Tony Blair: A Communitarian in the Making?

June 21, 1997

“Tony Blair: A Communitarian in the Making?” The Times (London), (June 21, 1997), p. 20.
In every conversation I have had on my visit to Britain since the general election, one question has been repeated: what will Tony Blair do for the country? Will he be a gentler Tory, show his true old Labour colours, or will he strike in a new, perhaps communitarian, direction?

Let’s Not Be Boxed in by Color

June 10, 1997

“Let’s Not Be Boxed in by Color” The Washington Post, Outlook, (June 8, 1997), p. C3. Also published: “Other Americans Help Brake Down Racial Barriers” International Herald Tribune, (June 10, 1997), p.9.
In 1990, the Census Bureau offered Americans the choice of 16 racial categories. The main groupings were white and black, which 92 percent of the population chose. The remaining categories were Native American, Aleut and Eskimo, 10 variations of Asian and Pacific Islanders, and "Other." Some 9.8 million Americans, or 4 percent of the total population, chose "Other" rather than one of the established mono-racial categories -- as compared to fewer than 1 million in 1970.

New Issues: Rethinking Race

June 09, 1997

There are strong sociological reasons to argue that the US Census should introduce a new racial category, All-American, into its next count.

As McVeigh Trial Shows, Justice Must Serve All

May 28, 1997

“As McVeigh Trial Shows, Justice Must Serve All” USA Today, (May 28, 1997).
As Timothy McVeigh's defense now presents its side of the case, there must be a way to vigilantly protect the suspect's rights while also preventing his lawyers from making a mockery out of the courts.
Lawyers have long argued the notion that allowing criminals to get away with murder is a price we must sometimes pay for our adversarial system of justice. It is ff awed, they argue, but still the best there is. Everybody, they maintain, is innocent until proven guilty. The best way to ensure a fair trial, they claim, is for defense attorneys "to do all they can for their clients" and for the government to try to present its case.

The Family That Beeps Each Other Keeps Each Other–At A Distance

May 27, 1997

“The Family That Beeps Each Other Keeps Each Other–At A Distance” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Commentary, (May 27, 1997), p. E.
You heard it here first: The parental crisis is over; move over child care. Salvation has arrived in the form of New Remote Parenting.
A pioneer of the new movement is reported to be one Mary Croft, an attorney is too busy to talk with her 12-year-old daughter about the happenings of a school day, boy-and-girl kind of things, even about permission to stop over at a friend's house. Instead, Mary purchased a pair of beepers so the child can cue her ma "I need to talk," as the mother-attorney is racing around carefully taking care of her clients. Alas, the beepers did not prove to be quite efficient enough. Mary often found that when she could find a minute to respond to her daughter, the phone booths on street corners or in stalls at airports were occupied. Mary came up with an ingenious solution--she added a pair of cellular phones to the mother-daughter relationship! Now when mother has a moment--using the facilities, zipping along the highway, or when the clients demand a breather--she can complete her business calls and find free time to beep and ring her teenager.

Civic Repentance: Just and Effective

May 09, 1997

When my children were young, I tried to encourage them to be virtuous, to appreciate when they lived up to their commitments, and to celebrate their achievements. 

The End of Cross-Cultural Relativism

April 01, 1997

“The End of Cross-Cultural Relativism,” Alternatives, Social Transformation and Humane Governance, Vol. 22, No. 2, (April-June 1997), 177-189.
Relativism is on the retreat on many fronts; much less clear is what its replacement is going to be. In the following discussion I focus on one kind of relativism--the notion that members of one culture should not "judge" those of others, especially that the West should not pass judgment on the policies and values of other societies. My main interest is in asking which conception might replace the notion of unbounded normative pluralism.

Community, Yes, But Whose?

