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In the Perspective section of last Sunday’s Denver Post, Ray Mark Rinaldi wrote an excellent piece exploring the two competing development visions for Denver’s Union Station (Who’s on the right track with Union Station plans? What I like about this article isn’t just the informative discussion of a single issue of current significance, but rather how it focuses on one instance of a more general challenge we face: Public Entrepreneurialism.

In all of the ideological noise, the competition of those who consider government the enemy and those who consider corporations the enemy, we don’t discuss enough the shared enterprise we are in, in which both government and corporations are problematic but indispensable players. Treating the public sphere as a popular entrepreneurial challenge, with one of the issues being how best to articulate that public entrepreneurship with the private sector to maximize our welfare through the most robust and efficacious utilizations of both, is exactly what we need more of. This is a wonderful discussion of that oft-forgotten but critically essential aspect of public participation and discourse: How we can act together in productive ways to improve our social institutional landscape. Let’s hope that is the kind of conversation we have more of in the future, displacing the one we already have far too much of.

Public entrepreneurialism is a concept that can join the pantheon of entrepreneurialisms, along with commercial, political, and social entrepreneurialism. Commercial entrepreneurialism requires no elaboration: It is what is normally referred to by the term. The development and implementation of a commercial idea in pursuit of private profit is commercial entrepreneurialism, and it plays a vital role in the ongoing evolution of our social institutional landscape.

Political entrepreneurialism involves political leadership outside of the established and official political landscape, in service to fomenting fundamental political change rather than preserving or operating through the status quo. Gandhi, King, revolutionary leaders and leaders of radical political movements, are examples of political entrepreneurs. They might leverage assets, mobilize resources, and divert profits of other enterprises toward the political goal. Clearly, commercial entrepreneurialism can be a strategic component of political entrepreneurialism.

And, similarly, political entrepreneurialism can be a strategic component of social entrepreneurialism. Social entrepreneurialism isn’t about changing regimes or merely expanding the franchize; it is about altering the culture. Changing the political landscape may be a means to that end, but, for social entrepreneurs, it is not an end in itself. Political entrepreneurs are often also, to varying degrees, social entrepreneurs: Certainly, King was a social entrepreneur to a very large extent, and Gandhi to a lesser extent. (Gandhi’s goal was primarily political: Indian independence. King’s was primarily social: The end of racism.)

But political entrepreneurs do not need to be social entrepreneurs: Many revolutionary leaders are simply trying to topple the current political power structure and replace it with what they believe to be a preferable one, because they believe the preferable one better serves either the public interest or their own interest, or the interests of those close to them, or some distribution among these, depending on the degree to which they are acting idealistically or cynically, and selfishly or altruistically.

All three of these forms of entrepreneurialism, on average, involve a higher proportion of charismatic authority than other forms of leadership (see What is Leadership?), though rational and traditional authority may well be invoked as well.  Social and political entrepreneurship probably rely more than commercial entrepreneurship on charismatic authority (though commercial entrepreneurs are often charismatic; think Steve Jobs), if only because the rewards of the former two are less immediate and less fungible: Those who follow, or work for, a commercial entrepreneur can do so for the promise of income without being otherwise persuaded, while those who follow political and social entrepreneurs generally have to be convinced of the ideals for which they are working.

Public entrepreneurialism is something different from all of these, articulating them into a single enterprise, and doing so from or through the established power structure rather than in opposition to it. It involves the mayor who has a vision for his or her city, the governor who is focused more on long-term development than short-term indicators, the president who has a vision for the country that guides his or her policies as much as or more than the ephemeral tides of political exigency.

It also involves those who try to influence them, not to change the nature of the game, but to play the game that exists more beneficially. Commercial entrepreneurs exist on a continuum ranging from the purely profit-motivated to the socially idealistic and visionary, and political and social entrepreneurs exist on continua ranging from extreme radicalism to subtle tweaking of existing institutions. Those who occupy the ranges closer to the latter poles become more involved in public entrepreneurialism, in partnership with others who occupy the more visionary range of elected and appointed office and bureaucratic careers.

Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, was less radical, less rejecting of the status quo, than Malcolm X; the American Revolutionaries less revolutionary than their French counterparts. The former were more willing to retain much and make changes mostly on the margins, moving the sophisticated package of human history along a slightly diverted trajectory rather than trying to destroy what was and replace it en masse with what they believed should be.

