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April 05, 2005

Comments

Well, shoot, I don't have too much problem with this post, although of course I don't think there is much "risk" in gay marriage.

The biggest thing that jumps out at me, however, is your description of the conservative mindset. I think Praktike said recently I Miss Republicans, and the Republicans such as Danforth, who seem to be a model of what you speak of, are a clear minority in the Republican party. The major drivers of the Republican party are a religious fundamentalism (and lifestyle fundamentalism), and catering to business interests, while increasing their own power.

So what you say is nice, and actually somewhat true but like a cloud passing by, it doesn't have much heft at this point.

It seems to me that if that fellow from Tuscaloosa, the high school drop out, chooses not to marry because gays can marry, the institution of marriage would actually benefit. There would be one less weak marriage headed for certain failure.

I imagine the same thing could have happened, with a corresponding strengthing of marriage, when mixed races where finally allowed to marry. If any, then or now, chose not to marry because blacks and whites are allowed to marry then the institution of marriage actually benefited from their absence by another failed marriage being avoided.

But this is silliness. No one is skipping the alter because Clarance Thomas choses a caucasion bride, and no one will care if Mary Cheney gets to finally make an honest women out of her lover. Why would Jane Galt think this would matter to anyone? And if it does matter and someone refused to get married because of it, isn't the institution of marriage just that much better off without them anyway?

It's not a matter of liberal v. conservative temperament anymore. "9/11 changed everything". The preventive war doctrine & democracy domino theory. The decision that allies were not so relevant anymore. The detention of U.S. citizens captured on U.S. soil as enemy combatants. Whatever game is being played with the budget. The social security proposal. The Medicare proposal. The fortuitous "discovery" of loopholes in the Convention Against Torture that you can drive a truck through. The idea that it's unconstitutional for Congress to outlaw torture if the President think it's necessary to national security. The "nuclear option."

Allowing gay marriage is a big change, but amending the U.S. Constitution to outlaw gay marriage is also a big change.

You can argue that Bush, Frist and Delay are driving us over a cliff or that they're bold visionaries or some combination of the two. But you cannot argue that he's a Burkean conservative. That's what his dad was, what Bob Dole was, what Nancy Kassebaum was, what Dick Lugar is.

All of this orthoganol to your point, I guess, which is a good one. This is definitely true:

"people who don't see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it"

it's a gigantic problem in environmental law and really the entire regulatory state, tax code system, and entitlement system right now--with Democrats holed up in the castle keep and the Republicans knocking down at the gates.

And you can certainly see the right in the castle and the left at the gates in the culture wars, especially in the early years. (Now we see ourselves defending the castle when it comes to abortion and birth control and declining medical treatment, whereas the right sees themselves at the defending the castle when it comes to gay marriage and assisted suicide.)

I have to say though, I find Galt's implication that all of those pushing for gay marriage "don't see the use of marriage" to be completely wrong and frankly offensive. There is a libertarian attitude you run into that the government should get out of the marriage business entirely, which I think is really wrong on the merits and a terrible political argument. But the gay couples filing these lawsuits, waiting on line in San Francisco, having quiet ceremonies in Massachusetts, and watching nervously or hopefully, are doing this precisely BECAUSE they see the use of marriage. And I doubt I'd feel so strongly about it if I weren't married. The moment I became really implacable on this issue was when I was listening to the "let the people vote" cop-out speeches in support of the marriage amendment at the state Constitutional convention last year. This was before they actually started performing ceremonies, but because of the amendment process it was clear that the soonest it would get on the ballot was in 2006.

I realized that this was about a year and a half after my wedding; a vote on a Constitutional amendment would take place about a year and a half after the first gay couples got their marriage licenses. The idea of a majority vote on whether my husband and I could stay married made me absolutely furious--but here were these state representatives, who had just wept and given a standing ovation to two gay colleagues who said, basically, "don't do this to us", suggesting we do exactly that to gay couples.

That's when I became really shrill about this.

I'm aware of the stuff about Scandanavia and the Netherlands, and the divorce rate in this country. But it's nothing to do with gay marriage. Or rather, gay marriage is an effect of the same forces as the decline in marriage rate and increase in out-of-wedlock births, but not a cause and has no realistic potential to be a cause in the destruction of straight marriages. The forces being, the availability of the birth control pill, the end of stigma about nontraditional family arrangements, the acceptability of women working outside the home, no fault divorce laws...that's in Scandinavia. As far as marriage in the inner cities in the U.S., the causes are all of the above but much more importantly, ECONOMIC causes. I'm sure Jane's quite willing to argue the effect of the welfare system on the family, and equally unwilling to accept that the economic necessity of women working outside the home and working multiple jobs outside the home, plain old poverty, a lousy education system, lousy access to and knowledge of contraception, the loss of jobs in inner cities, etc. also played a role.

Like Publius says:

Here's a news flash - capitalism destroys families, not homosexuals. Our economic structure imposes endless demands on Americans: the social pressures of having a good house or car; the ability of companies to come and go on a moment's notice; the destruction of local stores by chains like Wal-Mart; the pressures to work longer and harder hours and ignore the family; along with the pressure on Americans to move around continuously to find money for health care and education (which should be free and are free in countries not run by warlords).

I think he underestimates the effect of the 1960s and contraception and no-fault divorce and feminism, but those genies are out of the bottles. They may have been caused by economic development; even if not, they've mixed with our economic system and become essential to our economy and they're not going away. Gay people are a convenient scapegoat.

I do think you'll eventually see more openly gay people, more bisexuality, more straight people having an experience with someone of the same sex, if gay marriage is made legal. But I anticipate no disruption of straight marriages. And I think you'll see more monogamous gay relationships, lower rates of STDs and HIV, depression and suicide among gay people, fewer hate crimes, fewer kids disowned, more children adopted & out of foster care, etc.

Needless to say I expect no increase at all in man-on-dog or man-on-box-turtle relations, incest or pedophilia. Probably a demand for transgender rights that will freak the crap out of everyone, though.

"capitalism destroys families, not homosexuals."

How absurdly untrue. The first half, I mean. But this isn't quite the thread to argue about whether "the social pressures of having a good house or car" equals "capitalism", so I'll save it for later.

"people who don't see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it"

Does this include Social Security?

I was going to put off commenting on this because it's late, but even though I'm exhausted, sleep doesn't seem to be in the cards just now, so:

I'm in general sympathetic to Chesteron's argument. (I have a fairly serious conservative streak, in the original, not the right-wing, sense of the term; it's balanced by my conviction that it's important to reform injustices from within so that institutions don't break under their pressure.) But in the case of gay marriage, I don't see it.

First, I don't think that most people on either side of this debate are people who don't see the value of marriage; so none of them are in the position of wanting to tear the fence down without having any idea why it was put there to start with. On the contrary, a lot of the (straght) people I know who feel most strongly about this are people with strong, solid marriages of their own, the last people in the world you'd describe as blithely saying, 'marriage? who needs that antiquated old thing? Sweep it away!'

Second. of course, no one is talking about sweeping it away, either. I realize that Jane Galt thinks that might happen, but while I find both you and Chesterton convincing, I find her much less so. I don't think gay marriage will have much effect on the romantic image of oneself in marriage, since gays are a comparatively small minority, and since most people's image of themselves in marriage, I would think, has more to do with imagining themselves with the specific person they contemplate marrying, and probably also with e.g. their parents' marriage. (And there's also a huge industry entirely devoted to the production of compelling romantic visions of marriage, which might help.)

