Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I ran across an interesting, late 90's era document from the Cato Insitute entitled "Restoring Civil Society." What fascinated me about it is the notion that big government and vibrant civil society are somewhat mutually exclusive. It reads like a 90's era Newt style manifesto; it makes some provocative points. Here is an excerpt from the full document:
The Condition of Civil Society
Restoring civil society is a moral imperative. There is no more important issue on the political agenda today. The picture, however, is not an entirely bleak one, for the retreat of civil society in the face of advancing political society has been uneven. In some areas, civil society has even advanced, as political society has been restrained and pushed back; notable examples are the partial but progressive deregulation in recent decades of telecommunications, which has opened up so many opportunities for people to communicate and form new communities, and of financial services, which has allowed individuals and families greater control over their own investments. Despite all the advances of political society in recent decades, America still has a vigorous and robust civil society that provides employment for nearly 130 million persons, generates $7.5 trillion in annual production, and brings forth technological innovation on a daily basis. And charity and mutual aid are also growing in civil society; Americans gave $125 billion to private charities last year, and mutual aid organizations from Alcoholics Anonymous to the Promise Keepers to shelters for battered women offer mutual support to help individuals become stronger and more virtuous and to resist the temptations of irresponsible or self-destructive behavior.
The overall thrust of the document is that "political society" or government sponsored efforts to deal with social problems and inequalities are bad, grass roots movements to do the same are good. I wonder if it is really just a sophisticated and disguised argument against redistributive policies.