Yuval Levin says that the nation needs a new vision, and we don’t have a lot of time to come up with it.
[Update a few minutes later]
This explains the plight of the blacks (and to a lesser extent, some other minorities):
Human societies do not work by obeying orderly commands from central managers, however well meaning; they work through the erratic interplay of individual and, even more, of familial and communal decisions answering locally felt desires and needs. Designed to offer professional expert management, our bureaucratic institutions assume a society defined by its material needs and living more or less in stasis, and so they are often at a loss to contend with a people in constant motion and possessed of a seemingly infinite imagination for cultural and commercial innovation. The result is gross inefficiency — precisely the opposite of what the administrative state is intended to yield.
In our everyday experience, the bureaucratic state presents itself not as a benevolent provider and protector but as a corpulent behemoth — flabby, slow, and expressionless, unmoved by our concerns, demanding compliance with arcane and seemingly meaningless rules as it breathes musty air in our faces and sends us to the back of the line. Largely free of competition, most administrative agencies do not have to answer directly to public preferences, and so have developed in ways that make their own operations easier (or their own employees more contented) but that grow increasingly distant from the way we live.
Unresponsive ineptitude is not merely an annoyance. The sluggishness of the welfare state drains it of its moral force. The crushing weight of bureaucracy permits neither efficiency nor idealism. It thus robs us of a good part of the energy of democratic capitalism and encourages a corrosive cynicism that cannot help but undermine the moral aims of the social-democratic vision.
Worse yet, because the institutions of the welfare state are intended to be partial substitutes for traditional familial, social, religious, and cultural mediating institutions, their growth weakens the very structures that might balance our society’s restless quest for prosperity and novelty and might replenish our supply of idealism.
This is the second major failing of this vision of society — a kind of spiritual failing. Under the rules of the modern welfare state, we give up a portion of the capacity to provide for ourselves and in return are freed from a portion of the obligation to discipline ourselves. Increasing economic collectivism enables increasing moral individualism, both of which leave us with less responsibility, and therefore with less grounded and meaningful lives.
Moreover, because all citizens — not only the poor — become recipients of benefits, people in the middle class come to approach their government as claimants, not as self-governing citizens, and to approach the social safety net not as a great majority of givers eager to make sure that a small minority of recipients are spared from devastating poverty but as a mass of dependents demanding what they are owed. It is hard to imagine an ethic better suited to undermining the moral basis of a free society.
Meanwhile, because public programs can never truly take the place of traditional mediating institutions, the people who most depend upon the welfare state are relegated to a moral vacuum. Rather than strengthening social bonds, the rise of the welfare state has precipitated the collapse of family and community, especially among the poor.
Go to Detroit or my home town of Flint, Michigan, to see it in all its inglory.