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(Presented to the American Political Science Association, September 2021)
by Emmett James McGroarty, JD and Brendan Ignatius McGroarty, PhD1
In this paper, we address a slice of the growing problem of civil discord and alienation from government.2 We argue that policymakers and philanthropists give short shrift to key dynamics that underlie individualism on one hand and social trust on the other. The consequence is blundering policy that exacerbates the problems in society.
This discussion flows from the centuries-long debate on the viability of democratic government. With the unwinding of the Ancien Regime, Western civilization lost the stability of fixed stations and the attendant duties, privileges, and immunities. Modernity thus had to develop new social and governmental structures that fostered social capital3 and social trust, that is citizen confidence in each other and government.4 While many factors contribute to social trust, this paper focuses on the effect that centralized government and philanthropists5 have on the citizen’s agency, not the substance of programs. We contend that many programs are artlessly offered with the consequence of fomenting alienation, undermining trust, and contributing to instability. Specifically, in making its grant and cooperative agreement offers to state and local government, the federal government fails to consider the nature of the human person, and this failure has profound social consequences. The human person, as a social animal, comes to know herself by interaction with others, and thus becomes self-conscious and free in a meaningful way. Humans associate with one another and negotiate the development of society as a part of normal psychological development.6 In this sense, associations are a natural and pervasive component of the social structure. Associations afford esteem to their members due to their participation. When an association does this, the member’s family and friends develop an affinity for the association through what we call “third party esteem.” The converse happens when the association confers contempt on a member. In this way, the positive and negative effects of the association extend beyond its members. However, external forces can suppress the human person’s natural desire to associate with others. This stunts both the psychological and social development of society’s members.
2. The Sociability of the Human Person
As a starting point, we assume the human person is free, rational, sociable and has a sense of her moral equality with others.7 She possesses speech, which serves to:
set forth the expedient and inexpedient, and therefore likewise the just and the unjust. And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and state.8
The human person yearns to use her faculties. She reflects on her thoughts and actions, tries to discern the thoughts of others, and contemplates their actions. She plans her actions and considers their consequences. Freedom therefore implies self-consciousness and reflection, such that moral vision and creative impulse help the person in the shaping of her environment and society.9 Associating with others helps a person shape her life, private and public.10 In her private environment she pursues personal interests, including those pertaining to family, friends, education, spiritual practice, and so forth. Associating with others affirms her agency and status as a sovereign, decision-making person. It fosters productive humility by inculcating an appreciation of freedom and creativity in others. Likewise, associating with others helps achieve in the public realm what would otherwise be unattainable, thus leading to improved public safety, transportation infrastructure, schools, sanitation facilities, hospitals, etc.11 The desire to shape her life creates a need for a share in the political realm.
3. Socialization and Public Freedom
Writing a quarter century ago, Jane Mansbridge traced the development of thought concerning political participation. That body of work began with a concern to develop character because that would lead to a healthy polis. Aristotle contended that the polis had “to devote itself to the end of encouraging goodness” and discussed sound laws and a good polity as furthering the development of personal character, justice and goodness, which would in turn contribute to better decision-making by the polity. For his part, Machiavelli emphasized internal conflict, external debate, and refinement of the law as enabling the individual to better contribute to the polity and in that process derive certain benefits, such as the acquisition of knowledge, all for the good of the polity. Rousseau espoused good laws and a civil religion, all the better to substitute a sense of justice for man’s raw instinct and a sense of duty for his appetite; this would help the individual recognize the common good and act upon it. The person’s character, in turn, would be improved by willing good law.12
Mansbridge credits Tocqueville with being the first to explicitly claim that empowered participation in the process of governing directly develops good character. Tocqueville’s analysis focused on developing a general commitment to the common good and the avoidance of individualism and the consequent fracturing of society. Subsequent theorists developed the theme of the educative and self-development effects of participation.13
As Hannah Arendt noted, participation in governance is an activity that people enjoy teleologically; that is, it touches upon the most innate desires of human nature.14 In addition to having the merits of practicality, that is, the ability to further one’s own interests, it brings happiness, or the fulfillment of human telos as a social animal. Participation in governance, or more broadly the crafting of society, is a necessary result of self-consciousness because, without active and creative participation, that same self-consciousness and creativity, if it has no object, will deteriorate, to the detriment of the person.
