Centering America


Centering America portrays and examines an overlooked common vision of contemporary political, social, and environmental reform manifestos-the local progressive ideal-local self-governance and the independent economic individual. This ideal was overcome at the outset of the twentieth century by national progressive beliefs but is being resurrected, providing an agenda on which our centrist political majority can come together. Taking its heading from the temper of the American people and the wisdom of our ...
See more details below
This Paperback is Not Available through
Sending request ...


Centering America portrays and examines an overlooked common vision of contemporary political, social, and environmental reform manifestos-the local progressive ideal-local self-governance and the independent economic individual. This ideal was overcome at the outset of the twentieth century by national progressive beliefs but is being resurrected, providing an agenda on which our centrist political majority can come together. Taking its heading from the temper of the American people and the wisdom of our Founders, the book sets a center-right course for our ship of state. It proposes the kind of distant aim for our nation that Tocqueville advocated.

About the Author

The Honorable William H. Young was a presidential appointee in the first Bush administration, where he made major contributions to ending the cold war and enabling future economic growth while avoiding global warming. He has been an officer and director of large corporations and dealt extensively with public policy. A lifelong student of social, political, and humanistic ideas and their history, he uniquely synthesizes the perspectives of diverse, high-level experience with the views of eminent thinkers in various fields to achieve the book's broad and persuasive coverage of interrelated national issues in governance, business, and environmentalism.

Read More Show Less

What People Are Saying

Ann S. Bisconti
Fascinating reading and a great reference. What you have to say is both courageous and important.
— Dr. Ann Stouffer Bisconti, President, Bisconti Research
Bruce K. Nichols
It is very nice to see the label "progressive" rescued from its lefty keepers.
— Bruce K. Nichols, Senior Editor, The Free Press
Daniela P. Moneta
An excellent job of describing contrary positions using their own words. This approach adds objectivity and persuasiveness to your arguments.
— Dr. Dominic J. Moneta, President, Resource Alternatives
Lamar Alexander
Your thinking is both original and timely. The idea of a "local progressive ideal" is a compelling one.
— Lamar Alexander, former U. S. Secretary of Education and Governor of Tennessee
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401033415
  • Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Pages: 575
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.27 (d)


In such a country where unhappily skepticism and democracy

exist together,...the men in power should always strive to set

a distant aim as the object of human efforts; that is their most

important business.


Ironically, as we embark on our voyage through a new century, an overlooked common vision of reform manifestos from both political parties, environmentalism, and contemporary social movements would reach back-to the dawn of the twentieth century-and resurrect an old paradigm as the way-of-the-future for the Knowledge (or Information) Age. The paradigm is the local progressive ideal-the decentralization of government and economic power to local citizens and sustainable communities. This ideal has two fundamental tenets: local self-governance and individual economic independence, both of which stem from the principles of our Founders. This ideal restores the role of civil society as a complement to limited government in fostering independence and civic virtue (or public spirit) in citizens, to make them more capable of self-governance. It requires public schools to transmit knowledge and educate all children to high standards, to enable individuals to achieve economic independence.

Few realize that early in the last century there was a great rift within American progressivism that reached its climax following the election of 1912. Woodrow Wilson was elected President on a platform based on the local progressive ideal, which he called the New Freedom, in contrast to Theodore Roosevelt's and the Progressive movement's national progressive ideal, which was called the New Nationalism. But the nationalist strand came to prevail later in Wilson's administration and, ultimately through the left-liberal New Deal and Great Society, became our centralized, big-government state. The losing strand is again relevant and is to be resurrected with varying accents by present-day political and social agendas.

Three profound questions need to be addressed in renewing a local progressive ideal that will be best for our twenty-first-century future:

* How should the concept of self-governance-empowering local people to make more public decisions-be reconciled with the principles of the Founders for representative government and control of factions in a renewed federalism and civil society?

* How should the ideas of enabling individual economic independence and democratizing the corporation-empowering stakeholders to share in business decisions-be reconciled with principles of market capitalism in global competition?

