I asked myself how can we weigh or measure policies coming from different perspectives? By what yardstick can we gauge their validity?
We can ask what kind of benefit will flow from a policy. We can refer to the Constitution and ask if a policy is Constitutional. But a policy seems beneficial might not be constitutional and a policy otherwise constitutional might not be beneficial, and even if these tests are satisfied, they do not tell us if a policy is wise or moral.
I seemed to me that the best yardstick for judging public policy is this: will it, directly or indirectly help shape, support, nurture, or protect a healthy society? Defining the characteristics of a healthy society will define a fundamental yardstick for evaluating public policies. We would know a healthy society if we find healthy characteristics in people raised in the society in question.
What might be the characteristics of a Healthy Society? I believe there are basically six key characteristics.
First, its people will place high value on having and manifesting a capacity to love – not just spouses and family, but neighbors and strangers as well. Why?
- As a consequence, they will tend to be characteristically generous and compassionate
- A loving environment is far more conducive to the pursuit of happiness than a fearful, resentful, uncaring one.
Second, its people will have a high regard for the virtue of self reliance. Why?
- The absence of self-reliance results in dependency, feelings of entitlement and ultimately acts of exploitation.
- People who value self-reliance are far more productive than those content to be dependent. Productivity contributes to the well being of the whole and more importantly, is essential to a sufficiency of means to express compassion and generosity.
- Self-reliance is a building block for self-respect, self-actualization, and healthy relationships with others, all qualities conducive to the effective pursuit of happiness.
Third, its people will place a high value on shared moral standards: integrity, honor, honesty. Why?
- An amoral or morally relativistic society provides far more opportunities for human weaknesses than strengths and greater obstacles to love, self-reliance, and an effective pursuit of happiness.
Fourth, its people will believe in their society and feel a commitment and a duty to both defend and pass on its values. Why?
- A society that does not believe in itself, does not defend it’s own character, or does not strive to pass it on to its next generation, cannot last.
Fifth, a healthy society has opportunities for work and activities that allow and encourage their people feel productive, valued, and needed.
Sixth,a truly healthy society will be a free, self-governing society. Why?
- All these characteristics share a common quality – they don’t exist except by choice. Although one can be forced to work, one cannot be forced to love, to place self-reliance above dependency or exploitation, to internalize moral standards, or even believe in these things. Hence, it must be a free, self-governing society
This article was developed from a Talk given to the Women’s Policy Forum, Tappahannock, VA Oct. 9, 2012 The main topic was how to discuss public policy issues from different perspectives.