4. Associations as a Function of Human Sociability
The various types of association provide differing goods to society. Associating is simply in human nature and not surprisingly associations15 prevail throughout society. As such, associations are neither extrinsic nor artificial, but mark all human hopes or ambitions, for good or ill. This ubiquitous nature is reflected in Tocqueville’s categorization associations into three categories: the permanent, the political, and the civil. Permanent associations are those created by law and designated as cities, townships, and counties.16 They engage in three types of activity: 1) gathering iterations of a particular opinion, refining them into clearer and more precise form, and expressing that opinion publicly; 2) assembling persons to engage in political action; and 3) appointing certain individuals to represent them, as is done through a party’s political conventions, caucuses, and primaries. The civil association is a broad collection of the non-political, including commercial and industrial associations, as well as professional, garden clubs, sports, educative associations, religious associations and a thousand other kinds of associations.17
Freedom of association provides a critical avenue for protecting against the tyranny of the majority.18 Through associations, people work together peacefully and productively toward the common good. In large and small matters, they hone their skills in the art of associating. Those skills enable one to get things done in conjunction with others: establishing schools, practicing religion, building parks, and much more. They help one function peacefully and effectively with others and exercise economic freedom, religious freedom, and a host of other purposes.19 Such skills are transferable from one association to another because they lie at the heart of human nature; they help humans become more ideal humans. If people are to become or remain civilized, they must perfect the art of associating among themselves.20 In other words, the art of being human requires practice in the art of association.
The activity of many associations helps build social trust amongst the citizenry by encouraging the participants to look outwardly and interact respectfully and productively with people outside their usual circle. This activity tends to foster an appreciation of the freedom and creativity in others, an understanding of their points of view, and thus builds trust and wards off discord.21 Such associative activity can inculcate a sense of shaping one’s environment, but qualitatively this is most powerful when the participation is in the permanent association, as discussed infra.
Sometimes associations inadvertently encourage individualism. For example, although commercial and professional associations generate impressive goods, the external observer could frequently classify such activity as looking inward to the usual circle of friends and social peers, sapping involvement in a wider, more general community. The same could be said for a host of other associations, some more so than others. Such associations perhaps provide excellent practice in the art of associating. But mechanically they can encourage a limited or inward focus that draws the person away from bridging opportunities to the broader population.
Political associations have an important role in shaping the public environment. They provide a platform in which to organize citizens, refine the presentation of issues, propagate arguments, etc. They are also critical for the advancement of minority interests. Nonetheless, because the goal of a political party is to establish dominance over other parties, they are poor vessels for the generation of broad social cohesion and are not effective at binding the people to the constitutional project.
Some associations are geared toward permanent division in society and thus outright foment discord, even where members adeptly practice the art of associating as an internal matter. These associations pit one group against another for the purpose of creating conflict and division rather than social trust and solidarity. Whenever an association rests on the alienation of one group from their natural rights or posits an intrinsic qualitative difference between individuals in one segment of society over another, it threatens to co-opt democracy with tyranny of the majority.
5. The Township as a Permanent Association
The early 17th century settlers were free to fashion democracy as they saw fit, unencumbered by its opponents “within the old societies of Europe”22 and unmolested by Britain during the era of its “benign neglect.” The colonists built structures of self-government through which citizens would have a share in the public business.23 The most important of these was the township, which, if properly formed, is consonant with human nature and serves almost as an extension of the family: “The township is the sole association that is so much in nature that everywhere men are gathered, a township forms by itself.”24
Policymakers commonly reference Tocqueville’s examination of associations, particularly as mediating institutions. Yet they tend to ignore his analysis of the township as the institution bedrock ⎯ at least other than the family ⎯for building a sense of membership in the constitutional project and broad social trust amongst the citizenry. Local decision-making brings citizens together and makes apparent that they need each other’s support in order to get things done.25 The township serves as a primary school for democracy and the exercise of freedom.26 It is where people engage in the process of exercising their share of public power and see the results of their work daily. And it is where they do so in proximity to their family and friends. Beyond that, the township provides irreplaceable benefits to society and to the person by providing a platform for interaction, self-reflection, and creativity.
