Sunday, June 21, 2009

A response to quantamos

Quantamos took up my challenge and posted a response to my earlier post about gay marriage. It was long enough and well-written enough that it raised sufficiently legitimte points that it deserved a considered response, hence this separate posting.


fine. i'll comment. we'll see what you can do to assuage my queasy twaddle. good luck!


Thanks.


historically, fecundity was a matter of national security, since it was important to get lots of children to fill your battle lines, factories, voting booths, and to provide social security for the elderly.


It was actually even more important than that. Until not too long ago (a few tens of thousands of years) fecundity was vital not just to the survival of nations (because there weren't any) but to the survival of the entire species. That is why we have instincts hard-wired into our brains that drive humans -- even gay ones (I'll get to that in a moment) -- to reproduce. Our not-so-distant ancestors who lacked these drives didn't leave many offspring. Halting reproduction is not an idea that reproduces well.

But, to understate the case considerably, times change. The human species has in a very short span of time (a few thousand years) gone from being just another contender in the game of life to being its undisputed champion. The survival of our species is no longer under serious threat from any quarter except ourselves. To the contrary, we have been so successful that we are the predominant threat to the survival of nearly every other species on earth. And indeed, increasing our numbers beyond the carrying capacity of the planet is a very real possibility (some think we're already there).

So reproduction need not be attended to with the same urgency as it once was. Unfortunately, we are still left with the instincts, intuitions and social norms that evolved back in the day.

But even leaving that aside, your next assertion:

gay marriage takes two families out of the pool.

is simply not true. First, gay people can and do reproduce. Gay women can do so through artificial insemination, and gay men can do so through surrogacy, both of which are widely accepted means of heterosexual reproduction in cases of infertility. But this misses a much more important point: producing a baby is only the first (and arguably the easiest) step in a much longer and more difficult process. Human babies require years of care before they are able to survive on their own. That's the reason marriage is supposed to be a long-term commitment. It has nothing to do with making babies; it has everything to do with raising them. And gays are just as capable (in my experience often more so) of raising children as straight people. So the truth is the exact opposite of what you say: the shortage of resources is not babies; we've got babies aplenty. What there is a shortage of is couples who are ready, willing and able to raise those babies to adulthood. So it is not gay marriage that "takes families out of the pool", is is the prohibition on gay marriage that has this effect!

By the way, if you really believe that reproduction is such an urgent societal imperative that it should override people's right to marry whom they love, then it follows that having children ought to be required of all married couples. But this is obviously a political non-starter, which proves that virtually no one really takes this argument seriously.


i understand that japanese, europeans, and israelis worry about their demographics all the time, and in some sense, they're a forecast for our future. our country currently has the benefit of imported labor, but how much of the financial burden for our elderly will they be willing to bear? the pyramid scheme we call Social Security is already scheduled to blow up. in your previous post you said "Both are slowly but surely dying, and good riddance." (emphasis mine). surely you do not intend to propose that as a solution to the health care questions i'm raising. as a very wealthy man in a very wealthy country who has no concerns about your future, have you considered that you're committing "selection bias?"


Absolutely. But this is a separate issue. As I've already pointed out, when the topic at hand is gay marriage, reproduction is a red herring. I've actually been meaning to write about this. Maybe this will motivate me to finally do it. (It's a very complicated topic.)


here's what I'm queasy about. nobody's figured out a (sustainable) way to draw more money out of a pool than you put into it, no matter how big or complicated that pool is.


That's not true either. Economics is not a zero-sum game. If I have something that you want and I don't, and you have something that I want and you don't, and we make an exchange, then we have magically created value out of thin air. Likewise, technology can create more value than the sum of the parts that went into it.


this is why many gov'ts provide incentives to encourage the production of children of their own, because migrant workers are maybe not going to be willing to foot the bill. i'm not sure that it's fair to allow gay people to get those incentives, or to gain full access to social security if they've been unwilling to contribute as much as others through the hard work of raising children. it makes me suspect that gay marriage is fundamentally a selfish act. it's double jeopardy; they won't have children to bear some of the direct responsibilities so their care will cost more, and they won't have children paying into the system as a part of their indirect responsibilities.


Here again, if you really want to make this argument, you have to take into account the fact that many gay couples raise children and many straight couples (my wife and me included) don't. In any case, the remedy for this is not to make gay marriage illegal, but to change the rules about who is eligible for social security (and I think you'll find that's a political non-starter as well).


so will gay marriage raise my taxes to pay for elderly gays who draw more from the system than they put in?


No more than straight marriage raises your taxes for elderly straights who draw more from the system than they put in. Being gay has nothing to do with it.


the other historical purpose for marriage was to provide protection for women; financial, legal, and physical. our individualistic society has, it seems, obviated the need for this to some extent. but is it gone and will it stay away? i'm not sure, but i don't know enough to comment more on this.


I think that's wise ;-)


i'm worried that this whole issue is merely foolish populist rage at a time when scientists are prohibited from objectively studying and producing facts about the long term effects of this on society. so we do agree that there is "no demonstrable harm in allowing gays to marry" because the one thing activist groups accomplish for sure is to eliminate objectivity.


Now you're sounding like a conspiracy theorist. You acknowledge that there is no evidence that gay marriage harms society, but attribute this to unknown dark forces that prevent scientists from studying the matter and uncovering the diabolical truth. If there were a diabolical truth to be discovered there is nothing preventing the Mormon church from taking the hundreds of millions of dollars it puts into political campaigns and instead funding scientific studies to uncover it.


thank God we have bigots who stand in the way when crowd mentality takes over! i WANT the law to move at a glacial pace.


Are you familiar with Martin Luther King's famous letter from the Birmingham jail? I'll quote the relevant part for you:


We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was "well timed," according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This "wait" has almost always meant "never." We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."



finally, i don't understand why people think it's so important for the gov't to play a regulatory role in their interpersonal relationships. what's the point in demanding the right to give up your rights? let gay couples sign contracts to accomplish the same thing! maybe you're not worried about what i just wrote, and you don't believe the gov't has a stake in the institution of marriage. if you believe that the historical motivations for marriage are obsolete, then shouldn't we pull the gov't out of it all together?


I'd personally be all for abolishing government recognition of marriage altogether and just having civil unions for everyone, but that's yet another political non-starter.


thanks for giving me the opportunity to solidify some of my thinking on this issue.


My pleasure. Thanks for having the courage to stand up for your beliefs.

24 comments:

quantamos said...

So the truth is the exact opposite of what you say: the shortage of resources is not babies; we've got babies aplenty.

Go tell that to the Japanese! Obviously over population is a global problem, but locally, it's a different story. Don't count on Chinese or Indian babies paying for American geriatric care in the future.

First, gay people can and do reproduce.

Fine. Go find me the data about the average number of children raised in a gay family (and a straight family for extra credit), and the average number of children per couple enrolled necessary to keep a system like Social Security solvent. I'll even let you factor in the magical non-zero-sum contributions from technology.

quantamos said...

Thanks for having the courage to stand up for your beliefs.

I thought I avoided anything that has to do with any beliefs...

Bruce said...

Fine. Go find me the data about the average number of children raised in a gay family...

Let's pretend Ron or someone went and found this information. Further, let's pretend that it matches (what I think are) your expectations -- that gay couples raise fewer children, on average.

Banning gay marriage isn't going to magically turn gay people into straight baby factories. So how does preventing gay couples from marrying fix this "problem"?

Ron said...

> Go tell that to the Japanese!

Huh? Have the Japanese legalized gay marriage? That's news to me.

> Go find me the data about the average number of children raised in a gay family (and a straight family for extra credit), and the average number of children per couple enrolled necessary to keep a system like Social Security solvent.

What difference does that make? Gays aren't the source of that "problem", my wife and I are: we have no children, and we aren't going to. Explain to me how keeping gay marriage illegal is going to "help." (BTW, do you seriously believe that keeping gay marriage illegal *encourages* gay people -- or anyone else for that matter -- to have more children? Come on, I know you're not that crazy.)

> I thought I avoided anything that has to do with any beliefs...

I didn't mean belief in the sense of faith, I meant it in the sense simply of position or view.

quantamos said...

Huh? Have the Japanese legalized gay marriage? That's news to me.

No. You're missing or ignoring my point.

My intention here is not to make definitive claims about what we as society should or should not do. I am simply trying to demonstrate that, as I stated in my first comment,

as far as I can tell, all positions are far more nuanced than anybody admits publicly.

I didn't think you'd have a direct answer. In the meantime, I've been asked to vote on issues that I don't understand, and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I'm queasy.

