So What Gives? (About Tolerance)

by John Holbo on July 27, 2014

Philosophically, recent protestations by conservatives that ‘liberals are the intolerant ones now!’ are flim-flam. I say so. Brendan Eich. Hobby Lobby. Same-sex marriage. I get why they have to play it that way, trying to turn the tables. It’s such an obligatory rhetorical gambit it almost doesn’t bother me – well, most days. In each such case the most generous possible response is: no, you are obviously confused about what liberal tolerance is, or religious freedom, or you are confused about the facts of the case, or all three.

So I’m sincerely baffled that Damon Linker – smart guy! – is apparently taken in by this poor stuff. Indeed, he’s been banging on like this for a while now, at The Week [just follow the links in the one I linked]. He dissented from our Henry’s sensible line on bigotry some months ago, in a manner that made absolutely no sense to me.

That post got almost 10,000 comments. (Wow!) So it doesn’t seem likely that Damon (I met him once, so I’m going to call him that) suffers from a lack of people telling him that what he says makes no damn sense.

What to say, what to say, when I’m already 10,000th in line to read him the riot act?

I guess I’m posting about it now because … well, I’ve been wanting to hammer out some thoughts on toleration. (Sorry if it’s long. Talking to myself, really. Go read something else.) Also, in the latest installment, Damon asks precisely the question I’ve been sort of wanting to ask him. “So what gives?”

That is the alpha and omega of what I don’t get about Damon’s recent line. And I find his short answer sheds little light. (Tolerance is always about give in the system, but I don’t get it.)

“I haven’t changed. The country has.”

The issue is a balance-of-power shift, then. But this makes all the stuff about liberal tolerance and religious freedom kind of … secondary. (Not irrelevant by any means, but not the thing.) Damon makes the case that social conservatives are now, for the first time, a true minority.

“Liberals usually pride themselves on defending minority rights against the tyranny of the majority — and above all when the tyranny threatens to become more than metaphorical through the use of the coercive powers of the government. Yet when it comes to the rights of religious traditionalists, many liberals seem indifferent, and more than a few seem overtly hostile.”

This strikes me as, at best, a parody of a bad argument liberals are supposed to love (because we are so dumb!): namely, if it’s a minority, and it wants something, it must be a right! Because minorities are always right. Right?

But seriously: Damon is presupposing his conclusion. Liberals are attempting to deny social conservatives their rights. But that is precisely what is at issue.

So: are their rights to believe and speak and personally practice being violated or not?

I’m tempted to say ‘well, obviously not’ and leave it at that. But that doesn’t seem to have convinced Damon yet, so I’ll try something more indirect. (I really regard him as an interlocutor who is open to reasonable argument, so I am trying to be reasonable about this. I really think he’s just gotten confused about this. I don’t suspect him of trolling, just to get 10,000 comments, or anything like that.)

Not all minorities are powerless or persecuted. (The 1%, anyone?) It’s understandable why social conservatives should experience relative erosion of a former position of great social and cultural dominance as a humiliating reversal of fortunes – as moral persecution. It’s psychologically inevitable that they will feel like miserable underdogs, and it’s rhetorically advantageous for them to pose as such. So here we are. But sensible people should be able to see what’s really going on. Let’s just take up the gay marriage issue. Sometimes liberals say: ‘what’s the big deal if two guys who love each other get married? It’s not like they are hurting you.’ But if you are, say, Maggie Gallagher, that obviously not true in the least. If it’s not a big deal for two guys to get married, then Maggie Gallagher is a person who has devoted her adult life to trying to inflict senseless harm on innocent people. By not hurting other people, those two gay-married guys are, in effect, turning her from a superior sort of person (in her own eyes) to an inferior sort of person (in everyone else’s). The less they hurt other people, the more they hurt her. She doesn’t want to be regarded as a bigot. Who does? All the same, liberal tolerance and freedom of religion are not ‘get out of having been a bigot’ cards you can play at any time. She can go right on believing that same-sex marriage is bad bad bad. What’s bothering her is not that someone is trying to tell her what she can or cannot believe or say. What bothers her is that more and more people think what she thinks is horrible and that, therefore, no one should think it. As is their right. Concluding that ‘no one should think this, because it’s wrong and bad’ is not, as Damon frequently suggests, a violation of liberal tolerance. Drawing that conclusion is not, per se, a coercive act. No more so than saying ‘2 + 2 is not 5’. Indeed, if you were to ask J. S. Mill what he thinks is the relationship between true liberal tolerance and claims of the form ‘x is wrong because y, so nobody should think x’, he would say that the point of toleration is always to allow people to make such claims.

Again (I’m repeating myself, but this seems necessary): I can well imagine how morally maddening social conservatives must find it to lose, culturally. People who say ‘what’s the big deal?’ should at least see that it’s very hard to say ‘well, I waged a moral crusade for decades, but the arc of history bends towards justice and all. Eventually it caught up with me and bit me in the ass.’ Maggie Gallagher is never going to swallow that bitter red pill. Naturally she is going to confabulate a blue pill to this effect: she is a Lost Cause beautiful loser on behalf of religious liberty.

You can object: sez you which is red and which is blue! Well, yeah. The point is: no one is forced to swallow either pill. She gets to pick. That’s liberal tolerance for you.

What is hurting her is not a bitter pill of belief anyone is forcing her to swallow. What is hurting her is, as Damon says, that the country is changing. There was this fight over what to think about homosexuality, and, amazingly, it had this David and Goliath quality. The good underdogs won, and the bad anti-gay bullies lost, and it all happened weirdly fast. That so many people tell the story of what happened in this way is what makes conservatives feel oppressed. But there’s nothing illiberal about this having happened.

Notice how I just slipped into the past tense? That’s sort of weird, since it ain’t over. This is another thing I think Damon gets wrong. Consider this bit from this piece:

Yes, it’s still underway. But at this rate, Nate Silver’s 2009 prediction that gay marriage would be accepted in all 50 states by 2024 is going to prove to be too pessimistic.

And yet, that appears to be insufficient for some gay marriage proponents. They don’t just want to win the legal right to marry. They don’t just want most Americans to recognize and affirm the equal dignity of their relationships. They appear to want and expect all Americans to recognize and affirm that equal dignity, under penalty of ostracism from civilized life.

There’s a weird kind of logic here, akin to certain Marxist arguments about why you don’t need to fight for revolution. (If it’s going to happen inevitably anyway, just sit back and wait.) Damon writes as though, since this will have happened by then, fighting for it now is kind of like always already having hit the poor guy when he’s down. That’s one problem.

Here’s a closely related problem. There just isn’t any way to argue for this thing that is (I agree) surely going to happen by 2024, without arguing that the people who oppose it now are morally in the wrong. The reason why it will be right for gays to have won the legal right to marry in all 50 states, when that finally happens, is that it will have been already right for all Americans to have recognized and affirmed that equal dignity, even in 2014. (Not that they should be sent to re-education camps if they don’t actually affirm it. It’s just that the argument implies that people who don’t get on board with this thing are in the wrong.)

In short, and dropping the funny tenses: there isn’t any way to argue, reasonably, for the eventual result – which Damon himself thinks is a good result! – without making arguments that imply that Maggie Gallagher is sort of a bad person, morally blind at best. Not that it needs to be made personal like that. But, inevitably, it will feel personal, by implication. Gallagher will feel she is being made a kind of pariah. That will feel like illiberal intolerance, I’m sure. But it won’t be. [UPDATE: Gallagher showed up in comments to disavow giving a damn what people think of her. If that’s true, she’s an admirably independent thinker. But the point stands. Most people give a damn what people think of them.]

Consider. If you think taxes should go down 2% and I think they should go up 2%, and you lose and taxes go up – well, that’s the sort of difference and loss that can be played off as ‘reasonable’, hence eminently tolerable. That’s the sort of thing reasonable people can agree to disagree about. Maybe it’s just a technical dispute. Maybe my party will win next time. Fair is fair. I’m not saying people will always be tolerant and level-headed like this, nor that all views about taxes are inherently reasonable. I’m just saying there’s high-stakes and low-stakes, morally, and 2% up or down is low-stakes, probably. Now, high-stakes.

Suppose I think X should regarded as a basic right (for all humans or all Americans, take your pick), such that deprivation of X would constitute a gross and manifest injustice. You think the opposite. Here we get a somewhat paradoxical result. You can presumably be quite tolerant of me. (People get these funny ideas that there are all these rights, which there aren’t! Silly people, but we tolerate them!) But it is harder for me to be tolerant of you. Because, after all, I think you are 1) fighting for an injustice that 2) all reasonable people should be able to see is an injustice. That’s hard to excuse. So if I win, and everyone else pretty much agrees with me, so you are odd man out, you are going to be surrounded by people who think you are a morally bad person. Even though your moral worth, or lack thereof, wasn’t really the issue.

Does it follow that the person opposing regarding X as a basic right is, inherently, more liberally tolerant? For most values of X?

Debates about abolitionism had this odd quality sometimes. Defenders of slavery were often quite intellectually tolerant of abolitionists – so long as they weren’t John Brown-types. (These funny philosophers, with their silly ideas about rights and what is really possible! [UPDATE: one comment has already shown that this is confusing, since it’s also true that abolitionist literature was banned in the South, and abolitionists who showed their noses could be lynched. That said, as I learned while reading an anthology of the stuff, intellectual defenders of slavery did try to turn the ‘bigot’ tables on their opponents in this way.] But it was harder for abolitionists to be tolerant of defenders of slavery. Looking back, we can easily see this for the high-stakes moral issue it was. If you think X is a view that no reasonable person can defend, then you contradict yourself by treating an opponent who defends X as taking a reasonable position. It’s harder for abolitionists to observe the niceties of debate without undermining themselves. Defenders of slavery exploited this, often casting themselves as the good liberals and their abolitionist opponents as intolerant bigots.

Of course, there is nothing that opponents of gay marriage hate more than being compared to defenders of slavery. But the analogy is a good one. Going back up to the abstract level: if you are arguing that X is a basic right, deprivation of which would be a gross infringement of dignity, then you are pretty much bound to regard whoever takes the other side as a moral jerk. This seems like a violation of the norm that you shouldn’t call someone a jerk just because she disagrees with you. But it isn’t. It’s the only consistent view to take. (That doesn’t mean you are bound to send your opponent to a re-education camp for jerks, be it noted.)

Suppose slavery had been abolished, not in the distinctly illiberal manner that it was, but by the persistent application of abolitionist suasion. Eventually everyone came around and stopped owning slaves, because increasingly most people regarded that sort of thing as just beyond the frozen limit, morally. (They watched TV shows about freed slaves, and they seemed like nice people.) It was painful to people to know that everyone thought they were bad people, for owning slaves, so they freed their slaves. Even if they didn’t own slaves, it was painful to know that people would disapprove if they said they wanted to own slaves, so they held their tongues. Some slaveowners argued that, in effect, this was reverse-enslavement – ‘slavery to the bigotry of public opinion! Where once a few were slaves, now all men are! So completely that they do not even know it!’ … But most of their kids didn’t own slaves, and eventually people stopped even saying stuff like that. It was regarded as sort of embarrassing, looking back.

Well, ok. You get the idea. The point is: this would not, in fact, be a flagrant and tragic betrayal of liberalism. Had it played out this way – and surprisingly rapidly! – it would have been the single greatest showcase for the virtues of liberalism in the history of the planet. This doesn’t prove that gay marriage is a good thing, just because slavery was a bad thing. But it does, I think, show how profoundly Damon has gotten turned around, trying to portray the system working like it’s supposed to as some alarming breakdown.

So what gives?

We’ve come to the religious part of the show, I think. I’m going to attempt one table-turn, although I know that’s always rhetorically annoying. Damon wants to say that people are entitled to tolerance, not to ‘recognition’. That is, you cannot mandate positive respect. He says this is what liberals are trying to force:

Recognition … requires much more from one’s fellow citizens — because the end it seeks is far more demanding. Instead of aiming to “live and let live,” as toleration does, recognition strives for psychological acceptance and positive affirmation of one’s vision of the good from all of one’s fellow citizens, including from those whose vision of the good clashes with it. That makes it a zero-sum game.

First of all, there is absolutely nothing illiberal about striving for psychological acceptance and positive affirmation of one’s vision of the good from all one’s fellow citizens. (Best of luck to you, but it’s zero-sum, and a lot of other people are striving, too. It’s a funny old world.) Beyond that: the shoe is on the other foot. The person insisting on ‘recognition’, as opposed to tolerance, is Damon himself. He is insisting on a special sort of status for religious claims. Being religious about it is a kind of get-out-of-being-a-bigot free card. As Henry argued in his post, it’s very strange to think this way (especially in light of the word’s etymology).

This drives Damon into some pretty awkward corners. Consider his case for why liberals should celebrate Hobby Lobby:

Couldn’t racist business owners use the reasoning in the Hobby Lobby case to claim religious exemption from statutes that ban discrimination against African-Americans?

Answer: They can try, but they will fail.

Beyond the meticulous narrowness of Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, there’s the fact that racism is much less deeply woven into the fabric of Judeo-Christian scripture, doctrine, and theology than are traditionalist teachings on sex and gender. For that reason it is far more difficult to craft a religiously grounded case for racial discrimination.

Is it impossible? Since such arguments have been made many times in the past, the answer is obviously no. But at this point in history, they are extremely unlikely to be found publicly persuasive or to prevail before the court.

One thing Alito was narrow about, if memory serves, was not ensnaring the court in judgments about what is theologically deeply or only loosely woven. It’s obvious why we don’t want the government in that business. You can’t really hope to test for theological soundness, above and beyond sincerity. And there is absolutely no doubt that many man and women of faith have sincerely believed that Christianity provided moral support for what were, also, racist worldviews – the bits about slavery can help out with that, for example. It seems to me that, according to Damon’s logic, all such people are to be immunized not just against having to provide contraceptives to employees, or whatever, but against basic sorts of criticism. They can’t be called bigoted against blacks, even if they are flagrantly and openly racist against blacks, so long as they sincerely think the Bible tells them so. Does Damon believe this is the right way to score it? Also, they can’t be called sexists – in a bad sense – should it prove that the Bible advocates sexism. To sum up: it seems to me Damon is (rather vaguely) insisting that anything a religious person thinks is good, and that they believe is supported by their religion, has to be regarded as – if not good, then not bad. That is, we are obliged not just to tolerate certain views – the sincerely held religious ones – but to accord them positive value: recognition, in his terms. To many people, this actually sounds pretty good, I expect. Religion is good and toleration is good. But the view is, on further examination, absurdly strong, really self-defeating. At any rate, highly illiberal. It’s more like distributed, or federalized, theocracy.

And if coercion-by-public-opinion (by what is ‘publicly persuasive’) is fine in the racism case, what’s wrong with it in the gay case?

I’m not going to say any more about this since I am genuinely a bit unsure how he thinks this is supposed to work.

Let me conclude this very long post by making one last point. Suppose we see a big boy call a little boy ‘fag’, and knock him to the ground. I say, ‘we’d better help that poor kid.’ You say, ‘but we don’t actually know the big one is not a serious student of Leviticus 18 and 20, in which case there has to be something good about it. Best not to second-guess private acts of sincere religious practice.’ I trust that Damon would be as quick as I to regard this as a rather inadequate case for non-intervention, to put it mildly. For one thing, it’s absurd to think that there has to be something good about it, so long as it’s religious. But beyond that, it’s flagrantly psychologically unrealistic, and we all know it. No kid does that sort of thing for religious conscience reasons.

