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  • The Argument Culture - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    highest value on attack A second and perhaps less obvious form of agonism is the conviction that opposition leads to truth this conviction accounts for the widespread belief that balance is the primary goal of coverage indeed that the journalistic job is done if and only if both sides of an issue have been presented Because of the ethic of aggression an article that attacks needs no justification while praise or support is regarded as suspect A November 2011 Newsweek article about the Penn State scandal used the word shameless not to describe the behavior of Jerry Sandusky the assistant coach who had sexually molested children over many years nor to describe the behavior of the university and law enforcement officials who had failed to punish Sandusky or limit his access to underage boys despite having been informed of his behavior No shameless was used to describe an article that had cast the governor of Pennsylvania in a favorable light The Newsweek essay pointed out that the governor who had been praised for his swift action in the latest accusation against Sandusky had been state attorney general when investigation of complaints against Sandusky had been dragged out over three years during which time the coach had been allowed to continue in his position and his criminal behavior In that spirit the essay called a New York Times article praising the governor a shameless puff piece Puff piece is one of several expressions that are regularly used and feared by journalists to mock and berate articles that praise without also attacking In another Newsweek article Peggy Noonan repeatedly cited her editor s insistence that her article must attack its subject thus fulfilling that requirement while pretending not to cave in to editorial pressure This provides a revealing glimpse into the ethic of aggression that is common among journalists Noonan s essay was about the comeback of film producer Harvey Weinstein after a film he had produced The Artist won a slew of prizes and dominated the 2012 Academy Awards Noonan begins by saying that Weinstein s reputation had previously been for coarse threatening and thug like behavior but that he now seems to have reformed She then steps outside her narrative to raise the puff piece specter Here I must note that my editor fears I m getting rolled He wonders if I shouldn t include the testimony of an old Weinstein associate who doesn t quite buy the story of Harvey s permanent rebirth She then quotes that associate as saying The day after the Oscars he will fall into his old bad habits Noonan thus does exactly what she says her editor wanted her to do to avoid the accusation of getting rolled itself a fight metaphor Later in the article Noonan writes Here another request from my pest of an editor there are rumors in Hollywood that Weinstein has been throwing his weight around behind the scenes to be given the Irving G Thalberg Award He s using muscle to get an award for gentleness Shouldn t we mention this No I say leave it alone He sweetly pronounces it won t make the final edit Noonan thus mentions what she says she argued should be left alone including what she has just said would not make the final edit In addition to being an impressive literary sleight of hand her inclusion of her editor s injunctions illustrates journalists fear of the puff piece accusation It is no surprise that Noonan puts the agonistic ethic in the mouth of her editor Like the producer of the television talk show who assumed that the arbiter of success would be the show s ratings newspaper editors must be concerned with readership But just as raising ratings by turning a television show into an attack on women has consequences so does assuming that journalism requires attack on its subjects Consider the case of Bobby Ray Inman who in 1994 withdrew as a nominee for secretary of defense In explaining his decision Inman said that although he had previously served in both Republican and Democratic administrations nothing had prepared him for the attacks he was now experiencing the effects of which he felt were not worth the privilege of serving again He quoted an editor who had told him Bobby you ve just got to get thicker skin We have to write a bad story about you every day That s our job The statement chillingly encapsulates the agonistic nature of the attack culture in the press The daily bad stories were not sparked by specific wrongdoing that journalists uncovered but were triggered automatically by a perceived requirement Also telling is the journalist s advice that Inman had to get thicker skin In that regard the longtime Washington Post editorial page editor Meg Greenfield once wrote Thin skin is the only kind of skin human beings come with Bobby Ray Inman s withdrawal of his nomination stands out because his personal experience dramatized that the nomination process had become far more agonistic than it had been in the past His case however highlights one surely unintended effect of the press s ethic of aggression fewer and fewer people are willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to engage in public service As political scientist Norman Ornstein has pointed out public service has always required financial sacrifice one s income usually goes down and personal sacrifice whether one s family moves to Washington or stays in a distant home state but the sacrifices were counterbalanced by the prestige that accrued to holding public office Now increasingly that prestige is significantly reduced because the continual attacks on public figures have resulted in widespread disdain for those in public life Furthermore individuals who enter public life now risk the destruction of their reputations and their lives because of the widespread conviction among journalists that their jobs require them to write bad stories Political commentator Larry Sabato has described the evolution of journalism this way the

    Original URL path: https://www.amacad.org/content/publications/pubContent.aspx?d=1061 (2016-02-13)
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  • Compromise & the Common Good - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    of their parties Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy joined together to cosponsor many significant legislative initiatives including measures to improve health care In an era characterized by the permanent campaign the balance in democratic governing needs to shift toward the compromising mindset and the political compromises that it makes possible The success of democratic politics depends on how elected leaders govern and therefore on their attitudes toward compromise But successful democracy also depends on the attitudes of citizens who elect the leaders They too must grasp the value of compromise Compromise is necessary and desirable in a democracy most Americans usually agree But particular compromises are contestable most Americans usually want to contest them Within limits a popular posture in democratic politics is say yes to compromise but no to compromises When asked about compromise in general most Americans like the idea In numerous surveys over the past several decades large majorities of Americans declared themselves in favor of political compromise in general Even after the sweeping Democratic victory in the mid term elections in 2006 three quarters of the public continued to call for compromise 8 The 2012 election may or may not have produced a clear mandate for any specific policy but exit polls strongly suggest that most Americans want politicians to cooperate and compromise to end the gridlock in national politics at least on some policies Of course there are limits to this recurring enthusiasm for political compromise