March 01, 1997

“Community, Yes, But Whose?” A Debate with Roger Scruton, City Journal, Spring 1997, pp. 72, 79-83.
Editor's note: In "Communitarian Dreams" (City Journal, Autumn 1996), Roger Scruton found much to criticize in the widely celebrated intellectual movement called communitarianism. Communitarians present themselves as champions of traditional social ties and opponents of the self-absorbed atomism of modern society. But for all their talk about shared values and social sentiment, Scruton charged, communitarians deeply distrust local communities and the institutions of civil society. Instead, they favor an expansive welfare state, which they see as embodying the inclusiveness and mutual respect that are the essence of community--but which, in Scruton's view, has caused much of the decay of community that they bewail. As Scruton summed it up, communitarians are "just so many made-over liberals, dressed up in a rhetoric of fellow feeling." Amitai Etzioni, a well known communitarian thinker whom Scruton singled out for criticism, responds opposite, on page 72. Scruton's reply begins above.

Education for Intimacy

March 01, 1997

“Education for Intimacy,” Tikkun, Vol. 12, No. 2 (March/April 1997), pp. 38-42. Also published: “Education for Intimacy,” Educational Leadership, (May 1997), 20-23.
Instead of approaching the discussion of sex in public schools as a matter of health and safety bereft of moral content or forbidding discussion of sex out of traditional moral concerns (seeking to rely exclusively on the family and religious institutions for this purpose), schools should develop a program of education that provides children with the facts they need to know, within the context of values that responsible and moral persons seek to affirm and embody in their lives. Sex education should not be taught as a chapter in human hygiene or human biology, akin to dental care or car mechanics. We can find better sources and role models for teaching this subject than what the birds and the bees do. Nor should sex education be treated as if it is, was, or could be, value-free.

Cross-Cultural Judgments: The Next Steps

February 09, 1997

The debate between those who argue that we should not pass judgment on the conduct of other people and those who champion universal human rights or other global

Ein Kommunitaristischer Anata gegenuber dem Sozialstaat

February 01, 1997

Der Autor gilt als einer der Vater des Kommunitarismus und ist Proiessor, Griinder und Girektor des Communirariar: Network an der Univ.

Balancing Individual Rights and the Common Good

January 01, 1997

“Balancing Individual Rights and the Common Good,” Tikkun, Vol.12, No.1, (January/February 1997), 66-67.
Some people have thought that communitarianism resembles conservativism in placing a focus on the need for greater individual responsibility toward the community, and in its critique of the excesses of a rights-oriented society. In fact, communitarians really seek to establish a New Golden Rule, one that seeks a balance between the still valued needs of individuals and the larger society. If we were living in a totalitarian society, that golden rule would lead us, as dissenters, to challenge the misuse of communitarian language, and to insist on greater individual liberty. In Western democratic societies, where the pendulum has shifted toward extremes of individual self-indulgence and a lack of community responsibility, communitarianism often takes the form of a critique of this excess. Yet what we seek is actually a new kind of balance.

Building a Better Child

December 29, 1996

“Building a Better Child,” Washington Post Book Review, December 29, 1996, p. 1. (Robert Coles, The Moral Intelligence of Children: How to Raise a Moral Child.)

Give Couples Tools to Make Marriages Last

November 18, 1996

“Give Couples Tools to Make Marriages Last” USA Today (November 18, 1996), p. 25A.

The debate about the value of families is rapidly shifting, in this election year, from "should we save the family?" to "how can we save the family?"
One answer to this challenge comes from the states, that already have been credited with being our best national laboratories when it comes to welfare, health reforms, and numerous other social policies.
Michigan and Iowa are leading the way in trying to make divorce more difficult than it has been since the "no fault" approach was adopted. At least 11 other states also are considering anti-divorce measures.

Post-Election Safety Nets

November 01, 1996

“Post-Election Safety Nets” Challenge, (Nov.-Dec. 1996), pp. 4-7.
One cannot but hope that after the 1996 elections both major parties will agree to form a joint commission to develop a national policy on entitlements. Among those who recently called for such a commission is Republican Jack Kemp. The liberal position on this issue favors maintaining the basic system while making some limited adjustments. It is much less clear what position conservatives will bring to the table. This is especially true when it comes to "conservatives with a heart," who must consider what to do for the deserving poor, abandoned children, the victims of catastrophic illnesses, and other truly vulnerable members found in even the most accomplished society.