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Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square Paperback – April 27, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0830829224 ISBN-10: 0830829229

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 319 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (April 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830829229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830829224
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Clarke Forsythe has written an incisive, admirably balanced analysis of the situation in which Christians now find themselves in the public square. It should serve as an authoritative guide for a long time." (James Hitchcock, professor of history, St. Louis University)

"Clarke Forsythe's Politics for the Greatest Good is an invaluable contribution to reflection within the pro-life movement on the best strategy to adopt in vindicating the right to life. He grounds his analysis on important historical materials, both from early American political thought and from the career of William Wilberforce, in making his case for an incremental strategy to reverse Roe v. Wade. He also provides effective critical analysis of the misguided argument that political morality requires never voting for laws that expand protection of the unborn but do not prohibit all abortions (for the time being), due to the lack of the necessary political support for broader protection. As a longtime leader in the pro-life movement who has done so much to craft and defend legal and legislative strategies to protect the right to life, he is intimately familiar with the often difficult circumstances facing those who would reestablish an American commitment to protecting all innocent human life from conception to natural death. Christians involved in pro-life work should be thankful for, and attentive to, his astute analysis and advice." (Christopher Wolfe, codirector, Ralph McInerny Center, and Emeritus Professor, Marquette University)

"While we eagerly await the promised kingdom of God, here on earth we strive for the better that is far short of the best. This book is both a guide and an encouragement for faithful strivers." (The late Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief, First Things)

"Prudence, especially in the context of politics and the struggle for social reform, is a poorly understood, largely neglected and desperately needed virtue. We have long needed an intellectually coherent and compelling treatment of the subject. Happily, Clarke Forsythe has met the need. Drawing on the wisdom of Aristotle, Wilberforce, Lincoln, and other theorists and practitioners of political prudence, Forsythe has written a book that will both instruct and inspire all who work to protect the weak and vulnerable and to advance the cause of justice." (Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, and director of theJames Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University)

About the Author

Clarke D. Forsythe (J. D. Valparaiso University; M.A., bioethics, Trinity International University) is a leading policy strategist in bioethical issues and senior counsel for Americans United for Life, a national pro-life public policy organization. He has argued cases before federal and state courts and has testified before Congress. He has published more than fifteen law review articles and book chapters on bioethics and the law. He has taught classes at Wheaton College, Trinity International University, and other colleges and universities, as well as spoken to audiences at Marquette University, Notre Dame Law School, Valparaiso University School of Law and Ave Maria School of Law.

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By George P. Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
The 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama, taken together with the Democratic control of the Senate and House since 2006, was a frustrating event for the pro-life movement in America. Obama is the most pro-choice president ever elected, and the Democratic Party is the most powerful institution in the pro-choice movement. Pro-lifers expect to see pro-choice executive orders, pro-choice legislation, and pro-choice appointments to the federal bench.

Clarke D. Forsythe wrote Politics for the Greatest Good in part to address that frustration. He is senior counsel to Americans United for Life and a leading policy strategist in the pro-life movement. But in larger part, he wrote the book to answer a nagging question: ¡§whether it¡¦s moral or effective to achieve a partial good in politics and public policy when the ideal is not possible.¡¨ He answers affirmatively, and along the way helps readers understand the nature and value of prudence in the public square, especially when it comes to enacting a pro-life legislative agenda.

Prudence does not rank high on a modern person¡¦s list of politically sexy terms. Why trade in the quotidian retail of prudence, after all, when you could traffic wholesale in hope, change, and fierce moral urgency? Why settle for anything but the very best? The answer is simple. The best¡Xmoral perfection¡Xis unattainable. All anyone can hope to achieve is the greatest good under the circumstances. The ability to identify and realize that greatest good is the virtue of prudent statesmen and citizens.

Prudence was not always held in contempt. It is highly esteemed in the Bible, especially in the Wisdom Literature. It was one of the four cardinal virtues, recognized by Greeks, Romans, and medieval Christians.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brad Meeder on September 1, 2009
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If you're looking for a read that is part history, part political science, part philosophy and full of common sense, this is it. See how Wilberforce and Lincoln tackled challenging issues, and how understanding their tactics is essential for today's political battles. Forsythe unwraps the political history of the abortion debate and then discusses possibilities and challenges going forward. MOST STRONGLY RECOMMENDED!!!
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Having never been much involved with public policy, Forsythe tells the story of William WIlberforce and his work in abolishing the British slave trade and Lincoln's prudence in seeking to keep the country together. He then demonstrates how the prudence of these two men can be an example for us today who need inspiration and vision for the moral issues and accompanying battles in major social issues of today
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9 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Gualberto Garcia Jones on June 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
The close relationship between the social conscience and representative democracy is at the heart of American and world history. Behind every major twist and turn of history there is a social movement driven not by legal subterfuge and political compromise but unabashed truth, courage, and clarity.

Before the emancipation proclamation and the passage of the 14th amendment, abolitionists had demanded the emancipation of African Americans for over 100 years. Before the passage of the 19th amendment and women's right to vote, the American women's suffrage movement had bravely weathered one defeat after another. Before the integration of minorities as equal members of American society, the civil rights movement fought the concept of racial segregation, a concept as old as man himself. All of these movements had four things in common: they all met with repeated defeats before achieving success, they all had uncompromising comprehensive goals, they all sought to boldly enshrine those fundamental goals in the civil law, and they fought openly and directly against public opinion and the legal and political establishment with faith in the rightness of their belief.

The abolitionist movement in the British Empire preceded the abolitionist movement in the United States and inspired many of our most beloved leaders such as Abraham Lincoln. It is well known that it took the heroic William Wilberforce nearly 50 years of relentless social and political activism to accomplish his goal in Britain. But most don't know that the fight could have been won considerably sooner. The slave trade and slavery in the British Empire would have ended decades earlier but for one poisoning concept: moral cowardice disguised as political prudence.
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