October 1, 2012

“Look between today’s two extremes.  America lives there.”

Yesterday, I wrote about our broken political system…and later in the day, saw that the STRIB had done likewise, by sharing the opinion of Stephen B. Young who simplified the issue much more succinctly than my attempt to condense Mickey Edwards book into a single posting. I have included portions of that article below.

Thanks to the baby boomers, who, out of passionate self-regard, adopted one or the other of these foreign approaches, these two ideologies have taken over our political system, have crippled our best ways of making decisions, and have brought us to a systemic gridlock where we are incapable of providing for our future success, both at home and in the world….If America is to survive, we must recover our moral sense.

American politics was designed to seek alignment between duty and advantage.  It should reflect a moral sense that we have individual human dignity to be respected by others but that we also have responsibilities to others.  We may not demand too much of them, as we are first and foremost each responsible for our own lives and for what happens to us.  But at the same time, in taking care of ourselves, we may not turn our backs on the community and its needs.

This is the middle way of mindful behavior that demands flexibility and collaboration at every turn.  It leaves no room for narrow-minded and strident ideologies.

Young then lists the results we could expect if we consciously try to achieve balance among the contending forces:

  • First, we would reject both the entitlement state and social Darwinism
  • Second, we would expect each  American to be virtuous and responsible for themselves and for our common good…Excellence, not comfort, would be the standard of the American life well lived
  • Third, we could accept the role of government and taxation as legitimate.  Government is to provide the public goods that will make the res publica prosper and which will not reliably be provided by a free market
  • Fourth, the deficit-prone programs we call entitlements-primarily health care and retirement stipends- would become a blended effort of personal responsibility and public subsidy.
  • Fifth, reliance on the moral sense would call for more tolerant communal approaches to person sexuality and religious liberty…But, where the moral sense might prove imperfect when such personal shortcomings would create high risks of harm to others…communal needs would justify regulation of personal conduct.
  • Sixth, the economy, especially the financial sector, would be incentivized to reward individual entrepreneurial achievement…Since trading and speculation contributes little to our society’s creation of wealth…such activity could be highly regulated…for fairness…and to reduce risk of credit market collapses.
  • Seventh, in foreign policy, the US would be a dynamic participant in global affairs, looking to protect and promote the moral sense through constitutional democracies and free markets and to provide checks against concentrations of power abroad that would abuse broadly accepted norms of right and fairness.

Forgive me for quoting at such length but I think this message is important.  As I read through it, I thought to myself, YES, this is why I consider myself an independent.  I generally do not see one side totally right; one side totally wrong.  Although when push comes to shove, I know from experience from over twenty years in the corporate world, interacting with a great many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that the late 20th century “business” thinking and ethics falls short.  Because I believe so strongly in collaboration and community,  I am generally pushed towards the side of the Democrats…and then live with the consequences; while continuing to hope for the good of our country that someday the balance between these two will be restored to what our forefathers envisioned. 

And, judging from the growing size of those considered “independent”, I think I share this dilemma with a lot of Americans….in fact, with latest estimates being 40% of the country consider themselves independent, it continues to amaze me that we allow two minority groups to manipulate and force us to choose between them and then let one of them run our lives for significant periods of time.  

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