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10.5.03

That Other War
Why is there a culture war to begin with? Why did the old moral consensus break down? It's because we live differently now. Human beings can't live together in peaceful and stable social groups without moral rules. Yet the more we live as independent individuals, instead of as members of tightly knit communities, the less we want or need moral rules.

... Our relative independence of others is the key to the rise of the new social liberalism. Yet, no matter how independent we get, the ineradicable fact of childhood dependence creates demands for a stable family structure governed by certain moral rules. This is the root of our contemporary culture war. Our lived individualism continually pulls us toward a full-fledged libertarianism, while our childhood dependence exerts a countervailing pull toward moral traditionalism.

... There are many problems with the sort of middle-ground position I'm offering here. I think I've given some pretty clear and principled grounds for preferring some changes to others. Nonetheless, both religious traditionalism and strict libertarianism are more consistent — or at least more straightforward — than the middle ground position I'm discussing here. I can't claim to be more consistent than the two warring ends of the moral-cultural spectrum. But I do think my middle ground position is where most Americans live — and where our society is going to be staying for some time, like it or not.

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