Free Markets, Free People
Long ago, I argued that the end result of Lawrence v. Texas, and ultimately the legalization of gay marriage, would ineluctably lead to calls to polygamous marriage, and in some fringe cases, incest. Here I am arguing it in 2005. What I was told at the time, essentially was:
Ah, the famed ’slippery slope’ argument. It goes like this: ’’Opening the concept of marriage to any interpretation will lead to a slippery slope for any type of relationship to emerge as the new norm.’’
This is patently offensive. It says that if a loving gay couple can marry, we will have to allow a zookeeper somewhere to marry his monkey. Then, we have to allow Jethro to marry 8 women. We have to allow dad to marry his daughter.
But that response was stupid. Because it was essentially, "Your artificial definition of marriage is monstrous. But my artificial definition of marriage will hold, impervious, for as long as the sun burns hot in space."
But, I was right, of course. Now that gay marriage seems to be becoming fixed as an accepted right, we find ourselves faced with the next logical push for expansion of marriage. In Slate today, Jillian Keenan has penned an article urging the legalization of polygamy. Indeed, according to her, it’s a feminist imperative.
While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.
It will empower women! Indeed, look at how empowered women are in all the polygamous societies that currently exist in the world. And in polygamous societies all throughout history.
Oh. Wait. It’s the exact opposite of that, isn’t it?
Anyway, the argument goes that, under the feministy, empowering regime of legal polygamy it won’t be patriarchal polygyny. No, a woman can have two or three husbands! Because, you know, men like nothing better than letting their wives screw other guys. That’s just human nature.
In any event, the definition of marriage is plastic, you see. it’s just a social construct and it can mean anything we want it to mean. And there’s nothing inherently better in one definition of "marriage" or another. It’s all good! Family is family, right? So, like, whatever.
But, let’s forget the argument about whether polygamy is a good or a bad thing. Ultimately the point is that I was, of course, right to argue that we’d end up with arguments demanding a right to polygamy and, despite gay marriage advocates calling me a monster for even suggesting such an unseemly slippery slope argument, well…here we are.
Eight years ago, the slippery slope polygamy argument was just a load of Rick Santorum, wingnut, Christer bullsh*t. Today, it turns out it was just a logical prediction that was correct, and entirely foreseeable. I suppose that means that, eight years from now, we’ll have to let Jaime and Cersei Lannister get married.
So, we should probably start thinking about how we’re gonna deal that little dick, Joffre, right now.
Over at RedState, Erick Erickson promoted a post in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage by “mjdaniels,” a Christian conservative and long-time lurker there. It’s a long post that makes a number of good points, but he ultimately makes a number of rhetorical errors that give his fellow Christian conservatives an easy way out, and they did fix on those errors. So it is that the people I see praising his argumentation with the fewest reservations are mostly not currently practicing Christians or self-identified conservatives.
Among those errors, the biggest was probably when he said, “Is Homosexuality a Sin? I. Do. Not. Care.” Christians are supposed to care whether others sin. The proper question is the duty others have to sinners. And behold all the RedState regular commenters saying that they’re called to rebuke sin and lead sinners away from sin, out of love. Many deny that enshrining these rebukes in legal exclusivity is tantamount to “hunting down sinful people,” and they claim that it isn’t them but same-sex marriage activists who are trying to “wield the power of the government to enforce my convictions on others.”
I’d sorely like to see how his fellow Christian conservatives would respond if they couldn’t focus on those errors. In particular, I wished “mjdaniels” had better focused on something he only said in passing at the end of his post: that opponents of same-sex marriage were essentially calling for “casting the first stone at” this set of sinners.
It seems to me that when persuading Christian conservatives, one should be absolutely clear that the status quo is coercion – discriminatory taxes and inheritance rules, and denying the right to contract, all of which conservatives agree is state coercion when it’s applied to them – and that when Jesus was challenged to support such coercion (stoning a woman caught in the act of adultery, according to Mosaic Law), he in turn challenged the teachers of law and Pharisees that the first stone should be cast by one who is without sin. When no one would stone her, he said he would not condemn her that way either, and he simply told her to leave her life of sin.
If even Jesus doesn’t think it’s humans’ place to punish violations of one of the Ten Commandments dealing with marriage, then it’s an uphill climb for a Christian conservative to argue that it’s their duty to uphold the use of such force based on moral strictures that are much less clear.
I find it baffling that conservatives think the government is capable of making a compact sacred by calling it a marriage, but there I see it in the RedState comments. Do they teach their children that the state’s refraining from coercion is an indication of societal approval of a behavior? No; what is not prohibited is merely left to be governed by the other aspects of civil society (the family, the market, churches, social pressure, etc.) and, if Christians are correct, God’s ultimate judgment.
Perhaps it comes as a surprise to some of our readers, but we are not a Republican or Conservative blog. We are a libertarian, or more precisely a Neo-libertarian blog. As it happens, this puts us far closer to the conservative end of the spectrum than the liberal end in most things, so I can see, what with our constant nagging about President Obama’s policy foolishness over the last four years, why many readers would think of us as conservatives. But we aren’t really.
Maybe that’s why Bryan’s suggestions seemed so off-putting to the conservatives who regular read us here. Oh, and the fact that Bryan, while he’s had posting privileges here for, well, a long time, doesn’t post all that much anymore. I wish he posted more, but apparently, he has a life. But he’s still got his name on the masthead. See? It’s over there on the sidebar, on the left.
It’s gonna stay there.
The thing is, if you’re a conservative—especially a social conservative, you just need to accept that pretty much all of us support gay marriage, are at least squishy on abortion law, etc., etc., so you’re not going to find this a congenial place, for the most part, on social issues.
So much for old business.
Now onto the the posts Bryan contributed over the last few days. As It happens, I have some thoughts on his ideas myself.
Immigration is a sticky issue. I think that Milton Friedman was right in that you cannot have both unrestricted immigration and a welfare state. If you try to have both, you will inevitably bankrupt the system completely. Which, now that I think about it, is at least a self-solving problem.
But that solution itself would cause…difficulty, so it’s best to avoid it.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have a very expansive welfare state and what of we did have would be off-limits to immigrants. That isn’t the situation we have, however, which makes unrestricted immigration difficult to deal with.
It’s even more troubling when you realize that we have a set of challenges that make any immigration difficult to deal with at the present time.
There has been a distinct cultural shift in the way we deal with immigrants, in terms of our willingness to assimilate them into the American culture. For instance, when I was a child, immigrant children were expected to learn English, and conform to mainstream American culture. Essentially, immigrants were told—often in no uncertain terms—that we didn’t care how they did things in Kaplokistan, they were in America and they would do things our way. The message, from every level of society, was that if their original country was such a great place, they’d still be there. The result was that the children of immigrants were quite keen to assimilate, and mostly did so.
But we don’t do that any more. We’re now ever so sensitive to their cultural concerns, that we don’t try to assimilate them at all. We fear offending their delicate cultural sensitivities. As a result, the assimilation takes place at a much slower rate.
For example, here in southern California, we provide official voting ballots in somewhere around 100 different languages. Let me just state something that should be obvious: If you cannot vote in the English language, you shouldn’t be voting. Or, dare I say it, even be a citizen. If you can’t even be troubled to learn the dominant language of our popular culture, how in the world can you grasp the essentials of our political culture and principles?
This is compounded by the fact that today’s immigrants come from a vastly different political culture than those of a century ago. Today’s immigrants come from countries with an explicitly socialist political culture, which is decidedly not the case of immigrants who came to the US prior to the 1920s. Prior to that time, most immigrants came from monarchies with an intensely class-based structure, no middle class to speak of, and no possibility for social mobility. They come from countries where their social status was determined by the class they were born in, and they came here to escape both grinding poverty, and a class structure that made escaping that poverty extraordinarily difficult.
Today’s immigrants, thanks to the USSR’s pervasive influence in the 3rd world in the 50s-70s, have grown up with a socialist political world-view. They will naturally be prone to gravitate to the Democratic Party. Certainly, some portion will come here to escape socialism, but most probably don’t think too deeply about politics, and simply accept the socialist view of activist government they’ve been taught all their lives. When they get here, they find a political party that also accepts that political world-view, so naturally they gravitate towards it. Prior to the 1920′s, they would not have.
So I don’t think you can point to unrestricted immigration in the 19th century and draw too many parallels to how such a policy might work today. Both the original political culture of the immigrant, and the American political culture they find on arrival here, are completely different than they were a century ago.
And, of course, I also think about how California has fared with the massive immigration, a great portion of it illegal, of the last 30 years. The Central Valley has deteriorated almost to 3rd World status, with a permanent underclass of Mexican laborers who have essentially become modern-day helots, rampant property crime, deteriorating public services, and terrible poverty.
What lessons do we learn from all that?
