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On Moderation

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Author: Steve Peace
Created: 26 January, 2021
Updated: 14 August, 2022
26 min read

Editor's Note: The following is a speech given by Steve Peace in 1998 along with additional supporting documents from research and extracted passages from earlier drafts of the speech. He believes what he said then. And, he believes it today. This speech is even more relevant today than it was back then as we see the continued downward spiral of politics and political discourse in the United States:

Shortly after the November elections, a prominent national magazine ran a feature story declaring that “the moderates' numbers in both parties in Congress have been decimated by retirements and by last Tuesday's elections...and neither party has the leaders or programs to transcend the need to satisfy the fire breathers on the edges. The electorate, meanwhile, veers back and forth, trying to reach an equilibrium.” Equilibrium seems unlikely, however, as long as moderation and compromise are foul concepts to the fire breathers. 

Without the tempering influence of moderation, the public face of politics is dissolved into banal drama. Extremists engage in theatrical behavior by demonizing their foes in bitterly careless terms. Unfortunately, calling your adversary “pond scum” is not likely to move the debate toward resolution. The Left rails against the “Christian Fundamentalist Mafia,” while the Right poleaxes the “lesbian spear chuckers and Marxist creeps”..or, “coke-snorting, wife-swapping, baby-born-out-of-wedlock, radical Hollywood left.” In typically decorous terms, one ideologue recently blasted an adversary's proposal by declaring that it must be totally obliterated: “We have to blow up this train and the rails and the trestle and kill everyone on board." 

With depressing regularity on both sides of party politics we witness demagogues who villify their opponents and promote a simplistic path to virtue. When political utterance descends to such levels, moderates should issue a call for public responsibility. Calm and balance must be restored in this denunciatory atmosphere before it heralds an era of intellectual intolerance that will shame us all. 

America is being suffocated by those who inhabit the political extremes. Can it be that thinking in extremes is becoming our national disease? There is a growing fear among moderates that polarization is addictive: the crack cocaine of politics. 

We must all be wary of those paladins of virtue who use exaggerated threats to achieve a narrow ideological agenda. The corrosive politics of extremism has weakened and threatens to break the traditional American genius for moderation, for making progress by reaching practical compromises to meet real social and economic needs. 

As so many political moderates are being swept away by today's turbulent currents, perhaps it would be instructuve to reflect on the role of moderation in our tradition of government. 

AN AMERICAN TRADITION 

Ever since the framing of the Constitution, this country has been held together by the impulse to moderation. Moderation was the very soul of our Constitution. Our government was structured from the beginning so that each branch could moderate the other. It was the genius of our constitutional architects to separate powers between the national and state governments, and establish a tri-partite division of responsibility between the judicial, executive, and legislative branches. They split legislative authority between the president and the Congress, but divided it further between the House and the Senate. 

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The entire system reflects a deep-seated fear of an all-powerful central government. It is so concerned with safeguards against political absolutism, so intent on its complex system of checks and balances, that any tendency toward extremism is most likely to produce an impasse in the operations of government. In this framework for governing, moderation and compromise are the only instruments for overcoming deadlock. 

At the constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, men struggled to fashion a pragmatic compromise that would both create a strong national government and be acceptable to the people of the states. The Philadelphia convention was attacked from both the Right and the Left. However, agreement on the Philadelphia constitution was eased by the anticipation that one widely respected man of moderation would become chief executive of the new government. 

During the debates in 1787-88 over the yet-unratified Constitution, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay (Publius) introduced the Federalist as a “lesson of moderation.” Their principal concern was that “A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose.” Thus, they requested that a recognition of honest differences among well-meaning people “furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so thoroughly persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy.” Their ultimate concern was that “Without this armor [of moderation], a nation becomes vulnerable to poisons such as those attending the zealous and factious politics” of the sort they observed everywhere in the state governments under the Articles of Confederation. 

The Philadelphia constitution was a masterpiece of moderation. It was a product of political practitioners well-versed in principles and working to reconcile conflicting motives. The men of vision who gathered there in the summer of 1787 stressed the critical importance of moderation in the “science of politics' while they were engaged in creating the new nation. A few delegates did not sign the final document, but more than eighty percent of them did. 

George Washington, while urging good temper and mutual forbearance, accepted the reality of the clash of interests between different regions and factions in the country. But he proclaimed to the new nation that “the spirit of accommodation forms the basis of the Constitution.” 

