Issue 64 (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.

Our most challenging publication

Gridlock?,” The Forum: Vol. 10: Iss. 3, Article 9. Available online now, print on January 15.

The article documents that there is actually very little gridlock.Most of the time, what the article calls the conservative party (most Republicans and a sizeable number of Democratic legislators) gains its way—even if that means blocking action. This is the case in foreign policy, homeland protection, and economic policies (though not in cultural issues). In addition, conservatives changed the rules of the game in their favor and block truly liberal nominations.

Polls show that for every American who identifies her or himself as a liberal, there are two conservatives. Practically all Republicans see themselves as such, but many Democrats are not liberals. The political system works quite well from one specific viewpoint: it delivers what the majority says it wants. This raises a question: if Congress represents well the majority—why is the majority so unhappy? Comments on this article are especially appreciated. Send them to Amitai Etzioni at [email protected].

From My Diary

In response to those who charge that Obama is pursuing a socialist agenda, the President said, “The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.” Read more here.


I never recovered from a year in the White House (during the Carter Administration) from discovering how human, flawed, and ‘regular’ a president can be. Now comes the author of The President’s’ Clubrevealing how petty a president can be. President Carter, who hails from Atlanta, the Coca-Cola capital, we learn, took offense when he was served a Pepsi. Need one say more?


Much of American politics should be understood as a contest between the conservative party (most of the GOP and good part of the Democrats) and a liberal minority party. Recent exhibition: On Dec 28, the conservative party—42 Republicans, 30 Democrats and one independent—voted to extend foreign intelligence law, known as FISA. Opposed by civil liberty advocates for threatening the privacy rights of American, the bill had bipartisan backing and the support of the president.


Robert N. Bellah, one of the founding signers of the Communitarian Platform presented a paper at the conference of Sino-American Dialogue on Core Values, organized by Professor Tu Weiming, director of the World Ethics Institute Beijing. Bellah writes, “Nationalism, however, is something that divides us, makes each of us paranoid and fearful of challenge. Neo-liberal economics in part unites us in a single global economy, yet also excites great competitive anxiety about who is rising and who is falling and what can we do about it. So let me tell you my greatest fear: that China and the US will come to see each other as their primary enemy.” See the full paper in the attached document.


Gun Free Homes and Communities” garnered a great number of responses from gun rights advocates. Here is a sample:

What is the substantive difference between putting out a “Gun Free” sign on homes, condos, and apartments and one that says, “Free Stuff! Come Rob and Shoot Me!” –David Mueller

Dr. Etzioni: The theater in Aurora Colorado was declared to be a “gun free” zone. Did that sign stop a mass killing? Sir, you have to take off your rose colored glasses and accept the horrible (to you) notion that “criminals don’t care about YOUR laws” –BruceMorgan (alias)

To me, it’s a simple matter of freedom. I want my guns for my reasons and I don’t care what you think. Butt out and when you say “we” don’t include me. It’s people like you that would make a good North Korean citizen. – tesla 921 (alias)

The Conservatives Are Coming!

The ink on the reports of the election results has barely dried and conservatives have already rolled out the first big post-election victory — by enacting a so called “right to work” law in, of all places, Michigan. Previously, the labor unions that were defeated — in the 23 states with right to work laws, in addition to the defeats in Ohio and Wisconsin — included mainly select public sector employees. In Michigan, the labor unions of private sector employees, including the United Automobile Workers (UAW) and Teamsters, were also set back. And this is in the state in which the UAW was born, a state long known as one in which the labor movement is particularly strong. In Ohio and Wisconsin, the defeats came after huge and prolonged demonstrations. In Michigan, the labor unions were unable to mount a similarly prolonged protest.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post.

I Read

November 2012 brought a number of liberal victories at the state level—three states voted for same-sex marriage and two legalized recreational marijuana. But the “liberal drift” is a nuanced phenomenon. While the country appears to be becoming more liberal and tolerant on social issues, it is “not a more left-wing one.” Tax increases, the health care law and unions did not fare as well in the election.

Read the rest in The Economist.

President Obama may have the opportunity during his second term to drastically alter the composition of the Supreme Court. As many as four justices could retire in the next four years, including Antonin Scalia, the most conservative member, and Anthony Kennedy, who often serves as the court’s swing vote. If Obama is able to get the Senate to confirm his nominees, he would “move the court from being decisively conservative to decisively liberal,” according to Christopher Lockwood, editor of The Economist, at a time when it will likely decide on cases involving gay marriage, campaign finance, immigration and affirmative action. Read the full article in The Economist: The World in 2013 (print edition).

In 2011 the Federal Reserve and the Comptroller of Currency brought regulatory enforcement action against 14 big banks charged with abusive foreclosure practices. A settlement is reported to be reached in 2013, and according to an initial review, affected homeowners will receive $3.75 billion in cash. Compared to the bailouts given to the banks—and considering that this sum will be splits among millions of potential victims—such an agreement would amount to “no accountability for financial institutions and little help for borrowers.”

Read the full article in The New York Times.

In “Addressing U.S.-China Strategic Distrust,” China experts Kenneth Liebethal and Wang Gisi seek to “improve the potential for a long-term normal major power relationship between the United States and China, rather than an adversarial relationship that might otherwise develop.”

Read the paper published by the Brookings Institution.

Upcoming Events

Book Launch for Hot Spots: American Foreign Policy in a Post-Human-Rights World (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2012) by Amitai Etzioni,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 4:00PM – 5:30PM

The Elliott School of International Affairs

Lindner Commons: 1957 E Street, NW, Room 602

For more information, visit

SASE 25th Annual Conference – States in Crisis

June 27-29, 2013 – University of Milan

SASE is organized into “networks,” one of which is dedicated to communitarianism and is run by José A. Ruiz San Román. Colleagues interested in presenting a paper or author, or organizing a session should promptly contact Professor Román at [email protected]


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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Edited by Ashley McKinless