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Tradition, tradition, tradition!
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, December 11, 2006

Awhile back, Julian Sanchez responded to Jonah Goldberg on the conservative reverence for tradition..
[T]o say we should "rely on tradition" doesn't actually relieve us of the responsibility for making our own moral judgments, for much the same reason [that] the argument that we need religious texts as a guide to morality doesn't go through. There are multiple traditions to choose from, and multiple strains within each tradition, so an apparent "deference to tradition" always still involves the exercise of one's own judgment.
[...]
In effect, Jonah wants to say: Look what cultural evolution has produced—great, freeze it! But evolution works because of mutation, variation, and selection, and it's still going on. A tradition that can't accommodate that kind of variation is unlikely to stay adaptive for long.
Similarly, a friend of mine, Tom da Silva, pointed out via email that this reverence for tradition is untenable. Of William F. Buckley, Jr's claim that he was "subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth", da Silva wrote...
There is no difference between the two positions offered in his quote except the passage of some arbitrary amount of time. To a conservative, what is ratified at yesterday's voting booth is tomorrow's ancestral "wisdom" and conservatives will defend it unquestionably whether or not it is wise, constitutional, or consistent with individual sovereignty.
That is why I believe that, 20 or 30 years hence, issues like gay marriage will be widely accepted — we'll wonder why we ever resisted it. Yesterday's "cultural breakdown" will become the tomorrow's traditions to be defended.
 
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I’d never consider the "gay marriage" issue a matter of "tradition" in that sense. I’d consider fiscal responsibility and limited government, however, to fall within that category.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
There is no difference between the two positions offered in his quote except the passage of some arbitrary amount of time.
That’s not exactly true. As time passes, people have an opportunity to evaluate and reevaluate policies and positions, and see if there’s a thing called evidence to support their predictions or ideas. They’re not just sitting on their cans letting time pass. See this story for an illustration of a dumb idea that was almost a policy until someone had a little more time to evaluate it, and the potential consequences. How much better when you have not only potential consequences, but actual consequences you can point to to say "this is working" and "this is not". Isn’t one of the best arguments against socialism that it’s never worked, anywhere? Isn’t that evidence a form of "tradition"?

I’m not a traditionalist like Goldberg apparently is, but when a tradition has mountains of evidence and experience saying "this works", I weigh that a bit heavier than the political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth, since their evidence is still hypothetical/potential.
 
Written By: Jinnmabe
URL: http://
Jinnmabe has a point.

Consider fashions like powdered wigs vs. the tie. Powdered wigs were the rage for a while, but faded off while ties are still around and probably won’t disappear too soon. Probably can find many examples in the musical arena.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I’d never consider the "gay marriage" issue a matter of "tradition" in that sense.
Everybody else does. That’s why they often call it "traditional marriage".
As time passes, people have an opportunity to evaluate and reevaluate policies and positions, and see if there’s a thing called evidence to support their predictions or ideas.
Well, then their decision is based on evidence, not "tradition".
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
" That is why I believe that, 20 or 30 years hence, issues like gay marriage will be widely accepted — we’ll wonder why we ever resisted it."

So human nature is based historical progress? Hegal and Karl Marx would be proud. Thinking libertarians should be disgusted.
 
Written By: T
URL: http://
So human nature is based historical progress?
???
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
"Everybody else does."


That’s an assertion only supported by your assumptions, isn’t it?
"That’s why they often call it ’traditional marriage’."
The use of the word "tradition" is clearly—to all except those who meretriciously misconstrue it—a shorthand for the value found in the "traditional" institution by society after—oh, I don’t know—a few thousand years of consideration. It’s not for no better reason than that a generation needs to die—it’s because a generation or five or so needs to feel out how the new institution can (or can’t).

Since I know you know the best government can do is impose new "tradition" at bayonet point, I have to wonder what you’re really doing in posting this.

