The Corner

Social Mobility and Civil Society

Do yourself a favor and watch the speech Paul Ryan delivered in Ohio this afternoon on the real sources of upward mobility in America. It advances an argument that has been in the background of a lot of what conservatives have had to say in the age of Obama (and long before, of course), but has rarely been made explicit—a defense of civil society, of what Ryan calls that “vast middle ground between the government and the individual,” as the real source of America’s vitality, prosperity, and unity, and an explanation of how that crucial space has come under assault and why Mitt Romney is well suited to protecting it. A lot of the Romney agenda (and a lot of Ryan’s own work in recent years) has been focused on securing that space both from direct incursions by government itself and from being crushed by the weight of federal debt. Ryan lays out that case and explains why it matters most to the neediest and most vulnerable in our society—and why compassion for the poor should not be measured by government spending or the size of welfare rolls but by how well we enable the poor to rise and thrive.


There are a whole lot of very good reasons to defeat Barack Obama in this election, but this one runs deeper than most, and it has not been laid out this clearly and well by a conservative politician in many years. Well worth your while.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.


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