Public entrepreneurialism is characterized, for instance, by the vision touted by recent Denver mayoral candidate James Mejia, involving developing the river front in much the same way that San Antonia did in the latter’s creation of its famous River Walk; and by the vision espoused by now Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper during his campaign, in which he discussed a vision for Colorado that revolved around articulated roles for political, social, and commercial entrepreneurs (see A Positive Vision For Colorado).

Public entrepreneurialism can emphasize different aspects of our social institutional landscape: The economic, the cultural, the aesthetic, the charitable. It can focus on improvements in education, or in the delivery of social services, or in the production of wealth, or in the promotion of fairness and justice and human decency; but, at its best, it involves at least a little of all of these, emphasizing one more than others in each project, but pursuing projects which, taken together, emphasize all of these values.

We are indeed in a shared enterprise, one which we can participate in by “railing against the machine,” or one which we can participate in by “rallying agents of the organism.” The former is often more emotionally gratifying, assuming the role of someone external and superior to that which is. The latter is more productive and realistic, recognizing that we are indeed a part of something larger than ourselves, something that has a history and a value worth preserving and developing. Public entrepreneurialism can be bold, idealistic, even radical at times. But it is the kind of change realized through the realization that no viable change occurs that does not leverage what is to create what can be.

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Having recently received a poignant lesson in what effective leadership isn’t, I decided to explore the question of what it is, by considering how individual efforts articulate with what I will call “the social field” (and have previously called “the social institutional and technological landscape”). I will discuss two kinds of leadership: Authoritative Leadership (broken down into Traditional, Rational, and Charismatic), and Surreptitious Leadership (a particular segment of the broader category of “surreptitious power”), as well as how leadership articulates with the innovation and diffusion of ideas. Then I will consider all of this in the context of my overarching social systemic paradigm (see Adaptation & Social Systemic Fluidity, The Evolutionary Ecology of Social Institutions, The Fractal Geometry of Social Change, The Evolutionary Ecology of Human Technology, The Fractal Geometry of Law (and Government), Emotional Contagion, Bellerophon’s Ascent: The Mutating Memes (and “Emes”) of Human History, The Politics of Consciousness , Information and Energy: Past, Present, and Future, The Evolutionary Ecology of Audio-Visual Entertainment (& the nested & overlapping subsystems of Gaia), The Nature-Mind-Machine Matrix).

Social change occurs primarily through three types of interacting mechanisms: Innovation (see, e.g., The Evolutionary Ecology of Human Technology); social evolutionary drift (see e.g., the first six paragraphs of The Fractal Geometry of Social Change); and social organization in service to cooperative ends, frequently in conflict or competition with other organized efforts to accomplish what are presumed to be incompatible ends (this includes intentional social movements, such as, e.g., Transcendental Politics). Generally, these three mechanisms organically articulate to generate the ongoing dynamic of human history. While any enterprise is a portal through which our wills can, with varying degrees of consciousness, interface with this dynamic of change, there are certain institutional processes and roles through which human beings attempt to harness and channel the integrated processes of human history. These are found in the realms of politics, economics, culture, and religion.

Innovation and leadership are the two intentional mechanisms of social change. They can coexist -a leader can innovate, and an innovator can lead- or either can exist on its own -a leader can rely on established techniques, and an innovator can innovate without making any attempt to influence other human beings. Certainly, they are more robust together: Innovative leaders tend to capture our imaginations more, and thus be more charismatic and compelling, while entrepreneurial innovators, especially in the modern era of highly complex technologies, generally need to rally others to their enterprise in order to successfully innovate.

But, regardless of the degree to which they are braided currents in the stream of history, they can be considered separately in order to understand each and both better. I’ve given more attention to innovation than to leadership on this blog; hopefully, this essay will help establish a more optimal balance.

Leadership does not have to be dedicated to social change. A leader can try to preserve a desired status quo, or to resurrect an admired past condition. But, since the world never stands still, leadership affects the dynamic of change over time, even if it does so by seeking to regress or stagnant.

Leaders can occupy established positions as well as create new ones. But, intentionally or not, by becoming focal points around which others rally (or around which other’s actions swirl), they are conduits for the creation and spread of both their own preferred memes, and catalysts for the counterreactions of those who prefer other memes in their stead. As such, even the most conservative or reactionary of leaders, or the most humble and unassuming, are vehicles of social change: Change is the one constant, and leadership is one vehicle by which it occurs.

