A Time to Repeal and Replace

Editor’s note: This essay is part of a Law & Liberty Symposium on Yuval Levin’s A Time to Build.

Few public intellectuals are more committed to healing our nation’s wounds than Yuval Levin. A patriot with a deep sense of public responsibility and humility, he seeks a knife-edged path that might lead us out of our earthquake partisan conditions. His A Time to Build is an attempt to find common ground between America’s Left and Right. Perhaps, he hopes, no matter what the differences, partisans can rally around the idea that we need institutions to better our common life and politics.

In a sense, Levin’s book is “deeply conservative,” because it is based on the assumption that nature poses challenges more than it provides answers: man is not naturally good or perfectible. Man’s ineradicable factiousness or sinfulness cannot be cured, but effective institutions can ameliorate the latent causes of faction. Levin has nothing to do with liberation theories that presume human perfectibility. The Left has been compromising the old institutions of American life, from our families to our constitutional bodies to our universities based, apparently, on assumptions of human perfection. Our populist right, in Levin’s retelling, is hell-bent on willy-nilly destroying everything that the Left has built without replacing them with anything. It seems Levin strikes a statesmanlike pose, akin to Solon, when he seeks to convince each side in our partisan disputes that it is time to build new institutions.

Levin describes the importance of institutions clearly and succinctly. Stable, healthy or “worthwhile” institutions give us a sense of our roles; they answer the question, in Levin’s words, “how shall I act here, given my position?” They connect people to long term projects. They “embody our ideas, allowing us to meaningfully devote ourselves to them.” They structure thinking and “give us something to love.” They “shape our minds as they shape our character.” Within institutions, people practice “the virtues of loyalty, solidarity, and fidelity,” and institutions help us in “managing egos, settling disputes, prioritizing different people’s preferences and points of view, and paving paths to forgiveness.”

Yet ambiguities cloud Levin’s analysis. Do we, in the wake of the changes of the last sixty years, have weak institutions or bad institutions? When our institutions are “flagging and degraded” they “fail to form us, or they deform us.” Which is it?

The old Congress of Sam Rayburn or Joe Cannon is gone, but has it been replaced with a non-institution or a strong institution with different ways? The old presidency of U.S Grant and Dwight Eisenhower is gone, but has it been replaced with non-institutional platform or with an institutionalized “rhetorical” presidency where the incumbent spends most of his time going public? The old university of Robert Maynard Hutchins, friendly to genuine liberal learning, is gone, but has it been replaced with a non-institution without a formative project or with an even stronger institution with different emphases? The old family and sexual regime of Ozzie and Harriet is gone, but has it been replaced with different set of practices or no set practices? The old newspaper is gone, but is the social media that replaces it formative or not? Is the medium the message or just a medium? The old apolitical WASP churches-as-social-clubs are gone, but have they been replaced with churches that do not know what they are doing or with churches that have a different idea of what they are doing?

Levin’s book shows, against the main thrust of his argument that we have weak institutions, that our new institutions do indeed shape us. Sometimes, like Congress and the presidency, they have become platform institutions, encouraging, to use former Speaker Rayburn’s distinction, “show horses” instead of “work horses.” Sometimes, like on the university, they have become very different institutions, but much more uniform in their norms, policies, ways of thinking, political aspirations, and curricula. The family is another example of a very different institution or, rather, two very different institutions now exist among a majority of the population—one where marriage is a simulacrum of what it once was, and one where enduring marriages fail to form and where people design their lives and expectations accordingly.

The question, it seems, is not “do we have institutions that form us?” We do. The more needful question is: do the new institutions that are forming us secure liberty to ourselves and our posterity, or are they compromising self-government and liberal character? Since Levin merely sees our institutions as weak, he does not address the more controversial challenge involved in distinguishing between good and bad institutions.

Levin says it is “a time to build.” What should we build? We should build institutions, of course. But what kind of institutions? For what ends? Levin knows that not just any institution would do: yet he refrains from explicitly describing the institutions that it is now time to build. To what kinds of institutions should Americans recommit themselves in order to revive the American Dream? What new forms must we create to weather our conditions?

Levin grasps the pitfalls of purely formal and social science analysis.

It is easy to fall into talking about institutions in terms of organizational categories and pure structural analyses. But often what matters most about them is what that sort of thinking leaves out: their mission, their ethic, their ends, their ideals. They are more than organizations. They embody our aspirations.

