I wasn’t going to comment on this, but what the heck.
As for this — “That language of community, institutions and social fabric has been lost” — it has not been lost. It is preached from the pulpit, from parent to child, in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, etc., etc. It is practiced by millions of people in this country in billions of ways. Just because it’s not all catalogued somewhere, and never could be, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Just because the government is not involved in it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It’s happening all around us. And it’s happening in ways the government could never match. Poor Goldwater, who is repeatedly misunderstood, emphasized this himself, in the very book Brooks cites. Goldwater talks about balancing the individual and the state, constitutional government, society, and so forth. Where he obviously has little appeal to Brooks is in his emphasis — he wrote that the balance in society has swung toward government and order, and the emphasis must now be on the individual and liberty. Goldwater wasn’t a rube. As a young man he had witnessed FDR transform the federal government beyond its constitutional limits (with the help of a Court that had been intimidated into acquiescence), the imposition of tax rates as high as 90%, the regulation of crops grown on private property for personal consumption, and so forth. While these events may not seem menacing to Brooks and others today, they certainly were to Goldwater (and are to me). And that was six decades ago and more.
I admit I am not a committed student of Brooks’s columns, but from what I have read he does not explain how he would contain the excesses that come with the kind of government empowerment I believe he campaigns for, and which could pose a danger to the civilized society (or civil society, if you prefer). And this is always the difficulty, especially since the Statist is looking for opportunities to expand government authority and breach the legal and policy fire walls that are intended to limit his excesses. If conservatives don’t emphasize individuality (in the context it is meant), who will? The federal government is massive; it decides what it can and cannot do, and so much of the decision-making has been delegated to unelected entities. Even the states are becoming appendages of the federal government. We all understand (I think) Burke and Smith (and many more) and the role of the individual — his obligation to moral order, etc. But I don’t think the problem or threat today is an excess of individualism or too much talk about it. On the contrary.