In most conceptualizations, effective leadership requires that the person in whom it is embodied is perceived by others to possess some kind of “authority.” The early 20th century German sociologist Max Weber identified three kinds of authority: Rational, traditional, and charismatic. Charismatic authority is that aspect of authority that is vested in the personal qualities of the leader. Examples of leaders who have successfully relied primarily on charismatic authority are those renowned civil rights leaders (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr.), rebel and revolutionary leaders (e.g. Gandhi), and, in some cases, tyrants who have wrested power from existing governments. But such leaders also exist in more humble movements, in classrooms and community organizations, in nonprofits and government agencies. Charismatic authority is generally a vital ingredient in any effective social movement, on any level.

Traditional authority is that authority that vests due to the ancient (often, though not always, archaic) traditions of a given society. The authority of parents, elders, tribal chieftains, and clergy are examples of traditional authority. This can be considered authority derived from cultural habit, from some deeply embedded and not generally re-examined informal hierarchical structure that simply endures across the ages.

Rational authority is that authority that vests by conscious design, a function of modernity rather than antiquity. Occupation of formal, modern governmental and bureaucratic offices are the quintessential examples of rational authority, from the President of the United States to the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

These three forms of authority can coexist and interact. Charismatic authority is often a vehicle to being assigned rational authority (e.g., a charismatic candidate is elected to office), and rational authority is often a codification of some pre-existing traditional authority (e.g., the organizational structure of a modern religious institution derived from the ancient traditional authority vested in religious leaders). Religious leaders exercising charismatic authority is a common occurrence (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr.; Ayatollah Khomeini).

What we conventionally think of as “leadership” is well mapped-out by these three variants of authority. But that conventional conceptualization only identifies one general form of leadership, what I am calling “Authoritative Leadership.” I believe that there is another kind of leadership as well, one which, again, can coexist and interact with Authoritative Leadership in various ways. I call this other form of leadership “Surreptitious Leadership.”

Surreptitious leadership can take the form of being “a king maker,” making behind-the-scenes arrangements which help imbue others with authoritative leadership. Sometimes, this involves some elements of localized authoritative leadership mobilized in service to cultivating broader authoritative leadership in others (i.e., those close to the surreptitious leader perceive in him or her local authoritative leadership, which is then exercised in service to broader surreptitious leadership). Often, these people are not really “surreptitious,” but rather are perceived as the real power behind the person nominally given the position of authoritative leadership through which the surreptitious leader is operating. For example, Karl Rove, the conservative political strategist who orchestrated the election victory of George W. Bush, was a not-so-surreptitious surreptitious leader (and perhaps Dick Cheney, thought by many to be the real power in the Bush administration, as well).

But there are other forms of surreptitious leadership as well. Perhaps the quintessential example of surreptitious leadership is the “Chinese Servant” archetype employed by John Steinbeck in East of Eden. Lee, the Chinese servant in the household, who pretended to speak only broken English, was really a highly educated and extremely wise individual, who confided in another character that he liked being a servant because it enabled him to control his master. In other words, he played on stereotypes to make himself invisible and non-threatening, but to position himself to whisper in his master’s ear in ways which guided his master’s decisions, who in turn affected others.

This pure form of surreptitious leadership is quiet, humble, and unassuming. It seeks neither credit nor glory, but rather allows others to receive them in order to remain most effective.

There is a subtle distinction between surreptitious leadership and surreptitious power. Though the former generally requires he exercise of some form of the latter, the latter can exist independently of the former. So, for instance, J. Edgar Hoover was famous for his surreptitious power, his ability to blackmail prominent office-holders (including the President of the United States) with information that he had illicitly procured through misuse of his Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This is a case of information being used to control those ostensibly with more institutional power, but not necessarily an exercise of surreptitious leadership. If, for instance, it were utilized only to procure wealth and luxury for the person employing it, it would be surreptitious power but not surreptitious leadership. The more it is used to affect public policy formation, and to channel the actions of multitudes of others down desired paths, the more it becomes an example of surreptitious leadership.

