Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tocqueville--my voyage of discovery

Let me begin with a personal aside. In my younger days I was very critical of the United States, based on my perception of its shallow optimism and materialism, and the pervasiveness of its popular culture. Growing up (like Susan Sontag) a fledgling intellectual in Los Angeles, it may be that this perception was inevitable.

The atmosphere of my parents’ home was quite politically oriented, so it was understandable that I should show some interest in political theory. First, I looked critically at Communism—to free myself from the indoctrination provided by my parents. I used what sources were at hand: Bertrand Russell, Ortega y Gasset, and above all Arthur Koestler.

By contrast, I avoided Tocqueville as the presumed celebrator of the American way. Some probably still see him that way, the author of a supreme tribute to our virtues by, of all people, a Frenchman.

In the past three or four years I finally turned to Tocqueville. Why? There have been new advances in scholarship, showing that he was the author not just of one masterpiece: but of two, as his Ancien Regime book, even though, unfinished, now ranks with Democracy in America.

Second, I felt a need to reexamine my own political views, which may be defined as libertarianism with sanity. In the age of Bush and Katrina this no longer seemed sufficient.

Thomas Jefferson, I believe, remarked that everyone has two countries: his own and France. I don’t know how that observation plays out for others, but it has been true for me.

Political theorists are of two types. First there are armchair thinkers, with no practical experience, who seek to work out theoretical principles from reading and observation. These, from Hobbes to Strauss, and the majority. Then there are the retired practitioners such as Machiavelli and (horresco referens) Kissinger.

Unusually, Tocqueville was both. He researched and wrote the main part of his Democracy in America while still in his twenties. He had had no political experience to speak of (though he did serve as a magistrate in Versailles). His later career was quite different, for he became a deputy in the French parliament and, for a few months, during the Second Republic, foreign minister.

The personal pathos of Tocqueville is that he recognized all too clearly that his class, the aristocrats, was moribund. He saw the growing supremacy of two transcendent forces: democracy and centralization. The advance of Democracy is inexorable and despite some drawbacks, desirable. In that sense America holds up to Europe the mirror of its future (as indeed it did). Prophetically, he saw administrative centralization as a more serious problem

He acquired the database for his first major work in his trip to US starting at the end of his twenty-fifth year, accompanied his bosom buddy Gustave de Beaumont. The official purpose of the trip (from May 11, 1831 to February 20, 1832—a little over nine months), was to study prisons, and many dutiful visits ensued. However, Tocqueville and Beaumont covered North America from Atlantic to the frontier, and from the banks of the St. Lawrence to New Orleans. Early on Tocqueville understood that it was his destiny to interpret the American national character, using a comparative approach involving France and Europe.

In a letter written shortly after his arrival he enounced one of his basic principles. There are no political institutions that are good or bad in and of themselves. Instead, everything depends on the physical conditions and the social reality of the people where they occur. In America he saw institutions that would devastate France. Others, suited to his own country would not work in America. In this key perception Tocqueville distanced himself from figures like Hegel and Marx, who stretched reality on a bed of system. His distrust of such approaches yielded a salutary antiformalism.

Although he had not yet visited Britain, Tocqueville regarded the Americans as the "truest Englishmen." In England the aristocracy was a veneer, serving to conceal the reality of the national type. The pluralistic Protestantism played a role, to be sure. Yet he saw the purest reflection of this character in the New England township system: This was democracy from the bottom up. Today, some observers, such as Robert Putnam, lament the decline of our voluntary institutions. Proclaiming this demise seems premature. First, we had in the sixties the new social movements of civil rights, feminism, and gays and lesbians. Now we have a new volunteerism in the blogosphere, an army of unpaid commentators who are reshaping the informational and political landscape.

As has been noted, unlike his contemporaries Hegel and Marx, Tocqueville shunned big theories. He preferred to suture phenomena one to another. As these connections are often counterintuitive, they tend to linger in the mind. Famously, he pointed out that religion flourishes mightily in America, despite—and because of—the absence of a state church of the type that Europeans tended to retain. Reflecting on his analysis of the last years of the ancien regime in France, he noted that the most perilous phase for a weak government is when it seeks to reform itself. Objectively, things are getting better, but at the same time the regime is cutting out the ground from its own feet. This point is true not only for the France of Louis XVI, but also for the Soviet Union of Gorbachev. Gorbachov’s perestroika was intended as a reformation preserving the hegemony of the Communist Party; instead, it destroyed it. Over and over again we see the relevance of Tocqueville’s ideas to today.

