Alexis de Tocqueville in 1830 thought that America’s social capital was a key ingredient to our success. If something needed to get done, the community did it. Libraries were donated and hospitals were built by churches. To Tocqueville, America built a society not a government. When our government today provides those libraries, hospitals, and welfare, it strips our community of opportunities to build up social capital. Today, government steals the attitude of “see a need, fill a need.” So what are those principles of social capital that we as good citizens should strive for?
1. Trust and Cohesion
My grandpa shared with me years ago that once you shake on something, that was that. No going back on your word. Yet today, a lawyer is needed to make a business deal due to the lack of trust between parties. To have social capital, being trusted is necessary. Cohesive communities are those in which people look out for each other. Neighbors welcome new folks to the block. The friendly guy across the street watches your house while you are on vacation. There is a basic level of trust that builds the cohesion necessary for a flourishing society.
When there is a need, the community bands together, throws a bazaar, and the project gets completed. Big government bureaucracy is out of the picture, taxes are not increased, generosity (a virtue) is displayed and recognized, and the city is brought together. The children’s playground was built with no need for a parks and recreation department and it is maintained by the local restaurant. It is a win-win-win for the community.
3. Community Involvement
Investing time and money will create a love and a care that otherwise would not be had. We all invest in things. We invest our time and money into that which we care about. While a naysayer can argue, a mirror being held up silence the dissidence. We invest and we love. By investing in our communities with time and money, we will gain a love for it and increase our social capital.
4. Reliance on Self
To rely on self is an attitude. It is a way of life. This does not mean that being in a tough situation does not warrant aid. No, the attitude of relying on self simply means that we try our best to provide for ourself and not to rely on others.
What brought people across the big pond was not only religious liberty but the chance to work with their own two hands and pursue their own happiness. Success begins with getting out of bed. Proverbs 10:4 says, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Initiative and drive is the engine that pulls these principles of social capital together. We need initiative to build trust and cohesion with our neighbors, to give our time and resources, and to be involved. Only then can we increase our social capital and make progress as a society.
For Further Discussion: