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Common Credo: The Path Back to American Success

Common Credo: The Path Back to American Success

by John E. Schwarz

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The author of America’s Hidden Success launches a daring and appealing political and economic plan to restore American unity and prosperity.

Today, bitter partisanship has sunk our politics into unending stalemate, millions of Americans are struggling to get ahead financially, and cynicism about the effectiveness and fairness of our political


The author of America’s Hidden Success launches a daring and appealing political and economic plan to restore American unity and prosperity.

Today, bitter partisanship has sunk our politics into unending stalemate, millions of Americans are struggling to get ahead financially, and cynicism about the effectiveness and fairness of our political processes grows continually deeper. The country needs practical, principled, and unifying solutions, rather than continued finger-pointing across the aisle.

In Common Credo, acclaimed author John E. Schwarz charts a highly original path out of this morass, one that both liberals and conservatives can rally around. Delving deeply into the words and actions of the Founders themselves, he uncovers a set of core principles involving freedom, equality, and other key values that, despite our surface ideological differences, nearly all Americans still endorse today. When implemented, the principles provide a specific model for how our politics and economy should operate—one that fulfills both conservatives' call for individual liberty with strictly limited government and liberals’ emphasis on collective responsibility and truly sufficient opportunity for all. Schwarz calls this powerful model the "Common Credo."

Schwarz then illustrates how this Credo has been abandoned over the past four decades by Democrats and Republicans alike, leading to the political and economic marginalization of a majority of Americans and nearly every political and economic problem we currently face, from the economy’s collapse to the partisan gridlock in Congress. By misunderstanding the Founders’ basic principles, both present-day liberalism and conservatism have helped create the problems and will continue to do so if we don’t find an alternative approach.

The Common Credo is that alternative. Only by re-engaging it can we arrive at precise and innovative policy solutions to our most pressing challenges—attaining sustainable economic growth and widespread prosperity; re-empowering the middle class; successfully reforming our health care, education, and campaign finance systems; curbing government waste; and reducing national deficits and debt, among others. Schwarz shows, for example, how applying the logic behind our 1950s tax structure to today's compensation policy can boost middle-class wage gains without raising taxes or spending one cent. Or how combining a carbon-fee plan with targeted rebates can underpin a climate control policy that pays for itself. Laying out these and other solutions in accessible, step-by-step detail, Schwarz engagingly demonstrates how the Common Credo alone holds the key to reuniting Americans and getting us back on the path to success.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schwarz (Freedom Reclaimed: Rediscovering the American Vision), a University of Arizona professor emeritus of political science, offers an earnest, hopeful book of questionable utility for public policy. He claims to speak for Americans abandoned by the partisan left and right. Seeking to find a vital center in the polity, his broad review of public policies claims to contain the ingredients of rekindled national achievement. Schwarz revisits the well-worn idea that Americans share common values that persist amid our differences. While this nostrum is cherished, is it any longer valid? Schwarz wants the country to aim for a 4% unemployment rate and reduced poverty. Who would want otherwise? He lists a 10-point Common Credo of “moral principles” that he presents as keys to recovery and a newfound national idealism. While these sentiments are noble, what Schwarz has to say sounds dated in light of today’s politically orchestrated battles over health-care, immigration, and economic policies. It is hard to imagine this generous and well-meaning book having much real-world impact. (Aug.)
Mickey Edwards
“We Americans have enough in common to allow us to come together on the things that matter, and Schwarz lays out a clear plan for doing so.”
Representative Ron Barber
“Common Credo delivers a compelling argument that, despite our perceived ideological differences, Americans are essentially united in our values and aspirations. Rediscovering our Founders’ true intentions, John Schwarz illuminates for all of us in Congress a path toward common-ground solutions to our nation’s problems.”
Jonathan Alter
“Common Credo reminds me of the end of The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy realizes ‘There’s no place like home.’ As John Schwarz shows in this work of eminent common sense, all of the partisan twisters wrecking public life can be overcome if we find our way home to the moral precepts on which the country was founded.”
Midwest Book Review
“Common Credo: The Path Back to American Success … is a pick for any collection strong in American principles and heritage. It's a blend of philosophy, political and social analysis that considers the history and evolution of these principles, how issues of accountability and divisions have come to affect American politics, and how basic values surrounding freedoms are being re-defined. From false ideas of freedom to real solutions to modern dilemmas, this is especially recommended as material for classroom discussion and debate.”
Kirkus Reviews
A political science professor reassesses the meaning and role of government in an age of partisanship. There is no question that partisan politics is more volatile than ever, writes Schwarz (Freedom Reclaimed: Rediscovering the American Vision, 2004, etc.), and such a crippling divide is the root of America's recent economic crisis, among other problems. Moreover, there is an overwhelming sense that the interests of our elected statesmen are being subverted by corporate lobbyists and the constant pressures of an ever-looming election cycle. This is the political climate as Schwarz views it, and such dysfunction inspired him to step back and re-examine how our system of governance has become so paralyzed. The problem, he writes, is that both political parties are equally guilty of abandoning the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers, which he defines as a vision of freedom that is not self-serving but inclusionary, for the benefit of all citizens. Furthermore, Schwarz attacks both Democratic and Republican platforms: Democrats lack a solid, agreed-upon foundation from which to ground their policy, and Republicans reductively pursue small government and free market zealotry. Providing examples of these flawed perspectives--on health care, the economy, the environment and other areas--Schwarz posits his "Common Credo" as a solution. The 10 principles of the credo outline the limits of governmental power in a way that is designed to follow the ideals of the founders by keeping bureaucracy small but supporting those that need it. While the tenets of the credo are mostly self-evident rehashes of early American political philosophy, the author offers sensible expansions and is at his best when taking to task any issue he sees as morally inconsistent or dishonest, regardless of party or ideology. Whether or not Schwarz's principles catch on, his clearheaded, moderate analysis and commitment to moral rigor and civic duty are encouraging.

Product Details

Liveright Publishing Corporation
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Barnes & Noble
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Meet the Author

John E. Schwarz is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Arizona in Tucson and senior distinguished fellow at Demos in New York City. In addition to his five previous books, he has written for The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Financial Times, among others.

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