A thousand times true! The reader then can be excused for expecting an analysis of mission, ethics, ends, and ideals of good institutions from Levin. Regrettably, such an analysis is a casualty of Levin’s argument that our institutions are weak instead of bad or corrupt. This omission follows from the fact that Levin frames A Time to Build inside the universe of social science, instead of statesmanship.

His modest solution is for citizens “to act through institutions a bit more” after thinking long and hard about “how to use our time and energy, how to pursue our goals, how to judge success and failure, how to identify ourselves when people ask us who we are, how to measure our responsibilities.” This repeats the same formalism with which Levin diagnoses our problems on the level of remedy. Little beyond “building,” on his account, defines our goals, measures our responsibilities, or judges our successes.

This leaves one more ambiguity. Who is to build institutions? Presumably we all should be building them. I want to say, “sign me up.” Will members of today’s Left participate in building new institutions, flush as they are in building their own? Will they join in moving the universities away from imperial identity politics? Will they advocate for stronger marriages and more power to parents or churches that have robust protections? Would they revitalize our political institutions through moving power away from the bureaucracy? Levin’s laudable goal—his statesmanlike goal—is to establish a better society with social peace through these new institutions. Yet he seems preternaturally unable to see that the Left may not want such a peace or is not a fit peace partner. If it is not, then it cannot be a time to simply build—some more radical renovation is also in order.

Let me illustrate with a somewhat unfair jibe. A Bernie Sanders campaign worker was recently caught on camera defending the idea that gulags should be introduced into America for political conservatives. While Levin would no doubt find this proposal troubling, one has to admire the Sandernista—he knows that it is “a time to build.”

People on the Left listen to Levin, to his great credit. Perhaps the social bonds in America are so frayed that only such a formal proposal as this could gain a hearing, especially on the Left. Thus Levin’s statesmanship.

Is it enough? The Left has been building for sixty years. No stable common ground has been found as they march through our institutions creating new, ever more radical and unhealthy ones. Perhaps the string has run out on continuing to seek such common ground. Perhaps it is a time for statesmen to repeal and replace.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on February 21, 2020 at 14:05:39 pm

Well, the office of dictator, whose job it was to repeal and replace destructive practices, was a constitutional office in republican Rome.

read full comment
Image of EK
on February 21, 2020 at 14:43:29 pm

The essayist correctly identifies the near century long project of the Left to conduct a "long march through the institutions." This march was / is *purposive* with an initially latent, but soon explicit goal of immanentizing human perfectability. One need not expend significant energies in determining precisely whose version of "perfectability" was to be strived for, nor how malleable, what degree of human plasticity would be either required or compelled.

A quick detour: For a glimpse at both the plasticity and the level of compulsion, see the following wherein an "Institution", viz, the Canadian Judiciary, has "gagged a parent from even protesting the soon to be forced "plasticizing" of his gender confused teenage daughter:

In Mr Yenor's terms:

May the Judiciary be said to be a "weak" institution?; or more likely has it, as ALL other institutions before it have done, morphed into some originally unimagined form whose objectives have deviated from its original "functional" charter / objective?

Mr Levin may be subject to a common misperception. He appears to conflate a function with an institution.
What are the functions of government (or society, for that matter)?
Functions of government may include security, defense, education, taxations, diplomacy etc. To execute these functions, we established a formal process, provide personnel to assure the process is executed in a timely and proper fashion.
How soon before the persons populating that department begin to perceive the department's own reputation, status and power as IT'S principal mission or purpose.
This is the institutional phase of government "functions."
Institutions typically appear only in the late calcified state of development. Its objectives / goals and self perception having been altered by the very fact of its increasing power / influence, it no longer provides, nor does it seek to provide the services for which it was originally brought into existence.

Indeed, they may work at cross purposes to their original endowment / objectives.
One need only consider the US State Department and its persistent practice of more closely identifying with a "client" State than with its own government or elected Executive.
(Examples abound, and I'll not touch upon them).

These are NOT *weak* institutions. Their size, power and influence dwarfs any conceivable countervailing function, group or "temporary" (to their minds) Elected Executive. Consequently, they will simply not accept and diminution of their real or perceived influence or power.

In short, they have followed the same path that all previous institutions have trodden. They have been corrupted by their own ambitions, both personally and institutionally.

It is inescapable that this process will continue irrespective of the original mandate / goal of the "function." Such a calcification process has afflicted all previous institutions from Ancient Egypt, to Rome, to The Church and now to the American Regime.

