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What Do We Hold in Common?

In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Gil Pender vacations in Paris with his fiancée and her parents. One night Pender takes a walk to escape the insufferable egotists who surround him and stumbles upon an antique Peugeot. It takes him to the 1920s, the golden age for which he has always yearned. He falls in love with Picasso’s lover Adriana, who herself has always longed for the 1890s’ Belle Époque. After a horse and carriage pass them by and whisk them to that period, and after the Impressionists they meet yearn for the Renaissance, Pender realizes that no age is as golden as we imagine and concludes that it is better to live in the reality of the present.

Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic is an extended essay on the same theme. And just as Midnight in Paris was a classic Woody Allen film, The Fractured Republic is quintessential Levin: clear, insightful, balanced, well-researched both in historical and contemporary sources, and already acclaimed as the conservative book to read this year by writers on the right and left alike. The book is not a sociological study or policy brief but rather an essay that, as Levin puts it, “gropes and grapples.” The heart of Levin’s argument is that unacknowledged nostalgia plagues American self-understanding and discourse. Since the end of World War II, our society has followed “a single complex but coherent trajectory . . . of increasing individualism, diversity, dynamism, and liberalization. And it has come at the cost of dwindling solidarity, cohesion, stability, authority, and social order.” Levin sees this trajectory as positive, negative, and inevitable. It is not going to change any time soon, and any solutions to our social ills must reflect—and even capitalize on—this fact.

The problem is that we yearn for the world we left behind. Or, more accurately, progressives and conservatives both want to recover the parts of the past that they see as normal or natural without acknowledging that we can’t wind the clock back. Their solutions tend toward two sides of the same coin, favoring either large-scale government interventions (Obamacare) or solutions that benefit individual citizens first (tax cuts). Instead, Levin argues, the solutions we seek should lie somewhere in the middle, “putting power, authority, and significance as close to the level of the interpersonal community as reasonably possible.” This “modernized politics of subsidiarity” means smaller scale, bottom-up solutions that fit the particular needs of particular groups: What works in Vermont might not work in Utah. It means more experimentation and more freedom for communities to live out their values, “and so to each define freedom a little differently.” Our fragmented society calls for fragmented solutions; we should fight fire with healthier fire.

Before examining these solutions in greater detail, Levin looks at the nostalgia that keeps us from enacting them and why it won’t help. The problem begins with post-war America in the 1950s, which seems to us now like a time of safety, cohesion, and optimism. With the correct tweaks, we think, we could return to that successful America. But, Levin argues, the 1950s were temporary and unstable. It was a moment in our nation’s history, but by no means its default position. Before the 1950s, America was in an “age of conformity” in which the nation’s economy and culture became more homogenous. More than that, homogeneity and conformity were valued over individual expression. At the same time, the US had emerged as the great victor of WWII, stronger than its allies and enemies alike, a colossus that bestrode the world’s economy and scientific and technological advancement. By the mid-1950s, Americans could reap the benefits of a cohesive society while they began to push away from it. Political leaders on both sides like Martin Luther King, Jr., and William F. Buckley, Jr., saw themselves as rebels against conformism: Liberals tended to celebrate economic consensus while fighting cultural constrictions; conservatives tended to fight economic constrictions while celebrating cultural consensus. As they look back today, both sides see “a stable foundation for a satisfying struggle for necessary liberalization, even if each side has a different idea of what the foundation was and what needed to be liberalized.”

As the seeds of individualism grew, Levin writes, “the spirit of nonconformity that had emerged at the end of World War II, which had morphed in the 1960s into an idealistic quest for self-actualization, had degenerated by the 1970s into a jaded and strident individualism.” The “age of frenzy” arrived. Religion and the economy began to deconsolidate, while drug use, crime, and divorce became more prevalent. Americans sought a cure for the malaise of the 1970s not by recovering the conformity of the 1950s, but by developing new norms that aspired to structure lives thoroughly rooted in the ethic of individualism. In the 1990s, this individualism began to sort our society in at least two important ways. First, social capital began to decline for the less educated and well-to-do. Second, Americans sought out homogenous communities—real and virtual—in which they were able to interact mostly with like-minded people. Instead of bowling leagues and Walter Cronkite, we found smaller, more specialized social groups and news sources we agreed with.

The early twenty-first century has become an “age of anxiety,” Levin continues, with further weakening of the family and economic specialization—both of which affect poorer Americans more. The internet allows us to build those homogenous communities more intensely, at the greater expense of the relations we might have had with those less like us. This social diffusion will only continue. As much as we may long for a safe foundation for our liberalization, we value it more than the foundation. Hence, Levin concludes, “it is folly now to wish we could recapture the very circumstances that America has been systematically demolishing for six decades and more just so we could more comfortably engage in the very same demolition.”

The most prominent figure in the background of Levin’s analysis is Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth-century French aristocrat who saw American equality as the wave of the future and traveled across the Atlantic to see what that future would hold. He called equality a “generative fact,” something that can be channeled or directed, but not reversed any time soon. Levin argues that diffusion/specialization/liberalization is the generative fact of our own time, and, like Tocqueville, he sees promise and peril in this inexorable force. Levin also takes from Tocqueville and from the sociologist Robert Nisbet the insight that when the government becomes stronger and more centralized, taking over the work of intermediate institutions like families and churches, individuals become more atomized and powerless. And while he never cites them, his work resembles Peter Berger and Richard Neuhaus’ To Empower People, which argued that the way to truly help the poor was not by large government programs, but by strengthening the “mediating structures” between citizens and the state. One can hear other sources in the background, too; given the way Levin advocates for solidarity through subsidiarity, The Fractured Republic could have been subtitled “a Jewish case for Catholic social teaching.”

Levin’s contribution is to apply these insights to our own time and place, focusing primarily on economic and cultural problems. Since our economy will only become more increasingly specialized, our solutions to economic problems must be specialized. Social democratic governance and Reagan-era tax rates are no longer effective tools. Instead, we should work on raising the skill level of our population and channeling unskilled labor from manufacturing and production to occupations that cannot be easily outsourced. We should also replace the centralized administration of many of our government programs with “decentralized mechanisms of knowledge discovery at the margins,” recognizing that experts don’t know enough to prescribe the same solutions to all parts of our diverse polity.

On the cultural front, Levin offers extended counsel to his fellow social conservatives. For decades they saw themselves as part of the broad “moral majority” governed by a sliver of radical elites. But, like so many other forms of consensus, the cultural conservatism of the nominally religious—roughly half the population—has dissolved, and many nominally religious declare themselves to be “nones” who are increasingly more hostile to traditional religion. Instead of lamenting their loss of cultural prominence, Levin argues, social conservatives should make a positive case for their vision of human nature and society. They should appeal, not lament. And the best way to make that appeal is by focusing on building thriving subcultures: schools, churches, and synagogues that show a more excellent way to live.

