A primer on playing “Beat the Clock” with the fiscal cliff when America needs the win

In the Washington Post this week, Jonathan Haidt and Hal Movius offer up their expertise to help the President and Congress succeed at unwinding their complicated impasse while we perch teetering atop the fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner, we know you’re very busy so here’s the (aptly named) Cliff Notes version:

1. Describe progress in terms of packages rather than single axis wins or losses – that way “the base” can find a margin of success somewhere in the details.

2. Call for shared sacrifice. People are powerfully good at rising to this call (think WWII and immediately following 9/11).

3. Break impasses with contingent agreements. With dueling experts and statistics, partisan projections about the results of certain actions take wildly different directions. Solve this problem by structuring “if…then…” statements in the agreement to cover their worst fears.

4. Don’t say “compromise” too often. The base is likely to see compromise on what they view as moral issues as immoral.

5. Invoke the virtue of humility, a staple of our founding fathers.

Now, if you don’t have to personally get back to the fiscal cliff negotiations, you must now read the whole piece as it involves untying shoelaces, throwing tomatoes and some exceptionally cool founding father quotes.

C.S. Lewis: “A hothouse of mutual admiration”

A hothouse of mutual admirationIn honor of the anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ birthday today: Remember in The Screwtape Letters , C.S. Lewis writes a fictitious letter by God’s enemy, a senior demon Screwtape, so references in the letter to “The Enemy” are references to God. References to “the patient” or “he” are to a man whose soul Screwtape is seeking. Read the entire clip of Letter #7 HERE.

“I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true…

“Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here, Your affectionate uncle SCREWTAPE”

Tune in today to the Diane Rehm Show today

For possible breaking Asteroids Club news, you might want to tune in today to the Diane Rehm Show to hear Jonathan Haidt, Asteroids Club founder and NYU professor of Business Ethics, discuss Politics & Religion in 2012 with Diane and panelists E.J. Dionne and Michael Gerson. Find program details online here. Check your local listings for broadcast time or subscribe to the Diane Rehm Show’s podcast here.