No, if Levin would have us "re-make_ ourselves, I would suggest that we recognize the inexorable rise of corrupted "institutions" (and subordinately, an educated managerial class of factotems) and do all that we can to LIMIT the PROPER FUNCTIONS of government to an absolute minimum and then so structure those functions as to reduce the likelihood of their becoming institutionalized, reduce their power via legislation, etc.

Were the Judiciary to awaken from its' own "institutionalization", perhaps, it would enforce the proper limits of our "institutions" of government.

The same may be said for many social "institutions" as may be said for those of government I have commented upon.

Moreover, if Levin is desirous of reinvigorating social AND mediating institutions, he may want to consider demanding that as the essayist asks, "Repeal and Replace". The removal of this overhanging and noxious fog may perhaps permit some sunshine to reach those once healthy mediating bodies.

read full comment
Image of gabe
on February 21, 2020 at 14:44:38 pm

How much does it pay?
Can I take payment in good red wine?

read full comment
Image of gabe
on February 21, 2020 at 14:55:42 pm

Boy, I am a forgetful sort (or am afflicted with "half'heimers')

Levin, I "could" argue is either unable or unwilling to recognize the Craftmanship and Intelligence of our Founders, who ,having observed that "power doth corrupt", and as this was made evident NOT simply by George's actions but by both Parliament and its various departments, I.E. "institutions", insisted the the American Regime would do with as few FUNCTIONS as possible and consequently with as few nascent institutions as possible.
In short, our Founders sought to limit the possibility and the means for "mischief" (See Madison on mischief).

read full comment
Image of gabe
on February 21, 2020 at 16:31:51 pm

I simply am unable to grasp what kind of institutions we the people might build which would restore America's cultural, political and constitutional health.

Further, the failure or inability of our existing institutions adequately to perform the functions for which they are designed is not, for the most part, the consequence of structural flaws or natural atrophy but is, rather, due in large part to the damage inflicted on them by incessant external attack and by insidious infiltration of fifth columnists, both forces intent on the destruction of those institutions.

Building new institutions would appease these enemies of domestic tranquility no more than the decades of weak-kneed defense and lily-livered compromise has appeased them. They are set on victory in a cultural revolution, followed by the total destruction of existing and the building of totally new institutions and doing so pursuant to a fundamentally different and conflicting vision from that on which our existing and heretofore successful institutions were built.

Rather than building new institutions, we might consider it better to realize the futility of fixing that which is not broken and, instead, devote our energies to defeating the counter-cultural forces that are hell bent on their destruction. Restoration of the founding spirit of those institutions by defeating their mortal enemies would go a long way toward revitalizing them so that they could resume functioning as intended.

Seems to me that is what "MAGA" is all about!

read full comment
Image of Fustigate Plumply
Fustigate Plumply
on February 21, 2020 at 18:24:47 pm


Agreed - the pestilent putrescence of Progressive philosophical phantasies has corrupted our 'institutions" and morphed those proper functions into their opposite BUT...

There is still the phenomenon of institutionalization to contend with. I am no longer able to identify any institution that has not undergone a process that causes it to place its own institutional interests, its own aggrandizement, self image and continued accretion of power and influence over its (un?)constitutionally / statutorily assigned function.
And, Yes, as i commented earlier, these agencies, owing of course to the personnel populating those agencies have a *purpose* in mind. Doubtless, those purposes are a) markedly counter to what we would desire and b) oriented toward a further dissolution of traditional norms AND limits on the exercise of power. Moreover, in their unending drive toward power, they may exhibit such practices AND purposes as to destroy the (formerly) countervailing power and influence of cultural institutions such as the Church, the Family and local governance.

In addition to removing the miscreants managing the institution, the elimination of many such functions may prove more conducive to a restoration of a proper balance / spirit.

Outlier institutions such as the NTSB serve only to prove the rule. The intelligence / National Security apparatus, however, proves the rule even More Biggly!
Irrespective of "Personnel is Policy" considerations, institutions qua institutions will overpower all subordinate / competing structures.
It is in their nature!
It ought to be in our nature to reject all of those functions arrogated to itself by the central government (and State / local as well).

read full comment
Image of gabe
on February 21, 2020 at 18:31:31 pm

One further thought:

Perhaps, what I am suggesting is that as my old catechism book suggested:

Do not provide *occasions of sin* to these types. If they are not provided cover of government sanction, they will have (literally) no function to abuse and under which authority they may choose to "sin."

