July 26, 2008

Lessons to Be Drawn

Justin Katz

In response to Mary Eberstadt's thought-provoking piece about the accurate prognostications of Humanae Vitae, Todd Zywicki notes (and Glenn Reynolds seconds) the possibility of a cost-benefit analysis with respect to the sexual revolution. It's difficult to draw a boundary around the topic; to put it in the form of a question that I posed a few years ago: "Would a married couple requesting the pill for the first time [in the 1960s] have believed anybody loony enough to suggest that gay marriage — let alone cloning — would be the result?"

If we seek common ground beyond all of those sticky issues, though, we might salvage a common point from among the rancor. Specifically, we might note that a different procedural course of implementing the sexual revolution might have preserved that which has been lost as "unintended consequences," while allowing exploration of the benefits of change. Had the Supreme Court not made contraception a positive right, with Griswold v. Connecticut, perhaps the people of the United States would have pursued their federalist experimentation in the way that is only possible when there are actually territories to be gained and lost. Thus would our national community culture have swirled around between drastically different sets of priorities, bringing what was common to the fore.

That is to say that we might accurately be able to include among the "unintended consequences" of the sexual revolution the undermining of a political philosophy that allowed the blending of subcultures to the benefit, ultimately, of all.