So I think: we have here on the one side an injustice, and on the other a remedy proposed by people who do understand the value of marriage, and which might not really alter it in any other respect. But, Jane Galt might say, can you be sure? To which I say: well, it's hard to be sure of anything, but in this case we can also tell a fairly convincing story about why marriage took the form it did, a story that crucially involves conditions that no longer obtain. Marriage began, as far as I know, as a largely economic relationship. (The introduction of the idea of romantic love was itself a huge change in marriage.) It had to involve a man and a woman, given the need for children who would both keep the family line going and support their parents in their old age. Luckily, we now have Social Security, and have given the elderly the means to be independent. We also have very different attitudes towards family property, which I think derive in part from the fact that poverty is less of a complete and total catastrophe than it was in, say, the twelfth century. (One of the interesting lessons of traveling around in odd parts of the world: you get to see, sometimes, from the perspective of the rich, how life looks when the distance you can fall is basically infinite.) Also from the fact that the primary basis of wealth is no longer land.

Moreover, we now have a completely different attitude towards sex. The fact that birth control is much more reliable and readily available is only the beginning of this: I think it's really hard to appreciate how completely different sex looks when, first of all, having sex if you are, or are having it with, an unmarried woman can literally ruin her life completely, and the life of any child that might result; when you really can't be at all confident that a child won't result; when a huge number of women died in childbirth, so that even if the woman's life is not ruined, she could literally die as a result of having sex; and when, in addition to all that, you have the equivalent of heterosexual AIDS in the picture. Not to mention the fact that it was a mortal sin. (I have always thought that the idea that fornication is a sin made perfect sense in, say, the 18th century, for the reasons just given.)

The point of which is: in addition for grounds for real skepticism about the disastrous effects of allowing gays to marry, we also have a plausible story about why marriage took the form it did, which turns on conditions that no longer obtain. We don't have familial estates in need of heirs, and we don't need to be supported by our children in old age. While I (personally) get weirded out by the level of sexual advertising directed at children, I think there's less of a need, in general, to tamp down sexual appetites in general since sex is genuinely less dangerous, even with AIDS, than it was a few hundred years ago. And so on, and so forth.

So despite my being, in general a cautious person (at least about stuff that really matters; I will take all sorts of risks with those large chunks of my life that don't), I don't see it in this case.

And as JC (and praktike) say, I miss Republicans, or more accurately conservatives. The present leadership of the Republican party does not, as far as I am concerned, have a conservative bone in their collective bodies. They are radicals.

Ah, I see that while I was typing, Katherine made most of my points...

Have I mentioned that I dislike this business of setting clocks ahead? I do. It leads to me being up at nearly 4am. How lucky that tomorrow, unlike today, is a no meetings in the morning day, so that I could work all this evening to make up for what I already knew would be the need to sleep later than usual. Grr.

"people who don't see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it"

How, precisely, do you propose to stop them?

Social institutions are (by definition) bigger than any mere legal structure. They evolve according to a titanic clash of demographic and cultural forces.

You can stand up and try to fight gay marriage or rock music or the sinful new bronze adze heads. In the end you just look silly. Or mean.

Chesterton's gate might swing two ways:

Liberal: That gate is blocking my way. Do you mind if I move it two feet to the left?

Conservative: It's a good gate. It has served a purpose in our society for a long time. The gate stays. Besides,
you don't like gates. When you like them, come back, and we shall reconsider the gate.... maybe.

Liberal: Well, I did a little research, and it turns out the gate was funded and built by the government a long time ago. There is an annual tax to maintain the gate.

Conservative: Umm.. whaddya say we blow up the gate? Or we could sell it to Gateaburton and charge what the market will bear for not letting you through the gate. Besides, recent tax cuts have cut revenues and we can't afford the gate any longer.

Liberal: Really, I thought you said earlier that tax cuts would increase revenues and we could build two new gates? Look, if you try to defund the gate, I'll get the judiciary to stop you.

Conservative: The judiciary is a gate. I hate gates.

Liberal: I say: paint the gate. Then I'll find a way around it when you're not looking.

Conservative: Why do you hate the gate? I like gates.

Read Kevin Drum's 2:10 am April 5 post on the Bush Administration's policies on unions in Iraq.

Turns out George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein both hate gates.

By the way:

This may be Sebastian's best post ever.

"This may be Sebastian's best post ever."

Well it was very good. I thought he did well on CT vs Henry also. Michael Blowhard had the important comment on the CT thread, unions are not the future of liberal activism.

The Texas legislature is finishing committee hearings on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and "legal situations similar to marriage." The purpose of the last clause, well , they haven't been able to pass the bill making it illegal for gays to adopt or become foster parents. It will affect common-law marriages. In 2003 the Texas DOMA was used to cut off heath benefits to same-sex partners.

As far as the philosophical point of the post, I will merely mention sausage manufacture.

Turns out George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein both hate gates.

I can only summon a mild distaste, but I do have a couple of Linux machines that I use in mute protest.

I guess that's what comes from reading the thread in reverse chronological order.

Seb- I also thought it was a good post.

Bob- I think we need unions now almost as badly as during the previous robber baron age. The problem is they are very hard to organize these days.

So what if you don't want to destroy the fence, but you want to let the nice gay couple down the street build a fence in their yard? How does the analogy apply then?

I will be writing a longer, more substanstial response to this when I have a chance later in the day. In the meantime, I just wanted to say: Sebastian, great post.

We've been having serious debate in this nation about same-sex marriage, on a large scale, for the last few years.

We who don't want that gate there have asked repeatedly why the gate is there. We get a lot of different answers about the gate. We've pointed out that the fence has fallen down over there off to the right and the gate doesn't serve any real function. We've offered alternatives to the gate, we've asked if a set of speed bumps wouldn't be more appropriate. We get the runaround. No one can make a worthwhile argument defending the gate. Ultimately we get answers like: "God says we have to have the gate," citing a book that also states that God says you have to wear clown shoes at all times and ignoring the principle of separation of church and state. Or occasionally the person who asks about the gate gets beaten to death by the gate-defenders.

The Chesterton argument cited is an excellent one generally -- kudos to Sebastian for raising it. I'd say that there's a similar, but not identical, argument that can be made, that's perhaps more applicable to the union issues raised in the post.

'Reformer': Clear that gate away -- it gets in the way of my racing my car down the road. I don't want anything impeding my progress.

'Conservative': Well, that's the point of it -- it's there to slow traffic, and so to reduce the hazard to children playing at the school ahead.

'Reformer': If that's what it's there for, it's useless -- something else would serve the same purpose much better. Let's clear it away now and come up with a better solution. (Knocks down gate, and speeds past school at 80 mph).

As the above dialog is meant to illustrate, there's a real problem with accepting advice about how an institution should be reformed from someone who fundamentally disagrees with its goals. Arguing about whether your goals are good or are misguided can certainly be productive, but taking advice on how to achieve your goals from someone who believes that they are misguided and should not be achieved is a fool's game.

Good stuff, LB. BTW, I've been considering naming my cat after you. But that's way OT.

If that Geico reptile ever swings by my place, well, they'll just have to find themselves a new spokeslizard.

I'd be honored.

The worst thing about gecko-hunting cats is the detachable gecko tails. There's nothing more disturbing than watching a cat batting around a small, writhing, worm-like object and realizing that the cat has de-tailed a gecko. (Says the one-time owner of a gecko-hunting (and rat-hunting!) cat named Harlequin.)