After the strong Republican comeback in the 2010 congressional mid term elections a majority of Americans a large majority of Republicans and a minority of Democrats said that they prefer political leaders who stick to their positions without compromising 9 The favorable attitude toward compromise erodes when the political landscape shifts dramatically especially when insurgent groups on the left or right gain in popularity and political power 10 Just as an electoral victory is typically not a mandate for the specific policies on which the candidates campaigned so too the favorable attitude toward compromise in general does not regularly transfer to majority support for particular compromises This disconnect between general support and the rejection of compromise on a specific issue be it immigration taxation government spending the environment or abortion is a persistent factor in preventing political progress In fact on most issues openness to compromise is inversely linked to the importance people place on the issue 11 People seem to like compromise the most on the issues they care about the least There are important limits here too Opposition to particular compromises often fades in the face of a crisis When compromise is a condition of avoiding an imminent public disaster the vast majority of citizens from across the political spectrum support compromise Six out of ten Americans including a majority of Republicans independents and Democrats wanted the debt supercommittee to compromise even if they expected to disagree with its recommendations 12 Faced with the possibility of a government default in July 2011 even a large majority of Tea Party supporters said Republicans in Congress should compromise in order to come to an agreement with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling When presented with the choice of whether an agreement should include only spending cuts tax increases or a combination of both two thirds of the Tea Party supporters said that it should include a combination of spending cuts and tax increases 13 Strong public support for compromise on governmental revenue increases and spending cuts rose again in the face of the fiscal cliff the massive across the board federal tax rate increases and defense and entitlement cuts that were threatened to take effect in January 2013 But once the immediate threat is averted the critics of the compromise come out in full force especially when a compromise is reached through an acrimonious process The debt ceiling agreement in August 2011 was followed by harsh principled criticism from both sides of the aisle Similarly the compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff brokered by Vice President Biden and Senate Majority Leader McConnell in the waning hours of 2012 was immediately met with intense criticism of both the content of the agreement and the tactics of the negotiators despite consensus on the need to compromise and the overwhelming Senate vote in favor of the agreement Public ambivalence toward political compromise is not unique to Americans who respond to surveys It reflects the inevitable tension between seeing the need to compromise to make political progress and appreciating the loss of something valuable in agreeing to a compromise Political philosophers share a similar ambivalence toward compromise Edmund Burke the eighteenth century conservative thinker and British statesman declared that all government indeed every human benefit and enjoyment every virtue and every prudent act is founded on compromise and barter 14 But as a politician he famously refused to compromise with his constituents when their will contradicted his judgment 15 John Stuart Mill s contemporaries knew the nineteenth century liberal theorist as an uncompromising radical But when elected to Parliament Mill was quite willing to make deals and support concessions to achieve even relatively modest gains 16 It might seem then that conservatives favor compromise in principle but not in practice whereas liberals oppose compromise in principle but accept it in practice But consider the Pew Center s interpretation of its 2007 survey on attitudes toward compromise Democrats tend to favor compromise in principle but not in practice while Republicans favor compromise in practice but not in principle 17 This is precisely the reverse of the Burke Mill contrast The more plausible interpretation is that attitudes toward compromise are not inherent in either ideology or party Both liberals and conservatives Democrats and Republicans can favor compromise in principle while resisting it in practice and vice versa In the modern welfare state even partisans who want less government must legislate to get it and often that requires compromise Attitudes toward compromise depend much more on the relative power of the parties at a particular time the specific issues in question and the mindsets of the individuals making the judgments What is consistent however is the persistent disconnect between the attitudes toward compromise in general and the inclinations to make particular compromises Nothing is more common in political negotiation than praise for the idea of compromise coupled with resistance to realize it Resistance to specific political compromises prevents the value of compromise in democratic politics from being appreciated Politicians and citizens tend to discount the general value of compromise when they come to make decisions about particular compromises To give compromise its due we need to connect its general value to decisions about particular compromises and then empower this value to influence negotiations Why should we be concerned that contemporary American politics makes compromise so difficult After all some compromises are undesirable and politicians should sometimes stand resolutely on their principles and oppose legislation that violates those principles The chief reason to be concerned is that the greater the resistance to compromise the greater the bias in favor of the status quo Privileging the status quo does not mean that nothing changes It simply means that politicians allow outside forces the market expiring agreements social movements to control the change The status quo includes both the current state of affairs and the state that results from political inaction In the deeply divided politics of 2011 rejecting congressional compromise on raising the debt ceiling would not have left the economy unchanged Similarly after the 2012 election rejecting compromise on tax increases and spending cuts would have allowed economic changes that few wished to see A status quo bias in politics can result in stasis it can also produce unintended and undesirable change The status quo offers no assurance even of stability let alone of political progress by any standard The first value of compromise in practice is that it enables improvements in the existing and ongoing state of affairs Democratic politics which represents conflicting points of view cannot produce change without some mutual accommodation Without compromise on health care taxation and other major issues the status quo prevails even when it preserves a policy that does not serve the common good or produces consequences that create a major crisis The key question to ask of any compromise does the proposal or any feasible alternative represent an improvement over the status quo This question in effect brings the general value of compromise to bear on the decision about a particular compromise Although compromises are typically seen as and often are the products of unprincipled bargaining and reinforcements of the prevailing balance of power they are also the primary and often the only means by which democratic politics can improve on the status quo In some cases the status quo may be preferable to any of the proposed alternatives