Don Geddis said...

quantamos wrote: "let gay couples sign contracts to accomplish the same thing!"

That's actually not feasible. Civil "marriage" is basically a short cut for a huge number of contracts and rights, that are available in no other way.

A person gets in a serious car accident and is in the hospital. Only "immediate family" are allowed to visit.

The patient takes a turn for the worse. Doctors discuss ending life support and organ donation. "Immediate family" has the last word on such decisions.

A couple is together for decades, but then decides to terminate their relationship. What are the rules that govern the severing of their assets?

This is all without even mentioning children -- apparently your only concern -- and you have yet to acknowledge that children (whether artificial, surrogate, or adopted) are also a common factor in gay relationships.

So. For thousands of years, there has been societal consensus on the "fair" resolution of each of these issues (medical, financial, children) in the context of a marriage. Why do the same arguments not apply to gay couples who happen to be in the same situations?

(The answer is obvious, by the way: of course the moral and fair thing to do is offer the same outcomes to gay couples as straight ones. But gay sex -- especially between two males -- very commonly makes straight people -- again, especially straight males -- extremely uncomfortably and queasy. It just feels yucky to even think about it. All the objections are post-hoc rationalizations that follow from this gut emotional reaction. And that's basically the same source as all bigotry.)

Ron said...

> No. You're missing or ignoring my point.

No, I am not missing your point, I am saying that your point is invalid. There is no link between gay marriage and demographics. The issue of demographics, which is highly inflammatory, complex, and controversial, is therefore a red herring.

> as far as I can tell, all positions are far more nuanced than anybody admits publicly.

Yes, indeed. And I suspect you are not being entirely up front about the reasons behind your position.

> I didn't think you'd have a direct answer.

A direct answer to what? To your point about demographics? I don't know how much more direct I can get: it's a red herring. Show me some actual evidence that legalizing gay marriage will have catastrophic economic consequences and we can re-open this line of discussion. But until then this idea is sheer fantasy, and I strongly suspect a cover for your real motivations, which you are too ashamed to admit in public because you know in your heart of hearts that they are wrong.

> In the meantime, I've been asked to vote on issues that I don't understand, and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I'm queasy.

There's nothing wrong with being queasy. Heck, there are some aspects of the situation that make *me* queasy. But there is a lot wrong with depriving your fellow man of rights that you reserve for yourself simply because you feel queasy. That's the insidious thing about evil: the people who perpetrate it very rarely think that's what they are doing. They always have a good excuse: "I was just following orders" or "I was protecting the homeland." That doesn't make causing unnecessary pain (which is exactly what Proposition 8 does) any less evil. (And by the way, "It makes me feel queasy" is a particularly poor excuse.)

quantamos said...

> I strongly suspect a cover for your real motivations, which you are too ashamed to admit in public because you know in your heart of hearts that they are wrong.

Ron, I have done my very best to present unbiased, common ground arguments, and you respond with ad hominem attacks? Strike 3. And this is after I tried to warn you to stay away from guessing my beliefs! I will take my attempts to understand the issues elsewhere.

Bruce, I hope my previous post made clear that I'm just trying to ask the questions that I haven't heard anybody else asking, without necessarily having answers.

Don, I agree that current laws might not be flexible enough to be adequate. But we can improve the system as we see fit. For example, my "immediate family" is scattered 7,500 miles away, so I'd like to have a way to preapprove trusted friends for hospital visits. My point was whether it wouldn't be better to let the gov't design appropriate legal, fair contracts for people to sign, but nothing more. Religious people are concerned about the gov't usurping their role, so my idea seems like a nice libertarian compromise. Your question about children was addressed in my challenge statement starting with "Fine...". I'm attempting to assess fairness on an economic basis, to which I'd like you to respond with data and not references to how "yucky" you think I feel.

Ron said...

> you respond with ad hominem attacks

No, that was not an attack, ad hominem or otherwise. It was merely a guess about your state of mind, which is fair game because this is a *moral* issue we're talking about. This is about *love*, not economics. You of all people should realize what a colossal *moral* mistake it is to use economic arguments in this debate.