Hamilton Lovecraft makes an excellent point, which I think can be carried further. Suppose the reformer, who as in Chesterton's tale does not know why the gate is there, nonetheless provides good reasons for its removal. Do the pro-gate forces have no obligation to offer reasons for keeping it there? Is tradition an argument in itself? That seems to be the position of gay marriage opponents.

Chesterton, as I see it, puts the entire burden of coming up with the rationale for the gate on the reformer. To let the conservative simply assert tradition is to admit the argument that there are mysterious and unknown benefits which fully justify retaining the gate. But then why are there not mysterious and unknown benefits from removing it? One argument is as good as the other.

"Suppose the reformer, who as in Chesterton's tale does not know why the gate is there, nonetheless provides good reasons for its removal. Do the pro-gate forces have no obligation to offer reasons for keeping it there? Is tradition an argument in itself?"

It depends on the magnitude of 'nonetheless provides good reasons for its removal'. Is tradition an argument in itself? Yes. Not an overwhelming argument. Not always a definitive argument. But defintely a legitimate argument. It is because traditions often combine a host of (sometimes unarticulated but nonetheless good) reasons for doing things into a package that shouldn't be discarded without either understanding why it is there, understanding what the change will bring, or taking things slowly enough that you can guage how the change is going to work. I'm not saying that the existance of a tradition is a last word on the subject. I'm saying that the existance of a tradition should not be dismissed as mere superstition or spiteful cultural behaviour. All too often cultural traditions are treated as if they are useless bits of dross which are just in the way of progress without realizing that some of them actually make the progress possible.

Another take on the sample dialogue above:

'Reformer': Clear that gate away -- my beloved lives on the other side. I don't want anything impeding my progress.

'Conservative': Well, that's the point of it -- your associating with that person isn't what we're used to, so it's there to keep you apart and thus preserve our worldview.

'Reformer': If that's what it's there for, it's useless -- nothing will keep me from being with my beloved just as you are with yours. Let's clear it away now and come up with a better solution to salving your insecurities. (Knocks down gate, and speeds to beloved's doorstep at 80 mph).

Sebatian- I generally agree with your 01:07 post. Except I don't think it should ever be considered a definative argument. Yes arguing from tradition is valid, but its also weak.

I don't want to hurt your feelings or make you feel defensive, but how do you feel about an argument of the form: There is a tradition of gay bashing which helps build group solidarity and identity for heterosexual males. This tradition is valuable in defining the identity and forms of acceptable behaviour for hetero males, enabling them to become useful members of society. This is particularly valuable in the development of male children, therefore children should not be prevented from tormenting and beating males who do not act masculine enough or who manifest homosexual traits.

Whoops I meant to address this but I didn't:

"But then why are there not mysterious and unknown benefits from removing it? One argument is as good as the other."

This suggests that you aren't understanding the argument at all. Traditions are often evolutionary instead of arising by fiat. Their existance suggests (not 'proves', 'suggests') that there was a useful reason for doing things that way. The fact that the reason may be mysterious does not mean that it does not exist.

The existance of a poorly understood tradition does not mean that it definitely should continue, but that you might want to understand what it was doing before you get rid of it. Reformers are not always wrong, but they are often less careful than they should be.

An analogy of a tradition which ought to be reformed by way of one of my friend's experiences. Teenage molestation victims often develop defensive mental behaviours which are absolutely crucial to their emotional survival at the time of the molestation and for years afterward. These defensive mental behaviours were not erected for no reason. They weren't useless. They were in fact crucial. But as an adult they are causing difficulty. Attacking the structures as useless doesn't help anything. It is far more helpful for him to see why they were good and see how gradually changing them helps him more now than clinging blindly to them. So even in the case where you are correct that things need to change, blindly attacking the existing structure is likely to be ineffective and cause unneeded damage.

And if you were to try to remove those defenses at 17, or when the molestation was still going on, you would be causing far more damage than it was worth because you didn't bother understanding why the (appearing to you) overly defensive mental structures existed.

Now please do not think I am analogizing gay marriage to molestation (or for that matter opposite-sex marriage as molestation). The analogy was purely to show how useful structures can arise without conscious thought, can be useful for a time, need reform, but be resistant to reformers who don't understand why they exist.

But not all such structures are bad, or have currently outlived their usefulness. You aren't in a good position to decide if they have outlived their usefulness if you don't understand why they exist in the first place.

Sebastian- Yeah you should always try to know what you are doing, but the fact that you can't find out why, or that your opponent has a plausible case for a strong reason to leave the tradition as is doesn't mean you should give up on reform. See my above post for a case I think you might agree, doesn't really justify keeping a tradition.

Maybe a clearer way to put it is that the gate was built to solve a problem. You'd better not remove the gate until you (a) understand the problem it was put there to solve and (b) either have another way to solve the problem or can demonstrate that the problem no longer exists.

(I can't believe I'm saying "clearer way to put it" in reference to Chesterton.)

Trouble is, as applied to the gay marriage debate, this analogy assumes that those in favor of allowing gay marriage have not clearly articulated why marriage is valuable, what cultural conditions made our ancestors limit marriage to a same-sex unions, and why those cultural conditions are no longer applicable. In short, it is a condescending argument, particularly when it is the opponents of gay marriage who have such a godawful time articulating just why they think gays should be de facto exluded from the institution.

Or, to put it another way, why can't the Chesterton analogy apply just as easily to bans on sodomy? Or to bans on interracial marriage? What is the standard that proponents of lifting a ban have to meet before they are no longer considered ignorant of the original purposes of these bans?

OK Sebastian. I can accept that traditions are there, sometimes, as a result of evolution over time rather than having one explicit justification. But I still do not understand why the burden of understanding the resulting benefits falls solely on the reformer, and not on the defender.

This seems to absolve the conservative of any requirement to think or justify his position. He just sits in his club and harumphs, while the reformer scurries around reading history books and so on. And suppose the reformer does discover reasons for the tradition. These declared reasons, accurate or not, are likely to be uncomplimentary. They come from a reformer after all. Do we still allow the conservative to retreat to tradition? Or do we finally demand rational arguments?

I might add that the argument that "we should not change this, for evolutionary reasons," strikes me as quite odd.

I don't believe Chesterton's analogy does apply to the gay marriage issue, because I don't think recognizing gay marriages changes the fundamental nature of the institution any more than recognizing interracial marriages does or did. I also agree (and probably should have said) that the burden of proof, or even the burden of discussion, shouldn't fall entirely on the reformer. Chesterton doesn't talk about the case where the "gate" is doing active harm, which is by far the majority of cases where reformers want reform.

I was actually thinking more about unions, and about how many of the people who propose to abolish (or "move beyond") them don't appear to recognize the problems unions were invented to solve.

These declared reasons, accurate or not, are likely to be uncomplimentary. They come from a reformer after all. Do we still allow the conservative to retreat to tradition? Or do we finally demand rational arguments?

At that point, of course, rational arguments are necessary. While I've always liked that bit of Chestertonia in the abstract, its application to gay marriage is weak -- there's no large constituency for doing away with marriage as an obsolete and purposeless relic of the past. Gay marriage advocates aren't ignoring the historical purposes of marriage, they're attempting to adjust the institution to bring the benefits of those purposes to a broader class of people. This takes us absolutely out of Chesterton's situation.

