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December 08, 2004

Experience, Segregation, and "Diversity"

Elizabeth Anderson: December 8, 2004

So, the first wave of comments has come in to Left2Right.  Some display the lamentable character of much of the blogosphere, of dismissing the opposition as stupid and backward for disagreeing with the author, or assuming that another author, in expressing disagreement, must be claiming that those who disagree are stupid and backward.  Others, however, display the level of thoughtfulness I hope will be the norm on this blog and the blogosphere more generally.  I speak in particular of the comments to "The Politics of Homosexuality."  Coming from the Right, Steve 's comments in particular get to the heart of the matter in a particularly constructive way.  I'd like to take them up here as a way of tying together several of the themes that have arisen in this blog, concerning data vs. personal experience, segregation and antipathy, ideological diversity and affirmative action.

Steve asks: "Is homosexuality 'like' heterosexuality, or is homosexuality 'like' bondage fetishism?  And by 'like' we mean two things-both is it psychologically and emotionally 'like', AND should it be treated socially/politically 'like.'

I'd like to ask Steve:  does he have any gay friends?  In my first post, I suggested that arguments over moral principle, while they cannot be settled by scientific or social scientific data, are answerable to personal experience.   Although I am not gay myself, I am friendly with various gay people in committed relationships, and can testify that their relationships with their partners, in terms of care, commitment, respect, love, and aspiration, are not deficient in any observable respect, compared to heterosexual relationships.

Polling data suggest that the more personal experience people have with gays and lesbians, the more they accept them.  It is possible that the causal direction runs solely from acceptance to experience (people who condemn homosexuality are less likely to befriend gay people), but I doubt that the causal arrow is unidirectional.  Personal experience changes people's views.

It's this dimension of personal experience, I suggest, that explains much of our partisan divisions, on both matters of principle and of antipathy.  It's easier to morally condemn people who aren't one's neighbors, colleagues, and friends.  It's also easier to despise, fear, and hate them.  I agree with some of the conservative commentators to this blog that the antipathy runs both ways.  Surely this has something to do with the fact that  we live in increasingly segregated regions, as judged by partisan affiliation.  As Steve Darwall notes, levels of racial segregation also remain high, in part due to the growth of virtually all-white exurban communities.  Of course, gay people are not physically segregated in the same way.  But closeting is a functional equivalent.  Greater tolerance is both cause and consequence of more people being out of the closet.

I have argued in my work on affirmative action that if segregation is a problem, then integration is a solution.  Segregation along multiple dimensions is a problem for us, both for the ways it impairs the development of personal experiences we need to inform our moral principles and our competence at respectful interpersonal interaction, and for the ways it undermines democracy.  Because the knowledge we lack is personal knowledge, in all senses of this term, there is no substitute for direct engagement with those whom we don't know, who come from different walks of life.

I have made this case for racial integration.  And I accept its implications for idelogical integration of the academy.  So, contrary to David Velleman's view, if the representation of ideologies is wildly skewed in institutions of higher education, I believe this does give us a reason to seek more diversity, including of conservatives.  I am completely opposed to external, politically imposed mandates of this kind.  Nor are quotas or goals appropriate in this sort of case. Rather, departments should handle the distribution of ideologies on a par with the way they handle the distribution of faculty across and within subfields of a discipline.  We already allow that a philosophy department loaded with Kantian moral theorists would do well to hire people who do moral philosophy in other modes--utilitarian, virtue ethics, ethics of care, etc.  Seeking such ideological diversity does not impugn the merits of those hired, since they contribute to the merit of a department by expanding its range.  We have good reasons to extend the same principle further, and positively seek out conservative moral and political theorists who otherwise meet a department's intellectual standards.  (In other disciplines, where political and moral views are not an explicit subject of study, matters need to be handled differently.  It depends on how such views bear on the subjects of study.)

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Comments

Posted by: MPS

For the record, I found Steve's comment highly offensive.

Martin P. Smith
President and Founder
Heterosexual Bondage Fetishist Association of America

Posted by: MPS | Dec 8, 2004 5:23:58 AM


Posted by: aaaa

yeah, we red state bigots don't know any of them gays...

give up now, people, before you further embarrass yourselves...

Posted by: aaaa | Dec 8, 2004 7:11:00 AM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

Coming to this blog yesterday from the Prestopundit link, I had rather high hopes for it. I know some of the scholars here by reputation, and studied with Steve Shiffrin at UCLA (in a seminar also joined by the eminent polilitical philosopher Burleigh T. Wilkins, who had been my mentor) almost a quarter century ago. I liked and respected Steve as a scholar. Steve, of course, is in no way responsible for my trogdylitic views.

My sense, so far however, is that even the best intentioned of us are largely talking past each other, rather than really communicating. Leaving aside those who post snarky comments like the first commentator on this thread, and those who respond to opposing views with visceral anger and distaste, there is a larger problem that I don't know how to solve, or bridge.

Perhaps my view of this represents special pleading for my training in the history of ideas and political philosophy in a bygone era, but (at the risk of gross generalization of a topic that deserves far more) I see a common thread which underlies much of the discussion, but is not explicitly examined: based ultimately on a view of human nature as perfectible (or at least positively mutable), men and women of the left tend to view solutions in which enforcing the "right" view by legislation or judicial order positively. That is to say, if we enforce [pick a topic: integration, homosexual rights, abortion rights], then people will (a) have to lump it for their own good and (b) will come to accept it over time. Conservatives (including some classical liberals and libertarians) tend to view human nature less charitably, and are considerably more wary of what Karl Popper called social engineering. Differing views of the nature of man may well, I would suggest, lead to differing notions about the social contract, the sources and legitimacy of the state's power, and hence the proper limits on that power. I think most (thoughtful) conservatives hold what might be called a Burkean view of revolutionary (social) change, that traditional institutions ought not be destroyed without overwhelming evidence of their unfitness.

Changes in the nature of families, and homosexuality in particular, are questions which go to people's fundamental understandings of human nature. For all of the arguments advanced by proponents of homosexual rights, I think it is fair to say that it remains a reasonable position that the jury is out on many aspects of the question. Having followed a fair bit of the 'scholarship' over twenty years or so, I am dismayed at how much of it on both sides comes across as special pleading rather than the objective sort of scholarship I was trained to respect some forty-odd years ago.

At the risk of unfairly categorizing, the self-assurance of the left as to the correctness of its views on matters which seem to me unproven troubles me. As an historian, I am reminded of the very same assurance in the leaders of the French Revolution, the Marxist ideologues who ran the various communist states, the fascists and National Socialists, and yes, even in the Christian fundamentalists who became a parody of themselves in Bryan at the Scopes trial.

It will be curious to see if the dialogue here develops into genuine thoughtful engagement or denerates into posturing.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 8, 2004 7:36:34 AM


Posted by: david gress

I have to stop posting here or I won't get any work done. (I posted three other comments to earlier threads). If my interest as a conservative scholar in left2right is any guide, you people have hit on a winner.