The township differs from other types of association in its universality and in its relation to the constitutional structure. As to universality, the permanent association does not have national geographic universality, but it does provide universality within its locality. It also has a very low, arguably no, hurdle to membership. One need not apply for admittance, pay a membership fee, pass a professional test, demonstrate proficiency in a skill, or have a sponsor. By participating in it, the person becomes accustomed to interacting with all people, rather than lapsing into a comfort zone of dealing with a narrow group, instilling complacency, and curbing self awareness. The keys are whether the township has independence and power and whether its citizens have an avenue of deliberation and decision-making.27 If so, the person is naturally drawn to partake in the shaping of her environment through the exercise of her power. She seeks those
outside her usual circle, to understand their points of view, obtain their support, and lend them cooperation.28 Even where agreement is not reached, she has interacted with others in a peaceable way, often forming mutual respect and even friendships. She sees every day the results of the decision-making and is inspired to do even more to effect the common good.29 She sees political freedom as within her reach, becomes habituated to its use, and witnesses the tangible results.30 That process has two goods: the decision made, and the bridging between self determination and collective consciousness necessary for a strong society.
The permanent association is also unique among associations in regard to the constitutional structure. As constituent parts of a state’s governance structure, the permanent association links to the national constitutional structure, and is closest to the people. Participating in the business of building society fosters calm, peaceable sentiments toward government⎯sentiments of membership in government rather than being the subject of government, while at the same time developing solidarity among the people.31
6. Selfishness and Individualism vs. Individuation and the Common Good
Americans are often accused of being individualistic.32 However, for analytical purposes a distinction should be drawn between individualism and selfishness. Selfishness means having the qualities of lacking concern for others and being chiefly motivated by a desire for personal pleasure and gain. “Individualism” has several meanings in common usage, none of which are adequate for present purposes. But for purposes of this paper, individualism refers to someone who has been herded inward by a force other than her will toward her circle of family and friends. She has largely withdrawn from concerning herself with the good of society and those outside her circle.
As used here, individualism is not selfishness. Rather, it is a reasonable, but not ideal, reaction to the choices presented to her. It is:
a reflective and peaceable sentiment that disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of those like him and to withdraw to one side with his family and his friends, so that after having thus created a little society for his own use, he willingly abandons society at large to itself.33
Individualism can arise in a politically battered person who retreats in frustration to the smaller community of self, family, and friends. It can arise as well in a person of unfortunate circumstances, who is struggling day-by-day for any of a variety of reasons. And it can arise where centralization of one type or another has ravaged political freedom and foreclosed authentic participation in governance. Individualism is to be avoided because it steers away from bridging opportunities, because its practice leads toward selfishness, and because it is contrary to human nature.34
Unlike individualism, individuation, or personalization, is good. A person is more than a mere individual. A person is an individual with self-consciousness, which enables her to come to know herself by engaging in self-reflection. That process begins with interactions of appropriate
shame or esteem with one’s family and close associates. A person knows herself as unique, or individuated, not simply to stand out against the background of others, but as a sense of the good that she might uniquely produce for those in her immediate environment. In providing these goods for others, she necessarily becomes intimately aware of the uniqueness and potential of others. Because she is unique, a person is not replaceable. If she is taken away from her community, or if she is segregated within it, that community is altered and its integrity diminished, no matter what might be gained by the addition of others.
As the person grows from self-consciousness to a larger consciousness of society, participation in the larger sphere becomes meaningful and necessary to maintain this growth and that of others. Nevertheless, the person is most fundamentally a natural being, meaning that she most meaningfully actuates herself through her local environment, or those whom she personally knows. Only derivatively does she extend this interaction and freedom to the larger society of individuals whom she has never met.
In deciding how to parse her activities, an individual will naturally engage in a return-on time-and-effort analysis. Activities likely to bear fruit will garner a higher share of one’s time and effort, and those unlikely to bear fruit will be curtailed.35 As a person follows her natural yearning, she is drawn outward to know others and further shape her environment. Observed from the outside, the individual will seem to be spurning the inward turn of individualism. But from the perspective of the individual, the permanent association has extended an invitation to exercise her share of power. She is actuating herself by enhancing the mutual environment of others and advancing in self-consciousness.