I honestly don’t know how to approach entitlement reform. Maybe Bryan’s suggestion has merit, but I simply don’t know. We’ve told every person in the country that they have a defined-benefits pension, and, though people my age and younger don’t really believe Social Security will be there for us, We’ve spent all our working lives paying into it. We certainly feel we’re owed something for it. We had a Deal. You can’t just break the Deal.
And here is the real, non-obvious reason why you can’t break that Deal: We don’t have a stable currency. As a result, we simply cannot safely save for retirement.
Let me explain.
When the US was on the gold standard, you could simply stuff money into your mattress. In fact, a lot of people did. And the reason they could was that their money retained its purchasing power. Every dollar bill was a receipt for your real money. Every banknote said, "The US Treasury will pay the bearer X dollars." If you took a dollar bill into the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, slapped it on the counter, and said give me my money, a servitor would take your dollar, nip back to the vault, and return with a little bag containing 1/35oz of gold, or 1/16oz of silver. Today, your dollar bill is a receipt for nothing. It’s worth whatever the US government says it’s worth at any given time.
And, especially since 1973, it’s been worth less and less every year. Since 1970, the price of housing has risen 1050%. A savings account at a bank doesn’t pay an interest rate that keeps up with inflation. So, with a fiat currency that is constantly debased, that leaves very few savings options.
Essentially, to make a return greater than inflation, the county has been forced into the stock market for investment. But what happens if the market crashes? You lose a large portion of your saved investment. If you have several years to make it up, well, good. But what if it happens when you’re close to retirement? Well, you say, of course, you have to find safer investments like tax-free munies or something. And you should allocate your portfolio wisely, etc., etc.
But most people don’t want to do that. And they don’t want to learn all sorts of investment arcana. They want to save, do so safely, and not have inflation eat away all of their savings. Social Security does that, from their point of view, and it doesn’t make them live in fear that some unforeseen market event will eat up their hard-won savings.
That’s why so many people are opposed to Social Security privatization. They’re afraid of market investment, and are especially so seeing the roller-coaster rise the market’s been on since 2000.
But they have no safe option for saving that keeps pace with inflation.
Not having a stable currency forces people into riskier and harder-to-understand investments, and people don’t want to mortgage their future to investments that are risky and hard to understand.
Social Security was easy to understand, and it at least gave the illusion of security, no matter what the reality was.
A reliable, stable currency would make entitlement reform a lot easier, because it would vastly reduce the fear of inflation eating away at their retirement.
Social issues are the hot button with a significant portion of the GOP. I’m not entirely sure that if the GOP abandons social issues they’d be able to attract enough people from the Democrats to make up a viable political party, by which I mean one that has a shot at winning nationally. I don’t think that the Democrats have enough of a fiscally conservative, socially liberal electoral base to attract to the new, socially agnostic GOP.
The reality is, though, that when it comes to politics, the culture is determinative on the outcomes of social issues.
It doesn’t get much play, but, as it happens, according to polls—which as we know from the last election are pretty accurate—a slight majority of the electorate is actually pro-life. You wouldn’t know it from watching the news, but somehow, over the last decade, pro-choice has become the minority opinion in the country. Presumably, if that trend continues—and there’s no guarantee it will—Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Maybe. I mean, just because people are generally pro-life, it doesn’t mean that women don’t want to have abortion as an option. Just in case. Maybe it doesn’t get overturned at all, but abortion becomes culturally objectionable and we’ll get a lot less of it.
If Roe is overturned, then, abortion will become a state issue. Or, perhaps we’ll keep Roe, and just tighten down on abortions: limit them to the 1st trimester, and give exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, implement stricter parental controls, and that sort of thing. If it is overturned, states like California and New York will make it unambiguously legal. Some states will restrict it. Some will ban it completely.
Maybe that’s the answer for social issues. Leave them to the states, and people will gravitate to the states where the social milieu is more congenial to them. But that will be difficult to do now that we’ve cast all social issues in terms of rights.
I think that was a mistake, but here we are.
The gay marriage people say they have a right to marry. OK. Then why don’t polygamists have a right to do so as well? Once you’ve cast an argument in terms of rights, you’ve started wielding a hammer, not a scalpel, to solve your social problems. If gays have a right to marry, then why doesn’t another group of consenting adults have that right? How do you draw that line in terms of rights?
We forced the Mormon religion to de-legitimize polygamy in order for Utah to become a state. If adults have the right to order their relationships as they choose, then how was that legitimate? How is it legitimate, in terms of rights, to forbid close relatives to marry?
Rights are a pretty blunt instrument.
