Tag: Civil Society

The Great Liquidation


America is hanging by a thread.  A great liquidation is underway, with many of the structures that support American society..or, in some cases, any viable society…being kicked away, sold off piecemeal, or just wantonly destroyed.  I’m talking about physical structures, legal structures, and social structures.

I do not think it is too late to turn this trend around, but the situation is very serious, and I’m going to ask you to gaze into the abyss with me before I discuss some reasons for hope.

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Second City Cop posted a link to this video today (I am very grateful for the tip on that blog!). It’s a long one but it’s worth it. I’d wondered if we would get to hear anything beyond the woke sniping at law enforcement because there is a story to be told about the chaos […]

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Harden Not Their Hearts (or Minds)


As states and localities figure out how to proceed on COVID-19, I’ve noticed a framing of the argument that I think is a mistake, at least at this point on this particular issue. The framing I’m seeing is one of liberty vs. tyranny. Stay at home, wear a mask, follow the arrows in the grocery store aisles, and so on. As someone who largely agrees with those who think the benefit of staying home is far outweighed by the economic damage, those skeptical that wearing a mask will do much, and those disdainful of traffic signs for stores, are using framing will harden the hearts and minds of the people on the other side.

Immigration restriction comes to mind. When someone tells me that I hold my positions because of racism, despite my having laid out my actual reasons, then my heart and my mind closes. There is no conversation anymore, there is no compromise, there is only strife. War. Pick your issue — abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, whatever. When my interlocutor insists that I want to impose racism, control women’s wombs, or see people die, I stop caring what they say because they obviously don’t care what I’m saying. I stop listening to them because they’re obviously not listening to me. When that happens, there is no way we can have any sort of exchange or even come away with a mutually agreeable plan. On the other hand, people can and do change minds when we’re actually talking about the same things and not mischaracterizing others. At least we understand each other and can continue with love and trust.

Requiescat in Pace, Universitas


Did you hear that? It was the sound of academia’s lifeless corpse thudding against the ground, having finally succumbed to COVID-19. Higher education had a preexisting condition, you see.

Bryan Caplan is known for his signaling theory of college education: A college education is valuable because of what it signals, and not because of the learning it involves. If this is true, it’s only part of the truth. A college degree may be valuable mainly as a credential, but college is more than just the degree. Why didn’t online education kill the four-year college? If the university is just a credentialing mechanism, won’t any credentialing mechanism do? Well, no. As it turns out, an online education isn’t a perfect substitute for the value provided by a conventional university education — or, at least, it wasn’t until coronavirus came along.

Howard Husock interviews four remarkable leaders of nonprofit groups who were recently honored as part of Manhattan Institute’s Civil Society Awards and Civil Society Fellows Program.

Manhattan Institute and City Journal have long sought to support and encourage civil-society organizations and leaders who, with the help of volunteers and private philanthropy, do so much to help communities address serious social problems. In this edition of the 10 Blocks podcast, Husock speaks with:

Small Services


Much of the time, in the day to day reality of human communities, we are presented opportunities to provide small services to others. Set aside good customer service, a dignifying thing in itself. Consider the moments when you are confronted with a basic human need which you can easily meet.

The light rail system in the Valley of the Sun sadly reflects that many have become blind or ignorant of small kindnesses. They have carefully non-human cartoon figures illustrating yielding a seat to those less physically fit to stand. Decent men and healthy younger women stand up when an elder, a pregnant woman, or someone with an infirmity or burdened down with small children and packages boards a train. We all used to understand that. When people follow such a custom, they render a small service to the person given a seat and make themselves and, by observation, the immediate environment of that car a little better.

We all pass by panhandlers. Many deserve to be passed by and are made worse if given the spare change for which they ask. Yet, if we are not so hurried or jaded, we will also see a real need from time to time.

Forsaking the City


I’m trapped, for the time being, in a city. It’s a vivacious and proud city — arguably the state’s cultural capital; a place seemingly immune to economic malaise; a place teeming with little shops and well-manicured 19th-century neighborhoods. It appears on all the usual “best” lists — as the nth best place to raise a family, the nth most educated city in America, the nth greatest place for young professionals. It has much to offer … if you fancy yoga and craft beer and vegan cuisine.

If you’d care to join the Rudolf Steiner Anthroposophy Study Group, or the Astrology Circle, or the Lesbian Coffee House, or the Shamanic Journey Group. If you’d like to hear the local priest sermonize about social justice, then indulge in a little Catholic yoga afterward. If you’re interested in discussing “Cat Person” at the local library, or you enjoy the idea of perusing the city art museum’s collection of #Resistance artwork (which, when I last visited, included droopy hand-knit rifles with the name “Trump” stitched into them).

Howard Husock joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss Husock’s new book, Who Killed Civil Society? The Rise of Big Government and Decline of Bourgeois Norms.

Government-run social programs funded with tax dollars are thought to be the “solution” to America’s social ills. But in his new book, Who Killed Civil Society?, Husock shows that historically, it was voluntary organizations and civic society, operating independently from government and its mandates, that best promoted the habits and values conducive to upward social mobility.

City Journal contributing editor Howard Husock joins associate editor Seth Barron to discuss the Manhattan Institute’s Civil Society Awards, which recognize outstanding nonprofit leaders who develop solutions to social problems in their communities.

History has shown that free markets are the best way to organize economic activity, but a healthy society relies on charitable and philanthropic enterprises to help those in need and prepare citizens to realize their potential. To support these goals, the Manhattan Institute established the Social Entrepreneurship initiative in 2001, now known as the Tocqueville Project.

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  Since that fateful day of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, FL, a hornet’s nest has been stirred, and it’s long overdue. President Trump is hearing from all sides, hosting law enforcement, governors, as well as students and parents. I heard on the radio part of his discussion with Diane Feinstein and other […]

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On the contrary, a love poem gives individual expression to the joy of private life. Result and expression of personally-held values, love defies the tyrant; the more pure and steadfast the love, the stronger the motivation for defiance. Thus private life becomes possible – as indeed civil society itself.   Preview Open

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Proudest Enemy? Please.


During Tuesday’s debate, Democrats were asked which enemy they were most proud of making. Lincoln Chaffee claimed the coal lobby; Martin O’Malley cited the NRA; Hillary Clinton agreed with O’Malley, but added “the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians, probably the Republicans;” Senator Bernie Sanders claimed Wall Street and the pharmaceutical Industry as being “at the top of my list;” and Jim Webb said it was the man who threw a grenade that would have killed a US Marine were it not for Webb’s heroism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t48MyL5QdAc

Naturally, Webb’s answer was unwelcome in a Democratic Party that often seems ashamed of Western Civilization, and of any efforts spent defending (or worse, expanding) it. Webb is the candidate for the people whom the Democratic party left. Another good answer would have been to reject the question.

Is Your Society Healthy? Take This Short Quiz To Find Out!


shutterstock_34630036I tend to be on the optimistic side of things, but the past few weeks have felt like the climax of years of bad news. The Islamic State remains intractable in a country in which we spent a decade fighting, and it’s sending tendrils of violence into the West. Obamacare is further entrenched, and undoing it seems like ever-more wishful thinking. Gay marriage is now forced on millions of people, not only without a vote, but often in spite of their votes. A handful of bad actors seem intent on provoking racial animosity at every turn. It’s just been no fun to be a conservative of late.

Of course, things aren’t all bad, even on the social front. As others have pointed out, we’re living in a golden age of school choice and homeschooling (unthinkable not so long ago). Gun rights are expanding rapidly. Both violent crime and abortion are still trending downward. Those are hardly consolation prizes. But this still leaves us with questions about what we really mean when we talk about a “healthy society” — and how we determine if we have one.

So take a step back from the headlines: What questions should we ask, and what would help us answer those questions? Go as big-picture or as granular as you like, but the questions should be short (two sentences at the most). Don’t worry about exceptions to general rules, or whether your question is wholly comprehensive; no single question need be determinative, and it’s the total score that counts more than any individual answer.

Please Stop Celebrating the Naked Public Square


RFRA_Indianapolis_Protests_-_2015_-_Justin_Eagan_02-615x458Fifteen years ago, as a college undergraduate, I had the opportunity to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It’s an interesting place, and some parts are quite moving. Nearly everyone comes away haunted by the Children’s Memorial, commemorating the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust. For me though, another very memorable bit was the main museum, which told the story of the Holocaust from an angle I hadn’t seen before.

Of course, I had studied the Holocaust in school and seen the classic movies. I had heard the pious cliche (laughable when you think about it) that “this is disturbing but we study it anyway so that this can never happen again.” But when American schoolteachers cover the Holocaust, the impression they give is that the extermination of Jews just resulted from a random outpouring of wild-eyed hatred, which could as easily have fallen on short people or green-eyed people or anybody else who happened to be a little different. Yad Vashem’s narrative was much more attentive to the fact that it was not short people or green-eyed people who were hated and killed; it was Jews. And that really wasn’t a point of random happenstance.

In the end, that museum basically amounts to a kind of apologia for the State of Israel. (This also explains another slightly eerie thing about Yad Vashem, which is that it is usually packed with armed and uniform-clad IDF soldiers. I gathered a visit to the museum was a normal part of their training.) It certainly gave my 20-year-old self a lot to consider. That was the first time I understood the really interesting (and tragic) thing about the Holy Land, which is that everybody there has a victim complex and, as inconvenient as that is politically, everybody there has some justification for having a victim complex. Their “victim narratives” ring true, at least to a considerable extent.

What Are Your “Little Platoons” Up To?


volunteersExploring the differences between the various factions on the Right is one of our favorite pastimes on Ricochet.  Libertarians vs. SoCons.  Establishment vs. Tea Partiers.  Everyone vs. Mike Murphy!

But deep as these divisions go, all conservatives agree that society best organizes itself from the bottom-up and that the most interesting and important stuff happens at the bottom.  Individuals, families, churches, and organizations aren’t just part of society, they’re what society is about and what it’s for.  They don’t need to be coordinated or corralled toward some singular purpose defined by the government, nor do they exist at its pleasure.  Rightly understood, government’s purpose is to provide the basic infrastructure and rules necessary to allow its citizens to live, work, trade, and self-organize and then to get out of the way so they can get about life’s real business.

So what (non-political) little platoons are you part of and what are they up to?  I’ve managed to miss the last few meetings, but I’ve been involved with South Shore Astronomical Society, on and off, for a number of years.  Besides giving enthusiasts a place to geek-out at lengths that might otherwise endanger domestic peace — though it serves that function, too — the group provides free educational programs for families, camps, and scouting organizations.  There’s nothing more fun than showing someone the Galilean Moons, the rings of Saturn, or the Hercules Cluster for the first time, and knowing that you’re giving parents something fun and edifying for the whole family for the price of of gas money is incredibly gratifying.  I’ve also been a co-leader with the Appalachian Mountain Club, though it’s been a few years since I last led a hike.

The Benefits of Not Giving the Benefit of the Doubt


Teaching children to give others the benefit of the doubt is good parenting. Adults who give their neighbors and co-workers the benefit of the doubt are better citizens and lead happier lives than those who don’t.

Ordinary interaction between people is often subject to misinterpretation. Did that person rudely cut in front of me or did she think I wasn’t in line? Was I given a lousy seat because the hostess didn’t like me or was it a compliment that she thought I could add some life to the table with the dull in-laws? Was my boss intentionally ignoring me when we passed on the sidewalk or did he truly not notice me?

A Signatory Explains His Position on Same-Sex Marriage … Sort of — Richard Epstein


I am one of the people who chose to sign on to the statement (which I did not draft) that carries with it the title “Freedom to Marry, Freedom To Dissent: Why We Must Have Both.” I have received some questions as to why I chose to participate. Here are the basic points.

I think that the efforts to drive people like Brendan Eich from his professional employment via a blizzard of pious statements about the need for universal tolerance, some from Mozilla itself, are themselves representative of a peculiar form of intolerance, which treats this issue as one on which there can be no debate. This effort to drown out disagreement may be legal, but that is beside the point for issues of social discourse. It would have been intolerable for individuals who opposed same-sex marriage to try to silence their opposition in this fashion, and the principle remains the same in the reverse.

Barefoot in the Dark


It was after dinner, just before dark. Our not-too-svelte Golden Lab, Brady, and I were about to embark on our little 45-minute postprandial jaunt through the neighborhood. We’re both trying to get our girlish figures back and evening strolls are both pleasurable and functional.

Nothing exceptional about this … except I decided to leave all footware at home.