"Moral" metaphors are based upon experience of well-being
(according to George Lakoff). Since money has become our main
survival ticket (replacing tribal membership), morality has
increasingly been framed in terms of financial transactions.
When we talk about tragedies we use terms such as "cost"
and "loss"; we speak of "profiting"
from good experience; we ask if a given course of action is
"worth it". A person is "discredited"
(their moral "credit" is withdrawn) when shown to
be morally untrustworthy. The qualitative realm of morality
is thus transformed into a quantitative one by conceptualising
it in terms of accounting. If someone does you harm, you "pay
them back"; if you treat me well, I am "in
your debt", etc.
When someone does "wrong", we say: "don't
let them get away with it" - which frames immorality
as theft of an object. The government has exploited this framing
with its talk of "rights and responsibilities".
The public is supposed to react by sensing the "truth"
that for every "right" granted, there's a corresponding
"responsibility", and that "rights without responsibility"
is equivalent to theft. But it's a conceptual "truth"
that resides in our framing of issues, not in the "objective
structure of the universe".
The government confuses the issue of whose responsibility
it is. We pay them tax to protect our "rights", so
it's their responsibility to protect our rights (in this particular
piece of moral bookkeeping). Libertarian (both left and right)
accounting is different(?): For every right we enjoy, we have
a responsibility to protect it from government(?)
The morality of retribution seems based on this scheme. Lakoff
points out a dilemma of this framing: if someone does you harm,
do you harm that person in return ("pay him back")?
As a "balancing of the books" this can be seen as
a moral good - a legitimate punishment. Or do two wrongs not
make a right?
The morality of retribution ("an eye for an eye")
is associated with rightwing conservatism, but it's very common
in leftwing discourse, too. This isn't to be confused with "justice"
(eg prosecuting someone for war crimes) - it takes the form,
for example, of attacks on those whose "complicity"
in such crimes is so attenuated as to be virtually indistinguishable
from those doing the attacking.
"Strength" is another metamoral metaphor, since well-being
requires strength and is threatened by weakness. ("Metamoral",
since, like the accounting metaphor, it doesn't in itself tell
you which actions are moral or immoral). But the oppressed,
by definition, have their well-being taken away by the strong,
leading to what Nietzsche termed the morality of ressentiment,
in which weakness becomes associated with moral good
(and strength/power with evil).