Another counterintuitive insight is his claim that America is the country where the precepts of Descartes are least studied but best applied. One may question this specific assertion. Yet there is no doubt that in all countries there is a largely invisible and unstated set of assumptions that are all the more powerful in that they are normally invisible. Perhaps our "Cartesianism" is one of these.

Tocqueville’s view of America was far less rosy than the celebrationist approach would concede. Early on, American hucksterism and money grubbing repelled him. He also held that the democratic spirit was not conducive to the production of great works of art and literature. These reservations are perhaps a matter of personal taste.

More serious is his concern that democracy could easily lead to the tyranny of the majority. He perceived an ongoing struggle between liberty and equality. Here he was less radical than Isaiah Berlin, who saw the increase of the one as automatically creating a diminution of the other, but he pointed to a serious problem.

One of his most insightful caveats was this. He foresaw that the great American Republic would survive only as long as its leaders could refrain from exploiting the principle of bribing the people with their own money. Unfortunately, we turned that corner some time ago.

We can be briefer in noting Tocqueville’s second great book on the Ancien Regime and the Revolution. He notes that ancien regime societies were everywhere the same in much of Europe. Why then did the Revolution break out in France? Many have seen the cause in the subversive writings of the intellectuals of the Enlightenment. Tocqueville went further. Eighteenth-century France already prefigured what was to become. That era saw the effective destruction of local aristocracy and a corresponding centralization of power in the king. It was only necessary to remove that person to complete the process. Tocqueville saw a great continuity in France from pre-Revolutionary to post-Revolutionary times. As one scholar commented, for him the French Revolution was not revolution at all.

Much else can be mined from Tocqueville’s copious writings, some of which (the letters) are only now being published. His very lack of system makes the process one of continuous discovery. I expect to be involved with him for some time.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Triumphant return of Tab Hunter at 74

Tab Hunter was the idol of my youth--the all-American boy, who happened to be gay (as the Hollywood grapevine correctly assessed). Arthur Gelien (as Tab was originally known) and I both went to Mount Vernon Junior High School in Los Angeles, though we just barely overlapped. Shortly thereafter, the future actor lied about his age and went into the Coast Guard. He had had a rough childhood, as his father abandoned his mother in the maternity ward.

For reasons that are still not entirely clear Tab Hunter’s movie career was truncated. Now, with the publication of a new book, he is making a triumphant return. Larry King interviewed him for one hour the other night. Hunter’s poise and articulateness struck me. As he indicated, he was rushed into stardom without being able to mature. But he took care of that: he matured and educated himself. Would that some of my college students could handle themselves as well in discussion.

He looked and sounded wonderful. His account of his closeted life during his days of stardom rang a bell--that was the way many of us lived. It is hard to imagine Tab attending an early Mattachine meeting.

So my early admiration for him was justified.

Tab and his costar, the gorgeous Natalie Wood, were icons of America. It turns out that this was true in a deeper sense. Wood was the child of Russian and French immigrants. Tab's mother was a (pre-)holocaust survivor. In those days we believed in the melting pot, now regarded as such a naive assumption. But Tab and Natalie showed that it could and did work. No one asked about his or her "ethnicity."

It turns out that the fifties were not so bad after all.

On October 14 Tab Hunter appeared at the Lincoln Center Barnes and Noble stores. The event was SRO, and I was lucky to get a seat.

Less tall than I would have expected, Tab was wonderfully trim and had a becoming California tan. The paparazzi were out in full force, and he was frequently interrupted by applause from the audience. Beaming from the sidelines was his partner, Alan Glasser. Glasser is a petit twinky type. Even without opening his mouth, he seemed very charming. (Tab apparently doesn't go for rough trade.)

The interviewer chose to ask Hunter about various Hollywood personalities. Apparently, the star long ago perfected the art of never saying anything bad about anyone who might be able to take reprisal. Always a good policy, this reluctance probably also reflects the brittleness of his closet in the early days. No stonethrowing from that vulnerable redoubt! Eventually this caution became a way of life. For those seeking gossip, though, there were slim pickings.

The only person he admitted he was not keen on was John Wayne--and even there Tab had no mean anecdotes. He opposed gay marriage (though not DP--has he heard of civil unions?), but gave no reason, except his conservative temperament.

I didn't get a chance to ask if he remembered me from Mount Vernon Junior High in LA. Gracious as he is, he would probably have said yes. What I really wanted to know was how much sex did he have and what kind before he met Tony Perkins.

I didn't buy the book, as I think I got the gist of it. All the same, Tab Hunter is a grand, grand guy.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

ID in broader context

This is a follow-up to my previous piece, to be found just below. In response, a friend has made a significant contribution to deciphering the puzzle of the continuing robustness of the ID controversy. He recalled that in his Catholic high school students were introduced to the critical approach to the Bible, specifically the four-source analysis of the Pentateuch. By contrast, religion was hardly ever mentioned in my secular schools in California. We had sex education, yes, but no religious education, which was regarded as a kind of third rail. Any teacher who touched it risked dismissal. The result was that by default most students derived their ideas of Christianity and the Bible from their churches, which were likely to be evangelical. For them, Scriptural inerrancy and the six-days of Creation were simply the way it was.

It is safe to predict that ridicule is not going to drive ID from the field. For the time being we are stuck with it, as a purported "alternative" to Darwinist evolution.

On reflection it seems to me that the ID ebullience results from the confluence of several factors. It is, if you will, overdetermined.

Among these factors are:

1) The growing demographic strength of the evangelicals, as against the declining "high church" denominations, where one might expect to find some indications of religious criticality and pluralism.

2) The deeply rooted American populist traditions of know-nothingism and anti-intellectualism, providing a continuing stream of distrust vis-a-vis specialist and "elite" opinion.

3) The American commitment to fair play and the requirement that both sides be heard, this occurring against the muted background of Feyerabend paradigm pluralism. It is true that we do not teach both sides of the Holocaust, but ID supporters do not acknowledge this parallel, which is a dubious one. Sometimes I think that the secularist anathema-hurlers do accept it, and expect that scorn, vigorously expressed, will do the trick. It will not.

4) The dearth of courses in the critical and comparative study of religion (as noted above). This absence allows the true believers to dominate the field. (On a personal note, I was brought up an atheist. I had heard vaguely of the Higher Criticism. Yet it was not until I was thirty-two, and completing my dissertation, that I learned of Wellhausen's four-source concept of the Pentateuch and the comparable three-source theory of the Gospels. Even so, I had to seek out this knowledge.)

5) The framing of ID within a kind of unified field of 1) the culture wars; and 2) the red-state/blue-state contrast. Many folks in the heartland assume that both Evolution and gay rights reflect an attempt by the pointy-headed elitists to impose their decadent values on decent people.

The conjunction of these factors makes it likely that ID will not soon expire. Analyses of the deficiencies of Behe, Dembski, or some other ID proponent (there are many differences among them), will not suffice to erase the persistence of the fostering elements I have noted above.

Recognizing the exasperation the controversy has caused, Michael Ruse, a well-known philosopher of science, has sought to explain one source of the acerbity. The following may be helpful.


The Evolution-Creation Struggle. Michael Ruse. viii + 327 pp. Harvard University Press, 2005. $25.95.

The summer of 2005, which marked the 80th anniversary of the Scopes trial, provided various reminders of the continuing controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution in the public schools of the United States. The annual reenactment of the trial in its hometown of Dayton, Tennessee, attracted even greater attention than usual, in large part because of numerous efforts throughout the nation to have "intelligent design" taught alongside the theory of evolution in science classes in the public schools. This campaign appeared to gain important support in August when President George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced that they favored the approach. Fortunately, the summer also witnessed the arrival on bookstore shelves of The Evolution-Creation Struggle, a carefully researched and cogently argued examination of this long-standing controversy by noted philosopher of science Michael Ruse. An observer of and participant in the debate on the topic for the past three decades, Ruse offers his readers historical and philosophical insight into the issues and ideas involved.

