From Twain’s “The Gilded Age”

Join us for a discussion of rising economic inequality in our Dinner at the Square season kickoff “American Dream Lost?” Tuesday, October 15th. Get more information HERE.

“In America nearly every man has his dream – his pet scheme – whereby he is to advance himself socially or pecuniarily. It is this all-pervading speculativeness which we tried to illustrate in “The Gilded Age.” It is a characteristic which is both bad and good for both the individual and the nation. Good, because it allows neither to stand still but drives both forever on to some point which is ahead, not behind nor to one side. Bad, because the chosen point is often badly chosen and then the individual is wrecked. The aggregation of such cases affects the nation and thus is bad for the nation. Still, it is a trait which is – of course – better for a people to have and sometimes suffer from than to be without.”

Tocqueville on America’s equality

“Nothing struck me more forcefully than the general equality of conditions among her people.”

How TMI (and the information age) helps turn problems into asteroids

The instinctual shortcut that we take when we have ‘too much information’ is to engage with it selectively, picking out the parts we like and ignoring the remainder, making allies with those who have made the same choices and enemies of the rest.

— Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise

Open hearts, open minds

“Our task as citizens whether we are leaders in government or business – or spreading the word – is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds. To seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly – for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it everyday, not just at a prayer breakfast.” — President Barack Obama, at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast

Think Rome.

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 1.33.32 AM“My goal is to get people to have discussions about things about which they disagree in a civil way, not call each other names and get in all kinds of infantile discussions. We don’t need to do that. We have so many pressing problems in our country and at some point we’re going to have to tone down the rhetoric and move toward solutions for the multitudinous problems or we’re going to go right down the tubes, just like every other pinnacle nation that has preceded us…”

–Dr. Ben Carson

(Photo credit: Mary Harrsch)

Vibeing Franklin: Common concern builds new conversation

franklin_benjamin“I actually represent a good chunk of Benjamin Franklin’s legislative district. And one of the things that we learn from Ben Franklin, which is as old as politics in this country, is that if you work toward a common goal – if you’re able to bring people together and fight for those things that we all agree on – people are going to do a much better job of listening to you on the things that we disagree on.”

Brian Sims, (D) Pennsylvania House of Representatives on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews

Cheers to the differences

It’s very Asteroids Club when things get all mixed up in politics – when the tribes don’t align neatly and the American ideal is alive and well. That’s when it’s most clear that democracy has to get back to its messy and inspired roots. Where we meet and talk and listen. You know, an Asteroids Club meeting. It’s that wonderful moment when you find awe with someone you think is entirely incorrect. There is nothing that is more quintessentially the stuff of our founding fathers. That’s gotta be a good thing.

“I may not have the attitude of a Rand Paul, but I worship his right to have it. I would never put down that attitude because I think there is a bit of right wing paranoia attached to that guy. Why? Because in some college dorm somewhere… there are young people arguing about it. And I say thank God for that.”

— Chris Matthews, Hardball

A conservative governor on the liberal asteroid rising inequality

“I think going forward, we have to deal with our larger structural problems. The biggest one, as far as I’m concerned is we’re no longer socially mobile as a country. You have people that are born poor, there is a higher and higher probability that they’re going to stay poor and people who are born rich, there is a great probability that they’re going to stay rich. It’s so un-American. And yet none of the conversation and the debates are really about this. But upward mobility is a way to solve a lot of the problems because then people don’t default out of fear or exasperation… if they feel like life isn’t fair to them they can’t succeed – it’s only the big interests that can succeed… then they default to something that looks a little more like Europe than historically our republic has been.”

— Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe)

On conspiracy theories

“People on both sides tend to believe that there is a conspiracy, that there is a stolen election because they dont know anyone who votes for the other party. Both sides are pretty homogeneous. Democrats tend to congregate with Democrats; Republicans with Republicans. We dont know anyone who voted for the other guy. And as a result we dont know how this possibly could have happened.”

–Dan Cassino of Fairleigh Dickinson University, on MSNBCs Hardball

Jon Meachem on a little secret we stumbled upon

“[President Thomas Jefferson] used the table – the art of cuisine, of entertaining… those Virginia rites of hospitality that he grew up with – to move opinion in his direction. It doesn’t mean that it created a bipartisan Valhalla. But life is lived on the margins in politics and every once in a while, when you need a vote – you’re more likely to get the benefit of the doubt from someone with whom you’ve broken bread and who knows what your eyes look like and what your voice sounds like than you are from some distant remote figure.” – Jon Meachem, author of “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power”