Notably, the right to shape one’s private life and the right to have a share in shaping the public domain draw from the same personal reserve of time and effort. That commonality creates a fragility: if politics or some other force removes opportunities for the individual to participate in the shaping of her environment, then it has negatively affected the citizen’s return-on-time and-effort analysis. It will push her inward to positively affect those things that she can influence or control. From her perspective, an antisocial thrust has occurred against her natural yearning to reach out to others and exercise a share in shaping her environment.
Sometimes a true emergency occurs which compels action by centralized government: natural disasters, a systemic breakdown of order (riots, rebellions, etc.), physical invasions, and so forth.36 Although such intervention may be necessary, danger lies in the perpetuation of that intervention and extension of the centralized authority.
At this point an observer could argue that, regardless of having a share of power, the person
should nonetheless reach out to others unknown to her, to enlighten them, to be enlightened by them, and to build trust. But such a judgment can be uncharitable and elitist because the return on-time-and-effort analysis differs for each person. For some, time pressures might always require an inward focus, such as those who work multiple jobs to make ends meet and those who have time-sapping family duties such as caring for a sick child. Similarly, the parent who must contend with an unsafe neighborhood may need to focus inward to rely on her circle of friends and family to fashion a safe and nourishing environment for her children.
Note that in the latter hypothetical, the parent stands in a pickle. A genuine outward effort of common cause might indeed generate a strong associative effort that solves the problem. But can anyone rationally second-guess the strategy and intentions of the mother who elects to look inward to family and close friends to solve the day-to-day struggle on behalf of her child? Is this not especially so if authority has disempowered her so that she rationally doubts the efficacy of outreach to strangers? The pickle is not one of her own making. Albert Bandura has suggested that often Americans are simplistically categorized as individualistic.37 Such judgments imply that Americans are overly concerned for their personal welfare relative to the greater good. Bandura shows that cross-culturally, the only qualitative difference among cultures is not collectivism versus individualism, or any other cultural shibboleth; people of any culture participate in outward focused projects and discussions about the common good according to the degree to which they feel efficacious in so doing. Building on Bandura’s analysis, American individualism is largely a function of the lowered efficacy of democratic participation in the township.
7. Conferring the Person (and her children) with Esteem or Contempt
As a complement to the desire to socialize, the human person has “a desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows.”38
Wherever men, women or children are to be found, whether they be old or young, rich or poor, high or low, wise or foolish, ignorant or learned, every individual is seen to be strongly actuated by a desire to be seen, heard, talked of, approved and respected by the people about him, and within his knowledge.39 One tends to respect the rights and dignity of others not just due to notions of reason and justice but also because one wants to be esteemed for having done so. It is a reward furnished by nature for purposes of “promoting the common good, as well as respecting the rights of mankind.”40 This desire for esteem serves to reinforce the need to recognize the rights and dignity of others.
An individual who is engaged in an association’s conversations, deliberations, and decision making tends to enjoy the esteem of fellow members. Members confer esteem on each other, and such showering of esteem reflects their own status. A well-known example of this dynamic is United States senators’ tradition of conferring esteem on fellow members, even those from other parties. Participating in the process and abiding by the rules and conventions of the association garners prestige for the individual members. Such conferral of esteem has a far more significant role in society than just the stroking of egos. Esteem is a way of aiding the process of self reflection and self-consciousness, enabling one to recognize the importance of their activity in the well-being of others, in the same way that the withholding of such esteem might create shame and a corrective to self-perception and purpose.41 As with associating generally, the benefits tend to become more robust with an increase in their exercise. Just as social and monetary benefits are enriched with increased economic association, so too do social and political benefits tend to increase with increased participation in local government.42
We use the term third party esteem for the dynamic in which the esteem showered on a member becomes known by persons whom we call third-party beneficiaries⎯that person’s relatives, friends, and neighbors who identify with that person. One tends to develop trust in an association that esteems one’s relative or friend. In contrast, third-party contempt occurs when a community holds a member in low esteem by, for example, ignoring her or excluding her from decision-making and that fact becomes perceived by someone who has an affinity for her. We suggest that third-party contempt explains the disaffection for government and some of its pillar institutions.
