Jane Galt–A Libertarian View


A Libertarian View

If this were an essay on economics, it would be the best essay on economics I’ve read in a year or more.
If this were an essay on social structures, it would be the best essay on social structures I’ve read on a year or more.
If this were an essay on conservative versus reformer mindsets, it would be the best essay on *that* that I’ve read in a year or more.
In fact, it was all three of those things, and I’m frankly stunned at how excellently you’ve made so many points in such a short space.

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

A really, really, really long post about gay marriage that does not, in the end, support one side or the other

Unlike most libertarians, I don’t have an opinion on gay marriage, and I’m not going to have an opinion no matter how much you bait me. However, I had an interesting discussion last night with another libertarian about it, which devolved into an argument about a certain kind of liberal/libertarian argument about gay marriage that I find really unconvincing.

Social conservatives of a more moderate stripe are essentially saying that marriage is an ancient institution, which has been carefully selected for throughout human history. It is a bedrock of our society; if it is destroyed, we will all be much worse off. (See what happened to the inner cities between 1960 and 1990 if you do not believe this.) For some reason, marriage always and everywhere, in every culture we know about, is between a man and a woman; this seems to be an important feature of the institution. We should not go mucking around and changing this extremely important institution, because if we make a bad change, the institution will fall apart.

A very common response to this is essentially to mock this as ridiculous. “Why on earth would it make any difference to me whether gay people are getting married? Why would that change my behavior as a heterosexual”

To which social conservatives reply that institutions have a number of complex ways in which they fulfill their roles, and one of the very important ways in which the institution of marriage perpetuates itself is by creating a romantic vision of oneself in marriage that is intrinsically tied into expressing one’s masculinity or femininity in relation to a person of the opposite sex; stepping into an explicitly gendered role. This may not be true of every single marriage, and indeed undoubtedly it is untrue in some cases. But it is true of the culture-wide institution. By changing the explicitly gendered nature of marriage we might be accidentally cutting away something that turns out to be a crucial underpinning.

To which, again, the other side replies “That’s ridiculous! I would never change my willingness to get married based on whether or not gay people were getting married!”

Now, economists hear this sort of argument all the time. “That’s ridiculous! I would never start working fewer hours because my taxes went up!” This ignores the fact that you may not be the marginal case. The marginal case may be some consultant who just can’t justify sacrificing valuable leisure for a new project when he’s only making 60 cents on the dollar. The result will nonetheless be the same: less economic activity. Similarly, you–highly educated, firmly socialized, upper middle class you–may not be the marginal marriage candidate; it may be some high school dropout in Tuscaloosa. That doesn’t mean that the institution of marriage won’t be weakened in America just the same.

This should not be taken as an endorsement of the idea that gay marriage will weaken the current institution. I can tell a plausible story where it does; I can tell a plausible story where it doesn’t. I have no idea which one is true. That is why I have no opinion on gay marriage, and am not planning to develop one. Marriage is a big institution; too big for me to feel I have a successful handle on it.

However, I am bothered by this specific argument, which I have heard over and over from the people I know who favor gay marriage laws. I mean, literally over and over; when they get into arguments, they just repeat it, again and again. “I will get married even if marriage is expanded to include gay people; I cannot imagine anyone up and deciding not to get married because gay people are getting married; therefore, the whole idea is ridiculous and bigoted.”

They may well be right. Nonetheless, libertarians should know better. The limits of your imagination are not the limits of reality. Every government programme that libertarians have argued against has been defended at its inception with exactly this argument.

Let me take three major legal innovations, one of them general, two specific to marriage.

The first, the general one, is well known to most hard-core libertarians, but let me reprise it anyway. When the income tax was initially being debated, there was a suggestion to put in a mandatory cap; I believe the level was 10 percent.

Don’t be ridiculous, the Senator’s colleagues told him. Americans would never allow an income tax rate as high as ten percent. They would revolt! It is an outrage to even suggest it!

Many actually fought the cap on the grounds that it would encourage taxes to grow too high, towards the cap. The American people, they asserted, could be well counted on to keep income taxes in the range of a few percentage points.


Now, I’m not a tax-crazy libertarian; I don’t expect you to be horrified that we have income taxes higher than ten percent, as I’m not. But the point is that the Senators were completely right–at that time. However, the existence of the income tax allowed for a slow creep that eroded the American resistance to income taxation. External changes–from the Great Depression, to the technical ability to manage withholding rather than lump payments, also facilitated the rise, but they could not have without a cultural sea change in feelings about taxation. That “ridiculous” cap would have done a much, much better job holding down tax rates than the culture these Senators erroneously relied upon. Changing the law can, and does, change the culture of the thing regulated.

