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Real Common Sense: Using Our Founding Values to Reclaim Our Nation and Stop the Radical Right from Hijacking America

Overview

America's extreme Right falsely claims the Founding Fathers as allies for their radical agenda. Pundit Glenn Beck has gone so far as to use the title of Tom Paine’s famous 1776 pamphlet Common Sense for his own book—a book that attacks the political, social and economic rights which Paine and the Founders fought for.
It’s time to cut through the rhetoric, smoke, and spin, and get back to our core American values. We have gone off course as a country by emphasizing consumerism ...
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Overview

America's extreme Right falsely claims the Founding Fathers as allies for their radical agenda. Pundit Glenn Beck has gone so far as to use the title of Tom Paine’s famous 1776 pamphlet Common Sense for his own book—a book that attacks the political, social and economic rights which Paine and the Founders fought for.
It’s time to cut through the rhetoric, smoke, and spin, and get back to our core American values. We have gone off course as a country by emphasizing consumerism over citizenship, entertainment over education, and "me" over "we." By rediscovering the moral compass our Founders put into place, we can create a united America, and a future worthy of our grandchildren.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kahn, a public radio host, calls for a "common sense" return to the values of our forefathers and a shift in our priorities from consumers to citizens, stressing the importance of interdependence and community bonds. He wags his finger at corporate excess, right-wing rhetoric, and consumer greed before launching into his earnest advice. Few of his ideas, such as his call for media reform and a renewed public service requirement, are revolutionary, but he argues them with an effective blend of fact ("In 2005, an Institute of Medicine report found that 80% to 97% of food product aimed at children and teenagers are ‘of poor nutritional quality'") and rhetoric ("why isn't our government willing to pass regulations to protect kids from junk food advertising? Our public officials believe that junk food profits are more important than the health of our nation's children"). Cynics might find his perspectives simplistic—and Kahn is no Tom Paine—but his is a well-intentioned reflection on what it means to be a citizen in today's imperfect America. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews

A well-intended, well-written effort to reclaim Thomas Paine from today's Tea Party.

Readers familiar with Paul Collins'The Trouble with Tom(2005) or, for that matter, with basic U.S. history will know that Paine was a revolutionary firebrand of the kind Glenn Beck would like to be. He was not, however, a right-winger. Moreover, asserts Montana journalist and activist Kahn, Paine was a champion of the rights of the people in the plural. "If Tom Paine were alive today," he writes, "Glenn Beck would label him a radical socialist or revolutionary Marxist." Conversely, he adds, Paine "would call Beck what he is: a deceitful demagogue and twenty-first–century disciple of exactly what the Founders fought against." Kahn conjures a vision of an American polity, a society of friends and neighbors, that is in sharp contrast to the Hobbesian visions of Ayn Rand and her descendants. The approach is a touch scattershot at points, for the author attempts to argue for many things at once—the need to protect children from advertising, support public broadcasting, preserve public lands against corporate land grabs, and so forth. Still, his idea of society comes first, and though it is not necessarily socialist, Kahn mounts a preemptive defense against that charge. Elsewhere, he enlists the support of other thinkers to refute the grabby pretenses of the radical Right—including Mike Mansfield, the contrarian senator who is too little evoked today. But the author does most of his own heavy lifting, serving up a modern rejoinder to Paine's famed pamphletCommon Sense.

Paine would be proud, even if Kahn's small book likely reaches few readers beyond the already converted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609801267
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 4/19/2011
  • Pages: 223
  • Sales rank: 1,093,366
  • Product dimensions: 8.08 (w) x 5.56 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

BRIAN KAHN is host of the award–winning public radio program Home Ground. He has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and Field & Stream. He has worked as a ranch hand, college boxing coach, lawyer, conservationist, journalist, and lives in Montana.
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Table of Contents

Dedication 11

Introduction 13

Chapter 1 Where We Stand 17

Chapter 2 Where We've Been 25

Chapter 3 Citizenship and Community 33

An Army of One 37

Citizen versus Consumer 40

Advertising Aimed at Children: Commerce without Conscience 43

Rights and Responsibilities 49

Restoring the Balance Between "Me" and "We" 51

The Corporation 52

The Public Good 55

Failings of Government 60

What Is Public and What Is Private? 62

Chapter 4 Restoring Responsible Media 65

TV "News" 67

Socialism as Bogeyman 70

Sex and Violence on Television 78

Taking Back TV 82

Chapter 5 Revitalizing Citizenship 87

Freedom and Community 89

Public Schools 91

Universal Service 95

Promoting Philanthropy and Volunteerism 98

Chapter 6 Checks and Balances 101

Eliminating the Money Warp 107

Reforming the Corporate Structure 109

Employee Rights 111

Environmental Costs 113

"Everybody Needs a Speed Limit" 114

Wealth and Taxes 120

Chapter 7 Conservation 129

A False Debate: Nature versus Human Needs 131

Conservation and Poverty 133

Short-Term Profit versus Long-Term Productivity 136

Using Market Forces 138

Chapter 8 The American Conscience 141

"With Liberty and Justice for All" 142

The New Deal 144

World War II 145

Ending Segregation 146

Medicare 147

Protecting Our Environment 148

The Rights of Women 149

Human Rights 151

Fighting Poverty in America 157

Chapter 9 Common Ground 173

Our Moral Compass 175

Confronting Fear 176

A Plan for Action 179

Health Care and Personal Responsibility 184

Restoring Our Public Lands 186

Climate Change 187

Other Key Challenges 188

The American Spirit 191

Acknowledgments 193

Appendix: Political Definitions 195

Notes 201

Index 213

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