The left’s attempts to march toward a totalitarian Utopia free of hate and discrimination are plain to see. This is what drives mandatory anti-bias training, coerced diversity and inclusion, self-flagellation for alleged racism or sexism, speech codes, censorship, and all else defining today’s pox of political correctness.
A comparable push exists among conservatives to enact coercive measures that, ironically, are intended to accomplish similar ends as those sought by the left, albeit by different means. Alas, we live in a world where nearly every problem requires “fixing,” and it is this relentless effort “to do good” that pushes totalitarian solutions to the fore.
Unfortunately, in today’s “can do” atmosphere of fixing every imaginable defect, failure rarely counsels surrender. The opposite is far more likely. Failure only energizes, upping the call for even further government intervention and yet more wasteful spending.
Geneticists disagree over the nature/nurture balance, but such disagreement does not banish Mother Nature. Social engineers do not work with a blank slate—just ask any frustrated parent. Consider what can happen if we try to overcome Mother Nature via transforming families to achieve some laudable end.
For the left this “fix families” aim is to create a gender-neutral fantasy of Dad cleaning the toilets while Mom pilots Boeing 787s. Meanwhile, both help son Dick to be a beautician and daughter Jane to be an astrophysicist, with each also holding a non-binary sexual identity.
On the right, the model is the 1950s all-American TV family fantasy where Ozzie brings home the bacon while wife Harriet runs the household. Both strive to instill the “bourgeois” values of hard work, patriotism, delayed gratification, and Calvinist morality in their offspring to guarantee prosperous, law-abiding Ozzies and Harriets for the next generation.
What if Mother Nature refuses to cooperate in these idealizations? What if the left sees Dad playing family tyrant, but in reality the stay-at-home Mom just loves cooking and cleaning? Or what happens when conservatives discover that little David and Ricky (Ozzie and Harriet’s children) long to be drag-Queens? For social engineers of all ideological stripes, these deviant views are failures, and as “failures” inevitably mount, the march to a coercive New World Order is on. The egalitarians force Dad to undergo sensitivity training to unlearn his toxic masculinity; Goodthink conservatives push traditional schools to stamp out sissy behavior among boys.
Mother Nature is stubborn, however, and coercion just moves society closer to the therapeutic-infused dystopian world of A Clockwork Orange. Egalitarians now publicly humiliate parents for “reactionary” backsliding; traditionalists scold progressive teachers for coddling Ricky and David and neglecting their manliness. Americans may reject gulags, but rest assured, millions who refuse to “get with the program” will be socially ostracized and made unemployable.
A free society requires knowing where Mother Nature stops and free choice begins. This is hardly easy of course, but it is absolutely necessary. Honor Mother Nature—resist trying to turn toy poodles into Rottweilers. Such restraint is hard politically, however, since merely alluding to genetic variations other than allegedly “superficial” ones is taboo. It is career-ending to aver that different people may be more apt for certain jobs or roles than others on the basis of biological differences. Current social theology pronounces that everyone can be cured of any deficiency and that we can all be made exactly alike.
Differences, although likely small and with substantial overlaps, are real. Coercing people to all be the same as one another wages war on Mother Nature. In principle this realism about what can be altered in an individual’s behavior is no different from acknowledging how people of dissimilar ancestries differ in susceptibility to diseases or in their physical appearances. After all, biological diversity permitted humanity to survive in wildly different environments.
Friends of liberty must recognize that ignoring the limits of people’s ability to change invites the government to engage in totalitarian measures. Utopian visions resting on human transformation invariably come to bad ends, and this sorrowful conclusion hardly requires recourse to genetics. Before any social engineer begins fixing a problem, he should obtain Mother Nature’s certification that the tribulation is, indeed, remediable short of violating her biological dictates. If Mother Nature declines, as will often happen, the fixing enterprise should be stopped, and civil society must endure a live-and-let-live tolerance. Relentless pursuit of the unreachable fantasy is not a sign of virtue; it is a call for ever more liberty-killing coercion.
Robert Weissberg is a retired professor (emeritus) of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He writes from New York.