Another example is welfare. To sketch a brief history of welfare, it emerged in the nineteenth century as “Widows and orphans pensions”, which were paid by the state to destitute families whose breadwinner had passed away. They were often not available to blacks; they were never available to unwed mothers. Though public services expanded in the first half of the twentieth century, that mentality was very much the same: public services were about supporting unfortunate families, not unwed mothers. Unwed mothers could not, in most cases, obtain welfare; they were not allowed in public housing (which was supposed to be–and was–a way station for young, struggling families on the way to home ownership, not a permanent abode); they were otherwise discriminated against by social services. The help you could expect from society was a home for wayward girls, in which you would give birth and then put the baby up for adoption.

The description of public housing in the fifties is shocking to anyone who’s spent any time in modern public housing. Big item on the agenda at the tenant’s meeting: housewives, don’t shake your dustcloths out of the windows–other wives don’t want your dirt in their apartment! Men, if you wear heavy work boots, please don’t walk on the lawns until you can change into lighter shoes, as it damages the grass! (Descriptions taken from the invaluable book, The Inheritance, about the transition of the white working class from Democrat to Republican.) Needless to say, if those same housing projects could today find a majority of tenants who reliably dusted, or worked, they would be thrilled.

Public housing was, in short, a place full of functioning families.

Now, in the late fifties, a debate began over whether to extend benefits to the unmarried. It was unfair to stigmatise unwed mothers. Why shouldn’t they be able to avail themselves of the benefits available to other citizens? The brutal societal prejudice against illegitimacy was old fashioned, bigoted, irrational.

But if you give unmarried mothers money, said the critics, you will get more unmarried mothers.

Ridiculous, said the proponents of the change. Being an unmarried mother is a brutal, thankless task. What kind of idiot would have a baby out of wedlock just because the state was willing to give her paltry welfare benefits?

People do all sorts of idiotic things, said the critics. If you pay for something, you usually get more of it.

C’mon said the activists. That’s just silly. I just can’t imagine anyone deciding to get pregnant out of wedlock simply because there are welfare benefits available.


Of course, change didn’t happen overnight. But the marginal cases did have children out of wedlock, which made it more acceptable for the next marginal case to do so. Meanwhile, women who wanted to get married essentially found themselves in competition for young men with women who were willing to have sex, and bear children, without forcing the men to take any responsibility. This is a pretty attractive proposition for most young men. So despite the fact that the sixties brought us the biggest advance in birth control ever, illegitimacy exploded. In the early 1960s, a black illegitimacy rate of roughly 25 percent caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to write a tract warning of a crisis in “the negro family” (a tract for which he was eviscerated by many of those selfsame activists.)

By 1990, that rate was over 70 percent. This, despite the fact that the inner city, where the illegitimacy problem was biggest, only accounts for a fraction of the black population.

But in that inner city, marriage had been destroyed. It had literally ceased to exist in any meaningful way. Possibly one of the most moving moments in Jason de Parle’s absolutely wonderful book, American Dream, which follows three welfare mothers through welfare reform, is when he reveals that none of these three women, all in their late thirties, had ever been to a wedding.

Marriage matters. It is better for the kids; it is better for the adults raising those kids; and it is better for the childless people in the communities where those kids and adults live. Marriage reduces poverty, improves kids outcomes in all measurable ways, makes men live longer and both spouses happier. Marriage, it turns out, is an incredibly important institution. It also turns out to be a lot more fragile than we thought back then. It looked, to those extremely smart and well-meaning welfare reformers, practically unshakable; the idea that it could be undone by something as simple as enabling women to have children without husbands, seemed ludicrous. Its cultural underpinnings were far too firm. Why would a woman choose such a hard road? It seemed self-evident that the only unwed mothers claiming benefits would be the ones pushed there by terrible circumstance.

This argument is compelling and logical. I would never become an unwed welfare mother, even if benefits were a great deal higher than they are now. It seems crazy to even suggest that one would bear a child out of wedlock for $567 a month. Indeed, to this day, I find the reformist side much more persuasive than the conservative side, except for one thing, which is that the conservatives turned out to be right. In fact, they turned out to be even more right than they suspected; they were predicting upticks in illegitimacy that were much more modest than what actually occurred–they expected marriage rates to suffer, not collapse.

How did people go so badly wrong? Well, to start with, they fell into the basic fallacy that economists are so well acquainted with: they thought about themselves instead of the marginal case. For another, they completely failed to realize that each additional illegitimate birth would, in effect, slightly destigmatise the next one. They assigned men very little agency, failing to predict that women willing to forgo marriage would essentially become unwelcome competition for women who weren’t, and that as the numbers changed, that competition might push the marriage market towards unwelcome outcomes. They failed to foresee the confounding effect that the birth control pill would have on sexual mores.

But I think the core problems are two. The first is that they looked only at individuals, and took institutions as a given. That is, they looked at all the cultural pressure to marry, and assumed that that would be a countervailing force powerful enough to overcome the new financial incentives for out-of-wedlock births. They failed to see the institution as dynamic. It wasn’t a simple matter of two forces: cultural pressure to marry, financial freedom not to, arrayed against each other; those forces had a complex interplay, and when you changed one, you changed the other.

The second is that they didn’t assign any cultural reason for, or value to, the stigma on illegitimacy. They saw it as an outmoded vestige of a repressive Victorial values system, based on an unnatural fear of sexuality. But the stigma attached to unwed motherhood has quite logical, and important, foundations: having a child without a husband is bad for children, and bad for mothers, and thus bad for the rest of us. So our culture made it very costly for the mother to do. Lower the cost, and you raise the incidence. As an economist would say, incentives matter.

(Now, I am not arguing in favor of stigmatizing unwed mothers the way the Victorians did. I’m just pointing out that the stigma did not exist merely, as many mid-century reformers seem to have believed, because of some dark Freudian excesses on the part of our ancestors.)

But all the reformers saw was the terrible pain–and it was terrible–inflicted on unwed mothers. They saw the terrible unfairness–and it was terribly unfair–of punishing the mother, and not the father. They saw the inherent injustice–and need I add, it was indeed unjust–of treating American citizens differently because of their marital status.

But as G.K. Chesterton points out, people who don’t see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

Now, of course, this can turn into a sort of precautionary principle that prevents reform from ever happening. That would be bad; all sorts of things need changing all the time, because society and our environment change. But as a matter of principle, it is probably a bad idea to let someone go mucking around with social arrangements, such as the way we treat unwed parenthood, if their idea about that institution is that “it just growed”. You don’t have to be a rock-ribbed conservative to recognize that there is something of an evolutionary process in society: institutional features are not necessarily the best possible arrangement, but they have been selected for a certain amount of fitness.

It might also be, of course, that the feature is what evolutionary biologists call a spandrel. It’s a term taken from architecture; spandrels are the pretty little spaces between vaulted arches. They are not designed for; they are a useless, but pretty, side effect of the physical properties of arches. In evolutionary biology, spandrel is some feature which is not selected for, but appears as a byproduct of other traits that are selected for. Belly buttons are a neat place to put piercings, but they’re not there because of that; they’re a byproduct of mammalian reproduction.

However, and architect will be happy to tell you that if you try to rip out the spandrel, you might easily bring down the building.

The third example I’ll give is of changes to the marriage laws, specifically the radical relaxation of divorce statutes during the twentieth century.

Divorce, in the nineteenth century, was unbelievably hard to get. It took years, was expensive, and required proving that your spouse had abandoned you for an extended period with no financial support; was (if male) not merely discreetly dallying but flagrantly carrying on; or was not just belting you one now and again when you got mouthy, but routinely pummeling you within an inch of your life. After you got divorced, you were a pariah in all but the largest cities. If you were a desperately wronged woman you might change your name, taking your maiden name as your first name and continuing to use your husband’s last name to indicate that you expected to continue living as if you were married (i.e. chastely) and expect to have some limited intercourse with your neighbors, though of course you would not be invited to events held in a church, or evening affairs. Financially secure women generally (I am not making this up) moved to Europe; Edith Wharton, who moved to Paris when she got divorced, wrote moving stories about the way divorced women were shunned at home. Men, meanwhile (who were usually the respondents) could expect to see more than half their assets and income settled on their spouse and children.

There were, critics observed, a number of unhappy marriages in which people stuck together. Young people, who shouldn’t have gotten married; older people, whose spouses were not physically abusive nor absent, nor flagrantly adulterous, but whose spouse was, for reasons of financial irresponsibility, mental viciousness, or some other major flaw, destroying their life. Why not make divorce easier to get? Rather than requiring people to show that there was an unforgivable, physically visible, cause that the marriage should be dissolved, why not let people who wanted to get divorced agree to do so?

Because if you make divorce easier, said the critics, you will get much more of it, and divorce is bad for society.

That’s ridiculous! said the reformers. (Can we sing it all together now?) People stay married because marriage is a bedrock institution of our society, not because of some law! The only people who get divorced will be people who have terrible problems! A few percentage points at most!

Oops. When the law changed, the institution changed. The marginal divorce made the next one easier. Again, the magnitude of the change swamped the dire predictions of the anti-reformist wing; no one could have imagined, in their wildest dreams, a day when half of all marriages ended in divorce.

There were actually two big changes; the first, when divorce laws were amended in most states to make it easier to get a divorce; and the second, when “no fault” divorce allowed one spouse to unilaterally end the marriage. The second change produced another huge surge in the divorce rate, and a nice decline in the incomes of divorced women; it seems advocates had failed to anticipate that removing the leverage of the financially weaker party to hold out for a good settlement would result in men keeping more of their earnings to themselves.

What’s more, easy divorce didn’t only change the divorce rate; it made drastic changes to the institution of marriage itself. David Brooks makes an argument I find convincing: that the proliferation of the kind of extravagant weddings that used to only be the province of high society (rented venue, extravagant flowers and food, hundreds of guests, a band with dancing, dresses that cost the same as a good used car) is because the event itself doesn’t mean nearly as much as it used to, so we have to turn it into a three-ring circus to feel like we’re really doing something.

A couple in 1940 (and even more so in 1910) could go to a minister’s parlor, or a justice of the peace, and in five minutes totally change their lives. Unless you are a member of certain highly religious subcultures, this is simply no longer true. That is, of course, partly because of the sexual revolution and the emancipation of women; but it is also because you aren’t really making a lifetime commitment; you’re making a lifetime commitment unless you find something better to do. There is no way, psychologically, to make the latter as big an event as the former, and when you lost that commitment, you lose, on the margin, some willingness to make the marriage work. Again, this doesn’t mean I think divorce law should be toughened up; only that changes in law that affect marriage affect the cultural institution, not just the legal practice.

Three laws. Three well-meaning reformers who were genuinely, sincerely incapable of imagining that their changes would wreak such institutional havoc. Three sets of utterly logical and convincing, and wrong arguments about how people would behave after a major change.

So what does this mean? That we shouldn’t enact gay marriage because of some sort of social Precautionary Principle

No. I have no such grand advice.

My only request is that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes. The argument that gay marriage will not change the institution of marriage because you can’t imagine it changing your personal reaction is pretty arrogant. It imagines, first of all, that your behavior is a guide for the behavior of everyone else in society, when in fact, as you may have noticed, all sorts of different people react to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different ways, which is why we have to have elections and stuff. And second, the unwavering belief that the only reason that marriage, always and everywhere, is a male-female institution (I exclude rare ritual behaviors), is just some sort of bizarre historical coincidence, and that you know better, needs examining. If you think you know why marriage is male-female, and why that’s either outdated because of all the ways in which reproduction has lately changed, or was a bad reason to start with, then you are in a good place to advocate reform. If you think that marriage is just that way because our ancestors were all a bunch of repressed bastards with dark Freudian complexes that made them homophobic bigots, I’m a little leery of letting you muck around with it.

Is this post going to convince anyone? I doubt it; everyone but me seems to already know all the answers, so why listen to such a hedging, doubting bore? I myself am trying to draw a very fine line between being humble about making big changes to big social institutions, and telling people (which I am not trying to do) that they can’t make those changes because other people have been wrong in the past. In the end, our judgment is all we have; everyone will have to rely on their judgment of whether gay marriage is, on net, a good or a bad idea. All I’m asking for is for people to think more deeply than a quick consultation of their imaginations to make that decision. I realize that this probably falls on the side of supporting the anti-gay-marriage forces, and I’m sorry, but I can’t help that. This humility is what I want from liberals when approaching market changes; now I’m asking it from my side too, in approaching social ones. I think the approach is consistent, if not exactly popular.

A quick extra note on gay marriage

There are a lot of libertarians who dismiss arguments about gay marriage with the declaration that the state shouldn’t be in the business of sanctifying marriage anyway. I don’t find that a particularly satisfying argument. It’s quite possibly true that in some ideal libertarian state, the government would not be in the business of defining marriages, or would merely enforce whatever creative contracts people chose to draw up. That’s a lovely discussion for a libertarian forum. However, we are confronting a major legal change that is actually happening in the country we live in, where marriage is, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, an institution in which the government is intimately involved. While I’m happy to debate about whether or not the state should define the form of marriage in my libertarian utopia, I don’t think that this is necessarily a good guide to the kinds of laws I want to see enacted in America, which in so many, many ways does not look like my utopia.

For example, in my libertarian utopia, there would be no social security. People would save for their own retirements; social insurance would be for people who had something actually unpredictable and unexpected happen to them.If there is anything more predictable than aging, I don’t want to run into it.

Does that mean that I would advocate, say, getting rid of Social Security today? Shut down the administration, turn off the check-writing machines, and tell our senior citizens to get a goddamn job?

Don’t be ridiculous. People planned their lives around this government assurance; you can’t just rip it away and let millions of people starve. You can’t just import one aspect of my libertarian utopia–no social security–without the crucial things that underpin it, like a population that knows it’s expected to save for its own retirement. Similarly, you can’t just import one feature of anarcho-capitalist life–anyone can marry anyone they want–as if all the vast social changes that an anarcho-capitalist or minarchist system would represent, are already there.

Update: A number of libertarians are, as I predicted, making the “Why don’t we just privatize marriage?” argument. I don’t find that useful in the context of the debate about gay marriage in America, where marriage is simply not going to be privatized in any foreseeable near-term future.

Also, a lot of readers are saying that I’m wrong about marriage always being between a man and a woman, citing polygamy. I have been told this is a “basic factual error.”

No, it’s not. Polygamous societies do not (at least in any society I have ever heard about) have group marriages. Men with more than one wife have multiple marriages with multiple women, not a single marriage with several wives. In fact, they generally take pains to separate the women, preferably in different houses. Whether or not you allow men to contract for more than one marriage (and for all sorts of reasons, this seems to me to be a bad idea unless you’re in an era of permanent war), each marriage remains the union of a man and a woman.

Original article found here:  http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005244.html



  1. Mike Harmon said,

    November 16, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

  2. Will said,

    November 16, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Thank you for this post. I’m starting to believe that people in the “mainstream” media know absolutely nothing because I only hear one view there, and it’s based on lots of emotion and very little reason. I wish I knew how to promote these ideas on a large scale, and I wish the media were taking responsibility to actually explore multiple views and not just push the agendas they must be serving.

  3. Todd said,

    November 16, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Interesting series of arguments. Unfortunately, the entire post rests on erroneous assumptions about the history of “the marriage institution” and the way “social structures” work, rendering all of those interesting arguments nonsensical. Here are a few things to reconsider as you refine your position:

    • human institutions are made by humans to answer specific needs in specific environments
    • human institutions are therefore emergent, the aggregate effect of multiple micro-reactions of individuals
    • human institutions, therefore, are context specific
    • human contexts differ by time and place
    • human institutions change over time in response to environmental pressures, which are to be understood as both endogenous and exogenous to the particular context in question
    • endogenous pressures that require humans to tweak, modify, or throw out an institution arise from the interaction of multiple beliefs, practices, objects, institutions, interactions within a given society
    • when comparing similar institutions in two different cultures, they must be seen as analogous, not homologous [human cultures do not brachiate linearly, although their biology does]

  4. Delirious said,

    November 16, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this exceptional article. There are so many lessons given that my mind is whirling. :)

  5. November 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    The U.S. government crossed a VERY serious line with PROP 8.

    This “proposition” threatened children’s sense of safety and belongingness in California. Children’s safety.

    Regardless of THIS particular fight, there are way too many fights on way too many fronts for us to conquer piecemeal. The Time is Now – DRAW A NEW LINE in the sand and demand from President Obama and our representatives FULL EQUALITY.

    Equality Is Simple When You Simply Include Everybody.

    What? Not detailed enough for the lawyers?

    OK, we can list repealing DOMA, repealing DADT, include transgender in the ENDA Bill, allow adoption of abandoned children, equality in immigration issues, recognize our hate crimes as such, equal family/children rights……….whew! See what I mean?

    We are EQUAL SOULS in HUMAN BODIES. Could we please STOP discriminating due to the genitalia attached? Plumbing will determine each civil right?! Any separation from the pack is ultimately due to gender (and/or gender roles & stereotyping), and that is SEXISM. I cannot marry Bob because I am the “wrong” gender; if I were a woman I could marry Bob. SEXISM.

    And I cannot stress ENOUGH how my own suffering from Marriage Inequality is NOT the reason for wanting or needing equality. I am not something to focus on. But my story, and the stories of countless other Americans desperately need to be addressed in this civil rights struggle. Marriage laws were put in place many years ago in order to PROTECT individuals and their FAMILIES; if they were NOT necessary they would not exist (for heterosexuals). When these laws are NOT in place for ALL OF US, horrible, horrible suffering occurs. My WEBSITE has many examples.

    So Americans want to continue denying us what they have already deemed as essential. And many people want us to WAIT…2….5……10…….20……..30 YEARS, depending on the “civil right”, for what WAS and IS our birthright.

    I personally have a HUGE problem with that. I cannot wait. I will not wait.

    Will you join me on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009, and help me inform the government that WE are eager to be included in the federal tax base as soon as THEY include us in society’s laws? My 5-year-old students could understand this concept: EQUAL = EQUAL

    As Americans can’t we agree that there are MANY other important issues to address (like the Economy, Education, Health Care, Poverty & Homelessness, Iraq/Afghanistan…all of these are related), and solving THOSE problems is more urgent than having “Equality Issues” TIE UP THE COURTS for another 30+ years? We will NOT go away.

    You keep procreating; we keep popping out. Sorry.

    Our representatives have spent years inventing 4-letter words (DOMA, DADT) to restrict us, deny us, demoralize us, and harm our beloved families and children. Enough is enough.


    The National Equality Tax Protest
    – Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 –

  6. beetlebabee said,

    November 16, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    This post by Jane Galt is pure mind candy. I love it. I’ve read it several times now and I still just love it because there is this arrogance that we can go tinkering under the hood of society and have it turn out the way we expect when we have only a basic understanding of human interactions and what makes society tick. It’s all just a great human experiment surely, but who wants to participate in a human experiment? Where’s my opt out form?

    The Ballot Box!

  7. prop8discussion said,

    November 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    thank you so much for posting this. this is a great article.

    i completely agree with will– there is so much emotional response in the media. there is not attention to consequences.

    news casters use the “Equality for all” argument without realizing that it includes polygamous marriages, sibling marriages and really the deregulation in marriage. I

    ‘m okay if after considering all the view points people still argue for same-sex marriage– but I don’t see a ton of careful thought– at least from the media and people on the blogs.

  8. teeny said,

    November 17, 2008 at 2:56 am

    Wow, what a fascinating article! It’s a breath of fresh air to hear both sides of an issue, minus the knee-jerk responses and attitudes that generally come along with it.

    I would love to hear more from this source, and I am also interested in reading the books she cited from.

    My brain has been overly stimulated for the first time in a long time! Thank you for giving me a lot to contemplate!

  9. beetlebabee said,

    November 17, 2008 at 3:04 am

    Mind candy, pure mind candy. I don’t know much about her, or what’s become of her since she wrote this, her blog has gone dormant this year, but she wrote this piece a couple of years ago and I found it in my searches. Amazing how absolutely spot-on it is.

    So many people say exactly as she does, aw, it’ll never happen. Consequences for our actions?? No way, we should be able to do whatever we want, whenever we want, and what’s it to you??

    It’s good to have almost the bird’s eye view of recent history when that’s been said and actually follow up on the consequences. You don’t get that kind of thing in the media at large.

  10. jesurgislac said,

    November 17, 2008 at 5:56 am

    But as G.K. Chesterton points out, people who don’t see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it:

    It follows that the people who oppose the right of same-sex couples to get married really shouldn’t be allowed to “reform marriage” in order to ban same-sex couples from it: it’s plain they don’t see the use of marriage as a social institution!

    Whereas I think it’s very evident that the LGBT communities in California and elsewhere see the use and value of marriage. The difference between a group of people campaigning to ban access to marriage, and a group of people campaigning to be able to get married, couldn’t be more clear, could it?

  11. Millie said,

    November 17, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Thank you for posting this.

  12. beetlebabee said,

    November 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    jesu–I think it could be argued that by stretching the definition of marriage to include everything it’s not, it’s effectively destroying it, actually.

  13. jesurgislac said,

    November 17, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Would be if anyone was trying to “stretch the definition of marriage to include everything”, but as no one in the equal marriage movement is trying to argue that marriage should “include everything”, we can hardly be said to destroy marriage – any more than a steak house is “destroyed” if it provides a mac-and-cheese option on the menu for vegetarians.

  14. beetlebabee said,

    November 17, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Jesu–I disagree. We already have equal options. Just not morally equal options.

  15. jesurgislac said,

    November 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I’m quite serious about the people who argue same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to get married clearly not appreciating the value and use of marriage as a social institution, by the way.

    These people:

    Don’t appreciate the value of marriage as a stable relationship within which to care for/bring up children, because they consistently argue that so many couples with children shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

    Don’t appreciate the value of marriage for the “mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity” – because they consistently argue that couples who want to provide each other with “mutual society, help and comfort” ought not to be allowed to marry.

    Don’t appreciate the value of marriage as an institution that values and promotes faithfulness to one partner – because they consistently argue that couples who want to pledge their lifelong fidelity one to each other in a supportive church or even before a civil authority, ought not to be allowed to marry.

    Above all: these people argue, consistently and menacingly, that the romantic notion that marriage is about love is wrong – that when two people fall in love with each other and want to tell the world, their family, and each other that they are joined together in love and friendship for life, and want to marry – they ought not to be allowed to do so.

    They argue, further, that the decision that the Supreme Court made in June 1967, that marriage is a civil right necessary for the orderly pursuit of happiness, is just wrong – that marriage isn’t about happiness, isn’t a civil right.

    These people are arguing – Maggie Gallagher did so to the point of foolishness, and so does Orson Scott Card – that marriage is only and exclusively about mutual interfertility.

    Not about mutual support, faithfulness, love, caring for children, caring for aged parents, making a family together – because all of these things apply, clearly and directly, to same-sex couples, too.

    So these people are destroying the institution of marriage – by pinning it down and carving it up and saying that it’s only, exclusively, about couples who can have children who are biologically both of theirs.

  16. beetlebabee said,

    November 17, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    See, I think you’re getting mired in the same thinking “A Libertarian View” addresses. You have no idea what changing marriage will do, so you drag down and disparage anyone who supports it instead of making a positive argument in your favor. You have no idea what changing marriage will do to this country. You can only guess. We can guess too, but history is on our side, as Jane so eloquently points out.

    Knock down, drag out cut and pastes are no replacement for facts Jesu.

  17. jesurgislac said,

    November 17, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    You have no idea what changing marriage will do

    Except we’re proposing less of a change than Maggie Gallagher and Orson Scott Card are: we are proposing that marriage shall be open to same-sex and mixed-sex couples, which is, as other countries have already found, not much of a change.

    Gallagher and Card propose that no one should be allowed to marry who is not capable of mutually engendering children, because that, to them, is what marriage is all about – all the other traditions of marriage as a social institution are to be wiped out completely.

    So: no woman past the menopause, or with a tubal ligation or a hysterectomy or who is otherwise incapable of having children can marry; nor can any man with a vasectomy or low sperm count or who is otherwise incapable of having children. Couples who are clear and honest about their intention to adopt rather than have biological children cannot marry. Not having children – even by mutual agreement – can become a mandatory cause for divorce, enforced by the state – since only couples with biological children can marry.

    Those are direct changes to society that are the result of this proposed change to marriage to ensure that all same-sex couples can be excluded: many mixed-sex couples will also be excluded. What further, far-reaching changes to society will occur as a result of this change? You don’t know… but they’re clearly going to be rather more extensive than merely allowing same-sex couples to wed, which makes no direct changes to society at all.

    You have no idea what changing marriage will do, so you drag down and disparage anyone who supports it instead of making a positive argument in your favor.

    I notice that you ignore every single one of the positive arguments I make about marriage here. Now that’s okay – you’re not obliged to respond to every comment someone makes – but you can hardly say I haven’t made positive arguments. You’ve just chosen to ignore them.

  18. Cathy Lim said,

    November 18, 2008 at 2:37 am

    The whole article was very insightful and extremely well thought-out. The comments and posts about it have been equally insightful (except for a few posts that seem to be missing the whole point — I think we all know who they are). The G.K. Chesteron quote was especially on the mark. Great analogy.
    For LDS readers of this blog, we most likely will be reminded of the many times we were taught (and now teach our children and students in classes at church) how we can choose our behaviors or actions but we cannot then choose what the consequences of those behaviors/actions will be. There is a natural consequence assigned to every natural law, and we must make our choices knowing that we will inevitably face the natural consequences. If you want a “good” outcome, you must choose the action that leads to that outcome, not choose an action that leads to a “bad” outcome and then protest that it was unfair.
    We cannot decide now as a portion of society to change the definition and function of marriage and expect the consequence of that change to go the exact direction we would LIKE it to go (well, some of us). The change will naturally go its own way, and the article posted by the Libertarian as well as the points made by Chesterton are fine reminders that our society may have no idea whatsoever what consequences we are signing up for as we act to change something that is deeply embedded in our history.
    It is a shame that more members of our society are not willing to think clearly through these issues, research, read and ponder, rather than jump on a “feel-good” bandwagon fueled by half-truths and media cheerleading.

  19. November 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    […] really I want to help make you aware of two very interesting post recently made.  The first was a link to libertarians  blog.  The second was a parallel to Alice in Wonderland.  If you […]

  20. November 19, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks for forwarding this article to my attention. Your reader, whom you’ve capstoned the article with, was entirely correct. The article sums up everything and very concisely.

    I am a “why is marriage a government institution anyway?” libertarian. Some have told me I’m an anarchist, which might be true as I’m getting to the point where it appears that government has little or no use at all outside of creating tyranny. I probably just need to stop reading my emails and websites for a few days and clear my head.

    Be that as it may, you’ve done an excellent job here.

  21. beetlebabee said,

    November 19, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I think we all have a little anarchist stripe. Don’t give in! ;-)

  22. November 19, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    […] 1:31 pm Filed under: LDS Church, Moral decline, Politics, Theology A friend sent me a long but very thorough article on the effects of changing social norms. It was interesting because it started with this, […]

  23. November 19, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  24. Adam said,

    November 19, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    I think that all utilitarian arguments, like those here, are starting from a false premise. The argument for/against gay marriage should have nothing to do with its effect on heterosexual marriage.

    Instead, it should be an argument about special privileges granted by the government. As long as the government is going to grant special privileges to those who are “married” those privileges shouldn’t be excluded to a particular sexual orientation. Or particular anything, really, including polygamy or polyamory.

    Ideally, the government wouldn’t grant any special privileges to anyone, but that’s another thing entirely.

  25. beetlebabee said,

    November 19, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Adam, isn’t that missing the point though? Evaluating the merits of same sex marriage on grounds separate from the intent of the institution of marriage is a waste of time. It’s more than a simple civil rights equality argument. It has consequences to children, family and society that have to be weighed since that was the reason for encouraging marriage to begin with.

  26. dancingqueen said,

    November 19, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Thank you! It is so refreshing to read something written by a person who actually is thinking through the whole issue rather than just jumping on the band wagon. Why doesn’t anyone in the media think through anything?!!!

  27. Kate Schmiett said,

    November 25, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    “..people who don’t see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it.”

    Oh, but those who are seeking marriage equality absolutely DO see the use of marriage. Otherwise, we would not be advocating for equal marriage rights. We might instead be lobbying for mandatory divorce. In THAT case, the arguments about destroying the institution of marriage might be apt.

    Most gay people I know grew up in healthy, heterosexual homes. You might, for personal reasons, think this is a lie, that gay people only emerge from dysfunctional families and that gayness is a symptom of this dysfunction, but no, it is true. Many even came from religious households. All throughout their formative years they witnessed the value of marriage. That it was inherently good to love someone else and to have others-friends, family, clergy- recognize and acknowledge that love.

    Secular, state sanctioned marriage is no longer about reproductive fitness. We have already “redefined” marriage several times, and the sky has not fallen down. I would not be allowed to marry my fiance if we had not legalized interracial marriage in this country, for example.

    I would postulate that the people whose marriages would be weakened by allowing heterosexual couples to be married should perhaps not be entering the institution of marriage anyway. If your love, trust, and devotion for another is altered and your marital intentions damaged by the union of two other consenting adults, whoever they may be, then perhaps that love and devotion was not strong enough to begin with.

  28. BlackFlag said,

    December 3, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    “You have no idea what changing marriage will do”


    But we do know what we have now. It it has not:
    -prevented single parenthood
    -ended poverty
    -solved family violence
    -ended war

    … and not a lot of other things too.

    When evaluating a social issue, the path of thought should not start or end on what ‘might’ happen. We cannot know the future.

    We should begin the journey of thinking from core, immutable principles – and then let what might be, be. If the principles are good and correct, the probability of the outcome will be good and correct.

    If we contradict our core principles, then the probability of the outcome will be ‘not good’.

    To contradict the principle of freedom, so to enforce some belief of marriage, will damage freedom everywhere. If we can justify perverting freedom for this cause, any cause is simply another justification away.

    Asking government to regulate marriage contradicts the principles of freedom.

    Let freedom be what it will be.

  29. Scooter said,

    December 16, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I appreciate the comments here, and continue to see why this is such a touchy topic. I think it is particularly difficult to analyze marriage as a social institution these days, so it is so easy to dismiss arguments that try to preserve it, and arguments for government involvement in the first place.

    Marriage is not just a private, emotional bond. It is and has fundamentally always been about procreating and linking generations under the most favorable and stable conditions. That of course isn’t its only function, but on a social (and biological) it functions to ensure the next generation is created, survives, and thrives. When it breaks down, society feels the burden. If government is to ever endorse something that benefits its citizenry as individuals and as a whole, marriage is a prime candidate. The fact that government does play a role in marriage acts as a reinforcer that marriage is important and valued.

    Marriage as an institution has struggled over the last 40 years particularly (though I think some positive trends have emerged as well, such as more equal partnership within the relationship) and it probably needs the government endorsement (esp. in light of how much of the entertainment and academic industries portray it). People are going to have children no matter what. Marriage is clearly the most promising setting (for the child and for society as a whole) in which to have children. This is not based on a religious or philosophical argument, it is based on compelling research–so compelling that the very progressive voices in the Family field have finally conceded the point. A governmental stance that is neutral or adversarial toward marriage will likely contribute to less marriage, more divorce, and more unwed parenthood–none of which has shown to benefit society but rather indicate the opposite. We are already seeing the effects of marital instability. Government did not invent marriage, but it plays a role in upholding it, supporting it, and working to protect the rights of citizens in matters that correspond with marriage, such as inheritance and custody (these are complicated issues that must be addressed in a civil society in which the actions of some can affect the outcomes for others).

    I too am on the fence in many ways about the ultimate outcome of changing marriage to incorporate same-sex couples, but I think the evidence is much stronger toward exercising caution, and I have yet to see compelling evidence for changing it that isn’t just full of basic platitudes about equality. As important as equality is, NOT having everything equal is often the greatest achievement of all. It’s what DOES give us freedom and individual expression. Equality must be carefully and thoughtfully applied–else it ends up destroying what is of value in the first place. But, I don’t begrudge those who want marriage to apply to same-sex couples (at least those with genuine desires to share in the benefits of marriage). I just don’t see a compelling society interest that offsets the more likely negative side effects that may not be felt NOW, but in future generations.

  30. beetlebabee said,

    December 16, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Scooter, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with Jane, that there are much bigger forces at work than the simplistic argument for equality connotes. I think it’s also of utmost importance to include in the weighing, those studies and evidences through research showing the practical disparity between the two forms of union. Traditional marriage and SS Civil Unions are not of equal value. Saying they are, just doesn’t make it so.

  31. December 20, 2008 at 2:31 am

    […] all of the kinds of consequences that come from this breakdown. This reminded me of a post made by Beetle Blogger that she referred to it as brain candy. In this post she shares a Libertarian view on the subject of legalizing same sex marriage. It is a […]

  32. beetlebabee said,

    January 23, 2009 at 4:13 am

    George Washington, said that society should use caution when changing fundamental government principles, no matter how pleasant sounding they are because changing a policy merely on a hypothesis, whim, or opinion creates a precedent of perpetual change and instability.

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