While it is possible that the proposed changes (extending marriage to same-sex couples) could have mysterious ill effects, the changes have been considered in light of the historical purposes of marriage, and it is not obvious that the possible ill effects will actually result. At this point, argument really has to be on the basis of: "What bad effects from gay marriage can you demonstrate are likely?"

Maybe my previous post didn't make this clear enough, but it seems to me that Galt has the context completely upside down.

Perhaps conservatives would *like* to believe that their position is a principled defense of a well evolved social institution, but it's not. The simple truth is that the institution has already evolved in a direction they are uncomfortable with, and they are sticking their heads in the sand. The "reformers" aren't trying to artificially tamper with a long evolved institution, they're just trying to take the next small step of making the de facto condition de jure.

The idea of marriage, broadly conceived, is already changing. Millions of gay couples (and not a few straight ones) already live in arrangements that resemble marriage in all but name (and a few legal conveniences). In another time and place this might have led to unfortunate medical complications (e.g., Lynching by Outraged Townsfolk), but at present only the most extreme "conservatives" actually think this any kind of problem.

Marriage is changing. Deal with it.

Maybe a clearer way to put it is that the gate was built to solve a problem. You'd better not remove the gate until you (a) understand the problem it was put there to solve and (b) either have another way to solve the problem or can demonstrate that the problem no longer exists.

Fair enough. But if I see no problem that the gate supposedly solves, and propose its removal, it is not enough to respond with "Well, it's been there a long time, so it must solve someting." Tell me what it solves, and if you can't, let me remove it.

The first thing that popped into my head is that Galt chose an erroneous analogy to try to compare the call for gay marriage to economic arguments.

A change in tax rates has a direct impact on everyone who changes taxes. It is inherently going to have a larger impact, as a result, than something which has no direct impact on most people. Any impact of allowing gays to marry on straight people who marry is going to be, at best, indirect. Some people might choose not to get married because gay people can get married, but since gay marriage does not reduce the privileges of marriage for straight people in any but a metaphysical sense (and I'd dispute that, but that's another question), I can't see that as even vaguely close to the degree of impact that a shift in tax rates is going to have.

If taxes go up, you have less money. Some people may not care, but others will, and will change their behavior. Allowing gay people to marry doesn't have this sort of direct impact on people's resources, and thus on behavior. (I can see how some people might choose to avoid marriage if gays are allowed to marry, but the impact is different. It's more like choosing not to become a lawyer because your image of lawyers is that they're all greedy and aggressive. Which is a completely different sort of decision making than the impact of taxes.)

Just to be nitpicky.

To address the theme at large, this is why society needs both liberals and conservatives. We need people who will put the brakes on change so it doesn't go so fast that society spins out of control into chaos.

Burkean conservatism must be counterbalanced by those who want change. If it is not, it results only in Paralysis of the kind Burke sank into late in life when he dove off the bridge of frothing reaction.

Similarly, without those who put the brakes on change, we can create huge messes by overly ambitious experiments.

And it's important to note those who benefit from the status quo will rarely listen to reason. Every reform eventually creates a vested interest in its preservation. The way of the world, unfortunately.


I think this debate calls for some empirical evidence.
Perhaps we should catalogue the moments in Western History where reformers have tried to alter an institution and the primary argument against said reform has been an appeal to tradition.
Having done so, we could judge the merits of the tradition argument.
I invite a conservative to present such a catalogue that shows appeals to tradition are beneficial to society in aggregate.

Well there was the Communists vs. the monarchists. That didn't work out so well for Russia. ;)

Likewise, the American Revolution...

In all seriousness, I don't think the interesting question is 'reform, good or bad?' (in general). My conservative streak says: what one wants to aim for, in protecting institutions, is for those institutions to be preserved over time; this often requires reform (at least in cases unlike e.g. private clubs that no one really has to join); but reform that's cautious and, well, conservative. Someone who liked, say, the monarchy in the 18th century should have aimed for what happened to the British monarchy, not the French; and this means a certain amount of reform when needed.

I didn't find Jane Galt's article very persuasive--I seldom do--and I'm not persuaded by you either, Sebastian. If you want me to accept that "tradition is an argument in itself," how about giving some sort of empirical, as opposed to rhetorical, basis for doing so. How about some examples from history of situations where:

1) reformers made a strong case for a change in policy of some sort

2) opponents of reform had no rational arguments other than the invocation of tradition

3) reformers succeeded in changing the policy, and

4) it is now generally, if not universally, agreed by researchers in the field that the change was a bad idea.

In the absence of some specific examples of situations where allowing tradition to be "an argument in itself" turned out to be a sound idea, I see no reason to change my current position, which is that 1) while our ability to identify the positive and negative effects of policy is imperfect, it is surely sufficient that if policy confers genuine benefits, we can detect them, and therefore, 2) any policy can reasonably be expected to stand or fall on its own merits, and 3) tradition by itself should carry zero weight in the debate over gay marriage or any other policy.

Looks like WillieStyle made the same argument as me, more succinctly, while I was posting. Anyway, a vague reference to the Russian Revolution is hardly convincing, Sebastian.

John Biles: I can see how some people might choose to avoid marriage if gays are allowed to marry

Can you? Why? How?

Mark, did you read Jane Galt's post? It offers welfare implementation and illegitimicy as pretty good examples. And yes the Communism argument is rarely convincing, but I suspect that is because some like to pretend it has little or nothing to do with the history of the left rather than the merits of it as an example.

I haven't argued against reform in any case. I sometimes wonder if you criticize without reading the post. I argue that many reformers don't pay enough attention to why things are the way they are. I argue that many conservatives don't pay enough attention to why things used to be one way might not explain why they might be better another way. Turning my argument into an anti-refom polemic is a complete misreading and as such is very difficult to respond to.

Sebastian: I didn't bring this up before, since it was Galt's point, not yours, but one of the reasons I found her argument unconvincing, along with (what I saw as) the flimsiness of the connection between allowing gay marriage and the collapse of marriage, was what she said about inner cities. On the one hand (no cites now, but I'll try to look some up if you want) I believe that many of the patterns in the inner city that she must be thinking of -- high rates of illegitimacy, ditto female-headed households, etc. -- have been around in poor black communities since well before the 1960s, so it's not clear to me how new they are. On the other hand, there were a lot of other things going on in the inner city at the time -- notably the explosion of drugs, the collapse of inner cities' job base, and the huge increases in the number of incarcerated black men -- which would seem relevant, but which she doesn't mention.

OK, finally made it back to this thread...

Sebastian (paraphrased)- "I believe A is wise and correct.

I believe not-A is insightful and true.

Crap."

Congratulations, Sebastian, you've achieved an important step towards enlightenment. ;-)

Seriously, though, this sort of thesis-antithesis is where we have serious room to learn and perhaps find a synthesis. I'll leave aside specifics of gay marriage and labor unions for the moment, to focus on your broader point.

Your initial feel about each side listening to each other more is really the important insight, in my opinion. Someone, I forget who, once said that the heart of democracy could be distilled down to one important sentence: "I could be wrong." Even when we are morally certain that we are not wrong, we need to act as if we might be. That means at the least letting those with whom we most strongly disagree have their say. In the wisest case, it means actually listening to them when they have their say. In one of Charles' threads down-page, I have a vehement disagreement with him. I've opted, instead of just lining up to tell him why he's wrong, to ask him questions in an attempt to understand where he's coming from, because I truly don't understand it. I hope that he will come back and re-engage in that discussion, so that I can gain some actual insight and understanding into his worldview.