Beginning with the Revolutionary War, successful political movements have followed a pragmatic and moderate course--rejecting absolutes in favor of concrete solutions that work in particular situations. American solutions have traditionally favored the realistic and practical over the Utopian and theoretical. Our history is one of striving for the middle way. Structurally, the balance alternates somewhere between a strong federal government and a loose collection of autonomous states. Economically, it is somewhere between central control and laissez-faire mercantilism. Answers to this country's problems have never been found in the doctrinaire purism of the extremes. 

Part of the reason for this moderation is our tradition of individualism, which has fostered a healthy distrust of government and a strong tendency to believe, with Jefferson, that the government which governs least governs best. We have also embraced the Emersonian creed of self-reliance, the concept that every man is responsible for shaping his own destiny. This faith has maintained a lasting grip on the American imagination. Given the incredible dynamism of the American economy, the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian ideal of the self-made man able to rise according to his ability is more than a cultural illusion. And as long as economic opportunity is more fact than fiction, why follow Marx rather than Franklin? Moderation predominates. 

Our constitution was designed by men fired with a passionate desire to control their own destinies, but that process was nourished and guided by the spirit of moderation. Our ancestors confronted overwhelming challenges, but they managed to shed the manacles of monarchy while avoiding the worst excesses of the French revolution only a few years later. 

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Jefferson believed that all laws should be revised every twenty years or so “to take into account the continuity of progress.” He felt this was necessary in light of naturally occurring changes in social and economic conditions. What Jefferson advocated was not dramatic upheaval in a moment of turmoil and excitement but “moderate and reasoned revision,” effected periodically in order that government might keep pace with social change. Today, a thorough rethinking of national policies may well be overdue, but it violates good judgement to brandish a sledgehammer at tasks that require intelligence and deliberation. The time may be right for new direction, but not through excess and recklessness. 

Nothing was more characteristic of Jefferson's thinking on moderation than his recognition that changes in institutions are necessary for social progress. He believed that, once self-government had been attained, economic and social ills would be progressively corrected by the orderly and moderate processes of legislation. 

Moderation implies recognition of the legitimate interests of others in a constantly shifting society. This has always been a diverse country and its cohesion, whatever cohesion exists, can only be based on mutual respect. 

The pluralism of this country produced a system in which any group intent on using political means for economic or ideological ends is practically compelled to join with other groups (economic and non-economic) and submit to the give-and-take of political compromise in order to hope for success. As a result, each group must moderate its self-serving objectives and turn to accommodation. 

We always have been a pluralistic country. Many ethical and intellectual positions could coexist within the framework of the republic 

The major political parties which emerged in this country are not constructed on monolithic ideological foundations. Instead, they evolved as a conglomeration of diverse interests--brokers of conflicting pressures--mediators between divergent economic, social, religious, and philosophical tendencies. Their basic methods were pragmatic and their guiding spirit was moderation. 

When his Democracy in America was published in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville described a “universal moderation” in this country that “tempers the rigor of despotism,” restrains the excessive passions of men, checks within certain limits the inordinate stretch of a leader's desires and “moderates the sovereign himself.” 

Tocqueville also observed that this universal moderation encouraged "a reciprocal disposition to treat one another humanely.” In his opinion, the customs of society become more humane and gentle in proportion as men become more equal.” Thus, it produced a general tendency “to help prevent the prostration of man." 

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We should also remember Judge Learned Hand's thoughts in 1942: “This much I do know--that a society so riven that the spirit of moderation is gone, no court can save; that a society where that spirit flourishes, no court need save; that in a society which evades its responsibility by thrusting upon the courts the nurture of that spirit, that spirit in the end will perish.” 

THE GOLDEN MEAN 

The study of politics has been an ancient and venerable enterprise of human understanding. Origins and philosophical underpinnings of moderation doctrines have been traced to the tenets of the Enlightenment, early Christianity, classical Greek thought, Buddhism, even Confucius. 

These days, talk of moderation surfaces only in the context of wondering where it has recently gone. But the Greeks long held a belief that linked moderation with wisdom in human activities. 

In Aristotle's classic definition, the virtue of moderation represents the Golden Mean between contrary extremes. He believed that goodness lay in the adequate performance of whatever function a thing or being was best suited for. In the case of men, this meant the use of reason and the exercise of moderation. Aristotle, however, also recognized that while too much boldness can be excessive, too much caution can be dilatory. 

