Common Wealth

Too many media outlets have decided that the political divide in America pits the red against the blue.

Too many media outlets have decided that the political divide in America pits the red against the blue. In true Final Four fashion, one wins and the other loses. Such coverage allows a narrow victory to become a mandate, a close vote to grow into significant political capital.

In reality many debates in the political system are instead about a balancing of values. Security is pitted against liberty, opportunity against equality. These values are not inherently bad or good. And for most of us, the differences in outcomes of our programmatic solutions to social problems have more to do with how we weigh competing ideals than whether one is red or blue.

Political economist Gar Alperovitz, in his America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy, challenges us to keep our sights on the highest virtues, while truly re-evaluating whether our current means will get to the hoped-for end. Raising questions for both redistributive-oriented liberals and market-reliant conservatives, Alperovitz encourages us to experiment with new policy options that will more deeply embody the values of equality, liberty, and democracy.

Alperovitz is not satisfied merely debunking the weakest arguments of other serious economists, be they left or right. He chooses instead to take on the central points of writers, even those with whom he disagrees. Often he makes a more compelling case than the original author. In Socratic style he mines the best of each perspective for the gold nugget of truth.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2005
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