The Failure of the American Left and Right—and the Responsibility of God's People
Sociologists often point to the decline of the twin institutions of marriage and the family as the fount of most American cultural ills. The causes of their decline are undoubtedly many, but the following are their five principal assailants:
All these assailants find traction in a single, powerful concept: autonomy. Autonomy, which literally means "self-law," appears in popular culture under the moniker of choice or "free choice," as in the "pro-choice" movement regarding abortion. Behind this concept of autonomy lies individualism, a philosophical doctrine deeply embedded in the American psyche. The Preamble of the Constitution recognizes individualism as a good—a "blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"—to be sought after.
However, choice comes at a cost. A tension exists between individual choice and societal good. Here are just a few of the downsides to choice:
In all cases, society loses as the individual exercises the freedom to choose.
By definition, conservatives are those individuals most interested in preserving the traditions and institutions of a culture in the name of societal stability. In resolving the issue of choice versus societal good, where have all the conservatives gone? Well, where were conservatives when the pill was announced? A few winced. But with the notable exception of some Catholics, most conservatives were silent, and remain silent, about the moral consequences of readily available, cheap contraception.
The same is true concerning the other assailants of marriage and family. Where is the conservative voice arguing loud and clear against "shacking up"? Rare is the conservative who would try to legislate against common-law relationships, or even implement public policy (such as tax regulations) that would work to make it unpopular for economic reasons.
Does any conservative today speak stridently yet articulately for a rollback of today's easy divorce laws? Does any such voice suggest that extra-marital promiscuity could be at least curtailed through tort law revisions, making it feasible for an injured spouse to claim damages for alienation of affection? Finally, only "fringe" conservatives would suggest developing tax laws biased toward the housewife rather than the career woman. Pro-family public policy is not on any conservative's agenda.
So, where have all the conservatives gone? They appear to be on the run. The bankruptcy of conservatism is the result of years of compromising what is morally right for the expedience of political survival. If not utterly defunct, responsible American conservatism is moribund, in its death throes.
- Charles Whitaker
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