As in the earlier examples of surreptitious leadership, it often involves localized authoritative leadership exercised in service to broader-based surreptitious leadership. So, just as Karl Rove authoritatively led his staff and followers in order to surreptitiously lead the nation, so too did J. Edgar Hoover authoritatively lead the FBI in order to exercise surreptitious power over individuals holding the highest offices of the land.

A broader hybrid of authoritative and surreptitious leadership involves authoritative sources or counselors that surreptitiously lead. The archetypes for this are: 1) the viziers or ministers who counsel, and are the real power behind, sultans and kings; and 2) the philosophers whose ideas are employed by authoritative leaders. Examples of the latter (sometimes called “opinion leaders”) are the 17th and 18th century Enlightenment philosophes whose ideas informed both the “Enlightened Monarchs” and the revolutionary leaders of the late 18th century, and the 19th century American transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau, whose ideas informed both Gandhi and King.

The best leaders combine elements of all forms of leadership -mobilized in service to the innovation, selection, diffusion, and implementation of ideas- not necessarily by occupying every role, but by recognizing and mobilizing every role, channeling their forces and orchestrating rippling transformations which serve the purpose to which their leadership is dedicated.

And so leaders of all kinds -the three varieties of authoritative leaders, and the various forms of surreptitious leaders- are nodes in our dynamical social networks through which memes are collected, synthesized, refined, disseminated, and employed. In The Fractal Geometry of Social Change, they are intensifiers, nodes at which the described dynamic is invogorated according to the wills of those occupying those nodes. Their leadership can be more local or more global, broader or narrower (i.e., affecting broader or narrower ranges of “colors” in The Fractal Geometry of Social Change), more or less salient (i.e., establishing lasting and significant change, or created mere momentary ripples).

Whether authoritative or surreptitious, or some hybrid of the two; whether innovative or derivative; whether more global or more local; whether broader or narrower; leadership is about facilitating change. It is less about the person who occupies the role than how they affect the patterns into which they have effectively tapped (though, of course, the person who effectively taps into those patterns is honored and admired, or reviled, depending on for what purpose and to what effect). The best leaders are focused not on themselves, on their own desires or beliefs or self-glorification, but rather on the world around them, the people they are tryng to influence, the ideas with which they are working, the currents of history they are attempting to navigate. Leadership is more about conducting than commanding, inspiring than imposing. It is not, as we often think, the placing of oneself above others, but rather the immersion of oneself into the system composed of others, in order to affect that system most profoundly.

I’ve been developing A Proposal: The Politics of Kindness in recent weeks, as well as communicating with others from across the political spectrum on matters of policy, ideology, and personal style, and the sheer lunacy and pettiness of popular discourse raises the question of whether reason and goodwill are powerful enough forces to cut through it, or whether those who are advocates for reason and goodwill have simply failed to present it in a transparent and compelling enough manner.

Here’s what should be completely non-controversial: We should govern ourselves by using sound reason applied to reliable information in service to all legitimate values and goals, including the protection and augmentation of individual liberty, the recognition of mutual interdependence, and a commitment to kindness and compassion. And yet, it is controversial, the simplicity of it buried beneath various idolatries and ideological rationalizations.

One former supporter wrote me and said that my use of jargon turns him off, and that I would attract more people to my ideas by avoiding it. I wrote back thanking him, telling him that I thought that he was absolutely right, that I would work on it, but that my writing style is really just my writing style, and it probably wasn’t going to change dramatically, in part due to my own lack of skill and my own unwillingness to invest the amount of time and energy necessary. I asked him to “bear with me.” He replied that I had chosen not to take his suggestion, but rather to rationalize continuing to do what he suggested I stop doing, so he wasn’t going to bear with me. I responded: “Fair enough. Different people have different ways of thinking, speaking, writing, and behaving. Some of those differences shouldn’t be tolerated, and some should. It’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves where we draw that line. No hard feelings.”

How much should it matter to any of us if another person’s writing style is annoying? Should it matter any more than if another has a tic, or a stutter, or a physical defect? How much does it matter whether the offending trait is seen as more or less an artifact of volition, or amenable to voluntary modification? Should gay rights really hinge on the argument over whether it is a life-style choice, or an inherent characteristic?

The defects of some ideologies (not just some conservative ones) have more to do with attitude than with substance. They are characterized by intolerance, absolutism, and other attributes that are inherently centrifugal in nature, tearing people apart rather than binding us together. Progressives should not see themselves as being in a battle against external foes called “conservatives,” but rather against both internal and external foes called “intolerance, irrationality, ignorance, anger, hostility, cruelty” and so on.

