Supportive Communities

Strengthening the institutions that allow markets to deliver on their promise

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American markets will only work well and deliver widespread prosperity if they have the support of strong community institutions. Market fundamentalism often tries to reduce the complexities of a modern market to just two individuals trading on a desert island, and to define capitalism as nothing more than “economic freedom.” But conservatives recognize that a range of institutions operating prior to the market, alongside it, and within it act to shape the market’s outcomes, and market outcomes in turn exert a powerful influence on the institutions.

At American Compass, we work to understand the role that strong institutions play in market outcomes and develop public policies that would better support those institutions experiencing significant erosion.

The first and most important of these institutions is the family, which plays the indispensable role in preparing the next generation to assume the responsibilities of citizenship. Families must form if that next generation is to exist at all, and they must provide stable, nurturing environments if children are to emerge into adulthood prepared to support themselves, make productive contributions to their communities, and form families of their own. Strong families provide the foundation for a market economy, yet the market places no value on them, and market forces tend to prove highly corrosive.

Our Home Building collection provides a comprehensive overview of issues for policymakers to consider in going beyond just talking about families to supporting them. The survey of thousands of parenting-age Americans paints a stark picture of the challenges facing families and shows how the help they need differs from the package of progressive proposals typically in focus. We have also led conservative efforts to develop a monthly per-child benefit for working families and conducted in-depth polling on the form that Americans want such a benefit to take.

Public education plays a complementary role to the family’s in equipping young people for success in life and in the market. Schools perform several functions—teaching practical skills, instilling shared values, cultivating virtuous leaders, and fueling innovation—that are vital to the market’s success. Our Failing on Purpose collection explores these functions and presents survey data on what Americans want from the education system, while our Retooling American Education collection provides a range of policy proposals for developing non-college pathways.

Other institutions are themselves participants in the market, or play a supporting role in transactions made by others. The labor union is the most prominent of these, providing workers with power in the labor market and representation in the workplace, as well as supports like training and benefits. America’s labor movement, especially in the private sector, has faded toward irrelevance and become focused primarily on political activism. But in our Seat at the Table collection we make the case that “strong worker representation can make America stronger.” Our Better Bargain collection provides a broad survey of worker attitudes toward organized labor and a series of proposals for reform.

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A New Conservatism: Freeing the Right From Free-Market Orthodoxy

In this feature essay for Foreign Affairs, American Compass executive director Oren Cass discusses a path forward for conservatism that is no longer bound by free-market orthodoxy.

Featured Content


Retooling American Education


How to Move Beyond College-for-All

Failing on Purpose


How We Forgot What Public Education Is For

A Better Bargain


Greater Voice, Power, and Support for Workers

Home Building


Public Policy for the American Family

A Seat at the Table


A Conservative Future for the American Labor Movement


The School of Self-Rule

12/6/2021 Bruno Manno, John Sailer

Public education must empower the common citizen.

The Government Should Keep Its Hands Off Your Medicare

10/15/2021 Michael Lind

The path to a more secure and generous American welfare state lies not in rejecting the work ethic and the distinction it makes between contributory social insurance and non-contributory social assistance, but rather in embracing it.

Why Bother With Family?

2/10/2021 Helen Andrews

If conservatives do not speak for the family, who will?

Labor’s Conservative Heart

9/8/2020 Brian Dijkema

The trade union is a quintessentially Tocquevillian institution and the one that brought down Soviet communism. Conservatives must rescue the American labor movement from Big Labor’s partisanship and restore its community-building purpose.


Talkin’ (Policy) Shop: Worker-Run Benefits


On this episode of Policy in Brief, Oren Cass and Chris Griswold discuss a proposal to allow workers to administer their own employee benefits through organizations they control.

Critics Corner with Grover Norquist

7/8/2021 Multimedia

On this episode of Critics Corner, Oren is joined by Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. Spoiler: Oren is not convinced to sign the tax pledge.

Family Financial Security: Senator Mitt Romney on the Right’s Fight to Support Our Most Important Institution


A conversation with Senator Mitt Romney about the future of family benefits in the U.S. and what it means for the right-of-center’s future.


Servants No Longer

9/8/2022 Chris Griswold

American Compass policy director Chris Griswold explores the relationship between worker power and the roots of civic friendship.

Put Working Families at the Front of the Line for Help

3/2/2021 Oren Cass

American Compass executive director Oren Cass argues that a policy that sustains people in joblessness is not ultimately anti-poverty.

America Needs a Conservative Labor Movement

9/17/2020 Oren Cass

American Compass’s Oren Cass argues that a strong, reformed labor movement has unique potential to advance conservative priorities.