But it actually doesn’t get more psychologically realistic as the kid grows, mellows out, starts a family, starts cutting checks to Focus On The Family because it seems like a solid organization. Stigmatization of homosexuality, as a social and cultural norm, is not, in a causal sense, an effect of theology – loosely or tightly woven or any kind of woven. The thing it’s woven into is real social and cultural practice. Everyday life. In a causal sense, the explanation for why people treat and regard gays they way they do is not that they read Leviticus, or failed to read it, but that the people around them treated and regarded gays that way, and they – being people – picked up on it. The Bible, and going to church on Sunday and all that, is one factor among many. It isn’t nothing. For a lot of people, it’s a lot. But for very few people is it the reason for all the rest. Most people aren’t THAT religious.

This is not to reduce religion or freedom to sociology, just to deflate it – a bit. Put it this way: if I really believed some guy really believed that God spoke to him, personally – a real five-alarm IMAX surround-sound mystical vision – and God told him not to bake cakes for gay weddings or else! … I would like to let that guy not bake cakes for gay weddings. Whatever exceptions are on offer, this guy deserves one. The poor couple can lump it and get their cake elsewhere, because it’s going to be just awful to force this guy to go against what he believes. But, for most people of faith, inclined not to bake a gay wedding cake, it would be as psychologically true to say that the motive for refusal is that they are Republicans, or conservatives, or they just vaguely don’t like gays. It’s all tangled up, which isn’t an especially bad thing, but not anything that deserves especial deference.

There’s a kind of tension between our sense of religion as an exceptional thing – it’s revealed! – and a normal-as-houses thing – it’s weirder not to be religious! (It would be kind of funny to give a conscience exception only to atheists on the ground that they are the exceptional ones. Not that I think that would make sense either!) Our sense of how a religious liberty exception ought to operate falls, rather hopelessly, between these stools. It’s just not possible to regard normal, median, modal beliefs, in a sociological sense, as singular exercises of heroic individual conscience. In all seriousness, the only possible reason for privileging them is that normal is privileged.

This is sort of a wimpy note on which to end, but I would hope thinkers like Damon would look at the religious liberty issue like this: it’s hard to get it right. We don’t want people to have to check their religion at the door. But, in a liberal system, religious beliefs are more or less going to count as preferences. And we don’t want to weight them extra, as such. Religious liberty should be an opt-out, a shield not a sword. Of course, just as you can’t devise a shield that can’t be used to push someone, you probably can’t devise a religious liberty exception that can’t be creatively leveraged into a device for semi-nullifying legislation by extra-legislative means, for imposing one’s religion on others. Still, that’s not how it’s supposed to go.

This contrarian view that in these cases liberals are the illiberal ones, conservatives the embattled minority standing up for freedom – nope, I just don’t see the sense of it. I confidently await Damon Linker’s complete conversion to my point of view, in response to my rational arguments. But even if he unaccountably resists, I would like to reiterate my sense that he is perfectly sincere about all this, for what it is worth. I am sure he is not trolling us liberals, even though the slatepitchiness of it might make one suspect otherwise.

{ 291 comments }

1

t.gracchus 07.27.14 at 8:42 am

This seems to raise the stakes on moral epistemology, suggesting it appropriate to bar discussion of arguments against the existence of rights.

As advocacy of abolitionism was a felony in most of the South for several decades before the Civil War, it is a little odd to talk of pro-slavery tolerance.

Your analysis would benefit from some thought about the throw-away line that need not send the losers to re-education camps (when it looks like you are fine with sending their children), as that looks to be where the tolerance argument lies.

2

John Holbo 07.27.14 at 8:57 am

Why would I be fine sending the children of losers to re-education camp? That doesn’t sound like me, to me.

As to abolitionism, I would have said the same as you a couple years ago but reading a whole anthology of antebellum defenses of slavery changed my mind. It’s true that abolitionist literature was strictly banned (out of paternalistic concern that slaves not be misled!) But defenders of slavery made quite a show of meeting their opponent’s arguments point for point, and working the ‘we are the real liberals, you are the bigots’ line.

3

ZM 07.27.14 at 9:19 am

Is it fair to presume this is relating to John Locke’s Letter on Toleration where despite arguing for toleration he apparently does not so much like to extend toleration to the Anglican clergy, Catholics, or Atheists?

This is a good article on a similar sort of subject by the Australia writer Christos Tsiolkas where he looks at the differences between his parents more conservative labour politics as immigrants in the post-war era and his own politics influenced partly by the identity politics of his day and his success in the economics created by globalisation. He also returns to Greece and meets a young man affected by the economic crisis turning to Golden Dawn.

http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2014/may/1398866400/christos-tsiolkas/whatever-happened-working-class

4

John Holbo 07.27.14 at 9:33 am

I think Spinoza is closer to us than Locke, actually. And oddly. Locke is kind of wimpy on tolerance, by our standards.

Rereading graachus’s comment: I also don’t see how I can be read as arguing the epistemological illegitimacy of any arguments against rights. I’m only pointing out how inevitable it is that your opponent will regard you as personally morally noxious. That’s different. People who think non-existent right exist are eccentric. People who think existing rights don’t exist seem evil because part of thinking something is really a right is thinking it’s self-evident. Hence your opponent is hard to see as just mistaken.

5

J Thomas 07.27.14 at 10:12 am

#1

This seems to raise the stakes on moral epistemology, suggesting it appropriate to bar discussion of arguments against the existence of rights.

I don’t see any such suggestion, except maybe from you.

If it turns out that someone argues against the existence of a right, and the large majority of people who believe in that right are disgusted to hear it and disgusted at the person who says it, the person who disgusts them still has the right to make the argument and disgust them. They have the right to be disgusted. If they don’t like hearing it and being disgusted they have the right not to listen.

If an editor thinks that many of his readers will be disgusted and will not want to read it, that editor has the right not to publish. But the disgusting author can look for any other place to publish and he can self-publish.

I don’t see that anybody’s rights are being violated by this. You don’t have a right to tell people your ideas and have them respond sympathetically. That is not a right.

6

Ze Kraggash 07.27.14 at 10:34 am

Of course individual rights are not self-evident. Only in the individualist paradigm. The acceptance of homosexuality might be seen as an indirect consequence of different phenomena; overpopulation, for example. But if it indeed indicates a strengthening of individualism and further weakening of collectivism, it doesn’t seem like a good sign for this species.

7

John Holbo 07.27.14 at 10:41 am

“But if it indeed indicates a strengthening of individualism and further weakening of collectivism, it doesn’t seem like a good sign for this species.”

IF strengthening individualism and weakening collectivism is a bad sign for the species. (Rather a significant presupposition, if you think about it.)

8

ZM 07.27.14 at 11:02 am

I don’t know anything about Spinoza. The bad sign for all the species is human unsustainable production and causing of climate change and extinctions. This does require a collective effort to remedy. I don’t particularly see what it has to do with sexual orientation though or why gay people should be defined as individualist etc

“He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. ‘Climb up! little boy,’ said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the little boy was too tiny.

And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. ‘How selfish I have been!’ he said; ‘now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.’ He was really very sorry for what he had done.”

9

Peztopiary 07.27.14 at 11:07 am

What is non-collectivist about homosexuality?

10

Sasha Clarkson 07.27.14 at 11:16 am

Ever since agriculture replaced hunter-gathering, collectivism has been the norm. But, although punctuated by revolutions, that collectivism has usually worked in favour of the minority of society: the Leviathans, their agents and acolytes. What can be more collectivist than an economy based on slave plantations?

The existence, maybe even the concept, of private property is collectivist. In an individualist jungle, the only thing you own is your body and your genes (until someone eats you): everything else you have to fight to gain or to keep. Any kind of private property requires social organisation and collective protection of that that right/privilege by legal recognition and enforcement.

So individual rights are not incompatible with collectivism: they involve collective acceptance and enforcement of a different kind of power structure, such as that, for example, desired by the Levellers in Cromwell’s army.

11

Ze Kraggash 07.27.14 at 11:30 am

“So individual rights are not incompatible with collectivism”

They are not incompatible, but I was replying to this:

People who think existing rights don’t exist seem evil because part of thinking something is really a right is thinking it’s self-evident.

12

John Holbo 07.27.14 at 12:05 pm

I think you aren’t quite getting the idea, Ze. It doesn’t really have anything to do with individualism. Consider typical negative responses to Peter Singer. Lots of people think it’s eccentric to think that pigs should have rights but they don’t generally think this makes Singer a moral monster. But lots more people think it’s downright repulsive for him to advocate for infanticide and euthanasia in some situations. They are more inclined to not even engage on the issue. (Not necessarily because they are individualists. Perhaps because they have a certain religious view.) Is it ‘illiberal’ for people to react so intolerantly to one part of his philosophy, even though, conceptually, it is very much of a consistent piece with the animal rights stuff? I don’t really think it is. The fact of the matter is: if you argue for something that people think is cruelly repulsive, people are going to find it repulsive. You can’t really demand that they not. If you want to persist in the argument, you have to argue through that. (Peter Singer would cheerfully admit this, I’m sure.) What conservatives are suffering, on the gay marriage issue, is precisely that many people now find what they are saying not just wrong but cruelly repulsive, in a moral sense. Conservative feel entitled to people not responding to them this way. What gives (as Linker says)? It used to be that people found gay people repulsive, now people find people who find gay people repulsive repulsive! Conservatives feel vaguely entitled to recover their original status as ‘reasonable’, since once it was more or less unquestioned, but it really isn’t a tenet of liberalism that they are entitled to this result.

13

Ze Kraggash 07.27.14 at 12:38 pm

Why are you talking about “people” vs. “conservatives”; shouldn’t it be “liberals” vs. “conservatives”?

Anyway, I know I can’t convince you, but I feel that you’re so invested in the supremacy of the concept of individual rights that you view traditionalists, nationalists, and other non-liberal kinds as incomprehensible, irrational, and evil. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

14

Abbe Faria 07.27.14 at 12:39 pm

“Suppose I think X should regarded as a basic right (for all humans or all Americans, take your pick), such that deprivation of X would constitute a gross and manifest injustice.”

I think the problem is the rights to freedom of conscience, religion, thought etc are (philosophically, historically, legally) a lot more basic than the right to marry. Homosexuality as a concept is a little over a century old, the idea of a consititutional right to marry is a product of the 60s, the idea of equal dignity as applying to romantic relationships is a bit of a new one too. All these things may be wonderful innovations, but they do upset the older way of thinking about things.

15

Main Street Muse 07.27.14 at 12:54 pm

From Linker: “Yet when it comes to the rights of religious traditionalists, many liberals seem indifferent, and more than a few seem overtly hostile.”

Five Catholic men dictated the Hobby Lobby decision. It is a religious-oriented opinion that tramples the rights of employees to use “the most effective reversible birth control” (according to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.)

It has not been shown how the rights of the religious traditionalists are trampled when an employee uses an IUD. Those rights are not trampled. No religious traditionalist is required to use an IUD or morning after pill – ever.

What do religious traditionalists want? Abolition of abortion (and any birth control that they consider to be an abortion.) Some religious traditionalists park outside of Planned Parenthood and terrorize any woman who attempts to receive their services. Religious traditionalists do not want gay people to have the same civil rights as heterosexual religious traditionalists – no gay marriage. They want homosexuality to be viewed as a perversion and immoral because the Bible says so. They do not believe in dinosaurs because they were not mentioned in the Bible.

In short, religious traditionalists want the primary document of the United States to be the Bible.

Religious traditionalists are saying that ANY behavior that violates their Bible must be outlawed. That is very unAmerican – and it is certainly not “hostile” to point that out to them, despite what Damon Linker claims.

16

Main Street Muse 07.27.14 at 12:58 pm

In Texas, we see what what happens when religious traditionalists assume power and dominance… http://bit.ly/1rUXbgQ

Quite frightening.

17

John Holbo 07.27.14 at 12:58 pm

“Why are you talking about “people” vs. “conservatives”; shouldn’t it be “liberals” vs. “conservatives”?”

Well, no. Let ‘people’ refer to the large and rapidly growing number of people – especially young people, but also people who aren’t especially partisan-minded, left or right – who just think the anti-gay stuff is nuts. Strictly speaking, I should have allowed that some conservatives – especially young ones – belong to this growing class. Being for gay marriage is rapidly on its way to not being a liberals vs. conservatives issue. People can still say they are proudly conservative. It’s harder and harder to be proudly anti-gay. This is what bothers anti-gay conservatives. They are getting left in the dust, being written off as intolerably illiberal in a generally liberal society. Naturally, they try to turn the tables. But it doesn’t make sense.

“I feel that you’re so invested in the supremacy of the concept of individual rights that you view traditionalists, nationalists, and other non-liberal kinds as incomprehensible, irrational, and evil.”

I think I comprehend them well enough, after long and careful study; and obviously traditionalism and nationalism have something irrational about them. (If you don’t think so, I think you should think again.) As to evil: no, but sometimes. When so, then: bad. Evil is bad. I don’t think that liberals are, in general, less traditionalist than conservatives, in the partisan sense. Both sides have things they want to hold onto and things they want to change.

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John Holbo 07.27.14 at 1:10 pm

“I think the problem is the rights to freedom of conscience, religion, thought etc are (philosophically, historically, legally) a lot more basic than the right to marry.”

Ha, an amusing inaccuracy, insofar as you forgot to include the gay. The right to marry, in various forms, is much older than any new-fangled modern freedom of conscience or thought. I realize you meant to include the gay but I think the problem the omission produces is telling in its way. One reason opinion has shifted so quickly on the topic is, I suppose, just that the right to marry seems so basic, so elementally human and social. The new forms are new, of course, but the motive to marry is so basic and ancient that frustrating people, for no compelling reasons, just strikes people as the wrong thing to do, at a very gut level. This of course took changes in beliefs about what gay people are like, but once those changes occurred, the basic-ness of marriage sort of kicks in as a natural extension.

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ZM 07.27.14 at 1:17 pm

I’m not sure marriage started as a right. Often women were gifts to another family – this is more an obligation that a right; or there was the idea that marriage had be in front of witnesses in case of spousal abandonment etc. I think marriage was earlier and more complicated than rights discourse.

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John Holbo 07.27.14 at 1:20 pm

“I think marriage was earlier and more complicated than rights discourse.”

Rites before rights, I grant. But this really just underscores how ancient is the sense that this is a basic component of human life. By contrast, freedom of religion and all that is late.

21

Abbe Faria 07.27.14 at 1:36 pm

I’m open to be proven wrong, but so far as I’m aware all the jurispridence on the right to marry is very recent, the UDHR and 60s US constitutional interpretations.

You’re right there is cultural backing for the idea of marriage as a basic personal expression – see Romeo and Juliet. But I think the actual law was historically a mass of feudal permissions, convoluted licencing regimes, involved canon law on impediments, miscegenation statutes, etc. I don’t think any “right to marry” was invoked in the 70 years of debates running up to the Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act 1907, that’s new.