It’s time for all reasonable people of goodwill to dedicate ourselves to The Politics of Kindness. Yes, well-reasoned and well-informed kindness; well-communicated kindness; kindness that seeks the kindest outcomes and not just the kindest intentions; kindness that is disciplined and channeled and cautious in its certainties; kindness that is courageous and assertive and even at times combative in its advocacy; but, ultimately, kindness.

We exhaust ourselves in futile opposition to irrelevancies, and fortify ourselves within shallow but passionately held dogmas. What if we simply all tried to do better? Or, more realistically, what if those of us who read this message, or receive it from some other source, or independently think of it, consider the possibility of doing better? What if all those who care about participating productively in the creation of our future dedicate themselves to doing better? And what if all those so inclined began to more consistently and frequently encourage others to do better as well, in the kindest and most endearing of ways?

I’ve learned a lot from my seven-year-old daughter. One of the things I’ve learned is that love is far more powerful than anger. And, in the same vein, tolerance is far more powerful than intolerance. Kindness is far more powerful than hatred or indifference. Reason is far more powerful than irrationality, and knowledge is far more powerful than ignorance. And yet, these more powerful forces seem forever on the defensive. Anger, intolerance, hatred, mutual indifference, irrationality, and ignorance are forever on the march, while love, tolerance, kindness, reason, and knowledge seem forever (or at least too frequently) in retreat. It’s not because the latter set is weaker, but rather because those of us who would be its advocates are weaker in our commitment to it, which demands more of its adherents than do hatred, intolerance, anger, indifference, irrationality, and ignorance.

Those who want reason and kindness to prevail in the political sphere have to work harder in promoting it within ourselves, within our families and communities, within our thoughts and our actions. We will continue to lose to weaker forces more easily served unless and until we do.

(See A Proposal for a slightly revised version of this post, followed by an extensive elaboration of its various components)

To advance the cause of Reason and Goodwill, I propose a project, or movement, that is comprised of three parts: 1) a policy analysis component; 2) an information dissemination component; and 3) a community organizational network component. While I conceptualize each of these in somewhat novel ways, in the context of grass roots political activism, it is the third which is perhaps the most innovative and crucial component, and so it is with the third that I will begin.

Currently, grass roots activism by those who claim the mantel of advocacy of Reason and Goodwill is almost entirely focused on electoral politics and public policy as generated through governmental mechanisms. As such, it is very easy for the opponents of this movement to dismiss these activists as people who want to take the opponents’ money and give it to others. One aspect of this conceptualization is that government is not considered an agent of the people, but rather an external entity which imposes itself on people and deprives them of their liberty. The arguments for and against this conceptualization are irrelevant for my present purposes. There are clearly many people who do indeed adhere to this conceptualization, and that fact is what’s relevant.

George Lakoff in The Political Mind talked about the need to activate the frames and narratives in all of us that are empathy-based, if we want to be successful in implementing empathy-based public policies. There are few people of any ideological stripe who oppose community involvement, and most actively support it. Many conservatives are involved in their communities through churches, civic groups, and PTAs, for instance. Such involvement is where their empathy-based frames and narratives reside, along with, in many cases, a notion of “family values,” some aspects of which are also empathy based. By increasing the association of these activities with what is currently referred to as “the progressive agenda” (though avoidance of the word “progressive” might be crucial to the success of this project), we can increase the value of the (possibly renamed) brand, attracting more people to it, including some who never imagined that they might be attracted to it.

History is replete with examples of the persuasive power of those who “walk the walk.” Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are two examples of “progressives” in their day, fighting to advance particular causes (Indian Independence and African American Civil Rights, respectively), whose examples were so compelling that few today would denounce what either of them stood for. They were “political entrepreneurs,” mobilizing “charismatic authority” in service to humanity. We can’t all be such giants, and we aren’t all willing to make the sacrifices it requires, but we can all make more modest sacrifices and rise to more modest heights, demonstrating the sincerity of our convictions and, by doing so, making the power of our message that much more irresistible.

