negating a frame activate that frame, but the more it is activated, the stronger it gets. The moral for political discourse is clear: When you argue against someone on the other side using their language and their frames, you are activating their frames, strengthening their frames in those who hear you, and undermining your own views. For progressives, this means avoiding the use of conservative language and the frames that the language activates. It means that you should say what you believe using your language, not theirs.

The Free Market 

Almost all conversations will revolve around, at least implicitly, some idea of government intervention and “The Free Market.” Very few people are against a “Free Market.” We just happen to have different ideas of what that is. A Libertarian might see children working to death in mines and see a free market. We would not. As Ha-Joon Chang writes in 23 Things they don’t tell you about Capitalism

Thus seen, the ‘freedom’ of a market is, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder. If you believe that the right of children not to have to work is more important than the right of factory owners to be able to hire whoever they find most profitable, you will not see a ban on child labour as an infringement on the freedom of the labour market. If you believe the opposite, you will see an ‘unfree’ market, shackled by a misguided government regulation. 

Markets don’t exist inherently. Markets are designed by people. They are a nexus of protection of property rights, courts, rules, laws, regulations, norms, enforcement, capital and infrastructure.

1) Markets don’t exist without rules to define the game. The game of Football is an incoherent concept without the rules that define what football is. How to score, what is allowed and what isn’t, what you can do, penalties, and how to win. With no rules football does not exist – you just throw a ball. Without rules defining a market, markets don’t exist. People can “trade” apples for berries. This is not a market system. Without first and foremost a system of property rights you don’t have anything that is yours to trade to begin with. Things just belong to those who can take them.

2) The Definition of “Free” is open to interpretation, including many aspects of positive along with negative freedom and context. A “market” where children are working in mines 18 hours a day to the point of death in order to “earn” enough to keep from starving to death is not a “Free Market.” It’s demented exploitation of context and circumstance wrapped in a coercion more sinister than anything in a modern democratic state.

Free Markets everywhere are deemed to be a result of revealed preferences, and thus the aggregate result of free people consenting by choice to all transactions that occur. Cass R. Sunstien addresses this in one of the most effective ways possible:

I claim that the term “preference” is highly ambiguous and that people’s “preferences,” as they are expressed in the market domain, should not be deemed sacrosanct. On the contrary, market “preferences” are sometimes a product of background injustice or of social norms that people do not really like. Acting as citizens, people should be permitted to change these norms. I also argue that human goods are not commensurable; there is no metric by which we can assess such goods as environmental quality, employment, more leisure time, less racial discrimination, and so forth. 

People make choices in context. A choice between two horrible outcomes reveals a bad menu, not a truly free choice. On average African Americans make less money than Asians. It is also the case that people with traditionally African American names are called back far less often than whites and Asians for interviews and thus limiting the potential opportunities available to them for creating earning power. That isn’t an argument for regulation; it reminds us that wealth and income reflect many things outside of simply “How hard you work and what choices you make.” No one made the “poor choice” to have a name typically discriminated against by employers. Their choices are made against a context of discrimination, norms, and often low opportunity, education, and even poverty. This is why the “free market” is not always free in the same way for everyone, and that we have a social interest creating an economy more conducive to human well being.

“On What Matters” by Derek Parfit addresses the concept of real choice with his explanation of Kant’s “Choice Giving Principle”

It is wrong to treat people in any way to which they could not rationally consent, if we gave them the power to choose how we treat them. We might be able to treat everyone only in ways to which they could rationally consent; and this might be how everyone ought always to act. 

Is treating an employer in such a way as to say “Give me a blowjob or you lose your job?” treating someone in a way in which they could rationally consent. We have not given them the choice on how to treat them. It is my belief that choice entails not merely selecting from a terrible menu, but having some choice in the menu from which you must choose from. The Libertarian would be quick to point out some absurd objection; “Oh well I choose for my employer to let me choose between a trillion dollar raise and 50 new Bentley’s, so your argument fails!”

I think an argument can be made that a rational choice is possible without the options of only a trillion dollars and 20 Bentley whereas a rational choice cannot be made between giving one a blow job or losing their job, between getting raped or shot in the head. “Rational” will be the point of stasis here, but the Choice Giving principle may very well give us traction in arguing against the Libertarian’s conception of a “Free” Market, which is often a nexus of horrible choices and terrible menus in the absence of any regulation or state to protect anyone outside of the most powerful.