Yet despite the complexity of contemporary society, there are still some simple formulas we can use to distill the path to social and economic flourishing. One of these, labeled the “Success Sequence,” and credited to Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the left-of-center Brookings Institute, proposes a three-step rule book for modern American life: 1. Finish high school. 2. Get a job. (Any job. Because working leads to more working, which leads to better jobs.) 3. Get married before having children. When people follow this pattern—and crucially, in this order—life generally turns out pretty well.
If a free people is going to be reproduced, it will require watering and revivifying and owning anew older traditions and awaking the curiosity in the soul of each citizen. National greatness will not be recovered via a mindless expansion of bureaucratized schooling. Seventy years ago, Dorothy Sayers wrote, 'Sure, we demand another grant of money, we postpone the school leaving age and plan to build bigger and better schools. We demand that teachers further slave conscientiously in and out of school hours. But to what end? I believe,' Sayers lamented, 'all this devoted effort is largely frustrated because we have no definable goal for each child to become a fully formed adult. We have lost the tools of learning, sacrificing them to the piecemeal, subject matter approach of bureaucratized schooling that finally compromises to produce passive rather than active emerging adults. But our kids are not commodities, they are plants. They require a protected environment, and care, and feeding, but most basically, an internal yearning to grow toward the sunlight. What we need is the equipping of each child with those lost tools.
Look at trade and automation: two competing but slightly overlapping forces in the shrinking of the duration of jobs right now. We have to be able to talk honestly about how disrupted this world is going to be, and it is crazy to mislead people and say we're going to bring back all of the big factory jobs by creating a protectionist regime.
Our pandering politicians compete to add names to the dependency of entitlement rolls instead of evaluating the success of these programs by how many people leave the dole and are restored to an independence. And these bulging entitlements are saddling our offspring with unsustainable generational debt.