But how does letting gays get married somehow damage marriage as an institution? I guess I don’t understand that. I get that marriage is important, and I get why it’s important. But, it’s not so important, I guess, that we want to make divorce difficult. Which is, after all, why more than half of marriages end in it. Oh, and by the way, aren’t something like half of the kids born today, born out of wedlock?
Something’s going on with marriage today, and it’s mainly not good, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with gay people.
Here’s a couple of realities to think about, though:
- We’re about 30 or 40 years behind Europe in turning into a post-Christian culture. You wanna know the culture your grandkids will grow up in? Look at the Netherlands or Britain.
- With Obama’s re-election, there’s an excellent chance that 1 or two conservative justices will be replaced by Obama. That means Roe v. Wade will probably be around for another 20 years, and who knows what the culture will think about it then?
Ultimately, the place to fight social issues doesn’t seem to be in politics, though. If you want to win on social issues, you have to to win the culture. If you can’t get a cultural consensus, you will never get a political one.
That seems to me to imply that conservatives should be battling not in Washington, DC, but in Hollywood, and in the Media, and in their local schools and colleges. The Left has made a largely successful march through the country’s cultural institutions, taken them over, and are shaping it to their liking. Conservatives have spent the last 4 decades unsuccessfully trying to take over the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Left has turned education into a 16-year commie indoctrination course, topped off by Continuing Education in socialism from TV, news media, and movies.
Maybe conservatives should be thinking about how to win the culture. If they do that, the politics will ineluctably follow. The reverse, however, is simply not true.
I already mentioned that marriage, kids, and a mortgage are very strong indicators of conservatism. Here’s a straightforward causal explanation: when you’re invested in something, you don’t want it to be taken from you, and you’re skeptical of starry-eyed meddlers doing anything that might threaten it. Probably the best thing done for the cause against gun control was teaching others how to use and maintain a firearm: once people own one, it sharpens the mind to cut through any argument for taking it away.
But a gun is a small investment compared to a committed and intimate relationship, custody of children, and homeownership. A dollar taxed is one that you can’t spend on your family when they want something, a dollar borrowed is one that your kids will pay back, and that meddler on TV is rolling the dice with a major part of your life.
In the case of immigration, Hispanics are already primed to be conservative because they’re already invested. With gay marriage, you have a group trying awfully hard to get more invested.
The conservative argument for embracing gay marriage is that marriage seems to be a fine institution that benefits even people who can’t have children together, and that it may strengthen the institution and the country to expand the institution so that a nontrivial minority of the population is on the inside trying to protect it rather than on the outside where their exclusion leads to thorny political issues of respect and tribalism.
Another conservative argument is that if gay marriage is politically inevitable, conservatives should proactively move through legislation to ensure that it goes smoothly without infringing on other freedoms (like those of association and contract), rather than allow this to play out entirely in the courts or in a referendum. If conservatives keep trying to board the windows, more stuff is going to end up broken than if they just opened the door.
As with immigration and Hispanics, marriage may not be gays’ top priority, but it matters, and the way Republicans approach and discuss the issue can signal that “you’re not one of us,” which is poison for coalition-building.
The flip side of that coin doesn’t have to be pandering; given the consciousness of gay communities about targeted violence and bullying, it’d be awesome if conservatives taught more gays how to use and maintain firearms.
Disclaimer – this post isn’t about whether or not you support gay marriage. I don’t care. The post is to discuss the politics of the declaration by President Obama and to make a point. If you want to rant about the pros or cons of gay marriage, go somewhere else.
That said, how do you know it was done explicitly for political purposes?
Timing for one. The word was out that big donors who happened to be gay were withholding big bucks. Declare. Problem solved.
Additionally – and this is no surprise – the bonus of declaring not only freed up that money (which apparently isn’t as easy to raise this time around) but it offered another distraction from the economy, the debt and the dismal Obama record. Every day that the economy, debt and the rest of his record isn’t being discussed is a good day for Obama.
But here’s the real reason you know it was all for political gain and he plans to do absolutely nothing about it in reality:
Strange, too, that Obama declared gay marriage a civil right, but insisted it should be left to the states. His political allies are scratching their heads over that one — it’s a civil right or it’s not — but the media haven’t pursued that incoherent angle either.
That’s right, he declares it a “civil right” but then shunts it off to the states to “decide”. Really? Obviously we can argue all day about whether or not it is a civil right, but that’s irrelevant to the point here. He declared it a civil right.
And he also said that what we call ‘civil rights’ should be decided at the state level.
“No civil rights for you!”
George Wallace and Orville Faubus were within their rights as the heads of their states to deny blacks their “civil rights” if that’s what the people of their state wanted?
