Yuval Levin on The Path Back From Conspiracy

If I could select on person to rule as a benevolent dictator it would probably be Yuval Levin.  He has the knowledge, wisdom, experience and temperament to make a great leader (which is why he is not so stupid as to run for office but that is another post).

If you are seeking some sense of how we might get out of the mess we find ourselves in, I recommend his piece at The Dispatch today (BTW, you should join The Dispatch): The Path Back From Conspiracy. Building on his must read book, A Time to Build, he locates the solution in institutions but crucially rebuilding the integrity of institutions.

This requires a realistic understanding of human nature:

To imagine we don’t need responsible elites—or that the desire for institutional integrity is a naïve and over-earnest fantasy—is actually to deny the limits of human reason, power, and ability. It is a kind of utopianism masquerading as realism. It ultimately depends upon the fiction that corrupt elites are exceedingly competent, so that what the people need is their own hyper-competent champion to fight back. In truth, however, neither the elites nor their opponents are particularly capable. They are all human beings, and to imagine that human beings can seamlessly pull off a sophisticated, multilayered, sinister conspiracy over an extended period in a free society is already to lose touch with reality.

But our institutions seem corrupt and useless:

That sort of corruption of our professional institutions has grown pervasive. Not only in politics but in journalism, the academy, public health, federal law enforcement, American religious life, and beyond we have lately seen the lure of political expression overcome the strictures of professional formation, and the result has been a cratering of public trust and a growing detachment from reality.

The solution, however, is not to burn it down as so many seem to want, but build it up:

We should criticize elites for failing to live up to professional and institutional standards, not dismiss those standards as a sham. We should demand integrity, not deny it is possible. We should fight for the professions and the universities, not against them. We should want our institutions to be worthy of trust and authority, not seek to burn them down.

The corruption of the American establishment doesn’t mean we can do without elite institutions, it means we need to help them recover their integrity.

We desperately need leaders and communities who can take up this important work. Particularly in the areas noted above that so warp our perspectives these days.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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