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Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

You Can Take Your Diverse Lifestyles and Stuff Them Up Your Toleration Hole
posted by Bathus

In his latest column, "The New Red-Diaper Babies," the New York Times' David Brooks has dreamed up a new age sounding name--natalism--for a phenomenon James Taranto had long ago and much more thoroughly described as the "Roe Effect." (See e.g., "Birds Do It, Bees Do It, Even GOPs Do It" or "Quantifying the Roe Effect".)

In a nutshell, Taranto's theory of the Roe Effect notes that, by aborting tens of millions of their own offspring, liberals have earned themselves a place on the Endangered Species List:
We base this [theory] on two assumptions. First, that liberal and Democratic women are more likely to have abortions. Second, that children's political views tend to reflect those of their parents--not exactly, of course, and not in every case, but on average. Thus abortion depletes the next generation of liberals and eventually makes the population more conservative. We call this the Roe effect, after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
In its fundamental observations, Brook's natalism theory is pretty much the exact mirror image of Taranto's Roe Effect. The Roe Effect emphasizes how abortion contributes to a declining liberal birthrate, while Brooks' "natalism" (a less threatening name for essentially the same theory) maintains a polite silence on the impact of abortion and instead emphasizes the fact that conservative voters tend to have more children than liberals:
You can see surprising political correlations. As Steve Sailer pointed out in The American Conservative, George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates.

In The New Republic Online, Joel Kotkin and William Frey observe, "Democrats swept the largely childless cities - true blue locales like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boston and Manhattan have the lowest percentages of children in the nation - but generally had poor showings in those places where families are settling down, notably the Sun Belt cities, exurbs and outer suburbs of older metropolitan areas."
These statistics are highly interesting, undeniably important, and will provide diverting work to secure the careers of hundreds of otherwise useless, bored, and unimaginative graduate students in contemporary political science departments across this great land for at least another decade. Perhaps one of them could address the nagging question of why liberals don't really seem to like children. But the portion of Brooks' column that inspired me to sit back down at the keyboard after a long hiatus was something rather less momentous that I noticed in his three closing paragraphs, especially the penultimate one:
Natalists are associated with red America, but they're not launching a jihad. The differences between them and people on the other side of the cultural or political divide are differences of degree, not kind. . . .

. . . .Like most Americans, they wonder how we can be tolerant of diverse lifestyles while still preserving the family institutions that are under threat.

What they cherish, like most Americans, is the self-sacrificial love shown by parents. People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war.
Now we all know that the main reason the Times hired Brooks was for him to serve as a token conservative voice in the cacophony of that liberal choir.

But the thing is, Brooks is not a conservative.

First of all, a real conservative, unlike Brooks, would never, ever, not in a million light years, write the cloying euphemism "tolerating diverse lifestyles," except as a most extreme form of sarcasm.

And no real conservative would ever be so mushy-headed to posit the particular tone of wonderment that Brooks attributes to "most Americans": "They wonder how we can be tolerant of diverse lifestyles while still preserving the family institutions that are under threat."

But more to the point of substance: Notice how the mild-mannered Mr. Brooks slyly tries to nudge the reader toward believing that in the minds of "most Americans" a concern for being "tolerant of diverse lifestyles" is somehow equal to a concern for "preserving family institutions." Yes, in Brooks' own mind, "tolerating diverse lifestyles" does indeed deserve consideration equal to that given to "preserving family institutions."

But that's not the way a real conservative thinks.

If presented a conflict between "tolerating diverse lifestyles" and "preserving family institutions," a real conservative wouldn't agonize over it the way Brooks pretends to. A real conservative would tell you, in two seconds, "To hell with 'diverse lifestyles'." After making that point clear from the start, if a real conservative thought you capable of receiving rational argument, he then would go on to explain patiently why, in the hierarchy of social goods, tolerating gay marriage, uh I mean "diverse lifestyles," can't rank anywhere near preserving family institutions. (But if a real conservative thought you incapable of reasoned discourse, he would tell you that you could take your "diverse lifestyles" and stuff them up your toleration hole.)

If the recent sweep of votes banning homosexual marriage, uh, I mean "diverse lifestyles," is any indication, "most Americans" aren't at all troubled by Brooks' dilemma, but instead agree whole-heartedly with the real conservatives.