* How should the goal of continued vigorous economic growth to create jobs and income mobility be reconciled with environmental objectives such as sustainable development and technological solutions to global warming?

We will portray and examine the local progressive ideal, evincing a powerful centrist version as our distant aim. Taking our heading from the temper of the American people and the wisdom of our Founders, we will set a center-right course for our ship of state in showing how the elements of that ideal should be shaped.

Progressivism on the Left

Most Americans understand "progressive" beliefs to be only at the extreme left of today's political spectrum and are not aware that there are other progressive views. Simply put, progressives advocate reform. During the 2000 presidential election, a television talking head observed, "George W. Bush has presented the most innovative, progressive ideas of any Republican in a generation." Those centrist progressive ideas helped elect our current president.

The far left cloaks its radical agenda under a progressive mantle. Stripping away that mantle reveals a far different proposition for America than that of either Woodrow Wilson or Theodore Roosevelt in the Progressive Era, which led to some basic features of our current government and society with which nearly all Americans agree. Progressive reforms between 1900 and 1920 addressed the excesses of an emerging laissez-faire industrial capitalism through antitrust, banking, free and fair trade, and labor-conditions legislation. The Constitution was amended to include the income tax, direct election of Senators, and women's suffrage.

In 1913, historian Charles Beard propounded the more radical progressive theory that our Founders' Constitution is antidemocratic, enabling government and our people to be dominated by economic interests and the privileged rather than serving our citizens. This theory opposed both capitalism and individualism; Beard later proposed collective liberalism or democratic socialism as the alternative. Our left-liberal elite embraced and advanced this theory throughout the twentieth century. It has become the touchstone of our postmodern elite.

Today's populist economic liberal left seeks to preserve big centralized government and exert still more democratic control over its decisions and those of corporations in order to repeal the global economy and achieve egalitarian equality of condition. The postmodern cultural liberal left has even more radical beliefs. It sees American history as a story of immoral inequality caused by our system of governance. Its civic and moral virtue is social justice. It seeks to overthrow what it deems an oppressive white male hegemony, to transfer power to racial, ethnic, and gender identity groups who are considered the oppressed victims of an unjust and racist society. These marginalized groups are "the people" in this post-Marxist ideology, and civil society is their major battleground. Individual rights and liberty are sacrificed to group rights and collectivism to enforce the achievement of equality of condition. This is a war waged since the 1960s by postmodern multiculturalists and radical feminists-our academic and cultural left-against traditional progressive beliefs such as the American creed, progress, reason, and science as well as our founding principles. This war is not merely to realize some warm and fuzzy inclusiveness.

Academic educationists and teachers' unions play a special role in this coalition by extending John Dewey's ideas of progressive education and social reform. Having emasculated the academic curriculum and degraded the future worth of their students, particularly the disadvantaged, contemporary educators now see their role as indoctrinating our children with the values of a new multicultural egalitarian order.

Today's radical left rejects market capitalism and the philosophical framework of our representative government-the pillars of America itself. The radical left is the heir to socialism, not progressivism. A reviewer of the author's work punctuated that point well, commenting, "It is very nice to see the label 'progressive' rescued from its lefty keepers." We entreat the reader to keep an open mind and consider the fundamental differences between these leftist and the centrist progressive beliefs outlined next.

Roots of the Local Progressive Ideal

In They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era, which President Clinton called the best political book of 1996, E. J. Dionne Jr. argues that left-liberal Democratic progressivism will rise again-as it did during the Gilded Age after the election of a Republican president in 1896-in response to today's conservative Republican attack on that philosophy and support of laissez-faire individualism and corporate power, and the economic inequality and insecurity that will result. Indeed, a set of essays by foremost Republican thinkers led by Lamar Alexander, published in 1995 by the Hudson Institute as The New Promise of American Life-a play on Herbert Croly's 1909 progressive manifesto, The Promise of American Life-does broadly assault Croly's ideas and their eventual outcome, through the programs of the New Deal and Great Society, dominance by big national government.

