The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist”
in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson,
in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism. We learn first to play with it academically.
. . . Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.
Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true. It now shows itself ethical and practical.” John
Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant. Al Gore
invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed
by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
“Two Republics, and Global Citizenship”
9:30 am est
of India published my recent article, prepared to coincide with President Obama’s visit to New Delhi
on the occasion of India’s Republic Day (the anniversary of its constitution’s having taken effect in January
A similar version, including several embedded links, was published via Medium.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Invest in Infrastructure, Promote Cleaner Energy: Raise the Federal Gas Tax
10:15 am est
NPR this week ran a story about President Barack Obama’s reluctance to raise the federal gas tax, despite his call for increased transportation spending. Earl Blumenauer, a U.S. Representative from
Oregon, was quoted among the backers of a modest increase in the gas tax. Such a measure has long
been favored by mainstream economists, who recognize that the most efficient way to discourage behavior (e.g., driving of
polluting vehicles) is to tax it – and redirect the revenues in more positive directions.
recently contacted U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut about “the need for the U.S. to strengthen financing
of its transportation needs.” Thanking him for his bipartisan work in this area with Senator
Bob Corker of Tennessee, I wrote:
“Even if such efforts have so far proved politically
unsuccessful, I urge you and others to continue and indeed to become much more ambitious in your pursuit of viable, long-term
funding for the nation's transportation needs (and related jobs). With gas prices relatively low at present, there is
no better time to increase the federal gas tax to raise revenue, encourage efficiency, and set our country on a more promising
course -- including more, better mass transit as well as better roads and bridges, not to mention the national security benefits.
[Those benefits include, for example, greater independence from the whims of oil and natural gas producers – and reduced
risks from the instabilities of global climate change.]
My message to Senator Murphy continued:
“Other aspects of the tax code can be made more progressive and simpler to offset the ostensibly
regressive aspects of the gas tax. For example, I would support a phase-in, over 10 years, of an increase of the tax
to $1 a gallon. Related revenues would allow substantial tax relief, as well as investments, in other areas.”
As with the construction of the interstate highway system, the federal government should lead in improving
and modernizing our infrastructure now. States including Connecticut are right also to be attending
more to their roads, bridges, and rail lines – and should secure sufficient revenues for these purposes. Still,
the gasoline tax should be more a federal than a state responsibility, both because of the national/global aspects of energy/transportation
policy and because state-level gas taxes can create a corrosive competition between neighboring states that may attempt to
lure drivers from higher-tax states, thereby depriving them of revenue.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Yale Basketball, Update
10:30 pm est
A December 2014 (December 7) post addressed student-athletes, with a focus on the current Yale men’s basketball team, days after
it won at UConn.
Since then, one member of the Yale team – senior Armani Cotton – received attention for a camp that he runs with a dual emphasis on basketball and academic success. Another senior, Matt Townsend, was named a finalist for a national award recognizing “a student-athlete … [with] notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom,
character, and competition.”
The December 7 post concluded:
“2014-15 could be the first year since 1962 that Yale wins the Ivy League
title and makes the NCAA tournament, where the team’s experience, poise, and unity would make it competitive.
New Haveners with any interest in basketball should be encouraged to come out and support this group of young men.”
Now, weeks later, Yale is in first place and off to its best Ivy League start since 1962. February 6 and 7, Dartmouth
and Harvard visit for what should be two good games.