By the way, I have really done my best to confine my responses to what you actually wrote, but I cannot change the fact that you once told me what your beliefs are, and you never asked me to hold that information in confidence. To the contrary, one element of your beliefs as you explained them to me at the time was that you are morally obligated to make other people aware of your beliefs. And you've never been shy about it before. Anyone who is even slightly motivated can find out many of the relevant aspects of your beliefs by going through the record on my blog. So the fact that you suddenly want to take your beliefs out of play is remarkable and relevant and you can't legitimately fault me for making a comment about it.

By the way, I am more than willing to have this discussion on your terms. As you may have noticed me alluding to above, there are *Biblical* arguments for legalizing gay marriage. But if we're going to go there you have to take the initiative in part because I respect your wish to keep your beliefs out of it, and also because I don't want to have to make arguments based on guesses.

Don Geddis said...

quantamos said: "My point was whether it wouldn't be better to let the gov't design appropriate legal, fair contracts for people to sign, but nothing more."

I'm curious what you think a civil marriage actually is. The government says nothing at all about the ceremony, any vows, etc. A civil marriage is simply a keyword, which is referenced in thousands of subsequent laws (such as who has medical power of attorney for a non-responsive patient). The whole collection of such laws is summarized in one fell swoop by, "we got married".

How is what you are proposing any different than that? What benefit is there to attempting to make a new, separate category, with exactly the same consequences?

"Religious people are concerned about the gov't usurping their role."

Again, the government laws only deal with the consequences to other government laws. Just as an example: the Catholic church doesn't permit divorces, but the civil marriage does. What happens when a Catholic couple divorces? They are prohibited from remarrying within the Catholic church. The laws on civil divorce make no attempt at all to overrule the desires of the Catholic church in this matter.

"I'm attempting to assess fairness on an economic basis"

To be honest, your question is not being taken seriously because this seemed like such a transparent rationalization.

If you really mean it seriously, you have to first support the premises of your question. For example, are additional children a (marginal) net cost, or net benefit, to future society? The answer is far from clear, given today's world population, and likely depends on the particular career (and consumption patterns) of the child. You make an unwarranted assumption that, without children, a given individual becomes a net cost to society over their lifetime. This logic, taken to an extreme, suggests a Ponzi scheme, where human society only works as long as you have unsustainable growth, and then someday all society must collapse.

Also, you've never addressed the clear conflict (in your comments on children) between straight couples that choose not to have children (or perhaps post-menopausal women that get married), vs. gay couples that do have children.

In short, your point doesn't make economic sense, and even if it did, the tie to prohibit gay marriage is so tenuous that it's hard to take you seriously. (If children were an existential crisis for society, then we ought to have laws directly about that, and not these bizarre indirect laws about marriage.)

I also note that Bruce tried to humor you above. He (hypothetically) took you seriously, and asked:

"let's pretend that gay couples raise fewer children, on average. Banning gay marriage isn't going to magically turn gay people into straight baby factories. So how does preventing gay couples from marrying fix this "problem"?"

You didn't answer, and yet your whole objection to gay marriage (which you seem to agree makes sense from a contractual standpoint) is about children. So one would presume that you had thought about this connection before, and that's why you present it as a justification for a gay marriage ban.

Yet it seems now that you have no answer. So all of your discussion about children is a red herring.

Is it any wonder that people suspect your actual motivations are hidden (namely, you think gay people are yucky, just like I suspect most straight males do), and that your claimed justifications don't need to be addressed seriously?

quantamos said...

Ron, you're the one (and Don) who keeps bringing up moral or emotional arguments, which I have been ignoring. Why? Partly because I honestly don't know what I believe, second just how far do you think we'd get arguing morality anyway, and third, you're missing the point in the next paragraph. You're wrong, I'm not ashamed, but somehow you're also right, I'm not shy. However, I only engage arguments narrow enough that I think I can win (or at least not lose), when I have time. You invited me to comment, and I did, but I'm unwilling to address issues that I'm not prepared for.

You asserted "that there is *no* legitimate argument against gay marriage whatsoever", and on that basis you accuse everybody who opposes it of being a bigot. Sounds like a challenge to me... Therefore, assuming you'll permit me to view my tax returns as a legitimate topic to argue or vote about, I've tried to see if I could make you eat your words, while playing by your rules. I'm sure you believe that there's nonnegative long term economic impact to gay marriage. But I'm skeptical, as always, by definition of who I am, and I think I've found a connection. You used the words "no" and "whatsoever" and you added two '*', so even if you think the connection I found is minor, then you still have to admit you "misspoke." This would mean that maybe you need to reevaluate who you're calling a bigot!

