Banishing the Progressive Golem

Three of the most successful social movements in American history have been the women’s rights movement of the early 20th century, the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, and the gay rights movement of the late-20th and early-21st centuries. Each movement brought with it a mixed bag of equal protections under the law and expansions of the nanny state, and as a result, liberty advocates have often fallen into a limbo of qualified support and justified hesitation.

Setting aside whether the positives outweighed the negatives in each case, the pressing matter today is what to do when the machinery of a movement has outlived its usefulness. At the outset, there might have been the implicit assumption that operations would naturally cease or scale back once objectives had been achieved. But through a combination of mission creep and basic human reluctance to relinquish power, organizations like the National Organization for Women, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, national labor unions, and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving have persisted long after achieving their once noble goals. Worse, many of these groups, in their attempts to hold sway and relevance, now actively undermine the causes of equal opportunity and social harmony they once sought to promote.

“Social Justice… Unghhhhhh”

In many ways, social movements are like the Prague golem of Jewish/European mythology, brought to life to protect its creators from harm at the hands of vile oppressors. After completing its duties, the golem became uncontrollable in many accounts, even harming those it was once sworn to protect. Only by scratching the word “truth” off the golem’s forehead were the townspeople able to crumble the golem back into the earth from which it was formed. If the analogy holds to its conclusion, only by standing up to our golems armeds with the courageous truth when they are no longer necessary can we prevent them from becoming the monsters of legend.

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4 thoughts on “Banishing the Progressive Golem

  1. Compelling analogy.

    I would be curious to hear how an organization such as the NAACP (for example) would answer the question if asked what social indicators would mark the end of the necessity of its existence.

    When you bring to life a juggernaut whose only purpose in life is to crush demons… what does it do when it runs out of demons?

    • I’ve asked the question on many progressive blogs. The response is typically in the form of a tautology like “we’ll end it when it needs to be ended,” or a vaguery like “when the statistics are better,” but it’s never a definitive line that can actually be crossed. As you hinted already, I suspect the real answer to the question is “never.” MADD, for example, paid salaries of $20.5 million in 2009, over half their total income, and another 29% goes to fundraising.

      • As I understand it, MADD was borne when a mother took issue with the fact that the government did not take DUI seriously (her song was killed, and the culprit got a slap on the wrist). In fact, it was generally accepted as normal. She felt it should be treated as a crime of significant neglect, and that the public should be educated as to the dangers of intoxicated driving. These are all things with which I agree.

        Fast forward to today – laws across the nation are pretty uniform in the seriousness with which they take DUI. It’s pretty much a life-ruiner if you get caught doing it. I don’t think there are weak DUI laws anywhere in the US. So in that sense, MADD’s mission is half-done.

        But I can see the need for a continued awareness program. As long as new drivers continue to emerge, an education requirement will persist. Also, some folks simply need more convincing than others, and if an enduring education program succeeds in convincing a 25 year old driver of the dangers of drunk driving when it wasn’t able to convince the same driver at age 18, it is still a worthwhile endeavor.

        I would be supporting of a decision to convert MADD into a purely educational agency. I don’t see that any more activism is required on their part.

        If only a small part of their incoming revenue goes to actual education, then MADD is badly broken.

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