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Posted by Will Rice (will) on Aug 05 2011 at 1:00 PM
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By Paul Crist

In his new book, “A Liberal Mandate”, Keith Martin reflects on the fundamental vision and the specific language handed down in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  He convincingly argues that our founding documents call for a “big L” Liberal approach to governance.

In recent decades, conservatives have largely set the terms of debate.  They demand that “strict constructionists” (by conservatives’ own interpretation) be appointed to our justice system.  They call into question the constitutionality of U.S. programs, policies, and laws affecting everything – health care, social equality, education, security of food and shelter, and more.  Martin effectively beats back the right-wing argument on government and community, explaining in clear and simple terms how our founding documents clearly set forth an indispensable social contract that binds us as a people and as a nation, establishing justice and promoting the general welfare.

None of us are entirely, or even remotely, “self made.” The hyper-individualism championed by the Right ignores the profound influence that our social and policy constructs have on our ability to succeed and to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness.”  The word “individual” doesn’t appear in the Preamble to the Constitution.  It says “We the People… in Order to form a more perfect Union.”  The Founding Fathers understood that the Union was not perfect, but they called on future generations to constantly strive toward that unattainable goal.  Their moral vision was one of community, not of a loose association of coldly rational self-interested economic actors, with special privileges forever reserved to favored individuals or groups.

In engaging and easily-understood language, Martin calls on liberals to retake the moral high ground in the debate about the meaning and intent of our founding documents. His focus is rarely on specific policy proposals, but instead on “the vision thing.” His book is a guide to reframing the debate and leading us to a more just, more equal, freer, and more communal America. It’s a must-read for policymakers and those who hope to influence the kind of America we must become in order to regain and maintain our greatness.

ADA Board member Paul Crist is an economist, political commentator, and business owner.
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Author Keith Martin has generously agreed to support Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) by contributing a portion of the proceeds from sales of his book, “A Liberal Mandate,” to the organization.  To buy your copy, please go to http://amzn.to/LiberalMandate.  Mr. Martin and ADA appreciate your support.