Democracy, Social Values, and Public Policy

Democracy, Social Values, and Public Policy

Democracy, Social Values, and Public Policy

Democracy, Social Values, and Public Policy


Transcending the widespread concerns about deteriorating moral values in American society, this collection focuses on the common values of American society. Through the perspectives of philosophers, historians, political scientists, theologians, anthropologists, economists, and scientists, this book examines American social values and discusses how they are applied in current areas of public interest.


Milton M. Carrow,Robert Paul Churchill, andJoseph J. Cordes

Values have been at the forefront of modern political discourse. What they are and what they imply for democratic public policy are far from clear. Because contradictory values are held by individuals and different constituencies in American society, because there is confusion over values, virtues, and preferences, and because there is confusion over how well policies represent values, public discourse has created more heat than light. Definition and clarification are as essential as close attention to the policy process and logical rigor in argument.

This book deals with a significant aspect of value debates, namely, the social values underlying public policies in a democracy. In the United States we have learned that our democratic ideals are not based solely on the structural and institutional elements of a democracy, such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This understanding is underscored as we observe the struggles in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America to attain democratic societies. Simply adopting a constitution and providing for elections does not assure a democratic result. Likewise, democratic processes do not assure that public policy will be of high quality. Thus we have to look for firmer underpinnings and to explore more carefully the connection between values and policy outcomes.

Such underpinnings and connections undoubtedly include the common values of a society--the forces that hold it together. Among these are the social values of the community as a whole, although these may not be the preferences of particular individuals. As one of the authors in this book has aptly pointed out, social values are derived through a complex deliberative, cultural, legal, and political process.

Critical aspects of the strength of American democracy lie in its social values, on the way they influence public choice, and how they are reflected in public policies. What social values are, how they change and are perceived, how political institutions respond to them, how they are involved in the making of public policy are among the subjects of discussion in the various chapters of this book. Through the perspectives . . .

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