Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Approaching the Radical Middle from the Right

In Mark Satin’s latest edition of the Radical Middle on-line newsletter, Stain asks the question: are the best conservative thinkers becoming radical middle?.

Satin notes that, up until recently, most radical middle writers and thinkers (I’ve called them dynamic centrists) have hailed from the left. This is because, in Satin’s view, Democratic big-government thinking burned out in the 90s. Now, as Republican small-government thinking appears to be running out of gas as well, a number of thinkers from the right are moving towards the radical middle.

And what does the radical middle from a right-leaning perspective look like? It eschews both small government and big government in favor of strong government – or, as I would put it, effective government.

Satin references David Brooks’ assertion that there has always been a third strain in American politics extending from Alexander Hamilton to Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt. That “progressive conservatism” strain is now dormant but should be, in Brooks’ and Satin’s views, resurrected for our time.

To get a full flavor of what this progressive-conservative form of the radical middle looks like, read Satin’s whole article. In fact, read Satin’s enlightening book Radical Middle which offers many of the same policy suggestions now being expressed by the new breed of conservative centrists.

Without getting into the important details, the gist of this viewpoint is: to use the powers of government to promote the betterment of citizens by removing unfair barriers and creating opportunities rather than entitlements. That’s a broad description. Here’s an even broader one: it’s about promoting the responsibility of the individual to society AND promoting the responsibility of the government to the individual.

I find the radical middle extraordinarily compelling. Any politician who can capture this mode of thinking and not just give lip-service to it will win my vote.

That’s why I always like to read Mark Satin. He reminds me that there really are new ideas out there and not all of today’s writers and thinkers are trapped in the either/or form of liberal vs. conservative. I hope some of our better leaders are paying attention.

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