The federal Administrative State is, by and large, one giant occasion of sin. Apparently, none desire to avoid it!

read full comment
Image of gabe
on February 21, 2020 at 21:06:45 pm

Gabe, I agree with your thoughts here and earlier.

I believe many institutions are in need of serious reform. But institutional reform is not elimination and replacement of institutions, whether of law, government, family, education, church or media. Furthermore, reform can entail elimination of malfunctioning or destructive elements of an institution. E.g., in the area of public and constitutional law, reform and restoration should of necessity entail elimination of much (I would say all) of the Administrative State, overturning several Supreme Court precedents, enacting the constitutional changes necessary to impose term limits, etc. All of that is a matter of changing laws, overturning precedents and injecting new personnel.

The Christian church is the public institution I am most concerned about. It is failing because it changed an unchangeable message in hopes of making its institution politically attractive to a morally debased, materialist culture. The Church must return to its unalterable message; the people will follow. I believe the Catholic Church had begun a very promising process of restoring its derailed message when Pope JP died, Benedict abdicated and Francis infiltrated. The establishment Protestant faiths, like their establishment political counterparts, are all but dead. But the populist Evangelical Protestant church, like its political counterpart, is very healthy and growing. That success and enthusiasm, it seems, is helping to restore the spiritual life of the major Protestant sects by driving them back to their unalterable message and, I believe, even bringing a restored spirit to the traditional Catholic Church in America.

The family, after the Church, is our most important institution. It is also, with the Church, our most intrinsically resilient institution. (The Church is our most resilient institution since it is eternal and indestructible.) The family has survived largely intact despite the ruling class's siege warfare against it since Roe vs. Wade (which will be overturned,) culminating in Obergefell (which should be overturned.)

My essential argument is that, once the external attacks and insidious infiltration of our essential institutions are stopped (or at least substantially reduced.) then the proper structural changes can be made and the appropriate personnel can assume control, so that their founding spirit can be restored. Except for the Church, just about any necessary or appropriate reforms of the major institutions most in need of repair ( public law, media (Tucker Carlson says, "The dumbest people are on television") and education K-16) will occur as a matter of course once we strip America's ruling class of the power it has utilized for 60 years to undermine those institutions.

The second American Revolution seeks to overthrow the ruling class, which is what MAGA is all about!

read full comment
Image of Fustigate Plumply
Fustigate Plumply
on February 22, 2020 at 18:35:05 pm


In my opinion...

I agree fro the most part, but would add these additional thoughts:

If we take your comment and the other two essays in this symposium we find mention of the three critical characteristics of institutions: power, authority (which for practical purposes is de facto authority), and influence. Every institution survives on the presence of one or more of these, and they are not interchangeable. Some institutions have power but no authority, and limited influence; e.g. vigilante groups. Some have influence but no authority, such as certain think-tanks or religious cults; some have authority and influence, but little power, such as certain academic departments at select universities, and so on. Using this approach to analysis, it becomes apparent that one cannot simply prescribe an institution to do a certain thing, and have that institution endure for its intended purpose. Specifically, it is difficult to establish an institution that has a priori influence, or the authority that will endure simply because of what the institution is rather than what it does. This leads to the following thesis: if an institution relies on power, and exercises that power badly, the institution will become weak; if it relies on authority but abuses that authority, it will become weak; if it relies on influence but becomes unprincipled in the use of that influence it will become weak. Thus, Levin's apparent distinction between weak and bad institutions ( I will have to take Professor Yenor's word for it since I have not read Mr. Levin's book) is not a particularly practical distinction.

I think it interesting to note that the early Christian Church grew in face of vigorous persecution, when it had no power but significant influence and a perception of divine authority. In later times, when the Church had power, influence and authority, it provoked a backlash.

The long term significance of institutions is largely cultural, and this was Gramsci's insight. However, an institution does not retain its power, influence or authority under a change of ownership. Many universities are losing influence and authority because they have been made ridiculous. Professional journalism, and a not-insignificant portion of the scientific community is headed down the same path. They are losing both influence and authority because these have been abused for ulterior interests. Perpetual institutional importance is not the birthright of those who establish the institution or those who subsequently control it.

Institutions also wax and wane in accordance with Emerson's observation that "an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man." When the insightful, committed and competence of those who establish the importance of an institution are replaced by mediocrities and self-interested or unprincipled activists, the importance of the institution declines.