Because while it may be a good thing for government to sometimes use bayonets, you haven’t even tried to make a case for that here.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Since I know you know the best government can do is impose new "tradition" at bayonet point, I have to wonder what you’re really doing in posting this.
Leaving aside the fact that marriage has had quite a few different "traditions" through history, nobody wants to "impose" a tradition on you. They believe that marriage should be available to homosexuals, too. You would be asked to tolerate it, not participate in it.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
Leaving aside the fact that marriage has had quite a few different "traditions" through history,
Leaving aside (too conveniently for you) that most of those other varieties of marriage are not a part of the evolution of marriage in this culture, and that in any case in supporting gay marriage as a legal privelege, you want to make society evolve in a direction it is currently unwilling to.
nobody wants to "impose" a tradition on you.
Bullsh!t. Of course it’s being imposed on me if it is imposed at all. Or do you propose that people who want to can opt out of any support for such a law in any fashion—that gay marriage shall have no legal weight whatsoever to conscientious objectors? Also imposing a change in a tradition is not sufficiently different from imposing a tradition cut from whole cloth.
They believe that marriage should be available to homosexuals, too.
Which is such a change as to make the "traditional" view of marriage nugatory. That means nullifying it to the thesaurically impaired. And so it does—it destroys marriage as it has been altogether, it no longer has any legal meaning beyond the legal power to form a contract with another person (and for that matter, conceptually, any number of any sort of people) which other people not party to the contract are going to be bound by law to help pay for.
You would be asked to tolerate it, not participate in it.
So I can check my tax return to make sure none of my money in any way is used to support a gay marriage anywhere, including "life-partner" benefits and the administrative costs of proving that it hasn’t happened?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
They believe that marriage should be available to homosexuals, too. You would be asked to tolerate it, not participate in it.
I disagree completely with this statement, Jon. In order for same-sex marriage to fly, it’s going to require passing laws in Congress and a White House and Supreme Court that are willing to support these laws. More states than not have openly supported opposing same-sex unions. That is the democratically demonstrated will of the majority of the American people. The same-sex marriage proponents will have to override the will of the majority by passing laws, then enforcing them at gun-point (so to speak). While I understand the theory behind some Libertarians’ support of same-sex union (or more properly their lack of desire to oppose it), the actual real-world implementation of same-sex union laws is going to involve the use of tactics that are the anithesis of liberty. In the process, we will be (1)granting a right to the federal government that it does not currently possess [the right to regulate marriage] (2)overriding the expressed wishes of the majority of American voters in favor of a special-interest group and (3)using coercive force to enforce compliance with the law. How can any Libertarian support such a thing?
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
So I can check my tax return to make sure none of my money in any way is used to support a gay marriage anywhere, including "life-partner" benefits and the administrative costs of proving that it hasn’t happened?
I wish you could do that with same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, government already legislates these contractual relationships between individuals. Since that is so, I see no reason why different-sex couples should have legal privileges unavailable to same-sex couples.

Society may be uncomfortable living side by side with that, but it imposes no more obligation on society than did opening up marriage to members of different races. There is no "marriage inflation" mechanism, by which gay marriage would reduce the value of a straight marriage. I’d be perfectly happy to leave ’marriage’ to churches or organizations that wanted to call it ’sacred’ and conduct it according to its own rules. Since that is not the case, however, it is a contract issue.

I disagree completely with this statement, Jon.
I completely understand your problem with the process gay marriage is taking, but I don’t see how that’s relevant to the quoted statement.

In any event, iirc, a majority of Americans support civil unions. In a generation or so, the trend will continue and a majority will also support gay marriage.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
I wish you could do that with same-sex marriage.
Duh. A better way to do it is to leave private parties free to discriminate and get government out of marriage altogether. That’s not what you’re talking about, you’re talking about making the situation worse, not better.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://

Of William F. Buckley, Jr’s claim that he was "subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth", da Silva wrote...
"There is no difference between the two positions offered in his quote except the passage of some arbitrary amount of time. To a conservative, what is ratified at yesterday’s voting booth is tomorrow’s ancestral "wisdom" and conservatives will defend it unquestionably whether or not it is wise, constitutional, or consistent with individual sovereignty."
Was Buckley refering to past voting boths or social norms that evolved over time? I suspect that da Silva didn’t grasp quite what Buckley was saying.