But a lead Republican essay points out that Croly's was not the only historical American progressive vision. It notes that: "Within progressivism...there was a schism of no small significance....One major faction sought a renaissance of individualism, of Jeffersonianism, of individual rights and small-scale enterprise, of trust busting, trade unions, and 'fair' competition, of direct democracy, clean government, and popular participation in important decisions."

Harvard professor of government Michael Sandel characterizes the split similarly: "Political debate in the Progressive Era focused on two answers....Some sought to preserve self-government by decentralizing economic power and rendering it amenable to democratic control. Others considered economic concentration irreversible and sought to control it by enlarging the capacity of national democratic institutions." Those supporting decentralization, such as Louis Brandeis, sought an industrial democracy "in which workers had a voice and a vote on issues of management just as citizens of a political democracy had a voice and a vote on issues of public policy." During the Progressive Era, independent individual producers characteristic of the nineteenth century were, more and more, becoming corporate employees.

Brandeis thought of himself as "a conservative, a conservator of the Constitution by the exercise of eternal vigilance against socialism, on the one hand, and unproductive, inefficient private monopoly of economic power, at the other extreme." He considered that economic liberty could "best be guarded by individuals rather than by the state." He was the architect of the New Freedom, whose aim Wilson described as "unhampered enterprise," strictly limited government action only where necessary to release the common man (the middle class) and small businesses to realize their capacities for economic and social mobility.

A 1995 article in The New Democrat reaches back to the same source to identify the basis for its vision: "There is another tradition to which Democrats can turn for inspiration, one that predates the New Deal's centralizing tendencies. It harks back to Jefferson and Jackson, the party's founders, and reappears in Woodrow Wilson's version of progressivism early in...[the twentieth] century...."

New Democrats and the Third Way

In 1997, the center-left Progressive Policy Institute of the New Democrats published Building the Bridge: 10 Big Ideas to Transform America, which includes "The New Progressive Declaration: A Political Philosophy for the Information Age" and declares: "Like the Progressives a century ago, we seek to initiate a new politics based on ideas..." "As the era of big government comes to a close, we must reconstruct the progressive agenda in keeping with the organizational, political, and social imperatives of the Information Age."

"Our task now revive our lost traditions of citizenship, economic self-reliance, and voluntary civic action within self-governing communities." "Today's dispersals of economic power suggest a corresponding diffusion of political power, away from central institutions to people and local institutions." "Citizens must take back responsibility and political power for the decisions that affect both themselves and their communities."

"We must replace today's ruthless 'winner take all' outlook with a new vision of democratic capitalism based on sharing gains as well as risks." "This means empowering workers to participate in decisions that can determine productivity, quality, work assignments, and other matters...."

New Democrats call their agenda the Third Way, or "the global generic brand name for the progressive politics of the Information Age," (a later global generic brand name is "Progressive Governance") and The New Progressive Declaration "the clearest, most complete articulation of the Third Way philosophy to date." The agenda envisions the local progressive ideal-local self-governance by citizens and communities, restoration of civil society and development of civic virtue, the independent economic individual, and more democratic control of decentralized economic institutions. The efficacy of this version of our ideal will depend upon how its features are reduced to practice.

New Republican Visions

As may now be apparent, there are good reasons for Republicans also to rediscover some early progressive ideas, especially those of Brandeis and Wilson. The New Promise of American Life contains the most comprehensive presentation of contemporary Republican political philosophy and embodies the local progressive ideal. Its "politics of liberty" seeks a revival of local self-governance as it was practiced in the nineteenth century, portrayed so discerningly by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. It "once again empower[s] civic institutions, local governments, families, and citizens genuinely to...carry out the public tasks that really count...especially...the public tasks within the realm of social policy-the economic, social, educational, and moral sustenance of the youngest, oldest, poorest, and most vulnerable." It resurrects the independent economic individual by reducing government taxes and regulation, freeing private enterprise to enable more of our people to share in the wealth created by markets, and improving the quality of primary and secondary education through enforcing standards and accountability and providing private sector competition.

