G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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Randall Parker adds thoughts to a strong point made by Razib Khan:
Rather than a coldly elucidated set of principles in a Benthamite fashion modern social liberalism is fundamentally a movement of justice rooted in feeling. That everyone get a fair-go, that everyone can engage in their own personal project of self-actualization. But at some point this universal principle is going to hit diminishing marginal returns. In the 19th and early 20th century progressives argued for women’s suffrage. About half of the population. In the 1960s in the USA they argued for civil rights for racial minorities, and blacks in particular. On the order of 10 percent of the population of the day in the United States. Over the past generation they have argued for civil rights for homosexuals who identify as gay or lesbian. Being generous, this is probably on the order of 5 percent of the population (I am willing to accept the proposition that the self-identified ~2 percent value may be an underestimate).
The specific example in the post revolves around the transgender rights issue I discussed yesterday.
Just to add texture to what seems to be the general attitude of social liberals, not only are they focusing on narrower groups over time (because larger groups’ issues have been addressed), but they are getting more granular in terms of how they address the problems which do still exist for those larger groups.
For example, feminists now spend a lot of energy focusing on date rape and rape which is different in very many ways from violent stranger rape. It’s mission creep, in a way. As the big problems fade away and are made fully aware, activists move on to nominally related issues. Lacking instinctual appeal to the community, they must ramp up their rhetoric in order to sell activism. They must manufacture outrage whereas I’d argue that outrage over slavery or violent stranger rape is an organic product of people’s empathetic nature.
I question our ability to maintain a rate of innovation high enough to cancel out the rising costs of maintaining civilization. We’ve got natural resource, demographic, and other trends which are not sustainable. Liberals need to get over their belief that more personal freedom and social programs (e.g. education which has declining and probably negative marginal returns at this point) will lead to a better future. We can’t afford these delusions any longer.
Perfecting a process or a culture or a society is extremely expensive, but that is the ultimate goal progressive-liberal-idealist-socialist-Marxists. But these groups are hindered by their idealism from thinking in cost-benefit terms. A great many conservative type people are making the case for a utilitarian approach and saying “look, idealism is fine and everything, but there are natural limits to progress; it has to stay in line with our economic production and innovation.” Let us keep our social goals in line with our ability to finance those things. I’m not sure if conservatives are failing at communicating this particular nuance of their argument or if liberals are just ignoring it or if the entire nature of ideological debate means that both sides will focus on their agenda without giving much credit to the other side’s point of view.