Suppose it is true that, in its enthusiasm for buggery, Anglo-American liberalism has decided to drop the pretense of neutrality between competing comprehensive moral systems. What will this mean for Leftism in these countries? Is this just another case of progression towards greater self-awareness and self-consistency on the Left, of the Left dropping no-longer-necessary compromises and achieving greater ideological purity? Is it just a change in how Leftists will argue with their opponents, or how they will understand their own commitments?
Why is it, we should ask, that the Left (at least in England and its offshoots) has always made such a boast of its “neutrality”? I have sometimes suspected that this is just an argument tactic, that liberals think that it will be easier to sell their beliefs as the neutral position, the “agreeing to disagree” position, than to establish that their beliefs are actually true. They want the reward of having proved their beliefs true–government policy organized on their principles–without having to actually supply the proof. If that is what some liberals are thinking, it seems pretty misguided to me. I think one can make a much more plausible case that Leftist social policy is objectively just and good than that it is in any interesting sense neutral. Of course, I don’t agree with that former claim either, but, to give a concrete example, it’s a lot easier to make the argument that traditional gender roles are oppressive than to argue that Leftist policy is neutral on the question of whether they should be encouraged or discouraged.
However, when I read liberals’ writings, I usually get the impression that their claim to neutrality is more than just a tactic. It seems to be an important part of how they understand themselves. I see two reasons for this. First, Leftists cannot seem to accept the fact that they are the establishment and not some small band of intrepid rebels. (A couple of years ago, I read an amusing story, related by Mark Steyn, about how one of President Obama’s ministers had gone to ball out someone, some government functionary or businessman or something like that, and said in doing so she was “speaking truth to power”. Steyn said something to the effect of “Dude, you are the power. Admit it.”) Of course, their whole “plucky underdog rebels” self-understanding is getting harder and harder to take seriously as their hegemony becomes more and more overpowering. Second, the Left’s fundamental principle is autonomy, of which they take a very expansive view, to the point of demanding that each person be free to define the meaning of life, the universe, and everything for themselves. This makes it very difficult for them to say that some moral system (even their own one based on autonomy!) is objectively true and should be enforced by the State. There are the makings of a contradiction here. Perhaps a subtle liberal understanding of autonomy and government action could get around it, but the claim to be neutral (and that this “neutrality” somehow involves enforcing liberalism on all aspects of life) makes it easy. Dropping this would presumably force the more reflective ones to grapple with the question of what it could actually mean to enforce autonomy, which–because this is their ultimate goal–could prompt a real existential crisis for the Left. It would mean abandoning their current synthesis of liberal thought, and it’s not obvious what they would replace it with.
I suspect that most Leftists are hoping that this whole issue will blow over before it provokes any real crisis. They are calculating on the resistance to the androgynist/homosexual agenda being weak, and that it will collapse under a small amount of coercion. Whether or not that coercion was really consistent with liberal neutrality theory will then be a mute issue. It will be no more danger to their ideology than, say, the issue of whether laws that one must display one’s license plate on one’s car are neutral toward people who think this is a horribly wicked thing to do. Since such people are entirely hypothetical, nobody cares if we’re being neutral toward them. Even dissenters who are not hypothetical, but are in the past, are not a real threat. The fact that liberalism “broke” this dissent using illiberal means is just an irony of history, an accident of the fact that those were rougher, less liberal times (and thus, ironically, the illiberal behavior of liberals is made to seem the fault of their victims, the society they were transforming). Someday, looking back on this incident, they may think “Of course the patriarchists were treated roughly. Back then, everyone was made brutal by patriarchy, even the liberals who exterminated it. How horrid patriarchy was, that it made even its enemies so cruel! Let us be grateful that they put all of that behind us.”
If this is what liberals are hoping will happen, then it means we can provoke a crisis for them just by visibly surviving. If, in the next couple of years, some people lose their jobs or get some intimidation from angry mobs, and then everybody falls into line, then liberalism will be secure. If, twenty years from now, people are still getting fired and terrorized in large numbers, that’s a crisis for them. To avert such a crisis, they may try to escalate the repression, but the harder they make it, the worse their position will be if it doesn’t work.