In the Nicomachean Ethics (fourth century B.C.), Aristotle proclaimed that “virtue is a mean that lies between two vices, one of excess and the other of deficiency... Therefore he who aims at the mean should make it his first care to keep away from the extreme which is more contrary than the other to the mean..For one of the two extremes is always more erroneous than the other. And since hitting the mean exactly is difficult, one must take the next best course, and choose the least of the evils as the safest plan... This much, then, is plain: in all our conduct, the mean is the most praiseworthy state. But as a practical matter, we must sometimes aim a bit toward excess and sometimes toward deficiency, because this will be the easiest way of hitting the mean, that is, what is right.” 

In his shrewd Essays (1597) the English philosopher/statesman Francis Bacon urged the wisdom of "holding a middle course” by recalling the famous Greek myth of Icarus: “Icarus, being to fly across the sea, was ordered by his father (Daedalus) neither to soar too high nor fly too low, for, as his wings were fastened together with wax, there was danger of its melting by the sun's heat in too high a flight, and of its becoming less tenacious by the moisture if he kept too near the vapor of the sea. But he...soared aloft, and fell down headlong.” Bacon explained that “the fable is easily interpreted; for the path of virtue lies straight between excess on the one side, and defect on the other...and no wonder that excess should prove the bane of Icarus.” 

Bacon also advocated moderation in “matters of the understanding,” by using a favorite metaphor. He observed that great navigating skill is required to negotiate the difficulty and danger between Scylla and Charybdis (off the coast of Sicily, in the Strait of Messina): “If the ship strikes upon Scylla, it is dashed in pieces against the rocks; if upon Charybdis, it is swallowed outright (by the immense whirlpool).” As he explained, "This allegory is pregnant with matter but we shall only observe the force of it lies h that a mean lies here, that a mean be observed in every doctrine and science, and in the rules and axioms thereof, between the rocks of distinctions and the whirlpools of generalities; for these two are the bane and shipwreck of fine geniuses and arts.” 

Bacon also advocated moderation in "matters of the understanding," by using a favorite metaphor. He observed that great navigating skill is required to negotiate the difficulty and danger between Scylla and Charybdis (off the coast of Sicily, in the Strait of Messina): "If the ship strikes upon Scylla, it is dashed in pieces against the rocks; if upon Charybdis, it is swallowed outright (by the immense whirlpool)." As he explained, "This allegory is pregnant with matter but we shall only observe the force of it lies here, that a mean lies here, that a mean be observed in every doctrine and science, and in the rules and axioms thereof, between the rocks of distinctions and the whirlpools of generalities; for these two are the bane and shipwreck of fine geniuses and arts."

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Bacon included a reference to Heraclitus who said "A dry light makes the best soul." He explained that if the soul contracts too much moisture from the earth, it degenerates and sinks. "On the other hand, due to its delicacy and dryness, moderation must be observed to avoid burning this fine light of the soul."

Buddhism, the pan-Asian religion and philosophy that played a central role in the cultural life of the Eastern world, developed a " Doctrine of the Middle View." While there were many paths to salvation, one of the most important philosophical schools of Buddhism stressed "the Middle Way," that the true path is that of the middle between extremes. It attempted to present man with a system that leads to rescue from his situation (Nagarjuna, Treatise of the Middle Way, second century A.D.).

To rule by superior virtue and moderation rather than by force also became a very influential element in Confucian political thinking (~500 B.C.). The ethical system emphasized filial piety, faithfulness, intelligence, virtue, moderation and the maintenance of peace in Chinese religion and statecraft.

In his classic guide to strategy, A Book of Five Rings (1645), Miyamoto Musashi, the invincible Japanese warrior-philosopher, offered some thoughts on "spiritual bearing:" "Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased...Be neither insufficiently spirited nor over spirited." In his view, intuitive moderation in all pursuits throughout life was an essential element in the Way of Strategy.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment in the second half of the eighteenth century recognized the profound limits of human understanding. They worked against what Adam Smith called "excessively immoderate expressions" and attempted to prescribe general guides to understanding so that " it might perform at its humble best." And they shared a commitment to shaping what they called a politics of moderation, to promote public spirit and combat the excesses of ideology.