On homosexuals and same sex marriage (Hs and SSM), I miss in Elizabeth's post the recognition that one can perfectly well know Hs personally and still be opposed to SSM. I haven't the least problem respecting my H friends and yet not wanting SSM. This has nothing to do with acceptance, unless you define acceptance as do the H/SSM activists. It has to do with how you define marriage as a social institution. I'm pretty much with Stanley Kurtz here, so you'll know where I'm coming from.

I'm not sure that the massive coming out of the closet over the past 30 years has promoted "acceptance". Involuntary acceptance and a lot of pretense, yes, but also voluntary distancing.

Next, "integration" sounds good, but how do you do it? By coercion? If not, then you must accept that the result of many people's individual decisions may result in what a liberal will call "(voluntary) segregation" with the corollary that it is a bad thing. Is it? Why?

Finally, Elizabeth sounds like the kind of thoughtful liberal I wouldn't be scared of having on a search committee. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: david gress | Dec 8, 2004 7:41:07 AM


Posted by: Social Justice

Let us never forget that a minority of warmongers and apologists leads our attention to the essential Western imperial interests. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the appropriation of Arab resources represents the crushing of internal dissent in order to propagate the final subjugation of the Middle East, beginning with the $90bn invasion of Iraq. Presumably, Americanism as an ideology brings forth the slaughter of thousands of children by Air Force cluster bombs. As Norman Mailer pointed out, Colin Powell's parade of lies belies justifications given by the world's leading apologists for the police state which has come to pass.

Posted by: Social Justice | Dec 8, 2004 7:41:34 AM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

I agree with David Gress that there is no necessary connection between having homosexual friends and acquaintances and opposing same sex marriage. It seems to me there is a continuum along which one's reaction can fall ranging from endorsement through acceptance to tolerance to hostility and finally to prohibition/persecution. It is perfectly possible to have many homosexual friends, as I have had over the forty-odd years I've been aware of such things, and at the same time take positions of acceptance (which I take to mean being both personally neutral towards homsexuality and believe the state should take no position on it) or tolerance (which I take to mean a position that homosexuality may be wrong or a bad thing, which should be discouraged by general societal disapproval, but neither the grounds for rejecting any individual homosexual or for the state taking any action against homosexuals).

Indeed, some of my greatest concerns about homosexuality and the 'lifestyle' associated with it are the result of close friendships with homosexuals over many years who confided in me their own misgivings about aspects of the scene (e.g. 'chickenhawking', promiscuity, and NAMBLA) which they described in great detail (although not graphically). Just as their are ranges in behavior among heterosexuals, there are ranges of behavior among homosexuals. Acceptance of one or more models of heterosexual behavior do not imply acceptance all models of heterosexual behavior, likewise, one may view different models of homosexual behavior -- and different homosexuals -- very differently.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 8, 2004 8:00:47 AM


Posted by: Dallas

I have made this case for racial integration. And I accept its implications for idelogical integration of the academy. So, contrary to David Velleman's view, if the representation of ideologies is wildly skewed in institutions of higher education, I believe this does give us a reason to seek more diversity, including of conservatives. I am completely opposed to external, politically imposed mandates of this kind.

So, am I to understand, Elizabeth, that you generally support politically imposed mandates as a tool to realizing integration, but carve out an exception in the instance of ideological integration? Why is that? I ask because you state your opposition without stating any basis for drawing a distinction and come across as just a little bit arrogant. Sounds like "We can integrate ourselves - no need for someone else to tell us how to do it."

Posted by: Dallas | Dec 8, 2004 8:27:53 AM


Posted by: Scott Schaefer

I started reading this blog 4-5 days ago, and was, like many other "non-liberals" about to give up; Rob's first comment is an excellent summary of much of my own views, and one reason I'll stay at least another week.

Consider me to be a member of your target audience -- one who is not only seeking to be educated about issues on which he is simply ignorant, but also almost begging to be convinced that he is wrong on others.

I have one question for each:

1) Where might I read "the case you have made for racial integration" ?

2) I am rather familiar with Gen. Colin Powell's UN testimony, and have read Norman Mailer's speech to the Commonwealth Club. Can anyone address how one concludes that Gen. Powell's testimony was a "parade of lies" ?

Posted by: Scott Schaefer | Dec 8, 2004 9:02:49 AM


Posted by: Chris in Cambridge

"I'd like to ask [Elizabeth Anderson]:  does [s]he have any [conservative] friends?...I suggested that arguments over moral principle, while they cannot be settled by scientific or social scientific data, are answerable to personal experience.   Although I am not [conservative] myself, I am friendly with various [conservative] people...and can testify that...[they] are not deficient in any observable respect, compared to [liberals].

Polling data suggest that the more personal experience people have with [conservatives], the more they accept them.  It is possible that the causal direction runs solely from acceptance to experience (people who condemn [conservatives] are less likely to befriend [conservatives]), but I doubt that the causal arrow is unidirectional.  Personal experience changes people's views."

The above find/replace is a stupid and cheap rhetorical trick, but it seems to me to that Prof. Anderson's post has the worst of all worlds: it combines the tried-and-true "Some of my best friends are X" with an implicit "Steve is a hopeless provincial hick." My perhaps clumsily expressed point is simply that a virtual faculty meeting is not only not the best way to get those personal experiences that change one's views, but also skates the razor's edge of condescension towards those you are hoping to reach.

Posted by: Chris in Cambridge | Dec 8, 2004 9:22:24 AM


Posted by: Brendan

While I would generally agree that behaviorally people are more accepting of that with which they are familiar, I think it would be a mistake to say that moral approval is mainly a function of familiarity.

Many people seem to fall into this line of thinking because they conflate _being_ a moral person with _doing_ moral actions. Thus, they say, "My friend here is a good person who does good things. He is moral. Therefore, that which my friend does must be moral."

How accurate an analysis this is depends on what exactly you think "morality" is. For those who believe that morality involves an extensive moral code of laws, clearly any given person will be guilty of violating them at some time while virtuous in following them at others. If, on the other hand, you consider morality to be a qualitative judgement of someone's overall personal behavior, it makes a lot more sense to say, "I know this person and he is moral."

I certainly can't speak for "moral conservatives" as a group, (it is a surprisingly diverse one) but for myself I would say that familiarity is not a factor in my moral judgements. Certainly, I know a number of people who are gay (my current boss is openly gay, and in the work arena I have a lot of respect for his abilities) but on the other hand I know a lot of people who are divorced and remarried or who had premarital sex or did/do any number of things which I believe to be wrong. This doesn't mean that they are unpleasant people. Indeed, I would say a number of them are more "good" than I am by any social measure. But it also doesn't change the fact that they are living in violation of what I believe to be the moral law.

