political correctness

Let’s Make a Deal

Let's make a deal

The last deal negates all of the concessions made in the other deals — for those of us who will choose to live in Free States.

The Good, the Bad, and the Abominable

This brief guide to leftist orthodoxy is prompted by current reading (to be discussed in a future post):

GOOD BAD
Marxist socialist mass-murderers (Stalin, Mao) National socialist mass-murderer (Hitler)
Socialism Capitalism
Homosexuality & gender confusion Unalloyed heterosexuality
Shacking up (in any combination of sexes) Traditional marriage
Female Male
Persons of color (but not “yellow”) Whites
Dribbles & scribbles Representational art
Noise, dissonance, atonality Melody, harmony, rhythm
Public schools (except for one’s own children) Home schooling
Illegal immigrants (especially when they work cheap) Voter ID laws
Laid back (lazy) Ambitious
Spontaneous (impulsive) Disciplined
Europe, Islam America (before the left seized it)
Big government, high taxes Small government, low taxes
Political correctness Free (but non-treasonous) speech
“Disadvantaged” criminals Cops
Killing babies Killing killers

*****

Related posts:
How to Deal with Left-Wing Academic Blather
The Case Against Campus Speech Codes
The Illogical Left, via Leiter
Like a Fish in Water
Apropos Academic Freedom and Western Values
Singer Said It
Why So Few Free-Market Economists?
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
How to Combat Beauty-ism
Defining Treasonous Speech
Sexist Nonsense
The Firing of Juan Williams
The Politically Correct Cancer: Another Weapon in the War on Straight White Males
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
“Buy Local”
“Net Neutrality”
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
Giving Back, Again
The Left’s Agenda
Peter Presumes to Preach
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
Union-Busting
The Left and Its Delusions
In Defense of Wal-Mart
An Economist’s Special Pleading: Affirmative Action for the Ugly
Union Thuggery
Elizabeth Warren Is All Wet
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Another Entry in the Sunstein Saga
Are You in the Bubble?
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Obesity and Statism
Political Correctness vs. Civility
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition

IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition

This is a wandering post, in which I use a recent controversy about IQ to make some observations about political correctness, which leads to a tale of leftist subversion and America’s descent into statism.

Since my last post about IQ, more than a year ago, the biggest kerfuffle on the IQ front arose when Jason Richwine was chased from his job at Heritage Foundation. The proximate cause of Richwine’s departure from Heritage was the usual kind of witch hunt that accompanies the discovery of anything coming from a conservative source that might offend political correctness. Richwine was “guilty” of having penned a dissertation that contains unremarkable statements about ethnic differences in average IQ, including the IQ difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.

These are excerpts of John Derbyshire’s narration of l’affaire Richwine as it unfolded:

… Following the release of a report by the Heritage Foundation arguing that the Rubio-Schumer immigration bill will cost the nation $6.3 trillion, the Slave Power set their dwarf miners to digging.

They soon found gold. One of the co-authors of the study is twentysomething Jason Richwine, a Heritage analyst. Not just an analyst, but a quantitative analyst: “Heritage’s senior policy analyst in empirical studies.” …

After a few days’ digging the Nibelungs turned up Richwine’s Ph.D. thesis from Harvard University, title: “IQ and Immigration Policy.” The mother lode! (You can download it from here.)

The Washington Post ran a gleeful story on the find under the headline “Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs.” [By Dylan Matthews, May 8, 2013]. They note that:

Richwine’s dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races.

Eek! A witch! …

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, on secondment from Conservatism, Inc. to offer some pretense of “balance” at the Post, hastened to join the lynch mob. “It undermines the cause of all immigration opponents to have their prized work authored by such a character,” she wrote, reading Richwine out of respectable society….

She then brings in Jennifer S. Korn for a quote. Ms. Korn was Secretary for Hispandering in the George W. Bush White House….

What does Ms. Korn have to tell us?

Richwine’s comments are bigoted and ignorant. America is a nation of immigrants; to impugn the intelligence of immigrants is to offend each and every American and the foundation of our country….

Even if you take Ms. Korn’s usage of “impugn” to mean Richwine has stated that immigrants have lower mean IQ than natives, she is wrong. Table 2.2 in the thesis (p. 30) gives an average estimated mean IQ of 105.5 for immigrants from Northeast Asia….

And so another “anti-racist” witch hunt commences….

The forces of orthodoxy have identified a heretic. They’re marching on his hut with pitchforks and flaming brands. The cry echoes around the internet: “Burn the witch!” … (“‘Burn the Witch': Heritage Foundation Scuttles Away from Jason Richwine–and the Cold, Hard Facts,” VDare.com, May 9, 2013)

The impetus for politically correct witch-hunting comes from the left, of course. This is unsurprising because leftists, on average, are dumber than conservatives and libertarians. (See this and this, for example.) Which would explain their haste to take offense when the subject of IQ is raised.

But facts are facts, and Richwine summarizes them neatly in a recent (post-Heritage) essay; for example:

The American Psychological Association (APA) tried to set the record straight in 1996 with a report written by a committee of experts. Among the specific conclusions drawn by the APA were that IQ tests reliably measure a real human trait, that ethnic differences in average IQ exist, that good tests of IQ are not culturally biased against minority groups, and that IQ is a product of both genetic inheritance and early childhood environment. Another report signed by 52 experts, entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” stated similar facts and was printed in the Wall Street Journal. (“Why Can’t We Talk about IQ?,” Politico, August 9, 2013)

Richwine continues:

[W]hen Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard University, speculated in 2005 that women might be naturally less gifted in math and science, the intense backlash contributed to his ouster.Two years later, when famed scientist James Watson noted the low average IQ scores of sub-Saharan Africans, he was forced to resign from his lab, taking his Nobel Prize with him.

When a Harvard law student was discovered in 2010 to have suggested in a private email that the black-white IQ gap might have a genetic component, the dean publicly condemned her amid a campus-wide outcry. Only profuse apologies seem to have saved her career.

In none of these cases did an appeal to science tamp down the controversy or help to prevent future ones. My own time in the media crosshairs would be no different.

So what did I write that created such a fuss? In brief, my dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on a variety of cognitive tests. Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive deficit rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how that deficit could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy.

Because a large number of recent immigrants are from Latin America, I reviewed the literature showing that Hispanic IQ scores fall between white and black scores in the United States. This fact isn’t controversial among experts, but citing it seems to have fueled much of the media backlash.

Derbyshire follows up:

Jason, who can hardly be more than thirty, has not yet grasped an important thing about humanity at large: that most of our thinking is magical, superstitious, religious, social, and egotistical. Very little of it is empirical. I myself am as stone-cold an empiricist as you’ll meet in a month of Sundays; yet every day when I walk my dog there is a certain tree I have to pat as we pass it. (It’s on the wrong side of the road. The family joke is that I shall one day be hit by a truck while crossing the road to pat my lucky tree.)

Hence Jason’s puzzlement that 25 years after Snyderman and Rothman, 19 years after The Bell Curve and the follow-up “Mainstream Science on Intelligence” declaration, the public discourse even in quality outlets is dominated by innumerate journo-school graduates parroting half-remembered half-truths from Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, the greatest work of Cultural Marxist propaganda yet produced.

That’s how we are. That’s the shape of human nature. Alan Cromer explained it in his 1993 book Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science. Not many people can think empirically much of the time. At the aggregate level, where the lowest common denominator takes over and social acceptance is at the front of everyone’s mind, empiricism doesn’t stand a chance unless it delivers some useful technology.

Nor is it quite the case that “emotion trumps reason.” What mostly trumps reason is the yearning for respectability, leading us to conform to ambient dogmas—in the present-day West, the dogmas of Cultural Marxism, which waft around us like a noxious vapor….

This is how we are: jumbles of superstition, emotion, self-deception, and social conformism, with reason and science trotting along behind trying to keep up.

Science insists that there is an external world beyond our emotions and wish-fulfillment fantasies. It claims that we can find out true facts about that world, including facts with no immediate technological application. The human sciences insist even more audaciously that we ourselves are part of that world and can be described as dispassionately as stars, rocks, and microbes. Perhaps one day it will be socially acceptable to believe this. (“Why We Can’t Talk about IQ,” Taki’s Magazine, August 15, 2013)

Much has been made of the “bland” 1950s and the supposed pressure to conform to the Ozzie and Harriett way of life. Though i was never clear about the preferred alternative. On the evidence of the past 50 years, it seems to have been a potent mix of blue language, promiscuous sex, sodomy, broken families, drugs, violence, and ear-blasting “music.”

The true forces of conformity had begun their work many years before Ricky Nelson was a gleam in his father’s eye. There was, of course, the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, from which America was beginning to recover by the late 1920s.. But then came the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the establishment in America of a fifth column dedicated to the suppression of liberty:

As recounted in [KGB: The Inside Story by KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky and Cambridge intelligence expert Christopher Andrew]  … Harry Hopkins — FDR’s confidant, advisor, and policy czar, who actually resided in the White House during World War II — was the Big Enchilada among American agents of influence working for the USSR. Gordievsky recounts attending a lecture early in his career by Iskhak Akhmerov, the KGB’s top “illegal” spy in the U.S. during the 1940s (In espionage parlance, “illegals” do not have legal cover if caught). According to Gordievsky, Akhmerov spoke for a long period about Hopkins, calling him the top Soviet asset in the US. Yet, Gordievsky and Andrew tiptoe around this allegation by representing that Hopkins was a naïve devotee who only courted Stalin to ensure victory over Hitler’s Germany.

Although I know Andrew well, and have met Gordievsky twice, I now doubt their characterization of Hopkins…. It does not ring true that Hopkins was an innocent dupe dedicated solely to defeating the Nazis. Hopkins comes over in history as crafty, secretive and no one’s fool, hardly the personality traits of a naïve fellow traveler. And his fingerprints are on the large majority of pro-Soviet policies implemented by the Roosevelt administration. [Diana] West [author of American Betrayal: Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character] deserves respect for cutting through the dross that obscures the evidence about Hopkins, and for screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. was the victim of a successful Soviet intelligence operation….

West mines Venona, the testimony of “Red spy queen” Elizabeth Bentley — who confessed her work for the communist underground to the FBI in 1945 — and the book Blacklisted by History by M. Stanton Evans, a re-examination of the McCarthy era using Venona and hundreds of other recently declassified documents from the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. And West lambastes the Truman administration for not revealing data from Venona that would have exonerated McCarthy and informed the nation that Soviet agents had indeed infiltrated key departments of the FDR administration….

The Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Laurence Duggan, and 397 more American agents have been confirmed and verified as Soviet agents. West claims Harry Hopkins has been outed too in Venona, but Radosh and other scholars say this identification is bogus. But the Soviets also ran important agents of influence with great attention to the security of their identities. In essence, whether or not Hopkins is ever identified in Venona, he remains, as the cops say, a person of interest. (Bernie Reeves, “Reds under the Beds: Diana West Can’t Sleep,” American Thinker, August 10, 2013)

Influence flows downhill. What happened in Washington was repeated in many a city and State because the New Deal had made leftism respectable. By the end of World War II, which made nationalization the norm, the “mainstream” had shifted far to the left of where it had flowed before the Great Depression.

Influence also flows laterally. The growing respectability of leftism emboldened and empowered those institutions that naturally lean left: the media, academia, and the arts and letters. And so they went forth into the wilderness, amplifying the gospel according to Marx.

The most insidious influence has been the indoctrination of students — from pre-Kindergarten to graduate school — in the language and ideals of leftism: world government (i.e., anit-Americanism); redistributionism (as long as it hits only the “rich,” of course); favoritism for “minorities” (i.e., everyone but straight, white males); cultural diversity (any kind of crap in the arts, music, and literature, as long as it wasn’t produced by dead, white mailes); moral relativism (e.g., anti-feminism is bad, unless it’s practiced by Muslims). All of that, and much more, is the stuff of political correctness, which is an especially corrosive manifestation of social conformism, as Jason Richwine learned the hard way.

And then came the “pod people.” These are the masses of “ordinary people” who may have been deaf or impervious to indoctrination by teachers and professors, but who in vast numbers were (and continue to be) seduced by into collaboration with the left by years and decades of post-educational exposure to leftist cant. Seduced by slanted opinionators — usually disguised as reporters. Seduced by novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, and other denizens of the world of arts and letters. Seduced by politicians (even “conservative” ones) trading “free lunches” and “local jobs” for votes.

It is more than a small wonder that there is such a sizable remnant of true conservatives and non-leftish libertarians (unlike this leftish one). But we are vastly outnumbered by staunch leftists, wishy-washy “moderates,” and “conservatives” whose first instinct is to defend sacred cows (Social Security and Medicare, for example) instead of defending liberty.

I will have more to say, in future posts, about the subversion of “Old America.” For now, I end with this observation from an earlier post:
If America was ever close to being a nation united and free, it has drifted far from that condition — arguably, almost as far as it  had by 1861. And America’s condition will only worsen unless leaders emerge who will set the nation (or a large, independent portion of it) back on course. Barring the emergence of such leaders, America will continue to slide into baseness, divisiveness, and servitude.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Secession
A New, New Constitution
Secession Redux
A New Cold War or Secession?
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
The Near-Victory of Communism
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
Intelligence as a Dirty Word
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap–Causes and Implications
Dan Quayle Was (Almost) Right
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
Secession for All Seasons
Liberty and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
Well-Founded Pessimism
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
“Conversing” about Race
The Fallacy of Human Progress
Political Correctness vs. Civility

Political Correctness vs. Civility

Rust belt philosopher (Eli Horowitz) doesn’t care for Stella Morabito’s “Dissecting Political Correctness” (Public Discourse, August 13, 2013). Here’s Horowitz’s commentary, in full:

Stella Morabito may be on the wrong side, but she’s not wrong just because she’s on the wrong side. So to speak.

“Victory in the war of ideas often hinges more on the conditions of battle than on the quality of arguments. You know this instinctively if you’ve ever been shouted down, smeared, or ignored when you were simply trying to state a point. Truly civil public discourse becomes much harder when our dialogue is hijacked by thought policing—euphemistically referred to as ‘political correctness,’ or PC.Political correctness has cultivated an illusion of support for laws that undermine fundamental institutions of society, including marriage and family. The only way to dispel this illusion, and to reverse the damage these laws will do, is to revive true civil discourse.”

Morabito’s tiresome bigotry aside, she describes in this article the idea of “an opinion cascade,” which (loosely) is the thing that happens when an idea achieves such memetic dominance that it is protected and promoted within a given group by the sorts of mechanisms that she describes (i.e., stigma, media endorsements, etc.); in short, a cascade is a thing that shifts “the conditions of battle.” You might think, given that description and the paragraphs above, that she was opposed to such cascades altogether. After all, she says that these cascades are at least sometimes incompatible with “truly civil public discourse,” which she takes to be a good and even a necessary thing. Yet the fact of the matter is quite the opposite: she likes cascades, just so long as they benefit her side.

“If enough people come out of isolation and shed the fear of speaking their minds, a genuine cascade of truth will ensue. Then civil society can be rebuilt, and real public discourse based on reason and logic can flourish.”

Clearly, this is unforgivably stupid. She begins by claiming that civil discourse cannot happen when people are “shouted down, smeared, or ignored,” and that’s absolutely correct. She also says that opinion cascades establish those forms of stigma, and that’s also correct. Put these two facts together and you’ll easily conclude that no cascade can be compatible with civil discourse, because every cascade will include the construction of new conversational stigmas. Pretty straightforward, right? Except then, at the end, Morabito fucks it up: her cascades, she says, allow civil discourse to flourish. Alas, that’s bullshit: the right cascades are the ones that establish the proper stigmas (among other criteria), and the proper stigmas do not stop being stigmas just because they’re proper.

Morabito’s main point seems to elude Horowitz. Morabito — perhaps not clearly enough — equates “opinion cascades” with “manufactured cascades,” and these are not the same as the social norms that manufactured cascades are meant to overturn. Long-standing norms are not manufactured cascades. As Edward Feser explains in “Hayek and Tradition,”

[t]radition, being nothing other than the distillation of centuries of human experience, itself provides the surest guide to determining the most rational course of action. Far from being opposed to reason, reason is inseparable from tradition, and blind without it. The so-called enlightened mind thrusts tradition aside, hoping to find something more solid on which to make its stand, but there is nothing else, no alternative to the hard earth of human experience….

Liberty and happiness cannot be found in the abstract; they must be found in the real world, among real people. There is no escaping the fact that the attainment of something like liberty and happiness requires the acceptance of — and compliance with — some social norms that one may find personally distasteful if not oppressive.

The knee-jerk libertarian and “liberal” will say, for example, that abortion and same-sex marriage are consistent with and required by liberty. But they are not. They are steps down a slippery slope toward the further loss of liberty, just as the “progressivism” of the Roosevelts nudged and pushed us down a slippery slope toward the regulatory-welfare state in which we are now mired.

Libertarians and “liberals” seem willing to credit is the possibility that abortion is of a piece with selective breeding and involuntary euthanasia, wherein the state fosters eugenic practices that aren’t far removed from those of the Third Reich. And when those practices become the norm, what and who will be next? Libertarians, of all people, should be alert to such possibilities. Instead of reflexively embracing “choice” they should be asking whether “choice” will end with fetuses.

The same principle applies to same-sex marriage; it will have consequences that most libertarians are unwilling to consider. Although it’s true that traditional, heterosexual unions have their problems, those problems have been made worse, not better, by the intercession of the state. (The loosening of divorce laws, for example, signaled that marriage was to be taken less seriously, and so it has been.) Nevertheless, the state — in its usual perverse wisdom — may create new problems for society by legitimating same-sex marriage, thus signaling that traditional marriage is just another contractual arrangement in which any combination of persons may participate. Heterosexual marriage — as Jennifer Roback Morse explains — is a primary and irreplicable civilizing force. The recognition of homosexual marriage by the state will undermine that civilizing force. The state will be saying, in effect, “Anything goes. Do your thing. The courts, the welfare system, and the taxpayer — above all — will “pick up the pieces.” And so it will go.

In sum, Morabito doesn’t f*** it up. She defends civilizing social norms against organized and virulent campaigns to overthrow them. (For a closer look at those campaigns and their essential dishonesty, see this and the third item in this post.)

Moreover, Horowitz’s language underscores Morabito’s point about the incivility of politically correct discourse. Morabito makes a polite case against the strident language of political correctness. Horowitz not only attacks Morabito’s argument (and gets it wrong), but also resorts to “tiresome bigotry,” “unforgivably stupid,” “fucks it up,” and “bullshit.” As if to prove Morabito’s charge, Horowitz commits a written version of “shouting down” and “smearing.”

Related posts:
I Missed This One
A Century of Progress?
The Marriage Contract
Feminist Balderdash
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Consider the Children
Marriage and Children
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
Social Norms and Liberty
A Footnote about Liberty and the Social Compact
Finding Liberty
The Harm Principle
Footnotes to “The Harm Principle”
The Harm Principle, Again
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
On Liberty
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
In Defense of Marriage
Not-So-Random Thoughts (IV) (third item)
Burkean Libertarianism
What Is Libertarianism?
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?

The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy

UPDATED BELOW

Ilya Somin describes it and gives an example:

People fall prey to the Reverse Mussolini Fallacy any time they make an argument to the effect that “bad people believe X, therefore X must be wrong.” The flaw in this reasoning is that bad people can still be right about some things. In the abstract, almost everyone recognizes that. But many still fall prey to the Reverse Mussolini Fallacy in practice, even if they understand its flaws in theory.

Unfortunately, the Reverse Mussolini Fallacy often crops up in conservative and libertarian reactions to PC excesses on the left. I suspect it’s an additional reason for the sympathy that some libertarians and conservatives display towards the Confederacy, especially if they do so out of ignorance. It’s easy for such people to decide that if PC leftists hate the Confederacy, that must mean that the Confederacy was actually a good thing.

It’s not that simple.

PC leftists hate the Confederacy not only because of slavery (a hatred shared by anyone entitled to call himself a libertarian or conservative), but also because the Confederacy stands for hatred of an unconstitutionally powerful central government.