22

Widmerpool 07.27.14 at 1:48 pm

TL but R. :-) Am I oversimplifying? Spinoza, Locke … isn’t it about Mill? Whenever I read conservatives on SSM I conclude that their beef is all about rejecting the harm principle. Or they mistakenly think revulsion = harm. Nobody is hurting anybody else by marrying (romantic rivals aside). (I realize some conservatives insist SSM harms kids, but set that BS aside, as Linker rightly does.) A third party’s personal objection has no standing. The liberal objection to the conservative objection has standing because it protects people from real harm. Liberal revulsion toward conservative intolerance is a fact, but it is neither here nor there, since the liberal political position respects the harm principle. Period. Isn’t all the rest just tribalism and exegesis?

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The Raven 07.27.14 at 2:15 pm

And yet marriage is the oldest human custom, and anthropologists have found no society, ever, without marriage customs. It was also one of the rights taken from the slaves of the antebellum South, and one of the most hateful practices of slaveholders, to break families at whim. This argument, that the rights of marriage are a new thing, is disingenuous.

BTW, in Nature’s God, Matthew Stewart makes an argument for Locke as a crypto-Spinozist. I’m not equipped to evaluate it, alas.

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MPAVictoria 07.27.14 at 2:20 pm

I really liked this piece John. I am now awaiting the usual suspects who will show up to defend the poor and oppressed bigots.

/Hi Roy!

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Lynne 07.27.14 at 2:54 pm

I am not a philosopher but there seems to be a lot of fuzzy thinking here. Both the OP and the linked post by Damon Linker go back and forth between talking about people’s beliefs and talking about their efforts to legislate their beliefs. There is a huge difference. Many people of conviction accept that they are in the minority in some of their beliefs and personal practices (vegetarianism, for example) and even if their practice is based on a deeply-held moral conviction they don’t expect to legislate it.

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t.gracchus 07.27.14 at 3:07 pm

re 4:
I expressed my point unclearly. It is not that you are “arguing the epistemological illegitimacy of any arguments against rights” but that the argument appears to lead to the conclusion that a rejection of rights is immoral and that those who reject rights are bad people. In other words, a range of otherwise reasonable epistemological or metaphysical opinions will be outside the pale.
Thinking something is a right does not require or even imply that one thinks the right is self-evident or self-evidently a right. Do you intend to rule out consequentialist and contractarian theories? Maybe I am misreading you, and the post is more in the way of sociological essay?

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NMissC 07.27.14 at 3:20 pm

There’s a really simple analysis that cuts through a lot of the back-and-forth: Saying out loud that bigotry is what it is will always been thought of as intolerant and rude by the bigot.

The notion that abolitionist thought was tolerated and politely engaged in the south is pretty much ahistorical. It wasn’t an abolitionist who walked into the Senate floor and beat and opponent almost to death, and I am aware of no history of repeated lynchings and physical attacks on anyone suspected of even slight incorrectness on the subject (for instance, the president of Oakland College in Mississippi was beaten to death for being suspected of more-or-less secretly harboring incorrect thoughts, simply because he was not a fire-eater). The white south developed an intolerance to opposing or even moderating views that continued forward into the Jim Crow era and even, now, into the debate you describe. In fact, much of the talk coming from folks like the American Family Association and their politician allies amounts to accusing liberals of intolerance because we won’t tolerate their intolerance. That is, that anyone would argue the other side and say that intolerance=bigotry is, to their mind, bigotry.

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bianca steele 07.27.14 at 3:48 pm

I agree with Lynne, and along with that, the bit in the OP about “pariah” only really holds if there’s no difference between being considered morally wrong by a subgroup of society and being excluded from “Society.” The bigot wants to legislate his feelings for everyone, and assumes his wishes hold for everyone, so he believes everyone wants to legislate their feelings too. I think this is becuase if they didn’t agree with him, then he would have to consider that he might be wrong. But even assuming he has a sincere (religious) belief that he has to want to legislate his feelings for everyone. Why does he get a free pass simply by saying “it’s my religion”? Doesn’t he even have to explain what it is about his religion that makes him believe it? He thinks he doesn’t, and I think this is because he’s missing something important about why he’s being asked for his reasons.

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John Holbo 07.27.14 at 3:55 pm

“the argument appears to lead to the conclusion that a rejection of rights is immoral and that those who reject rights are bad people.”

You mean any claim of rights? There is no such thing as a wrong claim of this sort?

How does what I said appear to lead to this conclusion? It doesn’t look to me like it follows. Certainly it’s a very implausible claim, so if I have managed to imply it I should change something.

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MDH 07.27.14 at 4:08 pm

Having given MPAVictoria time to appear in this thread and use it again, I am now free to steal that comment from Henry’s piece on bigotry.

“Everything about this post is 100% right and 0% wrong.”

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.27.14 at 4:09 pm

I really enjoy these Holbo posts for their playfulness and also for their willingness to follow the conservative illogic all the way down into the rabbit hole.

Thirteen years ago, I was a committed social conservative, recently hired as an editor at First Things

Well, there’s Linker’s problem in a nutshell.

But more seriously: Linker does this thing that conservatives do where they pretend that liberalism has no positive content, that it’s all about bloodless adjudication of abstract rules. Now, Linker can perhaps be grudgingly forgiven for doing that because lots of liberals themselves tend to behave this way too, but this is just a case of background assumptions being so thoroughly ingrained into the structure of things that they don’t even get brought up all that much. Scratch the surface and you find that it’s not just some kind of abstract rights-talk, but that people genuinely believe that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and that anti-gay people are, in fact, actively being bad. Linker’s pseudo-judo of attempting to turn the tables on liberals via invocations of tolerance is, as rightly noted in the OP, flim-flam, but it’s flim-flam that he thinks will work because he’s not interested in seeing liberalism as an interlocking web of beliefs that entails certain moral positions and judges those who go against those positions. Linker just thinks, oh, liberals value tolerance, so if I can show that they’re intolerant, I will have precipitated a crisis! When no crisis materializes, this is taken not as evidence of Linker’s inability to think his way through things, but as some sort of radical inconsistency within liberal thought that needs to be ameliorated (and for the better of liberalism, natch; Linker is Very Concerned about liberalism’s consistency and you know that’s true because he used to write for First Things).

Basically, Linker does what the DC Court of Appeals did in Halbig: pretend you can read one tiny part of a larger text as dispositive of the entirety of the truth or falsity of said text and respond to anyone who openly laughs at your busted hermeneutics with accusations of paradoxical inconsistency.

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bianca steele 07.27.14 at 4:24 pm

One problem is that Linker’s argument is a little like those fish who have a central core of territory they’ll defend aggressively, attacking any other fish who tries to invade that space, and a wider diameter of space they permit other fish to swim through. The effect is that some people get to claim the right of recognition and others don’t, but not only that, some people don’t really get to claim the right of recognition, at least in theory, but in practice nobody else is allowed to press claims against them. So there are people who get to feel all put-upon because their beliefs are no better than anybody else’s, but Linker is there to defend them and make sure they’re treated with deference. So he’s going to argue that the little circle of aggressive defense ought to be defined with a larger diameter, and he’s going to blame the other fish for not making their free-swimming circles smaller so his can have more breathing room.

When they say, all’s fair in love and war, we’re going to argue for enlarging our diameters too, he switches his argument, and now he’s complaining that the circles should stay where they were. But also he wants to pretend his fish always had larger circles than the other fish did.

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Stephenson quoter-kun 07.27.14 at 4:33 pm

I think Linker’s argument is, if we ignore the actual evidence, a fairly reasonable one in principle. In any given period, you will find people arguing for free speech, liberty, tolerance and so forth, and only some of them will actually mean it. The rest simply want freedom for themselves, and for their actions to be tolerated, and I suspect that this latter group comprise the majority. When power shifts, this behaviour is exposed. I am surprised that he is surprised by it.

We see this kind of thing a lot from “libertarians” who are very concerned about freedom insofar as it affects them personally, but not really all that interested in the freedom of others. Some manage to maintain consistency, and make a public song-and-dance about issues like drug legalisation and open borders in order to demonstrate their sincerity, but they’re never a majority even amongst libertarians. Similarly, left liberals are often in favour of free speech – not just the “you shouldn’t go to jail just for saying things” conception, but the “freedom of the public square” conception in which the practical exercise of the right has to be possible for it to be said to exist. Yet left-liberals who retain consistency here often look very uncomfortable when doing so precisely because most of their allies are often vocally unwilling to agree.

Now, on the actual facts of the cases Linker mentions. I don’t want to revisit the Eich thing except to say that I think he probably has a point there, but Hobby Lobby is all kinds of wrong and the “religious freedom” aspect is only a tiny part of it. If Hobby Lobby’s executives want to opine against contraception, I would have no problem with them doing so, at howsoever tedious length they wish. I wouldn’t even mind them using the bully pulpit of corporate leadership, although I would certainly think worse of them for doing so. But to actually deny individuals free choice in the matter, and to exploit the monumentally screwed-up US health insurance system for the purpose of advancing a religious viewpoint, is beyond any kind of reasonable behaviour. It’s not “liberal intolerance” to disagree with that kind of behaviour, any more than it would be “conservative intolerance” if they resisted a dastardly liberal plot to supply contraceptives in the office drinking water.

This is where Linker goes off the rails in detecting hypocrisy where none exists. A liberal, in the sense he’s appealing to, is someone who believes in individual choice and live-and-let-live. Such a liberal would give Brendan Eich a pass, I think. Such a liberal would also be enthusiastically in favour of allowing equal marriage – between consenting adults, where’s the harm? But such a liberal is absolutely not required to be OK with restrictions on individual choice about contraception. You can technically argue that to force Hobby Lobby to provide health insurance that allows for choice on contraception would violate the conscience of the company’s owners, but this simply pits two sets of interests against each other and I don’t think we’re required to sympathise with the owners of Hobby Lobby in that case (of course, socialised healthcare would make this particular point moot). I certainly don’t find it ideal that Hobby Lobby’s owners should be forced to purchase any particular kind of health insurance for their employees, but that’s because I think that the notion of tying health insurance to employment is somewhat compromised to start with.

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Shatterface 07.27.14 at 4:43 pm

Anyway, I know I can’t convince you, but I feel that you’re so invested in the supremacy of the concept of individual rights that you view traditionalists, nationalists, and other non-liberal kinds as incomprehensible, irrational, and evil. But it doesn’t have to be this way

I think you are so invested in homophobia that you think linking homosexuality with anti-collectivism will grant you immunity against being called out as a prick.

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.27.14 at 4:44 pm

A liberal, in the sense he’s appealing to, is someone who believes in individual choice and live-and-let-live. Such a liberal would give Brendan Eich a pass, I think.

Except this denudes liberalism of any moral claims. The “liberal in the sense he’s appealing to” person is a figment of Linker’s imagination; most liberals have actual moral commitments that go beyond “live and let live” to “if you don’t think gay people are deserving of equal rights and are donating to prevent them from achieving those rights, you are a bad person.” In the real world where the Eich thing actually happened, people used their actually existing powers of free speech to call Eich out for being a bad person and when it turned out that Eich’s being a bad person looked like it would actively harm his company, he stepped down. The system worked! This would be a surprise to literally no one who actually recognized that liberals do have moral values that they are committed to and judge the actions of others on the basis of whether or not they align with those values. Of course doing so would be harmful to Linker’s thesis so he’s not actually going to do it, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

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L.M. Dorsey 07.27.14 at 5:21 pm

Might not toleration be usefully considered in relation to the establishment of the ideology of Lockean liberty in Virginia as discussed by Edmund Morgan? Something along the lines that: as the enclosure and institutionalization of what in the old country had been the turbulent lower orders as slaves made it economically feasible, intellectually credible, and politically advantageous to practice equality among themselves and to militate for “universal” liberty; so might toleration be conceived as a mode of this liberty.

In other words, I suspect that “tolerance” as we have used it in the United States might be involved in a kind of tautology: tolerance could be adduced as a civic virtue because it was already (at one time) demanded by a particular form of social life, one founded on and sustained by intolerance. (The actually intolerable are always conveniently out of frame, but always provide a bedrock and impetus of unity among the happy few… and so on.)

If any of this speculation panned out, and maybe even if not, I might poke a bit at the possibility that American toleration is a manifestation of that imperiously optimistic monism from which Berlin claims Machiavelli woke us:

…namely that somewhere in the past or the future, in this world or the next, in the church or the laboratory, in the speculations of the metaphysician or the findings of the social scientist, or in the uncorrupted heart of the simple good man, there is to be found the final solution of the question of how men should live. If this is false (and if more than one equally valid answer to the question can be returned, then it is false) the idea of the sole true, objective, universal human ideal crumbles. The very search for it becomes not merely Utopian in practice, but conceptually incoherent.

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Maggie Gallagher 07.27.14 at 5:37 pm

One difference between you and me, is I don’t actually think what people think about Maggie Gallagher is very important at all.

Except to the extent the effort to demonize a particular high-profile individual, is actually an attempt to repress the views of millions of loving, decent law-abiding Americans who just don’t believe that same-sex unions are marriages.

What people think of me matters very little, except to the extent I become a symbol of the views of millions of our neighbors and fellow citizens. That matters.

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MPAVictoria 07.27.14 at 5:47 pm

“The system worked! This would be a surprise to literally no one who actually recognized that liberals do have moral values that they are committed to and judge the actions of others on the basis of whether or not they align with those values. “

Well said.

@MDH
Well I can’t really claim that one as mine but I agree that it fits with J.Q’s post so I am glad you used it.

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Dr. Hilarius 07.27.14 at 5:57 pm

There may well be an element of incivility in how some liberals regard social conservatives but it didn’t come out of nowhere. In my experience, which is all I can speak about, social conservatives have historically refused to pay even lip service to tolerance of the Other, be it gay, atheist, or whatever. No moral relativism for conservatives. Liberals (for want of a better shorthand term) tried to have polite disagreement but were met with increasingly extreme personal attacks, flagrant lies (gay bogeymen recruit your children!) and general incivility. In response, I and others like me gave up on trying to turn the other cheek and responded in kind.

Social conservatives have never wanted a pluralistic society. Their tolerance, such as it was, existed only so long as gays were a powerless minority willing to hide and self censor. “I don’t care if they are gay but holding hands in public is forcing me to look at it.” Much the same as not being a Christian in the rural South; if you want tolerance, keep quiet about it.

John Holbo describes Damon Linker as a smart guy. This is my first exposure to Linker and smart isn’t the adjective that comes to mind. But Holbo has always seemed to be a pretty nice guy with tolerance to spare.

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Glen Tomkins 07.27.14 at 6:05 pm

Athens and Jerusalem

Look, our guy, Socrates, never had the misfortune of having a church founded to distort his sayings unto the nth generation. Wasn’t in the DNA? Who knows, but for whatever reason, philosophy has never been propagated into the future as an organized movement.

Jesus wasn’t so lucky. Whatever the original teachings, however 180deg contrary to those views anything like a church is, avid church-building is what the Gospels wrought. And in a contest for institutional survival in our very sinful world, survival of the fittest dictates that the churches that make it through the centuries are the ones committed to power and the propagation of power into the future. The Good are the people who are in power, if only social power, respected and envied by all. Or at least the Good are the people who ought to be so honored. Sinners are the opposite, the bottom of the social hierarchy, or at least they should be disrespected and looked down upon.

This is simply what churches are, or at least the ones that survive. Someone like Linker, who chose Jerusalem because it fit what he is, cannot be brought over by argument. Gays have to be tolerated, in his view, and the church people who won’t tolerate their existence and grant them a place in society are simply wrong. God made all of us, each in his or her place, and it is against God to deny gays their place. But gays can’t have recognition. We can never forget, we can never let them forget, their place, which is to be either magdalens who acknowledge their depravity, or unrepentant sinners. Linker is all for tolerating gays as magdalens (And maybe, if it were politically feasible, in a better climate of opinion, he would be for something like employment in Magdalene Society charities and industries as the proper place in society for gays), but the very suggestion that they should be “recognized”, considered on an equal and level footing with the Good, is monstrous.

What you’re asking Linker to do is accept the position of magdalen for himself. He can’t acknowledge that it’s wrong to deny gays recognition, to stop at letting them sin in private without the social status of marriage, without seeing that as a sin that puts him at the low status of someone whose place in society is to admit his sin. This really is a zero-sum game. In his mind, either there’s nothing sinful about being gay, and he’s the magdalen, or being gay is sinful and the gays are magdalens. There really is no room for any sort of middle way. And he is not about to accept the position of moral leper.

Just because you and I don’t see this as any sort of zero sum game does not do Linker any good at all. He can’t accept our intellectual frame that he is and has been simply mistaken about gays, and he among us who is without mistake (“mistake”, by the way, is what hamartia is, not “sin”) let him cast the first stone. The point seems obvious to us, but he reads the numerous parables to that effect in the Book he imagines he serves, and the point simply rolls off his back.

Ironically enough, our guy actually did write that the philosophers should be the top of the social hierarchy, while Jesus thought the place of the holy was to wash the feet of lepers. Our guy was only kidding, of course, and nobody likes an ironist.

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JHW 07.27.14 at 6:08 pm

Part of the issue here is that “tolerance” as a norm is complicated and deeply contested. We can be “tolerant” of public opposition to same-sex marriage in the same way we are tolerant of public expression of (explicit) racism, which is to say, we don’t have laws banning it but both law and social custom generally permit (and sometimes require) private parties to act against it. But this is a very minimalist sense of tolerance; for example, we wouldn’t think it consistent with religious tolerance for the NBA to have a policy against Jews owning basketball teams. In reality, of course, it is a mixed norm: we are (legally) tolerant of racism but also (socially) intolerant of it while (for the most part) we are both legally and socially tolerant of religious differences.

And this has consequences, even strictly in the terms of liberal tolerance. We don’t ban hate speech in the US but the social norms against the expression of certain kinds of racist attitudes have similar effects; we don’t have a robust debate about the merits of racism. And those religious believers who were religiously and theologically committed to racism either have become utterly marginalized and restricted in their civic participation, or ended up changing their religious views in response to external pressure. These are not bad things! But you can’t get at why they are not bad things by appealing to the difference between liberal tolerance and recognition. Instead, they are substantive content limitations on what we should tolerate. We tend to think (rightly) that the social harms of racist views outweigh the intellectual value of hearing them out and engaging them, and the liberty value of respecting people’s conscientious objections to anti-discrimination norms (at least on the basis of race).

So, substantively, the analogy between same-sex marriage opposition and racism suggests that we ought to be intolerant of same-sex marriage opposition (and the cluster of “traditional” moral views it’s rooted in) in the same ways we are intolerant of racism—not just “You believe things that are morally repugnant,” but also “We are going to impose heavy social penalties on you for expressing those views in public” and “We are going to establish legal regimes where institutions that govern themselves according to those views face major difficulties.” (Notice that we do this for race, but we don’t necessarily do it for other categories like sex; the legal anti-discrimination regime is more lenient, essentialist arguments about sex differences are still within the mainstream, and people generally do not see, say, the Catholic Church’s ban on female priesthood as being beyond the moral pale.) It is natural—indeed, correct—to think that liberal tolerance norms count against adopting this approach to support for anti-LGBT discrimination. But liberal tolerance norms, as we know from the racism example, are only part of the story (even of liberalism itself, which in other countries is much happier than it is here to accept even outright government bans on speech in the service of liberal ends).

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Watson Ladd 07.27.14 at 6:11 pm

The point of liberal society is to permit differences of opinion to exist in society. Religious freedom protects the Quaker from taking up arms against fascism, the Orthodox Jew from removing his kippa when entering court, the Voodoo practitioners from getting arrested for slaughtering chickens. Surely it can be extended to protect a photographer from being forced to take photographs they disagree with.

Furthermore, having norms that one’s opinion in public life is no business of one’s employer is a good thing. Were to press Princeton to fire Singer, even though we regard his ideas as abhorrent, we would step into dangerous ground. Play the ball, not the man. The rule that says one can be fired for political donations that aren’t liked strikes both ways.

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Kalkaino 07.27.14 at 6:31 pm

All this can be reduced to some pretty basic distinctions: we must respect, even defend, people’s right to believe differently, but we have no duty to respect people’s beliefs, however crappy. Quite the opposite, when people believe pernicious bull we have a positive moral duty to point out the defects in their thinking. Of course, most of us shirk this duty most of the time. Still, the civilized response to childish superstition is mild derision; the proper response to religious bigotry ranges from vigorous counter-speech to focused opprobrium.

And in real life it’s not that hard to distinguish superstition and bigotry. If it posits real monsters, miracles, or magic, it’s superstition. If your imaginary friend suggests that basic justice, fair play, the ethic of reciprocity, or the Golden Rule do not apply to a whole class of people (women, gays, Palestinians….) because that’s the way He wants it in His omnipotent caprice — then you’re a religious bigot, and your self-serving beliefs should be roundly pissed on by decent people.

If you start letting belief trump the law, letting religion trump finding of fact, pretty soon you’ve got sectarian warfare. After all, if we’re going to respect the idea that contraception is murder (Hobby Lobby’s essential position), can we really disparage the burning of heretics, the slaughtering of infidels? I mean if the burners sincerely believe…?

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Sasha Clarkson 07.27.14 at 6:42 pm

“poor and oppressed bigots”

Such people do exist – in the 1970s I encountered some at university: in this case confused products of the English public school system and/or childhood religious indoctrination.

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Consumatopia 07.27.14 at 7:10 pm

In one sense I think the bigots have something of a point about the unfairness of their “pariah” status. It’s not that they don’t have wrong beliefs, or that they aren’t acting to harm others. But lots of people believe wrong things and act in ways that harm others. Why do bigots have pariah status, but not war mongers, polluters or greedy capitalists? It’s not because bigots are worse people or have committed worse sins. It’s because they’re losing, and therefore bigotry can be criticized without the same kinds of consequences one faces for criticizing imperialism, pollution, or labor exploitation.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t criticize bigotry. But maybe we’re less willing to see shades of gray when we’re talking about bigotry as we are other issues?

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John Quiggin 07.27.14 at 7:27 pm

A side comment on Brendan Eich.

The US is one of the few developed countries where it is entirely legal (for private employers) to fire workers on the basis of their private political opinions. So, anyone who wants to object to Eich’s firing must either present it as a high-profile example of what’s wrong with the doctrine of “employment at will”, or argue that Eich’s particular opinions deserve a specially protected status, not available to political opinions in general.

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Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 07.27.14 at 7:42 pm

Part of the issue, I think, is that as a society we’ve decided that religious views deserve special status that we don’t grant to other views — consider the RFRA in general. This requires, in turn, that we not consider as “real” religious views those that we aren’t willing to grant special status, such as racist views about black people.

As a result of this compromise, there’s an important question about where religious views on gay marriage and gender roles more generally will fall. They could be given special status, like minority religious views on public schooling or war, or they could be deemed beyond the pale, like minority religious views on racism or medical care for children.

Making traditional religious views on sexuality and gender norms beyond the pale would be a radical upheaval in our society, although one devoutly to be wished for. But the logic of John’s argument is really that the special status accorded to religion doesn’t make sense, which would also be another major upheaval. Trying to argue his way out of either of these horns of the dilemma is what Linker is going for, I think.

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Brett Bellmore 07.27.14 at 7:45 pm

Sure, religion is irrational. Mind, it’s hardly the only species of irrationality, but it is one. and it can, notoriously, lead to people choosing adherence to it over reason, or even the preservation of their own lives.

“If you start letting belief trump the law, letting religion trump finding of fact, pretty soon you’ve got sectarian warfare.”

But, if you let the scope of law expand to encompass everything, you’ve got war, again. Because all sorts of people draw all sorts of irrational lines, not just religious people, (Though they’re famous for that.) and the more places government is determined to go, the more lines it crosses. The more toes it steps on.

Honestly, if I have to chose between an irrational institution like religion, that at least knows it’s place, and an institution, call it whatever, (The cult of the state, maybe?), that combines a belief that everything it it’s business with a bloody determination that its orders must always be followed, I’ll pick religion. Because the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door may be annoying, but they don’t kick it down in the middle of the night, and toss in grenades.

“I’m rational, and you’re not, so you’d better follow my orders, or it will be your fault I have to kill you!” is a sect we’re familiar with from the 20th century. It has a justifiably poor reputation. Let’s not rationalize reviving it.

49

Stephenson quoter-kun 07.27.14 at 8:06 pm

Except this denudes liberalism of any moral claims. The “liberal in the sense he’s appealing to” person is a figment of Linker’s imagination; most liberals have actual moral commitments that go beyond “live and let live” to “if you don’t think gay people are deserving of equal rights and are donating to prevent them from achieving those rights, you are a bad person.”

OK, but the fact that “most liberals” think this way is exactly what I was saying – most liberals don’t privilege tolerance above their own morals, just as most libertarians don’t privilege freedom when it conflicts with their own prejudices. It suits liberals to appeal to free speech or tolerance at certain times, when the speech they’re trying to protect is speech that they approve of. Very many would not make such an appeal on behalf of speech that they don’t approve of, but they’d like you to think that they would. (And enough of them do that it doesn’t seem like a totally absurd expectation).

For my part, I agree with your moral position that seeking to deny gay people the freedom to marry is objectionable, but there are lots of people with objectionable opinions out there, and I’m generally in favour of people being able to compartmentalise their lives to some extent. Presented in the abstract, the notion that a person could be forced to resign from an organisation they helped to found, after doing more than almost anyone to promote that organisation’s aims and values, because of a private political donation, would seem troubling. I’m not sure that it’s reasonable say “sure, but that guy’s particular views really offended my moral sensibilities so I’m going to be OK with this”, because that really does undermine your ability to claim to speak for tolerance or free speech or whatever in future, unless you want to limit your free speech claims to the libertarian minimum of “you can say what you like but you have no right to be heard or protected from those who don’t like what you say”. Which you may be fine with, but the difference between liberal and libertarian rests in part on the liberal’s support for positive liberties such as the right to participate meaningfully in political discourse without being punished for it.

John Q @46: The fact that Eich’s employers are legally allowed to do something has very little bearing on whether it is right. I think we’re allowed to object to things even if they’re legal (so long as we’re consistent, and would complain about other politically-motivated firings/enforced resignations). I see what you were trying to do there, but I don’t think it worked. To be fair, the distinction between saying “I don’t think you should have done that” and “I don’t think you should have been allowed to do that” is one of the tricksiest devils of online political discussion.

50

Layman 07.27.14 at 8:17 pm

“But, if you let the scope of law expand to encompass everything, you’ve got war, again. “

Yet no one is proposing that. The question is not whether the scope of law should include everything, it is whether the scope of law should include everyone; whether some people should be exempt from obeying a law on the basis of their religious views. The law doesn’t constrain what you may believe, it constrains what you may within some reasonable bounds.

51

Sasha Clarkson 07.27.14 at 8:21 pm

Religion knows its place Brett @48? Really?

Many are/have been determined on World Domination. They achieve power and others must obey. From the Treaty Of Tordesillas, to Gallileo’s persecution, to Franco’s Spain, to Rev Moon, to ISIS, to those who want to ban contraception: much religion never knows its place. At times some of the power-seeking cults may be on the defensive, but they are still a conspiracy against the rest of humanity.

52

Consumatopia 07.27.14 at 8:24 pm

“But, if you let the scope of law expand to encompass everything, you’ve got war, again.”

This is completely backwards. People resort to the law as an alternative to settling their conflicts through force. Where the law cannot expand, people rely on force and war.

Hobby Lobby is a good example of that. They insist that the government can’t stop them from stopping their employees from using their health insurance to obtain objectionable birth control. A lot of people object to their objections, and call for a boycott in response.

So now we have Hobby Lobby coercing its employees, and everyone else trying to coerce Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby wants to police the medical coverage it’s employees get, which means employees have to care about their employer’s religion, and everyone who wants employees to be able to make their own choices has to care about the religion of everyone they buy anything from. In short, because of Hobby Lobby, everyone’s religion has become everyone’s business, and we’re stuck dividing ourselves into two parallel economies, if not entire societies, along political/religious lines.

On the other hand, if the insurance Hobby Lobby purchases is subject to the same regulations that everyone’s insurance is, then nobody has to care what the other guy believes, and everyone can just live their own lives.

53

Jerry Vinokurov 07.27.14 at 8:35 pm

Stephenson q-k @49:

Sure, I understand what you’re saying, and I’m mostly in agreement with you. My point was that Linker isn’t really arguing in good faith. Or, he doesn’t really take liberalism seriously as either a mindset or as a philosophy; if he were, he’d easily see that “intolerance of intolerance” is not a fatal objection. He’s just looking at the superficial form of one argument and dashing off a column to rile some people about as sophisticated as himself.

Still, not total agreement:

Presented in the abstract, the notion that a person could be forced to resign from an organisation they helped to found, after doing more than almost anyone to promote that organisation’s aims and values, because of a private political donation, would seem troubling.

You can’t be a public figure and expect to do controversial things and not get called on it. I don’t know what’s so hard about this. No one forced anyone to do anything, but if you are a public figure and you are found to have done something that lots of people don’t like, you will get shit for it. That’s actually what free speech is all about!

I’m not sure that it’s reasonable say “sure, but that guy’s particular views really offended my moral sensibilities so I’m going to be OK with this”, because that really does undermine your ability to claim to speak for tolerance or free speech or whatever in future, unless you want to limit your free speech claims to the libertarian minimum of “you can say what you like but you have no right to be heard or protected from those who don’t like what you say”.

They did in fact offend my moral sensibilities, but this is beside the point. I think the same standard should apply to everyone; if the Mormons really don’t like the fact that someone donated money in opposition to Prop. 8, they are perfectly free to go out there and publicize that fact. “Look at Famous Actor! How bad they are, donating money to the anti-Prop. 8 campaign!” Turns out that this kind of thing happens all the time, and that’s fine; you have the right to publicly voice your displeasure with people whose positions run counter to yours. But you can have no reasonable expectations that you will be heard, and certainly no expectation that what you say will be immune from criticism. There’s no way to sensibly institute such norms without either giving up on moral judgments altogether or demanding that some external authority such as the state decide what constitutes the bounds of acceptable discourse. Both of those are much worse alternatives than simply letting people freely criticize the actions of others that they don’t agree with.

Which you may be fine with, but the difference between liberal and libertarian rests in part on the liberal’s support for positive liberties such as the right to participate meaningfully in political discourse without being punished for it.

Sorry, I don’t buy this at all. Yes, liberals do support various positive rights, but you’re eliding the difference between “criticized” and “punished.” No one has been “punished” here, but there is no right to be protected against public criticism for what you say, and, I would argue, no coherent way to institute such a right. Neither Eich nor Gallagher nor the poor traditionalists whose state Linker bemoans are being “punished” for anything; they’re just not being taken seriously anymore. But there’s no right to be taken seriously, and a good thing that is too.

54

Kevin Ringeisen 07.27.14 at 8:39 pm

You point out that liberal tolerance obligates us to allow people to make claims that “x is wrong because y, no nobody should think x.” You also say (if I am reading you right) that such a claim is no different from 2+2=5, and that “drawing a conclusion is no, per se, a coercive act.”

I agree with all that, on the face of it, but I think there’s more to it. Mill’s harm principle in his On Liberty:

“The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

That is, the only purpose for which power can be exercised, individually or collectively,via physical force or the moral coercion of public opinion, is to prevent harm.

Clearly proponents of gay marriage think this business about orientation-therapy, bullying, denial of service etc. is harmful in many ways. But, I think, its also clear that those with religious beliefs against marriage don’t see themselves as doing harm (saving souls and all or god-punishes-you-because-he-loves-you are professed motives). Furthermore the “marriage is a religious sacrament with a procreative purpose” folks aren’t likely to see “cultural practice x is done for these reasons, it shouldn’t be done for any other” statements as particularly harmful, or the actions which such beliefs lead to, like voting certain ways. Exclusion is also not always seen as harmful.

I think such people are wrong, I find them difficult to countenance, and when you’re donating to an organization which doesn’t just push for a traditional view of marriage on the legal side, but also contributes to a culture of demonizing homosexuals and doing their own bit of moral coercion, you can’t call yourself liberal in this sense.

But when person A thinks what B does is morally noxious, and acts in a way he thinks is improving B, while B thinks A is eccentric and causing more harm than good, I don’t know where a judgment like (these sorts) of religious freedom advocates aren’t very tolerant came come in. Both sides can agree that coercion of any kind is not allowed except to prevent harm, but if they disagree on whether harm is even occurring? I can’t even imagine the problems that arise if an “erring conscience binds,” as Aquinas (iirc) said.

In the end, I think something is wrong if you don’t see the harm such judgments can cause. But when the other party has certain beliefs, from whatever source, and they are sincerely held, you can’t expect them to act as if their beliefs don’t exist – however wrong, or harmful you think they are; its unethical to demand someone ignore their own sense of right and wrong and to follow yours. The best you can do is persuade people – and I mean persuade in a deliberative sense, not like with what happened to Brendan Eisch. (Oh, I see you’ve said something similar in a response in the comment section, so maybe we don’t disagree here)

(wow this is really long, sorry about that)

55

Plume 07.27.14 at 8:52 pm

I would like to let that guy not bake cakes for gay weddings. Whatever exceptions are on offer, this guy deserves one. The poor couple can lump it and get their cake elsewhere, because it’s going to be just awful to force this guy to go against what he believes

Actually, no. That guy shouldn’t get an exemption. History is filled with instances of people who claim to have seen and spoken with their god, in blinding Imax technicolor, after which they kill or send others to kill. Why should any society privilege this kind of chemical reaction in the brain over others, and why should it respect it? And if you’re adjudicating the two instances — the guy who says his god told him to kill, and the guy who says his god told him not to bake that cake — and you say no to the first but yes to the second . . . . why? Because of the seriousness or lethality of the action? Okay. At first glance, that might seem quite reasonable. But the rationale is because “their god told them to do X.” It’s not really about what they did — or did not do, or will not do. It’s because “religious belief” is involved. That is the common denominator here. The other is “the law.”

The essential conflict here is between the law and religious belief, not what that religious belief invokes, necessarily. If you make it a matter of the action, then you have to adjudicate on a case by case basis, which means you’re privileging those things you exempt over those things you deny, without any real measuring stick other than to assert that X is a bigger deal than Y. In your opinion. It’s a Pandora’s Box, etc. And it means you’re still privileging religious belief over other kinds of “feeling” about X, Y or Z. Again, without any measuring stick other than centuries of religious propaganda, which have resulted in the acceptance of truly ludicrous ideas as the norm. Such as, we are supposedly born into sin because, Adam and Eve, etc. Or, that it’s okay that the god of the bible frequently slaughters millions of human beings, and this is not for us to question. Or, that it’s okay that the Christian concept of End Times involves the mother of all genocides, with every non-Christian on earth being slaughtered and condemned to eternal torment.

Honestly, it makes far more sense to just say no. The law is the law. Rather than hand out special privileges for people who believe in invisible friends who love to commit genocide, if a religious practitioner is unhappy about a law, they can work to change it via democratic processes.

No exemptions.

56

T. Gracchus 07.27.14 at 8:54 pm

Re 29:

The following are two pieces are the part that I was concerned about, and may be misreading.

“Suppose I think X should regarded as a basic right (for all humans or all Americans, take your pick), such that deprivation of X would constitute a gross and manifest injustice. You think the opposite. Here we get a somewhat paradoxical result. You can presumably be quite tolerant of me. (People get these funny ideas that there are all these rights, which there aren’t! Silly people, but we tolerate them!) But it is harder for me to be tolerant of you. Because, after all, I think you are 1) fighting for an injustice that 2) all reasonable people should be able to see is an injustice. That’s hard to excuse. So if I win, and everyone else pretty much agrees with me, so you are odd man out, you are going to be surrounded by people who think you are a morally bad person. Even though your moral worth, or lack thereof, wasn’t really the issue.”

“if you are arguing that X is a basic right, deprivation of which would be a gross infringement of dignity, then you are pretty much bound to regard whoever takes the other side as a moral jerk. This seems like a violation of the norm that you shouldn’t call someone a jerk just because she disagrees with you. But it isn’t. It’s the only consistent view to take. (That doesn’t mean you are bound to send your opponent to a re-education camp for jerks, be it noted.)”

The argument seems to be that belief that A is a basic right entails that I should also believe that denial of A (or denial of A as a basic right) is immoral and renders me a morally bad person. But then if I think that ‘basic rights’ is a fiction, I am a morally bad person. That strikes me as a conclusion to be resisted. But assuming the argument, why would one who thought A was a basic right not also think that it is error, moral error, to permit me to teach my children what I believe about A; and also believe that education and (and related socialization) should not also teach that A is a basic right. They may be willing to leave me to my moral depravity, but why would they leave my children to moral depravity?

Maybe the argument plugs into a larger set of arguments that dissolve these concerns, or they are misconceived independently.

The second, and final point – this is too long already and it is on a topic somewhat different from the rest of the comments – is that there seems to be movement making a wrong claim about rights to a wrong claim about rights is immoral.

57

Watson Ladd 07.27.14 at 9:07 pm

Plume, what about a law demanding all bread be allowed to rise before being baked?

58

Consumatopia 07.27.14 at 9:27 pm

“Presented in the abstract, the notion that a person could be forced to resign from an organisation they helped to found, after doing more than almost anyone to promote that organisation’s aims and values, because of a private political donation, would seem troubling.”

There isn’t a single thing known as “the abstract” to look at, there is only one set of details you chose to abstract away, and another set that you didn’t. Here’s another way to abstract it–should an organization be required to accept as its top leader someone whose values are, in part, at odds with the official, stated values of that organization? Should employees be required or otherwise pressured to keep working under a leader when that leader donates to political campaigns attacking them? That seems to be the logical conclusion of the people objecting to Brendan Eich’s treatment. After all, Eich wasn’t fired, he resigned because he thought his presence was dividing Mozilla. So the only way Eich would have stayed in place is if everyone who was complaining was somehow made to shut up.

Furthermore, how far are you willing to take your abstraction? Like, if a CEO donates to a neo-nazi group, we’re required to keep them around?

“Which you may be fine with, but the difference between liberal and libertarian rests in part on the liberal’s support for positive liberties such as the right to participate meaningfully in political discourse without being punished for it.”

Once you start talking about positive liberty, I don’t think it makes sense to abstract away Eich’s status and power within the organization. There’s a huge difference between the positive liberty of an assembly line worker who’s threatened with termination for making the wrong political donation and a would-be CEO who’s offered a different C-level position. Not to mention that there is something of a zero-sum game between the positive liberties of the CEO and that of all the people working underneath him.

“I think we’re allowed to object to things even if they’re legal (so long as we’re consistent, and would complain about other politically-motivated firings/enforced resignations).”

I can’t speak for JQ, but my objection on this count is that without an explicit law, any proposed norm along these lines will only be upheld inconsistently and unfairly. If Brendan Eich kept his job, the only norm that would have been upheld is that if the FOX News outrage machine kicks into gear in favor of a CEO keeping his job, that CEO keeps his job.

59

LFC 07.27.14 at 9:49 pm

Federal civil rights law in the U.S. requires a private hotel or restaurant operator to serve anyone who can pay (as a way of barring discrimination in ‘public accommodations’ on the basis of race, sex, religion etc.), but as far as I’m aware (and I could be wrong) there is no law requiring someone who provides services that are not “accommodations” — i.e., a baker, accountant, lawyer, private tutor, whatever — to accept the business of anyone who can pay. Thus a baker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding may simply refuse to do so. That is entirely legal, afaik. One can support the right to SSM and also incline to the view that, e.g., a baker should be able to refuse to bake a cake for anyone for whatever reason, b/c a law requiring the opposite would probably raise as many problems as it solved.

60

Brett Bellmore 07.27.14 at 10:08 pm

“Religion knows its place Brett @48? Really?”

Religion “that knows it’s place”, is what I said. Some religions don’t, of course, know their place. Some of them can be as stubborn as government about not knowing it.

“This is completely backwards. People resort to the law as an alternative to settling their conflicts through force. Where the law cannot expand, people rely on force and war.”

Law is not an alternative to settling conflicts through force. Law is a particular way of settling conflicts through force. If you think not, take exception to the way any particular conflict has been settled, and see if you don’t get force in response.

Further, most disagreements are not conflicts. I like chocolate, you like butterscotch, we do not have a “conflict” until somebody insists we both eat the same flavor of ice cream. Expanding law tends to transform disagreements into conflicts, because the government is really lousy at letting different people have different things.

” Thus a baker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding may simply refuse to do so. That is entirely legal, afaik.”

Unless the law starts defining everything as “an accommodation”, which is the trend.

61

Plume 07.27.14 at 10:25 pm

@56,

If that is the law, and people don’t like it, they can change it via democratic processes.

There is also the Constitutional test in our system. Someone could take the law to court, so to speak, and have judges decide if it is or is not Constitutional.

Those are the two best “remedies,” under our system. Adding in exemptions for religious beliefs distorts the democratic process, privileges certain religious interpretations* over others, and really are un-Constitutional, pretty much right out of the box. If we had a normal court, instead of one with five reactionary theocrats in the majority, I don’t think we’d ever see a Hobby Lobby, Inc or a Wheaton College even go before the Court, and I doubt “religious beliefs” would trump settled law.

Ironically, Scalia felt that RFRA, when it was signed into law, would lead to chaos, undermining of law and order and was against it. Before he was for it, etc.

*There is actually nothing in the bible about contraception or abortion. Jesus never mentions them, and he never talks about gay people. In order to say their god tells them the first two things are wrong, they can’t cite the sacred text, or the founder of their religion, and the last item is just one of 70 or so “abominations,” subject to the death penalty. To single gay people out from that detailed list is perverse and shouldn’t be respected even on religious grounds. Their god gives no more weight to that “abomination” than the one about eating shellfish, or working on Saturdays, or lying about one’s virginity, if female, or wearing mixed fabrics, or seeding a field with more than one crop, or . . . failing to scream out loudly enough if raped in the city. In short, it’s not even just a matter of “religious belief”; it’s a matter of highly selective, idiosyncratic interpretations of religious beliefs.

62

TheSophist 07.27.14 at 10:33 pm

A couple of points:

1. JH sayeth “It would be kind of funny to give a conscience exception only to atheists on the ground that they are the exceptional ones. Not that I think that would make sense either!” One of my arguments during the deabte on Arizona’s noxious SB 1062 was that it discriminated against me, an atheist, by not giving me the right to discriminate that it gave to all religious folks.

2. I’ll confess to being mildly amused by the fact that someone claiming to be Maggie Gallagher shows up on the thread – and gets completely ignored. Let’s hope that irrelevance is the ultimate fate of all such.

63

Layman 07.27.14 at 10:34 pm

‘Further, most disagreements are not conflicts. I like chocolate, you like butterscotch, we do not have a “conflict” until somebody insists we both eat the same flavor of ice cream.’

As a practical matter, this isn’t even a disagreement. A disagreement would be if you said you like chocolate, while I insisted you like butterscotch. If that’s not clear, consider two people in who never interact, one liking chocolate while the other likes butterscotch. That’s a disagreement?

Now that we’re done with word games, why don’t you propose a framework which can be used to permit religious exceptions to law without leading to consequences even you’d find objectionable?

64

NMissC 07.27.14 at 11:04 pm

>>
Federal civil rights law in the U.S. requires a private hotel or restaurant operator to serve anyone who can pay (as a way of barring discrimination in ‘public accommodations’ on the basis of race, sex, religion etc.), but as far as I’m aware (and I could be wrong) there is no law requiring someone who provides services that are not “accommodations” — i.e., a baker, accountant, lawyer, private tutor, whatever — to accept the business of anyone who can pay.
<<

Under the original Civil Rights Act of 1964, public accommodations were defined in a way that did not include services. This covered discrimination against folks on the basis of race, national origin, or gender. The disabilities act had an expanded definition of public accommodations that included service providers. Thus, a doctor is prohibited by the ADA for discrimination against the disabled but not by the 1964 act involving race, national origin, or gender. But there is no general non-discrimination principle.

65

John Holbo 07.27.14 at 11:07 pm

Maggie Gallagher: “One difference between you and me, is I don’t actually think what people think about Maggie Gallagher is very important at all.”

When someone actually shows up like that it makes me feel a bit awkward about having plucked her admittedly famous name from the ether, as an example, without any intent to make her, in particular, the point of the thing. I must admit that it is true: I don’t know Maggie Gallagher. Perhaps she truly is free of concern for her own status. She doesn’t care how she appears in other people’s eye’s. No amour propre. But if she is like that – I suppose it’s just barely possible – she is a very very very unusual person (and I have had the bad luck to pick a very bad example.) My general point still stands. Even if Gallagher doesn’t care, most other social conservatives – being human – naturally care very much what people think of them. Loss of dominance and status is experienced as reversal and oppression. If once you thought of yourself as being a superior sort of person – on account of being straight, not gay – and everyone else suddenly decides being gay is equal with being straight – this will not be experienced as an egalitarianism leveling, but a reverse hierarchy, with straight people (who once felt superior) at the bottom of the totem. By been taught their Ethics 101 Lesson, in the eyes of their fellow citizens, they feel sent to the back of the class. How would you tell that story, to make yourself feel good about it: I’ve been sent to a re-education camp by illiberal goons! It wouldn’t be true, but it would sure FEEL true, I’m sure.

I am certainly no different from other people in that I tell myself self-flattering personal stories. The political is always personal. It feeds our narratives of self-worth, and if it starts to starve them, we change our story until we start to extract something better. No one can think badly about themselves, in a global sort of way. I am no exception, of course. I am sure I will say tons of silly things in my life before I am done, out of a instinctual reflex to protect my sense of self-worth. But, in analysing what, say, liberalism requires, people should try to tease apart the amour propre stuff from ‘what is required for tolerance’. It seems to me that Damon Linker confuses wounded pride for illiberal victimization. Given his personal outlook – former writer for First Things and all that – it makes sense that he would sympathize more, in a human sense, with those who are losing the gay marriage fight. There’s worse reasons to go wrong, in your analysis, than because you feel a lot of sympathy for your friends who lost the Kulturkampf.

66

Alan White 07.27.14 at 11:12 pm

Plume, you’re right about homosexuality as one of tons of abominations in the OT, but Paul, who (probably not even) arguably is much more influential on the origins of Christianity than the figure of Christ, is pretty clear in Romans about it too. But then again in Ephesians he tells wives to be subject to their husbands. So much of what conservative/fundamentalists push is pretty clearly there in the text (and in the original koine, which I have read). What you have to say is that he was just wrong on so much and/or a function of his time and culture. Paul told slaves to be obedient after all, and I don’t anyone today would try and push that.

67

ZM 07.27.14 at 11:25 pm

Layman,
“why don’t you propose a framework which can be used to permit religious exceptions to law without leading to consequences even you’d find objectionable?”

I think in Australia during the Vietnam war people who were found to be conscientious objectors to war could be spared from the draft. I think at the time this sparing was only extended to religious people, which would gave discriminated against atheists. Despite this flaw of discrimination against atheists (and ignoring for the moment that the war was wrong and none should have been drafted at all) – I think this is an example where allowing exceptions to law on the basis of conscience is right.

The framework I think was that such people appear before a judge for the judge to decide if they were genuine or not – so I suppose instead of having blanket religious exceptions you could set up another layer of courts to determine genuine conscientious objections to laws (like John Holbo’s made up example of the man and the cakes) from religious insincerity cloaking nasty prejudice etc.

68

engels 07.27.14 at 11:26 pm

What to say, what to say, when I’m already 10,000th in line to read him the riot act?

I think Wittgenstein had some good advice (end of the Tractatus).

69

John Holbo 07.27.14 at 11:34 pm

“The argument seems to be that belief that A is a basic right entails that I should also believe that denial of A (or denial of A as a basic right) is immoral and renders me a morally bad person.”

In the words of Atomic Robo, you are simultaneously over and underthinking it! (I think.)

There is no strict entailment. There is just a likely response, which is good to keep in mind, and which shouldn’t be mistaken for anything else – like a logical entailment.

Let’s just stick with you as a non-believer in rights. I myself am very tempted by consequentialism, as a general theory, so I’m sort of in the same boat, honestly. (Even if I weren’t I could use the example of Mill, who was a staunch believer in liberal tolerance, without being a believer in rights. Although I think it’s fair to say he had a hard a hard time keeping that one up, convincingly.)

Suppose you say: hey everyone, let’s debate whether children have the right not to be killed for entertainment purposes! I will defend: nope!

After all, you don’t believe in rights. (I trust you have other reasons for thinking they shouldn’t be killed for entertainment purposes. Other proposed moral and legal mechanisms to secure their non-death.) My point is really just that, as Dale Carnegie strategies for winning friends and influencing people go, your selection of a debate topic and thesis, to highlight the virtues of your philosophy, sucks. Everyone thinks you are an asshole.

I’ve picked a relatively innocent case, to illustrate the dynamic – innocent in that I trust it’s all a big misunderstanding. The whole you-wanting-to-kill-kids business. The gay marriage case is a bit different. People have started to think not just that people who oppose this are wrong, or traditionalist, but assholes who want to deprive their fellow citizens of basic rights. You may say: no no no it’s actually this communitarian thing. I honestly don’t know how you, personally, think it’s going to go ok, but it’s not exactly mysterious why other people, given where they are coming from, will be revolted by your proposal, on it’s face. Depriving gay people of their equality and dignity for no reason, just out of irrational animus towards them. This is what they think of you, and it’s damned plausible. It could be wrong (although in a lot of cases it won’t be). But you aren’t entitled to people not thinking it, because liberalism. That’s my point. It’s psychologically natural for them to leap to the obvious inference about where you are coming from, and where you are going.

70

Anderson 07.27.14 at 11:36 pm

Everyone says Linker is smart, but I only ever hear of him when he’s being a tool.

71

roy belmont 07.27.14 at 11:39 pm

There’s a new-agey cult thing called Rajneeshis, their beliefs aren’t pertinent to this, except that they’re definitely not Judeo-Christian as to sexual morality, much more into freedom, natural expression. They had a lot of bank, and wanted to set up a community. went into rural Oregon, bought land, built houses. They democratically took over the school board, I think as a response to a pretty intolerant exterior community. That began to make news outside the locality.
The consequences were a bunch of legal running around with major back-up from off-site, a media blitz showing their leader’s fleet of Rolls Royces and the usual instigation toward hate of the media selected pariah, in this case Rajneesh and his followers.
Whatever the facts of that are irl, the principle and its moral dynamic, religious intolerance, democratic tolerance, then another, different religion using democratic tolerance to create an antithetical condition, meant that democratic tolerance went by the by.
Waco gets in there somewhere.
Most of what passes for acceptable thought here views religious belief as an amusing failure of the mind. So the dominance of SCOTUS by what someone called “5 Catholics” is just a signal that “we” aren’t out of the woods yet.
But those people are believers, and in a street fight believers are believers first, politically tolerant small “d” democrats a far second. And you can’t expec otherwise. It’s insane to. They believe.
Real Christians aren’t going to tolerate the Church of Satan in their neighborhood.
And all you need to get a model of the present moment is to see how these believers have been played. And keep in mind the prophetic warning of a world destroyed for its sinfulness, by fire this time.
Because until really recently I saw a bridge to that very large group of people as one of the last chances to prevent complete disaster, certain moronic (but chirpy! and sweet!) persons insist on treating me as a defender of their positions. Which in my life I am not at all.
A bitter thing, really, considering how much shit I’ve taken in the real world from believers. But here, clearly, for the last time – I don’t give a shit about gay marriage. It’s you, MPAVictoria, and your support team, it’s your fatuous incoherent idiocy I can’t tolerate. Your smugness and shallow viciousness.
Gay marriage means nothing to me either way, no more than the empty victory of having a “black” President has meant to the fortunes of black Americans, because in the long run these superficial triumphs aren’t going to matter much.
There isn’t going to be anything like Holbo’s or whoever’s 2024 liberal utopia.
Gay marriage is a sop. A litmus test for babies.
All you need is current media coverage of Gaza and the demographic results of that coverage to see how cosmetic and shallow that battle was.
The Borg is gay-friendly! Yay us!

You guys have seriously underestimated the strength and staying power of people you have no respect for, because in your world having bogus ideas is a fail. Because you’re still in school.
Out here in reality-land you can be a batshit drooling idiot and pull it off, if you’ve got the firepower and enough community support.
-
Mr. Linker’s
“there’s the fact that racism is much less deeply woven into the fabric of Judeo-Christian scripture, doctrine, and theology than are traditionalist teachings on sex and gender”
is a fine example of a kind of low-grade version of that idiocy.
The conflation of the sexual pathology and pseudo-divine racism of the Old Testament with the compassionate tolerant New Testament Gospels, the complete sublimation of Christian apostasy back into the intolerant racist delusions of the Old Testament, happens right in front of him and he misses it completely.
The Old Testament is the founding document of Western Civilization’s codified virulent racism. It is the paperwork that justifies the misogyny we all inherited and still struggle against. It’s what justified the slave-owners in their time and the enforcers of legalized intolerance of gays in theirs. It’s what gets the abortion clinics blown up and the doctors gunned down.
Those 5 Catholics are old men, they’re gonna die soon.
The thing that put them on the bench is immortal, so far.
It’s way bigger than anything you’ve got.

72

ZM 07.27.14 at 11:48 pm

“Depriving gay people of their equality and dignity…”

This is a good point but distinct from your rights argument. I think generally Catholics often word things for human dignity rather than human rights. Also dignity claims probably accord better with the desire for recognition that the OP mentioned, whereas rights claims probably accord better with the wish to be extended tolerance, to my mind at least.

73

DBW 07.27.14 at 11:49 pm

Great post and great discussion.

I’m wondering whether the muddled nature of the concept of “tolerance” that JH teases out here is not so much a conservative misapplication of a liberal concept as a consequence of changes in liberalism from the late 19th c. forward. That is, it was liberals who sought to move away from formalistic and neutral conceptions of liberty, law, the state, toleration, etc., by breaking down distinctions between politics and society–the idea of social democracy, for instance, would integrate the circumstances and contexts of social, cultural, and economic life as essential to the realization of democracy, rather than, say simply saying universal suffrage was sufficient. If an older notion of toleration simply meant that the state at least in theory remained neutral, seeking neither to disparage nor to elevate particular beliefs or practices, twentieth-century liberalism sought to extend the domain of toleration into social, psychological, and cultural life. Real damage to persons was held to be a consequence of social prejudice; intolerance was understood as a damaging social practice to be remediated (through both state action and education), and the personal as the political meant that it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between using the power of the state to punish people for their beliefs and using the power of argument, personal behavior, and disparagement of others’ beliefs to punish them. The idea of “re-education camp” that seems to animate at least some people on the right would seem to speak to this idea that real power comes through the control of people’s minds, and so real tolerance would be to tolerate the pluralism of their beliefs by not seeking to challenge those beliefs. But maybe some of the main strands of liberal thought and culture in the twentieth century bear some responsibility for giving some credibility to the kinds of arguments that conservatives seem to be making about liberal intolerance.

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Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 12:22 am

an irrational institution like religion, that at least knows it’s place

Religion “that knows it’s place”, is what I said.

Are you being funny, or do you not realize that comma changes the meaning of your words?

Law is not an alternative to settling conflicts through force. Law is a particular way of settling conflicts through force. If you think not, take exception to the way any particular conflict has been settled, and see if you don’t get force in response.

No. Law is backed by force, but that doesn’t mean it is force. If you still think so, try to win a court case by demonstrating for the court that you can shoot better than your adversary and see how that changes the judge’s ruling.

The U.S. military has the biggest guns. The military doesn’t always like the President. The U.S. military, usually, does what the President says anyway. When generals for the U.S. military “win” a political conflict with the President, it’s usually not because they’re they’re the ones closest to the biggest guns (though, they are), but because the likely voters or Congress respect them. (I’m not saying they should, I’m saying they do.) If law was just a way of “settling conflicts through force”, then generals would win every political conflict as long as they could keep the loyalty of their subordinates. But that’s exactly what WOULD happen if the law disappeared tomorrow–none of the guns possessed by the police or military would disappear, those holding onto them would try to grab as much power as they could. In the absence of law, we would be ruled by whoever could capture the personal loyalty of the people with the guns.

Further, most disagreements are not conflicts. I like chocolate, you like butterscotch, we do not have a “conflict” until somebody insists we both eat the same flavor of ice cream. Expanding law tends to transform disagreements into conflicts, because the government is really lousy at letting different people have different things.

Hobby Lobby is really lousy at letting women have different things.

There are two omnipresent things that are really good at turning disagreements into conflicts: Scarcity and Religion. Both of these are not only capable of creating violent conflicts in the absence of law. In fact, they create even MORE conflicts in the absence of law than they do under law.

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Anderson 07.28.14 at 12:24 am

Possibly the only utility of Scientology is in arguments like the religion part of John’s post. Scientology is stupid, but it’s putatively a religion, so we tolerate it. When we think of what bare tolerance looks like, that’s a good example. We would not expect a cake shop to tell his customers to get out because they’re Scientologists, even tho he probably thinks they’re idiots.

Five members of the Supreme Court would never dream of holding in so many words that a LRH-following employer is burdened by his employees’ using insurance to pay for mental-health treatment. (How district judges are going to work their way out of that … idk.)

76

MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 12:24 am

“I don’t give a shit about gay marriage. It’s you, MPAVictoria, and your support team, it’s your fatuous incoherent idiocy I can’t tolerate. “

Hi Roy! Glad to see you are reading me again, though I would have thought you would be too busy refusing the sexual advances of legions of ridiculously attractive women to have the time to post the exact same (moronic!) argument you do in every gay rights related thread. Perhaps next time you meet Elton John for coffee he can explain to you that the bigots are going to lose this fight. You see the youths have decided that gay people are human too (thank Christ for the kids huh?). So you are not going to be able to build your “bridge” to the religious right out of the bones of the LGTBQ community.

Anyway Roy, you are at least showing signs of improvement. You managed to avoid calling someone a dyke so far. Kudos! Keep this up and maybe people might start to take you seriously.

/I mean not me obviously but maybe somebody.

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MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 12:31 am

I would be surprised if that was really Maggie Gallagher. The real one is too busy yelling at gay couples for holding hands to have the time to post comments on the internet.

78

Brett Bellmore 07.28.14 at 12:32 am

“Now that we’re done with word games, why don’t you propose a framework which can be used to permit religious exceptions to law without leading to consequences even you’d find objectionable?”

I personally don’t advocate religious exceptions to law. I advocate that law leave us free enough that no religious practice it would be even remotely sensible to tolerate NEEDS an exception. You don’t, for instance, need a religious exception for sacramental wine, if you don’t have prohibition. You don’t need a religious exception for peyote, if you don’t have a war on drugs. But you’re not going to grant a religious exception to murder laws to a modern revival of Thugee. And we shouldn’t be giving Scientology an exception from laws against extortion and blackmail, whether or not you take that racket seriously as a religion.

I don’t want freedom of religion, I want freedom sufficient that we don’t NEED freedom of religion.

Few governments would permit that degree of freedom, but many governments make exceptions for apparently sincere religious beliefs. Why?

Because religion is one of the few things in society that can motivate significant numbers of people to resist government, forcing the government to deploy really significant levels of violence to overcome. (Maybe more violence than it has the stomach to deploy.) So, unless a government wants a reputation for being murderous, it cuts religion some slack.

I think it’s important for people who find religious exceptions to generally applicable laws to understand that motivation. You ARE going to have such exceptions, or you’re going to be getting violent on a regular basis, against people who you’ll have a really difficult time arguing are causing enough harm to warrant the violence.

Perhaps that’s why the rest of us aren’t free: We’re not devoted enough to freedom to require the government to publicly murder us, and take a PR hit in doing so….

79

Theophylact 07.28.14 at 12:36 am

But I like roy belmont’s “immortal, so far”. Kinda like the joke of the guy falling off the Empire State Building and saying, “So far, so good”: a naive Bayesian.

If only.

80

godoggo 07.28.14 at 12:41 am

MPAVictoria: I recommend not reading him.