President George W. Bush advocates the same reforms called for in The New Promise of American Life. An overarching goal in his Inaugural Address was citizenship: "Government has great responsibilities, for public safety and public health, for civil rights and common schools. Yet compassion is the work of a nation, not just a government....What you do is as important as anything government does. I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort, to defend needed reforms against easy attacks, to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor. I ask you to be citizens. Citizens,...not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character."

Michael Joyce of the Bradley Foundation, whose role in this area will be discussed later, explained President Bush's remarks, "His goal is to revive an older concept of citizenship and local community that makes bigger government unnecessary." Shelby Steele also has observed, "George W. Bush is the first conservative on the presidential level to understand that he is in a culture war, that moral authority requires an explicit social application of conservative principles to problems of inequality and poverty...."

The centrist visions of both political parties focus on the key problems in enabling the creation of more independent economic individuals in America.

Public Education

In 1893, observes noted education historian Diane Ravitch, the nation's first blue-ribbon commission to study the schools endorsed the democratic idea that public high schools, which were just coming into being in the cities, should provide a rigorous academic education for all students who sought it, not just for the elite going on to college. The commission concluded that high school graduates with well-trained minds, well furnished with knowledge, would best be prepared for many potential paths in life. The expected role of the public schools was to make social equality a reality, to give each individual an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream by developing his mental powers to the full extent of his ability and interest.

Herbert Croly "viewed education as an adjunct to politics in realizing the promise of American life." John Dewey converted the national progressive ideal into his concepts of progressive education, which gradually began to pervade our schools in the 1920s and 1930s and took full effect in the 1940s. Dewey "taught that the school, which heretofore had been the locus of intergenerational transmission of received knowledge, learning, and wisdom, needed to become an agent of social betterment and change." He instilled two fundamental changes: "child-centered rather than content-centered education" and a role for schools in constructing "a new social order...which would eventually bring into being a democratic socialist society."

Dewey's disciples "rejected the traditional concept of teaching and learning, based on...testing and grades, promoting and failing students....Reformist education would become sensitive to the different social and class backgrounds of the children and adapt instruction accordingly....Progressive education also meant the leveling of the teacher-student relationship....teachers would be facilitators of learning....Progressive thinkers saw this as 'democracy in action.' It diminished teachers' authority, and it valued group cooperation over traditional individualistic competition." This approach facilitated the rapid incorporation of multicultural, feminist, and politically correct beliefs and fads into education starting in the 1960s, which came to dominate our schools with tragic results.

Another education commission report, A Nation at Risk, concluded in 1983, "The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation." Over the nearly two decades since that report, a mortal struggle has ensued and still not been resolved. On one hand, many conservative and centrist politicians, education policy makers, parents, and citizens seek to restore the role and principles of education endorsed in 1893-that all students should graduate from secondary school with an academic education to high standards-and implement the reforms needed to do so. On the other hand, the keepers of the flame of progressive education-perhaps the most pernicious legacy of the national progressive ideal-the academic and unionized education establishment and their political supporters, still successfully obstruct many needed reforms and attempts to overcome their monopoly control. The reformers must eventually win this battle if the disadvantaged are to become independent economic individuals in a global economy and the local progressive ideal is to be fully realized in twenty-first-century America.

The Environmental Ideal

Even stronger advocates of a utopian local progressive ideal are radical environmentalists and economists, whose views are compiled in an award-winning 1996 Sierra Club book. They observe that while production and operations of businesses are being decentralized, globalization is centralizing unaccountable economic and financial power in a few hundred transnational corporations and banks whose decision making, made possible by computer technology, is beyond the regulation of any nation or the control of any local community. They see the global economy as both degrading the environment and increasing unemployment and income inequality to the point of widespread social disintegration. Their solution-to be realized by activist movements and changes in corporate charters, through which citizens reclaim their sovereign right to democratic control-is the reincarnation of economic localization, of regional economies and sustainable, politically autonomous communities.

