Issue 58 (2012)

Communitarian Observations

I often write about rather different matters, but in my mind they all deal with one core question: the guidance our shared values, especially the common good, provide to our public policies.

Coming Soon

Hot Spots: American Foreign Policy in a Post-Human-Rights World(New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2012) by Amitai Etzioni — Available in October 2012. “Determining which rights should take precedence and examining their relationship to security raises many important questions that go well beyond the elementary notions that human rights out to be promoted because their virtue in self-evident.” – excerpt


From My Diary

Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States and Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Boston University, told an audience at the Center for the National Interest that Pakistan behaves [toward the U.S.] like Syria, but wants to be treated like Israel.

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Grover Norquist told an audience at the Center for the National Interest, that he respects the liberty of others and hence does not knock on their doors to call them to use a book called “heather had two hunters”. He said he would like to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25%; when he was asked whether he was aware that this means he actually seeks to increase corporate taxes (they actually pay more like 18% despite the higher nominal rate)—his response was rather vague. Follwing, Norquist’s comment that he is willing to spend some money (which the government “stole” from the people” ) on items mentioned in the constitution, E.J. Dionne asked “What about the general welfare?” Norquist responded this was too vague a category. His willingness to follow the founding fathers seems to be rather conditional.

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Greedy geezers? That’s a myth

The coming elections seem to have fired up an intergenerational war, with the older population cast as the “greedy geezers” eating so much of the pie that they leave only crumbs for the younger generation.

Both Republicans and Democrats say that entitlements must be cut. The main losers of these cuts will be Americans older than 65 who collect Social Security and cash in Medicare checks. At the same time, both parties agree that we must spend more on the education of the young if we are to remain competitive in the world markets.

Read the rest at CNN.com.

Syria: If not now – when?

The Syrian Army assaulted the city of Houla on May 25, murdering 90 people, 30 of them children younger than 10. Amateur video reveals rows of bodies, adults and children, riddled with bullet holes and filling makeshift morgues. Earlier, reports from Homs described people tortured, doused in gasoline and set on fire, with the death toll including men, women and children.

The Red Cross announced it is withdrawing its workers in Damascus, leaving only 50 core workers, and the Arab Red Crescent has suspended its first aid efforts in Aleppo after repeated attacks on its vehicles and facilities by the Syrian army.

Civilian residences are shelled with artillery and tanks and bombed from planes, day after day. What else would it take for the civilized world to conclude that the line has been crossed and decent people can no longer stand by?

Read the rest at CNN.com.

How to Stop the Leaks

Congress is moving to stem leaks to the media. The Senate Intelligence Committee recently drafted legislation that would bar former intelligence officials from speaking to news organizations or working for them after leaving their government posts. But more action is needed: Congress should follow the legislatures of other leading democracies and pass an official state-secrets act. It not only would limit the leakers but also prevent the media from publishing information that is likely to cause major damage to national security.

Read the rest at The National Interest

China: Partner or Foe?

Check out the White House Chronicle, a weekly news and public affairs program on PBS, for a discussion on whether the U.S. should embrace China as an emerging regional partner or pursue a Cold War-style of containment in the Far East.

Watch the episode here.


Recent Publications

Legislation in the Public Interest: Regulatory Capture and Campaign Reform,” in Agenda for Social Justice: Solutions 2012, pp. 11-19.

Liberals tend to favor regulations as expressions of the public will and the common good, and as a way to protect children, patients, mortgage holders, airline passengers, and many other consumers from abuse by unscrupulous actors in the private sector. Laissez-faire conservatives and libertarians tend to oppose regulations because they view them as an abusive use of the government’s power and as harmful to the economic well-being of the nation.

I write “tend” because liberals recognize that some regulations are poorly crafted or not needed, and some conservatives and libertarians admit that some regulations are beneficial. However, each side demands that the other demonstrate why a deviation from their preferred default position is merited—and they set a fairly high bar that the introduction of regulations (or their removal) must first clear.

In addition, this is a case of pluralistic ignorance, in which various observers note incidents that deviate from their core assumptions, but neither generalize nor draw overarching conclusions from these incidents.

Click here to read the rest.


I Read

Charles M. Blow looks at the impact of restrictive voting laws (e.g., voter IDs) and the infusion of private money into the election. Since 2011, 24 restrictive voting laws have been passed in 19 states; more than 180 such laws were introduced. Twenty-six billionaires with a combined net worth of $195 billion have donated to super PACs (the disclosed amount so far is $61 million, which does not include the multi-hundred million dollar pledges from Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers).

In Trading Places, Fred Siegel reviews The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City a new book by Alan Ehrenhalt (author of The Lost City: Discovering the Forgotten Virtues of Community in the Chicago of the 1950s and founding thinker of the Communitarian movement). The “Great Inversion” describes a reversal of the exodus of the well-to-do from poor inner cities to suburbia that characterized the late 20th century: “the 21st century is emerging as an age of affluent inner neighborhoods and immigrants settling on the outside.”

“Graduates” of ICPS

Nathan Pippenger has finished a yearlong stint as a Reporter-Research at The New Republic and will be pursuing a PhD in political theory at the University of California—Berkeley.

Alex Platt has graduated from Yale Law School and will be clerking for Chief Judge Lamberth on the D.C. District Court.


Upcoming Events

20th Belle R. and Joseph H. Braun Memorial Symposium:

The Development of Privacy Law from Brandeis to Today

Thursday September 27, 2012 – Friday September 28, 2012

Opening Keynote: Privacy and the Common Good, Amitai Etzioni

Center for International Property Law, The John Marshall Law School

Chicago, IL


Endorsements and Recognition

“Whose COIN?” published in the Joint Force Quarterly was selected as the “Best Forum” article for publication year 2011-2012 in the JFQ Kiley Award competition. A panel of 21 senior faculty judges from the various Professional Military Education colleges and schools reviewed the best JFQ articles from the previous year in the Forum, Feature, and Recall categories. The article will be noted in the upcoming Fall issue of JFQ.

Read the article here.

The Responsive Communitarian Platform can be found here. We invite all those who agree to endorse it by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject “endorse RCP.” For a list of those who have already endorsed it, click here.

The Diversity Within Unity Platform is here. We invite all those who agree to endorse it to send an email to [email protected] with the subject “endorse DWU.” For a list of those who have already endorsed the Platform, click here.


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For more about the communitarian project, please visit http://icps.gwu.edu. For more notes, please visit http://blog.amitaietzioni.org.