Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How To Turn Facts Into a Story

This sounds darn good, doesn't it?

The Northern European countries earn their prosperity not through low taxation but through high taxation sufficient to pay for government. In five of the seven countries, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden, government spending as a share of GDP is much higher than in the U.S. These countries enjoy much better public services, better educational outcomes, more gainful employment, higher trade balances, lower poverty, and smaller budget deficits. High-quality government services reach all parts of the society. The U.S., stuck with its politically induced "low-tax trap," ends up with crummy public services, poor educational outcomes, high and rising poverty, and a huge budget deficit. The Northern European countries earn their prosperity not through low taxation but through high taxation sufficient to pay for government. In five of the seven countries, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden, government spending as a share of GDP is much higher than in the U.S. These countries enjoy much better public services, better educational outcomes, more gainful employment, higher trade balances, lower poverty, and smaller budget deficits. High-quality government services reach all parts of the society. The U.S., stuck with its politically induced "low-tax trap," ends up with crummy public services, poor educational outcomes, high and rising poverty, and a huge budget deficit to boot.
(From How N. Europe Exposes GOP Tax Policy Lies)

The above is a perfect liberal argument, perfectly tuned to NOT convince a conservative. In fact, because of the form of the argument - a set of logical statements that conclude that it's better for everyone (the greatest good for the greatest number) if taxes are higher - conservatives will see it as fundamentally IMMORAL.

This is hard for a liberal to understand, but it's true, and if you accept that, you're much more likely to be able to craft communications that conservatives will accept.

How do you make an argument about the benefits of European levels of taxation in such a way that a conservative will agree with you? Well, this is not the easiest place to start, but let's try.

One approach is to reformat these "facts" into a story about a particular person, someone who's very identifiable for a normal conservative person, like a worker who has a sick child or sister, who, due to the safety net, was able to ensure his daughter was cured of her rare disease without going bankrupt. This would be a lot more effective. And the person could say, "Well, I do have to pay a lot of taxes, but the peace of mind I have in case Monika gets sick again is priceless. I can't imagine the stress it must cause people who don't have level of protection. It's health insurance, but because everyone in the country participates, it means we get the best care, as good or better as I could get anywhere in the world. And compared to the insurance companies, I have a lot more faith that the public insurance plan isn't wasting my money."

Let's do a little analysis here - the original story is very compact, and "self-evidently" compelling if you like that kind of thing. However, the new version of the story is a) engaging, b) human, c) sympathetic, d) reassuring, and e) acts as positioning against a lot of different types of attacks. Because the story is the experience of a single person, rather than a statistic, it's much more compelling as a moral story - statistics always seem suspect from a moral perspective, even if they are "scientifically" more accurate.

No comments:

Post a Comment