But maybe I'm misinterpreting Brooks when he suggests that "most Americans" worry about how to "be tolerant of diverse lifestyles while still preserving the family institutions." Maybe the proper interpretation of the thing he's thinking "most Americans wonder" about is: "How the hell can we be so foolish to be contemplating even further undermining our fundamental social arrangements just to pander to the selfish demands of sodomites, uh, I mean 'practitioners of diverse lifestyles,' when our family institutions are already going to hell in a handcart?" If that's what Brooks meant, well then, I owe him an apology. But if, as I suspect, Brooks' real question in his own mind is, "How can we find a good way to convince those uneducated breeders to give in and accept homosexual marriage?" in that case, the New York Times needs to find a new token conservative.

posted by Bathus | 12/08/2004 02:00:00 AM
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Blogger P-BS-Watcher said...

For a different take on Brooks' column, see David Brooks -- Not Conservative but Right On

10:58 PM, December 09, 2004  
Blogger SIGIAN said...

Is it possible to be a conservative and to be in favor of gay marriage? I think it would depend upon your reasons. Brooks states in the UCLA Law article to which you linked:

"The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity.

When liberals argue for gay marriage, they make it sound like a really good employee benefits plan. Or they frame it as a civil rights issue, like extending the right to vote.

Marriage is not voting. It's going to be up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage. Not making it means drifting further into the culture of contingency, which, when it comes to intimate and sacred relations, is an abomination."

Brooks' view may be odd and idiosyncratic, but it's not totally illogical. He's saying that conservatives should demand that people make commitments to each other, abide by them, and thus strengthen society. As long as one can ignore the religious viewpoint that homosexuality is sinful, this is a reasonable approach to the issue.

Can one be a conservative without being religious or taking the religious view of homosexuality? If not, then conservatism must be a politico-religious ideology, not purely a political one. I'm not sure we, as conservatives, want to go there. At least I don't. There should be room in the movement for people who completely ignore religious teaching in their consideration of public policy, so long as they fully back the values that define political conservatism, including a belief in the societal primacy of interpersonal relations over the relationship of the government to the individual. Brooks, in his odd way, is arguing for just that: that society is best served by the creation of strong interpersonal relationships, and that since homosexuals aren't about to marry the opposite sex, society is best served if the marry each other. It's odd, but it's not totally illogical.

6:22 PM, December 10, 2004  
Blogger Bathus said...

SIGIAN, I'm endlessly fascinated (which is my polite way of saying, "I'm frustrated to tears") by the circle of thought incapable of comprehending the possibility that a person's opposition to gay marriage might not be the product of religious bias. In my case, you can find no basis for that assumption in anything I've written on the subject.

You quote Brooks that conservatives "should demand that people make commitments to each other, abide by them, and thus strengthen society." I'm all for "commitments." To the extent that they strengthen the bonds of society and are productive of human happiness, I encourage all types of commitments. But for the various types of commitments to have any real meaning or value, it is necessary to maintain distinctions between them, rather than lumping different types of commitments into a single social category. When society and law recognize a "committed relationship" as being of a distinct type (e.g., marriage) and worthy of special social and legal treatment--the relationships comprehended in that single type, though individually as different from each other as every snowflake is different, should somehow be connected to what some old Greek guys might have called a common "telos." They must be distinct from other types of "committed relationships" and must at some level be connected to an identifiable basis for attaching special social and legal benefits and burdens not accorded to other types of relationships.

When society and law grant special status to a particular type of social arrangement, the relationships comprehended thereby should have the same fundamental grounding and purpose. In other words, we shouldn't treat different types of "committed relationships" as if they were the same type of committed relationships. We shouldn't treat every type of committed relationship as if it were the same as what has heretofore been called "marriage."

Humans enter into all sorts of relationships that involve "commitments" with each other. Some of these "committed relationships" law and society recognize as "partnerships," others are recognized as "friendships," others as "family," others as "contracts," others as "clubs," still others are recognized as "communities" of one sort or another. All of these "committed relationships" carry with them some degree of, and different kinds of, social or legal status. The United States Marines is a group of human beings who have extraordinarily deeply committed relationships to each other. The mutual and exclusive commitment of the Marines to each other is recognized in law in some respects, and in many other respects honored through Marine social traditions. But though you will rarely find a group of human beings more exclusive and more committed to each other than the United States Marines, no one makes the mistake of calling the Marines a marriage.

