Today marks 37 years since Roe v. Wade. Justin Taylor posted a fascinating interview with Clarke Forsythe, a leading policy strategist in bioethical issues and senior counsel for Americans United for Life, a national pro-life public policy organization. The interview will be worth your time, today. I’ll post an excerpt and encourage you to go read the whole thing.
Zeal is important but never sufficient to make a difference in politics. Prudence is absolutely essential because it makes zeal effective in making progress and making a difference. One common reason for imprudence is ignoring or overlooking obstacles to our goals and aspirations; and zeal is often the reason why we ignore or overlook obstacles.
Let\’s not put the cart before the horse. When it comes to politics, prudence judges in any particular circumstance whether an incremental strategy is the right one. Roughly speaking, I think of prudence as \”strategic,\” and incrementalism as \”tactical.\” Incremental means simply step-by-step, or, for example, limiting a social evil when complete prohibition is beyond our control. (The term is pervasive throughout politics, finance, sports, and the military.)
When it is not possible to completely prohibit a social evil, it is both moral and effective to limit it as much as possible. When the ideal is beyond our power, it is moral and effective to seek the greatest good possible. Prudence instructs us that an \”all-or-something\” approach is better than an \”all-or-nothing\” approach in politics. One of the reasons is that progress is almost always a result of momentum, and momentum\””in the face of countervailing obstacles\””is often produced by small victories….
An all-or-nothing approach, by contrast, is rarely prudent (I can\’t think of an example) and rarely produces change, and when nothing is the result, it doesn\’t create the needed momentum to produce change. This reality is reflected in the simple truth that it\’s always good (a good goal) to limit an evil.