A. Radical Centrist Principles and Values
A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > Appendix > A. Radical Centrist Principles and Values
A.1 Ten Principles of Radical Centrism
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(1) RC is anti-partisan, it is more than “non-partisan”
This principle should not be taken too far. About specific issues partisanship may well be in order. And there is respect for partisanship when it is appropriate, such as among leaders of a political party, or at various “inspire the troops” events. But party-line thinking is abhorrent to RC. It is axiomatic that each major party will be wrong about 40 % of the time, with the 20 % difference (between the two parties) in the category of uncertainty, or right-and-wrong.Obviously this general idea also applies to “other” parties or political philosophies.
(2) RC seeks to learn whatever is useful or good from all political movements or causes.
The exceptions, in principle, are totalitarian ideologies Yes, even here, it is worthwhile to study the hard Left or the far Right, but the point is that extreme caution is necessary and ANY ideas which might be borrowed from either persuasion need to pass serious tests to screen out even a hint of authoritarian values. Otherwise we are open to new and useful ideas from just about anywhere on the political spectrum, Greens, Libertarians, Social Democracy, the Constitution Party, and you-name-it, even if, by the nature or American politics, most, by far, of what we are all about is within a range of views from Democrats on the Left to Republicans on the Right.
(3) RC seeks creative “out of the box” solutions to problems.
This says that partisanship –any party– blocks some solutions because there are pre-established priorities set by a political ideology. Therefore, forget partisanship and seek a new solution from scratch if, that is, objectively the new solution is really worthwhile.
(4) RC seeks to solve problems by seeking to find a synthesis between extremes that incorporates the best from Left and Right.
The qualification is that this is just one option, it is not the only option to seeking to solve problems. This makes RC partly Hegelian, which, as I see it, is all for the Good. It is important to note, however, that RC is NOT a fusion of Social Liberalism and Fiscal Conservatism, a combination that has sometimes inaccurately been designated as Radical Centrism. Actual RC is issue-by-issue in character such that Radical Centrists may well be 60 / 40 conservative on social issue and 60 / 40 liberal on fiscal issues, or still other configurations, 70 / 30, 50/ 50 and so forth.
(5) RC is based on ” cafeteria politics.”
RC offers a platform for Independent voters to put together, as seems smart and good to each Indy, a combination of positions on issues taken from both Left and Right –and sometimes Other– in new ways. This obviously is also only one alternative within RC. But the point is that a significant number of issues are pretty much set in concrete, and not much can be added by way of discussion to what they are. The problem of diminishing returns applies to political ideas too. How much additional research or deep thinking can possibly “refine” the abortion debate further ? Same for teaching evolution in the schools. To use these examples as metaphor for all other such issues, one is a typical Right view, the other a typical Left view. A Radical Centrist may say that both are Good, combining clearly solid Left and solid Right positions.And this may be the case for 100 other issues. But if it really is RC there will be an approximate balance, over all, although the exact mix may vary, year to year.
(6) RC insists that all positions one takes should be researched.
The ideal is the informed voter. RC places a premium on education as a general rule which applies specifically to politics. “Research” assumes serious thinking, testing ideas, and all the rest.
(7) RC prefers market solutions to problems.
However, this principle does not say “only” market based solutions. It is easy to think of a good number of areas where government has offered the best alternatives, from the Interstate highway system created under Dwight D Eisenhower to development of the ARPENET and then the Internet, to today’s work at NASA in developing a host of new technologies with considerable potential for the entire US economy. But we prefer market solutions as much as possible, including solutions which arise from competition in the “marketplace of ideas.”
(8) RC requires that all issues anyone champions should be moral.
Exactly what this morality should consist of is open to discussion and debate but it is safe to say that one version of this morality compares to the morality of Evangelical Christians. However, this also says that compatible moralities for example of many or most Buddhists, is also Radical Centrist in character.
(9) RC finds its highest political ideals in the US Constitution before all other sources
This hardly says that there aren’t other sources, everything from the Code of Hammurabi to British common law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the US Constitution has a special place in RC thought and no ideas advocated by Radical Centrists which can be deemed “unconstitutional” are acceptable. When Radical Centrists arrive at new ideas which the Constitution does not address, or when functional problems with the Constitution or its amendments are identified, it is always acceptable to suggest new amendments.