Don, why does the gov't provide tax benefits to married couples? Presumably not out of the goodness of their congressional hearts, so I'm not sure that the benefits should necessarily be transferable. All that would be settled if the gov't provides zero net financial incentives for marriage, which I don't believe is the case.

You then said:

> You make an unwarranted assumption that, without children, a given individual becomes a net cost to society over their lifetime. This logic, taken to an extreme, suggests a Ponzi scheme, where human society only works as long as you have unsustainable growth, and then someday all society must collapse.

Warmer... warmer... I'll rewrite and clarify my question and post it later tonight.

Don Geddis said...

quantamos asked: "Don, why does the gov't provide tax benefits to married couples?"

Tax logs just exist; they don't really come with justifications. And if you've ever watched legislation actually being made ... well, there's an old saying about that, and the making of sausages. Politics is rarely as well-justified as we all wish to believe.

All that said, my understand of the tax laws for filing jointly, is that they are basically to address what was the common situation of a high-income man marrying a low- or no-income woman, and becoming a single household. (Or perhaps the woman had a job, but gave it up to keep the home and raise the family.)

The basic idea is that the marriage has created a single entity, and the two people are sharing the single salary equally. So, rather than tax the high-income sole wage earner at high rates (and tax the non-working partner not at all), instead "filing jointly" allows the couple to be taxed essentially as though each one earned half the income (which is how they are using it anyway). I.e., at lower tax rates.

Note that the tax code only works this way if the incomes are very different. My understanding is that if two people with roughly comparable incomes get married and start filing jointly, their tax burden actually goes up. There is a marriage "penalty" in the tax code, if you are not one of the "standard" (in the past, anyway) partnerships of a high-income spouse joined to a low-income spouse.

(Disclaimer: I am not a tax attorney.)

In any case, I don't think the joint filing tax code in the US has anything to do with your point, which seems to be a future demographic fear and a desire to encourage more children.

Could be wrong, I suppose. But I've never heard any evidence supporting your claim.

Ron said...

> I honestly don't know what I believe

OK, fair enough. You seemed to know when we first met, but I guess things change. (BTW, feel free to contact me privately if you think that would help.)

> just how far do you think we'd get arguing morality anyway

I don't know. Why don't we try it? What have we got to lose?

> You asserted "that there is *no* legitimate argument against gay marriage whatsoever", and on that basis you accuse everybody who opposes it of being a bigot. Sounds like a challenge to me...

Indeed. But it was not directed at you specifically. You're the one who chose to pick up the gauntlet. (I'm glad you did, by the way.)

> I'm sure you believe that there's nonnegative long term economic impact to gay marriage.

Yes, and I can cite actual data to support that view. But I still think it's a red herring, so I won't. Suppose I could make a strong case that re-instituting slavery would improve the GDP. Would that justify re-instituting slavery?

BTW, your argument falls apart even on its own terms. In Japan, gay marriage is illegal and in the Netherlands it's legal. But Japan has a shrinking population (which you think is bad) while the Netherlands population is exploding. So even if we were to accept all of your premises the conclusion would *still* be that we should legalize gay marriage!

> so even if you think the connection I found is minor, then you still have to admit you "misspoke."

Absolutely not. Nothing you have said has swayed me one iota. I stand by everything I said (except the bit I've already apologized for). Your arguments are completely specious, as can easily be seen by drawing the analogy to race. Even if you are right and legalizing gay marriage would have disastrous economic consequences that *still* would not justify keeping gay marriage illegal, any more than keeping slavery legal would be justified if abolishing it could be shown to have disastrous economic consequences. And this is not just a hypothetical thought experiment. That exact argument was made for over 100 years, and was a direct cause of the American Civil War.

> This would mean that maybe you need to reevaluate who you're calling a bigot!

It would if you made a legitimate argument. But so far everything I've heard from you -- and everyone else on the side of keeping gay marriage illegal -- is completely indistinguishable to me from the arguments that were made in favor of slavery and segregation back when those were the issues of the day. And if favoring slavery and segregation by reason of circumstance isn't bigotry then nothing is. I don't see any reason to use any other word just because the stakes this time around may not be quite so high.

quantamos said...

i finally finished working out my model in mathematica, and i think it's giving the expected asymptotes... now i just need to write it up!

i'm mentioning this just because i might not, as i previously promised, finish it tonight! :-)


in the meantime, to "nibble at the bait", as it were...


