Table of Contents

rposeLiberty and the American Idea:  Rebuilding the Foundations


Part I:  Freedom’s Truth

Chapter 1:  American Crucible

Will the nation survive as the republic created by its founders, or be torn apart by the fear and anger we all feel?  Will we have the fortitude and grit to learn the lessons and reaffirm the vision and principles that will lead to a genuine American renewal?

Chapter 2:  A Confluence of Crises

In recent decades Americans have witnessed a steady deterioration of ethical behavior and loss of concern for values, a systematic bankrupting of our economy, growing evidence of deterioration of the natural environment, and the gradual degradation of physical infrastructure.  And now, early in the 21st century, we find ourselves unexpectedly confronted by a startling range of new, extraordinary and often interrelated crises.  We are awaking to an historic turning point, suddenly called upon to rethink our commitments, our ways of thinking and doing, and our relationships to one another.  Will we rise above our differences to re-engage our national vision and identity?  Are we prepared to build a future we can respect and believe in?

Chapter 3:  The Power of Diversity

The strength of a nation can only be realized when the structural order of society frees the individual to think and act independently. Diversity and independence are important because the wisest decisions originate from the clash of differing opinions, not from ‘group-think’ or consensus.

Chapter 4:  Freedom and Order

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 made a determined effort to see the end in the beginning, a vision that has led to relative stability for more than two hundred years. The protections the Constitution provides for individuals and minorities, and the discipline it requires of the majority, remain firmly in place despite every upheaval. We now stand at another profound turning point that requires a similar visionary maturity from each of us.

Chapter 5:  The Will to Freedom

The new ideas that emerged during The Enlightenment were charged with hopefulness by the will to freedom, a vision of rational governance, and confidence in the human capacity to master and control nature. Despite contradictions and inconsistencies, these ideas had a powerful effect on the emerging American character.

Chapter 6:  The Ground of Freedom

How have Americans lost our way? What happened? What were we thinking? Here we consider the meaning of freedom in practical terms. Our capacity to resolve problems, to think strategically, and to exercise discipline will empower us to transcend the constraints and limitations we encounter in our lives and in nature, opening the way to a future we can respect and believe in.

Chapter 7:  The Freedom Within

At a time of social turmoil and distrust, the challenge of seeking freedom in our personal lives can be a vital matter. What does freedom mean to us as self-possessed individuals amidst the constraints of a fragmented world?

Chapter 8:  The Individual in Society

We have a choice as individuals, whether to simply yield to that which confronts us or to stand on our own as mature adults – independent, resourceful, responsible. Family and community are the building blocks of society. They are the reality that depends on us, our opportunity and our responsibility. However, building strong communities requires that we develop learned skills and recognize significant dangers.

Chapter 9:  The Purpose of Justice

The idea is introduced that the human world is supported by a unified and inviolable structure, which, if recognized, will inform our judgment, guide our actions, and ground our relationships. Defined by the unity and balance that characterize justice, this foundation allows us to see with our own eyes, exercise responsibility effectively, build stable communities, and conduct our lives with confidence.

Part II:  The Courage to Build Anew

Chapter 10:  The Foundations for Security

Security depends on the conditions we put in place around us, and therefore upon our ability to forge dependable, trustworthy relationships. Consequently, security is facilitated by our personal attitude, our ability to communicate, and our success at building a strong, healthy community in which to live.

Chapter 11:  First Principles

Constructive action and shared sense of purpose are concepts offered here to describe the only practical means for seeking a positive future. Forward motion is essential, yet impossible without unity of purpose. And the strategic approach of “constructive action” is based on the principle of refusal to hurt or do harm – action taken in a spirit of honor and respect – with the intent of winning the hearts of Americans.

Chapter 12:  Citizen Initiative, Shared Leadership

Preparing a vision and strategy for citizen initiative and leadership, a genuine effort is needed of every citizen to develop self-confidence and understanding in the face of recurring crises, social disorder, and an uncertain future.  A lengthy period of transition will be required to regain stability.  This will require a new maturity of attitude from each of us, and patient engagement in a lengthy period of structural economic change and reconstruction.  For citizens committed to constructive action, the transitional period involve personal capacity-building, gaining new skills in such areas as group decision-making, project management, organizational development, and conflict transformation.

Chapter 13:  Principles of Economic Stability

Elementary economic principles are reasonable and not hard to understand.  However, the discovery that principles are grounded in moral responsibility will come as a shock to many.  The righting of the intimate relationship between ethics and economic stability will allow us to construct a dependable future and avoid repetition of a disastrous past. Emphasis must be placed on both citizen and business confidence.  This will require social stability and the consistency of economic policies. Businesses depend on predictability and the genuine integrity of price discovery in the marketplace.

Chapter 14:  Courage and Responsibility

To confront the turmoil at hand will be a daunting task. We live in a fragile time, when the instabilities of society and uncertainties of mind threaten to pitch us into the darkness of extremism and chaos. It will be ordinary citizens, determined and courageous, who hold the line where fear and reason part.

Chapter 15:  True Prosperity

How do we define prosperity? Until recently our sense of well-being, capacity for contentment, and attitude toward moral responsibility were considered essential aspects of being human. Under current conditions of material limitation and ethical degradation, how can we build safe communities, seek a shared vision, and join with one another in constructing a future we can respect and believe in?

Part III:  Building the Foundations

Chapter 16:  Moving Forward

An approach is offered for those ready to engage with their neighbors to build trust and address the challenges we face in our communities. Getting everyone on the same page means learning how to work together constructively to address local problems and felt needs. Advice is provided for working with difficult people.

Chapter 17:  Constructive Empowerment

Here we explore the concept of gentle leadership that empowers and inspires, facilitating decision-making and coordinating action without dominating a community or organization. And, a systematic process is offered for transforming conflict to allow productive working relationships.

Chapter 18:  Leveraging Our Differences

Guidelines are provided for working in groups and for organizing projects. Tools for group decision-making are outlined for both large and small groups, including a form of constructive consultation that generates far more comprehensive and effective outcomes than can be produced by either consensus decision-making or voting.

Chapter 19:  Tools for Teamwork

 Practical methods are outlined here for planning, problem-solving, and organization-building while transcending personal differences. This will include procedural tools and practices that can encourage personal empowerment, inspire proactive leadership, and energize communities. A reference list of available resources will be made available.


Appendix 1:  Bibliography

A list of books and publications of interest to the practical-minded. This will include a wide range of topics and perspectives.

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