Several factors contribute to the social trust that arises from third-party esteem. It naturally increases as the strength of the bond between the member and the beneficiary of third-party esteem increases. Likewise, it increases with the greater importance of the underlying activity in the eyes of the beholder. A consistent conferral of esteem leads to stronger third-party trust than a fleeting incident.
In the context of the permanent association, several points are noteworthy. Third-party esteem binds the third-party beneficiary to the community and local government. Through his affinity with an association’s member, the third party beneficiary develops an affinity with the
permanent association and, with that, the larger constitutional structure. In addition, the permanent association’s qualities of universal membership will tend to broaden the trust developed in the third-party; as the third-party becomes aware of diverse members showering esteem on his friend, he will naturally be more open to the wider community.
Third-party esteem’s function of broadening trust becomes particularly important for intergenerational trust-building and for the creation of strong sentiments toward the constitutional structure. The parent-child bond builds in the child a desire for the parent to be
esteemed by others. The dynamics of the permanent association can prepare the child to bridge society and help cleave him to the overall constitutional structure.
However, if the permanent association is stripped of independence and power, it becomes a mere administrative tool of centralized government. Consequently, the individual has a lower return-on-time-and-effort and thus less reason to participate. The incentive to reach out to others dissipates, and rather than fostering a feeling of membership in the overall constitutional structure, the permanent association is likely to generate a feeling of distance and alienation from it. Excluding a person from having a share in shaping her local environment “is fit only to enervate” [her], because it diminishes the spirit of the city in [her].”43 Most especially, being pushed away from a natural activity demoralizes the person and denigrates her in the eyes of those who have affinity for her. If government or philanthropy usurps a parent’s share in shaping her environment, then it has frustrated the parent’s efforts to lead her family, narrowed her efficacy, and done so in the eyes of her children.
8. Will Government Defend the Dignity of the Person, or Not?
Jane Mansbridge noted that social scientists cannot prove that participation makes for better citizens. Those who participate feel it, and those who observe that participation believe it. But the “blunt instruments of social science” cannot measure the subtle changes in character that come about slowly.”44 Nor, it might be added, can they evaluate the character of a child raised in an environment of ordered democratic participation. Unfortunately, that intangibility makes it easy for policymakers to centralize decision-making. By the 1980s, discussions of the benefits of participation had faded from public discourse. This, we contend, gave policymakers free rein to discount the effect of their actions on the person.
Nowadays, central planners craft cooperative agreements and grant offers (collectively grants or grant offers) to the states and localities and attach procedural conditions under which a state or locality is to accept the programs. Those conditions regularly dictate which state or local official will make or reject the offer and the internal consultative process that official must employ. Central planners will also deploy conditions that shape the external consultative process, dictating the groups with which a state or local official must meet and imposing requirements for public hearings and notices. They dictate that policies be changed, statutes enacted, that certain authorities be vested in certain officials, and that other officials provide an official opinion on the grant offer. They require the formation of commissions and boards and require that those entities be invested with certain duties. They require states to form comprehensive plans (state plans) in broad subject areas, as has been done in education and transportation. These requirements are inserted in grant offers in order to create a favorable pathway for acceptance of the grant and the attendant substantive policy strings and in order to ensure the grant and its attendant strings have statewide effect. However, such process centralization (1) changes the state or locality’s deliberation and decision-making processes, often compromising checks and balances; (2) can dictate a usurpation of local decision-making in favor of centralized state or federal decision-
making; and (3) further distances the citizen from decision-making, thus inducing individualism and other pathologies.45
Through these process conditions, which are administrative control tools, centralized government imposes policies onto communities by fracturing state or local government’s consent system or by circumventing the habits and conventions of a community.46 It exerts its influence through power, money, or both, and it does so to affect education, transportation, policing, transportation, zoning matters, and much more. Andy Smarick powerfully summed up the effects of process intrusion into a community in a recent policy paper on philanthropy, education, and urban communities. His thesis, we submit, holds for interventions by centralized government as well as for those by philanthropy: such interventions can cause “massive disruptions and reordering of the community’s institutions,” disempower citizens, and destabilize the community.47