Some political scientists have observed that legislative inertia induced by resistance to compromise may not be a problem when voters do not want Congress to act for example during the period of large budget surpluses in the late 1990s But they also recognize that it becomes a serious problem when voters believe the government should take some action to alleviate a problem 18 There can also be reasonable disagreement about whether a particular compromise actually is an improvement over the current state of affairs Opponents of a health care compromise for example might agree that it would improve on the current system but might also believe that accepting the compromise will prevent an even more desirable reform in the future Or opponents may think that accepting the compromise now will lead to bigger government in the future which they count as a worse outcome on balance than what they regard as only a modest improvement in the health care system Admittedly there may be good reasons for opposing a particular compromise but they do not support a general resistance to compromise They do not create the presumption against compromise that animates the uncompromising mindset and that dominates contemporary American politics General resistance to compromise presumes that the status quo is always preferable to compromise or that it is always a mistake to yield something to your political adversaries even when they are willing to yield something to you Privileging the status quo in this way is not consistent with either a principled liberal or a principled conservative political perspective Liberals do not always favor the change that compromise can bring and conservatives do not always oppose it The same holds for moderates libertarians socialists and other advocates of principled political ideologies The value of a compromise should be weighed against whether the new policies advance both sides principles compared with what the status quo produces Resistance to compromise is often rooted in the fact that the costs of not compromising are never equal for all parties The costs of refusing compromise depend on the difference between what credibly can be achieved through compromise and what the status quo offers This perceived difference will vary according to the priorities of the parties to the compromise and the people they represent Because political compromises rarely split the difference between what all parties hope to achieve resistance may flow from the fear that a compromise will disproportionately benefit your political opponents whom you are already disposed to distrust Even when all parties stand to gain such anticipatory resentment of unequal gain or loss can induce a blanket opposition to compromise Another source of general opposition to compromise and the failure to recognize the costs of intransigence is the perpetual hope that there is more to be gained or less lost in the future by avoiding compromise now But notice opponents of a compromise who use such a rationale are not opposing compromise in principle they are introducing new indirect long term projections of policy and strategy into the calculation of whether a compromise is truly preferable to the status quo This perspective in turn opens the door for proponents of the compromise to introduce their own broader long term considerations These may include the effects of the compromise on the possibility of future cooperation as well as other consequences for the democratic process Those considerations point to the second important but often neglected value of compromise Resistance to compromise undermines the mutual respect that is essential for a robust democratic process Mutual respect expresses a constructive attitude toward one s political opponents and a willingness to engage in good faith with them It is based on a principle of reciprocity which is at the core of many different conceptions of democracy 19 Reciprocity seeks mutually acceptable ways not only of resolving disagreements but also of living with the disagreements that inevitably remain Mutual respect is consistent with many strategies for reaching agreement including hard bargaining provided it is done in good faith But mutual respect excludes means that are intended to degrade humiliate or otherwise demean opponents who themselves demonstrate a willingness to negotiate in good faith or would demonstrate it were they not being disrespected Avoiding compromise by alienating your adversaries not only harms the citizens who stand to benefit from a particular compromise but also diminishes the prospects for future compromises When parties enter into negotiations in bad faith deliberately misrepresent their opponents positions and refuse to cooperate even on matters on which they could find agreement they undermine the relationships that are necessary to sustain any morally justifiable democracy under the modern conditions of deep and persistent disagreement Recognizing these two values of compromise that it enables mutually beneficial improvements and promotes mutually respectful politics may still not be sufficient to tip the balance in favor of a particular compromise To understand fully the case for compromise it is necessary to appreciate the fact that any specific compromise will by its nature be vulnerable to criticisms from all sides The philosopher George Santayana a friend of compromise captured the dual nature of the aversion to it it is odious to passionate natures because it seems a surrender and to intellectual natures because it seems a confusion 20 The sense of surrender stems from the fact that compromise demands the sacrifice of something valuable and gives rise to suspicions that but for the base motives of the other side the agreement could have been better The sense of confusion comes from the fact that compromises are combinations of often contradictory principles Both of these reactions obscure the true value of compromise First consider the surrender Attitudes toward compromise are path dependent how a compromise is reached affects how it is evaluated This is because a compromise distinctly manifests an opposition of wills It is this opposition of wills that fuels the anticipatory resentment that your party will gain less or lose more than your opponent s If you agree to a compromise your assessment of the deal is substantially affected by whether you believe the other party bargained in good faith Given the inevitable uncertainty of motives in legislative negotiations and the near certainty that the motives are at least partly political the circumstances are singularly ripe for distrust Often even minor procedural manipulations such as the reconciliation tactic used by the Democrats in passing the Affordable Care Act may be perceived as signs of bad faith and give rise to suspicions that the process has been unfair You may be willing to give up a principle if the process is fair but if it is not you understandably see an already bad bargain as even worse The compromising adds insult to injury Because the process of political negotiation is imperfect it is tempting to fasten on the immediate insult and dismiss the prospective benefit of the agreement Then there is Santayana s point about confusion A compromise is not designed to be coherent or principled in the way that laws ideally are Even if we seek coherence in law it is a mistake to think that it can be achieved in compromise A classic compromise gives something to all parties which means that the end result is almost always internally contradictory The outcome will not be satisfying if judged from the perspective of any single principle or set of principles whether yours or those of your opponents You will reject nearly every possible compromise if you try to anticipate the outcome by testing it against a coherent theory of justice By its