If the reformers and the conservatives acted this way on a regular basis, we'd all be a lot better off.

As far as the G.K. Chesterton goes, you get points for the quotation. I always admire Chesterton, even when I completely disagree with him. I will agree with what others have said upthread, however, about the burden of proof. 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." I agree that the reformer should go away and think about it and also ask those who seek to preserve the institution what the use of it may be. However, if neither thought, study, nor discussion with those in favor of preservation can find a use, and if some compelling reason can be found for the reform or abolition of the institution, then I say, have at it!

With regards to the specifics of marriage, I believe I do have a decent handle on the history, tradition, and positive virtue of marriage. Given that understanding, I see no impediments whatsoever towards reforming it to allow gays to partake of the institution. I've also listened to those who oppose that reform, and I haven't heard anything to change my mind on the issue. Chesterton's caution is not a problem for me in this case.

(I'll leave the discussion of unions to those more knowledgeable on the subject.)

I don't see any theoretical impediment to gay marriage either. Jane Galt doesn't really see one either (hence the title of the post). Her point is that opponents shouldn't just be dismissed as reactionary. They should be approached as we have been talking above. I was using it as more of a springboard for discussion. I'm not against gay marriage at all.

"Her point is that opponents shouldn't just be dismissed as reactionary."

If they have no plausible arguments, what can they be dismissed as?

"If they have no plausible arguments, what can they be dismissed as?"

You engage the question of tradition as if it really meant something, which unfortunately for many it doesn't seem to. See my molestation example above.

I used to read Jane Galt fairly often, but stopped, essentially because I didn't think that most of what she had to say was either well-thought out or much supported by her evidence, which too often was "a friend told me.."

Still, on Sebastian's recommendation I read this one, and will resume ignoring her. Look at the two issues SH mentions - welfare and divorce laws - and their effect on marriage. Even if we grant all of Galt's weak premises for the sake of argument, it still the case that both of these changes directly affected people who were married (divorce) or people who might get married (welfare). In other words, to the extent these changes altered marriage behavior in an undesirable way, it was because they directly reduced incentives to marry or stay married. Those whose behavior changed were those whose situation changed.

This is not true of gay marriage. It has no direct concrete effect on heterosexuals. It takes away none of the benefits of marriage; it reduces practical incentives to marry not one whit. The argument that some marginal marriages may not occur as a result is silly. It says, essentially, that we should not do this because some people will react in a foolish way.

Besides, gay marriage may well encourage some heterosexual marriages. "Gee, my parents have a miserable marriage, but Uncles Tony and Sam sure seem happy. Maybe marriage can work out OK."

Indeed, all policy changes have some effects on behavior at the margin. So what. There is no reason to assume that these must be bad. As ken says, maybe it's better if that guy in Tuscaloosa doesn't get married, at least until he grows up a bit.

"See my molestation example above."

Your molestation example consists of attempting to draw a sociological and policy analogy from psychology, which doesn't strike me as reasonably sound.

Your thesis of engaging opponents in good faith rather than dismissing them is, of course, always sound advice. But it doesn't preclude an honest person from honestly engaging the arguments and finding them terribly wanting. At which point. . what? Just assume that your opponent is right on the strength of their conviction? Any honest analysis of the likely sociological factors that led to the institution of marriage (monogamy, easier identification of parenthood, stable environment to raise children, mutual protection, etc) reveals that not only are they unthreatened by gay marriage, many are in fact reinforced. . viz gay couples adopting, reinforcing monogamy, etc.

Also, phraseology such as 'blindly attacking the existing structure' suggests that in the domain of honestly engaging disagreeing opinions, the healer ought look into healing himself.

"Her point is that opponents shouldn't just be dismissed as reactionary. ... I'm not against gay marriage at all."

I didn't think you were against gay mariage.

I wouldn't automatically dismiss opponents as reactionary.

If their total argument consisted of "it's always been this way", with no understanding demonstrated of why it's always been that way or why it should continue, then I would dismiss them as reactionary. (Although I would not vote for change until I had a better understanding then they demonstrated.)

If their argument consisted of "God said so and he hates gays," then I would dismiss them as religious bigots.

If their argument consisted of "we haven't studied every conceivable consequence, so move slow", I would regard them as overly cautious and respectfully disagree.

If their argument consisted of unsupported allegations of gay mariage destroying hetero marriage, I would dismiss them as illogical, delusional, or else trying to cover up their reactionary or bigot status.

If their argument consisted of factually and logically based arguments as to the harm caused by said reform of marriage, I would listen respectfully, then make a decision based on the relative values involved. So far, I haven't run across any of these. It makes me suspect fairly strongly that there are not such factual and logical arguments to be made.

Seb
If I am remembering correctly, you are a pretty strong advocate of the markets deciding appropriate valuation. How does this link up with your stance that tradition must mean something?

Sorry about the hit and run comment, I have a few ideas, but, as you note, this is very difficult to sketch out, especially when you range over a large number of debates. Hopefully after a day of japanese administrivia, I'll have something more solid. Or not.

kanpai, japonicus-san!

As far as I can tell social issues such as this don't really intersect with the market all too much. Are you suggesting that I ought to advocate buying and selling husbands at clearinghouse rates? Are you suggesting that we should sell illegtimacy certificates? Perhaps that we should sell welfare benefits to the highest bidder? I'm not sure where you think I should think the market intersects the issue. When you are talking about regulations of the market it might come into play, but otherwise it seems like a very odd question.

Sebastian:

1)My post was a direct response to an earlier comment of yours, specifically your argument that:

Is tradition an argument in itself? Yes.

I think my point is pretty clear--I am spelling out the sort of evidence that would persuade me to agree with you.

And if you want to use the Russian Revolution as an example, you need to flesh out your argument quite a bit, and in particular, be specific about which event or events, out of the many which we lump under the umbrella label of "Russian Revolution," you are referring to.

2) I have not only read Jane Galt's post, but commented on it, and I have addressed her specific claims on the welfare/illegitimacy issue. The nutshell version of my response to her is that research on the impact of welfare policy, whether one is talking about AFDC in the pre-1996 era or about the impact of welfare reform, has little, if any, effect on out-of-wedlock birth rates. I cite several sources to that effect and will be referring to several more in a second comment on her post which I will be posting later tonight (but not until after I teach my evening class).

Oops, I should have edited more carefully above--should have said that research on welfare policy shows that welfare has little or no effect.

Selective observation seems to be Jane Galt's hobby. I liked this bit:

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.

Similarly, every proposal libertarians themselves make suffers from the same flaw. According to some, we can afford to shrink the government down to nothing because people acting rationally will combine to create a perfect world. Well, they won't. There are marginal cases for intelligence, knowledge, and rationality too...not to mention motivation, morality, etc. John Galt wasn't a real person. Hardly anybody in real life bears any significant resemblance to him, or to any of Rand's other cartoonish archetypes. Any philosophy that fails to account for how real people behave, be it communism or libertarianism, is broken. Creating a truly functional political or economic system means accounting for the "margins" that might in fact be the majority.

She's not really a Randian. More of a party-line Republican pretending to be a principled conservative pretending to be a libertarian. Or something like that.

I think Jane/Megan had a post quite some time back where she told the story of how she came to take "Jane Galt" as an online handle. Anyway, she isn't a Rand-cultist or anything like that.

"Having done so, we could judge the merits of the tradition argument.
I invite a conservative to present such a catalogue that shows appeals to tradition are beneficial to society in aggregate."

