Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Sequester' Standoff Need Not Be Win-Lose

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Sequester' Standoff Need Not Be Win-Lose

Article excerpt

Americans identify with people who are strivers. It is a trait anchored in the pursuit of happiness. But personal striving can often lead to public strife. Take the sequester and its March 1 deadline for Congress to avoid big budget cuts.

The sequestration battle is a prime example of a government failure to sort out the conflicting demands on the public purse from so many strivers. A new Pew survey, for instance, finds Americans cant agree on what to cut in federal spending health, military, education, etc. How then can President Obama and the 535 voting members of Congress ever compromise?

But the excessive demands of strivers dont usually have the same effect on local government. How is it that most cities, towns, and counties are able to settle their differences and balance their budgets? Why this difference between the federal and the local?

One answer lies in that word settle.

In a recent book entitled Settling, political theorist Robert E. Goodin explores when and how we should settle in order to free ourselves to better discern and focus on our strivings. He suggests we prune our decision tree as a way to achieve reconciliation and to strive better.

At the local level, voters and their representatives are less boggled by complexity and more familiar with issues. Local officials arent as paralyzed by choices, as many consumers are in a food store when they face a hundred brands of breakfast cereal.

Mr. Goodin, an American and philosophy professor at the University of Essex, in England, seeks to elevate settling to a virtue, in part to reduce the fear of making a wrong choice in a complex world.

Settling, he says, is not in opposition to striving but necessary for it. It is not resignation or agreeing to an unwanted prospect. It is a let-it-be-for-now ideal with an emphasis on the for now. It is humility based on patience and an improved perception of goals. …

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