April 30, 2006

VOR Turns 2!

I want to thank all of you who have visited and commented on Voices of Reason during this second year of operation. It’s my opinion that the conversations on VOR remain some of the most sophisticated in the political blogosphere, where people with different views and political leanings actually exchange ideas instead of simply shouting at each other. I think it is a much needed forum, and I hope to see it grow into a major source of ideas and commentary.

As I prepare for year three, there are some interesting developments that I would like to bring to your attention, and a couple of small requests:

1. Is a conservative-liberal convergence on the way?

This past week in the very conservative Weekly Standard, two articles appeared, one by Irvin Stelzer and the other by William Kristol, the editor, which are extremely encouraging. The first, by Stelzer, an economist, laid out why Republicans need to accept that the challenges brought on by the acceleration of globalization require more government involvement to help workers facing difficult transitions, and to care for the sick and the elderly. He makes a reasoned argument why Republicans need to drop their “government is always bad” and “tax cuts are always good” rhetoric. Essentially, all of the points he makes can be found in VOR pieces over the past two years. I have continually stressed that the Republican aversion to government was hurting the chances for meaningful economic reform, and now it seems that some prominent Republican thinkers are starting to agree.

Kristol’s article is perhaps even more striking. Basically, it is little more than a resounding endorsement of a new political movement coming out of the United Kingdom, the essence of which is summarized in the Euston Manifesto. What is so striking about Kristol’s praise for this document is that it was produced by democrats and progressives, and its 15-point statement of principles is essentially a reaffirmation of classic liberal principles. Kristol is no doubt enamored by its tough talk on terrorism and its unapologetic support of the United States, but the document is even more important for its strong affirmation of human rights, secular humanism, the separation of church and state, and equal rights for gays. The Weekly Standard has occasionally veered from true conservatism by throwing bones to the Christian right and the anti-gay crowd; whether Kristol realizes it or not (I emailed him to ask him), this appears to be an acknowledgment that conservatism’s roots are grounded in Enlightenment principles, not the Bible.

I strongly urge you to read both of these articles. They are proof that the core classic liberal-conservative principles are alive and well, and that with reason and rational thought both the Left and the Right can come to realize that they are not nearly as far apart philosophically as they may think. In fact, the core principles (as outlined in the Euston document) are little more than the principles upon which this country was founded, and that we need to rediscover in this era of religious intrusion into public life. If both the Left and the Right can jettison their most radical elements, we could have a coalition dedicated to reason, liberty, and the public good that is so strong that it will be unbeatable (and America, and the world, will be much the better for it) This is what Voices of Reason is ultimately about.

2. E.J. Dione of the Washington Post wrote a piece this week on the lack of ideas from the Democrats, in which he points out that ideas always come from the grass-roots and never from the leadership. It was the conservative think tanks and magazines that provided the intellectual foundations for the modern conservative movement, and if a new movement on the Left is to arise it will be fueled in the same way. I couldn’t agree more, and this is why I will kick off year three, next Sunday, with a continuation of the series on a new vision for the Left.

3. VOR was originally a two-person mission, but now it is only me. I would like to put the ‘s’ back in ‘voices,’ so if you would like to submit a guest piece please do so. As long as your essay is based on facts and rational argumentation, it will be published. (Email:voices)

4. In order to help VOR grow, I ask that all of you who believe in its mission email five friends or family members to tell them about the site and invite them to participate. I would sincerely appreciate it.

In summary, we are at a time when America is battling the enemies of reason both abroad and at home. In an era when so much is changing so swiftly, it is not surprising that many people cling to dogma and repressive traditions, and are easily swayed by fantasies of a past “golden age”: an environmental utopia that never existed, an Islamic kingdom, an age of “traditional family values”. Voices of Reason aims to combat these reactionary impulses with better and more persuasive ideas that will help people look forward instead of backward, and free people from the shackles of the irrational thinking that continues to be the root cause of most suffering in the world. We need all the help we can get.

I look forward to reasoning with everyone for many more years to come.

Jason Scorse