A new "politics of moderation" coupled with a critique of rigid ideology was central to the Enlightenment. A key aspect of the political intent behind John Locke's thought was reflected in his criticism of those we now call ideologues. Locke warned against the "extravagance of ideology," because it undermined the role of rational argument and moderation. He also dismissed "the untractable Zealots in different and opposite Parties."

In Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith suggested that, protected from the "poisons of ideology and superstition," both the individual mind and the body politic may attempt to govern as an "impartial spectator" might, which requires "good temper and moderation." This early politics of moderation emphasized the attendant virtues of impartiality, candor, and coolness of temper.

In the 1780s when Hume opened his famous essay, "That Politics May be Reduced to a Science," he presented himself as "a friend of Moderation." His moderation was characterized by a calm and objective mode of political argument more than it picked out a particular agenda. This new "science of politics" based on moderation was essentially constructive and forward-looking in its perspective on governing.

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In Christianity, the most fundamental guide to moderation lies within the greatest commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself. It is further expressed in what we all know as The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

But Ecclesiasticus said it most clearly:

"Listen to me, my son, do not disregard me, eventually, you will see the force of my words: Be moderate in all your activities." (Chapter 31, verse 22)

W.B. Yeats dramatized the opposite of moderation in his poem "The Second Coming":

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity..."

THE QUALITY OF MODERATION

Nearly all the public opinion polls suggest a deep discontent with polarization combined with the widespread desire to find a middle ground.

Zealots take extreme positions and tend to view compromise the way Dracula reacts to the cross. Where extreme clashes with extreme, there is often a conviction of the impossibility of a middle position. Moderates work to balance the destructive tendencies of colliding factions. They cool the frenzy of hostile adversaries.

The extremes on the right and left hold narrow visions accompanied by convictions of their infallibility. They agree on a notion of "freedom" meaning the ability to act as one chooses without interference from government. But they differ about where they think such freedom is legitimate. Generally speaking, the left insists on the value of absolute freedom in personal matters but is perfectly willing to accept coercion in economics and politics. Meanwhile, the right demands coercion in private life but insists on the fullest economic and political freedom.

Moderation is constantly challenged to keep antagonistic perspectives in balance. The moderate is ever trying to bring a temporary harmony to contrasting points of view.

Politics tends to be an extremely complex and ambiguous activity. There are no easy solutions to serious political problems. Consequently, ideological and doctrinaire answers usually fail to meet the real needs.

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The concept of trying to find the moderate balance between exaggerated extremes dominated Harold Macmillan's classic work, entitled appropriately The Middle Way. The future Conservative Prime Minister attacked the 'rigid die-hards' equally on both sides.

He believed the middle way makes it possible to combine dedication to principles while recognizing the shortcomings of human nature.

"If Democracy ceases to serve the cause of progress; if it is unable to make full use of the productucve possibilities of the economic system for the enrichment of life; it will be divided by internal conflicts and become the prey of unscrupulous men who know not the neaning of tolerance or the virtue of moderation." (Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, The Middle Way, 1942)

Montaigne wrote that, "Our opinions are grafted one on another. The first serves as a stock for the second, the second for the third. We thus climb the ladder, step by step... In a running stream, we see one ripple endlessly pursuing another, in never-ending sequence...Water ever flows into water, and it is always the same stream, but always different water."

We expand our knowledge by combining the successes of the past with innovations of the present. Continuously discarding or modifying failed efforts, moderates blend together the best and the most durable. Moderates are never completely satisfied with the status quo, always experimental , optimistic and creative.

The dynamic of social change resides in our discontent with things as they are. If that discontent is shared collectively, then these changes can be accomplished by a process of moderation and peaceful evolution.

Moderation is an exercise in creative freedom. The moderate policy-maker is an experimenter. But moderates appreciate the limits as well as the potentialities of political engineering. Some problems may be solved only by ' time' s arrow.'

Moderates believe that the creative act of governance inspires creativity in others. They would rather appeal to people's hopes than their fears.

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The moderate is fundamentally an optimist. Moderates recognize human fallibility, but refuse to be overwhelmed by it. They are not easily distracted by disappointment. Optimism enables the moderate to be patient when progress is slow. The moderate has a fundamental faith and trust in the future.

Moderates are realistic about human nature. Moderates realize it is not possible to create a Mozart symphony from every set of discordant themes. Their goal is to minimize official arbitrariness and maintain reasonably stable conditions for social and political life. The moderate is a seeker of balance--a proponent of fairness even while recognizing its elusive nature.

