The America We Need

David Brooks is at his best when he’s not talking economics or politics but culture. Today’s column in the NYTimes is a good example. He’s praising Rick Santorum, even though he thinks Santorum’s approach is simplistic.

He appreciates Santorum’s recognition that the America we need is not composed of atomized individuals. Santorum sees an America built of families and communities. He recognizes that only these can rebuild the character of our society, and that while government can and does play a destructive role, it can also play a (limited) positive role. Brooks cites a number of specific policy examples, such as AmeriCorp, which Santorum has come around to supporting.

The shortfall, Brooks says, is that Santorum doesn’t quite see that rebuilding American character is not just a matter of eviscerating the coastal elites. (If it were, the citizens of the Deep South would show immeasurably more virtue than the citizens of Boston and San Francisco. They don’t, by any measure.)

Our character breakdown, Brooks says, comes from the very same forces that give us great economic dynamism: globalization, mobility, the “information-age economy built on self-transformation and perpetual rebranding.” It’s the free market that created these, not the government.

How do we build strong families and communities that foster civic character? Nobody has very convincing answers to that question.

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One Response to “The America We Need”

  1. Scott Bolinder Says:

    Wonderful analysis, Tim. Agree on Brooks. And you’ve offered up the right questions. You are a wise one, dear friend. More reason for more people to understand the Grand Story more! There’s gold in that narrative….

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