The nanny state may have drained civil society, but simply removing the nanny state will not restore it. There have to be programs that encourage local paternalism: early education programs with wraparound services to reinforce parenting skills, social entrepreneurship funds to reweave community, paternalistic welfare rules to encourage work.
Second, conservatives should not be naÃ¯ve about sin. We are moving from a world dominated by big cross-class organizations, like public bureaucracies, corporations and unions, toward a world dominated by clusters of networked power. These clusters ”” Wall Street, Washington, big agriculture, big energy, big universities ”” are dominated by interlocking elites who create self-serving arrangements for themselves. Society is split between those bred into these networks and those who are not. Moreover, the U.S. economy is increasingly competing against autocratic economies, which play by their own self-serving rules.
Sometimes government is going to have to be active to disrupt local oligarchies and global autocracies by fomenting creative destruction ”” by insisting on dynamic immigration policies, by pumping money into research, by creating urban environments that nurture innovation, by spending money to give those outside the clusters new paths to rise.