The inherent tension in Christian moral teaching is between calling all sinners (that would be everyone) to repentance and conversion while at the same time extending love to everyone as God's children. Most people manage only one of these, they either condemn sinners or announce universal acceptance of everyone "just the way they are". Nonetheless, the challenge is to manage both.

Posted by: Brendan | Dec 8, 2004 9:56:26 AM


Posted by: Matt

Rob,
I have sympathy w/ worries about "socail engineering" and worries about upsetting the structure of society. But, I think the argument as you set it out proves too much. Why doens't it also prove we should not have given women the vote? Or given the vote to men who didn't own property? Or outlawed serfdom? All of these changes were serious ruptures in the social fabric. I'm not mocking here- rather, I think we can't merely refer to worries about social change- a mere conservative feeling or worry can't be enough- we need more of a postive argument. It seems we have such an arguement for disallowing, say, pedophilic relationships- an innocent person is victimized. Perhaps something like this also rules out polygamy, though I'm less sure of this. (Note this sort of argument was the one actually made by the Supreme Court when it considered the issue.) Maybe there are good arguments to be made against same-sex marriage, but I've yet to see them. If you can point some out, I'd like it.

Posted by: Matt | Dec 8, 2004 10:09:07 AM


Posted by: LTH

The inherent tension *I* see in Christian moral teaching is that it stigmatizes just such people who are "good" by social measure because of actions which are not actually "bad".

I mean, not to start a massive religious flamewar, but *why* is homosexuality considered wrong by most Christian branches, when it harms nobody?

Posted by: LTH | Dec 8, 2004 10:10:16 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Well, interesting and well-meaning site. I hope it succeeds. A few observations:

Professor Anderson reprints Steve's comment about what homosexuality is "like." She then says she would like to ask Steve whether or not he has any gay friends. With respect, Professor, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Steve is clearly saying that we have a classification conflict here. The question is whether homosexuality, on the spectrum of behaviors and practices, falls on the side of legitimacy or not. Not surprisingly, the default position of many of the authors of this site seems to be that it does (hence the name of the site.) But that classification is a debatable position that rises, like the tip of an iceberg, from a whole host of underlying beliefs.

I think it's instructive that when Steve points this out, Prof. Anderson's question is whether he has any homosexual friends, the implication being that if he did, it would be obvious that the classification is proper. Two problems here: first, Steve's point was to make Prof. Anderson and the site owners rethink their position, not invite them to delve into his mindset and personal experience. Second, the suggestion that personal experience (in the absence of scientific or social-scientific data) ought to guide our moral arguments neatly undercuts the position that morality is transcendent. When one believes that the moral position on homosexuality has been determined from On High, it really doesn't matter whether Larry and Keith seem like really nice people.

What integration may do (but no guarantee) is increase civility and get each side to analyze their positions more rigorously. But to claim that personal contact will ameliorate someone's position is to suggest prima facie that their position is based on emotion, lack of understanding/knowledge, or fear. Hardly a respectful assumption to begin a dialogue (although I will grant that it may be accurate in certain cases. But you don't know that when you start, do you?)

What I suspect the authors of this site may discover is that their idea of what is "neutral" is not in fact considered to be neutral by those of us on the Right. Expect to be challenged on your formulation of what you consider to be the default case; I know you're trying to be fair, but often even the most rigorous thinkers fail to recognize home field advantage.

Posted by: slarrow | Dec 8, 2004 10:18:34 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Short answer, LTH: leaving aside the question of harm (which is debatable), homosexuality is considered wrong by most Christian branches because it is both generally and specifically condemned in the Bible. It is generally condemned because it involves sexual relations outside of marriage (by definition) and specifically condemned in a number of places, including the inflammatory prohibition in Leviticus and the more profound (to my mind) evaluation in the first chapter of Romans. Since most Christian branches still think God makes the rules and we don't, they consider it wrong because God does. Now you can rail against modes of thought or the nature of the Bible or the existence of God, but like I said above, you're just chipping away at the tip of the iceberg if you do.

Posted by: slarrow | Dec 8, 2004 10:22:56 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

I don't give a flip what grownups want to do to, with or for each other. But I'm not going to agree to gay marriage until we have some conversation about practical matters: social security issues, the impact divorce court, possible unintended consequences. I want to know if polygamy is next (a practice I find coercive and abhorrent, but far more defensible on traditional grounds than gay marriage). All I've seen is a bunch of emotional hand-waving about civil rights, over an issue that has never been a right in any culture before.

I'd also be very curious to know how many gay people would prefer NOT to feel pressured by this option, but are signing on to the idea because they think it's a way to force society to acknowledge them. To extend the "some of my best friends..." argument, most of they gay men I've known have no desire for a long-term, monogomous gig.

I just found this blog, too, courtesy of...National Review, I think. It would be helpful if there were some way commenters could flag their...ummmm...orientation. Left or right, that is. Color coding or something. Color me libertarian right.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 8, 2004 10:23:27 AM


Posted by: tadeusz

Well, this will probably not answer LTH's question, and I'm not sure its accurate, but...

I've read that before Christianity sexuality was a much more all-encompassing thing. The male had sex with woman, other males, boys, little girls, and the farmyard animals. The only restriction was that one preferred not to be the one that got it done to them rather than the one that does it to them as that was "womanly", and therefore low in status.

So it was a sex everywhere pre-Christian world.

I've also heard in some traditional societies that woman's value was between that of a goat and a horse.

Then along comes Christianity, changes all this. It limits sex to one relationship, intensifies into a narrow focus what had been spread around, and exalts women.

Now I don't want to go back to a pre-Christian world sexually, just like I don't want a culture that is "all politics, all the time" because both are corrupting of gentler passions, and living one's life at a continual crescendo is ultimately not as pleasant as a variegated mix.

Tadeusz

Posted by: tadeusz | Dec 8, 2004 10:36:04 AM


Posted by: Campbell

Several of the people who have posted comments above seem to have misunderstood Elizabeth's position. In particular, they seem to interpret her as claiming that those who oppose same-sex marriage typically do so because they have limited personal experience with gay couples. But, as I understand her, Elizabeth makes no such claim. What leads her to wonder whether Steve has had much personal experience with gay couples is not the fact that he opposes gay marriage, but rather the fact that he sees fit to classify homosexuality as a mere sexual fetish, comparing it to bondage. As she says, her own experience belies such classification: the gay couples she knows have loving, caring relationships quite unlike those which might be developed for the sole purpose of satisfying a sexual fetish. And so she finds it hard to comprehend -- as do I -- how someone could seriously equate homosexuality with fetishism, unless he has very limited experience with gay couples. But, of course, this is not to suggest that everyone who opposes same-sex marriage has limited experience with gay couples; it is to suggest, at most, that those who oppose same-sex marriage on "fetishism" grounds have such limited experience.