As an essay groping towards understanding, The Fractured Republic does not stray from the confines of its argument. By doing so, it leaves other aspects of our cultural moment unexamined. Consider three. First, the nature of our education and public discourse. As our election cycle and protests on university campuses demonstrate, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death and Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue have proven all the more correct after thirty years. We have exchanged substantive debate for entertainment and a war of aggrieved feelings. Like the other aspects of cultural diffusion Levin charts, our inability to carry out rational discourse seems only likely to increase, further undermining our solidarity as a society.

Second, Levin argues that the social left is a minority aspiring to dominate our institutions at a time when they are most weak and diffuse. Their victory will be pyrrhic in two ways: The heights they have seized no longer command in the same way, and they will overstep their boundaries, never winning the support of most Americans. Perhaps, but the heights the social left commands are impressive—the Supreme Court and large swathes of the judiciary, the entertainment industries—and in the past year alone have made significant advances for their cause, with little protest from the majority Levin thinks will eventually resist. Moreover, the degree to which the leaders of the social left hold their position ideologically has become increasingly clear. Could they allow heresy to persist in pockets of society, as Levin’s vision of subsidiarity would entail? And when will that resistance come?

Most important, Levin argues well for a more healthily fragmented society, but never takes up the question of what holds America together as a nation. The closest he comes is in a lengthy footnote:

Liberalism from its earliest incarnations has presumed and relied upon the existence of a far-reaching moral consensus in society regarding the basic premises of the Christian worldview. It has also, throughout that time, undermined these premises, and so undercut the preconditions for its own success. It has persisted despite that self-destructive tendency because the denizens of most liberal societies (and Americans, in particular) have always been less liberal and more Christian than they have claimed (and perhaps believed). To say that this is decreasingly the case in our time is another way to describe our contemporary condition.

In other words, the greatest casualty of our fragmentation is our society’s spiritual and philosophical foundation, the philosophical glue that holds us together even though we do not notice it. If we continue to form groups that “each define freedom a little differently,” what do we all define in common? For all the diversity of American religion and culture, there once was a real moral and spiritual common ground that united many communities in a system of subsidiarity and federalism. It seems unlikely that mutual support in the gratification of our wills can replace it.

Reader Discussion

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on August 18, 2016 at 12:36:07 pm

[W]hen the government becomes stronger and more centralized, taking over the work of intermediate institutions like families and churches, individuals become more atomized and powerless. And while he never cites them, his work resembles Peter Berger and Richard Neuhaus’ To Empower People, which argued that the way to truly help the poor was not by large government programs, but by strengthening the “mediating structures” between citizens and the state.

Great; how?

I also think of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that sought to strengthen industry organizations and labor unions. Much of this was stricken down as an inappropriate delegation of authority/funds, and unions remain controversial.

Government pumped a lot of money into promoting marriage, including shifting money away from cash assistance (“welfare payments”) to marriage programs. And, in fairness, divorce rates have fallen. But researchers suggest that marriage promotion programs have had pretty much no effect.

George W. Bush established his Office of Faith Based Initiatives—but the director of the organization, John Dilulio, left disillusioned. In his 2007 book Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America's Faith-Based Future, Dilulio said, “[T]here is as yet no clear-cut empirical evidence that religious nonprofit programs that promote spiritual transformation perform as well or better than comparable faith-based organizations that do not proselytize, or than comparable nonreligious organizations."

Perhaps vouchers provide a vehicle for government to support mediating structures? Food stamps permit poor people to buy food from private sources. Section 8 housing provides vouchers for poor people to get apartments that meet minimum standards, in lieu of building government housing projects. School vouchers might help more people get into private schools rather than government schools. But it’s unclear to me how much difference it makes that the public receives services from private “mediating structures” rather than public ones.

So if we want to help mediating structures ... what does that mean, specifically?

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nobody.really
on August 18, 2016 at 13:01:12 pm

Once again, writers, in this case, Mr. Peters, well defines the problem but offers no solution.

"For all the diversity of American religion and culture, there once was a real moral and spiritual common ground that united many communities in a system of subsidiarity and federalism. It seems unlikely that mutual support in the gratification of our wills can replace it."

Human babies hold in common the need for broadly-defined-safety-and-security so that each can take personal responsibility for adequate comprehension to enter young adulthood with authentic intentions of living a full life of self-discovery and perfection of their person. This leap from ignorance to psychological maturity is described by H. A. Overstreet's book, The Mature Mind, 1949.

Since "natural law" was put to rest by opinion-based law, about two hundred years of discovery of the-indisputable-facts-of-reality have transpired. For example, Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity perhaps became law with gravitational wave detection; see ligo.caltech.edu/news/ligo20160211 . On the civic side of the facts, we know a civic people do not lie so that they can communicate. A culture is comprised of practicing persons.

Perfection occurs when a person's accumulation of choices and unrepeated human-error brings him or her to the end of life without private regrets.

A theory for how to establish a civic culture is presented imperfectly on our website, and it is continually updated as improvements are identified. The key elements are 1) voluntary iterative collaboration for civic morality, 2) use of the-indisputable-facts-of-civic-reality to guide civic behavior yet leave persons free to push the envelope of known harm, 3) widespread education so that the voting majority effectively constrains and supervises government and civil law, 4) continuous focus on better future for personal posterity (children, grandchildren and beyond) rather than adult satisfactions and entertainment, and 5) protection of privacy in private affairs such as spirituality, fine arts, and other human choices. The goal is private-liberty-with-civic-morality, made possible by real-no-harm personal behavior.

We hope people will iteratively collaborate to improve this theory for a civic culture, perhaps replacing it with a better proposal for a possible better future. The fact that this future is evident in the statement of the theory.

I regret my weaknesses in expressing this promising message, feel that efforts to improve with help of others are showing, and appreciate criticisms of the theory.

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Phil Beaver
on August 18, 2016 at 18:26:17 pm

Fragmentation

Mister Peters’ extensive digestation of Yuval Levin’s digestation of concepts and factors observable in the ongoing fragmentation of “our society” evokes in this commentator a chain of reactions; which are best considered separately.

These considerations are affected by the commentator’s experience or exposures over the periods of time referred to; and, vicariously, to preceding periods and conditions of reference (born in 1924 to a father born in 1879 in, but evolved from, a Midwestern rural and religious community).

Whatever may be the assessments of the present day considerations of the conditions and relationships of the past, the past is fixed, certain, and subject to comprehension of the factors which created its relationships and results. The present is ongoing, uncertain, exposing much incomprehension and difficulties in understanding. The future is unknown. So, it’s not simply “nostalgia” that draws our quests for understanding to the past, its relationships, conditions and known factors.

To begin these comments on the thrust of the essay, it may be worthwhile to consider some factors that have not been discussed, but may be principle contributors to the forces of fragmentation of “our society,” or to the diminution of previous forces of its cohesion.

Most of the social orders of Western Civilization, and especially, “our society,” have developed as “Open Access” (North, Wallis & Weingast) societies. In that format of development the dominant cultural relationships become progressively more im-personal, thereby displacing or replacing the dependency upon previous inter-personal relationships of social orders of smaller peripheries.

The effects of the shifts from the importance of interpersonal relationships to impersonal relationships in daily living need to be considered as major factors in the changes of social cohesion.

There is more to be said.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 19, 2016 at 11:59:50 am

It would seem that your focus is on government enabling of private programs. Admittedly, there are some instances where an initial "seed grant" may have proven beneficial. Yet, to take this perspective, that government OUGHT to assist or, perhaps, if I read you correctly based upon similar comments, that government is obligated to provide such assistance misses the point that Levin and others have made.

Subsidiarity does not require government assistance. In a very real sense it simply means allowing subsidiary or intermediate institutions to do their work without government *interference.* The problem with government *assistance is two fold: first, with government monies comes government "guidance" and regulations and a consequent centralization of both power and focus; second, the fact of government assistance / intervention creates an impediment to voluntary citizen involvement in civic activities.

Odd, that this very reliance upon government assistance espoused by the "individualists" and diversity types leads to its opposite - a monotonous sameness in program deliveries, philosophies and dare I say outcomes, most of which are not effective.

Below R. Richard comments upon the concept of Open Access. He is, as usual, quite correct. And yet, it must be pointed out that Open Access is not necessarily restricted to economic opportunities, but rather is an approach that would also include those civic activities that had long been a part of Western, and yes, Christian tradition.

And this gets us back to Dr. Peters' commentary re: "what do we hold in common?"

We have lost our Common Mind (pun is only partly intended). What held us together was a set of core beliefs, practices and customs requiring no specific legislative or judicial commands for their sustenance. Rather, it was embedded in the minds of the citizenry. Yep, not all of them were perfect, as you have pointed out repeatedly, but they did hold the culture together. with government pre-eminence in those areas that were traditionally deemed "civic goods" to be provided by the citizenry, we have turned these activities into "public goods" with an attendant positive legal basis and thereby added "obligations," rules / regulations in order to assure the *equal* dispersion of these newly created "positive" rights.
In so doing we have both fractured our cohesiveness and lessened the citizens ability and DESIRE to engage in these activities.

Upon what now does the citizen feel duty or "civic-ally" bound to his fellow citizens, especially the less fortunate? - a faceless minion in the vast bureaucracy of the Capitol Seat?

It is said that "All politics is local." So too, is all charity. Social cohesiveness at a local level is the best supported by the notion of subsidiarity.

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gabe
on August 19, 2016 at 13:36:43 pm

More

Another obscured or overlooked contributor to the factors affecting diminution of cohesion in “our society” is indicated in the following snippets from Mister Peter’s essay:

“We should also replace the *centralized administration* of many of our **government programs** with ‘decentralized mechanisms of knowledge discovery at the margins,’ recognizing that experts don’t know enough to prescribe the same solutions to all parts of our diverse polity.”

“. . . the insight that when the **government** becomes stronger and more centralized, taking over the work of intermediate institutions like families and churches, individuals become more atomized and powerless.”

“Social democratic ** governance** and . . . are no longer effective ** tools.**”

Obscured, or not confronted, is the simple reality that **government** is only a mechanism and “governance,” whether through “government programs,” or otherwise, is the action of humans, individually and in groups; and its effects are the results of those human actions.

“Our society” has developed a “political class” of human actions which has organized coalitions of particular interests that now dominate those human actions referred to as “governance” as well as the related centralizations of those actions. Individual interests are now subordinated (subsidiary) to the objectives formed by particular interests of those coalitions.

It would be worthwhile to give consideration to how that development has occurred in “our society.” What needs or deficits (if any), real or imagined, brought that development and its effects into being?

Among those effects we observe the loss or impairments of cohesions that result from those adjustments of individual conduct that occur in direct interactions of individuals with individuals, without interventions or interpositions of external parties, or disruptions to the contexts in which those interactions occur. “Our society” is now blessed with an official class of officious intermeddlers.

How has this, about? Do we recognize that those factors impact (largely adversely) the natural development of cohesions amongst individuals? Do these conditions change the way we look upon one another? Do the circumstances (particularly if disrupted or perverted) in which we see and deal with one another **not** affect the sense of commonality that supports cohesion amongst individuals; and thus, within the whole of society? When those circumstances are disrupted, or perverted, for the objectives of external parties, does that not affect cohesion and the abilities of individuals to find sources of commonalities?

We should not overlook those factors which have been obscured.

There is still more.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 20, 2016 at 10:05:19 am

[W]hen the government becomes stronger and more centralized, taking over the work of intermediate institutions like families and churches, individuals become more atomized and powerless. And while he never cites them, his work resembles Peter Berger and Richard Neuhaus’ To Empower People, which argued that the way to truly help the poor was not by large government programs, but by strengthening the “mediating structures” between citizens and the state.

Great; how?

Subsidiarity does not require government assistance. In a very real sense it simply means allowing subsidiary or intermediate institutions to do their work without government *interference.* The problem with government *assistance is two fold: first, with government monies comes government “guidance” and regulations and a consequent centralization of both power and focus; second, the fact of government assistance / intervention creates an impediment to voluntary citizen involvement in civic activities.

Odd, that this very reliance upon government assistance espoused by the “individualists” and diversity types leads to its opposite – a monotonous sameness in program deliveries, philosophies and dare I say outcomes, most of which are not effective.

Examples supported by evidence, please?

Are you saying that if only government would get out of the business of enforcing laws, “the community” would do it?

If only government would get out of the business of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing education, “the community” would do it?

If only government would get out of the business of regulating food and medicine, reviewing stock filings, and establishing antitrust laws, “the community” would do it?

The answer for each of these questions is yes—but how well would “the community” to it?
In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, some people in the South were concerned that government would no longer be in the business of enforcing laws and norms subjugating black people. And, true enough, “the community” (a/k/a the KKK) took up the task, and did it rather successfully.

Why we should regard this as a desirable outcome is a different question.

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nobody.really
on August 20, 2016 at 10:17:05 am

**[G]overnment** is only a mechanism and “governance,” whether through “government programs,” or otherwise, is the action of humans, individually and in groups; and its effects are the results of those human actions.

“Our society” has developed a “political class” of human actions which has organized coalitions of particular interests that now dominate those human actions referred to as “governance” as well as the related centralizations of those actions. Individual interests are now subordinated (subsidiary) to the objectives formed by particular interests of those coalitions.

