"Will you tell me how to prevent riches from becoming the effects of temperance and industry? Will you tell me how to prevent riches from producing luxury? Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminancy intoxication extravagance Vice and folly? When you will answer me these questions, I hope I may venture to answer yours. Yet all these ought not to discourage us from exertion, for with my friend Jeb, I believe no effort in favor of Virtue is lost, and all good Men ought to struggle both by their Council and Example."
This book was mentioned in a WSJ book review.
Humility - An Unlikely Biography of America's Greatest Virtue
by David J. Bobb, Ph.D.
There is no formula for becoming humble—not for individuals, and not for nations.
Benjamin Franklin’s dilemma—one he passed on to the young United States—was how to achieve both greatness and humility at once. The humility James Madison learned as a legislator helped him to mold a nation, despite his reputation as a meek, timid, and weak man. The humility of Abigail Adams fed her impossible resilience. Humility of all kinds is deeply ingrained in our American DNA. Our challenge today is to rediscover and reawaken this utterly indispensable, alarmingly dormant national virtue before it’s too late.
In Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue, Dr. David J. Bobb traces the “crooked line” that is the history of humility in political thought. From Socrates to Augustine to Machiavelli to Lincoln, passionate opinions about the humble ruler are literally all over the map. Having shown classical, medieval, and Christian ideas of humility to be irreconcilable, Dr. Bobb asserts that we as a nation are faced with a difficult choice. A choice we cannot put off any longer.
“The power promised by humility is power over oneself, in self-government,” says Dr. Bobb. “[But] humility’s strength is obscured by the age of arrogance in which we live.”
George Washington’s humility, as great as it was, cannot substitute for ours today. We must reintegrate this fundamental virtue if there is to be an American future. The rediscovery of humility’s strength awaits.
By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
More and more men are dropping out of American society. They aren't going to college, they aren't holding down jobs, they aren't getting married and they aren't becoming fathers. Current explanations typically involve blaming the men themselves: Some blame pandemic immaturity (XY-chromosomers won't "man up" and accept adult responsibility for wives and children). Other cite a "Cardboard Man" rigidity that makes men unwilling to function as househusbands or amanuenses to the female professionals increasingly favored by our deskwork economy.
Helen Smith, a practicing psychologist and blogger for PJ Media ("Dr. Helen"), offers an alternative theory: "Most men are not acting irresponsibly because they are immature or because they want to harm women; they are acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives today's society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers." They are "going Galt," as Ms. Smith puts it—imitating John Galt, the industrialist titan in Ayn Rand's 1957 novel, "Atlas Shrugged," who hides out in a gulch to defy the big-government welfare state. (Ms. Smith is a self-described libertarian and Rand fan.)
The statistics that Ms. Smith proffers are impressively dismal. Male workforce participation has plummeted. In 1970, some 80% of working-age men were employed full-time, in contrast to the 66% employed full-time nowadays, Ms. Smith notes. Women today earn 58% of U.S. bachelor's degrees. This is partly because, as Christina Hoff Sommers wrote in her 2001 book, "The War Against Boys" (cited admiringly by Ms. Smith), the K-12 education system that feeds into college favors docile, conformist girls over aggressive, competitive boys. Colleges, as well, are riddled with feminist ideology, decimate their athletic programs in the name of Title IX and regard male students as likely rapists in their interactions with their female classmates.
Ms. Smith argues that men are simply reacting to a woman-centric culture that systemically belittles them as bumbling incompetents, denigrates their achievements and outright discriminates against them in such venues as family court. Mothers usually get custody of the children after a divorce, even if they have cheated on their husbands. Husbands sometimes end up forced to support children who aren't genetically theirs. For women, it's "my body, my choice," whereas men can be stuck writing child-support checks for 18 years even if the mother was a one-night stand who lied about using birth control. Ms. Smith blames not only feminists but passive "Uncle Tims," as she calls them, who go along with all this because, well, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially if she is your wife or your boss or she decides to start a Sandra Fluke-inspired boycott of you or your company.