In a 1996 Philanthropy essay, Richard Cornuelle described this mindset from the citizen’s perspective. It rests on the belief that management of a resource or service can only be done through monopolization of the resource or service. This belief implies that such management requires an external or centralized authority and the belief that it would have to be carried out by specialized professionals. Cornuelle decried this “irrational disconnection of ordinary people from the business of the society, a radical constriction of the definition of the citizen’s role.” This, he argued, stood “the secular version of the familiar doctrine of subsidiarity” on its head. It “is the real root cause of the evident loss of the feeling of cohesion and solidarity.” If we accept the premise that the constitutional structure rests on the idea that government’s authority flows from the people, who delegate a portion of their sovereignty to federal and state government, then government should indeed tread carefully and not step on the person’s reservoir of sovereignty and power.48 Apart from the duty it owes to a state, the federal
government owes a special duty to a state’s citizens to ensure that its actions do not truncate the state’s decision-making processes. As the Supreme Court stated in a recent unanimous decision, “Federalism has more than one dynamic.” Federalism requires more than just setting boundaries between state and federal government to uphold the integrity of those institutions. It also directly secures certain liberties for individuals. Some of these liberties are political in character, such as
ensuring that a citizen has agency in shaping policy.49 Given that those individuals are also federal citizens, the federal government should refrain from attaching burdensome procedural conditions to its grant offers to state and local government.
Such conditions frequently wreck the state’s constitutional decision-making process and diminish the individual’s political efficacy at the state and local levels. Through the grant’s substantive policy strings, centralized government can pick policy winners and losers. On the back end, the grants displace political accountability, making state and local government bear the brunt for bad policies.50 Such disempowerment spurs the human person toward individualism, and generates cynicism toward the constitutional structure and government writ large.51 Moreover, contrary to Chief Justice Roberts’s admonishment, the state, with its decision-making process compromised, is often unable to simply refuse the “federal blandishments when they do not want to embrace the federal policies as their own.”52 We note that the Chinese Communist Party has de minimus regard for the human person’s need to shape her private environment: its citizens are granted license to pursue economic prosperity, but their freedom of association, speech, and religion are subordinated to public policy. Their right to a share in shaping their public environment is wholly quashed. Needless to say, this represents an impoverished and psychologically stunted conception of freedom and the human person.
In an era of non-consensus, we have sad consensus on the concern for the discord amongst the citizenry and their alienation from government. The solutions lie dormant in our constitutional structure.
We note, though, that Tocqueville visited an America in which the township denizens had robust participatory power, well beyond the mere periodic exercise of the franchise. In that era “affairs that touch the interest of all [were] treated in the public square and within the general assembly of citizens, as in Athens.”53 That era has waned. Perhaps, though, it will soon wax. Writing in The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum and Peter Pomerantsev recently called for renewed attention to the state of democracy in America. The institution of the township has withered as
has membership in civic associations. The virtual world of social media has replaced personable conversations. Titanic corporations dictate the ground rules of ubiquitous electronic interactions. Americans do not know how to discuss, how to listen, and how to compromise. They do not know how to interact with each other. The practice of democracy is dying.54
If the citizenry demands that centralized government is wrangled back to its appropriate sphere, then people can return to the business of shaping their lives, both private and public. The key is for citizens and policymakers once again to appreciate the human person’s need to shape her own life and share in the shaping of her environment. Those activities are essentially human, and to deny them is to stunt the development of the person and sap her spirit. Moreover, such a denial diminishes her public esteem and thereby presents a denigrated status to family and close friends. Having been deprived of third-party esteem, her family and friends are left with third party contempt. All of this invites resentment, discord, and alienation, not just of the individual, but of her circle as well. This stunts the development of democratic institutions and makes the practice of democracy evermore foreign to the citizenry.
