In one episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen and her handmaids were discussing the origin of dragons. One of the young women espoused the fantastic story of dragons coming from the moon. The other maid laughed at her and then proffered the more acceptable story of draconic origins. When Daenerys questioned the veracity of the story, the young maid confidently supported her tale by simply stating “It is known.” She appealed to the collective wisdom of society. Her version was simply common sense to her. It was social convention.
Social pressure still exists and it is still a very powerful force. Those on the more libertarian end of the spectrum lament that many wish to enlist the brute power of the state to shape society rather than relying on society itself to organically become what it will be. Well, society is still organically organizing itself. The problem, is that it is organizing in a way opposite of what we on the right like.
In the past, society was centered around very few institutions. People still influenced each other, but the spheres of influence were much smaller. Society revolved around the public square, but more intensely around bodies of faith. The ideas that shaped society generally came from religious institutions and a liberal philosophic tradition. Not so today. The media and education play a much larger roll in society. Many (most?) of the things that are common sense social conventions come not from religion or classical liberalism but are antithetical to them. The ideas that shape society come out of academia and Hollywood. When questioned by those of us on the right, the ideas are supported by simply saying “it is known.” How could we stand against the plain truth held by all of society?
It is now the consensus understanding that old fashioned sexual mores are ridiculous. Government is not a necessary evil; rather, it is a positive force for good in the world. It ennobles those in it rather than corrupting them with the irresistible temptation of power. The collective is more important than the individual. Profit is immoral. Humanity is inherently good, altruistic, and kind until debased by the greed of the market. To think anything contrary is ridiculous because, of all these things, it is known.
Even those on the left who question such ideas do so privately. They don't proclaim publicly their unease with Chicago's murder rate, the abject failure of inner city schools, or the social wasteland created by the sexual revolution. Their concerns are raised privately to those really in the know -- the academics, politicians, and the famous. Just as those questioning their faith once confessed their doubts to a priest or sought Godly counsel, now people confess their waverings to their professors or shore up their beliefs by studying the proclamations of Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Cher.
People still feel a great deal of social pressure. Society is still shaping itself by the collected wisdom of the people. Those who dissent are still shunned and shamed into compliance. Sometimes it works. Recall conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich sitting next to Nancy Pelosi proclaiming the dire threat of anthropogenic global warming. It was his penance for doubting the leftist pieties. It is an irresistible force. We should just give in because the tide has turned against us. There is nothing we can do to change it now. Our ideas no longer shape society. Society's ideas will shape us. It is known.