The moderate is tolerant of ambiguity. But exercising reasoned judgement does not mean surrendering to fatuous complacency.

Moderates recognize that in governing we must exercise courage as well as caution. We enjoy the sublime and the ridiculous, Greek and Shakespearian tragedy. The richness of life consists in a range of qualities. Life would surely be dull if we were equally moderate about everything.

Moderates can appreciate discords, tensions, conflicts in the drama of governing. The great musicians use discords as well as harmonies. Superficial discord can even be comic. But in politics, unlike music, there can be an unfortunate price for the excesses-­ bad laws, for example.

Moderates are inspired to create opportunities for individuals to reach that distant plateau of personal worth and dignity. This is what elevates these efforts above the others.

The moderate believes that to the extent government must intrude in people's lives, there is a responsibility to determine the most judicious modes of interference. The less intrusive the better.

The perpetual struggle between people' s desire for personal freedom and their need to accept social restraints continues in the modern age. The adherent of the middle way must stress that society, on the one hand, has a responsibility to provide for the material welfare of its members, while the indiv idual, on the other hand, must undertake certain duties and responsibilities to society. This view of moderation is violated by those who are fixed on abstract and inflexible principles that work only in a hypothetical dreamland.

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One of the most fundamental lessons from the study of politics is that there are no shortcuts to political salvation. If democratic institutions are to continue flourishing, it will be done through incremental political reform undertaken by moderate, realistic men and women imbued with mutual respect. That is our sobering yet hopeful message.

Ours is a legacy of moderation, of reason and progress over ideology and extremism.

VARIATIONS ON THE THEME

  • Everything that exceeds the bounds of moderation, has an unstable foundation. - Seneca
  • Moderation is the center wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet -­ Joseph Colton
  • Moderation is the inseparable companion of wisdom.- Colton
  • Moderation consists in an indifference about little things and a prudent and well­ proportioned zeal about things of importance. This can proceed from nothing but wisdom, which has its foundation in self-knowledge.-- Lord Chatham
  • Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl-chain of all virtues.- Bp. Hall
  • The choicest pleasures of life lie within the ring of moderation.- Tupper
  • To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first.- Shakespeare
  • The true boundary of man is moderation--when once we pass that pale, our guardian angel quits his charge of us.- Feltham
  • To go beyond the bounds of moderation is to outrage humanity. - Pascal
  • The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.- Cicero
  • The superior man wishes to be slow in his words, and earnest in his conduct -­ Confucius
  • The most difficult lesson for man to learn is that of toleration. We do not easily acquire the wisdom not only to tolerate but to encourage, by the fullest opportunities of freedom, the diversities of men and nations. A reformist zeal to force every person and every nation to think and act and feel exactly as we do ourselves is the evidence of a low stage of intellectual and spiritual development.- Macmillan
  • Moderate desires constitute a character fitted to acquire all the good which the world can yield. He who has this character is prepared, in whatever situation he is, therewith to be content; has learned the science of being happy; and posseses the alchemic stone which changes every metal into gold.- T Dwight
  • I will not be a slave to myself, for it is a perpetual, a shameful, and the most heavy of all servitudes; and this end I may gain by moderate means.- Seneca
  • Only actions give life strength; only moderation gives it charm.- Richter
  • In adversity, assume the countenance of prosperity, and in prosperity, moderate the temper and desires.- Livy
  • Moderation resembles temperance. We are not so unwilling to eat more, as afraid of doing ourselves harm by it. - Rochefoucauld

Health Sciences/Natural Healing:

  • "A body out of balance is susceptible to all sorts of diseases."
  • "Balancing the body, the spirit and the mind is the first step to better health."
  • " In natural medicine, moderation is the key to avoiding an adverse reaction. Anything taken to excess can cause negative side effects."
  • "Balance is the key to a serious healing program."
  • "Nature has provided us with a wondrous immune system. All we have to do to is take proper care of this inner healing force to maintain a healthy balance."
  • "Nature intended to fuel our inner healing force with the right balance of natural substances in order for the body to function at its fullest potential."
  • "If the only tool you know how to use is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail."

