America as a Commonwealth
The ideas, values and proposals in this Manifesto are based on views of the nature of human beings, of the world in which they live, and of the relationship between individual people and society.
We believe that the world is marked by both good and evil, that it can be made a better place, and that making it a better place necessitates the subordination of competition to cooperation.
We assume that human beings have the potential for both good and evil. The role of the family is to raise children so as to develop their potential for goodness and to diminish their potential for evil, as well as fostering their recognition of social and civic responsibilities.
We believe that individuals become mature persons not only through the agency of the family, but also through the institutions of the larger society into which they are born. Hence, it should be the aim of public policy to create social institutions that further the improvement of the world, of our own society and of individuals by developing our cooperative powers and our potential for goodness.
We emphatically reject the view that human beings are at bottom solitary individuals, seeking only their own preservation and self-advancement in competition with others. In contrast to this view, we see our society as a Commonwealth in which individual citizens cooperate and support each other in their endeavor to achieve the common good. This concept of America as a Commonwealth goes back to colonial times and informs all our domestic programs.
Individuals thrive when they are supported by strong social institutions. The child needs the nurturance of a family; the modern child needs also the stimulation of a school and the encouragement and protection of civil society. Adults today need the support of public services, a legal framework for economic achievement and for security against enemies foreign and domestic. To provide these services, individuals share part of their wealth with the community.
This same mutually supportive relationship between the individual and the community should also obtain at the international level. Peoples and nations should seek their own path within the context of the wider world community. Through such structures as the United Nations, this world community strives to create conditions that will benefit and enhance the security of all. Toward this end, we advocate working toward the ultimate goal of making force a monopoly of the international community. We hold that military power should be employed by individual nations only for self-defense. These are the fundamental values that animate the policies of The American Institute for Progressive Democracy. These principles inform our VISION.
We need to dream before we can think. Before we can design a roadmap, we must know our direction. If we are to construct the nation we want, we must first ask what should it look like and what should be its message to our people and to the world.
What follows is our effort to articulate a vision for the nation, a vision that flows from our understanding of the values and beliefs we have just discussed. We do this not as a conceit or an entertainment. We believe that our country and indeed the world are in a state of profound crisis, that we are teetering on the edge of catastrophe and disintegration.
If we are to pull back from the brink, we must deepen our understanding and summon extraordinary will. Our objective must be no less than to heal the world, to propose arrangements for a better future in which people will learn to live in harmony and goodwill, both at home and abroad. While we reject the notion that the state and its laws should be based on the teachings of any particular creed, we indeed believe that the spirit of all the great world religions is reflected in our program, as is the spirit of humanism as a secular philosophy.
The locus for all our lives and activities is the planet we inhabit. Hence we must act to protect and support our common home.
One source of the earth’s current problems is human population. Its growth has placed that home and consequently ourselves in danger.
The chief immediate threat is climate change/global warming, a threat so pressing that, unless brought under control very soon, it will endanger all the peoples of the earth. It must be the first duty of the United States to see to it that this threat does not overtake mankind and that the quest for economic development is not allowed to despoil our home.
This country’s leaders should deliver a clarion call to our country and to the world—a call to make a livable world its top priority. To do less is to turn our backs on reality and to betray our descendents.
America in the World
Our view of the role of the United States in the world derives from our fundamental values: the world is seen as a family of peoples, each pursuing its own path to fulfillment and a decent life, in cooperation with others, all of whom share the limited resources of the planet.
America, now the richest and most powerful country in the world, must do its utmost to keep the peace and work with others for the general welfare. However, we should not seek to dominate and exploit other peoples near or far. Nor should we dictate to others the form of government or the form of economy under which they are to live, even though we fervently hope that all governments will seek to improve both the welfare and liberty of their own people, and although we encourage attempts to achieve a liberal democracy.
We believe that the primary task of keeping peace in the world should be assigned to the collective of the world’s people, at this time the United Nations. As in well-ordered nation states, where the monopoly of force is reserved to the national government, so the military and police power of the world should be reserved to the agency that represents the world community, with the proviso that each member state may keep the capacity to repel attacks on its home territory.
The United Nations
We will work to make the United States a full-fledged member of the United Nations and any successor organization.
We should give our full financial support, and dedicate our resources, to the world organization, commensurate with our wealth. We pledge our full support to attempts to develop the United Nations to be the primary peacekeeping authority in the world, reserving to ourselves only the right to defend our home territory. We will act with restraint and with respect for the needs and opinions of others, and above all, we will not seek to impose our will on the world.
Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Energy
We pledge ourselves to the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weaponry. As long as nuclear weapons exist our species is in danger and our doom likely. The odds are that some accident or some madman will trigger the nuclear holocaust if the mechanisms to do so continue to exist indefinitely.
We also have strong reservations about expanding the use of nuclear energy until we discover means of safely storing nuclear waste.
Limits of Resources and Distribution of Wealth
We recognize that a growing world population and rising standards of living place a strain on the limited resources of the planet. We also acknowledge that the people of the United States consume a disproportionate share of these resources. A world divided between the very rich and the very poor is an unjust and unstable world.
We can, however, limit our appetites and our consumption. Our children and our grandchildren will not be able to appropriate as many material resources of the earth as their grandparents did, but we intend to preserve for every American a decent and dignified way of life, even as we assist other people to approach such a condition. In the process we may discover that the unlimited consumption of material goods is not the most assured road to human fulfillment.