Localism and social capital: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) on why federalism is key to restoring civic connectedness and faith in the American government - AEI

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Event Summary

On Wednesday, AEI’s Ryan Streeter welcomed Sen. Mike Lee (R–UT) to deliver a keynote address on the Joint Economic Committee’s Social Capital Project, a new initiative to study the state of life and social relations in America.

In his address, Sen. Lee noted the widespread decline of involvement in once-popular local organizations such as the Boy Scouts, the Rotary Club, and churches. Alongside this decline, Americans are increasingly reporting a lack of faith in the federal government. Sen. Lee emphasized that notions of federalism and localized decision-making processes are crucial to restoring a sense of civic connectedness, unity, and faith in the American government.

Following Sen. Lee’s address, Lee Drutman of New America, Joel Kotkin of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, Yuval Levin of National Affairs, and Scott Winship, the director of the Social Capital Project, discussed the role a federalist landscape could serve in expanding innovation, adaptation, and competitiveness in policymaking. Dr. Drutman stressed that while Americans have low turnout rates in local elections, empowering communities could increase civic involvement in local organizations. Dr. Levin cited James Madison’s critiques of local and state government, noting the importance of federalism’s limitations and the need to articulate affirmative federal governmental roles for social policy.

— Douglas Lewis


Event Description

As America has shifted to a knowledge economy, leading scholars and commentators have observed an alarming breakdown in key pillars of American society and community, including a decline in “associational life.” Local networks, community organizations, businesses, and religious groups — which have long fostered trust, support, and character in American communities — seem to be losing their vitality in too many places.

In his role as vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) recently launched the Social Capital Project, a multiyear research project investigating the changing nature and importance of social capital and associational life in a transitioning America. Join AEI for a public address from Sen. Lee on the Social Capital Project, followed by a discussion moderated by Joel Kotkin of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.


8:15 AM

8:30 AM
Ryan Streeter, AEI

8:35 AM
Opening remarks:
Mike Lee, Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, US Senate

8:55 AM

9:00 AM
Panel discussion

Lee Drutman, New America
Yuval Levin, National Affairs
Scott Winship, Joint Economic Committee

Joel Kotkin, Center for Opportunity Urbanism

9:45 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Doug Lewis at [email protected], 202.828.6027.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Related Material

Social Capital Project


Speaker Biographies

Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the program on political reform at New America. He is the author of “The Business of America is Lobbying” (Oxford University Press, 2015) and winner of the 2016 American Political Science Association’s Robert A. Dahl Award, given for “scholarship of the highest quality on the subject of democracy.” An expert on lobbying, influence, and money in politics, he has been quoted or cited in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Slate, Mother Jones, The Atlantic, Business Insider, National Review, Politico, and many other publications, and on programs including “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” “Planet Money,” “This American Life,” “Marketplace,” “Washington Journal,” and “The Colbert Report.” He writes regularly for Polyarchy, a Vox.com blog. Dr. Drutman also teaches in the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to coming to New America, Drutman was a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation. He has also worked in the US Senate and at the Brookings Institution. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. from Brown University.

Joel Kotkin is an internationally recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He is executive editor of the widely read website New Geography and writes the weekly “New Geographer” column for Forbes. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast, Real Clear Politics, and The Orange County Register. He is the author of eight books, including “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us” (Agate Press, 2016) and “The New Class Conflict,” (Telos Press, 2014), “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050” (Penguin Books, 2011), and “The City: A Global History” (Modern Library, 2006).

Mike Lee represents the State of Utah in the US Senate. Elected in 2010, he serves on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where he chairs the Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining; and the Committee on the Judiciary, where he chairs the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. He also serves as vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and chairman of the Senate Republican Steering Committee. Before his election, Sen. Lee clerked for Justice Samuel Alito, practiced law in the private sector, served as an assistant US attorney, and served as general counsel for Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Yuval Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) and the editor of National Affairs magazine. His essays and articles have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. He is a contributing editor of National Review and The Weekly Standard, a senior editor of EPPC’s journal The New Atlantis, and the author of “The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism” (Basic Books, 2016). In 2013, he received the Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement. Before joining EPPC, he served on the White House domestic policy staff under President George W. Bush. He has also been executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics and a congressional staffer. He holds a B.A. from American University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Ryan Streeter is the director of domestic policy studies at AEI, where he oversees research in education, American citizenship, politics, public opinion, and social and cultural studies. Before joining AEI, he was executive director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Streeter has had a distinguished career in government service, which includes being deputy chief of staff for policy for Indiana Governor Mike Pence, special assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush at the White House, and policy adviser to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. Outside of government, he has served as a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and as a research fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is the author of “Transforming Charity: Toward a Results-Oriented Social Sector” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the editor of “Religion and the Public Square in the 21st Century” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the coauthor of “The Soul of Civil Society: Voluntary Associations and the Public Value of Moral Habits” (Lexington Books, 2002); and a contributor to the Stephen Goldsmith book, “Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work Through Grassroots Citizenship” (Hudson Institute, 2002). In addition to his many television and radio appearances, which include BBC News, CNBC, and Fox News, Dr. Streeter’s articles have been widely published in outlets including National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and The Washington Post. Dr. Streeter has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Emory University, an M.A. from Northern Illinois University, and a B.A. from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Scott Winship is the director of the Social Capital Project, an initiative created by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in the Vice Chairman’s Office of the Joint Economic Committee. Previously, he was the Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Winship has testified before Congress on the issues of poverty, inequality, and employment, and he served as an adviser to Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. He contributed a chapter on welfare reform to “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class” (Conservative Reform Network, 2014). He received a Ph.D. in social policy from Harvard University.


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