Posts tagged with: great society

The Fall 2016 Acton Lecture Series continued on October 1st with an address by American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, who spoke on the topic of his latest book, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America.

Conservatives are often vexed by the fact that liberal policies and their supporters are viewed by the public as more compassionate to the poor even though a great deal of evidence exists to show that that liberal “solutions” to any number of social problems—while superficially compassionate—often create as many or more problems than they solve in society. Why are people so inclined to support politicians and pundits who promote policies that demonstrably disadvantage the downtrodden? And why are people inclined to credit supporters of those counterproductive policies as being more compassionate and caring than those who promote ideas that actually lift the poor out of their poverty?

Arthur Brooks argues that a major part of the problem is in the methods of persuasion that conservatives have tended to use. He then looks to the past to show why Ronald Reagan was so successful in his political career, and proposes that today’s conservatives would do well to follow Reagan’s example: be happy warriors who fight for people, and not against bad policies.

You can view Brooks’ full presentation below. And as a bonus, after the jump I’ve included videos of the two speeches Brooks mentioned in his address: Ronald Reagan’s 1980 speech accepting the Republican nomination for president in Detroit, Michigan, and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech, delivered as the commencement address to the University of Michigan’s class of 1964 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


The Great Society only made things worse, says Acton’s co-founder and executive director, Kris Mauren. He gave the final lecture during Northwood’s University’s series, “The Great Society at 50.” Mauren’s talk, titled “Alternatives to the Great Society,” argued that the programs of the Great Society have likely exacerbated issues of poverty and created a “culture of dependency.” A recent article from Midland Daily News summarizes this lecture:

“I am not suggesting we do nothing, but what we are doing isn’t working,” Mauren said. “We need a new paradigm.”

Before Johnson declared war on poverty, society had already created citizen associations.

“Society organized itself to meet needs,” Mauren said. “Fraternal societies helped to care for members.”

These societies helped people with medical care, among other things, and assisted those in short-term need.

At times when large-scale crises occur “that is the exact time for charity… it is appropriate for the government to step in,” Mauren said.


[Part 1 of 12 here]

In the 1950s and ‘60s, blacks were winning the civil rights they should have had all along, but in the midst of this positive trend, increasingly aggressive minimum wage regulations and extensive welfare programs were beginning to displace a comparatively free market of labor and private charity. The communities flooded with this state-sponsored mode of redistributive justice now face far higher levels injustice in the form of unpunished crimes and community breakdown than before the redistributive justice arrived.

So, for instance, (more…)

raphaelsanzio_healingofthelameman - CopyJohn Teevan’s recent profile of Bob Woodson and the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE) reminded me of a profoundly impactful tour I took of George Wythe High School in Richmond, Va., which was led by Mr. Woodson as a case study of CNE success.

The tour was part of a seminar with the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, and was intended to showcase effective solutions to social problems. In this, it greatly succeeded, highlighting that any such solutions can only be effective insofar as they take into account the full needs and dreams of the human person.

The school had recently emerged from a season of heavy violence and crime, due in large part to its partnership with CNE’s Violence-Free Zone Initiative, which seeks to restore peace and trust to broken communities by equipping local schools with on-the-ground “Youth Advisors” and partnering with local organizations, churches, and law enforcement.

Rep. Steve Southerland, who also joined the tour, wrote a brief account of the trip, which includes a good summary of the initiative and how it’s benefited George Wythe:

This violence-reduction and high-risk student mentoring program prepares students to learn by equipping them through relationships with the skills and knowledge necessary to overcome violence. The Richmond public schools system has worked in conjunction with CNE to create the Violence-Free Zone. Youth advisors who are affiliated with the Richmond Outreach Center, a local church, and who have overcome similar challenges, work as hall monitors, mediators, character coaches, and trusted friends.  For the 2009-2010 school year, George Wythe reported a 26% decrease in fighting, a 68% decrease in truancy, and a 63% reduction in dropouts since the inception of the Violence-Free Zone program. (emphasis added)

Led by Woodson, we able to interact with several Youth Advisers and local pastors, each of whom poured out their hearts, telling numerous stories of reconciliation and restoration with students and explaining how, thanks to the people and programs now in place, many conflicts are being promptly defused while students see greater and greater levels of success and empowerment—spiritually, socially, academically, and beyond. (more…)

A recent speech by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio laid out what his press office terms “Conservative Reforms for Combating Poverty.” It began well and had a nice line or two emphasizing the role family breakdown plays in perpetuating generational poverty, but then it went all technocratic and wobbly.

So, for instance, at one point he argued that a lack of education is one reason for the decline of marriage among the poor, noting that “64% of adults with college degrees are married, while only 47% of those with a high-school education or less are.” How does he know that being married doesn’t make one more likely to pursue higher education, or that both tendencies aren’t caused by something else? (more…)

A recent piece in The Washington Post by Lori Montgomery reports that conservative U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan has been working on solutions to poverty with Robert Woodson, solutions rooted in face-to-face compassion, spiritual transformation and neighborhood enterprise. The Post seems to want to praise Ryan (R. Wis.) for his interest in the poor, but to do so it first has to frame that interest as something foreign to conservatism:

Paul Ryan is ready to move beyond last year’s failed presidential campaign and the budget committee chairmanship that has defined him to embark on an ambitious new project: Steering Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp.

The Post’s tendentious description of the tea party movement is contradicted by data laid out in Arthur Brooks’ Gross National Happiness, which shows that conservatives, on average, give a significantly higher percentage of their income to charitable causes than liberals do.

In its defense, the article does have a poster child for its misleading stereotype of conservatism — Paul Ryan’s 2012 presidential election running mate Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire caught on film writing off the bottom 47% of American earners as unreachable freeloaders who don’t pay any taxes. But what Romney has to do with your rank and file tea party conservative is never made clear in the article.

Because it is right, because it is wise, and because, for the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty … Lyndon B. Johnson’s Special Message to Congress, March 16, 1964

Anthony Bradley, commenting on the preference black voters showed for President Obama, points out that Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty policies “introduced perverse incentives against saving money, starting businesses, getting married, and they discouraged fathers from being physically and emotionally present for their children — resulting in generational welfare dependence — black voters are lured to choose dependence over liberation.” The full text of his essay follows. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.