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Moralistic Therapeutic Politics

A reader sends in a story with the comment, “This is what Moralistic Therapeutic Deism looks like when applied to politics.” More:

Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They’re for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they’ve heard of. They’d like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn’t run anything.

That’s all from a new Reason Foundation poll surveying 2,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Millennials’ political views are, at best, in a stage of constant metamorphosis and, at worst, “totally incoherent,” as Dylan Matthews puts it.

Understood. But I wonder how this compares to most Americans. Don’t most of us want tax cuts, but all the services we now have?

What’s interesting about the poll is how the more money Millennials make, the more they develop a Strange New Respect for holding on to it, versus having it taxed and redistributed. This is understandable too. Nothing moved me more practically to the right quite like graduating college, getting a job (therefore seeing a big chunk of my paycheck taken out for taxes), and renting a house in a part of town that had crime problems.

In terms of cultural conservatism, I’ve been a cultural conservative for most of my adult life, but having children really solidified my views on the importance of family and a strong cultural framework within which to raise them. It really does take a village to raise a child, in terms of the values of their parents being reinforced by the little platoon in which they find themselves living. Before I had kids, I assumed it would be a lot easier to raise them up according to my wife’s and my values than it has been.

As I’ve gotten into middle age, I’ve moved more to the left with regard to the importance of the social safety net and government programs, and this creates tension within me. I do not like statism, but economic and social forces have worked to fray the social fabric such that I don’t see a practical alternative to the limited welfare state.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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