Call me an agnostic on gay marriage. I’m fine with it in the abstract and in practical terms, but I don’t consider myself “down for the cause” and I’d sooner drink sweet tea than place one of those equal sign avatars on the bumper of my car. My hostility is reserved for the gay rights movement; not gay people themselves. I find the recent GLAAD-fueled fervor over the Duck Dynasty foofaraw, the reluctant gay wedding photographer, and the Brendan Eich affair at Mozilla to be oppressive, offensive and unseemly. To paraphrase a comment I saw somewhere on the web, it’s as if all of human history was condensed into a 24 hour period and for the first 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, humanity accepted that “marriage” defined the union between a male and a female, and only in the last second of the day did a lot of people change their minds. Now, would it make sense in this universe to begin a new day by hounding as bigots anyone who spent nearly the entire day prior believing in traditional marriage? I’m not even saying that gay marriage proponents are wrong, just that their political methods are vindictive, spiteful and petty, in much the same way that evangelical conservatives – not to mention the police – treated them in days past. The bulk of gay rights advances have been the product of articulate, rational and dispassionate argumentation, and Andrew Sullivan knows more than most the threat to these achievements posed by radical activists demanding immediate conformity.
But to look at the LGBTQ landscape in 2014 and compare it to 2012 is startling, to say nothing of 2008, 2004, or 1984. The tide has unquestionably turned. I attribute much of the progress to simple inertia, there being nothing particularly rebellious or subversive about millennials going with the flow set by their forbears. But with successive generations of youth determined to disrupt cultural status quos through movements to expand rights (sometimes legitimately, often not), gay rights millennials really had most of the work already done for them. All that was left was the steady and gradual shift in consensus, with social media the hot new tool through which to proselytize the word on equality, and as we just saw in the Eich case, any idiot can spit venom on twitter or become a hashtag activist. Of course, lost in all the righteous indignation is the left’s dogged pursuit of a monoculture that must be embraced and championed by all, lest you be exiled and shunned from polite society. This is where the Eich case and the Phoenix wedding photographer case are taking us, towards a monoculture whose norms and values are dictated (and mandated) by the left and where honest disagreement and polite dissent are to be construed as heresy against the politically correct monoculture. Many honest gay writers and leftists acknowledge as much and lament the mob mentality, so it is heartening to know that all is not lost. Still, a majority of gay rights proponents are on board with our new normal, where pluralism is a thing of the past and the enlightened socialites who govern us are more than welcome to browbeat “deniers” into submission and compliance.
OK, so that’s a tad over the top and we’re not there yet, but any sober observer looking at the left’s behavior in the culture war has to conclude that the prevailing sentiment among those winning the culture war is dissatisfaction. It’s not enough to foment a radical shift in public acceptance of gay marriage, something that was genuinely taboo on the left as recently as 2008, society must be brought to bended knee and made to kiss the fabulous ring. And everyone knows how to treat a heretic.
In the end, it is not the pace nor the specter of total victory on gay marriage that has opponents ill at ease. It is the arrogant and contemptuous demeanor of the victors, seemingly hell bent on rubbing it in and using citizens’ political contributions as litmus tests for acceptable thinking. It is the conflation of opposition to gay marriage with opposition to interracial marriage, a truly odious and awful comparison that seems to have penetrated the prog-geist and been elevated to the left’s latest slander du jour.
In light of all of this, I have developed a particular flight of fancy involving a similar seismic shift I would like to see in public opinion, one having to do with taxes, spending, and the size of government. Above all, my fantasy is that the left ditches their organized hostility towards the free market. Is this likely? I wouldn’t bet on it, but then, nobody would have bet just a few years ago that gay marriage would have the momentum it now does, or that it would be ceded as an inevitability by most conservatives. So allow me this pipe dream of a mass awakening on the left akin to the Enlightenment, when the formerly radical notions of individual supremacy over the state and recognition of natural rights suddenly became de rigueur. What if through the power of accessible information (i.e. “the internet”) and passionate persuasion the denizens of liberalism found themselves being persuaded by free market and libertarian dogma, to the point of actualizing that economies operate in a seemingly incomprehensible and chaotic morass of unpredictable individuals acting on their unpredictable preferences. What if progressives understood marginal utility? What if they disavowed themselves of such stupid economic myths as the “Keynesian multiplier“? I wish they would prove me wrong in my contention that all “-isms” of the left are galvanized behind the tenet of anti-capitalism. I wish they would read some free market economists, if not least so confused progressives would have a name besides Ayn Rand with which to incomprehensibly bludgeon libertarians (Ayn Rand, a powerful polemicist and visionary, was also a clunky and borderline terrible writer who never let a point go unmade to the point of redundancy). I wish that they would open their eyes to the unintended consequences of a behemoth bureaucracy tasked with monitoring compliance with a maze of regulations so opaque as to require SWAT teams to compliment many of our federal agencies. When the Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency and – unbelievably – the Department of Education are all outfitted with armed goons and vehicles, maybe Leviathan has gotten too large. I wish the left would wake up to the reality that there is nothing noble or enlightened about waging a scorched earth politics based on identity politics and the creation and inciting of factions. I wish they would cease trying to use the state to make their preferences mandatory. I wish they would wake up and really learn about the free market; why it is free and why it leads to greater wealth and prosperity for a greater number of people than any economic system devised before or since. But that continues to be my wish.
The seemingly impossible is happening for gay rights, and I am happy for this development, even if find the conduct with which the activists comport themselves unbecoming. But if such a sea change is possible for an issue in such a short time, why can’t a man dream about a similar awakening happening with free market economics? Until then, how about a little detente in the culture wars? What ever happened to pluralism?