A framed copy of a March 1993 Wall Street Journal editorial can be seen in the Midtown Manhattan conference room. “No Guardrails” is the title of this Daniel Henninger piece and has become a phrase often used by Journal opinion writers.
This editorial written three decades ago is like a time capsule. It laments the loss of “a time in the United States when life seemed more settled, when emotions, both private and public, didn’t seem to run so continuously at breakneck speed.” Ten years ago, he revisited the concept of “No Guardrails” by suggesting “we would be better off if our intellectual, political and cultural elites rediscovered—and publicly revered—the protective virtues of self-control and self-restraint.”
If only he could have predicted the world we live in today. We are barraged by angry public statements from presidents, pundits, and members of Congress. Woke ideas, once located on a few universities, have made their way into classrooms, boardrooms, and courtrooms. A cancel culture has been institutionalized and used as a weapon against anyone who disagrees with what the cultural elite propose.
As we have discussed in previous commentaries, life in many cities is becoming more difficult every day. Essential guardrails have been pulled down. Prosecutors are no longer prosecuting criminals. Major drug store chains and big box stores are leaving cities. Politicians are complaining about food deserts because grocery stores can’t even make enough to pay their employees.
That framed copy of his editorial is a reminder that the current chaos did not happen overnight. It has been coming for a long time. It may take a long time to return to a society of order and civility.