There are already many who invest a great deal of time, energy, money, and personal commitment into advancing the progressive agenda. If some significant fraction can be persuaded to invest some increased portion of that time, energy, money, and personal commitment into increased, non-partisan community involvement, they will contribute greatly to increasing the association of the policies they advocate with the spirit of goodwill in service to mutual benefit. And by being direct agents of reason and goodwill in their communities, the public policies such activists favor are given a human face; rather than being easily conceptualized as the impositions of a remote overlord, such policies can be plainly seen to be the sincere preference of some good neighbors and community members who believe that the spirit of community can be expressed not just directly, but also through our government acting as an agent of our collective will.

I describe this component at greater length in several posts on my blog, Colorado Confluence. The post with the most concise and focused treatment is “The Power of ‘Walking the Walk'”:

This community-strengthening component isn’t only a laudable end in itself, but it also serves the second component I mentioned: Messaging. The cause of Reason and Goodwill is a powerful one, one which few would explicitly claim opposition to. The most pronounced failure of those who are its political advocates is the failure to connect the political expression of Reason and Goodwill to the widespread individual aspirations to be reasonable people of goodwill. One aspect of addressing that failure involves modeling what it means to be reasonable people of goodwill, and cultivating the commitment to it that might eventually translate into increased popular support for public policies that are expressions of reason and goodwill.

More generally, the messaging has to rely less on academic or legalistic argumentation, and more on resonating with the frames and narratives that form people’s minds. We need to reach people where they live, finding their own empathetic frames and narratives, and connecting the set of well-reasoned public policies which are empathy-based to those frames and narratives. Therefore, the second component of the project I am proposing is the continuing and focused development of a cognitively sophisticated system of disseminating not just “progressive” ideas, but doing so in ways which resonate with non-progressive mindsets.

This project, therefore, involves not only increasing popular positive associations with progressive policies by modeling a progressive spirit of mutual goodwill, and forming increased positive social connections with people who do not self-identify as “progressives,” but also involves communicating that same message in ways that are precisely tailored to most effectively resonate with those who are currently perhaps only marginally inclined to be attracted by it. The community involvement becomes the most important conduit for the message, communicated with increased credibility, and couched in increasingly effective ways.

Finally, the first component of this project involves reducing the arbitrariness and exclusiveness of what is assumed to be those policies which advance the cause of Reason and Goodwill. Rather than a traditional policy think tank with an ideological bias, this component of the project would have to strive to map out the entire range of public policy ideas and options, guided only by a commitment to reason in service to the public interest, acknowledging legitimate debates and ranges of uncertainty (such as, for example, between Keynesian and Chicago School Economics, and the associated policies of economic stimulus through public spending v. “fiscal conservativism”).

I envision this component as a very ambitious social institutional analogue to “the human genome project,” in which the social institutional landscape is mapped out using available analytical tools (e.g., microeconomic analysis, network analysis, legal analysis, meme theory, etc.), comprising a coherent complex dynamical systems paradigm, and then, within this context, all competing ideologies, policy ideas, proposals, and analyses are cataloged and evaluated, controlling as much as possible for ideological bias, simply subjecting the universe of human social and political thought to the crucible of methodologically rigorous reason.

Two important dimensions of this project need to be highlighted: 1) These three components are not mutually segregated, but are rather integral aspects of a single coherent effort, reinforcing one another, and creating a powerful synergy of progressive thought, communication, and action; and 2) An enormous amount of work has been done in all three areas, under a variety of organizational umbrellas; utilization and integration of the product of those efforts, and of the existing social institutional material that has been generated from all quarters, is a large part of what this project would be about. The community involvement component would actively seek out partnerships with churches and other religious organizations, civic organizations, PTAs, park districts, non-profits, local businesses, and all others who have already developed a community infrastructure to work with and through.

We would, through this synthesis of focused analysis, focused communication, and focused action, weave the spirit of reason and goodwill into the social fabric as it currently exists, and contribute to the ongoing evolution of that social fabric in ways more conducive to the cause of Reason and Goodwill.

I believe that this project would have to avoid direct political advocacy of any kind (a function already addressed by other organizations) in order to preserve its legitimacy, and to reduce the obstacles that explicit partisanship creates. Its purpose would be to explore the social institutional landscape with as little bias as possible (but with an explicit commitment to advancing the public interest through the advocacy of reason in service to mutual goodwill), and through a combination of direct involvement in our communities and well-designed (cognitively targeted) messaging, disseminating that understanding as widely and deeply as possible. This would “soften the ground” for traditional political advocacy, and would also increase the quality of what we are advocating for (by decreasing ideological presumption and increasing openness to all ideas).