Deftly analyzing the last few centuries of Western intellectual history, Ruse convincingly argues that both "sides" in the debate may best be understood as responses to an underlying crisis of faith. This crisis developed gradually, reaching its zenith in the Enlightenment, as the verities associated with traditional religion came under attack. Responses tended to take one of two diverging paths: Many people, rejecting intellectual currents that they viewed as having removed God from the processes of nature, embraced an emotional evangelicalism. Others took a more reason-based approach, accepting the growing importance of science in modern thought and attempting to create an appropriate faith. This road led ultimately to deism and to a belief in progress, not just in the natural world but also in human culture and society.

For people on either path, the question was what the future was going to be like and what their current obligations were. The evangelicals were "premillennialists"—they believed that Jesus was going to return before the millennium (the thousand-year period before Judgment Day in the Book of Revelations) and that people should prepare for his coming by making themselves morally pure. Individual salvation and the return of Christ would be the precursors to a better world. (Ruse cites the current popularity of the Left Behind books as an excellent example of this particular religious outlook.) The believers in progress were postmillennialists; because they didn't think Jesus would return until after the millennium, they thought that people should try now to perfect human society. This embrace of cultural progress, in Ruse's view, prepared the ground for the development of evolutionary ideas. But it was Darwin's ability to craft a "science" of evolution that provided sympathetic individuals with "a reason to believe" in the new theory.

Ruse continues his analysis by tracing the development of evolutionism, a phenomenon distinct from evolution or evolutionary theory. Evolutionism was a cultural concept, a philosophy of progress that could be embraced with few qualms by many religious thinkers, particularly postmillennial Christians. As time went on, in fact, many progressive theologians appear to have downplayed the significance of a literal Second Coming and to have emphasized instead social and cultural reform as part of the church's mission. As Ruse points out, many contemporary evolutionists remain committed to this postmillennial religious view, seeing no necessary conflict between their scientific and religious thoughts and activities.

Full Text at American Scientist

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Intelligent Design fracas

These days a trial is occurring in Harrisburg to determine whether Intelligent Design will be taught in a Pennsylvania school as an alternative to Darwinism. At first sight, it might seem that we have regressed to the days of the Scopes trial of 1925, which pitted Evolution against creationism.

In the interval, however, much has changed in our conception of science. Defenders of Darwinism do not always appreciate this shift.

Let us start with the conventional view, which can be found in the writings of Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. According to this model, we begin with a substantial body of experiments or observations. Using generally recognized rules, this material is transformed empirically to yield scientific concepts. The concepts resulting from these operations remain unchallenged until a further body of evidence appears that causes them to be revised. In this way science truly progresses, moving ever closer to final truth.

In 1962 Thomas Kuhn published his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the most influential book of philosophy published in English during the 20th century. Kuhn challenged every element of the conventional view.

First, Kuhn held that there is a two-fold pattern of scientific discovery. Much of the time scientific workers accept a dominant paradigm, content to make minor modifications of it. This phase is termed "normal" science. At some point, however, the old paradigm collapses and is replaced by a new one. This is the revolutionary phase.

A paradigm is a cluster of themes, expectations, and problems. It is a holistic entity that is irrefutable. Moreover, paradigms are incommensurable; statements in one paradigm cannot be translated into another.

In the view of many who embraced the new concept its implications are profoundly relativistic. For example, Paul Feyerabend suggested that we need not limit ourselves to one paradigm only, but should entertain as many as possible: "anything goes." He would even include witchcraft and astrology. In his later years Kuhn (who died in 1996) sought to distance himself from his postmodern admirers. Nonetheless, the genie came out of the bottle in 1962, and things have not been the same since.

As noted with Feyerabend, some sought to push the Kuhnian concept to the limit. Others sought to retain elements of the traditional view, including the idea of scientific progress. Others pointed out that the word "paradigm" is polysemous, admitting (perhaps) of as many as 22 different senses.

Still the intellectual climate fundamentally changed. There can be no question of returning to the simple truths of the old Baconian-Newtonian model. Some of the defenders of Darwinism seem to seek to do just this, however, claiming that Evolution irrefutably rests upon a chain of observation, deduction (according to settled rules), and ascertainment. In this view Intelligent Design does not. Yet in a post-Kuhnian world neither theory can claim this solid foundation. The basis for the defense of Darwinism must lie elsewhere.

