dollar corporate enrichment in any list ofrnfederal achievements. Many countriesrntalk about how desirable it is to transferrnwealth, but the United States has actuallyrndone it, albeit in the wrong direction.rnWhy be so modest?rnAmong the other federal triumphs, Irnwould place many of the consequencesrnof the civil-rights revolution, a complexrnand well-intentioned movement that certainlyrnachieved much good. But it alsornchanged American society irrevocably byrndestroying any pretense of states’ rightsrnand federalism, federalizing law enforcement,rnand destroying the ancient prohibitionrnon double jeopardy (“That juryrnmay have acquitted you, but wait till wernhit you with civil-rights charges”). Abovernall, the civil-rights revolution created anrnever-spreading network of legally definedrnrights that demand to be enforced by litigation.rnAlthough these rights were originallyrndefended for an authentically oppressedrnsegment of the population, thernnotion soon diffused across society intornthe realms of women’s rights, gay rights,rndisability rights, and so on. Since thern1940’s, the resulting litigahon explosionrnhas transformed every aspect of the nation’srnlife and thought and resulted in arnfundamental shift of power from legislatorsrnto judges. Arguably, this movementrnhas changed the nature of Americanrndemocracy from the concept of individualrnrights to one of group rights. Give thernfederal government its due for suchrnsweeping achievements.rnAs the Brookings report rightly stresses,rnfederal efforts have affected ordinary peoplernin their ever’day lives. I would placernmuch more weight, though, on federalrnefforts against crime. The professors surveyedrnrated efforts to “reduce crime” onlyrnat number 36 out of 50—not surprisingly,rnsince that endeavor has been suchrna mind-boggling failure. By any statisticalrnmeasure, crime has exploded sincernthe 1940’s, and prison populations haverntaken off into the stratosphere. I am notrnbeing inconsistent here by trying tornblame the federal government for forcesrnwhich were, to some extent, beyond itsrncontrol: The feds were not to blame forrnthe demographic changes which underliernso much crime. I can, however,rnblame them freely for deliberate policiesrnthat made the consequences of that trendrnso much worse: the fads in policing thatrnresulted in cops being taken off the beatrnen masse just as crime rates were beginningrnto soar; the drug war that has criminalizedrnand incarcerated two generationsrnof urban Americans, creating a new andrnprofitable class of state-supervised helots;rnand a full-fledged militarization of policingrnthat might have been justified as a responsernto a popular insurrection, butrnwhich has no place in what is still, ostensibly,rna democracy. You say “triumph”; Irnsay “social catastrophe.”rnAmong the emharras des horreurs offeredrnby Brookings, I am particularlyrnstruck by the last three items on the list,rnthose federal “endeavors” that our academicsrnthink are the very least important,rnnamely, “Reform taxes”; “Control immigration”;rn”Devolve responsibility to thernstates.” Each item offers a great deal ofrnfood for thought, revealing that respondentsrnclearly do not believe in lowered orrnreformed taxes, any restrictions on immigration,rnor any role for the states in whatrnwe humorously term our “federal” system.rnThe liberal groupthink of academernis as solid, and as stultifying, as ever.rnFor me, the crowning glory of this sectionrnis the phraseology of the questionrnabout “devolving responsibility to thernstates.” The people surveyed were professionalrnhistorians and political scientists:rnCould none of them see what wasrnwrong with this? If an undergraduaternused such a phrase, I would wince, andrnthen explain, as simply as possible, that arncountry such as France or Britain mightrntalk of devolving responsibility, but suchrnan idea is totally alien here. Why do yournthink we call it the United States?rnSometimes, surveys are not only unnecessaryrnand misleading, but fundamentallyrninsulting in their conceptualization.rnReading the Brookings report, Irnimagined robbers leaving a bank, takingrncare to hand out survey forms to each personrnpresent, to be filled in when the victimsrnhad untied themselves. The surveyrnwould address such points as the speedrnand efficiency of the robbery, the cleanlinessrnof the weapons used, and clarity ofrncommands (“Did you feel that the phrasern’Freeze, don’t nobody move!’ was wellrnenunciated?” “Overall, how would yournrate your victimization experience”).rnAnd if a robber dropped a bag of lootrnwhile running out, an additional questionrncould be included about his effectivenessrnin giving (or devolving) moneyrnto the bank. This idea may sound whimsical,rnbut compared to the Brookings h>rnstitution’s effort, it’s sweet sanity.rnPhilip Jenkins is the author, most recently,rnof Hidden Gospels: How the Quest forrnJesus Lost Its Way (Oxford University Press).rnSOCIETYrnKitchen TablernWarriorsrnby JeffMinickrnWhenever my family gathers togetherrn—usually at Thanksgivingrnor New Year’s, and nearly always in thernrambling old home belonging to my wifernand me in Waynesville, North Carolinarn—the conversation commences beforernthe engines of the arriving cars haverncooled in the driveway. This talk, whichrnI have come privately to regard as thernGreat Conversation, inevitably takesrnplace around our kitchen table. ThernGreat Conversation is loose, flowing, intense;rnlike one of the nearby SmokyrnMountain streams, it moves swiftly, takesrnunexpected courses, and occasionallyrnsmacks against a rock. In half an hour,rnwe can touch on topics ranging from BillrnClinton’s bombing of Kosovo to thernmeaning of sacramental grace in everydayrnlife, delving deep here, skimming thernsurface there, pausing only to fill coffeerncups, pop open beer cans, or settle affairsrnbetween our children. Throughout thernday and late into the night, the GreatrnConversation rolls, a weekend-longrnmarathon during which breaks occur onlyrnfor sleep and the participants come andrngo as they please. During the past tworndecades, our poor kitchen table has absorbedrna few beatings, scores of tears,rnthousands of laughs, and hundreds ofrnthousands of words.rnSix of us are siblings—three brothersrnand three sisters. Along with our spouses,rnall of whom leap into these verbal brawlsrnwithout a moment’s hesitation, we form arndiverse group. Religiously, Protestantsrnpredominate, though one brother hasrnconverted to Judaism (Reformed) and Irnbecame Roman Catholic about six yearsrnago. Politically, the last 12 years havernseen us cast ballots for the Republicans,rnthe Democrats, the Libertarians, the ReformrnParty, and possibly the Communistsrn(my brother is vague about that one).rnOur occupations are as diverse as our politics,rnrunning the social and economicrngamut from Episcopalian priest, banker,rnand chemist to bookseller, auto-partsrnsalesman, and pizza deliveryman. Eachrnof the six families has at least two chil-rn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn