Given some of the response to my post on the unfairness of bedtime stories, as well as the running theme of creeping fascism in the United States, a note is worthwhile on why those who are tempted to dismiss such ideas should pause and think about them.
I daresay that the majority of people who help to bring about monstrous tyrannies aren’t intending to do so. Every step along the path seems reasonable, or at least tolerable, to a majority of those empowered to affect things, even where it’s a small bending of principle for an honorable goal. The goals seems to justify small leaps into unpredictable changes, and evidence that the changes might have adverse consequences is easily dismissed as representing unlikely extremes.
The history of libertarians and same-sex marriage is a good example. With their emphasis on not allowing government to impose or enforce purely moral restrictions on people, they began with the suspicion that government shouldn’t be in the marriage business, at all, which is actually where I started on the issue. Therefore, expanding the definition purely in the civic sphere was a step toward a better civic reality.
Traditionalists pointed out that government didn’t invent marriage and insert it into the law. It simply built the law around a real and legally tangible relationship existing within the culture of the governed.
There was never any shortage of evidence that people were out there who were desirous of pushing boundaries and that new artificial logical walls would hold if millennia of tradition would not. This was most often heard in warnings about plural and incestuous marriages, and so on, but it was also true about the likelihood that progressives would turn “how does this affect you” into a means of persecuting people who continued to believe in their right to act as if marriage is an opposite-sex institution. That is, government would be turned around to prohibit the cultural beliefs of the majority.
I always found it frustrating that libertarians wouldn’t go far down this path of debate. Either they ignored it or, maybe, they thought they — and the broader culture, which always agrees with one’s own beliefs, don’t you know — would push back if the progressives tried to go too far.
Unfortunately, trying to balance the culture in the medium of the law is like trying to balance water in a tub once it’s started moving. With each move in one direction, there are more people invested in the last step; those who want the next step have that much more motivation; and those who warned against previous steps become less able (and less likely) to continue vocalizing the opposition.
The Australian philosopher who urges at least mild guilt for disadvantaging other people’s children by reading bedtime stories to your own proves not that people agree with him right now, but that there is no barrier to cultural insanity along his lines of thinking. The progressives who use legalistically innovative methods to force small business owners to conform their beliefs and culture with one that is government imposed prove that the pushing will continue. The speed with which our self-acclaimed protectors of free speech turned around and made Pamela Geller the aggressor when Islamic radicals attempted to shoot up an art event that she organized prove that we cannot count on assurances that “everybody agrees” on the basic principles that secure our liberty.
This is how we sink.