Don, the gov't doesn't care if I pay your taxes or vice versa. on the other hand, i don't think it's fair if people can manipulate their tax bracket in this way, even if the concept of tax brackets is fair in the first place. but you're right, this paragraph is addressing the third point i made in my initial post, and not the first point, which i'm working on clarifying and reposting.


Ron, I don't remember what I said before, on this specific topic at least. And anyway, I see a divergence between what is wrong, and what the gov't should legislate.

>I don't know. Why don't we try it? What have we got to lose?

Time.

> Indeed. But it was not directed at you specifically.

I understand. That's why I ignore most of what you type, and only pick out the juicy bits. :-P

> Yes, and I can cite actual data to support that view.

Go for it.

>as can easily be seen by drawing the analogy to race

I don't agree that this analogy is valid. Maybe I should have addressed this earlier, since people keep bringing it up. A lot of people argue that homosexual activity is immoral, but nobody ever has argued that being of one race or another is immoral. For women's rights, nobody has ever argued that being a woman is evil. By "nobody" I exclude commonly recognized crazies as candidates. But I do see that if the analogy is valid, then obviously it's hard to argue against gay marriage.

Ron said...

> Time.

Well, no one is putting a gun to your head. If you have more important things to do don't let me keep you from them.

> Go for it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage#Economic_effects_on_the_economy_as_a_whole

> I don't agree that this analogy is valid.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

> A lot of people argue that homosexual activity is immoral, but nobody ever has argued that being of one race or another is immoral.

You're committing a category error here. *Being* a member of a race is analogous to *being* homosexual, which all but the most rabid right wing nut cases (like the Westboro Baptist Church) concede is not in and of itself immoral. Homosexual *marriage* is analogous to interracial marriage, which many people have historically argued is immoral. The Book of Mormon, for example, is pretty unambiguous about this:

"And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done." (2 Nephi 5:21 or thereabouts).

The Mormons were at the forefront of the campaign to keep interracial marriage illegal back in the day. It is no accident that the Mormons are at the forefront of the campaign to make gay marriage illegal today.

quantamos said...

Well... i defend my thesis on monday... so i'm getting nervous about spending too much time now. but i'll probably have more time this summer... I'll take a look at the economic data later, except that I do need to point out that it's the long term effects that are relevant.

But, moving on to the validity of the analogy. I already considered crazies in my statement, but you skipped over the most important word of my sentence, which was "activity". I've never talked to a mormon about this, so I can't comment on what they believe.

Ron said...

> you skipped over the most important word of my sentence, which was "activity"

No, I didn't. You compared homosexual *activity* (and let's be clear, the activity we're talking about is *getting married*. The right of consenting adults to engage in homosexual sex is already established law.) to "being of one race or another". You compared an activity with a state of being. That is a category error.

Don Geddis said...

It seems to me that the thought process goes like this: homosexual activity is immoral, and society ought to discourage it. But because of those wacky liberals, it isn't politically possible to prohibit homosexual activity at this time.

Now this secondary issue of gay marriage comes up. Surely that ought to be opposed as well, because it's moving law in the wrong direction. It is yet another step to legitimize homosexual activity, when really our goal is to prohibit it.

So of course we need to be against gay marriage. If it passed, it would be merely another step we'd need to overcome on the way to prohibition.

Ron said...

> homosexual activity is immoral, and society ought to discourage it

Even if you believe that (I know you don't, but I also know that many people do) it does not follow that using the law is the most effective means to discourage a behavior. There are mountains of historical evidence the prohibition doesn't work.

> because of those wacky liberals, it isn't politically possible to prohibit homosexual activity at this time

Wacky liberals? Lawrence v. Texas was decided in 2003 and the vote was 6-3. You can't blame that on wacky liberals. Privacy in the bedroom is now bedrock law.

BTW, I do not doubt that many people think exactly the way that you say that they think. I also think that most of them know in their heart of hearts that they are wrong, because once you start down the road of imposing your views on others there is no principled place to stop before you get to the Westboro Baptist Church. There is one thing to be said for the WBC folks: at least they aren't afraid to stand up for what they believe.

quantamos said...

Sorry for not posting my material yet... it takes time if you want to include reasonable reference data. And, I'm having second thoughts about which points I want to follow through with... On the other hand, comments w/o data take much less time!

