Editorials

commonweal WHICH REVOLUTION? ONLY IN America. Within the span of several months, the nation has been called not to one but two new American revolutions. Comparisons are unavoidable. "The time has...

...The bishops, one feels confident, are more concerned that the elderly not be abandoned in their illnesses than that we revolutionize bypass surgery with lasers or move the pharmaceutical industry, along with the military, into space...
...Magisterial righteousness" and "profound naivete," declared Charles Krauthammer of the occasionally liberal New Republic...
...But a new American revolution also entails an enlivened sense of human solidarity and a determination that no one be excluded, through poverty, racial or sexual discrimination, gross inequality, or joblessness, from active participation in the building of the common good...
...This, in the same speech where the president admits and very delicately at that, given the extent of the problem the necessity of curtailing "our major health care programs...
...The president, we suspect, will be granted 22 February 1985: 99 leeway to be "bouyant," "confident," "optimistic," "visionary...
...The ultimate lifesaving device is also technological: the Strategic Defense Initiative...
...Reagan speaks of the nation's "great ability to produce more, do more, be more," it is the first of those capacities that seems to define the others...
...This economic challenge we all face today has many parallels with the political challenge that confronted the founders of our nation...
...There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect...
...and it is hard to know the extent to which the bishops, too, might draw on these themes to strengthen their own vision without finally betraying it...
...It is a revolution not primarily of producing but of sharing, including, participating, collaborating, enabling...
...But a comparison of the two proposed "revolutions' ' indicates that disagreement even radical disagreement exists at a deeper level as well, at the level of ends as well as of means...
...When Mr...
...That was a Committee of Catholic bishops in their first draft of a pastoral letter on the economy, issued last November...
...No pun, we presume, intended...
...a revolution carrying us to new heights of progress by pushing back frontiers of knowledge and space...
...Bishops, by contrast, are expected to be "realistic...
...The president's will burst all frontiers of knowledge and flourish in the heavens as on earth...
...It will be instructive to see whether these observers are knocked similarly aghast by the president's State of the Union...
...The bishops' second American revolution is rather different...
...The president's Second American Revolution is cast in terms of breaking natural frontiers, "unleashing . . . pent-up power," liberating energies, struggling, and overcoming...
...The note is one of energetic expansion, if not even explosion...
...It is just the president being "bullish...
...It extends the system which the bishops would transform...
...We believe the time has come for a similar experiment in economic democracy: the creation of an order that guarantees the minimum conditions of human dignity in the economic sphere for every person...
...It is true that there is plenty of the latter kind of disagreement as there will be over the question of whether the Reagan administration's specific budget proposals actually match its dazzling portrait of our future...
...Ever since the bishops released the first draft of their economics pastoral, it has been commonplace for critics to remark that there is no disagreement over the bishops' objectives, only over choosing the best means to those objectives...
...This, then, is the first of the contrasts between these two visions of latter-day American revolutions...
...It was precisely this kind of proposal, accompanied by a number of moderately left-of-center particulars, that earned the bishops' letter such a rocky reception...
...It is more a continuation of the recent revolutions in industrial production and consumption than a renewal of the social and political revolutions of the 1770s and 1780s...
...Two hundred years of American history," he told the nation, "should have taught us that nothing is impossible...
...In order to create a new kind of political democracy they were compelled to develop ways of thinking and political institutions which had never existed before...
...According to the bishops, a new "American Experiment" in economic democracy implies both an evolution of institutions and a transformation of attitudes...
...there are only shortages of good will...
...But the president's success also owes much to the fact that his "revolution" is far less profound than the bishops...
...Reagan's vision...
...But the greatest contrast between the two revolutions is that the president's is essentially technological and the bishops' is social...
...Measures for saving lives are underlined by the president revolutions in heart surgery, cancer diagnosis, cutting hospital costs, and other "medical breakthroughs beyond anything we ever dreamed possible," to be achieved through laser techniques and space manufacture...
...The time has come to proceed toward a great new challenge a Second American Revolution of hope and opportunity...
...Poverty will be relieved by creating "a new generation of entrepreneurs...
...Surely no "childlike innocence" here...
...Off-the wall Utopians," pronounced the conservative National Review...
...That was President Reagan in his State of the Union address at the beginning of February...
...a revolution of spirit that taps the soul of America, enabling us to summon greater strength than we have ever known...
...Reagan has successfully appropriated certain deeply rooted and highly potent themes of the religion of' 'Americanism...
...It is, to use the stereotype, a decidedly "masculine" vision...
...Childlike innocence or vanity," ruled George F. Will, after explaining, "In the mental world to which the bishops, in their flight from complexity, have immigrated, there are no intellectual difficulties, no insoluble problems...
...At the moment, of course, it is the president's vision which has the greater hold on the public's imagination...
...The note is one of interaction and nurture a relatively "feminine" vision, if you will...
...It involves the recognition of economic rights to a minimum level of material welfare, to an opportunity for self-realization and community contribution through worthwhile work, to a collaborative share in the direction of one's economic activity...
...Krauthammer lecturing them on their "obliviousness to the intractability of certain problems...
...One senses that it will be achieved gradually and with difficulty...
...It could save millions of lives, indeed humanity itself...
...The bishops are far more cautious, more tentative, more cognizant of sin, of America's failings, of the temptations of power and wealth...
...No, that is not George F. Will mocking the bishops for their ' 'flight from complexity'' or Mr...
...and a revolution that carries beyond our shores the golden promise of human freedom...
...Lasers, semiconductors, a permanently manned space station manufacturing medicines and crystals for supercomputers, offering "new opportunities for free enterprise" these are the pivotal images of Mr...

Vol. 112 • February 1985 • No. 4


 
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