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
In a generation or so, the trend will continue and a majority will also support gay marriage.
That’s potentially true. It is also potentially true that the same-sex union activists will push too far, too fast and get backlashed. Neither of us can predict the future. Passing legislation based on a predicted future social trend is definitely slippery slope type material. I’m fairly surprised by your acceptance of this.
I’d be perfectly happy to leave ’marriage’ to churches or organizations that wanted to call it ’sacred’ and conduct it according to its own rules. Since that is not the case, however, it is a contract issue.
I truly believe that you, personally, would be ok with this, however the VAST majority of the same-sex activists would not. It is absolutely going to come down to pressure groups forcing federal action on this matter. This isn’t about finding a nice middle ground where we can all exist peacefully. This is about forcing an opinion on people who do not share it by using coercive force. What is the logical course of action that will follow if the US government passes a law making same-sex marriages legal? Suppose the religious leaders of our nation refuse to honor said law? Will this be a repeat of the civil rights movement’s protests in the street with federal troops arresting priests, rabbis, and ministers who refuse to comply with the law? That’s where we’re going with all of this, I’m afraid and it’s not exactly the libertarian utopia that I suspect both of us would like.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
In a generation or so, the trend will continue and a majority will also support gay marriage.


Omar is right; you can’t be sure about this. The abortion debate seems to have swung the other way (slightly), for example.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Well, then their decision is based on evidence, not "tradition".
Society has evolved a certain way based upon past forces. The results we call "tradition". Some past forces are no longer relevent, but some still are.

It isn’t always clear which traditions we should keep and which we should cast aside. Unintended consequences, and all that.

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
You seem to believe that gay marriage is somehow an act of coercion. Unless you’re being forced into a marriage you don’t want, I don’t see how that’s the case — at least, not in any way that distinguishes it from heterosexual marriage.

In any event, I’ve laid out my argument for gay marriage here.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
at least, not in any way that distinguishes it from heterosexual marriage.


It doesn’t need to be distinguished from a heterosexual marriage or not for me not to want coercion by government increased.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tradition and conservatism has never been taken in the literal sense of freezing the status quo. Conservatives (and I’m not one) tend to hold that not all knowledge can be explicated (and I’m sympathetic to that notion.) Thus, before assenting to a proposition, one should review history and proceed cautiously.

Gay marriage and gay unions are a minor example but since you guys are already discussing this let’s continue. Many Americans have come to know gay friends and relatives in healthy and stable long-term relationships. They are now ready to accept the genuine romantic bond and sharing of values that is the basis for a union of two by a legal contract that has life-long consequences. At the same time, most people are still rightly skeptical of polygamy. Thus, a conservative evolution suggests that time for gay unions is in the near future.

However, let’s consider some conservative objections. Gay marriage, give resent history, won’t only allow a liberty ... but will come with entitlements. We’ve seen the same problem with other social changes. Equal rights for racial groups became group rights and the racist policy of affirmative action. Conservatives are worried about the results despite the language. At the least, don’t be surprised if religious fundamentalists (or the Catholic Church) are sued for discrimination if they refuse to perform gay marriages. Civil unions may be the right alternative.

Libertarians generally see the issue as freedom of contract. But even here a conservative would be weary. A marriage contract is very different from all others. In a divorce, one side (generally the man) may have to support the other for life. This is an extreme contract. There are and should be limits to contracts. For example, one wouldn’t be allowed to sell oneself into slavery. And we no longer have debtor’s prisons. Bankruptcy allows one to clean one’s slate … except for alimony.

Thus, a conservative may want to prevent lifelong obligations of such an open-ended nature except by smaller steps in social evolution. More modest civil unions do have wider acceptance. While I have no qualms with gay marriages (hey, I’ve lived in Greenwich Village for 25 years) I understand others aren’t ready yet. Why not civil unions first?

Sorry for the length of this post but I did say it wasn’t a simple proposition.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
“After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization,” the president said in urging Congress to approve such an amendment. “Their action has created confusion on an issue that requires clarity.”

Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all. Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife. The amendment should fully protect marriage, while leaving the state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage.

America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities.
I won’t bother attributing it, in hopes you’ll look it up.


There’s another point, I want to make, here. There seems a number of people willing to blame religion for the controversy over this issue. (Yes, I know, I’m the one bringing it up, here)

However, I’ve pointed out here in the past that only around 50% of Americans consider themselves religious. Yet the polls seem to suggest numbers of people against “gay marriage” to be around 75-80% in some polls and never below 70%.

Seems clear there’s more than just religion at work here.


 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
I should add I find it amusing that this post should show up directly following a post entitled "Forced diversity isn’t Diversity at all"

After all, what is legal recognition of homosexual unions, but government enforcing diversity, in the face of what marriage has always been?
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
You seem to believe that gay marriage is somehow an act of coercion.
It will become one, Jon. As Jason pointed out above:
At the least, don’t be surprised if religious fundamentalists (or the Catholic Church) are sued for discrimination if they refuse to perform gay marriages.
If we were all sitting down at a table, quietly, rationally discussing the matter, I would suggest that civil unions would be the ultimate outcome. Since activists on both sides are not exactly likely to tone down the rhetoric, this isn’t going to happen. Legal action (and the resultant government coercion) is the only acceptable outcome for same-sex activists (and some supporters of traditional marriage who argue for a constitutional amendment). If, and it is a very big if, the feds force same-sex marriage (not civil unions) on us, then there will be subsequent anti-discrimination lawsuits brought and there will be clergy and religiously devout laypeople arrested by government agents over this matter. Bet on it. That is where the coercion comes in.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Omar;
perhaps I should point out to you, that that kind of lawsuit is already happening in Canada. Only up there they filed under "hate speech", and it’s the government doing the prosecuting .

I should also point out that to the majority of the people screaming for "gay marriage", at least in my estimation, civil unions won’t do. They don’t want union, they want marriage. They’re not seeking just a legal terms. They’re seeking to change the meaning of "marriage" ... in short they are seeking to change the culture by means of the force of government.

Doesn’t seem a very libertarian point of view to me.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Omar;
perhaps I should point out to you, that that kind of lawsuit is already happening in Canada. Only up there they filed under "hate speech", and it’s the government doing the prosecuting .
I’d be very interested in keeping up on that story, can you provide a link or two, please?
I should also point out that to the majority of the people screaming for "gay marriage", at least in my estimation, civil unions won’t do. They don’t want union, they want marriage. They’re not seeking just a legal terms. They’re seeking to change the meaning of "marriage" ... in short they are seeking to change the culture by means of the force of government.
Oh, I agree absolutely. In the case of Libertarians supporting same-sex unions, however, I really do believe that they would agree to civil unions (since they represent a legal contract and a way to enjoy the benefits of marriage without the religious aspect). Unfortunately, as you pointed out, the VAST majority of pro-same-sex union activists will not settle for civil unions (and aren’t Libertarians). Until they have forced their new dictionary on the world (forced, mind you), they won’t be happy. It is very much the old mantra of, "We’re here, we’re queer, deal with us."
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
I have always thought that dueling was a fine old tradition that deserves to be revived.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Omar;

One example I know of off the top of my head was the case out in Western ’hate speech’Canada a few years back where simply posting Bible passages in the classified ads section of the paper was prosecuted as "hate speech"

As it stands in Canada, right now, given the state of the "hate speech" laws there, a Canadian minister believing that the Bible is inherent and uses it to speak out against homosexuality, could face a maximum penalty of five years for simply preaching the Bible as he sees it.



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://

 
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