From the BBC 4 description:
The decline of civil society in the Western world is the topic of Niall Ferguson's final Reith Lecture in which he argues that the greatest mistake of the past 50 years was to allow the state to encroach on civil life, assuming it could do a better job than the people themselves. Encouraging more local activism by citizens will not just garner better results than declining government institutions, but will also fuel a more positive impact on the community. The question is - where to start?LISTEN HERE (or right click to download)
You wouldn't know it from this description, but, as he worries about America's (and the West's) move away from Tocqueville civil associations as ways of educating the populace and dealing with the various social services, social ills and problems, he talks about Facebook, and, not so surprisingly, argues that it is not a new manifestation of civil association.
His indictment of reliance upon the state-run programs as a substitute for the 'reciprical action of men upon one another' in these various arenas is bracing, and very well worth the listen. A historian arguing for substantive downsizing of government. We do well to keep in mind that we in the U.S. did quite well without the plethora of state run X, Y and Z's that has become the norm since the 1930s. There is not only a fiscal argument to be made, but an argument premised upon the ineptitude of governmentally run programs at generating the hoped for results.
A good reason to READ or LISTEN to Alexis de Tocqueville.