That vision underlies the protests against the World Trade Organization, globalization, and multinational corporations that began in Seattle in December 1999 by a coalition of union, environmental, consumer, religious, and student groups. Speaking of that protest, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told the annual conclave of central bankers and economists from around the world in August 2000: "While recognizing the efficacy of capitalism to produce wealth, there remains considerable unease among some segments about the way markets distribute that wealth and about the effects of raw competition on society. Thus, should recent positive trends in economic growth falter, it is quite imaginable that support for market-oriented resource allocation will wane and the latent forces of protectionism and state intervention will begin to reassert themselves in many countries, including the United States."

A populist economic liberal voice of this coalition is the Campaign for America's Future, which focuses largely on economic inequality, proclaiming: "'America's Future' will work to revitalize a progressive agenda, and fight to make this country work for working people again....If this country is to grasp the opportunities offered by the global economy, we must make sure that workers are empowered to share fairly in the benefits." Under the heading "Stakeholder Democracy," it concludes, "we must ensure that corporations are responsible to all of their stakeholders-workers, communities, as well as share and bond holders."

The New American Elite

In a widely acclaimed book Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, David Brooks describes the new American elite, which he calls the bourgeois bohemians, or Bobos. "In the information age, the world of ideas and the world of business have merged, and the much-longed-for reconciliation between the bourgeois and bohemian has come to pass." This new elite has "combined the counterculture sixties and the achieving eighties into one social ethos," which Brooks identifies as "environmentalism, healthism, and egalitarianism." The largely college-educated new elite includes "about nine million households with incomes over $100,000," independent economic individuals who have become affluent through work in the new economy.

"America once again has a dominant class that defines the parameters of respectable opinion and taste-a class that determines conventional wisdom." "These Bobos...are the new establishment." "Over the past few years, this new educated establishment has begun to assume the necessary role of an establishment." It "is everywhere. It exercises its power subtly, over ideas and concepts, and therefore pervasively."

It "exerts its hegemony over both major political parties." "The new Bobo establishment tends to be centrist and independent." The Bobo's political project "is to correct the excesses of the two social revolutions that brought them to power." "The two crucial words in the Bobo political project...are community and control." "Bobos tend to favor devolution, decentralizing power to the lowest possible level," where "each person or community can discover its own pragmatic solution....Intimate authority is imparted not imposed."

The political agendas of the New Democrats and the Republicans under President Bush are geared to appeal to this highly influential segment of the electorate-with one notable exception. This new elite has played the primary role in implementing the university values of postmodern multiculturalism and radical feminism throughout our society. Neither party's centrist progressive vision subscribes to those beliefs, such as identity-group power, racial preferences, and moral relativism.

In the presidential election of 2000, President Bush carried voters who consider themselves independent and middle class, particularly whites with incomes under $75,000, and married women. Vice President Gore carried voters who consider themselves working class, minorities, and union members, the traditional Democratic constituencies-but also the upper class and single women. Mr. Gore was viewed as a New Democrat until he adopted the message of fighting for "the people, not the powerful," which was widely seen as class-war rhetoric. But that message was most appealing to upper-class voters, especially college-educated women who, though relatively wealthy, see themselves on the side of the oppressed and are concerned about the gap between rich and poor.

Our new elite is well left-of-center politically, while the American people view themselves as center-right, a difference that may be difficult to reconcile in realizing the local progressive ideal. For as Christopher Lasch observed in The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, a "venomous hatred" for Middle America "lies not far beneath the smiling face of upper-middle-class benevolence....Simultaneously arrogant and insecure, the new elites regard the masses with mingled scorn and apprehension...."

