The Pluralist Game

That’s the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing.  Here’s how it begins:

This is how it works. The political liberal, unable to win much support for the goodness of the activity he wants permitted, makes this suggestion to his adversaries: why don’t we let each individual decide for himself whether or not he wants to do X.  His doing X does not affect you, since the state is not forcing you do to X. So, this is a perfectly neutral position consistent with individual liberty. By acquiescing to permit others to do X, you are not approving of X. All you are doing is allowing each person to choose to do or not do X.

The Pluralist Game is the name of a book that consists of a collection of essays by the late political philosopher and Fordham professor, Francis A. Canavan, S. J. (It is also the name of a lecture I have given for several years at Summit Ministries, from where I am writing this present essay). Fr. Canavan makes the point that the pluralist game is a sort of bait and switch. First promising neutrality in exchange for your support, the pluralist winds up giving you something far different than what he promised.  What you are forced to acquiesce to is a set of beliefs that are in fact hostile to what you believe. They become over time part of the unquestioned infrastructure of our public life, and thus make it more difficult for you and your dissenting compatriots to live consistently with what you believe about the nature of the good life.

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