James Peron, writing at the Huffington Post, explains The Seismic Shift in Irish Values, and One Reason It Happened. He writes:
Historically, the more market-oriented the economy, the more the well-being of LGBT people increases. Politicized markets require political power, something sexual minorities rarely have, but depoliticized economies only need an entrepreneur willing to cater to a minority. …
It was the Financial Times that noted the role of material wealth on social liberalism. They wrote, “Ireland’s apparent willingness to embrace gay marriage is therefore as much a product of the Celtic Tiger years as it is a reflection of the decline of the Church’s influence.” With rising prosperity, Irish voters started embracing socially liberal reforms, matching the economically liberal reforms of a few years earlier: deregulation and more individual choice.
Peron comments, “Similar seismic shifts in cultural values occurred in other nations following periods of economic boom. The relative prosperity of the 1950s in America gave way to the social turbulence of the ’60s, which saw the culmination of not only the civil rights movement but the movements for women’s liberation and, of course, gay liberation.”
With the rise of individualism, it becomes harder and harder to damn those “not like us.” There is no “us” anymore, just many individuals, each with different values and priorities. Depoliticized markets ought to terrify [social] conservatives, for in them social change is born.
I’d add that in the U.S., the term “liberalism” has been co-opted by advocates of statist social engineering, but in much of the world “liberalism” still connotes opposition to economic regulation. Perhaps one reason for America’s polarization between the statist left and the social right—both opposed to individual freedom from government—is the Orwellian corruption of our political language.
More. Tweeted British Prime Minister David Cameron, head of Britain’s Conservative Party: “Congratulations to the people of Ireland, after voting for same-sex marriage, making clear you are equal if you are straight or gay.”