This is a potentially persuasive thesis—yet Ms. Smith hasn't done much to advance it with hard evidence. Her book contains surprisingly few references to actual studies. For her assertion that more than one million American men may be currently raising another man's child unwittingly, her source is . . . a 2007 article in Men's Health magazine. A "men's' rights" blogger named Douglas Galbi is her source for a statement that about 50,000 people are behind bars on any given day for failure to pay child support. Indeed, much of Ms. Smith's material comes from the comments section on her own "Dr. Helen" blog. These commenters tend to be men who got burned in a divorce or other relationship. Divorce and discord between the sexes can be a nasty business, bringing out the worst in all concerned, including a tendency on the part of affected men to indulge in a level of victimological self-pity worthy of the most irritating feminists.
Some of Ms. Smith's commenters seem to be mostly victims of their own poor judgment—such as "Anonymous," who married a woman he thought was his "soul mate." After Anonymous lost his job, the soul mate started sleeping with another man in Anonymous's own bed, then left Anonymous and took him to the cleaners in the resultant divorce. "The adultery doesn't seem to matter to the court," he complained. While visiting his sick parents in a Louisiana hospital, Emile, a veterinarian cited in Ms. Smith's chapter on paternity fraud, engaged in oral sex with a nurse named Debra while wearing a condom—and then discovered that Debra had used the condom's contents to make him a father. Maybe Emile should have had a cup of coffee in the hospital cafeteria instead.
The real reason for such moral chaos is that we are living in a world where sexual and marital expectations have been remade by progressives male and female in the name of personal freedom, in which just about any arrangement non-judgmentally goes. No-fault divorce means exactly that. It means that adultery is on a moral par with slurping your soup, so what's wrong with an adulterous wife's getting half the marital property? The laws about which Ms. Smith complains long predate the rise of feminism. Bastardy laws that require fathers to support the children they sire out of wedlock date to Elizabethan times. Those laws and others grew out of an era in which lifelong marriage was the norm, copulation was supposed to occur within wedded bonds and nobody pretended that sex wasn't likely to lead to babies. They can work ultra-punitively in our time when few wish to accept the consequences of a failure of self-restraint.
Ms. Smith rightly protests the feminization of contemporary culture, and she rightly urges men—who, after all, built the civilization onto which feminism has latched itself—to start fighting back. But to win such battles she will need to construct arguments likely to persuade others besides the angry, alienated men who click onto her blog and mourn that their "soul mate" turned out to be not much of a mate.
Ms. Allen is the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."
A version of this article appeared June 26, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Adam's Discontent.
Post-World War II Great Britain was the full, fearless application of leftism — what Margaret Thatcher called “those banal and bureaucratic instruments of coercion, confiscatory taxation, nationalization and oppressive regulation.” The result was dysfunction, decay, drabness and demoralization. Distinguished men of the left had seized their moment of promise, and the promise had lost. “Wherever [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Sir Stafford Cripps has tried to increase wealth and happiness,” said journalist Colm Brogan, “grass never grows again.”
Thatcher refused to live quietly amid the ruins. She developed a critique of democratic socialism both rowdy and libertarian. At Oxford, she read F.A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” a critique of state planning that became a lifelong influence. Later, she encountered Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and its Enemies,” which she credited for exposing the fraudulent “science” of socialism. Thatcher embraced these free-market theories with cheerful, disruptive exuberance. When Aneurin Bevan accused Conservatives of being “lower than vermin,” Thatcher and other young activists took to wearing “vermin” badges, featuring a little blue rat.
But alongside these libertarian beliefs, or perhaps beneath them, ran a strong religious current. Thatcher described Methodism as her “anchor of stability.” Through C.S. Lewis — who “had the most impact on my intellectual religious formation” — she was exposed to the idea of a Natural Law accessible by reason.
During her early career, these libertarian and religious tendencies went largely unreconciled. In her autobiography, Thatcher admitted to absorbing the “unanswerable criticisms of socialism” long before comprehending the full meaning of “a limited government under a rule of law” — the first made her a free marketeer; the second a moralist.