Posted by: Campbell | Dec 8, 2004 10:36:39 AM


Posted by: Terrier

"men and women of the left tend to view solutions in which enforcing the "right" view by legislation or judicial order positively"

Rob, this is a broad-brush! I am a Liberal. I am very, very tired of right-wingers calling me a Marxist - another broad-brush. The Libertarian view of human rights is the view of classic Liberalism - level playing field. I really don't care whether bigots grow to like and admire homosexuals. I just care about the law being applied fairly. I support gay marriage because the only place for the government in marriage is to act as a registrar for the contracts entered into by citizens. I do not (and possess strong evidence from 51% of last election's voters) believe that humanity is perfectable or even particularly intelligent. Our founders (all Liberals - every one) plainly said that they were not attempting to found a utopia. Communists, Fascists, and Theocrats promise utopias; Liberals do not and as far as I know never have. If you want to argue with Marxists call them Marxists but know that you are not talking to me. Conservatives on the other hand often fall into the trap of supporting bigotry because they are unable to envision change. I do not believe most Conservatives are bigots but if you ARE the object of that bigotry it matters little whether it arises from fear, ignorance, or malice; it feels the same.

On a personal note: My uncle (mother's brother) was a homosexual. He did not flout it. He was just a plain person. I did not realize who he was until I was older. When he died he made me executor of his will because he knew I would have him cremated - that was important to him. He was without doubt the finest human I have ever known. He never hurt anyone. He never even spoke badly about anyone. He stood up for himself but in quiet, strong way. He was not perfect - he was human, a good human. My mother's preacher would not speak at his funeral (and thus my mother left the church she had attended for 40 years.) Another uncle (father's side) spoke at the funeral and though he felt constrained he did state clearly that it was up to God to judge not man.

Posted by: Terrier | Dec 8, 2004 10:37:33 AM


Posted by: Matt

S Weasel--
Why is it particularly relavent that homosexual marriage hasn't been protected by rights before? (Note that they are now in several countires, and the sky doesn't seem to be falling there.) That same argument would apply to allowing women to vote, so again, I ask what distinguishes the case. You do give some issues to consider before this- factors that are to be considered in any sort of utilitarian calculous. But note, we didn't consider these issues when we struck down laws banning interracial marriage. Why not? Becuase we think "rights" trump a mere utilitarian calculous. Now, there may be no right to gay marriage or to marriage at all. But if there is a right, then the utilitarian concerns will, at least usually, be trumped. So, discussion of rights isn't mere hand wringing, though it may well be poorly worked out in particular cases.
(I appologize for getting off topic here- but, I'd like to see more arguments. S gives some, but then skips back.)

Posted by: Matt | Dec 8, 2004 10:59:44 AM


Posted by: Bruce Allardice

Ms.Anderson's column claims that "we live in increasingly segregated regions, as judged by partisan affiliation".

Passing by the use of the loaded term "segregated": The basis for this claim is an article written recently about how most U.S. counties are not competitive, but rather are big-time Dem or big-time GOP. The article is intellectually flawed, in ways too numerous to go into in this posting. In fact, the reverse is true: modern America is more politically diverse. For example, take a glance at the 1858-1864 election results in Illinois, and compare those results to Illinois in 2004.

Posted by: Bruce Allardice | Dec 8, 2004 11:11:23 AM


Posted by: Elizabeth Anderson

Let's think a little about what the reactions to this post suggest about the conditions of cross-ideological dialogue. A comparison of Martin Smith's post to Chris in Cambridge's post is instructive. Although Smith's post may well be in jest, I would not be surprised if some heterosexual fetishists are in fact offended by Steve's way of putting his point. But, given his starting premises, it would be hard for Steve to express his point in any other way. My response to this is that we should accept as a fact of political discussion that some people's premises will strike opponents as offensive or condescending, even if they are not engaged in hate-mongering or trying to express contempt. (This goes back to my distinction between principle and antipathy). So, we should just get over it and try to engage the premises on their own terms, rather than complain about how offended we are, or how condescending the author is for asserting his or her beliefs. That gets us nowhere.

I would hope that Chris in Cambridge would take this point to heart. To David Gress and Rob Perelli-Minetti, I never said that there was a necessary connection between having gay friends and supporting gay marriage. I was suggesting that sympathetic engagement with gay people will tend to provide evidence against a critical premise of *one* of the arguments against gay marriage: namely, that homosexuality is reducible to a kind of selfish hedonism or narrow pursuit of a certain sort of orgasm, making gay people ineligible for marriage because their relationships involve no real love or commitment. That seemed to me to be a reasonable interpretation of Steve's challenge, to which I responded with testimony of personal experience of my own, and a bet that others with similar experience would also not find Steve's challenge plausible. Of course, there are other arguments against gay marriage, such as Biblical arguments, and Rob's worries about revolutionaries breaking up traditional institutions, which my argument does not address.

Now back to Chris, who wonders whether I'm friendly with any conservatives. Well, my parents are deeply conservative, and I was, too, for quite a long time. As a teenager, I read Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Thomas Sowell and many other conservative authors, together with my father. I read every issue of National Review cover-to-cover, and subscribed to it in college as well. I continue to read, admire, and assign to my students works by Hayek, the extraordinarily interesting neo-Lockean work of the anti-communist Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto (touted by Margaret Thatcher among many other conservatives), the first-rate writings of free-trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati, the penetrating legal analysis of conservative jurists such as Justices Scalia and Rehnquist, and many other conservative authors (taking that label broadly, to include both libertarians and social conservatives).

Dallas asks whether I "generally support politically imposed mandates as a tool to realizing integration, but carve out an exception in the instance of ideological integration." The answer is no. Affirmative action is a voluntary program adopted by educational institutions. Except as a remedy for undoing unconstitutional racial segregation practiced by the institution itself, I do not support the state or the federal government imposing affirmative action on colleges and universities, either for admissions or faculty hiring purposes. My integrative case for race-based affirmative action may be found in "Integration, Affirmative Action, and Strict Scrutiny," NYU Law Review, 77 (2002): 1195-1271; "Racial Integration as a Compelling Interest," Constitutional Commentary, latest issue (2004); and "From Normative to Empirical Sociology in the Affirmative Action Debate: Bowen and Bok's *The Shape of the River*," Journal of Legal Education 50 (2000): 284-305.

I know more comments have been posted to my post even as I write this. But there are limits. I can't reply to everyone and get the rest of my job done.

Posted by: Elizabeth Anderson | Dec 8, 2004 11:12:04 AM


Posted by: Jim from New Jersey

What's the fetish with closing the comments section early? Maybe that's the wrong word to use in this post...how's "interest"?

This is an interesting blog but will ultimately fail for a couple reasons.

One, the professors associated with this project will have to endure competing ideas on a regular basis with people they despise. No use protesting, unless to clarify you despise me only.

Number two, liberalism has never fared well in environments that promote truly competing ideologies (e.g. the American people). That's why insular environments are so important to its survival. Of COURSE you can't abide a student's dissent, better to intimidate and set an example for everyone else. You may not say this (you do), or think it, but everything that takes place on campus seems to endorse the following: Conservatism is a provincial, bigoted relic that must be expunged at all costs.