Damn right! After all, what have the Romans ever done for us?

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nobody.really
on August 20, 2016 at 11:10:02 am

Would you just stop it for once?

No one is talking about the government getting out of the business of enforcing laws and you know it. This is your typical spurious argument - send the poor dolts down a path that is littered with various distractions.

And oh yes, you the noted protected of all the oppressed must once again introduce the KKK into the argument.

You know what, it is not worth responding to this nonsense that you peddle.

But you may want to look at the decline of voluntary charitable organizations - then again, KNOWING YOU, I suspect that you would include the KKK in a list of charitable organizations as it fits your narrative.

I think I will go back to painting some birdhouses for my grandson - the paint fumes will be rather refreshing after enduring another smokescreen provided by you.

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gabe
on August 21, 2016 at 11:38:07 am

More to the point:

What dissolved the cohesions of "Roman Order" that held that last vestiges of Classical Civilization in the Roman Empire?

You ask:

"Damn right! After all, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

They provided us with a principal experience of the fragmentation of a social order (the municipal organizations of the Empire) from loss (and destruction) of cohesion. The experience of that fragmentation and the re-assembly of those fragments, largely with the cohesive forces of the Germanic tribal systems, to form European Civilization has dome much for "us."

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 21, 2016 at 11:59:48 am

Nobody,

Gabe tried to point out an issue raised by your comment:

"[W]ith **government pre-eminence** in those areas that were traditionally deemed “civic goods” to be provided by the citizenry, we have turned these activities into “public goods” with an attendant positive legal basis and thereby **added** “obligations,” rules / regulations in order to assure the *equal* dispersion of these newly created “positive” rights. "

That "government preeminence" is shorthand for the uses made by motivated humans of governmental mechanisms (principally coercions) in quests for objectives (all [most?] of which are not eleemosynary or non sibi). In those quests, those mechanisms are used to **impose** obligations, displacing the forms of obligations that sustain a civil society in the relationships among its members.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 21, 2016 at 12:22:42 pm

Gabe correctly points out the broader scope of the Open Access concept.

The essential elements are freedoms (pl.) of association. Among those freedoms (pl.) is freedom from interventions and interpositions of, external parties (for any purposes); and freedom from disruptions and perversions of the circumstances in which the relationships of association occur.

The primary operations and effects of regulations, rules, etc. (however imposed, but especially via governmental coercions) are interventions and interpositions in the relationships of free association and/or the disruption, distortion and perversion of the circumstances in which relationships occur.

We are currently observing the stagnating economic effects of the multitudes of interpositions (as regulations, e.g.) in relationships and the free association of individuals seeking to cooperate in quests for their own chosen objectives. But that observation is only the surface of the much larger societal "iceberg" effects of what is happening to our associations and relationships as a result of those uses of the mechanisms of governments.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 21, 2016 at 12:42:41 pm

Richard:

It is hopeless as nobody really believes that all that Western Civilization has bequeathed to us is oppression, inequality and human misery and that mankind's (Oops. perhaps, I should say woman-kind's or zhe, or whatever silly pronoun has now gained ascendancy amongst the "defenders of the world's oppressed) only hope resides in the interposition(s) of an elite and omniscient class of government experts, who, I might add, do not possess ANY self serving interests or motivations.

Let us then rejoice in the renunciation (abrogation, perhaps) of our Liberty so that we may be Free - that about sums up a position that nobody really (nobody truly) believes in.

It is funny that in a sense the Romans in the latter stages of their Empire employed many of the devices of what Michael Greve has called a "consociational" constitution wherein a proportional amount of governmental largesse was to be distributed to each subset of the citizenry (and non-citizens as well). Is this not what "multiculturalism" is about or shortly will be?

Of course, the distinct possibility still exists that those "not favored" will not only get nothing but will have their associational liberties curtailed as well as their religious liberty.
Nobody - ya want some evidence - look to Catholic Charities AND Catholic Adoption services. They ain't gonna last long as pressure continues to build to deny them their very existence because of their refusal to violate their beliefs and perform abortions, sterilization (in today's news at NRO) and or unwillingness to facilitate "gay" adoptions.

Nice little world you want there, buddy!

I'll skip it and instead retrieve my hooded sheet from the dry cleaner as it would seem that you would characterize any who support freedom of association as Klansmen - and we know that nobody.really believes that!

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gabe
on August 21, 2016 at 16:42:30 pm

Still More

Now let us consider Mister Peters' direct identification of sources of “dwindling” social cohesion in his citations of Yuval Levin.

“Since the end of World War II, our society has followed 'a single complex but coherent trajectory . . . of increasing individualism, diversity, dynamism, and liberalization. And it has come at the cost of dwindling solidarity, cohesion, stability, authority and social order.' ”

“As the seeds of individualism grew, Levin writes, ‘the spirit of nonconformity that had emerged at the end of world war II, which had morphed in the 1960s into an idealistic quest for self- actualization, had degenerated by the 1970s into a jaded and strident individualism.’ ”

We can begin with “individualism” which, as a pejorative, is so often wrapped around the central role of “individuality” in social groupings and particularly around its role in determining the nature of relationships within “our society.”

So let us “unwrap” individuality from individualism.
Individuality is the designation of the distinguishing characteristics of the individual, observed as motivations, responses, reactions and general conduct. Individualism is the ***expression*** of those characteristics in a social context. However similar or conforming to the characteristics of other individuals in that social context, it is an expression of the individual.

Individuality gets a “bad rap” from being wrapped up as “individualism.” It can not been demonstrated that individuality has been a force for “dwindling” cohesion in “our society;” to the contrary the constraints on, and suppressions of, individuality have greater correlations with the loss of social cohesion. Individuality has an historical record as a source for the cohesion that formed Western Civilization.

A major element in the formation of the cohesive forces that formed European Civilization, the predecessor to “our society,” was the Roman Catholic Church with its Christian tenets that reinforced and defended individuality as a repository of the individual soul. The Church became the buffer and protector of individuality from tyranny and barbarism. Its strength lay in the individualities comprising its congregations

As European Civilization cohered, individuality rose, regressed and rose again with recurrent strength to ultimately form the basis for Western Civilization. That history, through our current times, discloses periodic and extensive constraints and suppressions of individuality, which suppressions most recently were major contributions to the violence of the first half of the last century, yet continue in the ideological quests for particular forms of social order through collective policies and varieties of socialism; all of which ultimately lead to totalitarianism.

Peters states:

“. . . developing new norms that aspired to structure lives thoroughly rooted in the ethic of individualism. In the 1990s, this individualism began to sort our society in at least two important ways.”

Thus wrapping the reactions to the constraints and suppressions of individuality as an “ethic of individualism.” Individualities may be expressed defensively by forming cohesive groupings and disassociation from groupings whose objectives contribute to, or result in, constraints and suppressions of individuality in the quests for individually determined objectives.