As a young MP, Thatcher supported the decriminalization of homosexuality and legal abortion in the hardest cases — which she regarded as redressing “anomalies or unfairnesses” in the law. But she later concluded: “I now see that we viewed them too narrowly. . . . Taking all of the ‘liberal’ reforms of the 1960s together, they amount to more than their individual parts. They came to be seen as providing a radically new framework within which the younger generation would be expected to behave.”
Surveying the cultural wreckage of family breakdown, welfare dependence and crime, Thatcher argued that “a functioning free society cannot be value-free”: “Freedom will destroy itself if it is not exercised within some sort of moral framework, some body of shared beliefs, some spiritual heritage transmitted through the church, the family and the school.” This is less Hayek or Popper than Edmund Burke: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites.”
Thatcher’s primary concern was not the heroic Christian virtues but the useful Victorian ones — “thrift, self-discipline, responsibility, pride in and obligation to one’s community.” While these can come from a variety of non-religious sources, Thatcher found it “difficult to imagine that anything other than Christianity is likely to resupply most people in the West with the virtues necessary to remoralize society in the very practical ways which the solution of many present problems requires.”
Thatcher developed this message most fully in her “Sermon on the Mound,” a polished gem of a speech delivered in 1988 at the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, perched on a steep hill overlooking Edinburgh. To an audience of silent, disapproving clerics, she defended free markets and democracy as being most consistent with a Christian view of moral responsibility. “Any set of social and economic arrangements which is not founded on the acceptance of individual responsibility will do nothing but harm.”
But freedom, in isolation, is not sufficient. “The truths of the Judaic-Christian tradition,” Thatcher said, “are infinitely precious, not only, as I believe, because they are true, but also because they provide the moral impulse which alone can lead to that peace, in the true meaning of the word, for which we all long. . . .There is little hope for democracy if the hearts of men and women in democratic societies cannot be touched by a call to something greater than themselves.”
It is the great paradox of modern life that free markets depend on responsible, self-reliant, moral citizens, while modern, consumer capitalism — of the kind Thatcher unleashed in Britain — is a solvent of traditional bonds and norms. Freedom requires virtues it does not produce and may even help undermine. Which is why Thatcher the free marketeer needed to be Thatcher the moralist.
I found myself engrossed this week by the calm, incisive wisdom of one of the few living statesmen in the world who can actually be called visionary.
The wisdom is in a book, "Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States and the World," a gathering of Mr. Lee's interviews, speeches and writings.
Mr. Lee, of course, is the founder and inventor of modern Singapore. He made it a dynamo. He pushed it beyond its ethnic divisions and placed a bet that, though it is the smallest nation in Southeast Asia and has few natural resources, its people, if organized and unleashed within a system of economic incentive, would come to constitute the only resource that mattered. He was right. When he took office as prime minister, in 1959, per capita income was about $400 a year. Last year it was more than $50,000.
He is now 89, a great friend of America, and his comments on the U.S. are pertinent to many of the debates in which we're enmeshed.
He is bullish about our immediate prospects but concerned about our long-term trajectory. He believes what made us great is the ancestral nature of our people—creative, inventive, original, inclusive.
His advice on immigration: Keep it up but keep your culture.
What threatens America? A political culture stuck in the shallows, and a mass-entertainment edifice that is destabilizing, destructive and injurious to the national character.
Is the United States in systemic decline?
"Absolutely not." It is the most militarily powerful and economically dynamic nation in the world. America faces debt, deficit and "tremendously difficult economic times" but "for the next two to three decades" it "will remain the sole superpower."
America has shown over its history "a great capacity for renewal and revival." It doesn't get stuck in "grooved thinking" but is able to think pragmatically and imaginatively. Its language "is the equivalent of an open system that is clearly the lingua franca" of all the economic and political leaders and strivers in the world. In the coming decades "it is the U.S. that will be pre-eminent in setting the rules of the game. No major issue of world peace and stability can be resolved without U.S. leadership."
