Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Helpless little darlings

The helpless little darlings don’t know what’s best for them, Big Mother says. They need a benevolent dictatorship to protect them from themselves.

Eric Posner agrees:

Lately, a moral panic about speech and sexual activity in universities has reached a crescendo. Universities have strengthened rules prohibiting offensive speech typically targeted at racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities; taken it upon themselves to issue “trigger warnings” to students when courses offer content that might upset them; banned sexual acts that fall short of rape under criminal law but are on the borderline of coercion; and limited due process protections of students accused of violating these rules.

Most liberals celebrate these developments, yet with a certain uneasiness. Few of them want to apply these protections to society at large. Conservatives and libertarians are up in arms. They see these rules as an assault on free speech and individual liberty. They think universities are treating students like children. And they are right. But they have also not considered that the justification for these policies may lie hidden in plain sight: that students are children. Not in terms of age, but in terms of maturity. Even in college, they must be protected like children while being prepared to be adults.

It was liberals, the free-love cultural revolutionaries of the ’60s and ’70s, who made immaturity cool. They’re realizing a little late that relativism and depravity create victims and that judgment was good insofar as it at least communicated discernment of better from bad. It’s past due for those raised in such an environment (i.e., Posner [b. 1965]), who are parents and grandparents now, to advocate paternalistic government to pull tight the disciplinary slack left over by their excess and permissiveness.

Post-bourgeois liberals—usually conservative in temperament and well-educated—don’t understand how beneficial the social, religious order is to the proletariat, or how enslavement to sin can undo a person. Some are deluded in thinking the technocratically empowered super state can render obsolete the deleterious effects of mistakes that derail life from its plotted course, like how getting pregnant out of wedlock hurts a woman’s ability to find financial support outside her family or the government, like how gambling ruins a family’s self-sufficiency and marital peace, like how smoking weed hinders the mind from applying knowledge and wisdom to work and life. “Managing” these problems with the resources of the state is impossible due to the sheer size of the population and the variability of individuals.

Posner the progressive does realize this. What he doesn’t realize is no force can tame a man better than the gentle pressures of those closest to him and an active conscience—not a distant, heavy hand (that has a lot of trouble itself discerning better from bad).

Tyranny becomes more acceptable the further we fall from the vision of American character the Founders had in mind when they set up a government of limited powers.

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