Kuhn’s challenge to the conventional model of scientific change belongs to the early sixties. At almost the same time the British historian of ideas, Frances Yates, advanced another. Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake in Rome in 1600, counts as a martyr to freedom of thought and a pioneer of modern science. In her 1964 book entitled Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Yates showed that the Italian thinker’s writings are permeated with references to the occult corpus associated with Hermes Trismegistus. Bruno was hardly an exemplar of the scientific method. Instead, he elicited fear from the authorities as a possible practitioner of magic arts—arts that might actually work, or so they suspected.

Yates and others have profiled many other scientists whose work took much of its initial impetus from sources that we would regard as irrational and superstitious. A noted example is Isaac Newton, who is known to have expended much energy on chronological, alchemical, and apocalyptic speculations. A full understanding of Newton requires attention to these occult interests. There is no need to cite further examples. The key point in all of this is that there is a difference between discovery and confirmation. Discovery may involve all sorts of serendipitous, even irrational motives. Confirmation requires replication and also, as Karl Popper has shown, refutability.

It is not clear whether the supporters of intelligent design are aware of their indebtedness to the trends inaugurated by Kuhn and Yates. Yates’ ideas of the occult would surely be repugnant to them. Still, the whole intellectual climate has changed since the sixties, and the Intelligent Design folks rank among the beneficiaries. An unintended consequence, if you will

I am not a supporter of Intelligent Design. It seems to me that its proponents need to come up with arguments that would be much more cogent than the ones they have advanced so far. Yet I would not rule this possibility out. That is what the hard-line evolutionists do, and this dogmatic tactic is harming them in two ways. First, as I have shown in the above remarks, they tend to go back to a conventional view about the history of science that is pre-Kuhn and pre-Yates. At this late date, that ploy will not work. With all due respect to them, it smacks of a reversion to the old time religion. Secondly, in their insistence that theirs is the only way, the Darwinists seem to violate the basic postulates of the liberal principle of dialogue. Hurling epithets about “flat earth” and “alchemy” will not silence this concern.

As I have indicated, this piece is not a plea for Intelligent Design. It seems to me unlikely that it will ever emerge as a competing paradigm, an acceptable alternative to Darwinism. Still, because of the changes in the intellectual climate I have outlined above, it does not suffice for the defenders of Darwin simply to hurl anathemas based on the situation prior to 1962.

Clearly we have not simply returned to the time of the Scopes trial eighty years ago. In the new context the opponents of evolution may be harder to defeat in the court of opinion now than they were at the time of Scopes.

Note: A book has recently been published purporting to reassess the Scopes trial. It is Marvin Olasky and John Perry, Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial. In the view of the authors, the trial has improperly taken its place as an icon of the conflict between Evolution and Creationism, a contest in which Evolution won. Reviews suggest that the authors, who are supporters of Intelligent Design, have not made their case. Olasky, be it noted, has had considerable influence on president Bush.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Neoliberalism at bay

Neoliberalism is a generic term in widespread use outside the United States. It designates a set of socioeconomic policies that seek to diminish, or at least limit the growth of government in favor of free-market solutions. The aim is to reduce regulation and taxes, increase privatization, and promote free enterprise as an unfettered engine of economic advance. As the general level of prosperity rises--so advocates argue--even the poor will be better off.

In the US the term fosters some confusion, as liberalism is still associated with big government, honoring the examples of the New Deal and the Great Society. Neoliberals view such policies as wrong-headed.

There is a significant overlap with the American movement known as Libertarianism. However, Libertarianism is not limited to economics, but undertakes a broader advocacy of freedom, including sexual expression and the use of mind-altering substances. On these matters, Neoliberalism is (as far as I can tell) silent. Still, in so far as Libertarians advocate deregulation, lower taxes, and so forth, their views will be implicated in the following critique.

The poster woman, so to speak, of Neoliberalism is Britain’s Margaret Thatcher. When she became Prime Minister in 1979, Britain had fallen behind its chief competitors on the Continent. Arguably this resulted from three decades of socialist policies. After the Thatcher reforms, Britain surged ahead. Significantly, Tony Blair’s government has retained most of the Thatcher reforms, showing that even left-wing governments can adhere to Neoliberalism when they choose.

After the fall of the Soviet bloc some fifteen years ago, Neoliberalism was implemented in several eastern European countries. These changes can cause considerable pain because there are losers as well as winners. Hence the expression "shock therapy." Efforts to apply the concept in the Third World have been less successful, allegedly because these have been incomplete.