Only the warm cocoon of the campus environment would shield you from the blindingly obvious: everyone has noticed!

Frankly I have moments of weakness, and relish the prospects of legal action requiring ideological integration. In the long run, no use making converts tackling one bad idea with another bad idea.

Society isn't static anyway, we've simply accepted your world for the hotbed of socialism it has become. If innovative ideas that don't involve post-modern-gay-chic are to be found, they're to be found ELSEWHERE.

Besides, since you people keep losing elections, wouldn't it be a good idea to drop the finger wagging?

Here's an idea: pose a question, and let Conservatives (who know how to win) answer it for you. This bidirectional stuff is overrated.

Yeah, I definitely foresee you guys dropping this comment section thing.

Posted by: Jim from New Jersey | Dec 8, 2004 11:14:53 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Matt, I'm not S. Weasel, but for what it's worth: if one is to speak of rights, then one ought to provide some sort of framework why a particular element ought to be considered a right. I typically view rights as either implicit or explicit (natural or statutory might also work.) Implicit (natural) rights inhere to people regardless of whether their society recognizes or protects them in law. (Some refer to these as "human rights", but I dislike the term.) Explicit (statutory) rights are those expressly outlined in constitutions or law and thus may differ from society to society.

What's the point, then, of saying societies never included homosexual marriage "rights"? It means that if you want to claim homosexual marriage is a natural right, that entails that all societies throughout time and culture were mistaken. That's a biiiiig burden of proof. If you're saying it's explicit, then you need to point to the consitutional provision or law on the books that supports it. If you can do no such thing, then you must argue that this particular behavior must be henceforth considered an explicit statutory right. You must make the case for this instance since you can't rely on natural or civil law. Thus it is not the case that "rights" trumps utilitarianism because you've got to do the legwork to establish this as a right.

The irritation about the civil rights and women's vote gambits is that it seeks to borrow the argumentation and political impact of a past (legitimate) sucess and transfer it to a situation that is not analogous. The supporters of those measures did their legwork; homosexual marriage activists must now do their own. They have the burden of proof.

(Minor clarifying point to Campbell: I think Steve's point was to not to say that homosexuality is a fetish but rather to say that proponents move too quickly to place homosexuality on the "legitimate" category. That point ought to be argued, not assumed.)

Posted by: slarrow | Dec 8, 2004 11:24:15 AM


Posted by: Bernard

Elizabeth, what you've said has been interesting. You shouldn't apologise for addressing broad issues of concern comprehensively rather than responding personally to every post directed at you. Provided you don't specifically ignore the difficult questions, the former approach is far more interesting to the general reader.

Posted by: Bernard | Dec 8, 2004 11:27:05 AM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

Matt writes:

I have sympathy w/ worries about "socail engineering" and worries about upsetting the structure of society. But, I think the argument as you set it out proves too much. Why doens't it also prove we should not have given women the vote? Or given the vote to men who didn't own property? Or outlawed serfdom? All of these changes were serious ruptures in the social fabric.

I disagree that the argument proves too much. Extension of the franchise in the 19th century to all white males, in the early 20th to (white) women and in the mid-20th to blacks came after many years of advocacy and, ultimately, persuasion of a sufficiently large percentage of the then voting populations at each critical juncture to convice the legislator who acted that their constituents would support (or at least not vehemently oppose) the changes. These examples represent the Burkean evolutionary process whereby a society's views and institutions may change over time by common consent (or at least constitutional process). The abolition of serfdom was likewise in most places a gradual process, except in those places where it involved resistance by, or the resort to, the force of arms (e.g. the French Revolution and the American Civil War). Those changes did indeed involve serious ruptures of the social fabric, but resort to arms is the ultimate arbiter when constitutional processes break down, whether within nation states or among them. I would continue to argue that those who propose signficant changes in the social fabric, as it were, bear the burden of proof to electorate that the changes are a good idea and not harmful. You seem to be arguing that those who oppose such changes bear the burden proof that the change is harmful when you say a mere conservative feeling or worry can't be enough- we need more of a postive argument. And, I would argue to the contrary, that as the proponent of change it's your job to persuade ordinary people, not merely judges, of rightness of your views. If you cannot, then you have a couple of legitimate choices under a system of representative government: accept the will of the majority while continuing to try to persuade, or refuse to accept the majority's will and oppose it judicially or by extrajudical means. If you attempt judicial means, as has been the path with homosexual marriage, you will undoubtedly increase the hostility of those whom you could not persuade by force of argument. If you attempt extrajudical means, you will probably lose more than just the argument.

Terrier complains I am painting with a broad brush. True enough, and a danger I recognized in my post and tried to express in suitably qualified language. His use of the word Liberal seems to conflate (modern) Liberalism with classical liberalism (which I take to mean a worldview philosophically consistent with liberalism as it was understood in the 19th century) and libertarianism. (Libertarianism strikes me as something of a reductio ad absurdum on classical liberalism, but that's neither here nor there for purposes of this discussion.) To say that the founders were all Liberals, if one means in the modern sense, is simply not true. The were educated men who were versed in the ideas of the Enlightenments (most strongly the Anglo-Scots, also the French, perhaps less so the German), but they varied in their specific views on most issues ranging from religion to the proper arrangments for the new Republic. How else do we have believers such as Washington, Deists such as Jefferson, and established churches in most of the states? How else had we the Articles of Confederation experiment and its replacement by our Constitution, with all of the contention of the ratification process and the magnificent exploratins of the issues in the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist writings? C'mon, this stuff's all out there in the literature.

Modern liberalism, on the other hand, shares with the more fully formed utopian schemes a strong ameliorism. At its inception, with the Progressives, it was able to engender broad popular support, and it has enjoyed broad popular support through the Roosevelt II era into the '60s. However, as the goals of the earlier incarnations of modern Liberalism were met in universal suffarage, equal treatment under law, social security (as originally envisioned) there was a change in the goals of liberalsm. Without debating whether those changes were a good thing or not, it seems to me undeniable that for many on the left, the bar has been constantly raised and there is an increasingly strong impulse to wholesale social engineering enforced by judical power rather than popular approval. I suspect (though there may be exceptions) anyone who thinks the Founders wouldn't be shocked by the transformation of the notion of what "liberal" means is probably not well-read in the primary sources.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 8, 2004 11:32:14 AM


Posted by: slarrow

Minor retraction to above minor clarification: re-reading the full comments from the original essay, it seems Steve was categorizing homosexual as a fetish. He says, "So why are they obligated to teach one particular sexual fetish but not others?" He also acknowledged, though, that the analogy with fetishism seemed flawed when it came to marriage (although perhaps not, I would argue, with socially recognized legitimacy of the practice.) Still, whether or not he thinks homosexuality is a fetish does not have an impact on the larger point of the legitimacy of homosexual behavior per se.

