We are sailing into a new world of public policy—a world as strange and new as Columbus discovered. It is a world where infinite government demands have run straight into finite resources. It is an America made up increasingly of diverse people. At current immigration patterns, by 2040, there will not be a dominant ethnic group in America. We will all be minorities. We are the only country in history that ever deliberately changed its ethnic makeup, and history has few examples of “diversity” creating a stable society.

America is an aging society whose wealth is not accumulating at historic rates. Most of our institutional memories and political culture come out of the 1950’s and 1960’s, when America was largely European in makeup and was doubling its per capita wealth every 30 to 40 years. Government had a substantial yearly growth dividend it could spend. Now, a much more diverse America is the worst country in the industrialized world at creating wealth (it now takes approximately 130 years to double our per capita wealth). We go into debt to maintain current levels of government. Being in government today is like sleeping with a blanket that is too short: we do not have the resources to cover all our current promises. Compounding the problem is the growing economic disparity, with a small percent at the top of the economic ladder creating most of the new wealth.

We already live in a time of unprecedented tension between Richard D. Lamm, governor of Colorado from 1975 to 1987, is director of the Center for PubUc Policy and Contemporary Issues at the University of Denver. He was a Reform Party candidate for the presidency of the United States. the races, sexes—even generations and religions. Because a more crowded, more diverse, and less wealthy country must give serious thought to what “social glue” is necessary to hold it together, it is imperative for us to understand what a “community” is and how it is formed and reinforced. As Marcel Proust has said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”

Let us look with “new eyes” at community. A community is much more than a place on a map. It is a state of mind, a shared vision, a common fate that is forged by dedication, work, tolerance, and love. The community passed on to us by our forefathers will not inevitably be passed on to our children, for community is not a guarantee but a continuing challenge.

The results of not building a community are evident everywhere, in Bosnia, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, Quebec, and Rwanda. What is going on today in Azerbaijan and Bosnia is not a failure of communism; it is failure of community. The Serbs, Slovenians, Croats, and Bosnians were killing each other long before Marx was born. Bosnia, in fact, traumatized as it is, is far less diverse than the United States, but we formed a community (E Pluribus Unum) and Bosnia did not.

In light of our new social and economic realities, therefore, we must reconsider those elements that build community and those that tend to pull community apart, such as race, religion, and ethnicity. Melting pots that do not melt become pressure cookers, and diversity carried too far is dangerously divisive.

Building better communities, then, should be highly important public policy and critical to our public and private futures. I should thus like to offer “Ten Commandments of Community—ten building blocks which are imperative as we try to renew and expand our sense of community.

Commandment I: The future is not something we inherit, but something we create. Too many Americans believe that God is an American who will watch over us no matter how hedonistic, selfish, myopic, or inefficient we become. This is a dangerous hubris. No great nation in history has ever withstood the ravages of time. Toynbee warned us that all great nations rise and fall, and that the “autopsy of history is that all great nations commit suicide.” Because God will not automatically save America, with God’s help, we must save ourselves.

There is an Amazon legend about a priest speaking with God about heaven and hell. “I will show you hell,” said God. They went into a room which had a delicious beef stew on the table, around which sat people who looked desperately famished. They held spoons with long handles which reached into the pot, but because the spoons were too long, they could not get the stew into their mouths. Their suffering was terrible. “Now, I will show you heaven,” said God. They then went into an identical room with the same savory stew on the table, around which sat people with identical spoons and handles, but they were well nourished and joyous. The priest was baffled until God said, “Quite simply, you see, these people have learned to feed each other.”

We can create chaos, as in Bosnia, or we can create community. The decision is up to us.

Commandment II: A great community needs great leaders and great citizens. How do we expect to build community when 30 percent of our births (67 percent of black births) are illegitimate, and when we know that illegitimacy is a “leading indicator” of almost every social pathology (e.g., juvenile delinquency, crime, spousal abuse, drug abuse, etc.)? How do we hold the urban centers of this nation together when 70 percent of the students in public school come from families that qualify for the “free lunch” program and the wealthy live in “gated communities”? What should we expect in the 21st century after my generation has witnessed a 560 percent increase in violent crime, a 419 percent increase in illegitimate births, a 400 percent increase in divorce rates, a 300 percent increase in children living in single-parent homes, and a drop of 80 points in SAT scores?

Commandment III: A community must have economic stability. Economic instability preceded Lenin’s Russia, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany. My generation has lied about our country’s deficit by borrowing from various federal trust funds, masked the true extent of our debt, and run up a staggering trade deficit. Look at the figures: the federal debt that we admit to has been growing steadily both in actual numbers and as a percentage of our GDP. When I was elected to my second term as governor of Colorado in 1979, the federal debt was SI trillion and the GDP $3 trillion. When I left office in 1987, the federal debt was $2 trillion and the GDP $4 trillion. Today, the federal debt is $5 trillion and the GDP $7 trillion. This is bad enough, but when the “unfunded” liabilities for programs that we have enjoyed (like military pensions, federal civil service retirement, and Social Security) are added into the mix, the actual costs that our children and great grandchildren will have to pay are between $14 and $17 trillion, if not more. The trade deficit gives people outside the United States a claim on our assets. It is essentially an IOU for goods we imported in excess of those we exported.

