Download audioToward a Civil Society

When French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1830s, he was amazed that Americans were constantly forming associations to advance the arts, build libraries and hospitals, and meet social needs of every kind. If something good needed to be done, Americans didn't expect politicians and bureaucrats to do it for them.

Today, things have changed. Somewhere, many of us got the idea that government is responsible for our social welfare. Yet, we sense there's something wrong when government consumes 41 percent of our income.

Well, something is wrong. No matter how much money we send the government, it can't adequately provide what only we can: a realistic assessment of local problems, and what to do about them. This is why the price keeps going up. The bureaucrats keep missing the target, and we keep sending them money, hoping someday they'll get it right.

But they won't. There's no substitute for voluntarily doing our part for our neighbors, our communities, and our cities. It's time we stop expecting Lansing or Washington to do it for us. Each of us needs to think about what we can do, and then just do it.