Common Values

May 12, 1995

Much of the recent discussion of communitarian thinking in the United Kingdom has put those of us who speak for it in the position of social democrats who have to keep "proving" that they are not Stalinist.

The Socio-Economics of Work

May 09, 1995

Socio-economics is a discipline that combines the perspectives of neoclassical economics with those of sociology, anthropology, psychology and political science.  

What Should Congress Focus on During Its Second 100 Days

May 01, 1995

Three out of four Americans (76 percent) believe that our society is morally decaying. A study of voters by the Wirthlin Group shows that 60 percent of voters feel that the problems facing the country are "primarily moral and social in nature," as opposed to "primarily economic in nature." The growing appeal of the Religious Right reflects the yearning of Americans to address values issues (for which "family values" and "culture" have become code words). While so far cultural conservatives have largely supported the economic (laissez-faire) conservative agenda (cut government, taxes, deficits, regulations) there are signs that cultural conservatives feel that "their" issues are being neglected.

Libertarian Follies

May 01, 1995

If one looks behind the mud Tibor Machan casts about, one can discern the basic outlines of a libertarian position that has some currency in our society and needs addressing. Such issues are being seriously explored by the social sciences and in the public arena. One product of the debate is a type of communitarian thinking that is neither laissez-faire conservative nor liberal in the contemporary, American sense of the term.

Who’s To Say What’s Right Or Wrong?

April 02, 1995

“Who’s To Say What’s Right Or Wrong?” Washington Post Education Review, April 2, 1995, p. 14. (Melinda Fine, Habits of the Mind.)

Blood Simple

February 20, 1995

Gay activists were discomfited when Newt Gingrich extended a helping hand to people at risk from AIDS, writing to White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to complain that they are prevented from using an HIV Home Collection Kit. The kit allows anyone who wishes to find out whether they are HIV-infected, by mailing in some blood on number-coded cards and calling anonymously for the results. Paul Weyrich, National Chairman for the Coalitions for America, spoke up for the release of the kit, adding that he feels "uncomfortable" talking about the whole subject because "of the manner in which this deadly disease can be contracted" but feels that because "this has clearly become a public health issue affecting millions of Americans, some of whom are innocent victims of this deadly virus" the kit should be approved forthwith. And William Mellor III, President of the Conservative Institute for Justice, threatened to bring a lawsuit to gain the release of the kit. They were joined during a recent press conference by a young woman who tearfully explained that she would not be destined to die from AIDS if the kit had been available to her. Quite a line-up. But why?

Nation in need of community values

February 20, 1995

Communitarian thinking has recently been subjected to some spirited criticism in this country. The communitarian call to restore civic virtues, for people to live up to their responsibilities and not merely focus on their entitlements, to shore up the moral foundations of society, is said to endanger individual liberties.

Just a Social Crowd of Folk

February 18, 1995

SO WHAT is Communitarianism? We are a social movement aiming at shoring up the moral, social, and political environment. Part change of heart, part renewal of social bonds, part reform of public life.

Too Many Rights, Too Few Responsibilities

February 02, 1995

A sociological prize of sorts ought to be given to the member of the TV audience who, during a show about the S&L mess exclaimed, "The tax payers shouldn't pay for this, the government should!"

We Shouldn’t Squander Our Moral Outrage

December 27, 1994

These days grownups piece together circumstantial evidence not, to solve a double murder in LA, but to divine whether or not a Supreme Court Justice uttered the words, "there is pubic hair on my Coke can." Reporters garner from the fact that he kept his Playboy copies in the proper sequence, signs of obsessiveness (librarians, take note) and indirect proof that he was given to kinky expressions. An FBI agent Director was severely reprimanded for giving his son a ride to school to in the official car, some seven blocks. (Little wonder no one had time to supervise Mr. Ames.) In a society in which million of children promiscuously copulate with children and sire children they cannot possibly take care off, we find the time and moral fervor to fuss about a professor who used an unchaste imagery in his English Lit class (something about belly dancing being like a vibrator under a plate). The "F" word was recently removed from the official Scrabble dictionary. Are we about to swing from a grave state of moral deficiency to an overdose of moralism, without even stopping to rest in some kind of a normal state, say somewhere near the golden rule?

U.S. Schools Rediscover the Virtue of Virtues

December 26, 1994

In St. Louis, 183,000 school-age children participate in an educational program aimed at the character of students.

Settling for Less, Where Do the Refugees Go?

December 16, 1994

In Key West, Florida, a sign facing Cuba reads: "When the last Cuban leaves Cuba, please turn off the light." Things actually happen the other way around: as Cubans find themselves without light and other essentials, they leave the island in droves. So far the focus has been on the refugees intercepted at sea and detained at Guantanamo Bay. We rarely hear about the roughly 30,000 Cubans who have landed in the U.S. this year. Their experience can teach us a lesson about how to address social problems.

Foundation Reports: a Call for More Than Exhortation

December 13, 1994

Once every few years a major report prepared by or for a foundation lands on my desk. The report is typically richly executed. It has compelling pictures, well-designed layouts, a long list of luminaries who participated in drafting it, and a considerable list of well-known consultants is credited.

Stop Cruelty to Kids

December 11, 1994

Never before, in my 33 years of following how public policy is fashioned in this and other countries, have I witnessed an idea fly from the pen of a polemist to draft legislation in such lightening speed. The call to place illegitimate children in orphanages has not been subject to half-serious examination by any of the think tanks from the right, left, or center. It has not been the subject of congressional hearings, opened to public commentary, examined by educators, psychologists or practically anyone else. In effect, the proposal is so vague that the few who talk about it refer to rather different ideas. And still we are off and running. Rep. Newt Gingrich R-Ga.) included in the Personal Responsibility Act, a part of the “Contract with America,” the provision that states may use federal grant funds “to establish and operate orphanages.”

Crime, No Punishment

November 01, 1994

Citing recent declines in the rate of violent crime, some members of the press argue that the public's views on the subject are unreasonable, even hysterical.