In assessing the international dimension of Neoliberalism, one must note that, in seeming contradiction to the laissez-faire principle, these have been imposed, rather than chosen, usually by powerful institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. The ruling concepts are sometimes ascribed to a body of thinking known as the Washington Consensus. One of the flaws of this approach is the cookie-cutter principle. The international elite seeks to impose the same solution on all sorts of countries, ignoring their history and culture.

On the Left Neoliberalism has elicited much criticism, sometimes reasoned, sometimes scornful and alarmist. The rise of Neoliberalism in the 1970s upset the teleological certainty that the left had long entertained, of a gradual march towards total social ownership of the means of production. As Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper refuted historical inevitability a long time ago, we need not shed a tear over the shredding of this article of faith.

More substantively, it has been pointed out that Neoliberalism, is heartless, leaving the most vulnerable in society to their fates. In this way it serves to unravel the social fabric.

For some there is simply a dislike of business culture, of making money, and of what is perceived as an excessively materialistic set of values. Sometimes this emphasis is regarded as characteristic of the English-speaking world. Hence the apparent rejection by voters in France and Germany of the "Anglo-Saxon model."

To my mind the most important defect of Neoliberalism is its neglect of culture and history. The People’s Republic of China, which combines state intervention with hypercapitalism, is growing at the rate of 8% a year. South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore are also doing very well, and Vietnam is joining them. Argentina, a prime target of Neoliberal intervention, is not doing well. Rigidly economistic, Neoliberalism rides roughshod over cultural distinctiveness.

As Alexis de Tocqueville observed long ago, it is not so much the form of government that matters, as the way that each people in accord with its particular bent and gifts uses it. Economic advance then would seem to require in many cases not simply the imposition of a new set of economic policies, but a concerted effort to change the culture. Such attempts would now bump up against the tenets of multiculturalism, which allege that all cultures are of equal dignity.

Sometimes privatization works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In other cases a mixed approach offers the best solution. Living in upper Manhattan, I have had the opportunity to observe the economic revival of Harlem. To a significant extent this is due to private investment, from Magic Johnson’s creation of a mall on 125th Street to the many brownstones that have been rehabbed by upper middle-class couples. However, the role of astute politicians, who have been honing their skills over the decades has been crucial in directing public resources to the effort. The revival of Harlem would not have been possible without the general improvement in New York City. Across the East River, though, Bedford-Stuyvesant has not been doing so well. Evidently, culture operates on a micro-level, producing differences even within cities and within ethnic groups.

It is clear, at all events, that privatization fundamentalism is not the answer.

More broadly, recent events in the United States have highlighted the limitations of Neoliberalism and its half-sister Libertarianism. The administration of George Bush has departed from Neoliberal ideas, especially in it profligate spending. To the extent that it has applied Neoliberal ideas, the current Republican regime in Washington has not done very well. Tax cuts have served mainly to further the prosperity of the rich and the superrich. The gap between rich and poor in the United States is now huge; we have entered a new Gilded Age. Intervening in Iraq was certainly not called for by Neoliberal principles and the huge waste of money there is making it harder to accomplish other things.

Not surprisingly, Katrina evoked some more-of-the-same “solutions” from the Neoliberal camp. The Heritage Foundation had a symposium which showcased thirty-two proposals—a few good, most bad, and the whole totally inadequate. The New York Times columnist John Tierney proposed that Wal-Mart take over FEMA’s duties in disaster relief.

None of this stuff, at least overtly, came from the president. Bush, taking a leaf from LBJ, promises a $200 billion reconstruction program. When it comes to the economy this government cannot "stay the course."

The appalling television images from New Orleans revealed something else that has long been evident to those who would but look. We now have two nations, one mainly white and prosperous, the other black and brown and poor. We must now act decisively to repair this huge gap in the social fabric. Alas, as far as I can see, at this juncture neither Neoliberalism nor Libertarianism can offer anything useful.

To be sure, it is much easier to erode the fabric of social solidarity than to reconstruct it. We can no longer be complacent; Katrina has shattered the easy option of looking the other way at our most challenging social problem. If we are to remain a single nation, that task of social reconstruction is the most urgent task awaiting us today.