nature the outcome of a compromise will almost never satisfy a single principle a set of principles or a theory of justice The compromise will not only fall short as does most legislation but it will include elements that are inconsistent with each other and with any single theory Compromise has its limits but it is a mistake to try to stipulate categorically or in advance what they are Consider the common precept that it is permissible to compromise interests but not principles The problem is not that the distinction between interests and principles is fuzzy it is but rather that any such distinction implying that interests may be compromised and principles should not will disqualify too many potentially desirable compromises Principles can be and most often are realized only partially We implicitly accept this truth throughout our lives even without compromising we are not likely to realize absolutely our most prized political principles liberty opportunity justice for all Less lofty political principles which often are no less passionately held such as a commitment to lower taxation and entitlement spending or to provide universal health care coverage and decrease its cost even more clearly admit of gradations of realization Compromises of principle and interest are neither morally nor practically distinct Furthermore no one can fully anticipate what results the complex process of compromise can be expected to yield especially in major legislative struggles Achieving the best possible outcome will depend in no small measure on the nature of the negotiations and the evolving political context Drawing a line in the sand if more than a negotiating tactic

    Original URL path: https://www.amacad.org/content/publications/pubContent.aspx?d=1050 (2016-02-13)
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  • Reestablishing the Commons for the Common Good - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    3 In Western civilization since the height of Athens there have been both periods of active ethical citizenship and periods when the role of the ethical citizen was quiescent or even absent Some periods of ethical citizenship coincided with religious agendas for example participation in the Crusades on behalf of Christendom seems to have been voluntary on the part of many Other periods coincided with political revolution be it the American Revolution the French Revolution the founding of the modern Chinese state or the Russian Revolution of the early twentieth century It is also possible to evaluate and rank polities in terms of civic concern for the common good Contemporary Scandinavian and other Northern European countries for example stand out for embracing a voluntary form of the common good East Asian countries also demonstrate a concern with the common good though it may be somewhat less volitional on the part of their citizens The role of the ethical worker complements that of the ethical citizen and its history is no less complex Early instances of the ethical worker include the emergence of trades and guilds in the late Middle Ages Certainly trades and guilds exhibited selfish and secretive behaviors But within the guilds there was also an awareness of which actions and which ideals served the good of the budding profession and perhaps of the broader society as well The guild s concern for the greater good can be discerned in the emergence of labor unions in Europe and the Americas The ethical worker emerged with the development of the professions sometimes called the learned professions Paralleling the oath of the Athenian citizen is the Hippocratic Oath which is generally considered the first example of a professional oath and is still commonly taken today in one or another form By taking the oath the physician pledges to come to the aid of those who are sick to do so without regard to the patient s ability to pay to avoid any form of bribery to pass on the trade to the next generation and to respect the patient s privacy While the oath may protect the special status of the profession it also represents a pioneering effort to stipulate what it means to serve the larger community the common good In the early 1960s Dædalus devoted an entire issue to the American professions The professions were then at their heights Everywhere in American life the professions are triumphant remarked editor Kenneth Lynn 4 Professionals had prestige status and adequate compensation They were viewed as individuals and because they had mastered their material were current in knowledge and had been endorsed by the masters of their chosen guild they were granted considerable autonomy They were perceived as authorities capable of rendering disinterested judgments in the face of complexity and uncertainty Soon additional sectors of society from business to journalism emulated the gold standards of medicine law and the professoriate with regard to credentialing service and objectivity The concept of disinterestedness is crucial to the roles of both the professional and the citizen 5 Of course the ethical worker and citizen does not ignore his or her own needs Nevertheless society benefits when those wielding power and influence in professional offices in the voting booth in the public sphere are able to transcend narrow self interest Professionals follow the precepts of the guild just as citizens follow their oath of citizenship Thus their understanding of personal gain is viewed within the context of the greater good over an extended period of time So why is a professor of cognition and education writing an essay on the ethical professional and the ethical citizen I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when the professional in America was highly esteemed Certainly the professions were not without flaws women and minorities were often barred from entering a profession never mind ascending to the top ranks a challenge that still remains in many sectors Yet without romanticizing the era I feel reasonably confident that American professionals in the mid twentieth century cultivated a sense of the common good and this framework guided them in their work And flawed though they were American citizens and public servants of the era viewed themselves as servants of this same common good not servants of just their immediate needs neighbors or constituencies By 1995 my colleagues in psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon and I sensed that the era of the honored professional was already on the wane We could see that law was becoming overwhelmingly corporate that the practice of medicine was taking place in large non professionally led health maintenance organizations often for profit and that print and broadcast journalism had difficulty covering important news in a thorough and dispassionate way We were then unaware of the parallel pressures put on financial professionals auditors bankers credit raters but the events of the past decade have amply documented the difficulty of maintaining professionalism in the financial sector in the face of rapid change and the opportunity to make enormous sums of money when willing to cut corners To understand and address this movement away from the honored professional we founded the GoodWork Project Active today the GoodWork Project is concerned with what it means to be a professional in the modern world We explore the question of how professions can survive when conditions are changing rapidly when our sense of time and space has been radically altered by technology when markets are very powerful and when few if any counterforces can mediate or moderate the forces of the market To answer these questions we interviewed more than 1 200 professionals drawn from nine different realms of work and we launched a series of sibling and offspring research projects Our findings are detailed in a dozen books