In “our society,” with its efforts to create a “Great Society,” over the past 50 years cited, individuality has been constrained and suppressed by the imposition of politically determined obligations; in the continuous creation and expansions of entitlements, “positive rights, and that great chimera Social Justice.

Returning to that listing of sources of “dwindling” cohesion: individualism, diversity, dynamism, and liberalization, the force of each of those terms, such as diversity, and the reasons for its effects needs to be considered.

Certainly the diversity in the motivations of the members of differing social groups within “our society” has been an observable force (see, Charles Murray). But the intent of terms like dynamism and liberalization need to be clearly understood if their force on cohesion is to be considered. In his “From Dawn to Decadence” (HarperCollins 2000) Jacques Barzun more clearly identified the aspirations for “emancipation” rather than “liberalization” for their effects on culture. Sufficient commonalities of cultures are essential to social cohesion.

To simplify the homily of the conclusion we might say that social cohesion for “our society” is dependent upon the way we look upon one another. If we are abjured to (as we have been), or come to, look upon one another as “them and us,” rather than as fellow *individuals,* an essential element in the mortar of social cohesion will be missing, though the stones and bricks and sand between will be there. But, the least tremors may dislodge the organization of their structure.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 21, 2016 at 21:01:11 pm

Richard:

"Individuality gets a “bad rap” from being wrapped up as “individualism.” It can not been demonstrated that individuality has been a force for “dwindling” cohesion in “our society;” to the contrary the constraints on, and suppressions of, individuality have greater correlations with the loss of social cohesion. Individuality has an historical record as a source for the cohesion that formed Western Civilization."

Masterful as always! Throw in a little Barzun and VOILA!!!!!!!

The delineation of / between "individuality" and "individualism" properly frames the problems of our times. It is the suppression of individuality, not *individualism* in the currently corrupted framework of the Social Planners, that leads to a loss of social cohesion. I would say that it contributes to the loss of the Common Mind but that would leave half of the loaf untouched. Progressive espousal of individualism, and all that currently entails, i.e. non-traditional, non-NORMATIVE behavior, is in fact an attempt to create, compel and instill a NEW Common Mind and there appears to be not the slightest hesitation on the part of these New World Planners to employ / deploy all the power of the State to impose new, and unwanted / unwelcome obligations upon the citizen thus diminishing his / her *individuality.*

Ah, just like my poor Seattle Mariners, we are in need of a good relief pitcher to quell this late inning uprising. (As you can tell, we LOST)!!!!!!!!!!!

seeya

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gabe
on August 22, 2016 at 13:08:06 pm

If we … come to[] look upon one another as “them and us,” rather than as fellow *individuals,* an essential element in the mortar of social cohesion will be missing….

I can’t say that I disagree with the general dynamics of Schweitzer’s thesis about a decline in social cohesion. (I also can’t say that I fully understand it.) But I certainly don’t share his sense of unadulterated remorse.

What does social cohesion look like? Well, humans evolved from apes, so we might look at tribes of great apes. Generally, we see small communities dominated by an alpha male. Females seem to be forever tied to the tribe into which they are born; men can switch tribes, but endure a lot of abuse in the process. Is this so different than the social arrangements we observe in hunter-gatherer tribes?

Or, to take a more familiar example, we can observe a certain amount of social cohesion within households. Traditionally, Western household (and other households?) were dominated by a male, who had broad discretion within the household, including the discretion to wield force against other members of the household to enforce his prerogatives.

There are many advantages to these arrangements, and perhaps primates evolved to function within them. But there are also disadvantages—and much of history has involved people gradually rebelling against these arrangements.

Perhaps we should regret that society has come to the point where people see each other as “them and us” rather than just a collection of individuals. But isn’t this always the cry of members of the dominant group when confronted by members or the subordinate one?

When do people come to see the world through a prism of us vs. them? When they have tried to pursue their interests as individuals and been shot down. When the colonists rebelled against King George, don’t you imagine him saying, “But why must you make this into and us vs. them thing?” Ditto the French monarchy. And the Russian. Ditto protestants confronting the Catholic hierarchy. Ditto employers confronting unions, whites confronting blacks, men confronting women. Ditto children confronting an abusive parent, or friends confronting a colleague with chemical dependency issues.

In short, there is no such thing as freedom for anyone other than the biggest ape in the tree. For everyone else, there is merely varying degrees of unfreedom. Membership in a group is always burdensome—yet perhaps less burdensome than living without the protections of a group. And when people form a group to protect them from the biggest ape in the tree, the Big Ape will ask why everyone has turned this into an Us vs. Them thing, and bemoan the loss of social cohesion.

Thus, the father may object that Child Protective Services is reducing people’s freedoms—but it’s less clear that the abused kids feel that way. Southern states objected that the federal government was intruding upon state’s rights—but it’s less clear that black citizens of those states felt that way.

Return to the “What have the Romans done for us?” bit: Rome conquer all kinds of places and imposed all kinds of civil improvements, including Pax Romana. And people who had then become unwilling citizens of Rome would find that they could now travel Roman roads in relative safety. Did the abused spouses, children, slaves—or just especially ambitious entrepreneurs—find a new avenue to escape the old power structures? I’d guess so. Did this tend to undermine the authority (“cohesion”) of those old structures? I’d guess so, too. Something was lost, yet something was gained.

Consider the fate of the black ghetto: Prior to desegregation, working class blacks and professional blacks lived in close proximity, out of necessity. They walked the same streets and attended the same churches. Their kids attended the same schools. As segregation waned, black professionals increasingly moved into the same neighborhoods as white professionals. There was enormous loss of social cohesion. And the ghettos deteriorated. Something was lost, yet something was gained.

Consider life in the developing world: Traditional societies tend to be small and highly cohesive. People have prescribed roles—mostly as subsistence farmers or providers of domestic services. Along comes a new plant. Now people can elect to go work there in lieu of working as a subsistence farmer. But this undermines the authority of the village elders, because now people might obtain an independent means of earning a living—and might have regular interactions with people from other tribes. Something was lost, yet something was gained.

There is a tension between social cohesion and autonomy. Mostly people on this blog push the autonomy message, and I’ve been pushing the cohesion side of the equation. But it’s a matter of balance.

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nobody. really
on August 22, 2016 at 13:11:35 pm

A side observation about social cohesion and individualism: yes, it's the Ultimatum Game.

In the Ultimatum Game, a proposer decides how much of a pot of money (say, $10) to give an anonymous responder, and the responder decides whether to accept or reject the offer. If the responder accepts, the players split the money as proposed; of the responder rejects, both get nothing. The experimental subjects participate in the experiment only once, and they know that they will not play again.

