The Real Point of the Left’s Uproar over Limbaugh

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


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Since pregnancy is a disease, then, someone else should pay the premium for insuring against the consequences of a woman’s risky, careless behavior. She shouldn’t even be responsible for grabbing some free condoms at the clinic and taking care of the risk herself.

Look even closer, and we see the real progressive agenda at work: increasing the power and reach of the federal government and its bureaucratic minions by discrediting and marginalizing any other source of authority over our behavior, especially institutions of moral authority such as churches. That way the government can aggrandize its power by relieving people of the responsibility for their choices through palliating their damaging consequences while making others pay for them. Tocqueville noticed 150 years ago this tendency of centralized power to expand by infantilizing the citizenry.  Centralized governments, Tocqueville remarked, act as “if they thought themselves responsible for the actions and private conditions of their subjects, as if they had undertaken to guide and to instruct each of them in the various incidents of life and to secure their happiness quite independently of their own consent.” Moreover, this insidious paternalism corrupts the people, who “invoke its assistance in all their necessities,” and who “fix their eyes upon the administration as their mentor and their guide.” But all for a price: the diminishment of our freedom and autonomy, both of which require accepting the burdensome and sometimes painful responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

Our modern progressives, however, have added a new twist to this process. Removing sexual behavior from the strictures of traditional authority, and then taking responsibility for the consequences of careless sex like pregnancy, make state-subsidized sexual pleasure a seemingly cost-free distraction from the erosion of freedom and autonomy, as Aldous Huxley foresaw in Brave New World. Sexual freedom now trumps political freedom, and sexual pleasure is the honey that sweetens the bitter poison of diminished freedom. Hence the progressive’s elevation of contraception and abortion into “rights,” which puts the necessary discussion of the obvious destructive consequences of sexual promiscuity out of bounds. But these “rights” have nothing to do with “women’s health” and everything to do with the progressive government’s aim of consolidating and increasing its power at the expense of other authorities, like churches, that might have something to say about the personally and socially destructive price of those “rights.” That’s the real significance of the uproar Rush Limbaugh caused: not his crudity or insensitivity, but calling attention to the centrality of sexual libertinism to the progressive agenda of increasing government power at the expense of individual freedom.

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  • Isherwood

    Nazis like Limbaugh hate women. Silly Republicans fell into Obama's trap on birth control and exposed themselves as the hateful reactionaries they are. You are the minority, you will be over ruled! Maybe now Limbaugh can go back to community college and finish his degree. But he would probably flunk out again!

  • Rick H.

    Why don't you polish up your reading comprehension?

    "Abortion on demand" means demanding the right to one, any time, for any reason, and demanding EVERYONE participate in paying for them no matter what their moral aversion to them is.

    If that isn't "radical" id like to know what is.

  • kafirman

    Here is your Fluke: http://mrctv.org/blog/sandra-fluke-gender-reassig… I don't see the point of parsing her remarks made to her fellow leftist sl*t anti-stigmatizers (leftocrats) from Fluke's larger political remarks which are affecting the national conversation.

  • kentatwater

    I don't do crazy.

    No, what you don't do is reality. Human papillomavirus is the cause of the vast majority of cases of cervical cancer. No promiscuity, no HPV.

  • kentatwater

    That's exactly what the leftists keep pretending it's about.

  • kentatwater

    Yeah, some just think that it's a coincidence that if some of that biblical advice were followed, people would be better off.

  • kentatwater

    Don't soften what up? I believe that an individual's life will generally be much better, if he adheres to the wisdom found in the Torah or the Bible.