An interesting example of these phenomena is contained in the fictional Corleone crime family from The Godfather. There is a reason why the movie was a favorite in the Kremlin, was admired by Saddam Hussein, and is a favorite among United States Presidents and presidential candidates, and is the biggest box-office draw in Cuban history. Mario Puzo created a character who had what political leaders of all types and in disparate countries covet: he built an institution that had in significant measures power, de facto authority, and influence. This fascinated those who are interested in achieving and maintaining political dominance. This illustrates a key point: that of all of the attributes that may sustain an institution, influence is the most important. Vito Corleone is a fictional character, so he obviously has no real world power nor authority, but he does have a curious influence, even if only cultural. Nietzche and Foucoult and Orwell and Thomas Aquinas are dead, yet they still exert influence. Raw power is unstable; dismissed authority is illusory, without influence institutions senesce. The key point is that an institution may be powerful without popular support, it may have authority with the bare minimum of support, but it cannot be influential unless it appeals to others. The institutions of a democratic republic are dependent on the confidence and virtue of the people. This is just another way of stating John Adam's observation: "Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private Virtue, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics." Institutions do not create virtue, they reflect it, and when they cease doing so, they fail. When that happens, they are either replaced by other institutions or the society declines.

read full comment
Image of z9z99
on February 23, 2020 at 14:44:12 pm

Fortunately, I had a power outage and did not respond with my initial (and mistaken) assessment / misreading of your comments. Give thanks to Puget sound energy - Ha!

Obliged to give a eulogy for a departed relative some time ago, I remarked that "Christianity may be defined as that which engenders in others the capacity to love and she exemplified this characteristic."

Institutions ought to engender the capacity for virtue, or at a minimum reflect the virtue, that (may) inhere in the citizenry. It ought to at least engender a reluctance to act otherwise.

Institutions are nothing more than instruments, or more technically "instrumentalities", designed to meet some perceived need of a society. In this respect, they ought to reflect the virtue, good sense and morals / ethics of a society. They DO NOT create either the society or its relative virtue / morals. To assume, as it appears that Levin does, that institutions shape our society is mistaken as a first premise.

Only in the later stages of "institutionalization" may this be observed; only when it exercises power without authority and without proper influence. I term this stage the calcified tyranny of the clerks. Here there "influence" is great. Yet, it is a "reactive" influence in that the citizenry neither recognize its' aims / intent or its' foundation / authority.

The influence WE expect would be one that further induces us to follow our "better angels;" one that is reflective of the original purpose deemed proper by the society and is recognizable by all as consistent with our understanding of ethics / morals.

You illustrated this in your comments:

"The key point is that an institution may be powerful without popular support, it may have authority with the bare minimum of support, but it cannot be influential unless it appeals to others. The institutions of a democratic republic are dependent on the confidence and virtue of the people. This is just another way of stating John Adam’s observation: “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private Virtue, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.” Institutions do not create virtue, they reflect it, and when they cease doing so, they fail. When that happens, they are either replaced by other institutions or the society declines."

And yet, we, in acknowledging that Public Virtue may have failed, are bound to recognize that its' failure may be reflective of the failure / absence of private virtue. A further recognition must be made: "What of those instruments / forms that had heretofore instilled private virtue such that it was also extant in the Public sphere?

What forms or instruments, both informal and formal, had previously supplied this reservoir of virtue? Levin seems to call them institutions. Perhaps, "forms" would be better. Whatever the term, it is clear that those institutions" (Levin) or "forms" (me & others) did, do and ought to instill virtue / create societal norms that in a healthy society are reinforced by the character / practices of the Formal Institutions.

This is a feedback loop. Eliminate one and the other may soon wither. Eliminate, as in our present case, both and one may soon lose sight of First Things. It is a virtuous society that in its efforts toward a just society perceives a need for a form or instrument to better attain its proper ends - NOT that the instrument(s) qua instruments will a) instill virtue, b) good order and c0 that ever receding just society.

Is this not where we are today. Do not a substantial number of the citizenry look to "INSTITUTIONS" to resolve our differences / problems?
A false pursuit in the most virtuous of societies; a more problematic one when such virtue is absent or worse "un(bloody)known"

read full comment
Image of gabe
on February 23, 2020 at 18:09:51 pm


I presume that any misreading on your part is more likely due to unclear writing on my part. I started writing and ended up deleting a significant portion of my comment because I did not want to drift too far afield, or belabor the points that you made. My main objective was to state that:

1.) institutions survive when they are useful;

2.) that their usefulness depends on their having at least one of power, authority and influence;

3.) that the misuse of any of power, authority or influence leads to a diminution of the institution, including other power, authority or influence that it might have;

4.) that institutions depend on personnel. Sometimes the contribution of a particularly gifted person survives them, through tradition, defense of founding principles, and focus on first principles. Other times the institution fades away because its heirs are not up to the task of continuing it (e.g. Boy Scouts).

