“A liberal with a new emphasis on old values,” the author tackles a difficult subject, current dialog trapped in the culture wars and entrenched rhetoric of today’s politics - conservative, Democrat, right and left. Undaunted, Callahan trumpets a call to return to the traditional values that are inclusive rather than exclusive. The question posed: are traditional values a match for unfettered capitalism?
While the right has controlled most of the discussion of late, championing a return to religion and family values, the left is hardly participatory, mired in a definition that fails to bring them into the conversation. But the author believes that the core of the argument can be found elsewhere: in the free market, the cornerstone of personal liberty, the success of which depends upon the pursuit of self-interest.
Social responsibility, although an intended consequence of the liberal cause, is left languishing by the road in a rush of consumerism, those very same liberals become the “me” generation. As opposed to “Cares”, the result is a proliferation of “Care-Nots”, the Cares unheard in the babble, suffering a pervasive moral anxiety that has no apparent remedy.
As middle-class insecurity grows with international competition, technology and corporations siphoning off the future, the economy must be truly dire for people to respond to this threat, Democrats taken to task for repeatedly offering a narrow interpretation of the problem, articulating a vague and unimpressive a moral solution.
The premise of the book is direct: Democrats or a new third party can submit a moral agenda to restore America’s values and politics. To this end, the following chapters address family, sex, media, crime, work, poverty and patriotism, the aim to establish “a workable balance between freedom and responsibility.”
The dynamic of the culture wars misses the point in the current debate, where the real culprit is the free market. Meanwhile, the pubic has been seduced by an economy that encourages the purchase of items at incredibly low prices, even though these prices are the result of global economics.
Rather than continually pandering to extreme ideologies, any significant change in this culture must confront the pertinent issues and be synonymous with real values for Americans, those we can enthusiastically embrace. Neither party comes off well: Republicans ride a wave of popularity with the marriage of evangelical fervor and a free market unhindered by social responsibility, while the Democrats are stuck in the grandeur of the past.
In essence, the author is asking us to put aside our differences, responding to the current divisiveness with an appreciation for the spirit of change for the better good. A fine idea and well put, but not likely to be heard by either party in the current climate.