Even though the New Democrat agenda is available, it is not clear whether a Democratic president would govern to that agenda or the beliefs of the more radical left. On the surface, American politics appears evenly divided between two centrist visions. Yet below that surface, an intense ideological battle is being waged. With the diminished influence of the conservative far right, the principal struggle is between the local progressive ideal and postmodern cultural liberalism. Our new elite may hold the future of our nation-and especially the middle class-in their hands. This is particularly true for college-educated women, whose numbers are rising more rapidly than college-educated men and who continue to be indoctrinated in postmodern multiculturalism at all levels of their schooling.

In the famous TRB column of The New Republic, the magazine started by Herbert Croly, Senior Editor Andrew Sullivan postulated that a potential Republican majority is "teetering on the edge of multicultural extinction." President Bush "has a rare chance, then, not just to better his country, but to rescue his party from impending oblivion," wrote Sullivan; "It's not just Republicans who should hope he succeeds."

And how might the local progressive ideal relate to our youngest citizens who have the longest twenty-first-century voyage ahead of them?

Generation X and the Future

Consider the post-baby boomers, the 50 million Americans born between 1965 and 1978 and called Generation X, or Xers. They share a constellation of beliefs that "transcends the existing left-right spectrum." They are often the independent voters "driving American politics towards the ideological center." But three quarters of Generation X agree with the statement "Our generation has an important voice, but no one seems to hear it."

In an August 1999 article in The Atlantic Monthly, Ted Halstead, the 30-year-old president of the New America Foundation, which is funded largely by high-tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, defines that voice and offers an agenda he calls "Radical Center" that would respond to it. Generation X is characterized as fiscally conservative, socially moderate, and environmentally conscious. Halstead's new politics for Generation X would restore the alliance between progressives and populists that dominated national politics before the cultural upheaval of the baby boomers in the 1960s.

Halstead describes Xers as having "internalized core beliefs and characteristics that bode ill for the future of American democracy" and "a negative attitude toward America...placing little importance on citizenship." They believe "the political system is rigged against their interests" and "Democrats and Republicans, despite an appearance of perpetual partisan infighting, collude to favor upper-income constituencies..." Xers seek to transform what they see as an archaic and corrupted political system to a more direct democracy. "A glimpse of the future," says Halstead, "may come, strangely enough, in the election of Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota. Much of Ventura's support came from young adults...who stormed the polls, helping to create a record turnout." In 2000, Xers' votes seem to have been about evenly divided between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore. The views of Xers are equally as pessimistic and radical on the environment. A Rutgers University study reported in 1997, "only one-fifth of 18- to 34-year-olds believe the environment is improving," despite massive evidence to the contrary.

Considerations related to Generation X and succeeding generations, who will benefit most from resurrection of the local progressive ideal if it is formulated and applied properly, are highlighted hereafter when appropriate.

Parts of the Book

The above and other aspects of the local progressive ideal are addressed in four parts.

Part One, Progressivism reacquaints the reader with the constitutional foundations that have been repudiated by our cultural elite; portrays Tocqueville's nineteenth-century America, to which New Democrats and Republicans aspire; explains the origins and legacy of progressivism; identifies how left-liberalism, postmodernism, multiculturalism, and feminism have emasculated many progressive beliefs; and depicts the future prospects for progressive ideas in the manifestos just discussed and others. Part One traces the development of and prospects for American public education, focusing on high school. This part concludes that the local progressive ideal is the way to center a more decentralized twenty-first-century America, but its ability to effectively continue republican governance and expand economic prosperity depends on how its tenets are shaped for a Knowledge Age of greater economic and social stratification.

