Regarding Daniel’s recent post describing the U.S. as a "pornocracy" : it’s frequently noted that although majorities can usual be found to support measures against pornography, it nevertheless sells like cocaine. And the most lewd tv shows, not perhaps accurately described as pornography but going as far as they can in that direction, are often very popular. This is useful to those who like to tweak Christians and other moral conservatives, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone. The lure of erotic art is very powerful, and it’s not necessarily even deliberate hypocrisy for a person to say "they oughta get rid of this stuff" while watching it avidly. He may genuinely think it ought to be gotten rid of, and yet not have the will to turn away if it’s presented to him.
I am certain that in many parts of the country at least (mine, for instance–the Deep South), hard-core pornography would not be tolerated if it could be outlawed democratically. Part of what’s happened in the past 30-40 years is that the courts have made it harder and harder to do this.
These thoughts were brought on by this column by Mona Charen, in which she describes the ruling of a Pennsylvania court that a particularly sick, violent form of pornography is nevertheless protected by the first amendment.
One can readily imagine the sophistical arguments lawyers and all too many "civil libertarians" would raise against this: "Where do you draw the line? Is it ok for a serious artist to depict violence? Then why not these admittedly perverted and mercenary people? Who are you to decide what’s art and what’s pornography?" Etc. etc.
It seems to me that this abandonment of what might be called the moral common sense–the willingness to make judgments informed by morality above and beyond explicitly formulated objective law, even the willingness to consult what is generally accepted as common decency–is at the root of a lot of our problems, including that of pornography. Several hundred years from now historians may be noting it as the fatal weakness of prosperous democratic societies.
To answer my initial question: in many cases the pornocrats are the judges and other rulers and leaders who make the world safe for the sort of people described in Charen’s column.