Classical economics predicts that a responder would always accept any offer from a proposer—after all, it’s free money! Yet experience shows that responders tend to reject low offers. However, this is especially true among people living in market economies. Among people in traditional societies, proposers offer much less, and responders accept much less.

What accounts for this pattern? One theory is that people in market economies become accustomed to interacting with strangers, to being at the mercy of strangers, and to having strangers at their mercy. Thus, they develop a norm of extending equitable treatment to strangers, and expecting such treatment in return. When that treatment isn’t extended, they look for an opportunity to punish the proposer—even if they must sacrifice a windfall to do so.

In contrast, people in traditional societies are not accustomed to dealing with strangers, and thus are less inclined to identify with them or share resources with them. The point is not that these people are individually greedy; indeed, they may share unreservedly with members of their own group. But the choice to give anything away to a stranger is, in effect, a choice to deprive the members of their own group. It’s an act of betrayal. Thus, they extend less benefit to strangers—and expect less in return.

Yet what does this say about social cohesion? Yes, traditional societies may have a high degree of cohesion, including the sharing of resources. Yet market economies may actually inspire a more equitable allocation of resources. So as people move from traditional societies to market societies, there is a loss of one kind of cohesive culture—but the growth of a different kind of culture that has its own kind of cohesion.

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nobody. really
on August 22, 2016 at 13:52:03 pm

"There is a tension between social cohesion and autonomy."

Yes, there is a tension.

" Mostly people on this blog push the autonomy message, and I’ve been pushing the cohesion side of the equation. But it’s a matter of balance."

Now, THAT may come as a surprise to many of us - but it is good to see that you appreciate cohesion, statements to the contrary notwithstanding. It would appear to be an odd form of, or means to achieve, cohesion wherein one groups faults are constantly highlighted while another group is provided with countless justifications for their own failures - all this done in the name of multiculturalism and diversity. I suppose one could characterize this proposed state of civil society as "diverse cohesion."

Hey, wait a minute, did not Rube Goldberg first propose these types of solutions many decades ago?

Dang, he was ahead of his time.

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gabe
on August 22, 2016 at 14:12:58 pm

Oops, I forgot:

Here is an illustration of the type of "social cohesion' that nobody.really believes in / advocates wherein there will be that monotonous sameness, civil and professional liberties be damned:

https://nomocracyinpolitics.com/2016/08/17/the-borg-strikes-again-the-lawyers-guild-wants-you-to-know-that-resistance-to-its-social-agenda-is-useless-by-bruce-frohnen/

An example:

"ABA leadership clarified that they believe certain viewpoints and policies should be removed from public discussion—including legislative and legal venues—and indeed, the ABA will ban attorneys from advocating on one side of the debate in order to ensure that the law moves in a particular direction on controversial social and policy issues. ABA leaders have indicated that the proposed rule, in addition to discipline, “could be used strategically against lawyers and law firms” based upon their viewpoints and religious beliefs.

One committee member, Drucilla Ramey, added that bar leadership must go “to the top of the legal profession” in order to “incentivize” attorneys to change their conscious and unconscious views and speech on everything from sex, race, gender, to law firm hiring and compensation, to “interrupt” their supposed “bias” and change their beliefs."

now that is "[cohesion] we can believe in", isn't it?

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gabe
on August 22, 2016 at 16:00:59 pm

Hard to know what you’re arguing for, gabe.

1. The language you quote is from Edwin Meese, a famously conservative lawyer and opponent of the First Amendment (at least as far as porn is concerned). The fact that Mr. Meese makes assertions is no evidence to me of the accuracy of the assertions; in the legal biz, this is called "hearsay."

2. Yet let’s imagine that everything you allege is accurate. What is your point?

Schweitzer argues that society needs a modicum of social cohesion, which he describes as having some common beliefs and values among members. And you provide evidence that the American Bar Association allegedly is seeking to establish some common beliefs and values. So yes, they’re acting to promote cohesion.

In contrast, I’ve argued that cohesion comes at a cost to autonomy. And I sense you are agreeing with me, arguing that the ABA’s efforts would squelch dissent. So as far as I can tell, you and I are arguing on the same side. So what’s the problem?

3. It appears as if the ABA’s policy merely seeks to say that it’s unethical for a lawyer to exploit his knowledge of legal process to harass people on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status. Is that really such a terrible objective?

Yeah, the definition of harassment could use improvement. But it seems a little unhinged to suggest that this policy is all part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to crush free speech and the practice of law.

4. Recall what’s at issue here: These are model ethics rules. They have no bite. Even actual ethics rules barely have any bite. If you practice divorce law, disgruntled clients will file an ethics complaint against you roughly once a year. Big deal; it’s part of the cost of doing business.

That’s not an excuse for bad drafting. But let’s keep some perspective here.

5. Finally, an aside: The article you cite is entitled “The Borg Strikes Again: The Lawyers’ Guild Wants You to Know that Resistance to Its Social Agenda Is Useless.” Yet the article is about the actions of the American Bar Association. For what it’s worth, the (National) Lawyer’s Guild is a rival organization to the ABA. (I have to wonder if the title was written by someone other than the author, who is a law professor and thus should know better.)

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nobody.really
on August 22, 2016 at 23:45:35 pm

Holy Cats ! ! !

That reads almost as if you find something to agree with; at least in "Fragmentation," the first of the three critiques, which concludes with:

"Most of the social orders of Western Civilization, and especially, “our society,” have developed as “Open Access” (North, Wallis & Weingast) societies. In that format of development the dominant cultural relationships become progressively more im-personal, thereby displacing or replacing the dependency upon previous inter-personal relationships of social orders of smaller peripheries.

"The effects of the shifts from the importance of interpersonal relationships to impersonal relationships in daily living need to be considered as major factors in the changes of social cohesion."

Limited Access societies (which comprise most of the worlds population) do have "market societies."
But, the circumstances for relationships in those markets are limited (participations and modes); access to resources for the markets is limited.

The intent in referring to the Open Access framework was to point out the existence of other forces, important forces, affecting social cohesion and its forms in "our society."

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 23, 2016 at 11:02:24 am

The issue I have is with the definition of unethical conduct that includes the *representation* of certain viewpoints (clients. perhaps?). And yes, in a sense we are arguing from the same "coin" but from different sides of the coin.

Your perspective would encourage more government intervention in those matters that were traditionally left to the individual citizen. Your perspective would have us believe that only State action can either prevent or mediate all of those Oakeshottian *collisions* consequent to human interaction and in so doing you would appear to be in favor of supporting the new *priestly* class of State bureaucrats whose wisdom surpasses that of the citizenry. The effect of this dominance of the new priestly class is a clear diminution of *access* for the general populace in both economic and cultural affairs.

