Thursday, October 3, 2013

Intermediary Institutions and Civil Society

Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke is considered to be one of the founders of conservatism. One of his criticisms of the French Revolution was that, by destroying the intermediate institutions which help maintain order in society, the state would be left with only the tool of coercive power and this would lead to tyranny. The French Revolution eventually claimed that the state was the source of all all moral and political authority. The progeny of this type of tyranny turned out to be Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.

The basic inclination of conservatives is thus to incorporate the basic values of the culture in the intermediary institutions so that there is less need for the coercive powers of government. For conservatives, in particular, there should thus be a concern about the recent problems in almost all of our intermediary institutions. It is hard to think, for example, of any national bank, Wall Street firm, insurance company, or health care company that has not been the subject of very large regulatory penalties. There has been a rather remarkable failure of the elites.

On the other hand, the more secular liberals have been reluctant to address the cultural issues concerning the intermediate institution of the family. The inclination of liberals has also been to raise the cost of government and entitlements even in the presence of an unsustainable national debt and to mortgage the future, thus breaking the contract with the next generation to which Edmund Burke also referred.