- Rebuilding a healthy civil society requires a renewed commitment to civic virtue.
- Civic virtue is oftentimes thwarted by big government entitlement spending and crony capitalist initiatives.
- Encouraging individuals to invest in their communities will lead to less intrusion from the Nanny State.
When we assess what makes the United States exceptional, very few of us would place growing bureaucracy, corporate welfare, or the past eighteen months of intense partisan politics at the top of our list. In fact, many would agree that the United States would be even more exceptional if we were able to eradicate those aspects of government altogether.
Earlier I cited Alexis de Tocqueville’s perceptive insights into nineteenth century American life. Writing for the Tocqueville Review, Jeffery Alexander stated, “The theoretical importance of Tocqueville’s writing about America can be summed up in this phrase: Democracy depends on many things besides voting.”
I would posit that one of those “many things” democracy depends on is real community. The ideas of liberty, justice, human dignity, and self-governance are most distinct when citizens exercise them in their very own communities. Politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can’t possibly understand the uniqueness of every rural town or mid-sized city in the nation.
The variety of circumstances that contribute to Goldsboro being Goldsboro or Winston-Salem being Winston-Salem are distinct and, as such, they will require the citizens of these cities to advocate for the welfare of their particular segment of the state.
Sadly, when nearly everything falls under the authority of the Nanny State, we shouldn’t be surprised when people forego peaceful cooperation in order to obtain political control.
Considering the Decline
Findings released in The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Culture & Opportunity revealed that, although there was an overall increase in volunteerism over the last forty-one years, we have seen a marked decrease in volunteering over the past decade, declining by 3.9 percent. What is causing the regressive behavior?
There are undoubtedly a variety of factors that have contributed to this downward trend, and they deserve serious research and analysis.
The goal of this article is to begin to paint a realistic picture of what we see happening in our nation. The hope is that this helps push along the necessary conversation of how we ought to go about rebuilding a healthy society.
What is the Solution?
But if we are serious about finding a solution to our declining communities, it is time to get to the bottom of the problem.
According to the Heritage Foundation, “International statistics show that Americans are the most charitable people in the world and the most likely to engage in volunteerism.”
This is something we should be proud of and ought to celebrate.
However, we have seen a disturbing trend these past five decades. It seems that we have entangled our understanding of compassion with that of government programming. In the words of Stephen Moore, “Government can only spend a dollar to help someone when it forcibly takes a dollar from someone else.” Government programs use forcible income redistribution to replace voluntary charity.
Startlingly enough, this statement doesn’t raise the alarms that it once did. Many in my generation are not only accepting of this behavior; they outright embrace it. It is the reason Bernie Sanders did so well among Millennials. It is why May Day and ANTIFA protests continue to be accepted among a number of younger Americans. When society embraces such a perspective, we know there is something wrong at the cellular level.
Our support of wide-sweeping government programs and regulation has done nothing to curb the decline we are seeing in our communities. In part, because these programs demand involuntary “generosity” to function. Higher tax rates only circumvent Americans’ ability to give to causes they are passionate about.
The generosity of Americans is tangibly evident in how highly our giving ranks when compared with other nations. Clearly our social conscience is not dead. However, it is capable of atrophying if we consistently mandate giving, instead of allowing caring individuals to help the needy from their own free will. The longer people go without having to exercise virtue, the less likely they’ll be inclined to do so when their help is needed.
There is a myriad of ways to help our communities grow, without increasing government control. The ways in which to help are endless, but the means should always be grounded in people helping people, not cronyism or forced philanthropy.