Posted by: slarrow | Dec 8, 2004 11:36:01 AM


Posted by: Dallas

Dallas asks whether I "generally support politically imposed mandates as a tool to realizing integration, but carve out an exception in the instance of ideological integration." The answer is no. Affirmative action is a voluntary program adopted by educational institutions.

Next question: Should educational institutions voluntarily adopt affirmative action programs to cure ideological segregation in academia?

Posted by: Dallas | Dec 8, 2004 11:39:25 AM


Posted by: frankly0

I do think that, if it makes sense to have positions slotted for, say, Women's studies, then it probably makes sense to have like positions allocated to Conservative studies. How much standards have to be compromised in both cases God only knows.

Posted by: frankly0 | Dec 8, 2004 12:05:37 PM


Posted by: frankly0

So, the first wave of comments has come in to Left2Right. Some display the lamentable character of much of the blogosphere, of dismissing the opposition as stupid and backward for disagreeing with the author, or assuming that another author, in expressing disagreement, must be claiming that those who disagree are stupid and backward. Others, however, display the level of thoughtfulness I hope will be the norm on this blog and the blogosphere more generally.

Are you seriously interested in persuading people? How about losing the pompous, holier-than-thou attitude of these remarks?

Posted by: frankly0 | Dec 8, 2004 12:23:13 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Slarrow did an excellent job replying to the question of rights: just because homosexuals and blacks have both been denied certain rights in the past, doesn't mean the one can assume the mantle of the other. Things that share some characteristics do not automatically share all characteristics and are not automatically served by the same response.

The most striking example of this logical hiccup, and on I got ever-so-tired of seeing this last year, was the Bush = Hitler thing. Ummm...just exactly what characteristics of Hitler's were they saying Bush shares? The absorbing your neighbors' territory into your own thing? No. The rounding up millions of innocent people you don't like and gassing them or starving them to death thing? Um, no. Because, you know, those are pretty much the Hitlerian Top Two defining characteristics.

Hoping this doesn't deflect the thread, which wasn't my intent. And speaking of which, to whoever is posting as Social Justice (chomskyn@mit.edu, indeed!), I don't object to trolls on principle, but you're a terribly *boring* troll. Put a little effort into it, eh?

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 8, 2004 12:35:23 PM


Posted by: Josh Jasper

I'm noticing a lot of "red state" residents (and presumably Republican voters who're claiming (a) not to be bigoted, (b) to have GLBT friends, and that catogorey (b) proves categorey (a).

Not so. During the black civil rights era there were plenty of bigots who didn't want thier kids to go to school with blacks, and at the same time, maintained friendships with black people.

You folks are just the same. Your GLBT friends are friends with you in spite of your bigotry, not because it dosen't exist. Having a gay friend does not give you immunity to being a bigot.

There are, to be sure, gay conservatives out there. But they're frequently discouraged by the incredible bigotry of the Republican party, and of most other conservative movements.

I'm not interested in "converting" conservatives to liberalism. They ought to be interested in converting me as a queer American, to be a conservative. So far, none of you have made anything resembling an effort to reach out to GLBT America. Mostly, Republicans and conservatives have tried to deny our humanity, our validity as human beings, our morality, and paint us as no better than pathological liars or child molestors, and in the case of President Bush, say that sodomy laws are OK.

Y'all have some might hard work to do before you convince me that the Republican Party or the majority of American conservatives have my best interests in mind.

Posted by: Josh Jasper | Dec 8, 2004 12:49:02 PM


Posted by: Josh Jasper

I got ever-so-tired of seeing this last year, was the Bush = Hitler thing. Ummm...just exactly what characteristics of Hitler's were they saying Bush shares?

Being in favor of jailing homosexuals?

Posted by: Josh Jasper | Dec 8, 2004 12:53:18 PM


Posted by: jcl

"I just care about the law being applied fairly. I support gay marriage because the only place for the government in marriage is to act as a registrar for the contracts entered into by citizens"

This is not an argument in support of gay marriage, but a libertarian argument against civil marriage for anyone. Marriage is not simply a recognition of the private agreements of two people, but a bundle of rights, benefits, and responsibilities available to those who meet the eligibility requirements. The government does not simply recognize private agreement, but actually establishes the substantive terms of the agreement (i.e. what benefits elible people will receive). To the extent that you are concerned about dispositions of property or agreements for the support or protection of a significant other, private citizens whether gay or straight can quite easily enter into enforcable agreements through traditional means such as contracts, trusts, estate planning that accomplish nearly everything in practical effect that a civil marriage does. Here, the government functions more closely to being a "registrar" of private agreements (although, really, government rarely limits itself to such a position - even where enforcing private agreements). Missing, of course, is the societal recognition of the relationship; but I would say that society isn't really required to recognize any relationship.

Posted by: jcl | Dec 8, 2004 1:02:00 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Y'all have some might hard work to do before you convince me that the Republican Party or the majority of American conservatives have my best interests in mind.

I don't have your best interests in mind. I have my best interests in mind. If you can convince me your interests and mine can coexist without friction, you can do whatever you like. But, as I am in the majority, it isn't my job to reach out to you.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 8, 2004 1:06:12 PM


Posted by: Ethesis (Stephen M)

Professor Anderson reprints Steve's comment about what homosexuality is "like." She then says she would like to ask Steve whether or not he has any gay friends. With respect, Professor, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Well, going a different direction entirely from my post in that thread, I would suggest that if you are interested in communicating, and succeeding, on this issue, one place you might start is with the Mennonite groups who tried some facilitation iniatives on the subject.

They found out a number of things that I think are useful (and that are too long for me to summarize here). I'm back to bed (home sick, sleep, read a little, sleep, read a little, sleep -- I didn't know I could sleep so much).

Posted by: Ethesis (Stephen M) | Dec 8, 2004 1:36:07 PM


Posted by: Dallas

What divides the Left from the Right? I consider the crucial distinction to be one’s attitude toward positive law. Southpaws view law as the primary instrument of social change, a means of effecting progress toward a higher state of being – a more just, humane, civilized, equitable, harmonious set of circumstances in which people will, presumably, find greater contentment, happiness, and satisfaction during their limited time on earth. This Righthander questions that assumption.

Law should be the last instrument we pull out of our toolbox. Because it ultimately depends upon coercion, it amounts to controlled violence – a blunt, imprecise weapon which often does more harm than good. Sometimes violence, controlled and uncontrolled, is necessary, as in the case of defending ourselves against our enemies, but in the context of building a coherent, vibrant, strong society, we should end our addiction to law as a means of affecting the behavior of our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

When people are compelled to act, they lose the will to act. We should, alternatively, depend to a much greater extent on building a community ethos. Which is better? A society that is just because its people are just? Or, a society that is just because its people are compelled to be just?

Which is more enduring? Which is more easily administered?

