To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don’t get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché “nothing worth having comes easily”). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences. There aren’t many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something–good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith. Two clarifications: “Community” can embrace people who are scattered geographically. “Vocation” can include avocations or causes. . . . It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life–the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one’s personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships–coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness–occurs within those four institutions. Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that’s what’s wrong with the European model. It doesn’t do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.
This is a profound summary of the problem created by too much government, one that makes no particular ideological claim but simply states the facts of the situation on the ground, where we all have to deal with the fallout of excessive government intervention. Bravo, Mona, for the excellent writing.
Significantly, Charen closes with a refrain that’s been sounded before, both here and elsewhere, namely that the primary result of European-style socialism has been a self-indulgent, aging society with no particular interest in life – not even that of reproducing itself. Individuals can defy these continental tendencies, of course, but on the whole, what more can be said about a people whose birth rate is below the replacement level even as their very way of life is threatened by an influx of Muslim immigrants who too often actively work against the core values of their new homeland?
Reading Mona’s article I had a brainstorm of an idea for a new book based on progressive values. It’s called The Purposeless Un-driven Life. Wanna buy it? I didn’t think so.
This is not the kind of change that America needs. Just the opposite, in fact.