Libertarian, social conservative, leftist, mainstream Republican, moderate, trustafarian faux anarchist, you name it, there are many different political movements active in America today. This is a good thing in America, since it is historically the land of the free which encourages and supports differences of opinion and debates on all sorts of topics.However, when you look closer, you find that almost all of these movements share key themes and ideas; they are all very similar, deep down. James Kalb at Intercollegiate Review wrote about this recently and I wanted to draw attention to his article:
For all the talk of diversity, today’s politics are extraordinarily uniform. The West lives under a single political regime, managerial liberalism, that combines an emphasis on individual choice and democratic values with domination of social life by experts, functionaries, and commercial interests. The liberal and managerial aspects of the system seem at odds with each other, but both are basic, and together they have led to the suppression of many things that have always been fundamental to human society—religion, cultural particularity, even the distinction between the sexes.
Unusual though the resulting form of society may be, people take it for granted, so much so that anything else seems impossible. No one can imagine a future, apart from chaos and tyranny, that is anything but more of the same; and those who want to roll back recent developments, to the ’50s, for example, are considered out of touch or psychologically disordered. If you are skeptical about democracy, diversity, and choice, or if you do not trust the experts, there is something wrong with you. And if you think there is an authority that could call the regime into question, and even at times override it, you are a fanatical extremist.
The left and middle tend to replace God with the state, and the right tends to replace God with the self, but in the end, its all the same: no God, no absolute authority, no transcendent truth, no objective standard for truth, beauty, or goodness. And that shared rejection ends up being very similar in the end, regardless of policy arguments or positions.
So now, the right and the left agree that homosexuality is perfectly normal, that you can believe whatever you want but you should keep it to yourself, and that morality has no place in public policy debate. The left and the right both agree that abortion is part of society and should be defended. The left and the right both agree that women and men are fundamentally interchangable, with few differences. The left and the right both agree that diversity and personal choice on all matters is unquestioned good.
There is a small segment on the right which disagrees - social conservatives - but even they often turn to the state for their answers, demanding laws against that which they dislike and state support of causes they prefer. Social conservatives argue for legal penalties against flag burning and sexual promiscuity, and embrace the "faith based initiative" which is simply subsidies for people with a Bible.
And while libertarians argue a good case for getting government out of everything, when it comes down to policy, too often they cry "there ought to be a law" too. Just look at their arguments for legalizing drugs and prostitution. It will be a big revenue generator! The state can just regulate and tax them, and the problems will be limited, plus it will bring in tax dollars!
Except... didn't you just argue that the state should stay out of the market? Didn't you just argue that regulation and taxation is oppression and the government should do the minimum in all situations? At the heart of libertarian thought, though, is the idea that humanity is so good and wise that it can rule its self and judge its own behavior properly - that man is the final arbiter of right and wrong.
Its hedged in terms of market and social experiment, but in the end, its us deciding without any absolute, objective standard. And in the end, these different bands all end up playing the same basic song, like the disco era.
*Hat tip to Cranach, Gene Vieth's blog, for this piece.