Oren Cass and the good folks at American Compass started chatting with me about “safetyism” — an ethic that seems to be spreading throughout American institutions and culture. Here’s the basic idea:
In a society where safety is the highest value, people will discover that asserting a claim of unsafety is the most effective way to coopt institutional and state power. Authorities will not only gravitate toward actions that minimize risk, but also run away from making decisions of their own lest the power of victimhood be turned on them. In a culture without shared values beyond “avoid hurt,” risks become impossible to assess or accept against a claim that someone may be harmed, sapping our appetite for exercising judgment in the face of inevitable tragedy and loss. Thus, the safety imperative undermines conservatism and the common good not because it advances some “woke” agenda, but because it enforces through legal and social concepts of liability an absolute preference for harm reduction over the many other values—from liberty and fairness to tradition and hierarchy—that human flourishing requires as well.
The essay touches on passive-aggressive Yale students, the total obscuring of human responsibility for public-health-policy decisions, the necessity of risk in building a flourishing culture, and a republic that can confront the challenges of the 21st century. Check it out here.