A major factor in America's rise and economic dominance: All the brightest people in the world know "Americans will let you work for them in America and in their multinational corporations abroad." But America will lose its technological edge unless it is able to continue attracting talent.
The American advantage in coming economic and technological contests? A "can-do" approach to life. Americans always believe a problem can be solved. An "entrepreneurial culture" that sees both risk and failure "as natural and necessary for success."
The U.S. is still "a frontier society." "The American culture . . . is that we start from scratch and beat you." They would settle an empty area, call it a town, and say, "You be the sheriff, I am the judge, you are the policeman, and you are the banker, let us start." Not long ago the U.S. was losing to Japan and Germany in manufacturing. "But [Americans] came up with the Internet, Microsoft and Bill Gates, and Dell. . . . What kind of mindset do you need for that? It is part of their history."
America is great not only because of its power and wealth. After World War II its "magnanimity and generosity" helped it "rebuild a more prosperous world." "Only the elevating power of her idealism" can explain this. "The United States is the most benign of all the great powers."
What worries him about America? Our elections have become "a never-ending process of auctions" in which politicians outbid each other with promises. America's leaders seem captive to popular sentiment. They must break out of this and do what is necessary for America, "even if they lose their re-election."
Our consumer society and mass communications "have made for a different kind of person getting elected as leader." Politicians hesitate to speak needed truths: "A certain coyness or diffidence seems to have descended on American politicians."
Mr. Lee is "amazed" that "media professionals can give a candidate a new image and transform him . . . into a different personality. . . . A spin doctor is a high-income professional, one in great demand. From such a process, I doubt if a Churchill, a Roosevelt, or a de Gaulle can emerge!"
What worries him about the prevailing U.S. culture? A lot: "guns, drugs, violent crime, vagrancy, unbecoming behavior in public—in sum, the breakdown of civil society."
"The ideas of individual supremacy . . . when carried to excess, have not worked," and the world has taken note: "Those who want a wholesome society where young girls and old ladies can walk in the streets at night, where the young are not preyed upon by drug peddlers, will not follow the American model. . . The top 3 to 5% of a society can handle this free-for-all, this clash [but] if you do this with the whole mass, you will have a mess. . . . To have, day to day, images of violence and raw sex on the picture tube, the whole society exposed to it, it will ruin a whole community."
Asians visiting the U.S. are often "puzzled and disturbed by conditions there," including "poverty in the midst of great wealth."
In spite of this, America often now exhibits to the world a sense of its own "cultural supremacy." When the American media praise a country such as the Philippines for becoming democratic, "it is praise with condescension, compliments from a superior culture patting an inferior one on the head." America criticizes Singapore as too authoritarian. "Why? Because we have not complied with their ideas of how we should govern ourselves. But we can ill afford to let others experiment with our lives. Their ideas are theories, theories not proven."
What can destroy America is "multiculturalism," which he speaks of as not an appreciation of all cultures but a gradual surrendering of the essential culture that has sustained America since its beginning. That culture—its creativity and hardiness, its political and economic traditions—is great, and it would be "sad for America to be changed even partially." Will waves of immigrants from the south assimilate, or will America become "more Latin American?" America must continue to invite in all the most gifted and hard-working people in the world, but it must not lose its culture, which is the secret of its success.
And America goes the way of modern Europe at its peril: "If you follow the ideological direction of Europe, you are done for." There are always people who require help, but "addressing their needs must be done in a way that does not kill incentive."
"Americans and European governments believed that they could always afford to support the poor and the needy: widows, orphans, the old and homeless, disadvantaged minorities, unwed mothers. Their sociologists expounded the theory that hardship and failure were due . . . to flaws in the economic system. So charity became 'entitlement,' and the stigma of living on charity disappeared." Welfare costs grew faster than the government's willingness to raise taxes. They "took the easy way out by borrowing to give higher benefits to the current generation of voters." The result: deficits and dangerously high public debt.
A version of this article appeared April 6, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Statesman's Friendly Advice.