and numerous articles and described at our website www thegoodproject org 6 Why has the role of the professional in America been undermined in such a short period of time Indeed the perception of the American professional has so shifted that many young persons assume that a professional is simply a businessman who does not make as much money as a successful entrepreneur trader or consultant A multitude of factors has contributed to the diminution of the role of the professional and more specifically of its ethical core Among the contributing factors is the opening of the profession to groups that were hitherto not welcome Without question this access has on balance been a healthy and needed trend echoing George Bernard Shaw s renowned quip that all professions are conspiracies against the laity However this democratization has also often entailed an anti elite anti expert sentiment A heightened belief in the genius of the market which is believed to be the optimal regulator of society and its institutions has also lessened the value placed on professionals In Ronald Reagan s United States and Margaret Thatcher s United Kingdom there was little sympathy for professionals who sought protection of their status There is no such thing as society Thatcher famously declared And with cost free access to copious technical information the digital revolution has sometimes engendered unrealistic expectations of expertise on the part of professionals and placed unexpected pressures on those who in earlier times had been assumed to know best Though it has largely been a hidden trend the special status of the professional has been gradually worn down by the tide of market and value changes One single event did not suddenly undermine the professional rather between 1970 and 2010 the once esteemed professional came to be viewed with increased skepticism and distrust And while diminution of status does not necessarily entail a diminution of ethical fiber it is more difficult for the professional to serve the common good when society no longer elevates and empowers him The relatively positive milieu of the mid twentieth century has been replaced by an atmosphere of fear and greed among many citizens and professionals fear on the part of those who feel that they are losing their place in society and greed on the part of those whose lives are driven by a desire for ever more possessions and ever advancing status all too often yoked to the level of compensation even in the not for profit sector Concern for the common good cannot survive in the face of these two virulent forces More worrisome fear and greed combine to form a vicious cycle that is extremely difficult to reverse on an individual or societal level GoodWork Project researchers are often asked how we know that professionals are less ethical than they once were Admittedly we could not prove this claim to a skeptic though much research with young people suggests an attenuation of the ethical muscle But regardless of its standing in relation to the past the ethical level of professions inarguably needs nurturing today And what of the role of the ethical citizen The research of political scientist Robert Putnam documents the decline of civic communitarian groups the weakening of civic trust in increasingly diverse societies and the growing politicization of religion not one of these developments favors the common good 7 Voting percentages may fluctuate but public trust in governmental institutions and practices has dropped steadily if not precipitously Considerable evidence from the digital world documents both the ignorance of citizens about basic constitutional and historical concepts and the increased tendency of citizens to associate principally with those who share their political views The hope that the Internet would usher in an era of cosmopolitanism empathy and or generosity has not or at least not yet been realized Given the dystopic trends in contemporary American society it is necessary to search broadly for encouraging models It is poignant that many formerly totalitarian states in Eastern Europe and East Asia for example look to the United States for models of how to develop an independent legal system a political process a faculty governance or a journalistic ethos at a time when the ethics of the professions in the United States are being intensely challenged Revealingly a preliminary finding from one of our studies suggests that immigrant youth are no more trusting of institutions and public figures than are American born youth however the immigrant youth at least trust the processes in areas such as law or investigative reporting Scandinavia particularly Sweden and Denmark and certain other pockets of Western Europe are probably the strongest bastions of ethical citizens and ethical professionals today For many years I have visited Reggio Emilia a small city in northeastern Italy celebrated for its remarkable preschool educational institutions Not coincidentally Reggio Emilia is in the region of Italy that according to Robert Putnam founded institutions of civic democracy as early as the twelfth century 8 Not only have I observed an exemplary concern for the common good in Reggio Emilia but this Italian community represents a model learning organization with leaders working tirelessly to learn from other sites as well as from their own experiments and mistakes 9 However it is not clear either in Scandinavia or in other parts of Europe that the ethics of roles can endure in the face of these three factors 1 pressures of the market and of globalization 2 ready access of the general population to knowledge and expertise both genuine and feigned ushered in by the digital revolution and 3 the large scale movement of immigrants into once homogeneous societies From what I have observed countries like Sweden and the Netherlands make great efforts to integrate immigrants Yet particularly at times of financial pressure it is easy to scapegoat immigrants and thereby narrow the scope of what is common Specifically in Scandinavia and parts of Northern and Western Europe the common good is seen as the good of the whole nation But if a significant part of the population is not integrated and therefore is not accepted as part of the nation then notions of the common good become truncated The same issues arise in East Asia where minorities in China or Japan have not been easily integrated into the majority culture Countries with greater diversity and established histories of integrating ethnic minorities may have an easier time embracing an ecumenical notion of the common good Recent social and political movements in the United States Brazil and India however demonstrate the constant pressures placed on ethnically diverse societies to limit the scope of what constitutes we In addition to documenting threats to the common good the GoodWork Project research group has sought to identify features that are most likely to engender a broader sense of community among professionals and citizens Many of the professionals with whom we spoke cited early religious education or experiences as a principal contributor to their ethical sense Though many participants identified their religious upbringing as a major influence on their adult understanding of ethics most no longer actively practiced their birth religion nor did God or their religion otherwise come up in our lengthy interviews In fact for only one interview group did religion continue to loom large namely subjects who had been nominated as good businessmen or businesswomen Note however that our interviews took place largely on the two coasts of the United States if our sample had been more heavily skewed toward the South or the Midwest religion might have been discussed more frequently Beyond the familial and religious milieus of early life three factors prove influential