The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens

Penguin Pr. Jan. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9780525560654. $28. POL SCI
Given the state of U.S. politics, it would seem a fool’s errand to advocate for the virtues of democratic engagement: mutual respect, willingness to compromise, civility. But this is what Haass (The World: A Brief Introduction) does. He describes 10 obligations essential for surviving the current political crisis. They include being informed, rejecting violence, promoting the common good, respecting government service, valuing norms, and placing the country and U.S. democracy above party and person. Together, they are meant to balance the country’s commitment to such rights as freedom of speech and the right to privacy, which are increasingly divisive and, consequently, detrimental to democracy. Some of the obligations. such as learning the country’s history, can be encouraged by legislation, but most require that citizens behave responsibly. The book is more of an appeal for people to embrace their better selves; it’s less a deeply and carefully argued reflection of how balancing rights with obligations can strengthen the country.
VERDICT A primer for a citizenship that preserves democratic institutions.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing