24 February 2010

Article Advocates Political Party To Promote Individual Dignity

I am seeing a lot of discussion about the need for an alternative to the Democrats/Republicans. Except of course, in the major media and among politicians themselves, who are completely wedded to our dysfunctional and unsatisfying two party system.

Some extensive excerpts below as I think this is an important idea. Read the whole thing. An unusual source for a discourse on a third party. An interesting idea, and not far away from my hopes for the Modern Whig Party.

The Democrats and Republicans are certainly not interested in upholding the dignity of the average citizen, and they would debase us all if they thought it would keep them in power for another minute. Actually, by allowing our nation to become so indebted (and to China at that!) they have done much to debase us as citizens of our once proud Republic.

Psychology Today: Blueprint for a Majority Third Party: The Dignity Party

We picture the political spectrum as a line running from Left to Right, liberal to conservative, Democrat to Republican. For much of our history, the middle was inhabited by conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. By forging a compromise with centrists, one party or the other could muster enough support to legislate and govern. Achieving a political compromise was often slow and frustrating, but, until recently, it was not impossible.

Now, for a variety of reasons, the middle of the spectrum is depopulated. Compromise is seen as a betrayal of ideological principle.

Instead of searching in vain for policies that include some liberal elements (to mollify Democrats), and some conservative elements (to appease Republicans), we could look for a new synthesis of Right and Left that is fundamental enough to generate policies that satisfy deeper concerns they share.

Upon what human value could we build a synthesis of liberal and conservative principles?

Given the dysfunctional state of American politics, the need for a path that Right and Left can travel together is urgent. If conservatives and liberals cannot subordinate their partisan agendas to the common good, world leadership will pass to nations that do manage to transcend this obsolete ideological dichotomy.
I shall suggest here that if a political party were built on the notion of Dignity, instead of on Liberty or Equality, we could forge a synthesis of libertarian and egalitarian politics that incorporates the truths that sustain each of these traditional ideologies.

In proclaiming a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the Founding Fathers came tantalizingly close to recognizing dignity as a fundamental right. By liberty they meant freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control. Thus, the right to liberty affords a large measure of protection to our dignity. Likewise, the right to pursue happiness is undermined by the indignities of second-class citizenship. It's not much of a stretch to find in the Founders' intentions an implicit right to dignity.

In contrast to a libertarian society, a dignitarian society is one in which economic power is not allowed to confer educational or political advantages on those who have it. For example, you wouldn't have to be rich to go to college or command a fortune to stand for office.

Much as church and state are separated in modern democracies, economic and political power will be separated in a dignitarian society. This means that publicly funded elections would replace the current practice of corporate and union campaign financing.

In a dignitarian society, loss of social mobility, let alone division into impermeable classes, is unacceptable. If you apply yourself and work hard, institutional obstacles must not be insuperable. Thus, in a dignitarian society everyone has access to decent healthcare and is paid enough to work themselves out of poverty in a generation. The American Dream is a beacon lighting the way to a dignitarian society.

Rank itself may be unequal in a dignitarian society, reflecting undeniable differences in our talents, skills, experience, and levels of authority, but equal dignity is accorded everyone, regardless of role or rank, both interpersonally and institutionally.

Historically, conservatives are defenders of the rights of rank. They have fought to see that rank-holders are not hamstrung, that individual initiative and enterprise are not discouraged, that entrepreneurial activity is not stifled, and that, as a society, we keep our competitive edge.

In contrast, liberals see themselves as watchdogs against abuses of rank, the ill-effects of which fall primarily on the weak. We'll know we're living in a dignitarian society when conservatives condemn the corruption of power and liberals are willing to entrust rank-holders with the authority needed to lead.

In a dignitarian society, rank may change, but you're assured of having a place.

The politics of dignity spans the conservative-liberal divide. Martin Luther King, Jr. has a place of honor in a dignitarian society-for giving us his dream of dignity for all. So does Patrick Henry-for his immortal "Give me liberty or give me death." In the economic realm, no institution does more to curtail abuses of power than the free market. On those occasions when the market does appear to have betrayed us, we invariably discover that human beings have interfered with its freedom by rigging it to their advantage.

Our political history can be read as see-sawing between the ideological poles of Liberty and Equality. So long as the ideological spectrum had a middle, compromise was possible. But absent centrists, ideological polarization leads either to stagnation and decline or to unstable oscillations between the two ideological extremes.

Building a dignitarian society is not a utopian vision, but a natural evolutionary step for an America that can go nowhere so long as liberals and conservative are at loggerheads.

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