My point was that we don't even have to worry about whether society should discourage something they think is immoral. As I posted before, it's not necessarily clear which immoral/harmful/mistakes we should prohibit with laws. Marijuana, smoking, alcohol are better topics to use in exploring this because, well, it's obvious that choice is involved.

So let's just all agree that it's ok for the gov't to be agnostic to what happens in ppls bedrooms.

Returning to the analogy, let's run through the argument more completely. Let homosexuality be legally equivalent to being black, being a woman, being a pedophile, insanity, being irresponsible, or being violent, and let's prohibit the gov't from penalizing people based on who they *are*. I'm throwing those extra things in there to make a point because I think some people have stronger "genetically based temptations relative to particular cultural standards" to deal with. Even if the law doesn't prohibit certain genetic characteristics, that doesn't mean we have to give them special exceptions or exemptions based on what they do. The difference here is that nobody ever has argued that being black or being a woman is wrong, whereas lots of people have said that the other things are wrong. Maybe being black is correlated with crack, and maybe being white is correlated with meth (or whatever), so certain "genetics" are correlated with certain "activities." We don't necessarily have to use the same legal guidelines on both elements of the correlation. In the case of race, gender, and sexual preference, societies have decided to legally approve of some aspects on both sides of the correlation, e.g. they can vote. But convicted felons are not allowed to vote, not based on their genetic propensities, but on their activities.

Therefore.

Just because we treat different genetics the same legally, we are still free to decide whether gov't should actually encourage or even condone all their activities, even if there is a genetic correlation. One reason is because in legalization can sometimes be interpreted as the government to be accepting some liability when/if things go wrong. For example, fine, let people smoke, but the gov't shouldn't have to front extra money to pay for treatment. On the other hand, people hold the FDA, FCC, FAA, etc responsible if they over/under regulate something. Finally, legalizing something can be interpreted as encouraging certain behaviors that some people find immoral. An example is that in making divorce easy, another thing which many people feel is often immoral, the gov't ends up paying out a lot more subsidies to compensate for irresponsible fathers. We've decided to let people have sex with whoever they want, but is the gov't actually facilitating irresponsible sex by picking up the tab for single parents?

My point is, even if we don't want to prohibit or discourage something, we reserve the right not to for laws that we consider to encourage or even condone or it.

Ron said...

> So let's just all agree that it's ok for the gov't to be agnostic to what happens in ppls bedrooms.

Not just OK, but better for everyone. But we can agree to disagree on that.

> Just because we treat different genetics the same legally, we are still free to decide whether gov't should actually encourage or even condone all their activities, even if there is a genetic correlation.

Absolutely. But 1) we have to be very careful do discriminate based on behavior and not on proclivity, 2) didn't we just agree that what happens in people's bedrooms is off limits? So what is the behavior you want to discriminate on to justify making gay marriage illegal?

> is the gov't actually facilitating irresponsible sex by picking up the tab for single parents?

LOL: Yes, the government may well be encouraging irresponsible *heterosexual* behavior by providing some support for single parents. And your point would be...?

> My point is, even if we don't want to prohibit or discourage something, we reserve the right not to for laws that we consider to encourage or even condone or it.

Sorry, I can't work my way through that triple negative to anything even resembling a coherent point. You want to restate that?

quantamos said...

I ran out of time when I was finishing that last comment, so let me fix that sentence for you (change in bold):

"My point is, even if we don't want to prohibit or discourage something, we reserve the right not to vote for laws that we consider to encourage or even condone it."

But I've decided not to post the comment I was working on, or even to bother clarifying what I've already posted. I believe I do have a few points (that weren't on that graphical chart you posted), however trivial they might be. The problem is that I've become uncomfortable debating this online because I don't see how I can make my points while convincing people that I'm not trying to be offensive. The activity seems pointless anyway because I see inevitability.

As a scientist, I believe it's important to have "experimental data," and I think we're in short supply for this topic. So we'll just have to see what happens, and I hope we can all be honest about whatever results we discover.

Ron said...

> I don't see how I can make my points while convincing people that I'm not trying to be offensive.

Being inoffensive is not a requirement here at Rondam Ramblings :-) The only requirement is that you be civil.

quantamos said...

It's not you... I'm worried about the all eternity factor for sensitive topics when I take devil's advocate positions... :-P