In another skirmish in the GOP’s civil war, Ken Blackwell recently linked mass killings with same-sex unions. This is why, in spite of the prospects for a Republican takeover of the Senate in 2014, the party is still in a death spiral.
Blackwell’s Christian traditionalism gives priority to a social agenda that limits liberty.
Blackwell is a prominent Republican: a former Ohio secretary of state and now a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. On May 27, reacting to the recent shootings in Isla Vista, California by a young mentally unbalanced nut, Blackwell placed part of the blame for the killings on “the crumbling of the moral foundation of the country” and on “the attack on natural marriage and the family.” He made the even more outrageous assertion that “Throughout history, in order for totalitarianism, Marxism or a welfare state to occur two things have to happen—the marginalization of the church and the destruction of the family.”
First, Blackwell’s history is bad. Churches and religions have as often backed and even spearheaded political
repression as opposed it. And the preservation of family and tradition has often been used as an excuse for repression.
Second, the purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of individuals, not to dictate to them how they should live their lives. People should be free to enjoy their liberty and use their property, whether or not Blackwell or anyone else approves of their choices. If two gay individuals want to enter into the particular contractual relationship referred to as “marriage,” this does not limit the freedom of anybody else and is not anyone else’s political business.
Third, Blackwell is correct that the moral foundation of the country is crumbing. But the problem is not same-sex marriage or the erosion of the family as such. Rather, it is the erosion of individualism. Individualism is the understanding that individuals should pursue their own happiness and flourishing, guided by their reason, to produce the means of their own survival, prosperity, and spiritual well-being, dealing with their fellows based on mutual consent. This country’s liberty, which is rooted in this philosophy, has allowed millions of realize the “American Dream”—individual flourishing. This country’s individualist culture has nurtured and encouraged the entrepreneurship that has made America the richest country in the world. But the welfare state, which Blackwell and most social conservatives denounce, has had a major role in destroying this philosophy, the morality of personal responsibility, and individual liberty.
The purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of individuals.
Blackwell’s Christian traditionalism echoes too many social conservatives who, by giving priority to a social agenda that limits liberty, actually empower the welfare statists whom they denounce. For example, these intolerant polemics distract the political debate from the clash between individualism and collectivism, between producers and expropriators, between liberty-lovers and control freaks. They drive away from the Republican Party young people who are socially liberal, accepting of same-sex unions, and who want nothing to do with what they see as a bigoted GOP.
The more social conservatives push their liberty-limiting conception of “family values” as a political priority, the more they will not only see their own agenda fail but, in the process, will cripple the pro-freedom faction within the GOP, leaving the country open for an ever-more expansive, repressive, and family-destroying welfare state.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.