Old Liberals, Young Liberals, and the Breakdown of the Family | Dr. James Hitchcock | CWR
Why and how the rejection of Humanae Vitae made all the difference among Catholics
A recent study by the Pew Research Center finds significant differences between younger and older liberals, differences that are not encouraging either to orthodox religious believers or to the older liberals.
The Next Generation Left (NGL) are at one with older liberals on the social issues, notably abortion and homosexual marriage, and it is primarily those issues which hold the Democratic constituencies together. But the NGL is notably less liberal on economic issues. Only nine per cent of older liberals think America’s economic system is fair, while 36 per cent of the NGL does. Over 8o per cent of older liberals think the government should help the needy, as opposed to only 39 per cent of the NGL, 32 per cent of whom think the poor lack initiative and rely on handouts.
As R. R. Reno of First Things says, the Pew study seems to show that the NGL “…marry free market individualism with an affirmation of lifestyle freedom unhindered by and sometimes antagonistic to religion, morality, and social solidarity.”
Older liberals vs. younger liberals
These findings ought not to be surprising, given the meritocratic nature of elite education in America. Intense competition has formed the NGL and confirmed for them that they have arrived at success through hard work and personal merit and have nothing to apologize for.
There is some unease over this among older liberals. Universities still celebrate students and alumni who are successful in worldly terms, but in their publicity they feature equally those engaged in various kinds of social service. At every commencement ceremony speakers congratulate the new alumni on their accomplishments but urge them not to forget the less fortunate. Being involved in social action of some kind is a good career move both before and during college, but how many graduates—burdened by sometimes overwhelming debts—remain committed is doubtful.
The NGL are not eager to sacrifice even for what they consider to be the common good, a small but telling statistic is that, while the NGL consider themselves environmentalists, many also favor the Keystone XL pipeline.