The moral, intellectual, physical and social improvement of the human race was a hot topic of the Enlightenment. It helped shape the American and French revolutions. Creating the "New Soviet Man" was at the heart of the Russian revolution — that's what justified the violence.
A central theme of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was not just that human misery could be alleviated. It was that core human problems like crime could be fixed by the government eliminating root causes like want.
That's all gone.
We now barely trust government to teach kids to read.
JOEL GARREAU, the cultural revolution correspondent of The Washington Post, is a student of global culture, values, and change whose current interests range from human networks and the transmission of ideas to the hypothesis that the '90s — like the '50s — set the stage for a social revolution to come. He is the author of the best-selling books Edge City: Life on the New Frontier and The Nine Nations of North America, and a principal of The Edge City Group, which is dedicated to the creation of more liveable and profitable urban areas worldwide.