Well, I am not a conservative, but Thucydides is always worth reading, being there at the inception and all. IIRC, without peaking, the early debate at Sparta is along these lines. Greek plays, including Antigone, mught be relevant.

Jeremiah and Isaiah also come to mind.

Appeals to tradition are often couched as appeals to authority. Unleavened bread, 5 prayers a day. The selection of which part of the text is not optional is often based on custom.

I think that the problem with having this discussion in the abstract is that the right relation to traditions defies generalization. My conservative streak comes from my belief that institutions are a lot easier to destroy than to create, and that for this reason they should not be lightly dismantled. This means, for instance, that I think that Trotsky's and Mao's ideas about permanent revolution are completely and horribly wrong; as wrong as it's possible to be on this topic. It's also part of why I find the attacks on judges particularly scary: I think the rule of law is one of those things that no one should mess with without very good reason. Likewise, people in government violating the Constitution.

On the other hand, as I said above, it's precisely because I feel this way that I think it's particularly important to reform institutions while one can, before people start thinking that they have to be torn down.

And figuring out whether, in a given case, a reform is needed to help preserve an institution or is a threat to it is always a matter of judgment, not of the application of a rule. In some cases I feel fairly confident of my views; gay marriage is one. In others, much less so. -- But I am confident that questions like: "Changes to institutions and traditions: good or bad?" are badly formed.

But that might not show that "appeals to tradition are beneficial to society in aggregate."

I here fall on the wisdom of crowds. "Super Bowl Sunday" may not actually be a good thing for society, but as long as society is pleased and satisfied with it, I suspect it is your burden to show the disutility, if you would prefer "Super Bowl Saturday" without a half-time show. Just as it might be the burden of gay marriage advocates to show the general gain to society from the change.

It may seem offensive to compare the two, but as Scalia said in his Lawrence dissent, IIRC, it is the right of a community to have some irrational or unjustifiable traditions. Arguments from reason and most often even utility are not only ineffective, but insulting. Try telling a High School it must switch its mascot from Dolphins to Wolverines, and then ask why they resist.

Note:the above two comment are devil's advocacy. And may be repeating Galt. And my personal position is that the damage to gays does outweigh the attachment to tradition. But I hope it may help explain why the argument as argument seems so futile.

"I invite a conservative to present such a catalogue that shows appeals to tradition are beneficial to society in aggregate."

I suppose you realize that if cultures tend naturally to be conservative, such a list would be difficult to come by. I strongly suspect that cultures do resist change - I'd go so far as to include that resistance as part of the definition of "culture". This means that there may not be a catalogue of situations meeting your criteria.

Maybe examples could be drawn from sub/counter-cultures. Free love, "tune in, turn on... etc."

Because of the innate conservatism of cultures, the onus is on supporters of change to make the case for it - "that's not the way it should be" is a reasonable plaint if you expect God Almighty to come down and officiate the dispute, but until that happens the argument takes place in the context of an existing culture, and cultures are conservative.

Thanks for answering Seb, though I didn't make it as clear as I should have. As your answer seems to acknowledge, the argument of 'let the markets decide' is essentially an anti-tradition argument. You say that these social issues are not market issues, so where do we draw the dividing line? I do think that social issues intersect with the market, but not always in very clear ways. Something like the acceptability of pornography or drugs (both very much social issues) seem to be driven by market demands. You toss up a number of reductio ad absurdum suggestions, but there are a large number of gay couples who want the legitimation of a wedding. If enough people want it, it happens. Based on that, it seems that those who try to stop it are akin to King Canute ordering the sea to stop, except without the monarch's self awareness. This is not to make any judgements about the validity of their opinion, just to point out that they are not going to stop it.

I spend quite a bit of time mulling about conservatism because I live in a country that is in some ways appears to be very conservative, but that conservatism is based on a false understanding of history and many of the points that they feel are traditional are actually modern innovations.

While I agree with hilzoy about the need to be careful in dismantling institutions, it seems that to me that this suggests that institutions are brittle things where you can either make only the tiniest changes to or you have to rip the whole thing down. The best institutions (by which I mean institutions that truly make a difference to people's lives) often renew themselves completely, just as the best people are those who can take onboard criticism. Unfortunately, like cultures, people are often able to convince themselves that they haven't really changed.

There is also a rather strange implication in this discussion, which is that if you are a liberal you are anti-tradition (which was what I was trying to get at with my question) As someone who spends a sizable amount of time dealing with and treasuring tradition, both for work and pleasure, I really can't see this. The difference I see is that while I love tradition, I think that it should be upheld because people want to keep it up, not because they are pressured to, but the conservative view is that tradition should be upheld independent of whether people want it or not.

"If enough people want it, it happens."

I don't understand how you aren't distinguishing between market 'people want it' forces and democratic 'people want it' forces. Both can implement things if enough people want it, though the thresholds might be different. I think the closest intersection between the two areas would be in drug policy. In drug policy, market forces are making it very difficult to maintain long term drug criminalization regimes without seriously deforming other areas of the social sphere.

It may seem offensive to compare the two, but as Scalia said in his Lawrence dissent, IIRC, it is the right of a community to have some irrational or unjustifiable traditions.

Bob,

The words "irrational" and "unjustifiable" obscure the issue. If they mean harmless, despite having no obvious benefit, then of course that is correct. But where such traditions do real harm then the tradition is open to challenge, and its defenders have an obligation to justify it, or amend it. To take an easy case, racial segregation, and other forms of discrimination, are "irrational and unjustifiable" traditions. Do communities have a right to them? If not then there must be a way to distinguish them from other traditions.

I think LJ is correct that change need not destroy institutions, and may often strengthen them. Consider, for example, the policies of elite universities. For many years social class was a much more important factor than merit in gaining admission, and this tradition was vigorously defended by some, mostly on the grounds that it was the tradition. But it changed, was reformed, and the institutions did not collapse - rather they grew stronger.

Try telling a High School it must switch its mascot from Dolphins to Wolverines, and then ask why they resist.

Good question, but not really relevant. There is no measurable harm from either name, so this is simply a battle of personal preferences. Here tradition is an acceptable argument, because it is the basis of some people's preferences.

"The words "irrational" and "unjustifiable" obscure the issue."

Au contraire, Bernard. They are the issue. For the right would prefer the issue of gay marriage taken to the legislatures for open debate. But then you ask them:"What evidence or arguments would convince you that gay marriage was acceptable or good?" I think if they are honest, they will say none are possible. As none were possible with slavery or segregation.

Fritz and Paul Cella understand the situation better than the left, and know that gay marriage, like emancipation and integration, will only be possible thru coercion. Reason and moral argument are pointless.

I don't understand how you aren't distinguishing between market 'people want it' forces and democratic 'people want it' forces.

I'm not, because I don't know how to distinguish it, hence my earlier question.

If one holds to a notion that a free market valuation provides us with some sort of metric (and since I thought you were one who argued for the free market), I thought that one either needs to have some principled way of separating the two, or has to argue that they are one in the same. You assert that the market doesn't tell us what goes on in situations like gay marriage, so I wonder if invoking tradition should automatically trump free market or not. Given that free marketeers often scoff at French attempts to maintain the purity of French language and culture, I would think that tradition trumping free markets is a minority view.

