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Sender: Steven H Johnson
Subject: The civic puzzle, theme of responsibility
Date: Fri, May 9, 2014
Msg: 100970

> Debilyn Molineaux asked me to resubmit this so that I might add my signature. Debilyn, you have forced me to create a signature..... :-) >

> I see "responsibility" as just one way of posing the puzzle of good citizenship. > > We live in an America of commerce, and as thoughtful patriots, we want the nation's commercial life to go well. > > We also live in an America of enduring assets - communities with lengthy histories, environmental assets of many kinds, a civic tradition of constitutionalism and liberty and democracy and several essential freedoms. So as thoughtful patriots, we want to protect the well-being of our enduring assets. > > And we live in an America with a variety of laws, the most important of which create frameworks within which the nation's essential business gets done. If we have laws that protect the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation, we're better off than if we don't. And there would be 20 or 30 or 50 other framework laws that matter to us. Just as baseball has to discourage steroid use to be healthy, just as cycling has to discourage doping, a nation's laws have to discourage corruption. Market corruption. Political corruption. And so on. > > As thoughtful patriots, we want laws to be well-designed and sensible. We want assets to be cared for. We want commerce to thrive. > > And this is why "responsibility" - as I think about it - becomes something of a civic puzzle. If we emphasize only one success - e.g. success for coal companies - without shared successes for the environment, or the wisdom of our laws - our commerce in coal may thrive but at the expense of other values suffering badly. Who wants healthy commerce at the expense of corrupt laws and sick communities? > > By what process shall a healthy democracy reconcile those tensions? And fulfill its larger responsibilities? Raw partisan combat? Pure special interest warfare? An A to Z corrupted political system? Or - hmm, here's a phrase - through "transpartisan optimization"? > > I think Robert Putnam was onto something when he wrote about the positive correlation between social capital and civic effectiveness. But he was studying the states of Italy - relatively small jurisdictions. In which face to face negotiations make a real difference. It's harder to create social capital at a national level. EGG's successes in schools are aided by smaller scale and face to face interactions. > > Yet we are also members of a large nation. > > So I think we need something that's both personal and scalable. Can we celebrate three virtues at the same time, and challenge ourselves to fit them together wisely? > > We probably wouldn't do this with laws so much as with social marketing. > > Social marketing can make its mark. There are things we have used social marketing campaigns to discourage. Americans don't smoke as much as they used to. > > And there are things we use social marketing to encourage, along with laws. Americans use seat belts a lot more than they used to. It began with social marketing; then we added seatbelt laws. Thirty years ago we lost 50,000 people a year to highway deaths; now it's more like 30,000 a year. Seatbelts are part of it; airbags are a part; smarter design of cars plays a part; safer highways....; anti-drunk driving laws..... We actually can tinker our way forward to higher success rates in some parts of our lives. > > So why not use social marketing to encourage and celebrate thoughtful patriotism? In which we make a bit of an effort to blend our values so that we can have wise laws, healthy assets, prosperous commerce? > > Applying overlapping values to the fulfillment of shared responsibilities . . . > Isn't that something of what the Founding Fathers had in mind? > > Anyway - I toss it out for our various reactions. Let's bat it around. See if it sparks anything of interest. > > All my best, > > Steve

Steven Howard Johnson - Civic Futurist 410-562-0361 Book in Progress: Thoughtful Patriotism


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