Biblical

  • "Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand." (Philippians 004)
  • "Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know my integrity. " (Job Ch. 31, V. 6)
  • " A false balance is abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight." (Proverbs Ch. 11, v. 1)
  • " A just weight and balance are the Lord' s: all the weights of the bag are his work." (Proverbs Ch, 16, v, 11)

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Progress has been described as the victory of reason and moderation over ideology and extremism.

Some say that moderation, like progress, is demanded by reason when guided by knowledge of the laws of nature. And it results from the battle between the forces of light and darkness, and the victory of truth over error.

Nonetheless , moderation would side on "the freedom to err" against the dogmatism of Robespierre .

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For the moderate, creativity is a style, a process of synthesis. (You can' t create a flower today, but you can plant a flower garden tomorrow.)

The moderate is ultimately creative and optimistic.

Moderates work out new designs for living in a dynamic society.

A moderate is at once pragmatic and creative.

If we are free, then our destinies are in some degree made by ourselves..and our fellows.

Moderates  recognize that all life is competitive , but believe that balanced competition can contribute greater richness to individual lives. Extremists can even make life more amusing for others. There would be some aesthetic loss if we were all ideally moderate.

Moderates recognize with less personal difficulty the continuous flow of events--that solutions recently found to answer problems of the present, eventually become obsolete for the future. Thus, rigid adherence to ideologies that produce temporary answers is not realistic.

Moderates have little difficulty accepting the ephemeral nature of human pursuits. The whole tapestry is constantly changing. That's why rigid ideologies are inappropriate as guidelines for improving upon the present. It is not so difficult to accept the idea that we are passing participants in life' s great drama...pebbles on the cosmic beach.

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Eventually, dogmatists and extremists will be left behind in a world where political and economic facts are subject to rapid change. The moderate can display a practical flexibility, unlike the extremist who follows one simplified principle. The moderate appreciates the wisdom of healthy adaptation in our complex modern society.

Moderates enjoy the description of Jefferson, that he "seems to have been in the best sense an opportunist with respect to immediate ends and particular means. He was neither a doctrinaire philosopher nor a self-seeking politician, but a statesman who effected a distinctive combination of idealism with common sense." He combined passionate unyielding devotion to fundamental principles, with patience in the actual working out of reforms. ("This may be commended to our own generation as an alternative to violent revolution on the one hand and blind and stupid reaction on the other." Dumas Malone, intro)

Moderation works to temper the conflict between our self-serving impulses (tendencies) and the rational need to impose limitations. Mutual survival and progress are threatened without that tempering.

Moderates are wary of predators--those who victimize the defenseless (the very young, the very old, or the sick)--and try to minimize their opportunity for carnage (damage).

Moderation is suspicious of greed but accepts the reality of it.

Moderates accept altruism, even in its most prevalent form as enlightened self-interest. That's just as useful for public policy objectives, even though the motivation isn' t as pure.

More than a vacuous center.

Ideological zeal often exacerbates political antagonisms.

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There is no intermediate attitude that can be defined as uniquely right.

...moderates do not approach each new political challenge by applying some sort of iron law of situations to determine whether an immediate 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' is called for.

Factional strife in both parties feeds the tendencies toward extremism. And extreme views carry with them grave dangers of destructiveness.

Moderates will resist the tendency to divide or break the American polity by projecting a half-demonic shape of dread on the amorphous anxieties of the time.

Enthusiasm for reform must be balanced by sensible caution.

Life is in principle hope, not fear.

If something impedes cooperation, the moderate tries to reshape it.

Wisdom and moderation are closely linked in the continuous effort to lead government responsibly and pursue sound public purposes.

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The Federalist's view of human nature is one of selfish individualism ...(p. 299 American Political Science Review) ...individuals are neither angels nor beasts..

When asked about his growing disagreements with Hamilton, Jefferson said he was pursuaded that "men of sound heads and honest views need nothing more than explanation and mutual understanding to enable them to unite in some measures which might enable us to get along." (Malone, 301)

Tocqueville noticed that when all professions are accessible to everyone, any man might pursuade himself "that he is born to no common destiny." He observed a specter of continuous change and ceaseless transformation.

The basic outlines are determined by the past.

A paradox of our time is that even though leaders enjoy such high-tech capability for communicating their messages, they still seem to be held, generally, in such low esteem. The "information superhighway," which broke into American consciousness in 1993, promised a new dimension of interactive communication . Whether leaders will have anything more inspiring to communicate remains to be seen.

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