But that's exactly the kind of mistake you make when you try to lump "committed" homosexual relationships into the same social category with the "committed" heterosexual relationships heretofore known as marriage. Let's leave God out of the argument. I do not accuse you of inadequate religious training, but of a failure to recognize the fundamental, distinct, and obvious grounding of the social institution of marriage in procreative human nature. Equally obviously, homosexual "marriage" can never be similarly grounded in procreative human nature. Just as with Brooks, while the notions of freedom, fairness, commitment and equality (for equality's sake) riddle your argument, the question of children, which is vital to an understanding of the institution heretofore known as marriage, is entirely absent from your speculations.

So when you use a word, "marriage" for example, to denote a special relationship deserving of special social and legal status, it is not enough simply to identify it, as Brooks does, as an "exclusive commitment of two persons." That concept is inadequately distinct to serve as the basis for separate social and legal status. The word "commitment" implies purpose. So you must go on to ask, "exclusive commitment for what purpose," for there are a multitude of possible purposes for forming an "exclusive commitment of two persons" that we would not recognize as "marriage." (Two business partners can enter an "exclusive commitment of two persons," but we do not called them "married.") Then once you have identified a "purpose" that justifies social and legal recognition for the "exclusive commitment" as a separate category of social relationship, then you must ask yourself whether the social "purpose" or "function" is sufficiently distinct from the social purpose of other similar relationships, such as friendship. And then once you have done all that hard work, you must bother yourself with the question of whether "exclusivity" of two person is essential to the purpose of the relationship. If there is no unsentimental reason that an exclusive commitment of three or more persons could not serve the same necessary social purpose you have identified as well as a relationship of only two, then you have no grounds for restricting marriage to only two persons.

Brooks at first seems fair and friendly when he encourages the development of new types of commitments, even though he seems perhaps a bit unlibertarian in urging us to "demand" that people make them. But before we do go around with Brooks "demanding" that people elevate their existing social arrangements into the be-all-and-end-all of a commitment, perhaps we should wonder for a moment whether it makes sense simply to create all these new commitments just for the sake of having more commitments, because we all agree that commitments are a good thing. Maybe we should wonder what these new commitments will be for, what ends they will serve, and how they will fit in with and affect for better or worse the commitments that we as a society have heretofore encouraged. Inventing new commitments, simply for the sake having more commitments available to choose from on the menu, doesn't strike me as a rational approach to social policy.

You write that it's "up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage." Well, my friend, there is nothing easier than to make an "important, moral case" for heterosexual marriage. I can do it in one word: children. More specifically, the procreation and well-rearing of children. Heterosexual marriage, while it surely promotes other goods and other ends, is uniquely suited for that purpose. And that is, so far as I can see it, the only firm justification on which to grant distinct special social and legal status to the institution now known as marriage. (See my post, "What's So Special About the Number 2?.") But it is not at all easy to make an important moral argument specifically for homosexual marriage, and even if you could succeed in making such an argument, that moral case will not be the same as the moral case for heterosexual marriage. That difference alone should tell you that heterosexual marriage and homosexual marriage should not be considered the same thing. But the fact is, once you take the procreation and rearing of children out the overall consideration, the grounding of marriage as a social institution inevitably becomes mushy, the limitation of marriage to two persons becomes logically impossible to sustain, and you find yourself relying on amorphous and easily sentimentalized notions like "love" and "commitment" and "exclusivity," which are wonderful things, but as concepts upon which to ground a fundamental social institution, lack the necessary clarity.

Marriage, as a social institution, is a very particular type of "committed relationship," rooted in procreative human nature. This simply cannot be ignored. Marriage is not "merely conventional," but is a conventional "blessing" that accords with and accommodates fundamental human nature. The limitation of marriage to a relationship between man and woman is not just by convention, but is also by nature. If you want to make a moral case for marriage as a social institution, special and distinct from all the other types of "committed relationships," then that moral case must be also be rooted in the procreative aspect of human nature. If you try to make a moral case for "marriage" without rooting it in the procreative aspect of human nature, what you end up with is a vague description of a "committed relationship" that is indistinguishable from, or a hodgepodge of, any number of other committed relationships.