Are we now to return to the Golden Age of Babylonian governance, or an even more pronounced example, Egyptian Dynastic Rule, where "access" to goods, services, opportunity was limited to the priestly class? To my mind, we make a mistake when we consider "access" to be important only in the economic sphere; it is equally important, perhaps more so, in the cultural / moral sphere as humans do tend to define themselves not simply by economics.

You mention in a previous comment the behavior of strangers:
What is it that allows strangers to accommodate each other. Is it purely positive law? Clearly, there is some element of this involved. Yet, it may certainly be suggested that there is (or WAS) a Common Mind, developed over time that provided proper guidance as to behavior, that not only allowed, but conduced to amicable relations amongst the citizenry, though they be strangers to each other. Positive Law did not, indeed cannot, cover every conceivable collision between individual human beings. AND YET, for millennia we somehow managed to do this, albeit imperfectly, but manage we did; and we were able to do this because we *internalized* this and accepted it as our own. A fiction? - perhaps, but a rather useful one and one that in fact did encourage social cohesion. Compare that with the current practice of issuing "edicts", the secular version of Papal Bulls, to the citizenry. Aside from the utter inanity of many these Bulls*&#, the very contrariness of some of them, it is the arrogance of the new *priestly class* that presumes to know always what is best and how to implement it - all for the betterment of the poor lumpenproletariat.(now assumed to include all who do not KNOW THE WAY). Is one expected to rejoice at these edicts? Is one expected to feel as if they are part of a unified whole.
No, quite simply, these priestly bulls are viewed as bullsh*t and as unwanted obligations.

I understand your viewpoint that some measure of "bulls" are appropriate for cohesion, (we do need positive Law after all) - it is in the measure that we differ. I prefer cohesion that is derivative of individuality driven by a Common Mind; you would appear to prefer cohesion imposed from above that is derivative of a *monotonous* mind.

BTW: Do take up richards suggestion and view "Open Access"
Perhaps, richard would also be kind enough to provide you with the cite for another great work (the name of which my lazy brain cannot recall) on the History of Civilizations - a fascinating study.

take care - now off to tear up the local municipal golf course!

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gabe
on August 23, 2016 at 11:56:08 am

Examples supported by evidence, please?

Gabe tried to point out an issue raised by your comment:

“[W]ith **government pre-eminence** in those areas that were traditionally deemed “civic goods” to be provided by the citizenry, we have turned these activities into “public goods” with an attendant positive legal basis and thereby **added** “obligations,” rules / regulations in order to assure the *equal* dispersion of these newly created “positive” rights. ”

That “government preeminence” is shorthand for the uses made by motivated humans of governmental mechanisms (principally coercions) in quests for objectives (all [most?] of which are not eleemosynary or non sibi). In those quests, those mechanisms are used to **impose** obligations, displacing the forms of obligations that sustain a civil society in the relationships among its members

Thank you. Example supported by evidence, please?

I'm suspicious of nostalgic claims about how great things were in some long-ago time. A concrete example would provide some basis to evaluate your thesis.

Government didn't get into Social Security, bank regulation, securities regulation, health care, public education, welfare, etc., because everything what was just honky dory; they got in because things were NOT honky dory. We can argue about whether government did more good than harm. But I'm really doubtful about the thesis that there was never any harm to remedy. Let's get to examples, please.

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nobody.really
on August 23, 2016 at 15:10:51 pm

"Schweitzer argues that society needs a modicum of social cohesion, which he describes as having some common beliefs and values among members."

That is a misconception of my observations, which are not "arguments" for anything.

What I *observe* (or think I observe) is:

That in groupings of humans **sufficient** commonalities of motivations of their members generate cultures among those members sharing those commonalities.

Where there are **sufficient** commonalities of cultures amongst social groupings a social order may be formed and maintained; though subject to continuing developments.,

Where there are **sufficient** commonalities of social orders, a civilization may be formed and maintained; again, subject to continuing developments.

We are concerned to inquire into what constitutes sufficiency and how commonalities are "found" or determined at those several levels of human interactions.

Experience seems to indicate that *imposed* commonalities quickly decompose or are counter productive.

One may observe that where there is some "modicum" (even some limited amount) of cohesion we may *infer* (but not be assured of) some degree of commonalities (amongst those levels cited); but are they sufficient.

While the observed commonalities may include beliefs and values, ** I ** certainly don't describe or define them as such.

Those observations do not seem to be at odds with Adam Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments."

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R richard Schweitzer
on August 23, 2016 at 15:26:10 pm

Oh, so you would propose that the existence of the National Lawyers guild serves as *competition* to the Leftist ABA. Indeed, there is competition between the two. It appears to be a race to determine who is the most "leftist"

Having had occasion many years back, while pushing an anti-discrimination proposal through a municipal council, to have their support, I can attest to their rather leftward (far, far) leanings. Funny sort of competition. isn't it? or an attempt to befuddle the uninformed and posit a non-existent *countering* force or philosophy to the ABA leftist predisposition(s).

Also funny how you attempt to minimize the opinion of Mr. Meese as an opponent of the First Amendment because - Well, Because he is against pornography. Have you completely lost it?
The First was intended for political speech not SMUT!!!
And BTW what was the position of both the ABA and Nat'l Lawyers Guild on citizens United? If anyone or group may be said to be hostile to the first amendment it would be those who seek to limit political speech.

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gabe
on August 23, 2016 at 18:31:30 pm

Startling Examples of displaced obligations displaced by imposed obligations:

We can begin with "healthcare."

Each person has responsibility (a form of obligation) to provide for his own and his dependents' (their dependency being an obligation) healthcare.

When obligations are imposed to require that person to bear part of the costs of benefits (contraceptives, maternity, obstetrics, etc.) of others his capacity to cover his own obligations (and the availability of means to do so) are diminished and he may well find his dependents on Medicaid to replace his former obligation.

Education ( I prefer learning):

what are the obligations of parents to their children?
Who has the obligation for providing learning for one's children? The parents?
How are those obligations now being dealt with?
Sate constitutions go so far as to say that access to a particular level of learning (education) is a collective obligation to be met through the aegis of that state. So, a tax obligation (and other participations) are imposed decreasing capacity to create or choose facilities for those to whom you real obligation runs.

Every establishment of a so-called entitlement is really the imposition of obligations on others to provide it; doing so decreases the capacities for the multitude of personal obligations.

One may have a spiritual obligation to care for his fellow man in misfortune. That is now diminished by "there's a program for that."

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 24, 2016 at 11:34:14 am

Example supported by evidence, please?

“healthcare.”....

Education ( I prefer learning)....

Great, now we have examples. How about evidence? Specifically, what outcomes do we want from healthcare and education, and how have those outcomes changed as government has increased its participation?

