Monday, December 15, 2008

Limited Government and Social Conservatives

Over at Power and Control, M. Simon asks:

How do you enforce traditional values and at the same time promote limited government? Until Republicans resolve that question neither the traditional values people nor the limited government people are going to trust the party.

I reply:

The question presupposes that traditional values (a term I will use without scrutiny) need to be enforced, and that social conservatives by their nature want government to enforce their values.

However, most social conservatives want merely not to have laws which are opposed to those values, and possibly for the government to advocate traditional values, as opposed to advocating non-traditional ones.

That is what Prop 8 was all about, I thought. It's not that we care what other people do, really, it's that we don't want the government actively supporting, with legal protection, nontraditional values. That's very different from saying we don't want anyone doing nontraditional things.

It's true that on some level we don't want anyone doing nontraditional things, but since of course we recognize tolerance and pluralism and limited government as higher Enlightenment principles, it's best to keep government away from that area. [I add here that for "tolerance" to have any meaning as a Virtue, we must be forced to make some sacrifice to obtain a worthy goal. The sacrifice we make is to allow something we dislike in order to obtain permission for our own faulty behavior, for no one is perfect. Those who deny wanting to control the behavior 0f others thereby turn tolerance into a nonce.]

So the answer is that we should all oppose government action which would change social mores, rather than supporting government action enforcing them.

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