The Public Interest

Social intervention in a democracy

Lance Liebman

Winter 1974

BORN in the Enlightenment, the great age of making men good through the structure of social institutions, America has always sought justice and happiness through collective agreements. A proper constitution, John Adams wrote, “causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general... and makes the common people brave and enterprising.” Thus it is wrong to say, as Charles Schultze and his Brookings associates do, that only recently has the American government sought “to change fundamental behavior patterns of individuals and institutions.” Although some of the national crusades in the 1960’s were different from most bread-and-butter New Deal programs, seen as a whole the 1960’s were merely the latest phase of a two-century-old series of American obsessions and efforts. Nevertheless, they were a phase that revealed new aspects of the old ideas.


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