Part Two, Federalism addresses perhaps the most critical test of that ideal's efficacy-how to define and implement local self-governance through limited, but energetic government with a restored role for civil society-a return to the federalism of the Founders through devolution of power to states, localities, and citizens. Part Two demonstrates that the most dangerous threat to self-governance is the progressive political fiction that "the people" can and should rule directly-making decisions or sharing them with representative government-the "democratic wish" that has failed repeatedly throughout American history. This part elucidates various postmodern and populist visions of egalitarian direct or participatory democracy and their rejection of majority rule, which places power in the hands of minority groups and mass movements-factions, the destroyers of past republics. It delineates the relevant principles of the Founders that should instead be reinforced as right thinking in the future conduct of more local self-governance. It indicates the importance of those principles in meeting the greatest challenge to a more decentralized federalism-mitigating the power of factions at the state and local level.

Part Two also emphasizes the restoration in citizens of individual responsibility and civic virtue or public spirit-concern for the common good of the community. Republicans propose a "sociology of virtue" as the basis for expanding the role of the civil sector. New Democrats stress the importance of renewing community, drawing heavily upon communitarian beliefs-civil religion-in addressing virtues and values. It has been said that communitarianism "promises to shape a new political era in much the way progressivism reshaped our nation a century ago." But Part Two reveals that the core moral vision of modern communitarian theorists is anticapitalist and egalitarian-left-liberalism in drag. And this part critiques Marianne Williamson's call for a New Age transcendent progressive politics, to beget an American Renaissance based on spiritual transformation, not the kind of centering that our nation needs. Part Two defines complementary roles for civil society in self-governance, through what is called "citizen involvement" in those functions that government would retain.

Part Three, Capitalism describes the extent to which the local progressive ideal is being realized through the creation of many more independent economic individuals, in some cases high-tech versions of skilled nineteenth-century independent craftsmen. It shows why the independent economic individual is the appropriate ideal for our twenty-first-century future and notes the needed role of civil society in providing the immaterial resources required by individuals to prosper economically. It assesses the prospects for growing inequality in the Knowledge Age while debunking some false notions about income inequality. It supports the view that neither government nor class-based politics will be able to compel economic justice through business in an age of global corporations and finance. It sees the better answer as fostering the stability of our republic through mobility for the middle class, applying another insight of our Founders that is right for the local progressive ideal in our time.

In the context of Third Way progressive politics, Part Three critiques the modern-day equivalent of Louis Brandeis's call for industrial democracy-the concept of stakeholder democracy or management-the grass-roots strategy for gaining democratic control of corporate governance and distributions of income. While supporting recognition of human capital, this part shows that such control is inimical to job opportunity and wealth creation in a competitive global marketplace-the right core aims of the political center-and undermines the very strengths that distinguish capitalism from other failed systems.

Prior to the strong economic growth during the late 1990s, the standard mantra of nearly all politicians was that the nation must create new jobs and abundance by increasing our economic growth rate. The "New Progressive Declaration" intones: "We must restore the American Dream by accelerating economic growth....America urgently needs a new strategy for stimulating stronger economic growth within a global marketplace and enabling everyone to share in it." Part Three discusses the reasons why the average national economic growth rate between 1973 and 1995 was only about two-thirds (2.3 percent vice 3.4 percent) the annual rate experienced during the hundred years before 1973. It considers the factors underlying recent strong performance and prospects for growing more independent economic individuals from the ranks of the disadvantaged.

It argues that greater individual prosperity and middle-class stability will be achieved primarily by upgrading the standards and results of our secondary education system-the most urgently needed progressive reform for our time. While local community colleges play a vital role in developing the skills needed to attain a middle-class life, this part draws upon two new studies to show that the solution is not to throw more money at sending everyone to college, but to equip the disadvantaged with the necessary skills through a transformed high school education at far lower cost and personal and societal burden. This applies another paradigm of the wisdom of our Founders-that "competency" is the path to creating independent economic individuals.