Never has a generation of Americans so prespent our children’s money and mortgaged their future. We are the most fiscally irresponsible generation in our nation’s history, and to many thoughtful people, there will come a day of reckoning for our irresponsible actions.

Commandment IV: A community must generate tolerance and yet set limits on that tolerance. Tolerance is a word easy to say—hard to apply. But what a community should and should not tolerate often depends on context. It is your right to read your Bible, your Koran, your Torah, but it is not your right to force these readings on others. We can tolerate almost any idea, and the community should be alive with argument. What should be taught in public schools is a thornier issue. We are entitled to believe in creationism, for example, but are we entitled to teach it as fact in the public schools? I suggest not.

The standards for teaching and tolerance are not coterminous. It may be that you deeply believe that it is the trees moving that makes the wind. This is your prerogative, but you cannot teach it to my kids in public institutions. Science and rational thought have put to rest certain arguments, and knowledge must move forward if we are to survive in a competitive world. We can tolerate many private beliefs but should stand strong against institutionalizing nonscience and falsehood into our school system.

Commandment V: A community can be a Joseph’s coat of many colors and creeds, but it must have more things in common than differences. “Diversity” is a word sweeping America and, in particular, our college campuses. I am suspicious of the “eulogization” of that word. I recently traveled around the world and in no place, with the possible exception of Hawaii, did I see “diversity” working. The people of the world’s most diverse regions are mostly engaged in hating and killing one another. A peaceful and stable society built on “diversity” is much harder to achieve than most Americans acknowledge, and I am sobered by how much unity it takes. Dorf’s World History tell us that “the Greeks believed that they belonged to the same race; they possessed a common language and literature, and they worshipped the same gods. All Greece took part in the Olympic games in honor of Zeus, and all Greeks venerated the shrine of Apollo at Delphi. A common enemy, Persia, threatened their liberty. Yet all of these bonds together were not strong enough to overcome two factors . . . local patriotism and geographical conditions which nurtured political divisions.”

The Los Angeles Times, whose market area is now a seething land of ethnic tensions, warns, “If ethnicity begins to replace citizenship as the basis of statehood, chaos would ensue.” But this is exactly the situation today. Hispanic students demand a separate education, at which the Mexican, not American, flag is flown. There is more talk of “reclaiming” the Southwest for Mexico than there is of allegiance to America. Is this just a passing phase? The history of multiple cultures living together without assimilation is not encouraging. The United States runs the very great risk of creating a “Hispanic Quebec” if we do not develop and apply the right social ties. As Benjamin Schwarz said recently in the Atlantic Monthly, “The apparent success of our own multi-ethnic and multicultural experiment might have been achieved not by tolerance but by hegemony. Without the dominance that once dictated ethnocentrically, and what it meant to be an American, we are left with only tolerance and pluralism to hold us together.”

This is not enough. We must be more than a diverse people living in the same place and sharing only a standard of living. In short, “diversity” is only an asset if it is secondary to unity. The emphasis must be on the unum not the pluribus. We should respect diversity, but we should celebrate unity.

Commandment VI: A community cares about its future and builds for that future. Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed during his fight against Hitler that “the ultimate question for a responsible man is . . . how the coming generation will live.” As explained above, my generation has not been good trustees for America. We have not met the most basic of history’s tests: instead of leaving our children a sustainable society, we have left them fiscal time bombs. We have not maintained strong, vigorous, and sustainable institutions.

As already detailed, we have hung an albatross of debt around the necks of our children. Social Security, Medicare, military pensions, federal civil service pensions, state and local pensions—all these and more are chain letters to the future. Medicare is one recession away from bankruptcy. The average person retiring today will receive from Social Security three or four times as much money as he paid into the system, while our children will be lucky to even get their contributions back. Programs that worked and were good social policy when we had a society with many children and when people died in their 60’s and 70’s does not make economic sense in a society which has fewer children with a less productive economy and whose citizens live well into their 80’s.

The elderly make up 13 percent of America, and they receive 61 percent of federal social spending, despite the fact that the elderly are no longer disproportionately poor. It is political power, not social justice, which sets priorities, and money desperately needed to prepare the next generation is being transferred to the last generation whether they need it or not. Money desperately needed by poor children in St. Paul is transferred instead to wealthy retirees in St. Petersburg.

The status of a community at any given time is like starlight. What you see is, to a large degree, not what is but what was. Just as the star you see is light which left the star years before, so also community is the result of a previous generation saving, investing, educating, and building. Communities are the result of generations of caring.

In all cultures, in all nations, and in all religions, there is a universal theme against profligacy, one urging justice for future generations. A community cares about posterity. An old Middle East proverb observes, “The beginning of wisdom comes when a person plants a tree, the shade under which he knows he will never sit.” Alas, my generation has cut down many of the shade trees we inherited.