The parts that I deleted concerned a discussion of the institutions of the church and family, and particularly a critique of Christopher Hitchens's claim that institutional religion was a net negative and could be replaced by some hypothetical secular, humanist institution. I also mentioned waning institutions like the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Review and labor unions. I thought these were too scattered for a response to your post so I omitted them. The thoughts about the Godfather then occurred to me and seemed interesting, to me at least.

I thought it interesting that the opening scene consisted of a person (Bonasera) appealing to an institution (a crime family) for justice, because another institution (the court system) failed him. I wonder if this is a general phenomenon, that people will seek out institutions that serve their interests when other, supposedly more conventional ones fail them. I also thought it interesting the amount of tradition and ritual was involved in the institution of the mafia, at least as portrayed in the film ("the Godfather relationship is very sacred to the Italian people;" "a father cannot refuse a request on his daughter's wedding day," "It's a Sicilian message..." and Clemenza showing Michael how to make spaghetti sauce, and then showing him how to shoot a guy in the head. This is not to mention other popular conceptions of traditions such as "made men," and omerta."

The general point though is that one cannot practically repeal and replace institutions, because one cannot confer influence on an institution by proclamation.

read full comment
Image of z9z99
on February 23, 2020 at 20:17:22 pm

Z: (NO, it is not unclear writing. It is my muddled brain and failing vision)

Wouldn't you know it!

One of the parts I left out was a very similar assessment of Mr. Goodnight (Bonasera) the undertaker and the phenomenon of a rather ordinary citizen, Bonasera, though dissatisfied with one institution, still seeking justice through another institution, i.e. the Mafia. This to my mind illustrates the importance of "institutions" that have not become, as you say, senescent, or worse - corrupt. The need for some instrument(ality) to address the needs of the citizenry is evident here. It is also apparent to me that the failure of one institution will not preclude additional attempts, albeit with a somewhat more responsive instrument, Don Corleone.
I would argue that the Good Don served to fulfill a specific, yet otherwise unfilled societal function. As our one time co-blogger R. Richard Schweitzer suggests government actions (in the form of departments, agencies, etc) are but little more than "Functions" deemed both necessary and proper BY the society. Indeed, they may (to my mind) be viewed as civic virtue made manifest. However, there is always the risk of this instantiation being transformed, via personal or structural ambition, into something less virtuous / functional or even its' opposite. At this stage, the function has become an "Institution" and may no longer be said to serve the specific and limited function for which it was created.

Oddly, enough, in Don Corleone's time, (fictionally, of course) the Mafia still served a "function" and provided a service. Indeed, the scene with Bonasera sets the entire play in motion and is the defining thematic element. Who will listen? Who will do justice? = when the sanctioned functions, as institutions, fail us? How do I escape it? Can my son escape it (Michael)?

Currently we also ask: " When the expected "traditions" / understandings of the role of our sanctioned institutions are not only ignored but denigrated?" - As are the "supplicants" appearing before these now overbearing "institutions.

Are we now to seek our own Don Corleone?
How are we to instill virtue in our functions when we ourselves, after decades of witnessing the futility of virtuous behavior vis a vis government, may also lack virtue?
This defect feeds on itself and reinforces its defect in a form of co-dependency / co-malignancy.

In a sense, we may need someone or something not unlike the Good Don, whose ultimate goal was to free himself from the strictures of a non-responsive (indeed, hostile) society using whatever means necessary.
The danger, as with the Corleone Family is that what may, at first, appear or is intended to be temporary may also become institutionalized.
After all, Michael did not become a US Senator, but rather became more of an "institution' than his father.

Thus, there is a danger in resorting to alternative "functions" as they too may soon become institutionalized. All of Michael's donations to the church did not make him virtuous; nor did it make any of his followers virtuous.

That which is not constitutionally virtuous will not become so, nor remain so for long.

The citizenry are the source of that trait.
WE have failed to instill it in ourselves and our children. Should we expect our "institutions" to be so endowed?

MORE importantly than anything else:
"Are we certain WHAT Functions we, as a polity require?"
Let us be quite certain which functions can be reflective of, and/ or may conduce to a virtuous citizenry

read full comment
Image of gabe

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.