Saturday, April 16, 2016

You can't eat chivalry

Smart conservative Yuval Levin in the Wall Street Journal on a post-Trump conservatism (which bears a remarkable resemblance to pre-Trump smart conservatism, but anyway) --

Indeed, the revival of the mediating institutions of community life is essential to a modernizing conservatism. These institutions—from families to churches to civic and fraternal associations and labor and business groups—can help balance dynamism with cohesion and let citizens live out their freedom in practice. They can keep our diversity from devolving into atomism or dangerous cultural, racial and ethnic Balkanization. And they can help us to use our multiplicity to address our modern challenges.

This is the old Burkean "little platoons" refrain, except that Levin has read enough Burke to know the phrase is dodgy, more of the Marie-Antoinette Burke than the liberal Burke. One huge gap in his argument: it's all about bottom-up from the people approaches to public policy, but he never explains where people would get the time to do all this platooning.

That lack of time is partly a matter of wages and productivity which is not addressed at all in his framework, leaving only the independently wealthy and the unemployed with the time for his idealized community approach.

But it's even worse than that, because in Levin's world, ordinary people are actually super-consumers, directly managing their own health care and educational choices from thousands of non-centralized providers.

So after they make the right choice on a doctor, hospital, and price plan for their busted ligaments, and choose the right schools for their kids based on remarkably accurate observations of teacher performance, they'll then spend a few hours at the public library (which will of course have enough budget to be open in the evenings) discussing locally-driven ways to solve that pollution problem emanating from the next county over. The age of calculators indeed!

UPDATE: David Brooks praises Levin's associated book Fractured Republic but obliquely criticizes its detachment from political structures.

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