Songs of the Free and the Brave By MEGHAN CLYNE
Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of our best-known children's authors, her "Little House" books about pioneer life having been read and reread by four generations of Americans. Yet precisely because she is beloved as a storyteller for the young, her work's artistry and seriousness of purpose are underappreciated. The new Library of America edition, which packages her nine books of fiction into two volumes with helpful supplemental texts, is thus doubly welcome, both for its timeliness and for presenting her stories as literature worthy of adult readers.
Wilder wrote the series, as she noted in 1937, to show children who had grown up in a post-frontier age "what it is that made America as they know it." Her books are a magnificent historical chronicle, offering both a detailed record of how the pioneers lived and a testament to the values that built America. As Wilder saw it, in her own life she "represented a whole period of American history"—and it was through the details of her own life that she wanted to tell the story of the frontier experience.
Laura Ingalls was born in Wisconsin in 1867. Her father had what she called in her books a "wandering foot": In late 1869 or early 1870, Charles and Caroline Ingalls moved the family to the Osage Diminished Reserve in Kansas by covered wagon, only to return to Wisconsin in May 1871. In 1874, the family crossed the frozen Mississippi River into Minnesota to try farming, only to fail after a plague of locusts—which consumed half the nation's agricultural output—destroyed their crops. Next it was Iowa, and by 1880 the Ingallses were working to "prove up" on a homestead in De Smet, S.D. There Laura would become a teacher and meet and marry her husband, Almanzo Wilder.
It was around these major life events that Wilder structured the "Little House" series. "Little House in the Big Woods" (1932), about her Wisconsin childhood, follows a calendar year of frontier life in the upper Midwest. "Farmer Boy" (1933), about Almanzo's childhood in upstate New York, emphasizes the freedom and independence of the agrarian life. In "Little House on the Prairie" (1935), the Ingallses brave flooded rivers, malaria and tensions with Indians to set up a home in Kansas. "On the Banks of Plum Creek" (1937) covers the family's efforts to build a farm in Minnesota and is the first time the Ingalls girls experience town life and school. "By the Shores of Silver Lake" (1939) chronicles the family's move to Dakota Territory by train and their claiming of a homestead, and "The Long Winter" (1940) tells the story of their survival there amid the epic blizzards of 1880-81. In "Little Town on the Prairie" (1941) and "These Happy Golden Years" (1943), Laura blossoms into a young woman—working for pay to help her parents, developing mature friendships and being courted. (A ninth book, the novella "The First Four Years," was posthumously published in 1971 and covers the beginning of her married life.)
The lively characters who populate these books are drawn from Wilder's own family and neighbors, including her sisters Mary, Carrie and Grace, the beloved pastor Rev. Alden, and the detested schoolmate Nellie Oleson.
Though rooted in Wilder's lived experience, the books are not strict autobiography. The series leaves out the family's time in Burr Oak, Iowa, for instance, and never mentions Wilder's brother, who died when he was only 9 months old. They are literature and consciously crafted as such, with the aim of (as she put it in a 1938 letter to her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane) providing a "true picture of the times and the place and the people."
The fictionalized account of a girl's transformation into a young woman is also the story of America's growth and maturation. Wilder's stories for children document the Westward Expansion and explore surprisingly grown-up themes—the nature of self-government, the responsibilities that go along with freedom and what it means to be an American.
Essential to understanding those themes is the fact that Wilder wrote the "Little House" books during the Depression and New Deal, at a time when she saw the nation sliding into an unhealthy dependency on government. In addition to educating American children about a crucial period of their history, Wilder wanted to show them a freer way of life. "Self reliance," she explained in a speech in the winter of 1935-36, is one of the "values of life" that "run[s] through all the stories, like a golden thread."
The "Little House" books are virtual manuals of self-provision, with exhaustive descriptions of how the Ingalls and Wilder families secured their own food, shelter, clothing, education and entertainment through the work of their own hands. In "Little Town on the Prairie," for instance, a flock of blackbirds destroys the crops that the family is relying on to make ends meet, but the setback is no match for Ingalls ingenuity. Pa kills the blackbirds and Ma uses them to feed the family, even turning them into a pot pie. "The underside was steamed and fluffy," Wilder wrote. "Over it [Pa] poured spoonfuls of thin brown gravy, and beside it he laid half a blackbird, browned, and so tender that the meat was slipping from the bones." " 'It takes you to think up a chicken pie, a year before there's chickens to make it with,' Pa said."
