The Culture Taboo
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
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."