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Kettering Review Spring 2006

The Kettering Review is a journal of ideas and activities dedicated to improving the quality of public life in the American democracy. Published by the Kettering Foundation, each issue addresses a single theme, including including the changing roles of the citizen, the press, public leadership, and public opinion. Contributors include a diverse group of American and international educators, historians, philosophers, and social and political scientists. The Review is edited by Robert Kingston and Noëlle McAfee.

The Spring 2006 edition celebrates “the theory and practice of public deliberation.”  Below is an excerpt from the introduction…

To celebrate 25 years of public political deliberation, the citizens who convene National Issues Forums in their communities all over the country decided to address, this year, not a typically controversial issue that is about to be the subject of legislation but, rather, a fundamental but elusive problem: our life as a democratic people. They decided to deliberate upon “the challenge of democracy.”

Listening to some of their probing conversations earlier this year, we heard one woman—in the middle of a forum, in the middle of the country, in the middle of the winter—exclaim, “We’ve got a contradiction, a core contradiction of values at the center of our culture. On the one hand we get morality preached at us; and on the other hand, you know, it doesn’t matter if you cheat on your test, if you plagiarize your paper. What really matters is buying this big car!” And at the end of another forum, at the end of Long Island, at the end of his patience, we heard a man say, “Louis Brandeis said, years ago, you can have democracy, or you can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few; but you can’t have both.”

Perhaps these two passing moments stuck in our mind because, at just about that time, we were reading a draft of the remarkable essay by Ben Barber that stands as the cornerpiece of this issue of the Review. Tipping his hat also to the National Issues Forums on their twenty-fifth anniversary, Ben Barber writes “that liberty is public—deeply rooted in citizenship—and that freedom must have significant civic meaning if it is to have lasting private value.” The congruence between the thesis of such a distinguished political thinker as Ben Barber and the remarks of two citizens, talking about democracy in quite different places across the United States, seemed to us worth noting. The founding document of our democracy is rooted in the earlier Virginia Declaration that makes no bones about a relationship between life, liberty, and the pursuit of property;  but the notion that liberty may have something to do with the “pursuit of happiness” in the form of material success reveals a typical and fundamentally American dilemma. It challenges our understanding of equality among winners and losers in the race for the prize; and it infers a role of government, to whom only provisionally belong the spoils but always the responsibility of judgment. And that, among a self-governing people, may indeed constitute a challenge.

Ben Barber’s argument is splendidly complex, but his point clean and simple to grasp: “public goods are always something more than an aggregation of private wants.” Citizens, he says, cannot be merely consumers. The phrase, “citizen consumer” to him is an oxymoron; “public liberty demands public institutions that permit citizens to treat with the public consequences of private market choices.” One need not have come fully to share Barber’s apprehension of capitalism and privatization to understand the dilemma of American democracy that he perceives: a people that wishes individual citizens readily to pursue their own good must nonetheless (and necessarily) acknowledge a moral order, a legal code, and institutions—including government—that restrain their individual freedoms within the bounds of a common good.

Robert J. Kingston, Editor of the Kettering Review

…along with the contents of the journal…

Contents of the Spring 2006 Edition

Editor’s Letter
Robert J. Kingston

Civic Schizophrenia: The Free Consumer and the Free Citizen in a Free-Market Society
Benjamin R. Barber

Sustaining Democracy
Lani Guinier

Breaking the Silence
Harry C. Boyte

Toward a Democratic Culture
Ernesto Cortes Jr. 

The Myth of Democracy and the Limits of Deliberation
Noëlle McAfee

… afterthoughts
David Mathews

This edition of the journal is currently available as both a free download from the Kettering Foundation website.

Resource Link: http://kettering.org/periodicals/kettering-review-2006/

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