It is the idea of secession from such a government that rightly attracts many libertarians and conservatives. And it is that idea which rightly leads those libertarians and conservatives to detest PC leftists, whose anti-Confederacy stance is really a cynical defense of statism.

UPDATE:

Somin, in an addendum to his post, says that my response, which he quotes in full, “exemplifies the very fallacy the post [his post] criticizes.” He continues:

Even if PC leftists have dubious motives for hating the Confederacy, that does not prove that the hatred is unjustified or that the Confederacy is somehow good. Moreover, as I discuss here, the Confederates did not in fact oppose having “an unconstitutionally powerful central government.” They had not problem with constitutionally dubious federal power so long as that power was used to bolster slavery, as in the case of the Fugitive Slave Act. And they also didn’t have a principled commitment to state autonomy, as witness their efforts to coerce Kentucky and Missouri into joining the Confederacy, despite the fact that the majority of the population (including even the white population) in those states wanted to stay in the Union. Finally, as I have emphasized on several occasions (e.g. here), Confederate secession can only be considered a “rightful” exercise of popular sovereignty if you completely discount the views of the black population of the seceding states. If you count them as part of the people whose consent was required for secession, then it becomes clear that secession from the Union did not have majority support in any state in the South.

There is no doubt that some libertarians and conservatives are guilty of a reverse-Mussolini fallacy, as described by Somin. But he seems to have missed my main point, probably because I didn’t make it clearly enough.

I certainly said nothing to indicate that “the Confederacy is somehow good.” What I said was that “the Confederacy stands for hatred of an unconstitutionally powerful central government.” I should have made it clear that the Confederacy stands for (symbolizes) hatred of an unconstitutionally powerful central government because it represents a course of action (secession) with which many libertarians and conservatives sympathize, given the unconstitutional power wielded by today’s central government. I did not mean to say — and did not say — that the Confederacy itself stood for hatred of an unconstitutionally powerful central government.

Nor did I say — or mean to say — that the hatred of PC leftists for the Confederacy is unjustified, to the extent that it is legitimate. But it is a facile hatred, on a par with hating Hitler and Stalin. I give little credence to facile hatred when it is directed at a symbol of resistance to the very kind of government that PC leftists admire.

Further, it seems to me that PC leftists deliberately commit a logical fallacy when they make the following claim (as many of them do): Libertarians and conservatives want a government that is as limited in its power as, say, the government of the late 1800s; therefore, those libertarians and conservatives want to revert to the racial and sexual oppression that was rampant in that era.

Logical fallacies abound. But I didn’t commit one in my original post.

UPDATE 2:

To make explicit a point that is implicit in what I’ve said, admiration for what the Confederacy symbolizes — becoming free of an unconstitutionally powerful central government — is animated by hatred of that government. I very much doubt that admiration for what the Confederacy symbolizes has anything to do with the views of PC leftists.

As for my own view of the Confederacy:

1. I believe that secession was (and is) legal (see this, for example). But that doesn’t absolve the Confederacy of its sins …

2. The defeat of the Confederacy was salutary because it meant the end of slavery in the United States.

If some libertarians and conservatives actually admire the Confederacy, I am confident that they are in the vast minority among libertarians and conservatives. (I dismiss pro-Confederacy-Stars-and-Bars-waving yahoos, who no more deserve to be called “conservative” than today’s leftists deserve to be called “liberal.”)

UPDATE 3:

I should add that when it comes to secession, Somin and I seem to agree about the importance of separating legality (which is one issue) from cause (which is a separate ssue). (See the first section of this post.) Further, on the whole, I have bee favorably impressed by Somin’s writings at The Volokh Conspiracy. (See also this, this, and this.)

Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty

Among the items that drew my attention today is “A Prime Instance of Political Correctness: The Blackballing of Nat Hentoff,” by Maverick Philosopher.

My opposition to abortion on libertarian grounds is of long standing, with this being the most recent of many posts on the subject. As it turns out, Nat Hentoff, who on many issues might be considered a leftist, holds views similar to mine. This, for example, is from his “Indivisible Fight for Life“:

I’ll begin by indicating how I became aware, very belatedly, of the “indivisibility of life.” I mention this fragment of autobiography only be cause I think it may be useful to those who are interested in bringing others like me – some people are not interested in making the ranks more heterogeneous, but others are, as I’ve been finding out – to a realization that the “slippery slope” is far more than a metaphor.

When I say “like me,” I suppose in some respects I’m regarded as a “liberal,” although I often stray from that category, and certainly a civil libertarian – though the ACLU and I are in profound disagreement on the matters of abortion, handicapped infants and euthanasia, because I think they have forsaken basic civil liberties in dealing with these issues. I’m considered a liberal except for that unaccountable heresy of recent years that has to do with pro-life matters.

It’s all the more unaccountable to a lot of people because I remain an atheist, a Jewish atheist. (That’s a special branch of the division.) I think the question I’m most often asked from both sides is, “How do you presume to have this kind of moral conception without a belief in God?” And the answer is, “It’s harder.” But it’s not impossible….

Now, I had not been thinking about abortion at all. I had not thought about it for years. I had what W. H. Auden called in another context a “rehearsed response.” You mentioned abortion and I would say, “Oh yeah, that’s a fundamental part of women’s liberation,” and that was the end of it.

But then I started hearing about “late abortion.” The simple “fact” that the infant had been born, proponents suggest, should not get in the way of mercifully saving him or her from a life hardly worth living. At the same time, the parents are saved from the financial and emotional burden of caring for an imperfect child.

And then I heard the head of the Reproductive Freedom Rights unit of the ACLU saying – this was at the same time as the Baby Jane Doe story was developing on Long Island – at a forum, “I don’t know what all this fuss is about. Dealing with these handicapped infants is really an extension of women’s reproductive freedom rights, women’s right to control their own bodies.”

That stopped me. It seemed to me we were not talking about Roe v. Wade. These infants were born. And having been born, as persons under the Constitution, they were entitled to at least the same rights as people on death row – due process, equal protection of the law. So for the first time, I began to pay attention to the “slippery slope” warnings of pro-lifers I read about or had seen on television. Because abortion had become legal and easily available, that argument ran – as you well know – infanticide would eventually become openly permissible, to be followed by euthanasia for infirm, expensive senior citizens….

Recently, I was interviewing Dr. Norman Levinsky, Chief of Medicine of Boston University Medical Center and a medical ethicist. He is one of those rare medical ethicists who really is concerned with nurturing life, as contrasted with those of his peers who see death as a form of treatment. He told me that he is much disturbed by the extent to which medical decisions are made according to the patient’s age. He says there are those physicians who believe that life is worth less if you’re over 80 than if you’re 28.

So this is capsulizing an incremental learning process. I was beginning to learn about the indivisibility of life. I began to interview people, to read, and I read Dr. Leo Alexander. Joe Stanton, who must be the greatest single resource of information, at least to beginners – and, I think, non-beginners – in this field, sent me a whole lot of stuff, including Dr. Leo Alexander’s piece in the New England Journal of Medicine in the 1940s. And then I thought of Dr. Alexander when I saw an April 1984 piece in the New England Journal of Medicine by 10 physicians defending the withdrawal of food and water from certain “hopelessly ill” patients. And I found out that Dr. Alexander was still alive then but didn’t have much longer to live. And he said to Patrick Duff, who is a professor of philosophy at Clarke University and who testified in the Brophy case, about that article, “It is much like Germany in the 20s and 30s. The barriers against killing are coming down.”…

Back to Dr. Norman Levinsky. This is all part of this learning process. It is not a huge step, he said, from stopping the feeding to giving the patient a little more morphine to speed his end. I mean it is not a big step from passive to active euthanasia.

Well, in time, a rather short period of time, I became pro-life across the board, which led to certain social problems, starting at home. My wife’s most recurrent attack begins with, “You are creating social mischief,” and there are people at my paper who do not speak to me anymore. In most cases, that’s no loss.

Which leads to “Blackballing Nat Hentoff,” by Mark Judge (writing at RealClearReligion):

Hentoff’s conversion from pro-choice to pro-life, and the fallout that resulted, is explained in an essay in the new book, The Debate Since Roe: Making the Case Against Abortion 1975-2010. It’s a compendium of essays from the journal Human Life Review….

Hentoff’s liberal friends didn’t appreciate his conversion: “They were saying, ‘What’s the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don’t you consider it a late abortion and go on to something else? Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying.”

The reaction from America’s corrupt fourth estate was instant. Hentoff, a Guggenheim fellow and author of dozens of books, was a pariah. Several of his colleagues at the Village Voice, which had run his column since the 1950s, stopped talking to him. When the National Press Foundation wanted to give him a lifetime achievement award, there was a bitter debate amongst members whether Hentoff should even be honored (he was). Then they stopped running his columns. You heard his name less and less. In December 2008, the Village Voice officially let him go.

The blackballing of Hentoff, reprehensible and revealing of the left’s moral bankruptcy as it may be, has one positive aspect: It seems to have been accomplished by private action; that is, the power of the state has not been wielded against Hentoff. (As far as I know.)

The power of the state has been wielded against those who dare to resist the “gay rights” movement and its ancillary activities. Here is Hentoff, writing in September 2000 (“Media Ignores Far-Ranging Gag Order“) about one such instance:

On March 30, the Boston chapter of the national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) held a conference at Tufts  University. Present, from around the state, were teen-agers and some children as young as 12, as well as teachers who received state ‘professional development credits’ for being there.

One of the sessions was titled, ‘What They Don’t Tell You About Queer Sex & Sexuality in Health Class: A Workshop for Youth Only, Ages 14-21.’ Instructing the students were two employees of the state Department of Education and a consultant from the Department of Public Health.

Scott Whiteman of the conservative Parents Rights Coalition attended  that class and secretly taped it. I have a copy of the transcript.  When a youngster asked, ‘What’s fisting?’ in gay sex, a woman from the Education Department explained how to do it. There might be some pain, she said, but it’s an ‘experience of letting somebody into your body that you want to be that close and intimate with.’

Among other lessons, there was a ‘hand diagram’ to show how lesbians have sex. Another workshop was: ‘Early Child Educators: How to Decide Whether to Come Out at Work or Not.’

Part of the tape was played on Boston talk-radio station WTKK-FM by the host, Jeanine Graf, whom I’ve known for years as a vigorous advocate for free speech.

The Parents Rights Coalition made the tape available to others, and GLSEN sued to have it and any transcripts suppressed. On May 17, Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel, who moonlights as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, issued one of the most  far-ranging prior-restraint orders in American judicial history….

It included not only the Parents Rights Coalition but anyone, including  lawyers, who tried ‘to disclose or use such tape in any forum’ or its contents. That included the press, electronic and print….

The … media [other than the Boston Herald] was silent, except for WTKK’s Graf. She kept playing the tape. And, on her program, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Harvey Silverglate – a civil-rights and civil-liberties lawyer as well as a national columnist – attacked the prior restraint as a violation of a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

I went on Graf’s show to violate the gag order. I discussed what was on the tape and underlined the judge’s contempt for settled First Amendment law. Also criticizing the prior restraint was Jay Severin, a WTKK commentator.

The Massachusetts affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union was silent….

On May 25, van Gestel modified his gag rule, saying, ‘Nothing in this preliminary injunction shall be deemed to apply in any way to the print or electronic news media.’ But the rest of the prior restraint continued….

Subsequently, there has been some coverage of this assault on the First Amendment and the acquiescence of most of the Boston media. Rod Dreher, a New York Post columnist, wrote an indignant ‘Banned in Boston’ article in the July 3-10 issue of The Weekly Standard….

Aside from Dreher’s piece, I’ve seen no mention in the national press of this gag order that should go into the Guinness Book of World Records. If a similar suppression of speech had been handed down by a judge against a secret taping of a David Duke-sponsored conference by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, would there have been such media silence?

Fast forward to 2012, where the leftist-statist conspiracy to advance “gay rights” (i.e., gay privileges) is alive and well. A case in point is described in “Wedding Photographer May Be Required (on Pain of Legal Liability) to Photograph Same-Sex Commitment Ceremonies,” at The Volokh Conspiracy:

So the New Mexico Court of Appeals held last week in the long-pending Elane Photography v. Willock (N.M. Ct. App. May 31, 2012). The court began by holding that the state law that bans sexual orientation discrimination in places of public accommodation applies to professional wedding photographers’ decisions not to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies: Such photography businesses are “places of public accommodation” under the language of the law, and the discrimination between legally recognized opposite-sex marriages (New Mexico only recognizes such marriages) and same-sex commitment ceremonies constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court then rejected the argument of the photographer (Elane Huguenin, the co-owner and principal photographer for Elane Photography) that penalizing her for not photographing such same-sex ceremonies was an unconstitutional “speech compulsion.” The First Amendment, Huguenin argued, has been repeatedly held to protect the right to speak as well as the right not to speak; and the right not to speak includes the right not to create artistic expression that one doesn’t want to create. And just as the First Amendment protects speech that is said for money (indeed, most books, newspapers, movies, and the like are created and distributed commercially), so it protects the right not to create certain artistic works for money, even if one is in that line of business. But the court disagreed….

I don’t think this [ruling] is right, for reasons that I discussed in my earlier posts about earlier stages of this case. It seems to me that the right to be free from compelled speech includes the right not to create First-Amendment-protected expression — photographs, paintings, songs, press releases, or what have you — that you disagree with, even if no-one would perceive you as endorsing that expression….

Amen to that.

Not that I am surprised by the court’s action. This is from “Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage,” a post that I wrote three years ago:

[A]s sure as the sun sets in the west, the state will begin to apply the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to protect homosexual “marriage” from its critics. Acting under the rubric of “civil rights” — and  in keeping with the way that anti-discrimination laws have been applied to date — the state will deal harshly with employers, landlords, and clergy who seem to discriminate against homosexual “marriage” and its participants.

The post concludes with this:

Many will dismiss consequential arguments against homosexual “marriage” by asserting that the state’s refusal to legitimate homosexual marriage simply isn’t “fair.” In return, I will ask this:

Unfair to whom, to the relatively small number of persons who seek to assuage their pride or avoid paying a lawyer to document the terms of their relationship, or generally unfair to members of society (of all sexual proclivities), whose well-being is bound to suffer for the sake of homosexual pride or cost-avoidance?

As a practicing minarchist, I would rather have the state stay out of “the marriage business.”  But given that the state is already in that business — and is unlikely to get out of it — the next-best outcome is for the state to uphold societal norms instead of bowing to the preferences of the gay lobby and its influential supporters.

Faced with a choice between libertarian shibboleth and libertarian substance, I have chosen substance. I now say: Ban homosexual marriage and avoid another step down the slippery slope toward incivility and bigger government.

And, while we are striking blows for liberty, let us ban abortion, too.

Related posts (abortion):
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather

Related posts (homosexual “marriage”):
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm

Not-So-Random Thoughts (III)

Apropos Science

In the vein of “Something from Nothing?” there is this:

[Stephen] Meyer also argued [in a a recent talk at the University Club in D.C.] that biological evolutionary theory, which “attempts to explain how new forms of life evolved from simpler pre-existing forms,” faces formidable difficulties. In particular, the modern version of Darwin’s theory, neo-Darwinism, also has an information problem.

Mutations, or copying errors in the DNA, are analogous to copying errors in digital code, and they supposedly provide the grist for natural selection. But, Meyer said: “What we know from all codes and languages is that when specificity of sequence is a condition of function, random changes degrade function much faster than they come up with something new.”…

The problem is comparable to opening a big combination lock. He asked the audience to imagine a bike lock with ten dials and ten digits per dial. Such a lock would have 10 billion possibilities with only one that works. But the protein alphabet has 20 possibilities at each site, and the average protein has about 300 amino acids in sequence….

Remember: Not just any old jumble of amino acids makes a protein. Chimps typing at keyboards will have to type for a very long time before they get an error-free, meaningful sentence of 150 characters. “We have a small needle in a huge haystack.” Neo-Darwinism has not solved this problem, Meyer said. “There’s a mathematical rigor to this which has not been a part of the so-called evolution-creation debate.”…

“[L]eading U.S. biologists, including evolutionary biologists, are saying we need a new theory of evolution,” Meyer said. Many increasingly criticize Darwinism, even if they don’t accept design. One is the cell biologist James Shapiro of the University of Chicago. His new book is Evolution: A View From the 21st Century. He’s “looking for a new evolutionary theory.” David Depew (Iowa) and Bruce Weber (Cal State) recently wrote in Biological Theory that Darwinism “can no longer serve as a general framework for evolutionary theory.” Such criticisms have mounted in the technical literature. (Tom Bethell, “Intelligent Design at the University Club,” American Spectator, May 2012)

And this:

[I]t is startling to realize that the entire brief for demoting human beings, and organisms in general, to meaningless scraps of molecular machinery — a demotion that fuels the long-running science-religion wars and that, as “shocking” revelation, supposedly stands on a par with Copernicus’s heliocentric proposal — rests on the vague conjunction of two scarcely creditable concepts: the randomness of mutations and the fitness of organisms. And, strangely, this shocking revelation has been sold to us in the context of a descriptive biological literature that, from the molecular level on up, remains almost nothing buta documentation of the meaningfully organized, goal-directed stories of living creatures.

Here, then, is what the advocates of evolutionary mindlessness and meaninglessness would have us overlook. We must overlook, first of all, the fact that organisms are masterful participants in, and revisers of, their own genomes, taking a leading position in the most intricate, subtle, and intentional genomic “dance” one could possibly imagine. And then we must overlook the way the organism responds intelligently, and in accord with its own purposes, to whatever it encounters in its environment, including the environment of its own body, and including what we may prefer to view as “accidents.” Then, too, we are asked to ignore not only the living, reproducing creatures whose intensely directed lives provide the only basis we have ever known for the dynamic processes of evolution, but also all the meaning of the larger environment in which these creatures participate — an environment compounded of all the infinitely complex ecological interactions that play out in significant balances, imbalances, competition, cooperation, symbioses, and all the rest, yielding the marvelously varied and interwoven living communities we find in savannah and rainforest, desert and meadow, stream and ocean, mountain and valley. And then, finally, we must be sure to pay no heed to the fact that the fitness, against which we have assumed our notion of randomness could be defined, is one of the most obscure, ill-formed concepts in all of science.

Overlooking all this, we are supposed to see — somewhere — blind, mindless, random, purposeless automatisms at the ultimate explanatory root of all genetic variation leading to evolutionary change. (Stephen L. Talbott, “Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness,” The New Atlantis, Fall 2011)

My point is not to suggest that that the writers are correct in their conjectures. Rather, the force of their conjectures shows that supposedly “settled” science is (a) always far from settled (on big questions, at least) and (b) necessarily incomplete because it can never reach ultimate truths.

Trayvon, George, and Barack

Recent revelations about the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman suggest the following:

  • Martin was acting suspiciously and smelled of marijuana.
  • Zimmerman was rightly concerned about Martin’s behavior, given the history of break-ins in Zimmerman’s neighborhood.
  • Martin attacked Zimmerman, had him on the ground, was punching his face, and had broken his nose.
  • Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense.

Whether the encounter was “ultimately avoidable,” as a police report asserts, is beside the point.  Zimmerman acted in self-defense, and the case against him should be dismissed. The special prosecutor should be admonished by the court for having succumbed to media and mob pressure in bringing a charge of second-degree murder against Zimmerman.

What we have here is the same old story: Black “victim”–>media frenzy to blame whites (or a “white Hispanic”), without benefit of all relevant facts–>facts exonerate whites. To paraphrase Shakespeare: The first thing we should do after the revolution is kill all the pundits (along with the lawyers).

Obama famously said, “”If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Given the thuggish similarity between Trayvon and Obama (small sample here), it is more accurate to say that if Obama had a son, he would be like Trayvon.

Creepy People

Exhibit A is Richard Thaler, a self-proclaimed libertarian who is nothing of the kind. Thaler defends the individual mandate that is at the heart of Obamacare (by implication, at least), when he attacks the “slippery slope” argument against it. Annon Simon nails Thaler:

Richard Thaler’s NYT piece from a few days ago, Slippery-Slope Logic, Applied to Health Care, takes conservatives to task for relying on a “slippery slope” fallacy to argue that Obamacare’s individual mandate should be invalidated. Thaler believes that the hypothetical broccoli mandate — used by opponents of Obamacare to show that upholding the mandate would require the Court to acknowledge congressional authority to do all sorts of other things — would never be adopted by Congress or upheld by a federal court. This simplistic view of the Obamacare litigation obscures legitimate concerns over the amount of power that the Obama administration is claiming for the federal government. It also ignores the way creative judges can use previous cases as building blocks to justify outcomes that were perhaps unimaginable when those building blocks were initially formed….

[N]ot all slippery-slope claims are fallacious. The Supreme Court’s decisions are often informed by precedent, and, as every law student learned when studying the Court’s privacy cases, a decision today could be used by a judge ten years from now to justify outcomes no one had in mind.

In 1965, the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, referencing penumbras and emanations, recognized a right to privacy in marriage that mandated striking down an anti-contraception law.

Seven years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, this right expanded to individual privacy, because after all, a marriage is made of individuals, and “[i]f the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual . . . to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

By 1973 in Roe v. Wade, this precedent, which had started out as a right recognized in marriage, had mutated into a right to abortion that no one could really trace to any specific textual provision in the Constitution. Slippery slope anyone?

This also happened in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, where the Supreme Court struck down an anti-sodomy law. The Court explained that the case did not involve gay marriage, and Justice O’Connor’s concurrence went further, distinguishing gay marriage from the case at hand. Despite those pronouncements, later decisions enshrining gay marriage as a constitutionally protected right have relied upon Lawrence. For instance, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (Mass. 2003) cited Lawrence 9 times, Varnum v. Brien (Iowa 2009) cited Lawrence 4 times, and Perry v. Brown (N.D. Cal, 2010) cited Lawrence 9 times.

However the Court ultimately rules, there is no question that this case will serve as a major inflection point in our nation’s debate about the size and scope of the federal government. I hope it serves to clarify the limits on congressional power, and not as another stepping stone on the path away from limited, constitutional government. (“The Supreme Court’s Slippery Slope,” National Review Online, May 17, 2012)

Simon could have mentioned Wickard v. Filburn (1942), in which the Supreme Court brought purely private, intrastate activity within the reach of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce. The downward slope from Wickard v. Filburn to today’s intrusive regulatory regime has been been not merely slippery but precipitous.

Then there is Brian Leiter, some of whose statist musings I have addressed in the past. It seems that Leiter has taken to defending the idiotic Elizabeth Warren for her convenient adoption of a Native American identity. Todd Zywicki tears a new one for Leiter:

I was out of town most of last week and I wasn’t planning on blogging any more on the increasingly bizarre saga of Elizabeth Warren’s claim to Native American ancestry, which as of the current moment appears to be entirely unsubstantiated.  But I was surprised to see Brian Leiter’s post doubling-down in his defense of Warren–and calling me a “Stalinist” to boot (although I confess it is not clear why or how he is using that term).  So I hope you will indulge me while I respond.

First, let me say again what I expressed at the outset–I have known from highly-credible sources for a decade that in the past Warren identified herself as a Native American in order to put herself in a position to benefit from hiring preferences (I am certain that Brian knows this now too).  She was quite outspoken about it at times in the past and, as her current defenses have suggested, she believed that she was entitled to claim it.  So there would have been no reason for her to not identify as such and in fact she was apparently quite unapologetic about it at the time….

Second, Brian seems to believe for some reason that the issue here is whether Warren actually benefited from a hiring preference.  Of course it is not (as my post makes eminently clear).  The issue I raised is whether Warren made assertions as part of the law school hiring process in order to put herself in a position to benefit from a hiring preference for which she had no foundation….

Third, regardless of why she did it, Warren herself actually had no verifiable basis for her self-identification as Native American.  At the very least her initial claim was grossly reckless and with no objective foundation–it appears that she herself has never had any foundation for the claim beyond “family lore” and her “high cheekbones.”… Now it turns out that the New England Historical Genealogical Society, which had been the source for the widely-reported claim that she might be 1/32 Cherokee, has rescinded its earlier conclusion and now says “We have no proof that Elizabeth Warren’s great great great grandmother O.C. Sarah Smith either is or is not of Cherokee descent.”  The story adds, “Their announcement came in the wake of an official report from an Oklahoma county clerk that said a document purporting to prove Warren’s Cherokee roots — her great great great grandmother’s marriage license application — does not exist.”  A Cherokee genealogist has similarly stated that she can find no evidence to support Warren’s claim.  At this point her claim appears to be entirely unsupported as an objective matter and it appears that she herself had no basis for it originally.

Fourth, Brian’s post also states the obvious–that there is plenty of bad blood between Elizabeth and myself.  But, of course, the only reason that this issue is interesting and relevant today is because Warren is running for the U.S. Senate and is the most prominent law professor in America at this moment.

So, I guess I’ll conclude by asking the obvious question: if a very prominent conservative law professor (say, for example, John Yoo) had misrepresented himself throughout his professorial career in the manner that Elizabeth Warren has would Brian still consider it to be “the non-issue du jour“?  Really?

I’m not sure what a “Stalinist” is.  But I would think that ignoring a prominent person’s misdeeds just because you like her politics, and attacking the messenger instead, just might fit the bill. (“New England Genealogical Historical Society Rescinds Conclusion that Elizabeth Warren Might Be Cherokee,” The Volokh Conspiracy, May 17, 2012)

For another insight into Leiter’s character, read this and weep not for him.

Tea Party Sell-Outs

Business as usual in Washington:

This week the Club for Growth released a study of votes cast in 2011 by the 87 Republicans elected to the House in November 2010. The Club found that “In many cases, the rhetoric of the so-called “Tea Party” freshmen simply didn’t match their records.” Particularly disconcerting is the fact that so many GOP newcomers cast votes against spending cuts.

The study comes on the heels of three telling votes taken last week in the House that should have been slam-dunks for members who possess the slightest regard for limited government and free markets. Alas, only 26 of the 87 members of the “Tea Party class” voted to defund both the Economic Development Administration and the president’s new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program (see my previous discussion of these votes here) and against reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank (see my colleague Sallie James’s excoriation of that vote here).

I assembled the following table, which shows how each of the 87 freshman voted. The 26 who voted for liberty in all three cases are highlighted. Only 49 percent voted to defund the EDA. Only 56 percent voted to defund a new corporate welfare program requested by the Obama administration. And only a dismal 44 percent voted against reauthorizing “Boeing’s bank.” That’s pathetic. (Tad DeHaven, “Freshman Republicans Switch from Tea to Kool-Aid,” Cato@Liberty, May 17, 2012)

Lesson: Never trust a politician who seeks a position of power, unless that person earns trust by divesting the position of power.

PCness

Just a few of the recent outbreaks of PCness that enraged me:

Michigan Mayor Calls Pro-Lifers ‘Forces of Darkness’” (reported by LifeNews.com on May 11, 2012)

US Class Suspended for Its View on Islam” (reported by CourierMail.com.au, May 11, 2012)

House Democrats Politicize Trayvon Martin” (posted at Powerline, May 8, 2012)

Chronicle of Higher Education Fires Blogger for Questioning Seriousness of Black Studies Depts.” (posted at Reason.com/hit & run, May 8, 2012)

Technocracy, Externalities, and Statism

From a review of Robert Frank’s The Darwin Economy:

In many ways, economics is the discipline best suited to the technocratic mindset. This has nothing to do with its traditional subject matter. It is not about debating how to produce goods and services or how to distribute them. Instead, it relates to how economics has emerged as an approach that distances itself from democratic politics and provides little room for human agency.

Anyone who has done a high-school course in economics is likely to have learned the basics of its technocratic approach from the start. Students have long been taught that economics is a ‘positive science’ – one based on facts rather than values. Politicians are entitled to their preferences, so the argument went, but economists are supposed to give them impartial advice based on an objective examination of the facts.

More recently this approach has been taken even further. The supposedly objective role of the technocrat-economist has become supreme, while the role of politics has been sidelined….

The starting point of The Darwin Economy is what economists call the collective action problem: the divergence between individual and collective interests. A simple example is a fishermen fishing in a lake. For each individual, it might be rational to catch as many fish as possible, but if all fishermen follow the same path the lake will eventually be empty. It is therefore deemed necessary to find ways to negotiate this tension between individual and group interests.

Those who have followed the discussion of behavioural economics will recognise that this is an alternative way of viewing humans as irrational. Behavioural economists focus on individuals behaving in supposedly irrational ways. For example, they argue that people often do not invest enough to secure themselves a reasonable pension. For Frank, in contrast, individuals may behave rationally but the net result of group behaviour can still be irrational….

…From Frank’s premises, any activity considered harmful by experts could be deemed illegitimate and subjected to punitive measures….

…[I]t is … wrong to assume that there is no more scope for economic growth to be beneficial. Even in the West, there is a long way to go before scarcity is limited. This is not just a question of individuals having as many consumer goods as they desire – although that has a role. It also means having the resources to provide as many airports, art galleries, hospitals, power stations, roads, schools, universities and other facilities as are needed. There is still ample scope for absolute improvements in living standards…. (Daniel Ben-ami, “Delving into the Mind of the Technocrat,” The Spiked Review of Books, February 2012)

There is much to disagree with in the review, but the quoted material is right on. It leads me to quote myself:

…[L]ife is full of externalities — positive and negative. They often emanate from the same event, and cannot be separated. State action that attempts to undo negative externalities usually results in the negation or curtailment of positive ones. In terms of the preceding example, state action often is aimed at forcing the attractive woman to be less attractive, thus depriving quietly appreciative men of a positive externality, rather than penalizing the crude man if his actions cross the line from mere rudeness to assault.

The main argument against externalities is that they somehow result in something other than a “social optimum.” This argument is pure, economistic hokum. It rests on the unsupportable belief in a social-welfare function, which requires the balancing (by an omniscient being, I suppose) of the happiness and unhappiness that results from every action that affects another person, either directly or indirectly….

A believer in externalities might respond by saying that they are of “economic” importance only as they are imposed on bystanders as a spillover from economic transactions, as in the case of emissions from a power plant that can cause lung damage in susceptible persons. Such a reply is of a kind that only an omniscient being could make with impunity. What privileges an economistic thinker to say that the line of demarcation between relevant and irrelevant acts should be drawn in a certain place? The authors of campus speech codes evidently prefer to draw the line in such a way as to penalize the behavior of the crude man in the above example. Who is the economistic thinker to say that the authors of campus speech codes have it wrong? And who is the legalistic thinker to say that speech should be regulated by deferring to the “feelings” that it arouses in persons who may hear or read it?

Despite the intricacies that I have sketched, negative externalities are singled out for attention and rectification, to the detriment of social and economic intercourse. Remove the negative externalities of electric-power generation and you make more costly (and even inaccessible) a (perhaps the) key factor in America’s economic growth in the past century. Try to limit the supposed negative externality of human activity known as “greenhouse gases” and you limit the ability of humans to cope with that externality (if it exists) through invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Limit the supposed negative externality of “offensive” speech and you quickly limit the range of ideas that may be expressed in political discourse. Limit the supposed externalities of suburban sprawl and you, in effect, sentence people to suffer the crime, filth, crowding, contentiousness, heat-island effects, and other externalities of urban living.

The real problem is not externalities but economistic and legalistic reactions to them….

The main result of rationalistic thinking — because it yields vote-worthy slogans and empty promises to fix this and that “problem” — is the aggrandizement of the state, to the detriment of civil society.

The fundamental error of rationalists is to believe that “problems” call for collective action, and to identify collective action with state action. They lack the insight and imagination to understand that the social beings whose voluntary, cooperative efforts are responsible for mankind’s vast material progress are perfectly capable of adapting to and solving “problems,” and that the intrusions of the state simply complicate matters, when not making them worse. True collective action is found in voluntary social and economic intercourse, the complex, information-rich content of which rationalists cannot fathom. They are as useless as a blind man who is shouting directions to an Indy 500 driver….

Theodore Dalrymple

If you do not know of Theodore Dalrymple, you should. His book, In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas, inspired  “On Liberty,” the first post at this blog. Without further ado, I commend these recent items by and about Dalrymple:

Rotting from the Head Down” (an article by Dalrymple about the social collapse of Britain, City Journal, March 8, 2012)

Symposium: Why Do Progressives Love Criminals?” (Dalrymple and others, FrontPageMag.com, March 9, 2012)

Doctors Should Not Vote for Industrial Action,” a strike, in American parlance (a post by Dalrymple, The Social Affairs Unit, March 22, 2012)

The third item ends with this:

The fact is that there has never been, is never, and never will be any industrial action over the manifold failures of the public service to provide what it is supposed to provide. Whoever heard of teachers going on strike because a fifth of our children emerge from 11 years of compulsory education unable to read fluently, despite large increases in expenditure on education?

If the doctors vote for industrial action, they will enter a downward spiral of public mistrust of their motives. They should think twice before doing so.

Amen.

The Higher-Eduction Bubble

The title of a post at The Right Coast tells the tale: “Under 25 College Educated More Unemployed than Non-college Educated for First Time.” As I wrote here,

When I entered college [in 1958], I was among the 28 percent of high-school graduates then attending college. It was evident to me that about half of my college classmates didn’t belong in an institution of higher learning. Despite that, the college-enrollment rate among high-school graduates has since doubled.

(Also see this.)

American taxpayers should be up in arms over the subsidization of an industry that wastes their money on the useless education of masses of indeducable persons. Then there is the fact that taxpayers are forced to subsidize the enemies of liberty who populate university faculties.

The news about unemployment among college grads may hasten the bursting of the higher-ed bubble. It cannot happen too soon.

Ignorance Abounds

A story about the banning of Flannery O’Connor’s works at a Catholic school is a reminder of an incident in my professional life.

First, the story about Flannery O’Connor’s works, which is told by Joseph Bottum:

…Down in the traditionally Catholic Cajun area of southern Louisiana, there’s a school called Opelousas Catholic that serves several local parishes. Early this summer, an English teacher named Arsenio Orteza placed on the summer reading list for the high-school seniors some O’Connor, including The Artificial Nigger, a tale primarily about the moral and religious blindness of Southern bigots.

Not bothering to read the story or find out anything about O’Connor, an unspecified number of parents complained about the title to Fr. Malcolm O’Leary, the pastor of Holy Ghost Catholic Church, one of Opelousas Catholic’s supporting parishes.

Likewise not thinking it necessary to take a look at the story or learn about O’Connor, Fr. O’Leary gathered the parents of black students at the school to express their complaint – a meeting to which neither the teacher nor anyone else with Catholic literary credentials was invited. An African American himself and the wielder of considerable political power in a racially charged district, Fr. O’Leary then convened a meeting with his bishop to demand the removal of O’Connor from the high-school curriculum and the disciplining of the teacher who assigned her work.

Joining the parade of those southern Catholics down in Louisiana who seem never to have heard of the southern Catholic O’Connor and couldn’t take the time to read her challenged story, Edward J. O’Donnell, the bishop of the diocese of Lafayette, issued on August 17 a letter announcing his decision. “I do not want to require the firing of the teacher involved,” Bishop O’Donnell was brave enough to declare. But “I direct that the books in question should be removed from the reading list immediately.”…

The story is eleven years old, but its relevance has grown with the burgeoning stridency of aggrieved and yet triumphant “victims.”

Only a few years before the incident related by Bottum, I had my own encounter with ignorance and political correctness. As chief financial and administrative officer of a tax-funded think-tank, I had the onerous duty of finding ways to slash spending when the think-tank’s appropriation was cut by Congress. The most obvious way, of course, was to fire employees — and we did that. But we sought other cost reductions, for the sake of saving jobs.

I met with groups of employees to discuss the options under consideration. Somewhere in the course of one of the meetings, I used “niggardly,” and I used it correctly. At least one of the employees present was black. There may have been others, but I remember her because she was secretary to another vice president. That vice president later came to my office to tell me that “some employees” were offended by “niggardly.” I do not remember the exact wording of my response to the vice president, but the gist of it was that the problem was the ignorance of the “employees,” not my correct use of a legitimate word that has no bearing on race.

Of course, ignorance abounds in matters non-linguistic. Its most dangerous manifestations occur in matters legal and economic. It is ignorance, as much as anything else, that leads aspiring beneficiaries of the welfare state to confound the Constitution with the Communist Manifesto. It is ignorance, more than anything else, that leads those same aspiring beneficiaries to believe that the welfare state can coexist with a burgeoning economy.

In Defense of Marriage

This post joins some old and new observations about same-sex “marriage.” I not only repudiate the travesty of homosexual “marriage” but also those so-called libertarians who would (unwittingly) harm the cause of liberty by their insistence on a “right” to same-sex “marriage.” In the end, I remind the reader that there is more to liberty than the mindless parroting of phrases like “fairness,” “justice,” and “equal protection of the laws.”

SAME-SEX “MARRIAGE” AS A LITMUS TEST

It is my firm impression that most self-described libertarians — and “liberals,” it should go without saying — view same-sex “marriage” as a right. “Libertarian” bloggers X and Y are typical of the breed.[1]

Blogger X, a professed homosexual, states flatly that “I’m being discriminated against, and I want it to stop.”

Blogger Y, a known heterosexual, takes a complementary tack. For example, he calls Ron Paul’s support of the Defense of Marriage Act[2] (DOMA) “state-sponsored bigotry.” Actually, Paul was criticizing the Obama administration for failing to support DOMA because the act

used Congress’ constitutional authority to define what other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a same sex marriage license issued in another state.

Paul adds:

I will stand … against Unconstitutional federal power grabs, and will fight to protect each state’s right not to be forced to recognize a same sex marriage against the will of its people.

Y seems to view Paul’s defense of States’ rights as wrong — in this instance, at least — because the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman denies marriage to homosexual couples. Further, that denial seems — in Y‘s view — to arise from bigotry. Perhaps it does, in Paul’s case, but I am here to defend marriage, not a crotchety Texan (see this, this, and this, for example).

SAME-SEX “MARRIAGE” IS A PSEUDO-LIBERTARIAN CAUSE

Blogger Y‘s position is a manifestation of the kind of rationalistic, political correctness that is common among left (psuedo)-libertarians. Will Wilkinson, for example, suggests that

most PC episodes mocked and derided by the right are not state impositions. They are generally episodes of the voluntary social enforcement of relatively newly established moral/cultural norms.

Wilkinson grossly simplifies the complex dynamics of PCness. His so-called “newly established … norms” are, in fact, norms that have been embraced by insular élites (e.g., academics and think-tank denizens like Wilksinson) and then foisted upon “the masses” by the élites in charge of government and government-controlled institutions (e.g., tax-funded universities). Thus it is no surprise that proposals to allow same-sex “marriage” fare poorly when they are submitted to voters.

Pseudo-libertarianism of the kind evidenced by Wilkinson is no better than any other kind of rationalism. It simply posits a sterile, abstract standard of conduct — one that has nothing to do with the workaday world of humanity — and finds wanting everyone but those who pay lip-service to that standard of conduct.

That is not libertarianism. It is sophomoric dream-spinning.

Where is libertarianism to be found? In conservatism, of all places, because it is a reality-based political philosophy.

But what does conservatism have to do with libertarianism? I have in various posts essayed an answer to that question (here, here, here, and here, for example), but now I turn the floor over to John Kekes, who toward the end of “What Is Conservatism?” says this:

The traditionalism of conservatives excludes both the view that political arrangements that foster individual autonomy should take precedence over those that foster social authority and the reverse view that favours arrangements that promote social authority at the expense of individual autonomy. Traditionalists acknowledge the importance of both autonomy and authority, but they regard them as inseparable, interdependent, and equally necessary. The legitimate claims of both may be satisfied by the participation of individuals in the various traditions of their society. Good political arrangements protect these traditions and the freedom to participate in them by limiting the government’s authority to interfere with either.

Therein lies true libertarianism — true because it is attainable. Left-libertarians believe, foolishly, that liberty is to be found in the rejection of social norms. Liberty would be the first victim of the brave new disorder that they wish for.

If there is a truly libertarian case for same-sex “marriage,” it can be made only by invoking the possibility of voluntary social acceptance of same-sex couples who bond in a manner analogous to the bonding of heterosexual couples. But analogy is not identity, just as reliance on the edicts of the state is not a proper libertarian approach to social change.

OPPOSITION TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IS NOT INHERENTLY BIGOTED

Many (if not most) persons who oppose same-sex “marriage” are animated not by an animus toward homosexuals but by respect for the time-honored status of marriage — in the Western tradition — as a monogamous, heterosexual union. Is it bigotry to defend a traditional institution from redefinition at the hands of the state? I think not. The state’s proper role is to protect citizens and their voluntary institutions, not to undermine or usurp those institutions. Therefore, if the state is going to involve itself in voluntary institutions, it ought to do so only for the purpose of ensuring that those institutions are not reshaped involuntarily.

The only bigotry that I see is the bigotry of individuals like X and Y, who denigrate those who would preserve the traditional character of marriage. I remind X, Y, and others who cry “discrimination” and “bigotry” that marriage — in its Judeo-Christian roots — is a social institution that was established for the purpose of solemnizing and legitimating the union of man and woman — not for the purpose of causing harm to anyone.

As for the opponents of same-sex “marriage,” I do not believe that a general charge of bigotry on their part can stand scrutiny. I have no doubt that some defenders of traditional marriage defend it solely or mainly because they despise homosexuals, their “differentness,” and their sexual practices. But such exceptions do not change the fact that marriage is not an institution founded on bigotry.

TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE IS A LIBERTARIAN INSTITUTION

Moreover, there is a compelling, libertarian reason to preserve the time-honored status of marriage as the union of man and woman. It is an institution whose preservation is vital to civil society, upon which liberty depends:

[I]t is impossible and — more importantly — undesirable for government to police everyone’s behavior. Liberty depends, therefore, on the institutions of society — family, church, club, and the like — through which individuals learn to treat one another with respect, through which individuals often come to the aid of one another, and through which instances of disrespect can be noted, publicized, and even punished (e.g., by criticism and ostracism).

That is civil society. And it is civil society which — in the minarchistic view — government ought to protect instead of usurping and destroying as it establishes its own agencies (e.g., public schools, welfare), gives them primary and even sole jurisdiction in many matters, and funds them with tax money that could have gone to private institutions. Moreover, some minarchists aver that government ought to tolerate a broad range of accepted behaviors across the various institutions of civil society, as long as government also protects the negative rights of association and exit: the right to associate with persons of one’s choosing, and the right to live and work where one prefers.

Marriage — despite its imperfections and the state’s involvement (e.g., licensing, separation proceedings, divorce decrees) — remains a bulwark of civil society, or of the remnants of civil society that have survived usurpation and negation by the state. Therefore, the proponents of state-imposed same-sex “marriage” bear the burden of proving that the expansion of marriage to include homosexual partnerships will redound to the benefit of civil society. Saying that opposition to same-sex marriage amounts to bigotry is no kind of proof.

This leads me to ask  whether (1) state-imposed homosexual “marriage” would be deleterious to civil society in the long run, and (2) if marriage loses its traditional definition, any institution of civil society is immune from the depradations of the state.

On the question of the long-run effects of state-imposed homosexual “marriage,” I turn to Jennifer Roback Morse:

Marriage is a naturally occurring, pre-political institution that emerges spontaneously from society. Western society is drifting toward a redefinition of marriage as a bundle of legally defined benefits bestowed by the state. As a libertarian, I find this trend regrettable. The organic view of marriage is more consistent with the libertarian vision of a society of free and responsible individuals, governed by a constitutionally limited state…..

My central argument is that a society will be able to govern itself with a smaller, less intrusive government if that society supports organic marriage rather than the legalistic understanding of marriage….

The new idea about marriage claims that no structure should be privileged over any other. The supposedly libertarian subtext of this idea is that people should be as free as possible to make their personal choices. But the very nonlibertarian consequence of this new idea is that it creates a culture that obliterates the informal methods of enforcement. Parents can’’t raise their eyebrows and expect children to conform to the socially accepted norms of behavior, because there are no socially accepted norms of behavior. Raised eyebrows and dirty looks no longer operate as sanctions on behavior slightly or even grossly outside the norm. The modern culture of sexual and parental tolerance ruthlessly enforces a code of silence, banishing anything remotely critical of personal choice. A parent, or even a peer, who tries to tell a young person that he or she is about to do something incredibly stupid runs into the brick wall of the non-judgmental social norm….

No libertarian would claim that the presumption of economic laissez-faire means that the government can ignore people who violate the norms of property rights, contracts, and fair exchange. Apart from the occasional anarcho-capitalist, all libertarians agree that enforcing these rules is one of the most basic functions of government. With these standards for economic behavior in place, individuals can create wealth and pursue their own interests with little or no additional assistance from the state. Likewise, formal and informal standards and sanctions create the context in which couples can create marriage with minimal assistance from the state….

Some libertarians seem to believe that marriage is a special case of free association of individuals. I say the details of this particular form of free association are so distinctive as to make marriage a unique social institution that deserves to be defended on its own terms and not as a special case of something else.

One side in this dispute is mistaken. There is enormous room for debate, but there ultimately is no room for compromise…. We will be happier if we try to discover the truth and accommodate ourselves to it, rather than try to recreate the world according to our wishes….

Being free does not demand that everyone act impulsively rather than deliberately. Libertarian freedom is the modest demand to be left alone by the coercive apparatus of the government. Economic liberty, and libertarian freedom more broadly, is certainly consistent with living with a great many informal social and cultural constraints….

We now live in an intellectual, social, and legal environment in which the laissez-faire idea has been mechanically applied to sexual conduct and married life. But Rousseau-style state-of-nature couplings are inconsistent with a libertarian society of minimal government. In real, actually occurring societies, noncommittal sexual activity results in mothers and children who require massive expenditures and interventions by a powerful government….

When … Friedrich Hayek championed the concept of spontaneous order, he helped people see that explicitly planned orders do not exhaust the types of social orders that emerge from purposeful human behavior. The opposite of a centrally planned economy is not completely unplanned chaos, but rather a spontaneous order that emerges from thousands of private plans interacting with each according to a set of reasonably transparent legal rules and social norms.

Likewise, the opposite of government controlling every detail of every single family’’s life is not a world in which everyone acts according to emotional impulses. The opposite is an order made up of thousands of people controlling themselves for the greater good of the little society of their family and the wider society at large….

Libertarians recognize that a free market needs a culture of law-abidingness, promise-keeping, and respect for contracts. Similarly, a free society needs a culture that supports and sustains marriage as the normative institution for the begetting, bearing, and rearing of children. A culture full of people who violate their contracts at every possible opportunity cannot be held together by legal institutions, as the experience of post-communist Russia plainly shows. Likewise, a society full of people who treat sex as a purely recreational activity, a child as a consumer good and marriage as a glorified roommate relationship will not be able to resist the pressures for a vast social assistance state. The state will irresistibly be drawn into parental quarrels and into providing a variety of services for the well-being of the children….

The libertarian preference for nongovernmental provision of care for dependents is based upon the realization that people take better care of those they know and love than of complete strangers. It is no secret that people take better care of their own stuff than of other people’s. Economists conclude that private property will produce better results than collectivization schemes. But a libertarian preference for stable married-couple families is built upon more than a simple analogy with private property. The ordinary rhythm of the family creates a cycle of dependence and independence that any sensible social order ought to harness rather than resist.

We are all born as helpless infants, in need of constant care. But we are not born alone. If we are lucky enough to be born into a family that includes an adult married couple, they sustain us through our years of dependence. They do not get paid for the work they do: They do it because they love us. Their love for us keeps them motivated to carry on even when we are undeserving, ungrateful, snot-nosed brats. Their love for each other keeps them working together as a team with whatever division of labor works for them.

As we become old enough to be independent, we become attracted to other people. Our bodies practically scream at us to reproduce and do for our children what our parents did for us. In the meantime, our parents are growing older. When we are at the peak of our strength, stamina, and earning power, we make provision to help those who helped us in our youth.

But for this minimal government approach to work, there has to be a family in the first place. The family must sustain itself over the course of the life cycle of its members. If too many members spin off into complete isolation, if too many members are unwilling to cooperate with others, the family will not be able to support itself. A woman trying to raise children without their father is unlikely to contribute much to the care of her parents. In fact, unmarried parents are more likely to need help from their parents than to provide it….

Marriage is the socially preferred institution for sexual activity and childrearing in every known human society. The modern claim that there need not be and should not be any social or legal preference among sexual or childrearing contexts is, by definition, the abolition of marriage as an institution. This will be a disaster for the cause of limited government. Disputes that could be settled by custom will have to be settled in court. Support that could be provided by a stable family must be provided by taxpayers. Standards of good conduct that could be enforced informally must be enforced by law….

The advocates of the deconstruction of marriage into a series of temporary couplings with unspecified numbers and genders of people have used the language of choice and individual rights to advance their cause. This rhetoric has a powerful hold over the American mind. It is doubtful that the deconstruction of the family could have proceeded as far as it has without the use of this language of personal freedom.

But this rhetoric is deceptive. It is simply not possible to have a minimum government in a society with no social or legal norms about family structure, sexual behavior, and childrearing. The state will have to provide support for people with loose or nonexistent ties to their families. The state will have to sanction truly destructive behavior, as always. But destructive behavior will be more common because the culture of impartiality destroys the informal system of enforcing social norms.

It is high time libertarians object when their rhetoric is hijacked by the advocates of big government. Fairness and freedom do not demand sexual and parental license. Minimum-government libertarianism needs a robust set of social institutions. If marriage isn’t a necessary social institution, then nothing is. And if there are no necessary social institutions, then the individual truly will be left to face the state alone. A free society needs marriage. (“Marriage and the limits of contract: A libertarian case,” Policy Review, No. 130)

It is clear that a free society needs traditional, heterosexual marriage, which — as Morse explains — is a primary civilizing force. As if in answer to that truth, the proponents of same-sex “marriage” aver that its recognition by the state will not undermine the societal benefits of traditional marriage. They aver, rather, that it will extend those benefits to encompass those homosexuals who choose “marriage,” and their biological or adopted children.

SAME-SEX “MARRIAGE” IS A BLOW TO LIBERTY

Is there really a “win-win” argument for same-sex “marriage”? The answer, in a word,  is “no.”  The recognition of homosexual “marriage” by the state — though innocuous to many, and an article of faith among most libertarians and liberals — is another step down the slippery slope of societal disintegration. The disintegration began in earnest in the 1930s, when Americans began to place their trust in chimerical, one-size-fits-all “solutions” offered by power-hungry, economically illiterate politicians and their “intellectual” enablers and apologists. In this instance, the state will recognize homosexual “marriage,” then bestow equal  benefits on homosexual “partners,”  and then require private entities (businesses, churches, etc.) to grant equal benefits to homosexual “partnerships.” Individuals and businesses who demur will be brought to heel through the use of affirmative action and hate-crime legislation to penalize those who dare to speak against homosexual “marriage,” the privileges that flow from it, and the economic damage wrought by those privileges.

It should be evident to anyone who has watched American politics that even-handedness is not a matter of observing constitutional limits on government’s reach, regardless of who asks for an exception; it is, rather, a matter of expanding the privileges bestowed by government so that no one is excluded. It follows that the recognition and punitive enforcement of same-sex “marriage” would be followed by the recognition and bestowal of benefits on other arrangements, including transient “partnerships” of convenience. And that surely will weaken heterosexual marriage, which is the axis around which the family revolves. The state will be saying, in effect, “Anything goes. Do your thing. The courts, the welfare system, and the taxpayer — above all — will pick up the pieces.” And so it will go.

Almost six years ago, I constructed following parable (here), which builds on a post by Maggie Gallagher (part of a series at The Volokh Conspiracy on the subject of same-sex marriage):

Imagine a society that depends on the camel (the family, in this analogy) for transportation across a dangerous desert and into an oasis of civility. A camel that is operated by a man and a woman — joined contractually to do their best to steer the camel from danger — is most likely to arrive at its destination safely because the man and woman have complementary skills, and because they (and their offspring, to break the analogy for a moment) are bonded in an irreplicable biological symbiosis. A camel that is operated by either a man or a woman alone is next most likely to arrive at its destination safely because a sole operator, knowing that he or she lacks certain skills, is at least likely to try to compensate for that lack. A camel that is operated by two persons of the same sex is least likely to arrive at its destination safely because: (1) the operators’ bonding can never be as complete as that of a man-woman team and (2) the operators deliberately choose to omit half the skills required for the job.

Those differences might have only a marginal effect on the overall success of camel-driving operations if the state were not involved in licensing and supporting camel drivers. But the state is involved in licensing and supporting camel drivers, and it has done poorly by the camel in the process. The state began many years ago to encourage solo camel driving by enabling man-woman teams to break their contracts at will instead of trying to work out their differences. (The lesson: When the state sends signals about private arrangements, private arrangements tend to align themselves with the signals being sent by the state.) The state later began to encourage yet more solo camel driving by subsidizing women for driving solo (for raising children out of wedlock, that is) and fostering the dereliction of camel-driving duty in the name of “equality” (as if camel driving were a lesser occupation than, say, camel trading). Now the state is beginning to encourage the formation of man-man and woman-woman camel-driving teams. Given the state’s record in such matters, the predictable outcomes of that development are these:

  • An increasing proportion of camels will be driven by same-sex teams, thus decreasing the likelihood that camels will arrive safely at the oasis of civility.
  • A decreasing proportion of men and women will feel the need to form opposite-sex camel-driving teams, as they see that the state (having usurped society’s role in legitimating and supporting camel driving teams) values such teams less and less, thus even further decreasing the likelihood that camels will arrive safely at the oasis of civility.

Given the signals being sent by the state, the rate of formation of traditional, heterosexual marriages will continue to decline. (According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of adult males who are married dropped steadily from 71.1 percent in the 1960 census to 58.6 percent in the 2000 census; for females, the percentage dropped from 67.4 to 54.6. (The latest available figures, for 2009, show no significant change since 2000.) About half of each drop is explained by a rise in the percentage of adults who never marry, the other half by a rise in the percentage of divorced adults. Those statistics are what one should expect when the state signals — as it began to do increasingly after 1960 — that traditional marriage is no special thing by making it easier for couples to divorce, by subsidizing single mothers, and by encouraging women to work outside the home.

The well-known effects of such policies include higher rates of crime and lower levels of educational and economic achievement. (See this and this, for example.) Same-sex marriage would multiply these effects for the sake of mollifying a small minority of the populace.

“EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS” DOES NOT DICTATE SAME-SEX “MARRIAGE”

When all else fails, special-pleaders claim that to deprive a particular class of persons of a particular right is to deprive them of the “equal protection of the laws,” as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The current, perverted interpretation of Equal Protection — as applied by the proponents of same-sex “marriage” — leads to this:  Despite the fact that marriage is good for society and should not be undermined, Equal Protection (in the perverse view) requires that marriage be undermined by redefining it. The law, in other words, cannot discriminate among individuals if there are objections by (or on the part of) those who are discriminated against. The reasonableness of the discrimination is of no account. Thus, in the not-so-far-fetched-extreme, criminals may not be discriminated against by putting them into prisons, but must enjoy the same amenities as law-abiding citizens.

Consider the infamous Proposition 8 case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which was decided last year by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker (who has since retired and admitted his special interest in the case, as a homosexual in a “committed” relationship). Judge Walker addresses equal protection thusly:

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”…

Proposition 8 targets gays and lesbians in a manner specific to their sexual orientation and, because of their relationship to one another, Proposition 8 targets them specifically due to sex. Having considered the evidence, the relationship between sex and sexual orientation and the fact that Proposition 8 eliminates a right only a gay man or a lesbian would exercise, the court determines that plaintiffs’ equal protection claim is based on sexual orientation, but this claim is equivalent to a claim of discrimination based on sex.

The circularity of Judge Walker’s reasoning with respect to equal protection begins much earlier in his decision, where he writes that

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

But the right to marry, historically, has been the right to choose a spouse of the opposite sex, not merely to choose a spouse. Judge Walker even acknowledges that fact, inadvertently, when he puts aside “relative gender composition,” as if it were a mere trifle and not central to a social tradition that dates back millennia and should not be swept aside casually by a judge because he finds it “irrational,” on the basis of spurious social science. Walker then says that “gender is not relevant,” thus circularly assuming that which is to be proved. As if in support of that assertion he asserts, laughably, that “gender restrictions … were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage.”

In sum, Judge Walker approaches the constitutional matter of equal protection by assuming that gays have the right to marry. Given that assumption, it is easy to assert that Proposition 8 amounts to a denial of equal protection for gays who seek to marry.

THE STATE SHOULD PROTECT MARRIAGE, NOT DESTROY IT

Although it is true that heterosexual unions have their problems, those problems have been made worse by the intercession of the state. And if the state legitimates same-sex “marriage” civil society will suffer a devastating injury.

Near-sighted, special-pleading proponents of same-sex “marriage,” even if faced with its anti-libertarian ramifications, will say that it is only “fair” to legalize it, and discriminatory or bigoted to deny it. These are the proper response to such playground taunts:

  • Marriage was neither created nor sustained for negative reasons. The preservation of a time-honored, beneficial, voluntary, social institution is no more discriminatory or bigoted than the preservation of, say, an honorary society that is open only to persons who excel in particular ways.
  • The legalization of homosexual “marriage” is unfair to the vast majority of Americans whose well-being depends on the proper functioning of traditional marriage, which is a bulwark of civil society.

Therefore, given that the state is deeply and irretrievably involved in marriage, I reject the unrealistic libertarian nostrum that the state ought not to have anything to do with marriage. The reality of the state’s continuing involvement with marriage leads me to embrace the consequentialist position that the state ought to preserve it by refusing to change its time-honored character as the union of one man and one woman.

The alternative is to advance further down the slippery slope toward societal disintegration and into the morass of ills which accompany that disintegration. (We have seen enough societal disintegration and costly consequences since the advent of the welfare state to know that the two go hand in hand.)

Faced with a choice between libertarian shibboleth and libertarian substance, I have chosen substance. I now say: Ban homosexual marriage and avoid another step down the slippery slope toward incivility and bigger government.

Related posts:
I Missed This One
A Century of Progress?
The Marriage Contract
Feminist Balderdash
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Consider the Children
Marriage and Children
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
On Liberty
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Part I
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty

__________
1. I enclose “libertarians” in quotation marks because many (most?) self-described libertarians espouse policies that are, in fact, anti-libertarian. The legalization of same-sex “marriage” is one such policy, as I explain in this post; abortion is another salient one; others include a weak national defense, borders that are open to prospective supporters and beneficiaries of the welfare state, reflexive softness toward criminals, and a willingness to sacrifice the property rights of others to prove their own bona fides in matters of race. For more, see these posts:
On Liberty
Line-Drawing and Liberty
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism

Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Part I
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
More about Conservative Governance
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
On Self-Ownership and Desert

2. DOMA, as explained here, seems to have two legal effects:

DOMA Section 2 … relieves states of a constitutional obligation to enforce judicial custody, alimony or other orders made in other states that involve recognition of same-sex marriages…. It is unclear … whether states already had the power to refuse recognition in these cases before the enactment of DOMA, and whether the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to modify such state authority.

DOMA’s Section 3 prevents the federal government from recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages….

Later:

Section 2 of DOMA explicitly addresses the constitutional requirement expressed in the Full Faith and Credit Clause in Article IV Section 1 of the United States Constitution, quoting its language directly. That clause establishes that the states have certain reciprocal obligations to one another, specifically to recognize each other’s “public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings.” That same section of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to legislate on the question of those obligations. Section 2 of DOMA excludes same-sex marriages from the state “acts” that any other state needs to recognize.

[Regarding] Section 3 of DOMA…. On February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama announced their conclusion that “a more heightened standard of scrutiny” is necessary for sexuality-based classifications and consequently… DOMA Section 3 is unconstitutional.

In other words, a constitutional act — which legitimately allows the citizens of the various States to define marriage for themselves — is cast aside precisely because the citizens of some States might reject same-sex “marriage.” Obama and Holder, in other words, have taken it upon themselves to grant same-sex “marriage” the same status as traditional marriage. Their “reasoning,” I suspect, flows from the circular application of the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that I discuss here.