October 10, 2011

Richard Danzig on “A More Perfect Union: A Dialogue on American Values”

Tomorrow I’m hosting an event called “A More Perfect Union: A Dialogue on American Values.”

It’s the first in a series from the Ford Foundation and Georgetown University and, during this one, we’ll discuss how our values play into decisions about the budget.

 CLICK HERE for more information about the event. 

There are 10 participants and, before the event, we asked them each to respond to three questions.

This is what Dr. Richard Danzig, Chairman of the Center for a New American Security, had to say:

1.     Do you believe Americans hold a set of shared values, such as freedom, equality and community? What are some other important values in public life?

I believe Americans do broadly share some values, though we often quarrel about their application and the evolution of their meanings. These values include beliefs that no individual should be trusted to rule our government alone, that differences in speech and opinion should be protected, that competitive economic systems are more productive than planned ones, that democratic systems are better than undemocratic alternatives, and that, all things considered, we would rather be Americans than living in any other society.

2.     In your view, has identification with shared American values grown stronger or weaker over the past decade?

My intuition is that the values are still widely held, but radical discontinuities (for example, the failure of markets in 2008 or the shock of the 9/11 attacks) and substantial shortfalls (such as extended unemployment) lead to questioning of these values. We have had periods of similar dramatic difficulty in the past and the values have emerged still widely shared.

3.     Which values do you think should guide decisions about our national budget?

Preserving a sense that we are one society by not eviscerating support for the poor, stigmatizing immigrants, or alienating the rich.  Protecting future generations and America’s future by investing in programs key to that future, for example, education, infrastructure, and alternative energy technologies. Enhancing a sense of fairness and mutual commitment by cutting expenditures, including tax deductions and shelters that sharply favor special interests without compensating benefits to society as a whole.

Weigh in below on how you would answer those three questions.