16 February 2012

Give Peace a Chance

Jonah Goldberg, ladies and gentlemen:

The irony is that few worldviews better describe the general liberal orientation to public policy and the culture war. The left often complains about the culture war as if it's a war they don't want to fight. They insist they just want to follow "sound science" or "what works" when it comes to public policy, but those crazy knuckle-dragging right-wingers constantly want to talk about gays and abortion and other hot-button issues.
It's all a farce. Liberals are the aggressors in the culture war (and not always for the worse, as the civil rights movement demonstrates). What they object to isn't so much the government imposing its values on people -- heck, they love that. They see nothing wrong with imposing their views about diet, exercise, sex, race and the environment on Americans. What outrages them is resistance, or even non-compliance with their agenda. "Why are you making such a scene?" progressives complain. "Just do what we want and there will be no fuss."

The drug war, perhaps the most violent effort of the current culture war has been largely unsuccessful.  In re: Marriage Cases was overturned by Proposition 8.  Why did both these government-based, top down approaches to changing the culture fail?  Because the government, fundamentally, cannot change men’s hearts or minds.

Yes, the government can impact behavior, at the margins.  And yes, there is likely a self-reinforcing feedback loop to cultural change and governmental involvement (people change, leading to governmental change, leading the people to change, and so on, ad infinitum).  But, fundamentally, the government cannot change men’s hearts or minds.

If someone really wants to do drugs, the government will not stop him.  If someone wants to enter into a long-term relationship with someone of the same sex, the government will not stop him.  If someone wants to vehemently oppose gay marriage, the government cannot stop him.  The lesson to be learned from this is that, oftentimes, fighting the culture war is pointless, at least if one takes a top-down approach.

Culture is not top-down, it is bottom-up.  Having a pissing contest about culture at the top is not going to accomplish anything because it doesn’t get at the root of culture.  As such, it is time to call for armistice in this culture war because this war will never actually resolve anything.  It can kill people (see the war on drugs, e.g.), but it cannot change their hearts.  As such, there is simply no point in fighting, because there is no possibility for victory, only death.

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