Economic or market liberalism and social liberalism both privilege the strong over the weak. Over the last one hundred years we’ve developed a system of checks and balances empower the weak and limit the strong: progressive taxation, labor laws, environmental regulation, and more. We can argue about whether we have the right policies, but aside from Randian libertarians, most agree that we need to protect the weak.

Over the last fifty years things have gone the other way when it comes to culture. The strong make war on the weak.

My friend Jim Rogers gave me an example. The old constitutional test for obscenity was to define it as material that tends “to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences.” The idea was to protect the morally vulnerable. That changed in Miller (1973). The Supreme Court substituted “average person” for “minds open to such immoral influences.” The test is less rigorous because, well, because we don’t want the weak to limit our freedom. We’re not going to let the moral vulnerability of the few to be a burden to the many.

Drug legalization is another obvious case of the socially liberal war on the weak. Gay marriage is a less obvious instance, but a significant one. The strong have the resources to sustain a post-traditional culture of marriage. Everybody else? Data of declining marriage among the poor and middle class suggest not. The deconstruction of what’s left of the tattered traditional culture of marriage is very likely to make things worse, unless of course the social liberals crusade for the revival of marriage as a social norms, which they show no signs of doing.

It’s an odd situation today. Progressivism today is mostly focused on social questions, not economic ones, and in doing so they’re prosecuting a war on the weak. Political correctness, LGBT rights, elaborate therapies of inclusion: these are luxury goods for the rich paid for by the poor.

Articles by R. R. Reno

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