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In “Democracy in America,” published in 1835, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at length about the voluntary associations he found here. These groups of citizens came together to get things done, to build a schoolhouse, or whatever. They provided a core of what today we call civil society.
Now the worry is about “the decay of civil society as represented in part by the decline of thousands of private, voluntary organizations (Rotarians, Elks, et. al.) that have contributed so much to social order and progress in America.”
George Melloan, the worrier here, was reviewing “The Great Degeneration,” the new book by Niall Ferguson, a Scot of some pop culture fame who teaches at Harvard. Ferguson did “Civilization: Is the West History?” a six-part documentary in 2011.
Our capital budget offers a way to consider activities we have abdicated to government, or at least have kicked upstairs to the state from more local governments — counties and municipalities.
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