If Wilder's pioneer families are resourceful, government is depicted as meddling and incompetent—a contrast that emphasizes the importance of providing for oneself. Indeed, Washington's bungling is blamed for the Ingallses' forced departure from Indian Territory in "Little House on the Prairie," and in "The Long Winter" a family friend denounces politicians who "tax the lining out'n a man's pockets" and "take pleasure a-prying into a man's affairs." Fear of debt hangs over these stories like a dark cloud; to be "beholden" to anyone is a mark of shame. The only respectable path to subsistence—let alone comfort—is hard work. "Neither [my parents] nor their neighbors begged for help," Wilder explained in a 1937 speech. "No other person, nor the government, owed them a living."
But no man in Wilder's stories is an island. When people fall on desperate times—and they do constantly—Wilder's pioneers exhibit one of those other "values of life": "helpfulness." There is a sacred code of neighborliness, and Wilder's heroes are those who forgo their own safety to the benefit of others. In "The Long Winter," for instance, Almanzo and a friend make a near-suicidal trip to find wheat for the starving residents of De Smet. In "On the Banks of Plum Creek," a prairie fire threatens to destroy the family's home. Knowing Pa is away, a neighbor, Mr. Nelson, rides to the farm to help Ma, beating back the fire with wet sacks. After he leaves, Ma remarks: "There is nothing in the world so good as good neighbours."
Wilder told these stories because she thought New Deal-era America needed the pioneers' "old-fashioned character values . . . to help us over the rough places." These values are timeless and highly relevant today, when questions of dependency and self-reliance have become urgent in American political life.
If Laura Ingalls Wilder can be a modern-day teacher of liberty, the Library of America edition of her work is an excellent textbook. The volumes' editor, Caroline Fraser, has helpfully anchored Wilder's remembrances in the broader context of frontier history. She is good at sorting out where Wilder's life diverges from her fiction and at filling out the stories of her family, friends and neighbors. The real Rev. Alden, it turns out, abandoned his wife and children and "ran away with a girl." Nellie Oleson was actually a composite of three girls: Nellie Owens, Genevieve Masters and Estella Gilbert. Wilder's shy and frail sister Carrie grew up to manage several newspapers in South Dakota. When Almanzo Wilder died at age 92, in 1949, neighbors found Laura embracing him in his chair.
Much of the "Little House" series is built around the family's favorite hymns and songs—from "The Big Sunflower" and "Highland Mary" to "Captain Jinks"—and Ms. Fraser has ferreted out dates, proper titles, corrected and alternative lyrics, composers, and noteworthy performers. Her notes are right to emphasize the music, as Pa's fiddle is one of the central symbols of the series—its tunes rising and falling with the family's fortunes. After her father's death, Wilder credited "whatever religion, romance and patriotism I have . . . to the violin and my Father playing in the twilight." (The fiddle is now in the collection of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Mo.)
Beyond paying tribute to Wilder's work with critical annotation, the Library of America edition showcases the maturity of her writing through the new experience it offers to readers. The "Little House" series was written for a picture-book format, designed to reach 8- to 12-year-old readers and include frequent illustration. The Library of America has stripped the pictures away, leaving only Wilder's words to re-create a world long gone. The result highlights her magnificent gift for description, which grows more evident as her heroine matures. Indeed, Wilder closes the series by setting the scene for the first night of her married life:
Twilight faded as the little stars went out and the moon rose and floated upward. Its silvery light flooded the sky and the prairie. The winds that had blown whispering over the grasses all the summer day now lay sleeping, and quietness brooded over the moon-drenched land.
Ultimately, this is the greatest contribution of the new edition—to present Wilder's work as serious literature for adults.