Above all, the nature of the human person is to create, most powerfully in conjunction with and for the sake of others. The human mind creates, inspired by the need of herself and others, and aided by their contributions, encouragement, and challenges. If allowed to flourish, human freedom and creativity will rebuild democracy’s institutions. In that regard, Applebaum and Pomerantsev identify nascent efforts to reinvigorate the practice of democracy and to soothe discord and alienation.55 To that, we add that there are other, existing institutions that give hope. For example, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs)⎯ a form of participatory government attendant to the local government in Washington, DC⎯were established “to bring people closer to government and the government closer to the people.” They do not have robust power. However, by law city agencies must give an ANC 30 days notice prior to taking any action that will significantly affect a neighborhood. This includes zoning, streets, recreation, education, social services, sanitation, planning, safety, budget, and health services. City agencies must give an ANC recommendation “great weight.”56 The ANCs contribute to community solidarity and a sense of membership in government.57 They provide a meaningful forum for interaction, first, for neighbors to dialogue with neighbors, and second, in so doing, to claim sovereignty over themselves and their neighborhood. The community expresses their common interest, and in so doing, augments the consciousness of its members. This consciousness is on their practical judgment on pursuing a good life.
1 Emmett McGroarty is an attorney and Director of Research at The Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America. Brendan McGroarty has a doctorate in psychology and religion from Catholic University.
2From 1958 through the early 1960s, the percentage of citizens with a high level of trust in government hovered in the 70s. It has declined steadily since then and for the last decade has sat in the high teens, according to data compiled by the Pew Research Center. Public Trust in Government: 1958-2021,
https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/05/17/public-trust-in-government-1958-2021/. Likewise, citizens have grave concerns about the level of trust Americans have in each other. Lee Rainie, Scott Keeter, and Andrew Perrin, “Trust and Distrust in America”, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/07/22/trust-and-distrust-in-america/.
3 Social capital can be defined as “connections among individuals ⎯social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arises from them.” Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2020), 19.
4 Johann N. Neem, Taking Modernity’s Wager: Tocqueville, Social Capital, and the American Civil War, review of Alexis de Tocqueville, Tocqueville on America After 1840: Letters and Other Writings, eds. Aurelian Craiutu and Jeremy Jennings, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 41, no. 4 (Spring 2011): 592-3.
5 Hereafter, we will simply refer to “government” unless the context calls for specific discussion on philanthropy.
6 For a fuller explanation of the dynamics of human psychological development beyond the scope of this paper, see Donald Nathanson, Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1992) especially 185-235; see also Albert Bandura, “Toward a Society of Human Agency,” Perspectives on Psychological Science, v. 1, no.2 (2006): 164-180.
7 John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, “The Second Treatise,” ed. Peter Laslett (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 269-72, 308-9 (§§4-7, 61-63); Harry Elmer Barnes, “The Natural State of Man (An Historical Resumé),” The Monist, 33, no. 1 (January 1923): 33-80.
8 Aristotle, Politics, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Digireads.com, 2017), 7.
9 Albert Bandura, “Toward a Society of Human Agency,” Perspectives on Psychological Science 1, no.2 (2006): 164-165.
10 Johann N. Neem, “Squaring the Circle: The Multiple Purposes of Civil Society in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America,” The Tocqueville Review XXVII, no. 1 (2006): 112.
11Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Debra Winthrop (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 489-92.
12 Jane Mansbridge, “Does Participation Make Better Citizens?,” The Good Society 5, no. 2 (Spring 1995): 1, 4-7. 13 Ibid.
14 Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Penguin Books, 1977), 110.
15 Tocqueville defined an association as the adherence by a group of individuals to a particular doctrine along with an agreement to cooperate with each other in a certain manner in order to make that doctrine prevail. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 181. 16 Ibid., 57, 180.
17 Ibid., 489.
18 Ibid., 183.
19 Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, To Empower People: The Role of Mediating Structures in Public Policy (Washington, DC, 1977); Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 492.
20 Ibid., 492; Anne Applebaum and Pomerantsev, “How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire,” The Atlantic, April 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/the-internet-doesnt-have-to-be-awful/618079/. 21 Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 489-92. See also Neem, “Squaring the Circle,” 99-121.
22 Democracy in America, 12.
23Ibid., 40 (The “township had been organized before the county, the county before the state, and the state before the Union.).
