Edited and written by David Gordon, senior fellow of the Mises Institute and author of four books and thousands of essays.

The Culture Taboo

Spring 1996

Virginia I. Postrel
Reason, Volume 27, No. 9 (February 1996), pp. 4, 6.

Virginia Postrel gets a lot of mileage from an elementary fallacy. She begins her piece, a plea for Republicans to stress the free market rather than cultural issues, in an odd way. She throws up her hands in horror over some critical articles about the Internet that appeared in a neoconservative journal whose name doesnt bear mention in polite company.

She comments: "I mention this incident . . . because it represents a disturbing trend among the conservative intelligentsia . . . a campaign, conscious or unconscious, to ostracize libertarian ideas in general--and free markets in particular--as dull and dangerous" (p. 4).

Why is it anti-libertarian to oppose the Internet? Apparently because, like the opposition to technology of Kirkpatrick Sale, skepticism about the Internet "lashes out at science, at progress, at the future, at intelligence itself" (p. 4). Has Postrel ever looked at an Internet bulletin board? No one can read more than a few pages of the drivel to be found there without coming to realize that the Internet is a very mixed blessing.

But enough of the Internet. What is the elementary fallacy that ensnares her? She rightly notes that it is poor strategy for Republicans to concentrate only on cultural issues. "If youre convinced that the only thing conservatives should care about is 'culture, youll ignore the core 'leave us alone issues that unite the GOP coalition" (p. 7, emphasis added).

Her point is well taken; the "free market message" must never be neglected. But she goes on to criticize Phil Gramm for raising cultural issues at all. He is guilty of "craven pandering" in opposing abortion. Raising cultural issues "has muffled his natural free-market message."

Now we see Postrels real agenda. She disagrees with the cultural conservatives and doesnt want her libertarianism sullied with anything so base as family values. But it just doesnt follow from "One should stress economics" that "one should not raise cultural issues."


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