I am currently looking for any and all feedback, assistance, direction, and referrals to others who might offer the same. I can envision this as either being a directly funded project that I oversee (or merely participate in), or as a project that finds a home in an existing organizational context. I am completely amenable to these, and any other, possible paths of implementation. Please email me at

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The bulk of my posts aggregate to inform A Proposal for a social movement, one which combines devising the best policy analyses in service to humanity with the best and most innovative and cognitively sophisticated messaging in order to attract an ever-widening range of the public to the agenda of Reason and Goodwill. The element that may be most novel and most powerful, however, is not this combination of the essentially familiar ingredients of policy analysis and messaging, but rather the one that can be a game changer, the one that may prove to be an irresistible force: Organizing not to change government or implement particular public policies so much as to create a simultaneously personal and social commitment to one another, by actually “walking the walk” of goodwill,  of mutual interdependence  and support, associating with “the progressive agenda” the attraction of a lived commitment to other people’s welfare.

As I wrote in The Ultimate Political Challenge, a single Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. captures the imagination and, in time, wins over the hardened hearts of much of the opposition. They both knew the power of their goodwill, of their personal commitment to it, and acted with the discipline to turn that goodwill into a social force. These two “political entrepreneurs” mobilized their “charismatic authority” in service to specific issues within a Progressive world view (Indian Independence and African American Civil Rights, respectively). What we lack today are similarly compelling political entrepreneurs, mobilizing similarly dedicated charismatic authority. And the step that hasn’t yet been taken is to mobilize those forces not to address a single issue, but to address the underlying issue of being a people dedicated to reason and empathy.

Today, there are many progressives angrily striving to implement progressive policies, but too often doing so with little or no internalized, personalized, and dedicated goodwill toward fellow human beings. It is just another blind ideology in their hands, not a commitment, not something they’re willing to sacrifice for. I challenge each and every one of them –AND MYSELF– not just to talk the talk, but also to walk the walk, to be, to some small degree, a tribute to those who were willing to give their lives to humanity, by giving some portion of our own. I challenge us all to strive to be “political entrepreneurs,” to strive to invoke our own “charismatic authority,” to demonstrate that individual initiative does not have to be mobilized only in service to the accumulation of individual wealth. I challenge us all to do good by being good, and by being good, vastly increasing our credibility as advocates for public policies aligned with that spirit.

The Tea Partiers, and other extreme individualists, who have managed to rationalize an indifference to the suffering of others and a denial of the responsibilities to others that come with the blessings of good fortune, are able to dismiss Progressives as people who want to spend other people’s money against their will, because, in fact, that’s all they see. But what if they saw instead the people who organize to mentor neighborhood kids, to help out those who are facing a crisis, to counsel and assist people in need, to be what they preach we as a society should be, and only in conjunction with that lived commitment, only as an auxiliary to it, are struggling to create a government that facilitates what they are already doing every day, in every way, as a natural part of our shared existence? Can you imagine the force of such a social movement?

All reasonable people of goodwill, who want to promote reason and goodwill, need to do so on the ground, in daily life, independently of government, if they want the advance of reason and goodwill to prevail. Those who can’t summon enough commitment to model for others what reason and goodwill look and feel like need to recognize that they are no better than those they oppose, no more than a bunch of people trying to impose their will on others without being willing to live up to the demands they themselves have made. No wonder the Progressive Movement is making so little headway! Who can trust armchair altruists, who talk a good game but live lives no more noble or generous than those they condemn?

I passionately want for us to become a kinder and gentler nation, a nation of people lifting one another up, a nation aspiring to realize the potential of the human spirit. There is one clear path to that end: For all of those who want the same to commit themselves to its realization, by becoming the kinds of irresistible beacons to reason and goodwill that Gandhi and King were, that each of us can be, even if to some smaller extent. By as many of us as possible striving to do so, we will give the Progressive brand a reputation for sincere goodwill that ever fewer will be able to deny. And the future will increasingly belong to what is best and most admirable in human beings.

This is what a commitment to Progressive policies demands of us: A commitment to personal progress in service to social progress, to being as individuals what we are advocating that we become as a society. Striving to rise to that challenge is the greatest gift we could give to our children, to their children, and to ourselves.

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