Carolina Journal Radio’s Mitch Kokai recently talked with Princeton Professor Robert George, a renowned scholar with wisdom about today’s society and the role of civic virtue. Here’s a taste:
Kokai: If we do a better job of inculcating this idea of civic virtue among the population, what sorts of benefits are we going to see in our society?
George: One thing I think we would see is a rebuilding of the institution of the family and a strengthening of the other institutions of civil society, which along with the family must play the primary roles in inculcating virtue and helping people to understand their responsibilities as well as their rights and so forth.
We’re suffering now because of the collapse of our institutions of civil society — families, religious institutions, civic associations of every description, fraternal organizations — that, as Tocqueville reminded us as far back as the 1830s, really are essential to the good functioning of the American scheme of ordered liberty, morally ordered liberty.
If the institutions of civil society fail, if they collapse, if they are eroded, what will happen? Well, we know perfectly well what will happen. Government will step in to play the role that should be played by the family, to play the role of father to the orphan, provider to the mother of the child with no father in the picture. And when government moves in, government grows. It becomes more intrusive. The tax burden increases.
There are some people, Mitch, who think that there’s some kind of tension or conflict between economic conservatism, as they call it, and social conservatism, as they call it. My heavens, the opposite is true. I have a new book out called Conscience and Its Enemies, and in the very first chapter I try to explain why economic and social conservatives, far from being adversaries, are singing from the same hymn book.
A social conservative needs to be an economic conservative. A social conservative has a big stake in limited government. And the same goes in the other direction: An economic conservative should be a social conservative. An economic conservative has a big stake in the health of the institutions of civil society, beginning with the intact marriage-based family and with the institutions of religion and other civic associations, nongovernmental associations, that really should have the primary role in caring for those who are in need, in educating our children and inculcating virtue and so forth.
So it’s time for economic and social conservatives to stop being suspicious of each other and to work together, realizing that they have common goals. What is ironic, Mitch, is that the left understands this perfectly well. It’s amazing. Socialists always attack two things. What are they? The free-market economy and the family. They know the connection. Why can’t those of us on the conservative side see what they see?