We all know the answer to that.
So this is how our resident “Constitutional Scholar” makes some political hay without any intention of actually doing anything to back up his declaration (even while offering an incoherent reason that should be the talk of the media … uh, yeah, that’ll happen).
As worthless a gesture as Syria signing the UN’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
But politically, it’s worth big dollars just when he needs big dollars.
While President Obama tries to keep the subject on anything but the economy (and I think he miscalculated on the gay marriage thing), the economy continues to take its toll whether the center of media attention or not.
Americans are growing more pessimistic about the economy and handling it remains President Barack Obama’s weak spot and biggest challenge in his bid for a second term, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
And the gloomier outlook extends across party lines, including a steep decline in the share of Democrats who call the economy "good," down from 48 percent in February to just 31 percent now.
And yet we’re engaged in discussions about whether Romney was a bully and Obama was bullied or gay marriage.
The economy is the No. 1 issue in the presidential race, thanks to the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression and one of the shallowest-ever recoveries.
While the recession officially ended in summer 2009, unemployment remains stubbornly high, at 8.1 percent in April. Some 12.5 million Americans are out of work.
The increasing skepticism toward the recovery tracks a weakening overall economy as measured by the gross domestic product, and matches economic growth downgrades by many economic forecasters.
We keep hearing the “economy is the No. 1 issue in the presidential race” but we rarely hear about it in that regard.
Instead we’re continually diverted and distracted by the latest “issue du jure”.
You’d almost think it was a strategy.
I’m in a series of meetings today so I’m unlikely to get any serious blogging done.
You guys talk among yourselves.
Suggestions: “flip-flop” is now “evolution”? Really?
And, dealing with just the politics of Obama’s gay marriage announcement, guess what we won’t be talking about again today?
Move over, Carrie Prejean. President Obama apparently thinks that marriage should be defined traditionally, too. And he’s sent government lawyers into court to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act. And it has some people upset.
We just got the brief from reader Lavi Soloway. It’s pretty despicable, and gratuitously homophobic. It reads as if it were written by one of George Bush’s top political appointees. I cannot state strongly enough how damaging this brief is to us. Obama didn’t just argue a technicality about the case, he argued that DOMA is reasonable. That DOMA is constitutional. That DOMA wasn’t motivated by any anti-gay animus. He argued why our Supreme Court victories in Roemer and Lawrence shouldn’t be interpreted to give us rights in any other area (which hurts us in countless other cases and battles). He argued that DOMA doesn’t discriminate against us because it also discriminates about straight unmarried couples (ignoring the fact that they can get married and we can’t).
He actually argued that the courts shouldn’t consider Loving v. Virginia, the miscegenation case in which the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to ban interracial marriages, when looking at gay civil rights cases. He told the court, in essence, that blacks deserve more civil rights than gays, that our civil rights are not on the same level.
Apparently, some people didn’t beleive Obama when he stated that he opposed gay marriage. So, more buyer’s remorse from those people.
I wonder if a Cheney Administration would have taken a more reasonable position vis a vis DOMA. It could hardly have staked out a more conservative one than the Obama administration did.
Here’s the thing: as Dale Carpenter over at Volokh points out, the DoJ went all the way to the wall to defend DOMA, even though there was no need to do so.
Of most interest is what the DOJ has to say about the due process and equal protection claims, rejecting just about every single variation of an argument that gay-rights scholars and litigants have made over the past 30 years.
Fundamental right to marry that includes same-sex couples? Nonsense under the narrowest approach to such rights, as articulated by Chief Justice Rehnquist in Washington v. Glucksberg, who wrote that in evaluating a fundamental-rights claim a federal court must follow tradition and tradition is to be understood as narrowly as possible.
The Loving analogy? Rejected. Strict scrutiny for laws discriminating against gays and lesbians? Unprecedented. Sex discrimination? Meritless. Romer v. Evans? That dealt with a comprehensive denial of rights, unlike DOMA. Lawrence v. Texas? That was a privacy case.
Ninth Amendment rights? No such thing.
Essentially, the Obama Administration’s justice department filed a brief that attempts to gut practically every constitutional gay rights argument you can think of. I would have expected Obama’s defense of DOMA–assuming there was going to even be one, which there didn’t have to be–to be more or less pro forma. Instead of arguing that the law was unconstitutional–which Bush and Clinton did a couple of times–or making boilerplate legal arguments as a matter of form, the DoJ went for the throats of gay marriage advocates.
I really do wonder why.