Matthew Continetti is worth a read, related to my midday theme, yesterday. He quotes John Marini’s suggestion that: “The American people themselves did not participate or consent to the wholesale undermining of their way of life, which government and the bureaucracy helped to facilitate by undermining those institutions of civil society that were dependent upon a public defense of the old morality.” As Continetti elaborates:
Marini refers to institutions such as the family, church, and school, institutions charged with forming the character of a citizen, of instructing him in codes of morality and service, in the traditions and history of his country, in the case of the church directing him spiritually and providing him a definitive account of the cause and purpose of life. These are precisely the institutions that have been brought under the sway of bureaucracies and courts heavily insulated from elections, from public opinion, from majority rule. And as the public has lost authority over decision-making in the private sphere, as the culture has become more alien, more bewildering, more hostile to “the old morality,” as President Clinton keeps saying rather fatuously that the fates of Kenya and Kentucky are linked, is it any wonder voters have sought out a vehicle for their disgust and opposition?
“Undermining” is a good image, given the notion of removing the foundations of a structure. As I’ve written with respect to same-sex marriage, government didn’t create or even really enforce the cultural understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman. Rather, it simply recognized the cultural institution. By expanding government’s involvement in our lives and then redefining marriage on its own terms, radicals used government to knock down supports for the institution.
We saw this very quickly, when Catholic adoption service providers in Massachusetts were forced to choose between their faith and their accreditation. The radicals couldn’t abide a group that focused its services on situations according with its beliefs because the true goal was to undermine the group’s ability to affect the culture.
Marini and Continetti emphasize the unelected bureaucracy, but even our elections are becoming something of a sham, not the least in the sheer scope on which we’re supposed to make our decisions. Sure, theoretically, if the people of Massachusetts didn’t like the decisions of the state’s bureaucracy, it could have elected officials who would force a change, but even putting aside the mammoth task of changing the bureaucratic blob, voters must cast their votes as a single statements covering activities across their lives.
The fate of Catholic adoption may be a consideration, but economic policies and others that affect how each of us lives our lives are in the mix, too. In that regard, many voters are effectively bought off, and large, ideologically driven institutions (like the university and the news media) devote themselves to muddying the waters, while activists (now with flush budgets courtesy of Obama’s federal government) seek to impose social and financial consequences to anybody who speaks up against their views.