In Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities (describing large cities, not small towns), she writes of business owners’ sense of responsibility for the sidewalks near their shops:
First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.
Second, there must be eyes on the street, belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.
storekeepers and others small businessmen are typically strong proponents of peace and order themselves; they hate broken windows and holdups; they hate having customers made nervous about safety. They are great street watchers and sidewalk guardians if present in sufficient numbers.
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities 35, 37 (Vintage Books ed. 1992).
Jacobs here addresses large cities, from a time long passed.
Still, there is a lesson to learn about matters closer and dearer than city sidewalks: if an able-bodied, gainfully-employed businessperson can watch a mere street, then shouldn’t able-bodied, gainfully-employed parents assume at least as much responsibility for raising their own children?
In Whitewater and other small towns, bold and brash populists sometimes talk about private liberty only moments later to insist that public institutions owe them and their children the teaching of virtues and habits (hard work, personal responsibility, fortitude) these very parents have sadly left untaught.
To mention this simple truth is more than these right-wing populists can bear, and throws them into fits: arms raised, heads shaking, crying out what, what, what?
(This could be a dance number, if they had the desire: raise arms, shake heads, sing out what, what, what? Repeat to a catchy melody.)
Conservatives weren’t always like this; too many are like this now.