24 Ibid., 57.
25 Ibid., 64 (“Now remove force and independence from the township, and you will always find only those under its administration and no citizens.”) and 485-88 (“Local freedoms, which make many citizens put value on the affection of their neighbors and those close to them, therefore constantly bring men closer to one another, despite the instincts that separate them, and force them to aid each another.”).
26 Ibid., 57.
27 Ibid., 63-5.
28 Ibid., 485-88
29 Ibid., 485-88.
30 Ibid., 57.
31 Ibid., 82-93; 220-27.
32 While often collective consciousness might be opposed to individual liberty, a more natural understanding of man as a social animal recognizes this dichotomy only as a symptom of pathology.
33 Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 482.
34 Ibid., 483.
35 Bandura, 164-80, 170.
36 Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 83.
37 Bandura, 174-175.
38 John Adams, Discourses on Davila: A Series of Papers on Political History (Boston: Russell and Cutler, 1805), No.4.
41 Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 250-252.
42 Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 57 and 486-7 (The Framers found it “fitting to give political life to each portion of the territory in order to multiply infinitely the occasions for citizens to act together and to make them feel every day that they depend on one another”; and “Thus by charging citizens with the administration of small affairs, much more than by leaving the government of great ones to them, one interests them in the public good and makes them see the need they constantly have for one another in order to produce it.”).
43 Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 83.
44 Mansbridge, “Does Participation Make Better Citizens?,” 1, 4-7.
45 Philip Hamburger, Purchasing Submission: Conditions, Power, and Freedom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2021); Emmett McGroarty, Jane Robbins, and Erin Tuttle, Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty (APPF & Sophia Press, 2017). Bridget A. Fahey, “Consent Procedures and American Federalism,” 128 Harvard L. Rev. 1561 (April 2015).
47 Andy Smarick, “A Humble Approach to Place-Based Urban Education Philanthropy: Empowering Individuals, Associations, and Local Government Entities to Lead Incremental, Sustainable Change in their Communities,” American Enterprise Institute, 2021, https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/a-humble-approach-to-place based-urban-education-philanthropy-empowering-individuals-associations-and-local-government-entities-to-lead incremental-sustainable-change-in-their-communities/.
48 James Wilson, Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention (4 Dec. 1787), The Founders’ Constitution 1, ch. 2, doc. 14 (The University of Chicago Press), http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch2s14.html (Sovereignty “resides in the PEOPLE, as the fountain of government; that the people have not–that the people mean not–and that the people ought not, to part with it to any government whatsoever. In their hands it remains secure. They can delegate it in such proportions, to such bodies, on such terms, and under such limitations, as they think proper.”); Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, no. 22 (14 Dec. 1787), reprinted in The Founders’ Constitution 1, ch. 5, doc. 23 (The University of Chicago Press), http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch5s23.html (“The fabric of the American Empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.”); James Madison, The Federalist, no. 37 (11 Jan. 1788), reprinted in The Founders’ Constitution 1, ch. 9, doc. 9 (The University of Chicago Press), http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch9s9.html.
49 Bond v. United States, 564 U.S. 211, 221 (2011) (citations omitted).
50 Hamburger, Purchasing Submission; Emmett McGroarty, Jane Robbins, and Erin Tuttle, Deconstructing the Administrative State; Fahey, “Consent Procedures and American Federalism.”
51 Hamburger, Purchasing Submission, 108-110.
52 National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519, 579 (2012) (Roberts, op.), citing Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U. S. 447, 482 (1923).
53 Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 40.
54 Anne Applebaum and Pomerantsev, “How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire,” The Atlantic, April 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/the-internet-doesnt-have-to-be-awful/618079/.
56Website of the Government of the District of Columbia, https://anc.dc.gov/page/about-ancs.
57 Emmett McGroarty and Brendan McGroarty, “Neighborhood Solidarity and the Preservation of the American Experiment,” The Cornerstone, January 2021, https://ihe.catholic.edu/neighborhood-solidarity-and-the-preservation-of-america/. This article discusses the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, a form of participatory democracy that were created when Congress handed authority for the day-to-day governance of Washington, D.C. to its residents.