Paul Ryan and the fight to save civil society

Paul Ryan gave an important speech in Cleveland, Ohio yesterday. The underlying subject was the enduring necessity of civil society and the role that local communities play in the typical American life, about which Ryan said this:

[Romney is] the type we’ve all run into in our own communities – here in Cleveland, too, and all around America. Americans are a compassionate people, and there’s a consensus in this country about our fundamental obligations to society’s most vulnerable. Those obligations are not what we’re debating in politics. Most times, the real debate is about whether they are best met by private groups, or by the government; by voluntary action, or by more taxes and coercive mandates from Washington.

The short of it is that there has to be a balance – allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do. There’s a vast middle ground between the government and the individual. Our families and our neighborhoods, the groups we join and our places of worship – this is where we live our lives. They shape our character, give our lives direction, and help make us a self-governing people.

Ryan credited his mentor, Jack Kemp, for these thoughs. However, Seth Mandel notes that the true unnamed force behind his speech was the late conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet.

I found this interesting because E.J. Dionne claims that modern conservatism has abandoned the views of Nisbet regarding the importance of fostering community. Dionne’s contention was always partisan nonsense. But now you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask Paul Ryan.