Posted by: Dallas | Dec 8, 2004 1:37:51 PM


Posted by: Jeff Licquia

There's a lot to think about regarding this post's subject matter, and I'm not done thinking about it all. (And I certainly can't say I agree with it, given that I haven't thought it through.) But, apropos this site's stated goals, I'd have to say that this is the best post I've seen on the site so far.

I think it's important to register my approval, seeing as how I've complained in other threads about the lack of respect and lack of interest in dialogue.

Keep up the good work, Ms. Anderson.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia | Dec 8, 2004 1:52:07 PM


Posted by: JBP

O.K., I will bite.

There is some truth to this post. The human is an animal that is hardwired to belong to a pack, pride, etc. It is a matter of basic psychology that we tend to prefer those who are most like ourselves. White people tend to marry white people. Hispanic people tend to marry Hispanic people. Asian people tend to marry Asian people. People of African decent tend to marry ... (As a matter of civility, I try not to insult people, but can't we just agree on a scientific racial name? Is this the race that none dare speak its name?) The men of all races, however, tend to want to hang out with other men rather than with women of even their own race. Teenagers want to hang out with teenagers. People tend to root for the sports teams from our home city. Etc, etc, etc.

Nevertheless, when you imply that people oppose gay marriage because they don't like gay people, you have committed a non sequitur. A person may like his neighbor, but disapprove of his behavior. Yes, it is harder to condemn your friends, but that does not mean that one ought or ought not to condemn him. This is not logic. It is wishful thinking.

Of course, when we consider or vote on a public policy, the issue is removed from the private sphere. When raising the issue of gay marriage, homosexual are not merely asking for freedom, but public approval of their behavior.

In addition, a person can have a neutral position as the morality of homosexuality and believe that homosexual marriage or some other policy is inferior to the present policy. In other words, one may believe that the results of a proposed policy, like gay marriage, are inferior to the current policy without making moral judgements.

I recommend an old-fashioned conservative approach, formerly known as tolerance, come to morally and intellectually serious conclusions, but mind your own business. Personally, I have had several gay friends, but I still think homosexual behaviors are both wrong and harmful. By reducing the question to personal experience, you insult the intelligence and moral seriousness of both the left and the right.

Posted by: JBP | Dec 8, 2004 1:54:41 PM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

A number of commentators have expressed discomfort with Elizabeth Anderson's personalization of the matter along the "does Steve know any gays" line.

It occurs to me reading the responses and rereading the original post that there is a sense that someone is your friend you cannot (or are less likely to) condemn their behavior. As far as it goes, the bonds of friendship ordinarily do dispose people to be more tolerant of the behavior of others (as a practical matter, not as any matter of necessity). However, the thinking behind this suggests to me a primacy of private over public virtue that is corrosive of representative government. It's reminiscent of the thinking of the Brit who famously said that if forced to choose between betraying his friend and his country, he hoped he should have the courage to choose not to betray his friend.

Translated into a matter of public virtue, this is devastating: would we countenance choose a friend of the knowledge of his treason, or his corruption? That way lies the corrupt states of the Middle East and Latin America.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 8, 2004 2:17:31 PM


Posted by: Terrier

Rob, I did not mean to say, to put it simply, every founder would consider himself a Liberal today. I consider those speculations to be silly. What I am saying is that at their time they espoused views that were then considered Liberal AND that in America today it is disingenuous to critisize "modern" Liberals on the basis on Marxist ideology without acknowledging the foundation of Liberalism laid by our founders. I believe this "social engineering" strawman to be a figment of devious and self-serving minds. It is not social engineering to ask that people be treated with respect. It probably is social engineering to reduce taxes on the wealthy in the hope that they will stimulate the economy.

If I understand your point about "gradualism" then you make my point about the "lack-of-vision." You say, "resort to arms is the ultimate arbiter when constitutional processes break down" but why did the constitutional process break down? The founders compromised the principles of freedom and this inevitably led to the breakdown. If they had had the courage to confront the contradiction of slavery in a free society then civil war surely would never have happened.

BTW - Washington was a Mason and Deist (at that time not so different.)

Posted by: Terrier | Dec 8, 2004 2:18:18 PM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

Terrier,

Let's avoid the name-calling (I believe this "social engineering" strawman to be a figment of devious and self-serving minds.) which is unworthy of argument. As I read your post, I'm more sure than ever we are talking past one another. You did actually say Our founders (all Liberals - every one) which suggests you meant to imply they were modern liberals, since you used the terms classical liberal and libertarian elsewhere.

I fail to see how it is disingenuous to critisize "modern" Liberals on the basis on Marxist ideology without acknowledging the foundation of Liberalism laid by our founders. To the extent modern Liberals have incorporated elements of Marxism into their worldview, it is surely legitimate to criticize them on that basis (whether you think the incorporation is a good thing or a bad thing). Further, I see no reason to allude to the views of the Founders in so doing, except perhaps to show how wise the Founders were and to contrast that with the fruits Marxist ideology has borne in the last century. The Enlightenments had many strains, and the ones which lead from Rousseau to Hegel and thence to Marx and his epigoni never much caught on in these States. American thought and the Founders owe far more to Locke and English philosophy than to the French tradition or the Germans.

As to Washington, I'm prepared to consider evidence. I know he was a Mason, but there was not incompatibilty between being CofE/Anglican as was Washington and Masonry. It's been many years since I read Douglas Southall Freeman's biography of Washington or Dumas Malone's Jefferson biography, but I do not recall either historian suggesting Washington did not remain a commited Anglican. I even seem to recall the point being made that Washington was a Christian in Ferling's Setting the World Ablaze.

Your point about vision seems incoherent to me. In many cases, (thoughtful) conservatives who oppose change precisely because they do envision the potential consequences, and so must be persuaded the changes are benign. It is modern Liberals who seem to have difficulty envisioning the potential consequences of their proposals and who try to lable all opposition as bigoted.

The point here is to engage in scholarly debate with serious thinkers on both sides. I'm here for that. Not for name calling, I can get that on the Democratic Underground or Free Republic.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 8, 2004 2:51:37 PM


Posted by: jcl

"I did not mean to say, to put it simply, every founder would consider himself a Liberal today. I consider those speculations to be silly. What I am saying is that at their time they espoused views that were then considered Liberal AND that in America today it is disingenuous to critisize "modern" Liberals on the basis on Marxist ideology without acknowledging the foundation of Liberalism laid by our founders."

The point was that modern liberalism and classical liberalism (the liberalism of the founders) are 2 different things. Modern conservatism and libertarianism are the intellectual descendants of classical liberalism. Modern liberalism, in constrast, has much more in common with Marxism, even if they are not the same thing.

"It is not social engineering to ask that people be treated with respect. It probably is social engineering to reduce taxes on the wealthy in the hope that they will stimulate the economy."

Treating people with respect does not require accepting certain public policies.

To suggest that the left does not support government-sponsored social engineering is simply disingenuous. That is not to say that some on the right would not like to engage in social engineering also, but come on.

