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.