Heritage distinguished fellow and former Assistant Secretary of State Kim R. Holmes, at a recent event for his new book Rebound: Getting America Back to Great, argued that America’s decline is not inevitable; there’s still a chance to turn things around.
Today, America is one of the freest and most prosperous nations on earth. The reasons are many; but for Holmes, the most important are the values of its founding generations: their ethos of personal responsibility, commitment to limited government, and entrepreneurial spirit.
Holmes described how early American mutual aid societies and churches saw helping the needy and sick as their mission. One example is the Household of Ruth, founded in 1857, in which free black women voluntarily banded together and pooled their resources to provide benefits to sick and needy members. Besides insuring against sickness and injury, the group also had the worthy goal of instilling “good moral character” in its members.
Regrettably, organizations like this in America are few and far between. They have been undermined by the massive growth in federal entitlement programs since the New Deal and by the countercultural movements of the 1960s, which overturned norms of personal responsibility. Stuart Butler, director of Heritage’s Center for Policy Innovation, called the interaction between these two movements “devastating.”
Holmes and Butler are optimistic that Americans can turn things around. Rebound is not just a history book; it is about the future. As Holmes summarized, “It’s about learning what worked, what didn’t work, why it didn’t work…[and] applying lessons from our history to solve tomorrow’s problems.” Civil society can be restored by strengthening families and reviving cultural values of independence and community that worked so well for so long.
Butler reminded the participants that, in the words of Winston Churchill, “You can always trust Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else first.” And, as visiting fellow Marion Smith cautioned, good outcomes are not inevitable. It is up to Americans—and especially today’s young people—to start making the hard decisions that will get America back to great, and Rebound is an excellent place to start.
Order your copy today of Rebound: Getting America Back to Great by Kim R. Holmes.