America’s Social-Capital Problem Is America’s Political Problem

It’s all connected — foreign policy, domestic policy, cultural issues and economic issues — call it the social fabric. Integral to it is “social-capital” — here is one definition: “Social capital is a form of economic and cultural capital in which social networks are central, transactions are marked by reciprocity, trust, and cooperation, and market agents produce goods and services not mainly for themselves, but for a common good.”

Here is Max Bloom writing at National Review:

We feel the need to win others to our coalition, even when we’re not well-informed ourselves.

There was a remarkable detail, scarcely commented upon, in the executive summary of the debut report from Senator Mike Lee’s Social Capital Project. In 1972, 36 percent of Americans reported that they followed “what’s going on in government and public affairs,” while 32 percent said that they had tried to persuade someone else to vote a particular way. By 2008, the share of Americans who followed public affairs had dropped almost a third, to 26 percent. Yet, remarkably, the share of Americans who had tried to persuade someone else to vote a particular way had increased about a quarter, to 40 percent. Even under the very most charitable assumption — that everyone who considers himself well-informed is politically active — some 35 percent of the politically active are, by their own reporting, not politically well-informed. What’s going on?

Jonah Goldberg wrote two weeks ago about the “lifestylization of politics.” Goldberg argued that the collapse of traditional sources of identity — “traditional religion and other mediating institutions” — had left partisan affiliation as a major source of identity. “When politics becomes a secular religion,” Goldberg cautioned, “a source of meaning, or simply a ‘lifestyle,’ politics will be less about arguments and tradeoffs and more about wearing ‘ideas’ on your sleeve.” As politics becomes identity, everything becomes political — Goldberg cites the case of a novelty Twitter account endorsing Planned Parenthood — while politics itself loses any substance.

Read more: National Review

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