in developing an ethical sense Vertical Support Mentorship and other forms of institutional support are crucial to the individual s development of an ethical stance An admired mentor possessing a strong ethical compass may be a hugely influential model to a developing citizen The same holds true of the workplace milieu do leaders and supervisors value a high ethical standard and not just as a talking point Less predictably our research subjects frequently mentioned individuals who served as negative role models we called these anti mentors or tor mentors Our subjects often explained He or she epitomized what I did NOT want to be Of course many ethically compromised workers lacked mentors or had mentors who were themselves ethically deficient Distance from a mentor with a negative influence may be required for a professional to realize that his or her mentor is not worthy of emulation Horizontal Support In the contemporary United States particularly with the rise of social media the role of peer groups has taken on greater importance With mentors scarce and senior individuals often moving from one institution to another the influence of age mates can be enormous And as the GoodWork Project has documented many young professionals perceive their peers to be extremely ambitious often willing to cut corners to gain advancement We were not in a position to determine whether these perceptions were accurate Our subjects explained to us that they were not willing to hurt their odds of professional success by being more ethical than their peers A low or inconsistent set of standards among peers whether genuine or perceived can confound one s ethical orientation Peer influence need not be destructive It is certainly possible for peers to band together to attempt to better the ethical milieu of their organization or even to start a new institution that embodies high ethical standards The remarkable young entrepreneurs who have recently founded organizations in education citizenship justice and the environment have much to teach us about the pursuit of the common good Alas as John Gardner the embodiment of the good citizen in an earlier era has pointed out their efforts can pale in the event that necessary and far reaching legislation is not enacted Periodic Wake up Calls Even when attempting to serve the common good workers and citizens can regress acting either foolishly or selfishly At such times an unexpected event can be salutary The event is often a negative one malpractice on the part of an individual or group that threatens the viability of the overall enterprise Such a wake up call occurred at The New York Times early in the twenty first century Within a short time frame two key events unfolded 1 the Times discovered that staff reporter Jayson Blair had plagiarized and fabricated news stories and 2 the national news division published the unsubstantiated claim that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq Such wake up calls may compel individuals to revisit the core values of their profession and redetermine how best to embody them The wake up call is therefore ultimately a positive event that can help workers entrenched in a profession appreciate how their role can serve the broader good That was the case in 1971 when The New York Times and The Washington Post risked judicial proceedings and financial ruin by publishing the Pentagon Papers These forces are not limited to the professional realm but operate in civic life as well Young people are heavily influenced by the models of parents and teachers indeed the best predictor of interest in civics is growing up in a home where members of the family regularly discuss and debate the news Peers exert potent influence as well it matters whether a child s peers discuss participants and events in the political and economic worlds or if they restrict their discourse to gossip about celebrities And once again the occurrence of a major event carnage at an elementary or secondary school the bombing of the Twin Towers can serve as a civic wake up call We began the GoodWork Project with the aim of understanding current stances toward the common good what is happening with respect to various professions and more generally to the world of work and what is happening with respect to citizenship among youth in particular As the data accumulated and as we reflected on their implications we elected to devote our efforts toward the promotion of good work and good citizenship Under the leadership of William Damon and with the

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  • The Democratic Spirit - American Academy of Arts & Sciences
    for the same reason But without a lively world of journalism governed by respect for the truth the electorate cannot do its job and even with it only an electorate that takes notice of that journalism will be able to act together to discipline those who rule There are thus many different ways in which citizens can participate in the activity of the republic and if enough of us do it well enough we will gain the advantages of democratic elections This kind of participation by ordinary citizens is what makes it true that the people govern The workings of the republic are in complex ways the outcome of all these citizen acts But that means that those who do not participate in any of these ways are free riders on the contributions of those who do They gain the advantages of a shared practice without contributing to the burdens like a rider on a public bus who has not paid his fare Free riding of this sort is generally speaking wrong And it wrongs particularly those who are contributing their fair share Acts of this kind tear at the delicate fabric of the political bond which is as I have already remarked a bond between strangers When members of a community fail to contribute in this way they lose the right to the respect of their fellows And since as I have said honor is basically a system of rights to respect and shame is the loss of such a right it is shameful We can demand morally that citizens who have the capacity participate in certain ways and in requiring jury participation or enrollment in selective service on pain of penalty we do These legal demands are different in important ways from many others The demands of the criminal law or the laws of torts and contracts are not demands made on us as citizens they apply to all within our jurisdiction obeying the law is not part of the business of self government in the way that helping to make the law through politics or administer it as jurors or defend it as police officers or soldiers is The question what forms of participation in the life of the people can we demand is harder than the question why can we ask individuals to obey just laws And so it is a delicate issue whether a law abiding citizen who is not participating in the life of the republic in some particular way is doing something that is morally wrong it is therefore a delicate issue to identify which forms of participation such as jury service we have the right to demand on pain of penalty But honor comes to our rescue here For citizen honor is not something we owe to all What we owe morally to all people is the respect due to their humanity their human dignity But how we honor each other as citizens is in good measure up to us The rewards of honor can be reserved for those who do more than what is morally required and we are free looking at it the other way round to impose the penalties of dishonor on those who have not done anything morally wrong provided they have fallen below the standard we have set for good citizenship We may not have the moral right to punish bad citizenship with the coercive power of the state but honor has its own logic and we can shame those whose lapses are not moral but civic 8 In order to decide what kinds of behavior fall below