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Manhattan Institute

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What Barr Got Right — and What He Might Add

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What Barr Got Right — and What He Might Add

National Review Online October 17, 2019
Civil SocietyOther

He singled out for criticism those who believe that, in effect, government social programs could replace the virtues instilled by religion.

Attorney General William Barr finds himself the target of criticism for remarks he made at the University of Notre Dame in which he made the case that a decline in religiosity — and, indeed, attacks on the beliefs of the religious — might have something to do with personal and social dysfunction in the United States.

For this — and his expressed view that “militant secularists” might actually prefer to replace the “traditional moral order” — Barr stands accused of endorsing some sort of Christian theocracy.

Barr, of course, hardly endorsed the idea the church–state divide should be erased in the United States. Nor did he insist that only the religious could live a healthy and productive life. Rather, he singled out for criticism those who believe that, in effect, government social programs could replace the virtues instilled by religion. It’s an important distinction. Since the New Deal, and increasingly since the Great Society, we have done exactly what Barr asserted: We have “called on the state to mitigate the social costs of personal misconduct and irresponsibility . . .”

Continue reading the entire piece here at National Review Online

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Howard Husock is vice president for research and publications at the Manhattan Institute and author of the new book, Who Killed Civil Society?

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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