The collapse of families and communities -- so far, more or less disguisable as "mobility" or "growth" or "progress" or "liberation" -- comes from or with the collapse of personal character and is a social catastrophe. It leaves individuals subject to no requirements or restraints except those imposed by government. The liberal individual desires freedom from restraints upon personal choices and acts, which often has extended to freedom from familial and communal responsibilities. The conservative individual desires freedom from restraints upon economic choices and acts, which often extends to freedom from social, ecological and even economic responsibilities. Preoccupied with these degraded freedoms, both sides have refused to look straight at the dangers and the failures of government-by-corporations.
The Christian or social conservatives who wish for government protection of their version of family values have been seduced by the conservatives of corporate finance who wish for government protection of their semireligion of personal wealth earned in contempt for families. The liberals, calling for too few restraints upon incorporated wealth, wish for government enlargement of their semireligion of personal rights and liberties. One side espouses family values pertaining to temporary homes that are empty all day, every day. The other promotes liberation that vouchsafes little actual freedom and no particular responsibility. And so we are talking about a populace in which nearly everybody is needy, greedy, envious, angry, and alone. We are talking therefore about a politics of mutual estrangement, in which the two sides go at each other with the fervor of extreme righteousness in defense of rickety absolutes that are indefensible and therefore cannot be compromised.
"Caught in the Middle" (pp. 75-6) as published in Our Only World: Ten Essays