Read This Book (Eventually)

Since many of my new followers were persuaded to join my blog world as a way to help get my next book published, I thought I would share this excerpt from the prologue.

How, my oldest daughter asked, can you call yourself passionately moderate? I thought you were a liberal.  Well, yes, I answered, my personal policy preferences are more on the liberal side. Universal health care, a woman’s right to reproductive choice, a tax system that doesn’t favor the wealthy, affordable college and affordable housing…the list goes on. But I realize that a sizeable chunk of my city, state, and nation subscribes to a different set of priorities and preferences, overlapping in some cases and diametrically opposed in others.  Even if my views were those of the majority, which they are in some cases, I do not want to impose them on a frustrated and probably angry minority.  I am willing to compromise, to settle for the good or even the good enough for now rather than holding out for the very best.

My passion for moderation is a passion for process, not for outcomes.  To practice moderation as a commitment to good process, you have to let your inner Buddha guide you in letting go of attachment to outcomes. I do believe that in most cases that good processes are more likely to lead to good outcomes. Not best outcomes. Not perfect outcomes.  Just outcomes that are steps in the right direction, or good enough for now.

I am passionate about openness to compromise, the give and take that means most citizens do not get exactly what they want personally but may get a move in the right direction, an improvement on the status quo. That passion for process makes me a liberal in theory but and a moderate in practice. At the moment, moderates seem to be endangered species in both political parties.  At the same time ,registered voters in droves have been abandoning the two major parties to declare themselves independents–and therefore probably moderates. Being passionately moderate is our best hope for the survival of our society, our nation, our democracy, depending on people being willing to accept less than what they really want and to do it graciously and with reciprocity.

Where did this way of experiencing the world come from? Certainly not from my rock-ribbed New England Republican upbringing. It started in college a lifetime ago when I decided to major in economics. I taught at Clemson University for 30 years, specializing in state and local public finance and working on developing public policy..  Retiring early, I went to seminary to get a degree in Theological Studies with the intention of focusing on ethics. I had no further career plans, but that additional master’s degree did lead to a second career, also at Clemson University.  I had been a senior fellow at Clemson’s the Strom Thurmond Institute since 1984, doing public policy analysis while still teaching in the economics department. While I was commuting to seminary in Atlanta, the Institute was launching an interdisciplinary doctoral program in Policy Studies. I was invited to teach ethics and public policy as well as political economy and public policy to doctoral students in the Policy Studies program. Although I taught traditional ethics—utilitarianism (the foundation of economic theory), Kantian ethics, and social contract, my head and heart quickly found their shared home in virtue ethics.

Virtue ethics, originating with Aristotle and reshaped into Christian language by Saint Thomas Aquinas, has experienced a revival in recent decades.  It is an ethic of moderation, each virtue occupying a center spot between the voices of the virtue’s extreme and its opposite.  But I did not abandon my utilitarian ethics that underlie economics, pointing toward policies based on moderation, compromise, the second best, the good enough. Both utilitarian ethics and mainstream economics can play a useful role in promoting the common good.

The other strand in my adult life that led to writing this book is 53 years as a member and frequently leader in the local and state League of Women Voters. Committed to citizen participation in government, transparency and accountability, free and fair elections, and making every voter count, this fine organization also spoke to both my head and my heart. The League is always open to compromise on anything other than its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusiveness and its firm belief in non-partisanship, which makes it possible to work both sides of the aisle in both election management and legislative policy.

And yes, there was also the women’s movement in general.  I am descended from strong women on both sides of my family. I am the mother of three grown daughters and four nearly grown granddaughters. For their sake, and their age mates sake, I want to preserve, protect and defend about democracy and learning to dwell together in peace as a legacy toward which  I might be able to make some small contribution, to leave them a more just, healthy and sustainable world.. I invite the reader to join me on that path.