The release coincides with other signs of grown-up interest in Wilder: Earlier this year, PBS released "Pa's Fiddle: The Music of America," featuring country-music stars performing "Little House" songs. Next year, "Pioneer Girl"—the autobiographical manuscript that Wilder wrote with adult readers in mind and that served as a sort of rough draft for the "Little House" books—will be published for the first time by the South Dakota State Historical Society.
America isn't reverting to the pioneer days, nor would most Americans want to. But we would benefit from rekindling some of the pioneer spirit. In "Little House on the Prairie," Pa and Ma fret over borrowing a few building supplies from their neighbor Mr. Edwards, vowing to "pay him back every nail." Today our national debt stands at $16 trillion. What ails us is much broader and deeper than mere policy or law: It is a matter of culture, and it is in the culture that our ailments must be tended to. The stories we tell and honor have enormous value in shaping a culture. At this moment, Wilder's stories deserve a closer reading.
—Miss Clyne is the managing editor of National Affairs. A version of this article appeared September 22, 2012, on page C5 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Songs of the Free and the Brave.
By JOHN GARVEY My wife and I have sent five children to college and our youngest just graduated. Like many parents, we encouraged them to study hard and spend time in a country where people don't speak English. Like all parents, we worried about the kind of people they would grow up to be.
We may have been a little unusual in thinking it was the college's responsibility to worry about that too. But I believe that intellect and virtue are connected. They influence one another. Some say the intellect is primary. If we know what is good, we will pursue it. Aristotle suggests in the "Nicomachean Ethics" that the influence runs the other way. He says that if you want to listen intelligently to lectures on ethics you "must have been brought up in good habits." The goals we set for ourselves are brought into focus by our moral vision.
"Virtue," Aristotle concludes, "makes us aim at the right mark, and practical wisdom makes us take the right means." If he is right, then colleges and universities should concern themselves with virtue as well as intellect.
I want to mention two places where schools might direct that concern, and a slightly old-fashioned remedy that will improve the practice of virtue. The two most serious ethical challenges college students face are binge drinking and the culture of hooking up.
Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults aged 17-24. Students who engage in binge drinking (about two in five) are 25 times more likely to do things like miss class, fall behind in school work, engage in unplanned sexual activity, and get in trouble with the law. They also cause trouble for other students, who are subjected to physical and sexual assault, suffer property damage and interrupted sleep, and end up babysitting problem drinkers.
Hooking up is getting to be as common as drinking. Sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who heads the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says that in various studies, 40%-64% of college students report doing it.
The effects are not all fun. Rates of depression reach 20% for young women who have had two or more sexual partners in the last year, almost double the rate for women who have had none. Sexually active young men do more poorly than abstainers in their academic work. And as we have always admonished our own children, sex on these terms is destructive of love and marriage.
Here is one simple step colleges can take to reduce both binge drinking and hooking up: Go back to single-sex residences.
I know it's countercultural. More than 90% of college housing is now co-ed. But Christopher Kaczor at Loyola Marymount points to a surprising number of studies showing that students in co-ed dorms (41.5%) report weekly binge drinking more than twice as often as students in single-sex housing (17.6%). Similarly, students in co-ed housing are more likely (55.7%) than students in single-sex dorms (36.8%) to have had a sexual partner in the last year—and more than twice as likely to have had three or more.
The point about sex is no surprise. The point about drinking is. I would have thought that young women would have a civilizing influence on young men. Yet the causal arrow seems to run the other way. Young women are trying to keep up—and young men are encouraging them (maybe because it facilitates hooking up).
Next year all freshmen at The Catholic University of America will be assigned to single-sex residence halls. The year after, we will extend the change to the sophomore halls. It will take a few years to complete the transformation.
The change will probably cost more money. There are a few architectural adjustments. We won't be able to let the ratio of men and women we admit into the freshman class vary from year to year with the size and quality of the pools. But our students will be better off.
Mr. Garvey is president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
President Obama's enigmatic intellectualism
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, June 22, 2010; A19
The Community Levee Association does not endorse Mr. Cohen's opinions written here about President Obama. We only post this article to endorse and call attention to what Mr. Cohen writes about virtue and intelligence (see red highlights below).
It can seem that at the heart of Barack Obama's foreign policy is no heart at all. It consists instead of a series of challenges -- of problems that need fixing, not wrongs that need to be righted. As Winston Churchill once said of a certain pudding, Obama's approach to foreign affairs lacks theme. So, it seems, does the man himself.
For instance, it's not clear that Obama is appalled by China's appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing. The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.
This, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs? The president himself is no help on this score. When it comes to his own image, he has a tin ear. He hugely misunderstood what some people were saying when they demanded that he get angry over the gulf oil catastrophe and the insult-to-injury statements of BP chief executive Tony Hayward. (Wayward Hayward, he should be called.)
What these people were seeking was not an eruption of anger, not a tantrum and not a full-scale denunciation of an oil company. What they wanted instead was a sign that this catastrophe meant something to Obama, that it was not merely another problem that had crossed his desk -- and this time just wouldn't budge. He showed not the slightest sign in the idiom that really counts in a media age -- body language -- that he gave a damn. He could see your pain, he could talk about your pain, but he gave no indication that he felt it.
One can understand. Obama's father deserted the family and afterward visited his son only once. He twice was separated from his mother, who lived in Indonesia without him. He was partially raised by his grandparents -- an elderly white couple. If the president is what the shrinks call "well-defended," who can blame him? It's ironic that Oprah Winfrey was maybe Obama's most significant early backer when the man himself is so un-Oprah. He cannot emote.
The consequences are unfortunate. Obama's opaqueness has enabled his enemies -- they are not mere critics -- to define him as they choose. He becomes a socialist, which he is not, or a Muslim, which he also is not. Even his allies are confused. The left thought he was a leftie. He's not. The right, too, thought he was a leftie. He is, above all, a pragmatist. This makes it a lot easier to say what he is not than what he is.
Fortune has not smiled on Obama's presidency. His one uncontested attribute -- a shimmering intellect -- has become suspect. A world of smart guys has turned against us. Everyone at Goldman Sachs is smart, but they seem to have the amorality mocked by the songwriter Tom Lehrer in his sendup of the celebrated American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, a former Nazi (" 'Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department,' says Wernher von Braun").
The oil industry is full of smart people, and so is the mortgage industry. Smart people seem to have brought us nothing but trouble. Smarts without values is dangerous -- threatening, scary, virtually un-American. This is why a succession of archconservative eccentrics have succeeded. Their values are obvious, often shockingly so. We know what they want, just not how they are ever going to get it. Experience has become a handicap and inexperience a virtue. Smart is out. Dumb is in.
Foreign policy is the realm where a president comes closest to ruling by diktat. By command decision, the war in Afghanistan has been escalated, yet it seems to lack an urgent moral component. It has an apparent end date even though girls may not yet be able to attend school and the Taliban may rule again. In some respects, I agree -- the earlier out of Afghanistan, the better -- but if we are to stay even for a while, it has to be for reasons that have to do with principle. Somewhat the same thing applies to China. It's okay to trade with China. It's okay to hate it, too.
Pragmatism is fine -- as long as it is complicated by regret. But that indispensable wince is precisely what Obama doesn't show. It is not essential that he get angry or cry. It is essential, though, that he show us who he is. As of now, we haven't a clue.
Note in the last paragraph of the article, how Archbishop Timothy Dolan talks of being challenged to "heroic virtue". It is a wonderful concept.
NOTE: The Community Levee Association disagrees with the Post editorial below. We believe their rejection of morality's necessity and power harms our Loudoun County youth because it assumes (and thus contributes to their perception of self) they cannot control their physical appetites. Not only can they, but they must. Historian Will Durrant wrote "[a] youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group" (Durrant, Will and Ariel. The Lessons of History. New York: Simon and Schuster, p.35, 1968).
Chris Stevenson investigates the indispensability of virtue to the American experiment in self-government.