the level that entitles you to citizen honor the political respect of your fellow citizens we need some ideas about which of the many things a person can do as a citizen are required to earn citizens their due respect What is the fair share of the burdens of maintaining democracy that each of us owes for this purpose Once we decided this we could cry shame against those who were not doing at least their fair share We should also cry shame against those who do participate but do so in ways that are inconsistent with the norms that govern our shared life impartiality for public officials truthfulness for those in the media and so on Honor can operate in the life of citizens not only through their concern for the national honor but also through their concern for their own individual honor as citizens Some defections from our citizen obligations are dishonorable because they are morally wrong of course They are wrong because they involve a failure to contribute our fair share to the common good So those who are sufficiently motivated by the thought that these defections are wrong will not need the apparatus of honor to keep them doing what they should Some defections are not morally wrong but are undesirable nevertheless because without certain contributions the good that democracy brings will be hard to achieve 9 What a culture of citizen honor allows us to do is to shape both the behavior of those who are motivated solely by morality and the behavior of those who are motivated not even by that using what political theorists Geoffrey Brennan and Philip Pettit have dubbed the intangible hand of social esteem and contempt 10 There are places Australia famously where voting is a legal duty For nearly seventy years Australia has achieved a voter turnout rate over 95 percent by imposing a small fine for failure to show up at the polls This is not so much mandatory voting as mandatory appearance at the voting booth you can simply record your presence by voting for none of the above The penalty is so small 20 AUD if you cannot provide a reasonable excuse for failing to vote that we might in fact see this as a case where the law s function is largely to express disapproval of rather than punish those who do not vote And so the society has effectively inculcated a sense that voting is a civic duty 11 This practice is thoroughly alien to our American traditions The response to the moderate mandates of President Obama s health care reform bill for instance suggests that there continues to be a deep resistance here to individual mandates aimed at public goods But in many states jury service that other great form of citizen participation in government is enforced by penalties about as mild and almost as effective as the Australian requirement that citizens vote So there must be other reasons why the Australian plan is a nonstarter here one is that politicians will probably agree only on reforms that do not disadvantage them and they have reasons both qua partisans and qua incumbents to fear that such a reform might make an undesirable difference to their minds at least in the outcomes Another is that those Americans who do vote think of it not just as a duty but also as a privilege one that you earn by choosing to exercise it They would likely feel that voting alongside people who were there merely because they had to be diminished the meaning of participation Indeed from a legal point of view the vote is a privilege in our society it is a right you are granted one you are permitted to exercise if you choose Since we should participate as citizens for non instrumental reasons adding instrumental reasons the avoidance of punishment or a monetary reward may stop us recognizing the noninstrumental reasons it would be better for us to act on Better perhaps to avoid imposing legal penalties for not voting because there are reasons to think that people will take these duties more seriously if they are a matter of honor rather than things they must do to avoid punishment or for that matter to gain an economic reward So there are norms of three kinds governing our life as citizens First there are moral norms requiring participation where nonparticipation is free riding Second there are norms governing how we participate if we do which we can call norms of participation they rule out corruption in public officials inattention in jurors ignorance in voters and the like Third there are norms of citizen honor which assign rights to respect to citizens who do more than is morally required in the life of the republic It is easier to give examples of citizens who fail to live up to the norms of participation than to say in general what degree of participation is required This is in part because there are so many different ways of participating in the life of the republic as citizens On the one hand it is obvious that many in our news media today are shamefully uninterested in the truth but on the other hand those editors and journalists who are doing their work conscientiously might reasonably say that they will not vote We know that we tend to become invested in people we vote for thus making it harder to see their faults Maybe then an editor of a website that covers politics might refuse to vote as an act of citizenship in order to protect his or her mental independence In this case a citizen deserves to be honored for refraining from voting Thoughtful abstention can be one honorable way of participating in the life of the republic There are other cases I think for example we should respect citizens who fail to vote because they genuinely cannot see after looking into the matter which candidate or in a referendum which position is right More generally because there are so many forms of citizen participation and because citizens differ in what they have to contribute there is a great variety of ways of contributing responsibly as a citizen to government by the people Even if you are well informed about what the government is doing you will not vote as a good citizen unless you use that information responsibly And the same ideals of equality and mutual respect that govern the behavior of citizen officials ought to play a role there too The republic is supposed to be a pact for the common good When I vote I am not supposed to be looking only after my own interest In the economy it is possible that a hidden hand produces the best results if we each aim only for our own interests under the legally enforceable constraint that we must avoid force fraud monopoly and so on There is simply no reason though to think that that is so in the political realm Members of racial and religious majorities will often be able to combine to allocate public goods in biased ways It will be in their individual self interest to do so But in our system of government we are committed through the Bill of Rights and the Civil War amendments to the federal government s not doing that This means that the courts are empowered to reject legislation that is biased in these ways But it also means that citizens committed to these values will not vote for officials who want to pass such legislation or execute it We ought to be protected from religious or racial discrimination not just by the courts but also by each other Citizens ought to vote for people and policies they believe to be just There is nothing wrong in considering your own interest where justice permits it But because there is no hidden hand argument for politics as there may be for the economy a society of people who vote only their own interest will be extremely lucky if it flourishes Morality requires that you act in ways that contribute your fair share to the functioning of the republic We decide fair share by asking whether if everyone did only what you are doing the republic would work If not you are not doing your fair share But how should citizen voters conduct themselves when they are not voting when they undertake those acts that prepare them to vote and that contribute to the social and cultural conditions that allow our democracy to work well That at least is the behavior we should honor we can only require the behavior that we need of everyone if the system is to work at all What is needed will depend on the nature of the republic and its situation Our republic for example is religiously ethnically and politically diverse 12 One psychological resource amid a diversity of political views is to remind yourself of an important truth it is just possible that sometimes the other person is right Intellectual humility what philosophers call fallibilism is grounded in the fact that it is unlikely that God or the Universe showed a special preference for me and mine in portioning out the capacity to make sense of the world 13 Time and again people are utterly confident that they have the right view In retrospect we often see that they were wrong There is no reason to think that we will prove infallible when our grandchildren look back at us 14 Not only is it hard to make sense of the world in general we are likely to have especial difficulty in comprehending the world of politics in particular where good policy depends on a multitude of facts many of them hard to discern and on values that are hard to weigh against each other In these circumstances it seems only wise to listen carefully to the views of other citizens who disagree with us If we do so we may learn of our own errors just as they could share in our insights if they listened to us Fallibilism has its enemies Robert Frost once said that a liberal is someone who can t take his own side in a quarrel 15 This is the critique of someone worried about too great a willingness to hear the other side But it is a mistake to think that you cannot have the intellectual humility that fallibilism teaches with its willingness to entertain the possibility that you are wrong and still proceed seriously with the commitments that survive the test of argument To recognize that I might be wrong is not to declare that I am In any case there are reasons for listening carefully to the views of our fellow citizens that go beyond the fact that we are likely to learn from them One is that our shared participation in the life of the republic will go better if we treat each other with respect Morality commends treating each other with respect too But I want to draw attention to a civic argument for respectful conversation An uncivil atmosphere makes deliberation compromise and the development of consensus all of which are necessary in a diverse polity extremely hard A second reason for civil discourse is that in politics what is best depends on what people happen to want the bond for the football stadium is good only in a world where enough people in my city care about football The best way to learn that is to hear what they have to say People may not know what they really want and they may have reason to mislead us about what they want But hearing them say what they want and why is the beginning of understanding their desires The need for respect suggests a habit of mind in which we assume the best of one another not as is so common today the worst Someone believes that the state should continue to recognize heterosexual marriages but not same sex ones I think this is a mistake How should I respond It is of course possible that this individual is motivated by simple bigotry But it is also possible that he has reasons and that if I attend to these reasons I will change my mind or may be able to respond to the arguments in ways that will change his mind None of that can happen if each of us starts with the assumption that the other is bigoted or evil or foolish This discussion must involve more than rigorous argumentation the assembling of evidence and the gathering of reasons It requires take as well as give My mother taught me this when I was young Your grandfather she said thought that if he made a convincing argument the other party would come round to his view But what usually happened was they just wondered what had hit them People care to be heard as well as lectured to And they care about the attitude with which we address and listen to them as well as about what we say It is an old discovery in politics that people who have been heard those who have been given voice will accept outcomes that they do not prefer 16 That the granting of voice shows respect is one reason But so is the fact that seeing your opponents as reasonable even if mistaken human beings makes it easier to accept what you think of as their errors Political scientist Diana Mutz has reviewed a great deal of evidence showing that exposure to oppositional viewpoints increases awareness of the rationale for oppositional views enriches awareness of one s own rationales for positions and enhances individuals tolerance those with more positive views toward conflict a sense that disagreement is an important and acceptable part of democratic dialogue learn even more 17 Unfortunately as she also argues people who regularly discuss politics with those they disagree with tend to be less inclined to participate in political life In order to avoid discourtesy to those we disagree with we tend to withdraw from political engagement It looks as though preparing yourself for responsible political participation will make any kind of participation less likely When we notice problems of political psychology such as these

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  • and the Public Good Publications Overview Dædalus Journal of the Academy Bulletin Magazine of the Academy Books Research Papers Monographs and Project Publications Meetings Overview Induction 2015 Upcoming Meetings and Events Friday Forum 2015 2016 Schedule Past Meetings and Events Fellowships Overview Visiting Scholars Program Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy Policy Fellowship in the Humanities Education and the Arts Policy Fellowship in Global Security and International Affairs The

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  • Good Publications Overview Dædalus Journal of the Academy Bulletin Magazine of the Academy Books Research Papers Monographs and Project Publications Meetings Overview Induction 2015 Upcoming Meetings and Events Friday Forum 2015 2016 Schedule Past Meetings and Events Fellowships Overview Visiting Scholars Program Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy Policy Fellowship in the Humanities Education and the Arts Policy Fellowship in Global Security and International Affairs The Exploratory Fund Member

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  • and the Public Good Publications Overview Dædalus Journal of the Academy Bulletin Magazine of the Academy Books Research Papers Monographs and Project Publications Meetings Overview Induction 2015 Upcoming Meetings and Events Friday Forum 2015 2016 Schedule Past Meetings and Events Fellowships Overview Visiting Scholars Program Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy Policy Fellowship in the Humanities Education and the Arts Policy Fellowship in Global Security and International Affairs The

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  • Dædalus Journal of the Academy Bulletin Magazine of the Academy Books Research Papers Monographs and Project Publications Meetings Overview Induction 2015 Upcoming Meetings and Events Friday Forum 2015 2016 Schedule Past Meetings and Events Fellowships Overview Visiting Scholars Program Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy Policy Fellowship in the Humanities Education and the Arts Policy Fellowship in Global Security and International Affairs The Exploratory Fund Member Login User Name

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