The Rise of Special Interests and the Decline of Mediating Institutions

Mediating institutions need to reform themselves to be effective in the presence of social media and in the absence of traditional deference. But make no mistake. The greatest obstacle that even reformed mediating institutions face in carrying out their role of providing effective public goods, persuasive moral frameworks, and sources of meaning in people’s lives is the growth of the state. This growth not only hampers mediating institutions directly by starving them of resources and impeding them through regulation. It makes the social climate for mediating institutions much more unfavorable by encouraging individuals to join interest groups to obtain benefits from the government rather than to join institutions that act outside of government.

The increasing burden and power of the state impedes mediating institutions in several ways. First, it constrains some central functions that mediating institutions have performed by starving them of resources. If the state taxes for public schooling and permits only government schools to use that revenue stream, mediating institutions running schools face the disadvantage that their participants will have to pay twice for the education of their children—once to the government as taxpayers and again to the mediating institution. This burden curtails perhaps the most important mission that mediating institutions have—providing knowledge and moral discipline for the next generation.

The state has not only grown in size, but in the reach of the conduct it purports to control. For instance, progressives often believe that the government should prevent mediating institutions from discriminating in employment in favor of those committed to advancing their values. The Obama administration even argued that a church should not be able to require an employee whom it deemed a minister to use its dispute resolution system rather than resort to courts about employment matters. Such government regulation prevents mediating institutions from creating a distinctive culture—one that may be different from that embraced by the majority, yet important in providing its particular goods and fostering its moral framework.

Perhaps the greatest difference that the growth of the state makes to mediating institutions is in the incentives for individual citizens. In a small state, individuals have incentives to join mediating institutions, because they provide a wide variety of goods, both material and spiritual, to their members. But in the large state with few limits on either the funds it can provide or the norms it can enforce, individuals naturally will spend more time trying to influence the state. Thus, they are more likely to join special interest groups, including those defined by identity, whose principal focus is to turn the state to their advantage either in the distribution of funds or in the grant of special privileges, like preferences in schooling or employment. And many of these special interest groups will then want to hobble mediating institutions because the public goods they often provide are alternatives to those of the state which they seek to control.

Conservative politicians, like President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have tried to combat this development by permitting mediating institutions to provide some social goods that would otherwise be the function of government bureaucracies. Hence George W. Bush’s faith based initiative distributed funds to private charities, including religious ones, to provide certain social services. David Cameron championed the “big society” which would empower civic associations to become social entrepreneurs. The common idea was to permit mediating institutions in a few specified social arenas an opportunity for service that would displace the usual bureaucracies.

But these initiatives had more rhetorical force than financial substance. The government educational system and the welfare state continue to be almost entirely shaped by bureaucrats. Special interests still war for government control and the time Americans devote to civic associations dwindles with the result that these associations provide fewer social goods. It is a vicious cycle: A more powerful state weakens mediating institutions and weakened mediating institutions empower the state.

Reader Discussion

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on September 05, 2018 at 10:39:47 am

Mediating institutions are essential to democracy, as Tocqueville saw almost two hundred years ago. “

Before Tocqueville was, Christ Revealed IAM The Light (Life), The Truth, and The Way, Come Follow Me.

“What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitist him?”


The Catholic Church is not just some institution; ““Since the Sacraments are the ordinary means through which Christ offers the Grace necessary for Salvation and the Catholic Church that Christ established is the ordinary minister of those Sacraments, it is appropriate to state that Salvation comes through the Church”, through The Unity of The Holy Ghost (Filioque).

“It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity of The Holy Ghost, for it is “Through Christ, With Christ, and In Christ, In The Unity of The Holy Ghost, that Holy Mother Church exists.

The erroneous notion that private morality could serve in opposition to public morality, and thus private morality and public morality are not complementary, has led to grievous errors in both Faith and reason, making it appear as if Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, no longer Clothed with The Word of God, is “Naked In The Public Square”.

Thus we can know through both Faith and reason, that “giving the laity a greater say in the selection and removal of Bishops”, during a Time in our Salvational History when there is a “Crisis In Faith”, is not the answer.
It is not The Faithful who are responsible for the heinous abuse crisis, the sexual assaults and intimidation in various Catholic Seminaries, and the subsequent cover up that enabled more abuse; The Faithful assent to the teaching of Christ’s Church in regards to sexual morality, and the complementary nature of authentic Love, that serves for the Good of every beloved son and daughter.
Caritas In Veritate; Veritate In Caritas!

As long as members of religious, clergy, the laity, as well as the Vatican, who deny Genesis, and thus Christ’s teaching on The Sanctity of Human Life, from the moment of conception, and The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Matrimony, are permitted to remain within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, making it appear as if it is possible for a counterfeit church, to subsist within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. the crisis will continue.

It is not possible for a counterfeit church to subsist within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The Faithful must continue to Pray for Divine Intervention.
Our Lady of Fatima, Destroyer Of All Heresy, who, through your Fiat, affirmed The Filioque, Hear Our Prayers!

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Nancy D,
on September 06, 2018 at 11:43:49 am

Yeah, Bush used NGOs like the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services to foist and quickly abandon plane loads of of refugees and immigrants on unsuspecting communities from coast to coast. That was an experiment in using a government supported mediating institution to impoverish and degrade existing local communities. I remember last year Dana Perino was gushing about the wonderful job LI&RS had done.

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on September 07, 2018 at 06:02:40 am

Thoughtful article, although for the most part a mere statement of what is so obvious that it has been a truism since the 19th century and Lord Acton and a Republican Party talking point since Barry Goldwater: government entitlement (power) tends to supplant (corrupt) private charity (mediating institutions) and absolute entitlement (power) tends to corrupt absolutely. Today, a variation on the theme is the corrupting influence of government-funded private charity, with prime examples being Planned Parenthood and Obama's ACORN, government-funded community action networks, both of which constituted the use of tax-dollars to fund crony-private entities whose effect if not primary function was to push out and destroy the competition from privately-funded private mediating institutions.

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Pukka Luftmensch

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