Senator and amigo of the Constitution Mike Lee (R., Utah) called on conservatives to “reframe” the debate about the size and scope of government, by focusing the discussion away from government entirely.
The opposite of “bad government,” he told attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, was not “good government” or even “limited government,” but civil society, those “historic American institutions” such as families, schools, charities, and churches.
“Civil Society is where free individuals thrive and communities flourish,” Lee said. “We see civil society when a parent instills values in a child, when a doctor heals a patient, when a teacher stays late to help a student learn to read, when a neighbor stops to help a neighbor. These are the bonds that will restore our faith in the institutions of civil society and move us away from reliance on bureaucratic, centralized decision-making.”
Attempts to address the nation’s problems from the top down have “eroded” our faith in such institutions, as well as our sense of responsibility, Lee argued, which in turn has caused many to embrace the “false promises of big government.”
“It is easy to forget where to look for solutions, strength and certainty. I suggest that a return to civil society — engaged, self-reliant, free individuals building and strengthening communities — is the answer,” he said.
“America is extraordinary, not because of who we are, but because of what we do,” Lee continued. “When we look within and to each other, instead of looking to Washington and government, we will see the greatness of our country reemerge.”