- About Us
- Projects & Programs
- Get Active
- Roosevelt Institute
- Join Us On
The world is changing, and our generation, like all before it, faces both unique challenges and opportunities.
Global competition holds the promise of innovation and connectivity but raises the prospect of increasing disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Rapidly increasingly global production and consumption make possible a higher standard of living but deplete our natural resources at an unprecedented rate and endanger our environment.
Information technology is changing the way we understand human civilization, but makes the gap between the information haves and have-nots even greater. The centers of state power and sources of state conflict are shifting. Vast human migration creates the possibility for both enmity and cooperation between different cultures.
These challenges and more are not confined to one nation, nor are the solutions. We must act today to address them in their totality.
As America entered the 20th century, the first progressives stepped forward to help the country respond to profound economic, social, and political changes. They knew that in a democratic country good government would be required to improve American society. Now we, the progressives of today, seek to help America and the world move into the 21st. Like them, we believe that ignorance is not an option and apathy is not an answer, that the institutions of yesterday will not alone solve the problems of tomorrow, that in order to adequately respond to change, organizations, governments, and societies must fully harness the energy and ideas that each of their members have to offer.
In order to guide our work, we lay out these principles for a just and progressive democratic society:
A progressive society empowers people to lead fulfilling lives. We believe that a democratic society offers the greatest chance for the most people to do so.
By democracy, we mean more than casting a vote in periodic elections.
Rather, we define democracy as constant engagement in active, participatory, and deliberative self-governance not only in public but in private and civic institutions as well, where power is diffuse and belongs to the people, citizenship is extolled as a virtue, and individuals and communities control their own lives. Through cooperation among individuals, communities, and private and public institutions, we can shape a world that we can be proud to pass on to our children and our children's children. Acting alone, neither the public, private, or civil sectors can fully achieve a progressive society.
A democratic society is both made possible by and gives rise to the basic conditions for fulfilling lives. We believe these conditions at the same time both enable human flourishing and are fundamentally worthwhile in and of themselves. We believe that all people equally deserve the conditions which allow them to pursue a good life for themselves, their families, and their communities. Though we remain far from achieving this goal, we affirm the need for concerted action to bring us ever closer.
We believe the following to be these conditions and values:
1. Standard of Living
To meaningfully participate in democratic society, citizens must be free from violence, fear, strife, or want. All people must be able to earn a decent wage, working decent hours in decent conditions. They must have access to health, to safe food and water, a clean environment, to physical mobility, a good home, and the means to plan for and support their families, and they must retain control over their own bodies.
2. Education and Information
To participate in democratic processes, citizens must be able to understand and evaluate the world in which they live. All people need and deserve the best education possible, one that gives them the means to participate in the social, political, and economic life of their communities. In order for people to apply this education, information from all sectors of society must be easily accessible. We believe firmly in the power of information technology to strengthen our democracy and therefore believe that all people must have access to it.
3. Community, Sustainability, and Mutual Responsibility
In a democratic society, people realize their own power through inclusive communities founded on mutual respect, responsibility, and compassion. Within those communities, people must be able to organize to pursue shared goals and aspirations. These communities must also safeguard the interests of future generations. As such, they have an obligation to build a sustainable society that preserves shared resources and respects the natural environment in which they all reside.
4. Space and Diversity
Democracy thrives on the presence of many voices of people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Thus free and democratic societies require open physical and ideological spaces safe for political action, where people can express their ideas, their views, and themselves. Democratic societies must vigorously defend their public spaces from the inevitable threat of encroachment, especially preserving the natural spaces and wildernesses that serve as refuge from social coercion and conformity. Moreover, for people to shape the arc of their life, these public spaces, especially those involved in the economic organization of society, must be open enough to allow for social mobility. Decisions in a democracy must be made through dissent, debate, and deliberation. In government, this requires robust and contested elections that ensure a voice for all.
5. Shape of Life, Individual Agency, Freedom from Coercion
In an age of increasing availability of personal information, the potential for encroachment on the necessary spaces and channels for individual agency becomes especially acute. To be able to live a life without fear, individuals must be able to create physical and ideological refuges outside the purview of public society.
A society is only free when people can shape their own lives. Without any of the previous conditions, agency can only be imaginary. With them, people have the real possibility of shaping their lives in such a way as to make them fulfilling. Freedom to live and to act, then, can never be compromised.
Democracy is about our shared aspirations. There is a mutual responsibility between people and society, in which society makes possible these conditions, and individuals use them responsibly to ensure that they last. We know that the best society does not exist, but we believe that our own can always be better. We affirm the need for concerted action on the part of all members of society to move closer to such a world.