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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.

Who Should Pay for Care?

October 09, 1994

Consider the problem of the welfare state. It takes various forms in different countries, but at the end of the 20th century it poses some common problems throughout the world. Citizens, by and large, like the idea of a system to assist them if they fall on hard times. But, increasingly, governments everywhere are coming to the realisation that the public purse cannot afford to support welfare systems at current levels.

Has the ACLU Lost It’s Mind?

October 01, 1994

Foes of the American Civil Liberties Union believe it has veered off to the left; friends argue that friends should not citizen a beleaguered champion of the freedom of speech.

Teledemocracy

October 01, 1994

THE IDEA OF technologically enhanced national "town meetings" has been around at least since Buckminster Fuller proposed it a generation ago. And it is not likely to go away just because Ross Perot dropped out of the presidential race. The idea deserves serious examination, because if the 1992 election campaign has taught us anything, it is that most Americans feel alienated from national politics as currently practiced, and there is a need to find ways to reinvolve them. Simply changing the cast of characters may not do the trick. Public-opinion polls show a deep sense of disaffection that reaches well beyond the candidates themselves.

Yuppie Redemption

September 01, 1994

When Hollywood lays off its usually cynically commercial staff and turns to the crucial crisis of our time, the resulting "redemption" movies are rather light, but not without merit.

Marrying Off Teens Won’t Solve the Welfare Problem

July 26, 1994

Just as the House GOP and the Clinton administration are finally moving toward putting welfare clients to work, something the conservatives have demanded for decades, the conservatives shifted the goal posts.

New Signposts on the Road to Civilisation

July 15, 1994

OUR CULTURE looks at new-born children through rose-tinted glasses. "They're so cute," everyone coos. Yet looked at objectively their behaviour is rather like that of animals: they take in food, expel waste and shriek. More importantly, they command no inborn moral or social values, and they do not develop such virtues on their own. These facts are the historical reason why families - nuclear and extended - were entrusted with civilising these little creatures.

Incorrigible

July 01, 1994

Just how incorrigible is human nature, and what lessons on public policy follow once we come to terms with the sobering answer to this age old question?

Balancing Act. Don’t sacrifice the common good to personal ‘rights’

May 16, 1994

It is no accident that the issue of gun sweeps in Chicago’s public housing recently caught the attention of the president of the United States and the national press. The question of the legitimacy of those sweeps has profound implications for the future of civility in American society.

Statism and the Civil Society in Europe

May 01, 1994

A State Department official ordered this anecdote in a briefing to an American sociologist on his way to Europe to explore interest in communitarian ideas there.