How many associations have touched your life?
We are fortunate in America to have many organizations working to defend our freedoms and put out facts, analyses, and truth about happenings in the public square.
Where would we be if we only had corporate media and the government to rely on for information? If COVID proved anything, it is that government institutions and the media that parrot the bureaucracy’s position do not tell the truth. Remember these:
Get Vaccinated to Stop the Spread
Wear Your Mask to Protect Others and Yourself
In addition to government and certain media, large companies that often – not always, but often - thrive off government largesse and regulations to the detriment of competitors – also aren’t giving all the information to consumers that are needed to make an informed decision. In the case of COVID, medical and educational institutions went along with government mandates to the detriment of many adults and children not susceptible to any risk from COVID.
This is why free associations are so important in America.
Like the thousands of doctors who signed The Great Barrington Declaration, Alliance Defending Freedom who sued for religious rights to not take the COVID shot, and the parent groups who came together to get kids back in school unmasked, these associations play an invaluable part in protecting democracy and our individual rights.
This Thanksgiving, Americans should be very thankful for the myriad of people who work in think tanks, associations, independent news organizations, and the like that push back against “conventional wisdom” to unpack the truth and take to court government institutions and others that trample on individual rights.
America’s proliferation of associations is unique in the world.
Embodied in our First Amendment right to assemble is the right to freely associate and build associations which work in civil society in America as “mediating structures,” a term used by Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus to describe “those institutions standing between the individual and his private life and the large institutions of public life.”
Berger and Neuhaus wrote about the importance of mediating structures in a book called To Empower People: From State to Civil Society. In their book, they list mediating structures as family, church, neighborhood, and voluntary association.
For a brief overview, this article in First Things discusses important tenants of the book.
Mediating Institutions by Wilfred M. McClay | Articles | First Things
Long before Berger and Neuhaus wrote their book (1977), Alexis de Tocqueville, recognized the importance and uniqueness of these private associations in America. In his book, Democracy in America, De Tocqueville notes that in aristocratic society, a few wealthy individuals can act to influence affairs and direct resources to a cause, but in a democracy, individuals can band together to accomplish great things without the need for the largesse of a few wealthy individuals. That’s not to say that donor leadership isn’t extremely valued by associations; however, it means to show that the power of many can compete with the power of a few. But for our right to free association would that even be possible.
From Democracy in America
“Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science to the most objects. Does this result from an accident or could it be that there in fact exists a necessary relation between associations and equality?
Aristocratic societies always include within them, in the midst of a multitude of individuals who can do nothing by themselves, a few very powerful and very wealthy citizens; each of these can execute great undertakings by himself.
In aristocratic societies, men have no need to unite to act because they are kept very much together.
Each wealthy and powerful citizen in them forms as it were the head of a permanent and obligatory association that is composed of all those he holds in dependence to him, whom he makes cooperate in the execution of his designs.
In democratic peoples, on the contrary, all citizens are independent and weak; they can do almost nothing by themselves, and none of them can oblige those like themselves to lend them their cooperation. They therefore all fall into impotence if they do not learn to aid each other freely.”
In the news articles below, Truth in Accounting is an example of an association that works to tell fact from fiction in Pritzker’s press release on the financial status of Illinois.
In another article, SEIU is an example of an association that works for their members – and against taxpayers.
How many associations have touched your life?