What I find especially interesting about The Pledge is that it forces rich people to consider a question that is virtually impossible to answer: How much is too much? Historically, affluent individuals have struggled to strike the right balance between comfort and excess. For Americans, finding the appropriate equilibrium within either extreme presents an added challenge. As a nation we subscribe to two central doctrines, capitalism and democracy, but these ideologies sometimes contradict each other.
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up