So if you wish to indulge in the dubious experiment of attempting to create a wholly new institution to grant legal and social recognition to homosexual relationships, and if you can erect boundaries in the definition of those relationships to sufficiently mark them off from other social arrangements, and if you really can identify some distinct social purpose served by that new institution (one that causes no greater countervailing evil), and if you want to call that newly recognized arrangement a "civil union" or some such, I suppose the harm of it will be little--so long as you have sense enough to stop at that. However, if--in the obligingly egalitarian desire to attempt to render persons in unequal circumstances equal by ignoring the inherent natural differences between amazingly different things--you go on to lump your new arrangement in with the quite different relationship between a man and a woman that is grounded in the procreation of children, you will have gone too far in obliterating both the meaning and value of the fundamental social institution heretofore known as marriage.

By the way, your phrase, "societal primacy of interpersonal relations over the relationship of the government to the individual," while it has a nice ring to it, strikes me as a rather more modern and more absolute concept of conservatism than the one to which I adhere. Yes, I am a great believer in liberty, but your phrase more aptly describes what I call "licentious libertarianism," far removed from traditional conservative notions of what constitutes real "liberty." A free and just society does impose limits on the acts of an individual, even beyond those necessary to prevent him from directly harming his neighbor, and a truly free man submits himself to those limits. Lastly, I don't see what your elegant phrase brings to your side of the present argument, since it implies either (1) that, to avoid intruding on "interpersonal relationships," government shouldn't be in the business of "blessing" any marriage, or (2) that, to avoid favoring one type of "interpersonal relationship" above some other, government should bless as "marriage" without distinction whatever "interpersonal relationship" any two (or more) individuals mutually wish to receive that designation. Which is it? But the answer doesn't matter, because in either case, marriage would cease to exist, except in name only.

3:15 AM, December 11, 2004  
Blogger SIGIAN said...

A) I didn't say that you take a religious view of homosexuality. I asked if a conservative must.

B) You wrote: "You write that it's 'up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage.'" No. I was quoting Brooks.

For the record, I favor a compromise of allowing carefully-defined civil unions. I'm against gay "marriage" for almost precisely the reasons you mentioned. All I'm saying is that if a pundit like Brooks has some reason for wanting the use of the word "marriage" and if that reason has some logical connection with the conservative agenda (even if it's quite tenuous) then we oughtn't to automatically disown that pundit as a conservative.

You seemed to be accusing Brooks of supporting gay marriage for the same reasons liberals do. I read his piece and found that he had different reasons. He criticizes the liberal reasons as being based on seeing marriage as some sort of benefit plan. He proposes reasons that sound to me to be based on more conservative grounds. I think those reasons of his are odd but "not totally illogical". So I conclude that he shouldn't be disqualified as a conservative for having an odd view of gay marriage.

Do you want to insist on absolute litmus tests regardless of rationale? I doubt it.

I've read most of Brooks' columns since he joined the New York Times and I've listened to him debate Mark Shields on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer almost every week since he got that gig. He's certainly not a mainline conservative. (Your comment about his use of the phrase "tolerant of diverse lifestyles" was both amusing and cogent!) But if we're going to kick all people like Brooks into the Democratic Party we'll start losing elections.

As for New York Times and their choices of columnists, what can one say? You expect them to hire Bill Buckley? William Safire is also odd and idiosyncratic in his conservatism. You can probably find more reasons to strip him of his conservative credentials based on single columns he's written or single issue-positions he's taken than you could for Brooks. He was, after all, a Nixonian, and Nixon was hardly a conservative compared to Reagan. But Brooks and Safire at least provide readers of the NYT with SOME rational thought in the midst of their gaggle of moonbats led by Dowd and Krugman.

We should take our conservatives when and where we can find them, even if their credentials are not perfect. You had reason, I believe, to criticize Brooks, but not to defrock him.

7:26 AM, December 11, 2004  
Blogger Bathus said...

SIGIAN, it appears that there's much we see eye to eye on.

But at the risk of appearing to one of those obnoxious people who is always disappointed to find someone with whom he agrees . . . .

Since I had never mentioned religion in my argument, your question ("Must a conservative take a religious view of homosexuality?") necessarily assumes and implies that the view to which you were responding (i.e., my view) was surreptitiously religious, and furthermore that your assumption was justified because there can be no non-religious basis for opposing homosexual marriage: Since I myself didn't mention religion, one can only conclude that your question assumed that religion necessarily informed my position. If that wasn't your assumption, then why did you drag the straw man of religion into the argument?

As I said before, it is "endlessly fascinating" to me how people so much enjoy abusing religious opinions that they carry a spare one with them to every converstation, in case some absent-minded conservative has somehow forgotten to bring along one of his own.

In the context of our exchange, it was clear to me that when you asked:

"Can one be a conservative without being religious or taking the religious view of homosexuality? If not, then conservatism must be a politico-religious ideology, not purely a political one. I'm not sure we, as conservatives, want to go there. At least I don't."your implication was that my opinion was "religious."

I hope you do not think that the fact that my view and the "religious" view happen to agree on the question of homosexual marriage necessarily makes my view "religious." That would be like saying that a man who does not eat pork, because it disagrees with his digestion, is adhering to a Jewish dietary practice.

In any event, in answer to the question with which you injected religion into the discussion, "Can one be a conservative without being religious or taking the religious view of homosexuality?" I say, "Put your mind at ease and lay your fears to rest! Yes, not only can one be a conservative without being religious, but what you might find even more surprising is that one can also be a conservative who opposes homosexuality without being religious."

I know that is true, because I fit the description. So to avoid being "defrocked" myself, I must heartily agree with you that "there should be room in the [conservative] movement for people who completely ignore religious teaching in their consideration of public policy." Yes, "we should take our conservatives when and where we can find them." But only if they really are conservatives.

So my complaint about Brooks is not the strawman you want me to defend, i.e., that Brooks "ignores religious teaching in . . . consideration of public policy." My complaint against Brooks is that, in proposing to grant homosexual unions the same status as heterosexual ones, he ignores conservative teaching and ignores human nature itself, with the latter mistake being the defining error of contemporary liberal thought.

2:35 PM, December 11, 2004  
Blogger SIGIAN said...

My last word on this:

Immediately preceeding what you quoted me as writing, I wrote: "As long as one can ignore the religious viewpoint that homosexuality is sinful, this [Brook's POV] is a reasonable approach to the issue."

What I was saying was that the only absolute basis upon which to oppose homosexual marriage is that it's sinful. You never said it was sinful. I was examining the general relationship between being a conservative and this one issue.

So I'm sorry you misunderstood me, or that I wasn't specific enough.

Not religious, eh? Me neither. Tough being a conservative these days without being, isn't it? We should discuss that some time.

4:46 PM, December 11, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bathus: child bearing and rearing historically precede the institution of marriage. Although I wholeheartedly agree that in most cases this institution is best suited for this purpose, there are still plenty of cases where unmarried individuals are doing it better than some married ones. On the other hand there are plenty of married couples that never have, and even never intended to have children. I always loved children, and always wanted to have my own. However, this was not the major reason why I got married, and had I not married, I still would have had a child eventually. The fact that I see my current situation of being married with a child as an optimal one, is beside the point.

A question: why does the government has to be in the marriage sanctioning business in the first place? As I see it, this is a relic from the period when the King and the Church were the same, i.e. representatives of God on Earth. Should it not be up to the individuals and their churches to decide what kinds of contracts they enter, leaving the government (i.e. the courts) to dealing with those contracts like all other contracts?

And lastly: I have to admit that I have never met a non-religious person who opposes (not merely dislikes) homosexuality, and can explain it rationally. Are you one?

5:09 PM, December 14, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to sign. (I gave up on registering with Blogger. And Yahoo either, for that matter. Something or other with my cookies...)


5:12 PM, December 14, 2004  
Blogger SIGIAN said...

Alisa: though you addressed your comment to Bathus, I'm also non-religious (an atheist, in fact) and so will try to respond.

I "oppose" homosexuality in the sense that I wish it didn't exist. I don't condemn homosexuals, don't want to lock them all up, and sincerely wish them happiness in their sexual proclivities.