When we talk about gay marriage, we have to talk about public acceptance of gays, and I recall a number of articles about the growing economic power of gays driving changes in marketing. Also, the aspect of dueling boycotts (against homophobic companies and those offering extending benefits to homosexual benefits (Disney was the most prominent target)) is worthy of noting. The boycott of South Carolina by the NAACP may be the shape of things to come.

bernard's example was precisely one I was thinking about, but I hesitated to suggest it because a counter argument is that the institutions changed because of the huge influx of veterans after WWII under the GI bill, so some might argue that the change was 'forced' on universities. I do agree with Morgan that cultures (and this is not only national cultures, companies and departments have cultures as well), struggle to avoid change, and it takes an enlightened point of view to see the need for change. But of course, I would say that, I suppose.

I fear that Bob's point about the need for coercion is probably true, but what will happen is that people will be coerced and 30 or 40 years later, we will evolve a heroic narrative that will somehow suggest that it was won through moral suasion, if previous patterns maintain.

"gay marriage, like emancipation and integration, will only be possible thru coercion"

I think emancipation is a fine example. In that case, the 'coercion' phase was an impatient fatal blow against an institution that had already been mortally weakened by a hundred years of a burgeoning abolitionist movement. And that movement was built on persuasion, not coercion.

I think gay marriage will likely follow similar tack. Logic and rhetoric will slowly win over people who learn to get over their default prejudices and develop a sense of empathy, as homosexuals are rehumanized, much as blacks were. And at some point the proponents will feel powerful enough and sick enough of waiting for the unconvinceable holdouts that there'll be 'coercion'.

I think it is much too early in that process for an Emancipation Proclamation style coercion for gay marriage. There simply aren't enough people convinced yet. Those who seek it don't fully understand the pulse of the nation or the terrible damage to their cause that would result. I'd stick to state by state growth, probably starting with a referendum in California. And lots of public relations and persuasion.

"I was actually thinking more about unions, and about how many of the people who propose to abolish (or "move beyond") them don't appear to recognize the problems unions were invented to solve."

On the other hand, those who agitated for unions typically failled to recognize the problems that capitalism and strong property rights were invented to solve.

Round and round it goes. Go back far enough, and any tradition is a revolution. Some have worked out better than others. By looking at the rate of improvement in the general standard of living (taking into account that averages were continuously depressed by the arrival of lots of temporarily poor immigrants) and the rate of technological advancement at the time, pre-Progressive capitalism comes out looking damned good.

We can look at past revolutions both in terms of the problems they intended to solve, and their unexpected side-effects. As for unions, the problem that they were intended to solve were along the lines of "those rich bastards won't hand over their money". They discovered that if they got enough like-minded fellows together to intimidate bystanders and potential competitors, they could extort money out of their employers; by dressing the operation up as "collective bargaining" and paint their victims as villains, they could win public support and eventually discourage the forces of law and order from interfering. And thus a movement, and eventually a tradition, was born from the attempt to solve the "problem" that laws existed against simply stealing the money from those rich bastards.

God willing we'll get back to the days when the government knew to stay out of the relationship between an employer and his workers. They should be grateful for the chance to earn money for food -- all this nonsense about safe working conditions and keeping children out of factories only hurts the poor.

Ken,
I think that lizardbreath puts just the right amount of edge on the comment, but I'd also like you to consider that unions, rather than being revolutionary, are actually in some ways a continuation of the notion of guilds. In that way, it was the capitalists (and the industrial revolution) who were the ones who were revolutionaries. [insert joke about how capitalists are revolting]

"I think that lizardbreath puts just the right amount of edge on the comment, but I'd also like you to consider that unions, rather than being revolutionary, are actually in some ways a continuation of the notion of guilds. In that way, it was the capitalists (and the industrial revolution) who were the ones who were revolutionaries."

Well, yes. Again, go back far enough, and any tradition is a revolution. And guilds, along with their modern-day counterparts, were among very problems that the capitalist revolutionaries set out (with amazing success) to solve.

"God willing we'll get back to the days when the government knew to stay out of the relationship between an employer and his workers. They should be grateful for the chance to earn money for food -- all this nonsense about safe working conditions and keeping children out of factories only hurts the poor. "

Technological advancement (thanks, in large part, to those capitalists) was taking care of that nicely. You really think that if laissez-faire capitalism had remained in place continuously since the 19th Century that 19th Century style living conditions and workplaces would still exist today? You think parents would still send their kids to factories as everything got cheaper, their wages went up, and the ROI on education went sky high? You think workers would willingly work in dangerous factories as the cost of safety went down and their overall real wages went up?

If we'd stuck with laissez-faire, I bet we'd be arguing the merits of messing with success from our homes scattered across the solar system right now.

You think workers would willingly work in dangerous factories as the cost of safety went down and their overall real wages went up?

Yes, I do.

You might want to check out, for example, the stories about McWane Foundries. http://www.occupationalhazards.com/articles/7200> Here's one to get you started. When you're fully acquainted with this situation you might reconsider some the wonders of a pure laissez-faire system, and how it magically solves all problems.

Ken
While I have you around, and since you seem to have such a handle on what-if questions, could you tell me what my life would have been like if I had been born in a Third World country? Or 6 inches taller and a sweet jump shot? ;^)

If we'd stuck with laissez-faire, I bet we'd be arguing the merits of messing with success from our homes scattered across the solar system right now.

I'd take that bet in a heartbeat.

You think workers would willingly work in dangerous factories as the cost of safety went down and their overall real wages went up?

Have you noticed that the ones who aren't protected by US law do work in dangerous factories? Do some googling on meat-packing factories and illegal immigrants.

"God willing we'll get back to the days when the government knew to stay out of the relationship between an employer and his workers. They should be grateful for the chance to earn money for food -- all this nonsense about safe working conditions and keeping children out of factories only hurts the poor. "

Technological advancement (thanks, in large part, to those capitalists) was taking care of that nicely.

Yes, those locks on the doors of the Triangle shirtwaist factory did the trick nicely. And they had even better locks on that poultry processing plant in Hamlet, NC in 1991.

Ken: You really think that if laissez-faire capitalism had remained in place continuously since the 19th Century that 19th Century style living conditions and workplaces would still exist today?

It's not just that they would exist. It's that, in areas with lax or poorly-enforced labor standards, they still do.

You think parents would still send their kids to factories as everything got cheaper, their wages went up, and the ROI on education went sky high?

First, wages don't go up spontaneously, they respond to pressures in the labor market, and nations with large underclasses seldom have labor shortages, even when cost of living is extremely low. Second parents still do this today.

You think workers would willingly work in dangerous factories as the cost of safety went down and their overall real wages went up?

Again, workers still do this.

PRESS! PRESS! PRESS! PRESS! PRESS! PRESS! PRESS!

April 7, 2005

CONTACT INFO:

HANK RAMEY,
Major Organizer
Recall Arnold Movement
Owner, Grassroots-CA-OH-FL
21845 Grand Terrace Rd., #23
Grand Terrace, CA., 92313
TEL.: (909) 872-1826
bighank98@yahoo.com
doeramey@sbcglobal.net
recallarnold@sbcglobal.net
http://www.angelfire.com/biz/hankramey/page4.htm
recallarnold.blogspot.com

Dot, Moderator
Grassroots-CA-OH-FL
wwwdothello@yahoo.com

GRAND TERRACE, Calif.-California liberal progressive activists are announcing an initiative drive to put the California Honest Voting Act of 2005 Initiative on the Ballot. They will request California Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s Office for a “Title and Summary” for their Initiative.

Hank Ramey, whose prior foray in any initiative was a failed Initiative in 1990 in Bell Gardens, regarding an Amendment to the General Plan is planning with a message board and others into circulating the Honest Voting Act for more likely the June 2006 Ballot.

“We don’t think that we would get on this November’s Ballot”, Ramey said, “even if any of Arnold’s ((Schwarzenegger) Initiatives did qualify for the November Ballot. We are OPPOSED to all of Arnold’s Initiatives, because he favors hospitals, businesses, far-right educational activists. We believe at Grassroots-CA-OH-FL (standing for Grassroots-California-Ohio-Florida) that the Democrats and Greens should recall Arnold, and send a message to the minority Republican Party that we want progressive changes in California Government, and we will not have a Governor who curries with the REAL special interests. Hell, we didn’t like Gov. Gray Davis for being the Dialing for Dollars Governor!”

The Honest Voting Act of 2005 would ban any new uses of voting machines, but would require Counties with existing machines to require a paper trial on the existing machines. Those Counties would also require poll workers to randomly count at least 10% of the ballots at least four times during election day.

Most of the reforms were hashed out in the Grassroots-CA-OH-FL Yahoogroup, as well as in the CASE_OH Yahoogroup. “We are trying to avoid the problems Ohio and Florida had in 2000 and 2004,” Ramey said, “If California adopts this Initiative, other States would follow. We are also trying to Initiative campaigns started with similar provisions in Ohio and Florida.”

In Ohio, an initial petition with 100 signatures is needed before Grassroots-CA-OH-FL could start with similar initiative in Ohio. In Florida, they need proponents, which is hard to come by.

“Given the urge by Republicans to force us to have electronic voting by fiat,” Ramey said, “we would need to educate voters to get voting reform initiatives in all States where the initiative process is available. Where it’s not available, we will try to get States like Connecticut, Illinois, Hawaii, and Oklahoma to vote for a Constitutional Convention, even though Oklahoma has an initiative process.”

As to Florida, “in light of the Terri Schiavo case,” Ramey explained, “the attempted gutting of the Minimum Wage Initiative, and the wholesale gutting of the Initiative Process, Florida also needs a Constitutional Convention yesterday.”

The supporters of the Honest Voting Act of 2005 would need to request the “Title and Summary”, which goes on top of each of their Petitions. Ramey and his Group would need over 600,000 signatures to get it on the June 2006 Ballot. After the group receives the “Title and Summary” in a couple of months, Ramey and the group would have up to five months to get all the necessary signatures.

ADDENDUM

THE HONEST VOTING ACT OF 2005.

First-Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution of California is amended as follows:

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE II, SECTION 4

SEC. 4. (a) This Section shall be named “The Honest Voting Act of 2005”.

(b) Neither the State of California nor any County shall be allowed to purchase, operate, and authorize the use of any voting in any Federal, State, County, City, or other election by electronic means, but the Legislature shall authorize the use of paper ballots, as of the effective date the amendment of this Section is adopted by the voters. The People find and declare that all computerized touchscreen voting machines can break down, they are very expensive, and they are not easily distributed in an equal manner to all voters. This does not affect Counties that have already purchased, operate, and authorize any voting by electronic machines, but use of those machines shall be subject to subdivisions (c) through (e).

(c) In Counties that already purchased, operate, and authorize any voting by electronic machines, each vote from each of those machines shall contain a receipt of each vote made by the voter.

(d) On election day, there shall be a Precinct Board containing five Members who are in the Registrar of Voter Service defined in Subdivision (i). At least four times a day, a different Member shall count and tally at least 10 percent of the receipts from the electronic machines, but shall not disclose the results of each tally until the receipts and tallies are turned over to the Office of the Registrar of Voters.

(e) The software source code of each electronic machine shall be a public record, and shall not be exempted under Government Code Section 6254 or any other law or statute.

(f) The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned.

(g) All persons shall be allowed to register or re-register to vote up to election day.

(h) Nothing shall prevent the voter from voting by mail, if only the voter or a relative not beyond the third degree of relationships so mails his or her vote to the Registrar of Voters of the County.

(i) All votes shall be hand-counted by registered voters who appointed in the same manner as petit jurors under the supervision of the Registrar of Voters. The master rolls shall be randomly selected from the voter registration rolls, driver's license records, and real estate records for each County. Those called for an election shall be selected in order from a Registrar of Voters service list on paper, and filed by January 1 of the year of selection. Requests for excuses shall be in writing, which would be for (a) illness or injury, (b) financial hardship, (c) on a previously scheduled vacation, and/or (d) a temporary or permanent disability; all to the extent the previous reasons would interfere with Registrar of Voters service. Excused absences shall be granted in writing, stating the name, the excuse, and when was the excuse granted. No employer can terminate for the required performance in doing Registrar of Voters service. No counting of the votes shall be given to persons not selected for Registrar of Voters service or to private corporations.

(j) Each County shall be divided up into precincts of no more than 400 voters each.

(k) No voter shall be mislead by any election official, any person engaged in Registrar of Voters service, any member of the precinct board, any member(s) of any political party, or any supporter or opponent of any candidate or any initiative or referendum as to when
and/or where he or she can vote, who could vote, and any qualifications as to voting or voter registration.

(l) No voter shall be denied his or her right to vote on the basis of race, gender, orientation, religion, or previous condition of servitude or incarceration.

(m) Any voter who has previously voted at a previous address, but has moved from a prior address shall be entitled to register to vote and vote at the new precinct. All votes from voters that have moved before election day who refuse to vote at the new precinct will not have their vote counted, unless a provisional ballot is required to be given to the voter to be cast.

(n) Only the members of the precinct board or if none, the chief election officer of the County, may disqualify a voter before he or she may cast a vote, and only then, if required by law, may allow the voter to vote by provisional ballot.

(o) The voter shall not be prevented by way of arrest from voting, nor shall any peace officer shall prevent the voter from going to his or her polling place unless there is a reasonable belief or suspicion that the voter will engage in any illegal activity.

(p) All Counties, and in municipal elections, all cities, shall provide for enough absentee ballots, provisional ballots, paper ballots, and all other election materials at each polling place, provided, that each polling place shall have in excess of 125% of their supplies. If there is a need for a County, city, or a Registrar of Voters needing assistance, other Counties, cities, and Registrar of Voters may assist the County, city, or Registrar of Voters so requesting.

(q) All polling places shall be opened at 7 o'clock ante meridian and shall close at 10 o'clock post meridian, and shall not allow any more voters after that time, unless the voters are already in line at the time of closing. In each polling place in any election, there shall be two precinct boards, one operating between 7 o'clock ante meridian and 2 o'clock post meridian, and the other shall operate between 2 and 10 o'clock post meridian. Persons serving on Registrar of Voters Service shall be divided among both precinct board shifts, and the third group shall be used after hours to hand-count the ballots.

(r) Any violation of this section shall be reviewed by mandamus, quo warranto, or by way of elections contest and the court of competent jurisdiction may declare that the person receiving more elected votes to be the winner, whether any measure is approved or rejected, or may require another election. If any of the provisions of this Section is violated, or the election results were obtained by way of fraud, the costs and attorney’s fees, including the costs of any recounts, shall be assessed to the County conducting the election where the provisions of this section was violated or where the fraud occurred. This section is expressly applied to all elections for Federal and statewide offices, and for Members of the Legislature. In any proceedings regarding violations of this section, any contestants or petitioners shall have a right to secure all voting records, and all discovery under the Code of Civil Procedure and California Rules of Court shall be permitted.

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