Commandment VII: A community needs a shared culture and shared language. John Gardner, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has said:

If the community is lucky, and fewer and fewer are, it will have a shared history and tradition. It will have its “story,” its legends and heroes, and will retell that story often. It will have symbols of group identity—a name, a flag, a location, songs, and stories . . . which it will use to heighten its members’ sense of belonging. . . . To maintain the sense of belonging and the dedication and commitment so essential to community life, members need inspiring reminders of shared goals and values.

I am convinced that one of the “shared values” we must have is a shared language. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual—it is a curse for a society to be bilingual.

The United States, in my opinion, is at a crossroads. It must move toward either greater integration or greater fragmentation. It will either have to do a better job of assimilating its peoples or witness increasing alienation and balkanization. We found in the 1950’s that “separate was inherently unequal,” but it is also inherently divisive.

Commandment VIII: A great community is one that has developed a great culture. Why do certain people succeed in disproportionate numbers and others fail? The answer, I believe, is culture.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan says that “the central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” The most economically successful people in America today are in fact minorities who have been discriminated against. Regarding family income, the top earners in America are Japanese, Chinese, Jews, and Koreans. Why? I believe it is because they come from cultures which promote education, delayed gratification, ambition, and hard work, and other traits that are most often equated with success.

Commandment IX: Ask not what your community can do for you but what you can do for your community. I believe a quality community is one which balances rights and privileges with duties and responsibilities. No society can live on rights and privileges alone, as we have tried to do for too long. Our community and our nation now need something in return.

A free republic demands a far higher degree of virtue than any earlier society. It demands a profound sense of personal responsibility, a willingness to govern one’s own passions, a capacity of initiative and self-reliance, a taste for personal independence, and a sustained spirit of civic cooperation. Saul Bellow said it well, that “America is as threatened by an excess of liberty as Russia was by the absence of liberty.” Those are important words. An 18th-century philosopher put it another way: “Freedom is the luxury of self-discipline.” “America, the Beautiful” mirrors this same thought: “Confirm thy soul in self-control by liberty and law.”

A breakdown in community because of a lack of cooperation, self-control, and common sense was recently witnessed in South Carolina, where the state’s Supreme Court upheld Beaufort City’s ordinance banning excessive noise. The ordinance was challenged by street preachers who asserted a right to shout as loudly as possible for a sustained period regardless of the effects on pedestrians, the area’s businesses, and the community well-being. Despite three attempts by the city to compromise, the street preachers refused to limit either their volume or the hours they engaged in shouting. In response, the City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting such “speech.” Under the ordinance, dozens of street preachers were arrested as the ministers poured into town preaching for hours on end. One preacher was measured at 89 decibels—the sound equivalent of a symphony orchestra.

The street preachers argued that their First Amendment rights overrode the interest of the community, and that street preachers could not judge what volume was too high under the dictates of the ordinance. The City Council replied that “the vitality of a nation’s cities and towns depends upon the ability of local government to enact reasonable laws which promote the quality of life of the community.” One owner of a downtown shop testified that it was impossible to carry on a conversation and that customers often fled to escape the noise. City officials feared that economic viability of the restored downtown area was at stake. Fortunately, the South Carolina Supreme Court deemed the ordinance constitutional.

Recently, my wife and I spent a fall in San Francisco. We saw the most aggressive begging we had ever encountered. One man told us that if we did not give him a donation, he would rob us next time. A clampdown on aggressive begging is underway in San Francisco, as well as in many other cities. The issue is not homelessness, as social activists like to claim; it is community, and the desire to stave off urban decline.

In both Chicago and St. Louis, groups of welfare mothers have tried to strengthen their local communities by cleaning up their housing projects. They passed tenant rules which forbade carrying guns or selling drugs within the projects. The ACLU predictably sued, arguing that the rules, which required searching each person upon entry, infringed on people’s rights. The courts, however, upheld the women’s actions, pointing out that the tenants could indeed set standards and evict people who violate those standards set by and for the community.

In short, tolerance in moderation is a safety net, but unlimited tolerance breeds chaos and crime, the very opposite of community. Adam Smith’s model of the “invisible hand”—with every person pursuing his own selfish interest—may produce a prosperous economy, but it does not build a community. It leaves us a collection of disparate, autonomous, and unconnected individuals.

Commandment X: A community needs government it can trust. Waco, Whitewater, Ruby Ridge, and the widespread aversion to the special interest money that plays too large a role in the election and reelection of politicians and in the laws they make—all of these show that we are coming perilously close to a complete breakdown of faith in our federal government. Poll after poll shows that confidence in government and politics are at an all-time low. Some distrust of government is healthy, but too much distrust leads to anarchy. We must restore some level of confidence in the problem-solving machinery of society.

The bottom line is this. We can no longer take “community” for granted in the United States. There is too much tension, too much misunderstanding, too many separate tribes yelling at each other. It is a dangerous situation, and if our country and culture are to survive and prosper, we must first salvage that elusive concept of community.