(10) RC is dedicated to responsible free speech
This means exactly what it says. Not all speech is responsible and free speech rights can be abused. But otherwise Radical Centrists take the view that the First Amendment is inviolable and essential to any kind of valid politics –and much else. People should be free to express their honest thoughts. Censorship, either de jure or de facto, is abhorrent on principle. But in exercise of free speech it is our responsibility to be constructive, fair, and honest. This may mean controversy, it may mean criticisms of vested interests and of public persons, but when we feel we should, in conscience, speak out, that is our prerogative. For this reason we feel an affinity with many libertarians, who share this outlook, even though, because we regard morality as social necessity and libertarians seem to have no obvious morality, we are not libertarians ourselves even if some of us are influenced by libertarianism. But others may be more influenced by Teddy Roosevelt or a variety of personal heroes.
A.2 Ten Radical Centrist Values
1. Respect for each other and for everyone deserving respect –which is the great majority of people. This means that relationships matter to Radical Centrists, including friendships, professional sharing of ideas and information, and a desire to use our knowledge and insights to do our part to make our communities and our nation better for what we may contribute. Another way of saying this is that co-operation is our objective. Obviously this is not always possible. Respect needs to be reciprocated, for one thing, and obviously there can be no co-operation with people whose intentions clearly are hostile, or worse. But to express what we most want in terms of each other and almost all others, we prefer co-operation as the best way to do things.
2. There is a premium on civility among Radical Centrists that, while we all believe it is essential for Radical Centrist purposes, is intrinsic to who we are as people with a wide variety of interests. For most of us this is an effect of religious faith, including something similar among good-intentioned people who may be classified as humanists –in the sense that the word is used historically to denote someone who seeks wisdom from many different sources, not limited to religion. We want to get along with one another, and with our guests. Thus, while we certainly find ourselves in disputes now and then, everyone tries to keep things “in bounds.” To state this in another way, Radical Centrism is not for religious zealots or firebrand Atheists or “hard core” political partisans, either Right or Left or something else. We are committed to open exchange of ideas, to searching inquiry wherever it may lead, to discussions of serious issues, and to honest dialogue. For that to happen, it will not do for someone to use our forum as a megaphone to seek to browbeat others. Civility means willingness to listen, not just to speak, and it means strong desire to keep the friends we make.
3. Competition for achievement. Think of this the way you think of track and field events. The athletes strive with all they’ve got, to cross the finish line first, or throw a javelin the furthest. But no-one seeks to injure anyone, and far from hating each other, they have the deepest respect for what their peers accomplish. We try to do what we do as Radical Centrists in this spirit. We regard competition as healthy, necessary in life, and as essential for motivation to reach difficult objectives.
4. Minimum compromise. This does not mean we never go halfway to meet other people with other political objectives, but it definitely does say that Radical Centrism is about staying true to our sense of morality, and to everything we cherish and regard as crucial to our integrity. Compromise may be a necessary evil but we try to avoid any such thing whenever possible. What this does, however, is to compel us to make an extra effort to always be informed so that objective facts are under discussion, and so that we do not enter into ideological disputes which, by the nature of things, are clashes of beliefs that rarely end in anything but acrimony. It also means seeking post-partisan solutions to problems. That is, trying to find new ideas that can speak to real issues that may divide people but new ideas that go beyond disputes to try and find special ways of framing those issues, or that seek to arrive at entirely new approaches to problems that allow some kind of practical solutions to emerge. At least this is our ideal. But if there is no other way out, we are prepared to fight like hell for what we believe is right.
5. Critical thinking is absolutely necessary. This means not only understanding the importance of being critical –in the sense that a theater critic tries to provide an accurate evaluation of a drama or the way that a coach seeks to let a player know what he or she is doing wrong so that sports performance improves– toward others but also with respect to one’s self. That is, we try to be self critical, to be objective about our limitations and problems. We try to be realistic, in other words. In all cases criticisms should be constructive. Maybe this does not apply to those who make themselves our enemies, but otherwise this is a basic rule. Almost always criticism should have as its intention, making things better, making people better able to assess their strengths and weaknesses or those of others, and to recognize the good potential in arguments for or against something, not only flaws.
6. Focus on the future. We seek to cultivate a shared vision for America –but including other nations and our own lives. We are wide open to making the most of historical examples, and always try to discuss issues that matter in the here-and-now, but ultimately it all leads to the future since we cannot bring about instant change. Indeed, Radical Centrism has much in common with the discipline of futuristics, also known as Futures Research. After all, no-one can develop reliable forecasts unless he or she is as objective as possible, is eager to explore all relevant viewpoints, and looks dispassionately at the opinions of both the Left and the Right and any other relevant political positions. We also realize that to create a political program of our own we need a sense for what the world will become in ten or twenty years, if not further ahead in time.
7. We seek to create value for others and to reward others who create value for us. In effect this is market philosophy, but not in the commonplace sense of what happens on the floor of a stock exchange. The market that means the most to us, usually anyway, is the “marketplace of ideas.” Or you may wish to think of it as a marketplace of character. We are always learning and always teaching others as much as they may wish to learn from us, but what is most important is what makes us better as people. Hence the inspiration for the civility among us –the spiritual or philosophical values that we regard as essential– emerges in what we say to each other in many different contexts. We all feel that we have a stake in contributing to one another’s character. Not to overdo this sense of things, since most of it is unconscious, but it exists as a leitmotif in many, many discussions and it may well carry over into our lives in the 3 dimensional world.
8. It is crucial to admit your mistakes and try to learn from them. To be completely honest about it, and while we do try, we fall short of this ideal again and again. Hopefully we are no worse than anyone else, on good days perhaps we come close to our ideal, but regardless there always is room for improvement. And we know for a fact that human beings will always make mistakes. But as we understand life, looking for lessons to be learned from the errors we are responsible for is a good way to make lemonade out of lemons. Being forthright about one’s mistakes is vital to Radical Centrists because our philosophy is based on seeking what is best from among different political causes which, by definition, themselves contain mistaken views of many kinds. Since all of us started out with sentiments that had little to do with anything that is now Radical Centrist in character, all of us have parts of those outlooks within us, giving us useful ideas to work with but also acting as sources of any number of questionable ideas which really don’t stand up to testing by the standards we now have. So, while no-one overdoes it, we all ask ourselves whenever advocating some bright idea, “what did I miss ?,” “are there holes in my case that I simply cannot see ?,” or “have I really taken into account other viewpoints that I should take into account ?” Finally, we believe that it is worthwhile to study the human processes that result in error so that, in the future, we will make as few mistakes as possible.
9. We seek to focus on creative ideas that can actually be implemented in the real world. For sure, like most people, we spend a good deal of time discussing questions that arise among friends, including our views about current politics, the meaning of selected news events, and personal matters that come and go in ordinary life. However, the overreaching objective is to develop ideas that could actually make a major difference in society. Any particular discussion may be more “social” than anything else, but we all agree that whenever it may become possible the purpose of what we do is to set the stage for practical action.
10. We regard diversity as a good thing but our attitude is approximately 180 degrees the opposite of that of multi-culturalists. Not everyone is equal and not every culture is equally good. People differ in talent, character, and achievement; some go to lengths to educate themselves or to always be truthful. But others devalue education and seem to think that lying is perfectly OK. Some cultures provide numerous healthy opportunities for people while others are best characterized as “sick societies.” All human societies have limitations and some may produce many criminal elements. Societies, like individuals, are a mix of many things, good, bad, ugly, and also noble or inspirational. It is essential to be as ruthlessly realistic about this as possible, not to argue for some kind of intrinsic genetic or ethnic or racial superiority, but to become as honest as it is in us to be about our commonalities –against an understanding that our differences are also important and must be taken into account if we are going to accomplish anything in the political or cultural realms. We are multi-ethnic and multi-racial but judge each other –and all others– by the same standards, especially standards of excellence. We also are open to ideas from many different sources, from cultures all over the world, but, again, only on a basis of objective merit as we understand it. We do believe that even the least among cultures has something to contribute to the common good, including sometimes really profound Good, but we will not play games of “let’s pretend that all cultures are equal.” And, with all due respect to many other countries, some of which we think extremely highly of, we believe that America has a special place in the world and has a responsibility to provide global leadership in as many areas of life as it is in us to provide.