Wealth redistriubution is social engineering. Collecting no taxes, and therefore leaving everyone with the money they have requires no action at all. In contrast, taking any amount of money from one person and using it for another requires an affirmative act. Hence, engineering.

"why did the constitutional process break down? The founders compromised the principles of freedom and this inevitably led to the breakdown. If they had had the courage to confront the contradiction of slavery in a free society then civil war surely would never have happened."

Some issues are bigger than the law's (and, really, society's) ability to deal with them through debate. Had the founders insisted on banning slavery when they drafted the constitution, there would never have been a union in the first place. Had the constitution been amended to ban slavery prior to the civil war, the only thing that would have changed would have been when the war started. The South would not have said, "Oh, well. They passed an amendment. I guess we lose." The issues cut much deeper than that.

Posted by: jcl | Dec 8, 2004 2:52:07 PM


Posted by: roger

Typical of the left. We are losing, so what do you propose -- that the left cede more of the one area where it does dominate, academia. That is hard core dumb.

Right wing organizations in this country have been seeded traditionally will oil money. From the Hunts to the Scaife foundation, from the fortune of William Buckley to the fortune of George Bush, petroleum has leaned very much to the right. Now, do you think the executives of oil companies are going to be amenable to ideological integration -- maybe give a few CEOs to the students of Noam Chomsky?

There are sound sociological reasons that oil companies attract rightwingers and Comparative Lit attracts leftwingers, and they aren't going to be abolished from above. Rather, you will just lose what little base you have.

Absurdity should be taken only so far. Politics is about power. Give it away, and you will have less of it. And nobody is going to give you power back as a sort of treat for being good. The tooth fairy is dead.

Posted by: roger | Dec 8, 2004 2:52:19 PM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

jcl writes (quoting Terrier in the italicized portion):

"why did the constitutional process break down? The founders compromised the principles of freedom and this inevitably led to the breakdown. If they had had the courage to confront the contradiction of slavery in a free society then civil war surely would never have happened."

Some issues are bigger than the law's (and, really, society's) ability to deal with them through debate. Had the founders insisted on banning slavery when they drafted the constitution, there would never have been a union in the first place. Had the constitution been amended to ban slavery prior to the civil war, the only thing that would have changed would have been when the war started. The South would not have said, "Oh, well. They passed an amendment. I guess we lose." The issues cut much deeper than that.

Sigh, I suppose you actually had to state that. I assumed that on a board run by academic scholars the rudiments of American history, and specifically the fact that compromise on the issue of slavery was necessary to establish the republic, was part of the shared common literacy. I mean people have read something like Morison and Commager's The Growth of the American Republic, haven't they.... or do they only read Howard Zinn now?

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 8, 2004 3:14:41 PM


Posted by: Scott Schaefer

I suspect Drs. Sowell and Friedman would not object to being labelled a conservative author.

However (and this just highlights the difficulty in truly engaging in serious dialogue when terms are not rigidly defined), I am very much certain that Hayek would strongly object -- the term conservative is today even further removed from the it's accepted definition when he wrote Why I am Not a Conservative

Posted by: Scott Schaefer | Dec 8, 2004 3:15:16 PM


Posted by: Josh Jasper

I don't have your best interests in mind. I have my best interests in mind. If you can convince me your interests and mine can coexist without friction, you can do whatever you like. But, as I am in the majority, it isn't my job to reach out to you.

And that's exactly why no sane gay person will ever vote Republican. People like you who're blind enough to think I actualy can do whatever I want. I can't. If we had a level playing field, you'd make sense. As it stands, the laws of the US make anti-gay bigotry legal. Until the majority party stops acting in favor of that disparity, GLBT people are going to shun them.

Posted by: Josh Jasper | Dec 8, 2004 3:15:21 PM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

jcl:
For accuracy's sake, I suppose we should point out that while the slavery issue was the reason the southern states attempted to secede from the union, it was not a constitutional question. Indeed, that required the 13th amendment. The constitutional question at issue in the Civil War was the right of states to secede. The Consitituional law scholars here can certain talk about this with more authority than I can, but I seem to recall the commentators were divided whether states could secede or not in the first 70-odd years of the republic. The South wanted to go peacefully, and it was the North that appealed to the Court of Mars.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 8, 2004 3:26:27 PM


Posted by: Achillea

Being in favor of jailing homosexuals?

While I'll admit I haven't heard every single one of President Bush's speeches, I don't recall him ever expressing this desire. And I'm pretty sure he never actually promulgated a 'go lock up homosexuals' law (as Hitler most certainly did). While it's certainly plausible to suppose that President Bush does, in fact, disapprove of homosexuality (and while I personally disapprove of that disapproval), he is free to believe as he wishes. Refusing to support legalizing same-sex marriage, even supporting laws explicitly forbidding it, is not even remotely analogous to slapping pink triangles on people and shipping them off to death camps.

Posted by: Achillea | Dec 8, 2004 3:33:12 PM


Posted by: Gill P

I am enjoying this discussion. Can some of the conservative participants explain to me why there is still some question as to if homosexuality is somehow "legitimate" or "right"? Once you strip out the religious belief on homosexuality, what objection is left?

On the legal side, I thought the question had been partially answered by the Supreme Court when sodomy laws were struck down. I believe that the "legwork" that slarrow is looking for has already been achieved in the patchwork of constitutional interpretation and court rulings. It is no longer a crime to simply be a practicing homosexual and we have even extended same sex couples the right to adopt children. Isn't this, but in name only, a same sex marriage? We allow same sex couples to leave property to each other after death. We allow same sex couples to have power of attorney for each other. We simply deny same sex couples the right to gain all of these rights in a single ceremony. What more legal precedent do you need?

I myself have always had trouble with anyone asking for religious law to be codified into law. It is the right of religion to establish their beliefs, their own dress, their own rituals, even their own facial hair. But it is when the violation of these laws also violates civil law that I have a problem. Where does it stop? Do we follow all the rules of Leviticus? Should we outlaw the eating of camel, rabbit and rock badger (I personally don’t eat rock badger, but if my neighbor wants to . . .) There are so many absurdities that come out of trying to use the bible (or any centuries old religious text) as the sole source of law, that it is not worth going down that path. We currently run our legal system of a set of laws, but they are mutable and we have a continuous body of discourse on their application and their applicability in the modern world. I don't know the answers, but I am sure that this continual discourse and self examination will lead to better ones.

Posted by: Gill P | Dec 8, 2004 3:44:00 PM


Posted by: jcl

Rob:

Certainly true. I would also point out that many did in fact attempt to "confront the contradition of slavery in a free society" in the years before the civil war; the more activist "right and wrong" types through the abolitionist movement and the more pragmatic types through attempts to stop the spread of slavery into new territories. It seems that the South just needed more than a good talking to.

Posted by: jcl | Dec 8, 2004 3:44:26 PM


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