In thinking about the issue, I realized that it might help to ask the question a slightly different way: what would a progressive society look like? Maybe I can better understand what it means to be progressive in 2010 if I reverse-engineer the definition from a vision of the future where things work the way they ought to.
I have argued that the success of the progressive movement hinges on seriously long-term thinking. It’s not about the 2012 elections or the 2016 elections or even the 2020 elections – those fights are about the battle, not the war.
Instead, if we do things properly, if we concentrate on and win the war, what does America look like on our Tricentennial? The following 40 articles suggest some ideas.
The Tricentennial Manifesto, v1.0
- In 2076, every citizen should be educated to his or her highest potential. This education should not be a function of the citizen’s ability to pay, but should be treated as the nation’s investment in its own future.
- In 2076, no citizen should go hungry due to poverty.
- In 2076, all citizens should take for granted access to basic, comprehensive health care.
- In 2076, the same restrictions against government intrusion into a citizen’s life accorded by the US Constitution should safeguard us against similar abuses by private, corporate and other business entities.
- In 2076, every business operating in America should act in accordance with “triple bottom line” principles: maximizing profit must be balanced by an equal responsibility to serving the best interests of people and the planet.
- In 2076, bias based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or any other form of categorization by which we have historically restricted opportunity for other citizens should be nothing more than an embarrassing artifact of our past. Any right enjoyed by one citizen or group of citizens should be enjoyed by all.
- In 2076, every citizen should face a landscape of opportunity that’s defined by a level playing field. We accept that inequities will always exist and that some people will always have a head start in whatever they pursue, but the relative advantages of one person or group should not mean a corresponding disadvantage for another. Some may be positioned to achieve more, but all should be empowered to achieve enough.
- In 2076, all technological development should be undertaken subject to a professional ethical code that emphasizes social value instead of mere profit motive.
- In 2076, US foreign policy will be conducted in such as way as to promote as much goodwill as possible. While international conflict is likely to be an unfortunate reality for the foreseeable future, it should be recognized that foreign policy based on military domination and the establishment of corporate consumer markets are guaranteed to breed ill will that fosters more conflict over time.
- In 2076, Americans should view themselves as citizens first and consumers last.
- In 2076, the world should be free of weapons of mass destruction.
- In 2076, citizen participation in the democratic process should be ubiquitous and all votes should be informed votes.
- In 2076, a citizen’s satisfaction with life should no longer be a function of how much money he or she spends on material distractions.
- In 2076, our educational system will assure that our right brains are nurtured as well as our left, preparing students to be successful in life as well as their careers.
- In 2076, America’s standards for leadership and public service should be so high that only the brightest and best even bother to seek public office.
- In 2076, America should be governed with a unanimous respect for the separation of church and state.
- In 2076, our media and information infrastructure should serve the public interest, not the private interest.
- In 2076, we should assure full employment through an aggressive program of public works that allows those who might be otherwise unemployable an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to their communities.
- In 2076, we should support a system of mandatory national service.
- In 2076, our military service burdens should be borne equally by citizens from all socio-economic classes.
- In 2076, citizens should have a firm grasp of the precepts underpinning the scientific method, allowing them to differentiate between belief and knowledge.
- In 2076, a vast majority of Americans should see stewardship of the environment as a preeminent priority for all public and private decision making.
- In 2076, the dominant mode of public religious expression and practice should center on social justice instead of moral repression.
- In 2076, the engines of power should respond to a deep understanding of societal needs instead of the depth of its lobbyists pockets.
- In 2076, a significant majority of all local, regional and national travel should be conducted via an integrated public transportation infrastructure.
- In 2076, we will not have eliminated the inherent corruption that surrounds power. However, we should have evolved our political institutions and processes to a point where the locus of power is more thoroughly embedded in the social infrastructure than in individual candidates and office-holders.
- In 2076, business institutions should have replaced their operational emphasis on growth with a comprehensive focus on sustainability.
- In 2076, our air and water should be as clean as it was in 1776.
- In 2076, most citizens will believe that free societies work best when people place as much emphasis on their responsibilities as on their rights.
- In 2076, our scientific communities should devote a significant amount of their resources to pure research.
- In 2076, public policy and programs at all levels of government will devote at least as much time to addressing the root causes of crime as they do on prosecution and punishment.
- In 2076, America should spend more on education than it does the military.
- In 2076, citizens, governments, businesses and civic institutions should be more concerned with needs than wants.
- In 2076, our dependence on fossil fuels should be at an end, replaced by a variety of sustainable green technologies and, if we dedicate sufficient effort to it, a long-term energy solution based in fusion technology.
- In 2076, the manufacturing sector of the US economy should be vibrant, driven by a focus on infrastructure and sustainable technology production.
- In 2076, domestic violence, human trafficking, and similar crimes against persons will be aberrations.
- In 2076, all elections will be publicly funded, reducing corruption and opening elected public service to the qualified from all walks of life.
- In 2076, America should lead the world by example instead of force.
- In 2076, all Americans should be fluent in both English and Spanish, as well as another language.
- In 2076, Americans should valorize performance elitism and be generally unimpressed by privilege elitism.
Feel free to suggest additions or amendments. You will be credited if we include your ideas in future iterations of the Tricentennial Manifesto.
Cat White and Mike Sheehan contributed to this document.