I suspect that the evidence will show that people are healthier now than before government got involved in healthcare. True, we observe greater obesity. And there has been a recent downtick in the life expectancy of aging solitary white people. But I'm doubtful that the healthcare system will prove to be the explanatory variable for either situation.

Similarly, I suspect evidence will show that people are more educated now than they were before government got involved in the educational system. Yes, we see some fluctuation in standardized test scores, especially when compared to scores from other nations. Some of this reflects selection bias: The US tries to educate (and thus, test) pretty nearly everyone; other nations are more selective in who they educate, and thus test. Also, the US raises a disproportionate share of its kids in poverty. When we compare the performance of the US's rich kids to other nations rich kids, or the US's poor kids to other nation's poor kids, the US looks pretty good. And in any event, I suspect the US looks better now than before the era that government got involved in education.

In any event, it's your thesis, so I'll look forward to seeing your evidence.

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nobody.really
on August 24, 2016 at 17:56:34 pm

The way this site is ordered, it is a bit difficult to put the replies in proper sequence.

This entry is a reply to the request of "Nobody" for "evidence."

Evidence of *what* is not specified (I suspect a Jesuit education). One might have assumed that evidence of the existence of displacement and replacement of obligations, demonstrated by the examples, was intended.

However, "outcomes" of displacements and replacements of obligations are now a reference point.

Let us dispose of the concept of "government participation" before going further.

"Government" does not DO anything. Motivated human beings, with objectives, use, or attempt to use, the mechanisms of governments for the attainment of the ends. As stated elsewhere, all [most?] of those objectives and ends are not eleemosynary or non-sibi.

Let us proceed to consider an "outcome" that is "evidence."

Learning Facilities:

The obligations to provide learning facilities for offspring originally rested with families, acting individually or in voluntary associations. This resulted in the establishment of rural and neighborhood schools, as well as private group tutoring. In the development of rural and village communities the families, acting voluntarily, determined to use the taxing powers of their local jurisdictions as means for sharing there, and obligations. That was an initial use of the mechanisms of governments in connection with the performance by citizens of their familial obligations. The balance of that performance remained in familial controls through such things as local school boards and other local authorities.

Increasing densities of populations led to consolidation of the physical assets of learning facilities and the means of compensation for teachers and others involved in meeting those obligations. That increased the importance of revenues for the facilities and compensation and therefore the importance of how the mechanisms of government were to be used, to what extent and with what limitations, if any.

Once the fiscal functions of the obligations for learning facilities became enmeshed in the mechanisms of government they became intermixed in the other uses being made of the mechanisms of government by interests other than those of the familial concerns. In the many conflicting objectives for the uses of the mechanisms of government, particularly the derivations and allocations of revenues, learning facilities became a politically determined function of the mechanism of government.

The outcome has been the development of a transition of learning facilities into institutions of educational systems.

One of America's great teachers laid out the thesis that the members of the social order in their interactions develop facilities (instruments) to meet particular needs of their social order; that, in time, the facilities became "institutions," that have taken on activities and purposes of their own separate from and different from the purposes for which they were intended. The self interests and self-serving goals of those **within** the institutions are usually identified as the sources of the institutionalization of those facilities.

Facilities for learning have not been exempt as examples of that thesis.

Today, in those institutions, teachers, as coalitions, claim the responsibility (obligation) [often to the exclusion of all others] for the learning "process" in those education systems, displacing the familial obligations (which, of course are burdens that many gladly shed given opportunity). But, the process of institutionalization of the educational system places the interests of the "insiders" ahead of the performance of the obligations fro which such facilities were originated in the first instance.

The educational system, functioning in the mechanisms of government become part of political relationships, disassociated from the original objectives of the familial obligations.

Those are the outcomes constituting the evidence of an example of a displacement of individual obligations by obligations to be performed through the mechanisms of government.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 24, 2016 at 21:58:19 pm

Example supported by evidence, please?

Education ( I prefer learning)….

Great, now we have examples. How about evidence? Specifically, what outcomes do we want from healthcare and education, and how have those outcomes changed as government has increased its participation?

….I suspect evidence will show that people are more educated now than they were before government got involved in the educational system.

This entry is a reply to the request of “Nobody” for “evidence.”

Evidence of *what* is not specified….

Uh … yeah it was. I asked for evidence that the outcomes that we want from education have somehow deteriorated since government got involved. Admittedly, since this is your thesis, I’m deferring to you to specify what precise outcomes you want education to achieve.

Today, in those institutions, teachers, as coalitions, claim the responsibility (obligation) [often to the exclusion of all others] for the learning “process” in those education systems, displacing the familial obligations (which, of course are burdens that many gladly shed given opportunity). But, the process of institutionalization of the educational system places the interests of the “insiders” ahead of the performance of the obligations for which such facilities were originated in the first instance.

The educational system, functioning in the mechanisms of government become part of political relationships, disassociated from the original objectives of the familial obligations.

What exactly are the “obligations for which such facilities were originated in the first instance”? What were the “original objectives of the familial obligations”?

You start by saying that families are responsible for providing education, but you seem to end by saying that the goal of education is to promote a sense of familial obligation—a goal that the system fails to achieve.

But here’s an alternative hypothesis: The role of the education is to educate. And government took over that task, not as a sinister plot to undermine the institution of the family, but because families did a shitty job of educating their kids.

How might we test that hypothesis? Well, we might determine what percentage of people at any given time grew up in families, and what percentage of people had the benefit of a government-provided education. And then we might see which variable—growing up in a family, or getting a government-provided education—better predicted a person’s likelihood to, say, learn to read.

Now, I don’t actually have that data. But as a start, here’s a graph of changes in literacy rates around the world over time. There sure has been a lot of change. Do you suppose the change is because ever more people are growing up in families, which do such a great job of education? Or because ever more people are getting the benefits of a government-provided education?

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nobody.really
on August 25, 2016 at 10:40:47 am

what was the position of both the ABA and Nat’l Lawyers Guild on citizens United? If anyone or group may be said to be hostile to the first amendment it would be those who seek to limit political speech.

Dude, why the stereotyping? If you have to ask, that shows that you don't know. And if you don't know what you're talking about, then why are you talking?

That said, I share your suspicions about the views of the National Lawyers Guild--and sure enough, their website includes a general disparaging remark about the case:

The intertwining of governmental power with the influence of corporations, epitomized by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has confirmed that the theme of the 1998 NLG Convention, “Fighting Corporate Power,” may well be the major challenge for American democracy in the new century.

In contrast, the ABA is a more corporate-ish body. Thus, it does not offer opinions on everything willy-nilly. And when it does, it tends to share sympathies with the ACLU--which filed a brief in support of Citizens United. The best info I found was this resolution encouraging ever greater disclosure of the sources of campaign donations, noting that the Citizens United court emphasized the importance of such disclosures for the functioning of democracy.

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nobody.really

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