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.
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.