What do I have against homosexuality in a general sense? It is unnatural. While individuals of other animal species engage in same-sex sexual activity and arousal, only homosexual humans (so far as I know) engage in this activity exclusively, as a replacement for heterosexuality, and to orgasm.

When same-sex bonding is present in other species, it is usually part of a package of adaptive behaviors that contribute to social cohesion or communal child-rearing ability. In humans, homosexual activity among males, as practiced today in the United States and other advanced societies, has none of these adaptational benefits.

In nature, homosexuality is sometimes violent, and related to aggression. That practice is adaptive, but certainly not something we'd want to emulate. Thankfully, such emulation is rare.

If practicing homosexuality, or fully tolerating the practice in a culture, were completely harmless, then one should be agnostic about it, not oppose it. Opposition would then imply personal distaste or prejudice. But is homosexuality entirely harmless? Clearly, there are health risks to both parties, at least in male homosexuality. (The sapphic variety is really much different, and would require an entirely different response to your question.) Beyond the individuals personally involved, the issue is trickier. Does society benefit more from allowing homosexuals to practice their proclivities freely, or would we all be better off if homosexuality simply did not exist?

Again, I have no desire to inhibit anyone from doing as they will in this regard, and I'm not interested in "curing" any homosexuals. But if I could simply snap my fingers and erase homosexuality from the human race, condition, and history, would I?

I think, but can't be sure, that heterosexuals are generally happier than homosexuals. Maybe this is due to them not being discriminated against. So be it. If I could magically snap my fingers and make all human races physically indistinguishable, so that discrimination on the basis of color or other physical attribute were impossible, would I? I think I'd be awfully tempted. I would not want to eliminate all diversity, but physical appearance is (or supposedly should be) the least valuable aspect of human diversity.

If there were no homosexuality there'd be no discrimination against homosexuals. Is that a net gain? I don't know. Homosexuals are disproportionately represented, for reasons I can't fathom, among history's great creative minds. But can I not "oppose" homosexuality, per se, without opposing whatever aspect of mind it is that makes some homosexuals unique contributors to our art and culture?

Bottom line: I think humans evolved via essentially Darwinian processes. Darwinian evolution is extremely messy, which is why humans get backaches and arthritis, have vestigial organs, and great difficulties living in modern concentrated communities. I can't help thinking that homosexuality is, like these other conditions, either a nonadaptive artifact of the evolutionary process or a nonadaptive side effect of some related adaptation. Humans are uniquely sexual in many ways, and in the course of evolving our sexuality the process seems to have spawned some nonadaptive individuals. Homosexuality may be less harmful than some others, like zoophilia, necrophilia or masochism, but I consider it to be in the same class of deviations. I certainly oppose those others. Should I not oppose homosexuality simply because more people practice it?

Obviously my "opposition" is purely theoretical. When it comes to public policy, I try to be practical. It seems to me, for instance, that the greatest good would be had by allowing civil unions that confer all the benefits of marriage except those related to adopting children, but eschewing use of the actual word "marriage" to describe this contract. I know any number of very religious folks who consider homosexuality a sin but also subscribe to this POV. Smart people can, when necessary and appropriate, divorce their public policy thinking from their religious or emotional approaches to issues, and support compromises for the greater good of society.

You asked why government is in the marriage business and went on to ask, "Should it not be up to the individuals and their churches to decide what kinds of contracts they enter, leaving the government (i.e. the courts) to dealing with those contracts like all other contracts?"

Marriage is not like all other contracts. In fact, there are many different kinds of contract. Many contracts are made between individuals and government. The social contract is an unwritten one binding all of us to our government. Adoption is a sort of contract. Should government have no regulatory role in that, and simply allow free-market adoption? As you correctly noted, historically child-rearing predated marriage. But marriage is very, very old. Essentially as old as human civilization. There's a reason for that, and a reason marriage has, for as long as there have been governments, a subject of governmental interest. The family structure was among the first forms of human government, and all subsequent developments in societal organization were built on that foundation. To suggest that government, which has always been in the "marriage business" should now get out, is to suggest that human societal organization has outgrown the need for the foundations upon which it has been built. Has it? That's the subject for a whole 'nother blog, but the short answer, IMHO, is "no".

12:06 PM, December 16, 2004  

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