Part Three highlights the rising numbers of contingent (independent, temporary, and part-time) workers receiving few corporate benefits-now more than 28 percent of the civilian labor force and more than twice the number of union workers. Contingent workers are projected to be 40 percent of the labor force by 2010 and expected to grow to 50 percent. Already, half of young people without college degrees-Generation X and its successor, Generation Y-are contingent workers, especially the increasing number of uninsured working poor in small businesses. This part applies the principle of "equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none" to the unique challenges facing independent economic individuals in the twenty-first century-health care, retirement, and lifelong learning. It advocates equal access to limited, affordable benefits for health care, pensions, and education with tax incentives provided directly and only to each and every individual. Corporations or other organizations would still be free to provide such benefits to their employees or members-but with no special tax advantage or privilege to organizational member in doing so.

This part also supports a new moral contract within more "individualized" corporations to foster self-reliance and calls upon business to redress two symbols of corporate greed, "Marie Antoinette" financial reward levels for the corporate elite and most subsidies-special privileges or corporate welfare-from government.

Part Four, Environmentalism displays the beliefs relevant to the local progressive ideal within this mass movement and shows its prominent role in, and potential effect on, the future of federalism and capitalism. Sustainable development is environmentalism's prescription for the local progressive ideal. In March 1996, the President's Council on Sustainable Development released its plan for a twenty-first-century Sustainable America, which addresses far more than just environmental objectives. It proclaims: "Our most important finding is the potential power of and growing desire for decision processes that promote direct and meaningful interaction involving people in decisions that affect them." It proposes that government share decisions with individuals and groups-stakeholders or factions-in new collective processes, contrary to the principles of our Founders.

Sustainable America expands the idea of sustainable development to be "the framework that integrates economic, environmental, and social goals in discourse and policies." It supports "generating individual economic opportunities...while, at the same time, lessening the environmental risks and social inequities that have accompanied past economic development." It would establish goals for social equity and justice as well as environmental protection within sustainable communities. In support, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, which has sent action kits reviling our capitalist economic system to more than 53,000 congregations across the land, would redeem America through community economic development as a matter of justice. And a leading communitarian text, The Good Society, advises, "Today, environmental politics offers an inclusive rallying point that brings together concerns for social justice, economic viability, and environmental integrity...[or] ecological sustainability." This part shows that such coalition politics, if not overcome, will drive America far to the left of center.

Part Four uniquely juxtaposes-and unveils some paradoxes in-the calls by our politicians to continue high national economic growth and by the environmental movement to achieve sustainability and reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions to address global climate change, which former Vice President Gore has said "may be the issue with the greatest impact on all time to come." At Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, the Clinton-Gore administration agreed to reduce U. S. emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by about 2010. The U. S. Department of Energy estimated that America would have to reduce its projected emissions in 2010 by 41 percent, a monumental challenge for our economy. But Part Four reveals an even more stunning contradiction in the government estimate: It was based on a future annual economic growth rate of just 2.1 percent, not the higher rate called for by our politicians, the average rate of 3 percent realized over the past decade, or the rate of 3 percent now projected over the next decade, to 2010. This and other reasons why the new Bush administration turned away from implementing the Kyoto Protocol are explained.

Going even beyond Mr. Gore's Earth in the Balance, the book Natural Capitalism, which President Clinton called "a big idea that he repeats regularly," conveys the impression that the goals of Sustainable America and of reversing man-made global warming are immediately achievable and pain free by increasing energy efficiency and resource productivity and applying renewable energy technologies. Part Four brings to light that the underlying aim of such plans is overturning capitalism and globalization and turning to a new set of taxes on pollution and resource use within a concept of sustainable development that its guru, Herman Daly, calls the "stationary state."

Part Four also shows that the central issue in dealing with global climate change is electricity supply-the lifeblood of our new "wired" economy-and that renewable technologies are a false promise that will not provide the electricity needed for a prosperous local progressive ideal. It explains why real solutions-such as expanded use of nuclear energy-will come from wise, not ideological, uses of science and technology that should be decided through representative government. It relates the story of our Founders' rejection of mesmerism as a cautionary tale for right thinking in our times.

An Epilogue summarizes the proposed answers to contemporary issues that our people need to resolve in order to properly resurrect the local progressive ideal and realize this book's progressive objective-Centering America.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)