Over in the NYTimes columnist David Brooks talks about Two Theories of Change. He’s talking about modern American politics but it seems relevant to Friends. Here’s his summary of a new paper by Yuval Levin of the University of Chicago:
[Thomas] Paine believed that societies exist in an “eternal now.” That something has existed for ages tells us nothing about its value. The past is dead and the living should use their powers of analysis to sweep away existing arrangements when necessary, and begin the world anew. He even suggested that laws should expire after 30 years so each new generation could begin again[Edmund] Burke, a participant in the British Enlightenment, had a different vision of change. He believed that each generation is a small part of a long chain of history. We serve as trustees for the wisdom of the ages and are obliged to pass it down, a little improved, to our descendents. That wisdom fills the gaps in our own reason, as age-old institutions implicitly contain more wisdom than any individual could have.
For Brooks, the Paine folllowers are Tea Party activists who think it’s fine to “sweep away 100 years of history and return government to its preindustrial role.”