81

MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 12:47 am

“MPAVictoria: I recommend not reading him.”

Thanks for the advice godoggo but for some reason I feel the need to rebut his particular brand of idiocy.

82

Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 1:22 am

I don’t want freedom of religion, I want freedom sufficient that we don’t NEED freedom of religion.

Yeah, we get it, you want freedom sufficient that religions and employers can coerce whoever they want.

83

William Berry 07.28.14 at 1:31 am

Outstanding and persuasive post (not that I, personally, needed convincing)

“I am sure he is not trolling us liberals, even though the slatepitchiness of it might make one suspect otherwise.”

Too generous by far. I suspect otherwise.

Damon Linker is not likely to be persuaded. IMHO, Linker is the slatiest of slate-pitchers.

84

John Quiggin 07.28.14 at 1:33 am

@49 Are you saying that while firing people for their political views is legal (in the US), it is always wrong, or that there is something special about the Eich case? And if it’s always wrong, why should it be legal?

85

Abbe Faria 07.28.14 at 1:35 am

“And yet marriage is the oldest human custom, and anthropologists have found no society, ever, without marriage customs… This argument, that the rights of marriage are a new thing, is disingenuous.”

No. What’s disingenuous is asserting some basic deep historical right to marry on the basis of no evidence and wishing it were true because of political convienience.

Look, I’m being a real asshole here. Take me down a peg. It should be easy, all you have to do is point out some claim or assertion of a right to marry prior to the anti-eugenics pushback which gave us the right to marry and found a family in the UDHR. I think the reason no-one’s done this is because this can’t be done, it’s a recent invention and conspicuously absent from declarations and law before that time, however much people wish otherwise.

86

Anderson 07.28.14 at 1:38 am

Abbe: when did a state assert a power to forbid it? Canon law governed marriages right up to modern times.

For that matter, your argument proves too much. Where was the right to free speech 200 years ago?

87

William Berry 07.28.14 at 1:41 am

Sasha Clarkson @10:

Precise and concise.

Pasted into one of my Reading Notes pages for future reference/ use (with proper attribution, of course).

88

Anderson 07.28.14 at 1:42 am

81: Internet trolls, unlike their common relatives, require a save vs charm (wisdom bonus applies), or else one feels impelled to read and rebut. (With a Leomund’s Lamentable Belaborment effect, tho you get another save.) Since they regenerate at a rate of 3 comments per refutation, they can never be outreasoned, only blocked or, if you make your save, ignored.

89

Brett Bellmore 07.28.14 at 1:44 am

“Yeah, we get it, you want freedom sufficient that religions and employers can coerce whoever they want.”

For values of “coerce” so low as to be absurd. Hobby Lobby is “coercing” its employees not to use Plan B, by paying them in fungible wages which can be spent on Plan B if they so chose. How terrifying, it’s like they’re slaves or something.

90

Francis 07.28.14 at 1:50 am

If you’re looking for a substitute for Maggie Gallagher, there’s always Rod Dreher.

91

JHW 07.28.14 at 1:51 am

“Federal civil rights law in the U.S. requires a private hotel or restaurant operator to serve anyone who can pay (as a way of barring discrimination in ‘public accommodations’ on the basis of race, sex, religion etc.), but as far as I’m aware (and I could be wrong) there is no law requiring someone who provides services that are not “accommodations” — i.e., a baker, accountant, lawyer, private tutor, whatever — to accept the business of anyone who can pay.”

Federal civil rights law requires certain “places of public accommodation” (including both hotels and restaurants) to not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion. There is no federal ban on sex or sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations, and as you suggest, the list of businesses covered by Title II of the Civil Rights Act is not all that extensive.

State law is a different matter. Many state bans on public accommodations cover more categories of businesses that serve the public and many also cover more categories of discrimination. The cases about bakers, wedding photographers, etc. come out of states that do both. No state, as far as I know, requires that bakers or photographers take all comers.

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Anderson 07.28.14 at 2:04 am

90: Linker sounds a lot like Dreher.

93

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 2:09 am

“Look, I’m being a real asshole here. Take me down a peg. It should be easy, all you have to do is point out some claim or assertion of a right to marry prior to the anti-eugenics pushback which gave us the right to marry and found a family in the UDHR.”

I agree with you that it should be easy, but I disagree about the appropriate method. (I am unsure whether you are being a real asshole, but I concede the distinct possibility.) The point I and others have been making, obviously, is that marriage is an ancient institution. It was, admittedly, a bit anachronistic to say that the ‘right to marry’ is ancient. Fine: the customarily established, ritually ordered, duty-bound, socially normal expectation of marriage. Be as anthropologically correct about it as you like. The point that human adult sociality without marriage is felt to lack a very basic component still stands. Since the ‘it’ we have been talking about is this, your claim that ‘it’ is a recent invention – marriage, the institution, in its various forms – is obviously false. People have been getting married for thousands of years. Nor do you yourself believe otherwise, I presume.

94

Shira 07.28.14 at 2:09 am

A pattern I have noticed in US history is that weaker or minority groups tend to make arguments based on basic moral principles (fairness, human dignity, freedom of conscience, etc.), while stronger groups often use arguments based on tradition, established usage, the idea that the law must apply equally to all, etc. You see it in the arguments of dissenters against the religious establishment in the early 18th century; in abolitionist literature; in the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century, and again in feminist and LGBT rhetoric. I think that this is at least partly because the only arguments available to the weaker groups are arguments from these basic principles.

But an interesting thing happens if the weaker group wins the argument, at least if it wins without the kind of violence that can lead to each side dehumanizing the other and engaging in endless vendetta. If the weaker group prevails on its argument, they face certain constraints on their future actions. They cannot simply morph into the oppressors without losing the reputation for righteousness that brought them to this point. Furthermore, they have often changed the public discourse in such a way that they cannot simply change places with their erstwhile oppressors.

Thus you see that when the final state establishment of religion failed in (iirc) 1831, the dissenters did not try to resurrect it. There has been (despite occasional complaints on the rights) a tendency for black elected leaders to avoid even the appearance of favoring their own communities over the general welfare.

This doesn’t mean that the people who lose the argument don’t feel ill-treated, because they do. (And I think you’re right that it stings more because in losing, they also appear immoral.) But it seems to me that this kind of public argument is not exactly a zero-sum game; instead, it is on the whole a good force in public life because the boundaries of public concern and identification are expanded by the process.

95

Abbe Faria 07.28.14 at 2:16 am

Anderson @ 88

“when did a state assert a power to forbid it? Canon law governed marriages right up to modern times.”

I don’t understand what answer you’re looking for here or the purpose of it. Hardwicke’s Marriage Act? Not that I agree the state vs church distinction makes any sense in common law tradition when they were both controlled by the crown. Or that I agree with the implication there was freedom to marry before the state, when feudalism imposed severe restrictions on marriage.

“For that matter, your argument proves too much. Where was the right to free speech 200 years ago?”

Free speech didn’t exist for much of history, but it was asserted. I can point to Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. I can’t see anything comparable for the right to marry up until the UDHR. Of course, let me know if I’m wrong.

96

bianca steele 07.28.14 at 2:24 am

There’s also an interesting thing going on in recent times, where some religions have become more tolerant and so on, with resistance to change coming from related denominations or from within the same religion. For example, a lot of Dreher’s columns lash out at forms of Christianity he finds objectionable and blames for all sorts of bad things going on. Others regular slag ecumenical bodies, which they seem to consider invasions from the blatantly secular world. Others, though, may prefer to lash out at “liberals” and “secular humanists” rather than at those within the religion, like the preacher who visited last month and really ticked people off. But there’s not a lot actual secularists can do about that.

97

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 2:29 am

“I can’t see anything comparable for the right to marry up until the UDHR. Of course, let me know if I’m wrong.”

Let’s start simpler. Do you at least admit that marriage often – if not always – involves a kind of contract? This is not just a modern innovation but an ancient feature?

If you admit that much, then it is not much of a stretch to say that rights to marry go way back. Some people, not others, can make these contracts in a way that will be recognized by the community as binding. Those people have the right to marry. (Perhaps this is the right of the father to arrange a marriage for his son.) Some people have these rights. Others do not. It is somewhat of a stretch to use the word ‘right’ here, because it suggests more modern notions. But it is hardly a flagrantly misleading way to talk about what is going on.

98

Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 2:35 am

For values of “coerce” so low as to be absurd. Hobby Lobby is “coercing” its employees not to use Plan B, by paying them in fungible wages

No, by interfering with the health insurance benefits that the employee earned. The employer is intruding on the doctor/patient relationship by forcing the employee to use benefits the employee earned according to the employer’s religion. I say, those are the employee’s health benefits and the employee’s doctor, therefore none of the employer’s business.

Hobby Lobby was NOT content to just pay fungible wages. The ACA was perfectly happy to let Hobby Lobby just forgo giving benefits and pay additional wages, as well as the associated penalty. That wasn’t good enough for Hobby Lobby, because it doesn’t give them sufficient opportunity to interfere in other people’s lives.

And, of course, the “freedom” you promised @78 (that I responded to @82) goes way beyond what Hobby Lobby gets away with today. Why not just have the employees sign a contract that they won’t use birth control at all? Or get blood transfusions. Or, heck, why not demand employees convert to your religion and political party? That’s the private life of power for you, or as you call it, “freedom”.

99

Anderson 07.28.14 at 2:47 am

The Eden story expressly establishes marriage as foundational to humankind. Of course, that’s straight marriage, but then, the world wasn’t actually made in 6 days either.

100

Abbe Faria 07.28.14 at 2:49 am

“The point that human adult sociality without marriage is felt to lack a very basic component still stands. Since the ‘it’ we have been talking about is this, your claim that ‘it’ is a recent invention – marriage, the institution, in its various forms – is obviously false. People have been getting married for thousands of years. Nor do you yourself believe otherwise, I presume.”

John @ 93. I never said the institution of marriage was a recent invention. I’m talking about a right to marry. (If you review your post, you explicitly mention a ‘right to marry’ and claim it as a basic right).

Of course people always married. Just because girls were contacted over at 12 to forge alliances between feudal lords doesn’t mean they had freedom or a right to marry. There have historically been all sorts of laws preventing freedom of marriage (feudal, or canon, or state licencing, or eugenic). So I don’t feel this right has existed in fact or law the way matrimony has.

What’s also interesting is that some rights like freedom of speech were not often observed, but were often claimed in various declarations of rights. The right to marry doesn’t seem to have appeared in these declarations or even to have been asserted by people seeking changes in marriage law until recently, after it was incorporated in the UDHR because of the dislike of eugenics. So I do wonder if it is as basic as you say.

101

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 2:58 am

Brett Bellmore:

“Yeah, we get it, you want freedom sufficient that religions and employers can coerce whoever they want.”

For values of “coerce” so low as to be absurd. Hobby Lobby is “coercing” its employees not to use Plan B, by paying them in fungible wages which can be spent on Plan B if they so chose. How terrifying, it’s like they’re slaves or something.

There are really two problems here, Brett. The first is the one pointed out by Consumatopia.

The second is that you can’t take ‘this whole business isn’t a big deal’ as a premise in an argument to why we can ignore the anti-Hobby Lobby side. If it’s not a big deal, then the proper response is to dismiss Hobby Lobby’s complaint right at the start. No one has the right to nullify laws for the sake of stuff that is so penny-ante that it isn’t a big deal.

Either we are prepared to entertain objections on principle or not. If we are not, then it’s penny-ante stuff and dismissed as such. Hobby Lobby can pay. On the other hand, if Hobby Lobby has a serious religious freedom objection, potentially, then the anti-Hobby Lobby side has a serious religious freedom objection, actually. Why is Hobby Lobby allowed to pick employee’s pockets, of so much as a penny, on religious freedom grounds?

102

ZM 07.28.14 at 3:01 am

If you want to say plighting one’s troth or exchanging marriage vows is a contract (I’m not absolutely certain it’s an exact fit myself but I haven’t looked into it) – I suppose you could make the case – but even if something is a contract it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is a right. Also the laws of marriage were set up in part to regulate marriage – you can’t take two wives or two husbands, or in the past if the father says he will pay a dowry then he is obligated to. Shakespeare was a witness in the English French Church court in a case about his wig maker landlord not paying the agreed upon dowry- Shakespeare was said to encourage the match but he said he couldn’t really remember the figure involved in dowry negotiations.

Some one above brought up Romeo and Juliet – this is a good example of people in society and within families having different ideas about what obligations attend in marriage. we could translate the plot into the circumstances of a same sex couple who want to marry but are forbidden – the people against the marriage would be like the warring families.

103

LFC 07.28.14 at 3:10 am

JHW @91
Thank you for the corrections/clarifications on the legal points.

104

Collin Street 07.28.14 at 3:12 am

> I don’t understand what answer you’re looking for here or the purpose of it.

Inability-to-understand is a very good sign that you’re making a mistake, btw. If it’s an error the other party is making you’ll be able to see it, “oh, no, you’re thinking X but actually here it’s Y because Z”, but your own errors are invisible to you. Or you wouldn’t have made them, see.

If you’re running into people saying things such that you can’t think of a perspective that they fit in, it’s very good odds — not certainty, but very good odds — that the problem is with you and your understanding of what perspectives are possible.

[if you know things that they don't, then the things they know will be a proper subset of the things you know and everything within that subset will be comprehensible. Incomplete, from your perspective, but comprehensible. Only if a conclusion is based on things you don't know is there any possibility that you won't understand it. Obviously, a lot of what passes for knowledge is in fact error, but in general "more knowledge" is "more accurate knowledge", and that and the above mean that by-and-large incomprehension is a sign of your own shortcomings and thus error.]

105

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 3:17 am

“If you review your post, you explicitly mention a ‘right to marry’ and claim it as a basic right”

And, if you review my subsequent comments, I cheerfully admit that the occurrence of ‘right’ might be a problem, so scratch that.

Since you are not satisfied, I am driven back to some pretty basic stuff. Bear with me. What’s tripping you up is ignorance of (or, more likely, failure to observe) the following conversational norm: if someone says something 1) sort of rough and potentially inaccurate but 2) that can easily be amended so as to be correct and still supportive of the point being made and 3) that is indeed expressly amended in this way 4) the better to focus on the point being made you should 5) let it go, rather than than counterfactually insisting that the person is trying to say something that they obviously aren’t saying.

All I need, to make my point, is that marriage is an ancient institution that, normally, adults have been able to expect to participate in. Being able to marry is a normal feature of adult life, in societies both ancient and modern. Adults, ancient and modern, who have been unable to marry, have typically experienced this as a deprivation and a hardship. ‘Right’ is not quite it (although it’s not completely wrong either). Fine, fine. Let it be so.

106

LFC 07.28.14 at 3:20 am

NMissC, who is a lawyer, says @64 that the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race, national origin, or gender. JHW @91 says it covers race, color, national origin, and religion, but not gender. I don’t know whether JHW is a lawyer, but one of you is wrong, which means I might have to actually look up the statute (which is a PITA).

107

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 3:27 am

“If you want to say plighting one’s troth or exchanging marriage vows is a contract (I’m not absolutely certain it’s an exact fit myself but I haven’t looked into it) – I suppose you could make the case – but even if something is a contract it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is a right.”

Yeah, but the English word for someone who has the power to make a contract is: someone who has the right.

In general, we shouldn’t let ourselves get too absurdly tongue-tied by the fact that, if you want to be finicky about it, everything has changed. Not just marriage. Love, sex. Gender. Adult. Child. Man. Woman. Family. Society. Try to talk about what the Greeks thought and did and you find, quickly, that none of our English words exactly fit. Everything is a little different. That doesn’t mean – I think – that we should say that we can’t talk about them at all (unless we speak in Greek). The thing to do is speak English but be prepared to correct for misleading implications and confusions, as they inevitably arise.

108

J Thomas 07.28.14 at 3:46 am

#104 Collin Street

[if you know things that they don't, then the things they know will be a proper subset of the things you know and everything within that subset will be comprehensible. Incomplete, from your perspective, but comprehensible. Only if a conclusion is based on things you don't know is there any possibility that you won't understand it. Obviously, a lot of what passes for knowledge is in fact error, but in general "more knowledge" is "more accurate knowledge", and that and the above mean that by-and-large incomprehension is a sign of your own shortcomings and thus error.]

This turns into a Bayesian thing.

Yes, if what they know is a proper subset of what you know, and you know why they’re wrong, then it follows that you know why they’re wrong. (But it might turn out that what they know is not in fact a proper subset of what you know. You might understand a fallacy which gets their result, and they might know something true which also gets that result. It’s only when they explain their reasoning and you see it’s the fallacy you already know that you can be sure their reasoning is wrong. And it’s still possible that your reasoning is also wrong and they are right for the wrong reasons.)

But as you say, when they make arguments you can’t understand some of the time it will be because they know things that you don’t — which are things which are not so. They know fallacies you have not been exposed to yet. They have believed somebody’s stupid lies which you have never thought to refute because they are so obviously wrong.

When they say something new, sometimes they are right and sometimes wrong. How should you judge the likelihood of each? Ideally you would not prejudge the issue but carefully notice what they say, and decide on its merits as best you can.

109

ZM 07.28.14 at 3:46 am

But I think maybe the father of the daughter would have had the right to make the contract of marriage with the suitor/suitors father not the daughter herself. It is somewhat more recent that marriage is considered almost entirely a matter for individuals judgement, and even now not entirely – there was the case if that man from Hong Kong trying to find a man who his daughter would marry even though she was a lesbian and if I remember rightly had a partner/wife.

I think your argument would be stronger if you look at the history of public sympathy for couples who wish to marry , rather than the right of marriage per se. And also the history of concern that marriage should be entered into publicly rather than be a strictly private matter to give protections in the case of abandonment or widowing etc. support for same sex marriage has seen that sympathy and concern more widely extend to gay and lesbian people – but I think it is more an inclusion argument than a rights argument.

110

Maggie Gallagher 07.28.14 at 3:47 am

Thank you. I do appreciate both that I have become a symbol you naturally pluck without much thought about the person, and your response to the person.

It is not that I lack self-love, it is that I don’t think the self-love of an individual person is the proper subject for a public debate about something as important as marriage.

I chose to enter this debate in an important way and it would be silly to complain that people dislike me for it. To frame it in that way trivializes what is at stake.

Nonetheless, I appreciate your effort to try to understand why tolerance does or does not extend to people like me.

111

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 3:48 am

It occurs to me that the point I was making about the ancientness of marriage might have been lost in the shuffle over ‘rights’ or lack thereof.

I just said: being able to marry is a normal feature of adult life, in societies both ancient and modern. By contrast, being able to be a freethinker, or to choose your own religion, would have seemed pretty socially non-standard to the ancients.

112

MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 3:55 am

“trivializes what is at stake.”

Oh for Christ’s sake. What is at stake is your ability to discriminate and other people’s ability to live their lives as they see fit. No one is asking you to get gay married! They just want you to mind your own business. Gay marriage has been a fact for years and so far we are carrying on pretty much as before. The only real change is that some people who love each other now have access to the same rights that you have. Seems like a win to me.

Your side has already lost. They youth have made their decision on this issue. And they choose the side of respect and equality. The kids really are all right.

113

Maggie Gallagher 07.28.14 at 4:02 am

That’s your point of view, and I don’t object to it in except in the sense that describing me as whining about how mean everybody is to me is a. not what I do and b. trivializing of the real issues.

You live among millions of people who believe, roughly, we are born male and female and called to come together in love to this thing, which most human societies have recognized as marriages.

How we live together across these moral divides is real and serious issue, whether anyone is mean to Maggie is not.

114

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 4:04 am

“It is not that I lack self-love, it is that I don’t think the self-love of an individual person is the proper subject for a public debate about something as important as marriage.”

Well, I guess we can declare victory for cordiality at least, with Maggie Gallagher deeming my post perhaps not so bad after all. I truly did not mean to psychoanalyze her at a distance. I only meant to invoke the generic ‘everyone has self-love’ point.

We can certainly agree about this much: insofar as the debate is an expression of personal pride – amour propre – isn’t a bit deformed. But, of course, since it’s humans having it, it is a bit deformed that way. You do what you can to correct for that, without seriously hoping to eliminate it. Everyone’s got their pride. Saying so is consistent with saying: but there’s also right and wrong, and some people are more right and others more wrong. And trying to get at that.

My thesis is really that Damon Linker has mistaken a (correct) perception that people are suffering from wounded pride – no one likes to feel the tide of opinion turning against them – for perception that people are suffering intolerance, in a sense that liberals are supposed to oppose.

115

Maggie Gallagher 07.28.14 at 4:08 am

What opinions in a democracy we are supposed to tolerate in one another and what are “outside the pale” for what theoretical reasons, is an important and not an easy question. Thanks. Maggie

116

J Thomas 07.28.14 at 4:10 am

#109 ZM

But I think maybe the father of the daughter would have had the right to make the contract of marriage with the suitor/suitors father not the daughter herself.

Now we get into something like anthropology, except when we talk about the past we can’t exactly send anthropologists back to talk to people.

I remember reading about inuit customs. The custom was that a man who wanted to marry would go to the girl’s father and ask his permission. The father would look at him, and wait, and then say yes or no. If the answer was yes, then the boy would grab his bride and carry her off, and as a dutiful daughter she was supposed to scream and impede him and try to spread out so she wouldn’t fit through the door. Then when he plopped her on the sled she would stop resisting and help him travel. Weddings were all in the time people camped in tents and not when they were living underground or in ice houses, because in the other times home entrances were things an unwilling woman could not be dragged through.

How much was it sham-acting? How much did fathers pair their daughters off with husbands without a good sense how they would get along? How often did brides fight for real? The anthropologists seemed to think it was rare, but I don’t know how much data they had.

Similarly, it did not make sense to travel or live alone. It took one person to hunt, and another to cook and repair furs and equipment etc. Sometimes it made sense for a wife to travel with a man who was not her husband. Sometimes it made sense for pairs of couples to work together. They did a certain amount of wife-swapping and wife-sharing, and the men told anthropologists that their wives slept with whoever they told them to. But in observed examples women chose about that and refused the deal whenever they didn’t want to. Sometimes a woman would ask to share a husband, and typically if the wife agreed she’d say she had to ask him.

Pretty often people are not doing what they say they’re doing. Maybe in the old days aristocrat women tended to marry whoever it was practical to marry — there’s a lot of that today, isn’t there? How often did they refuse and get married off anyway? I doubt there’s reliable data about that.

117

JHW 07.28.14 at 4:13 am

LFC: NMissC’s earlier post is right about the main issue but wrong on that detail. It’s not an especially well-known omission, in part because Title VII of the Act (which covers employment) does ban sex discrimination, and because sex-based public accommodations discrimination is often banned under state law. Here’s the relevant part of the text of Title II: “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

At the time, the norm against sex discrimination was not as firmly established as it is today. Many proponents of the Act opposed the inclusion of sex discrimination in Title VII, which was added by amendment through the efforts of an opponent of the bill, because they thought it would undermine its chance of passage.

118

ZM 07.28.14 at 4:16 am

I’ve not read about Inuit marriage customs. There is a good book called The Gender of the Gift on women’s agency in marriage exchange in kinship societies in Papua.

At least some past English marriage laws would have been codified or recorded – I remember reading in a book on feudal laws of the provisions for if a woman of high standing married a man who was a peasant etc. I’m sure there’s a lot of information, but I don’t have time to research it.

119

Plume 07.28.14 at 4:40 am

Brett @89,

Hobby Lobby is “coercing” its employees not to use Plan B, by paying them in fungible wages which can be spent on Plan B if they so chose. How terrifying, it’s like they’re slaves or something.

Yes, it’s a fungible wage. Which is why it’s absurd for the owners of Hobby Lobby to single out two contraceptives (until 2012) out of the 20 not to cover, and then moving that to four. If the Greens say they will not be complicit in the purchase of those contraceptives, then they should not be writing checks to their employees. As in, they shouldn’t be in business, period. Whether the money comes from the insurance company, or directly from a paycheck, it’s coming from the Greens. There is no escaping that, as a business owner. And in both cases, they don’t know if it ever happens, unless they’re snooping on their employees. Not in the case of insurance coverage, or a direct purchase via their paycheck.

Thing is, by stripping their female employees — and only their female employees — of a benefit accorded them by the law, the Greens are increasing costs for their female employees, thus reducing that fungible wage in effect. Will they be raising the salaries of those impacted? No. It is a wage cut, in effect, based on gender. And when it comes to certain kinds of birth control, a very, very big wage cut. The five reactionary theocrats on the Court enabled that potentially very steep wage cut, and some people, like you, think it’s no big deal.

It was a horrifically stupid decision and obviously un-Constitutional, and it opens up endless slippery slopes in the bargain.

120

J Thomas 07.28.14 at 4:43 am

#115 Maggie Gallagher

What opinions in a democracy we are supposed to tolerate in one another and what are “outside the pale” for what theoretical reasons, is an important and not an easy question.

I agree.

The usual argument is that we should let people do whatever they want if it doesn’t hurt anybody. Or maybe if it doesn’t hurt anybody else. Or maybe if it doesn’t hurt anybody but volunteers, who agree to be hurt.

But then it isn’t always obvious who gets hurt.

Like, it used to be the general rule that if a woman got divorced on the excuse that her husband had sex with somebody other than her but she had been faithful, then she deserved alimony — he should support her for the rest of her life.

Possibly women didn’t deserve that much money for that particular reason. But when the courts did away with alimony, a lot of married women perhaps felt that they had to get jobs because they didn’t trust their husbands not to divorce them and leave them penniless and unemployable. Maybe a lot of families would have been better off with somebody who actually took care of the home and the children, but they couldn’t have it because the trust was not there and the laws did not replace that trust.

Sometimes it’s hard to measure what harm is done.

Maybe our society is built like a very badly-designed computer program, with lots of dependencies where a small change in one part has big effects somewhere else. You simply can’t predict what harm might be done by a small change. If so, don’t we owe it to society to try to rebuild it cleaner? Problems are coming up that we’ll have to respond to, and if any little change can crash society, that’s bad….

Anyway, at any given time we develop a consensus about which opinions we should tolerate. The consensus may not make sense, but it’s the consensus at that time. It might hurt people, but when it’s the consensus in a democracy there isn’t much you can do about it except try to get a better consensus. When a whole lot of people are so sure they’re right that they won’t listen to anything else, that’s frustrating. But there’s nothing to do about it except try to persuade people anyway.

I have the idea that sometimes a joke can help get people to see an absurdity when they won’t listen to rational argument.

121

Francis 07.28.14 at 4:52 am

I probably should know better but this really calls out for comment:

You live among millions of people who believe, roughly, we are born male and female and called to come together in love to this thing, which most human societies have recognized as marriages.

I agree! In fact, my heterosexual marriage is so wonderful that I want all consenting pairs of adults to be able to participate!

(And, of course, gay people can call themselves ‘married’ all they want even in states which do not recognize their marriage. Now that the idea that gay people can marry is out there, it’s not like anyone can prevent Adam from introducing Steve as his husband anywhere in this country.)

122

Plume 07.28.14 at 4:54 am

Another key here that is rarely mentioned:

If the Greens really practiced Christianity according to Jesus’s own words, they couldn’t even own a business, unless it were a co-op of sorts. Jesus constantly railed against the rich, saying they could never get into heaven, and he said in order to follow him, the rich had to give away all of their earthly possessions to the poor, first. The Old Testament prophets were similarly predisposed to Marxist-like attacks on the rich. And from we know about Jesus’s own life, he lived like an ur-communist, with nothing more than a robe on his back and perhaps a pair of sandals or two, sharing everything, never asking for a penny in return. There is nothing in his bio or his words that even remotely allows one to be a follower and get rich — especially not via exploitation of workers.

The Greens and others on the religious right make claims about their religion telling them not to do this or that. But if they’re wealthy, they are already breaking one of the most fundamental of all of their god’s teachings. They have NO chance to get into their heaven if they are rich. Why is that ignored, while contraception and abortion, which are never, ever mentioned in the bible, take center state? And, while there are hundreds of blistering speeches in the bible directed against the rich, Jesus never says word one about gay people.

In short, it’s wrong to privilege “religious belief” above all other philosophies, when it comes to our laws. It should be kept in the personal realm, only. But a court accepting completely unfounded interpretations of those beliefs takes things to the nth level of the absurd. Evidence and burden of proof are essential to our adjudication of conflicts. Why does religious belief get a free pass on that?

123

LFC 07.28.14 at 5:38 am

@JHW:
Thanks.
I should not have been lazy and should have looked it up myself. I don’t hold NMissC’s error against him: lawyers obviously don’t carry the entire U.S. code around in their heads, any more than doctors have memorized the entire Physicians Desk Reference on drugs and their effects.

124

John Quiggin 07.28.14 at 6:46 am

A substantial proportion of Republicans believe (or at least assert) that Democrats/liberals
* Are traitors, seeking to bring the country under the control of a UN world government
* Are complicit in plans to impose sharia law
* Are in league with the Antichrist (Obama)
and act on these beliefs, for example, by seeking to disenfranchise Democratic voters wherever possible.
These are, broadly speaking, the same people who are complaining about oppression wrt equal marriage. Certainly if Maggie Gallagher has any problem with people who say this kind of thing, she hasn’t made much noise about it.

I’d say that a liberal response would preclude retaliation as regards voting rights, while of course seeking to fight disenfranchisement. But otherwise, it’s hard to see why the views of people like this deserve more than bare tolerance.

125

ZM 07.28.14 at 6:58 am

I think that maybe some of those positions could be driven by other underlying issues where you might find more common ground – if you only barely tolerate people then you won’t be able to work out if and what any underlying issues are – and they will think that you don’t care about them or want to force them to stop practicing their religion etc, then they won’t trust you as having good will towards them and might be even more likely to vote against anything you would recommend or vote to give power to any person like you, and might end up voting for very bad and dangerous laws or people because they don’t trust you.

The Christos Tsolkias article I linked to – Whatever Happened to the Working Class? – also looked at French critic Eribon ‘s book Returning to Reims

“In that long period of exile from his family, Eribon took on academic postings in Paris, wrote a biography of Michel Foucault, and became a prominent critic of and from within the left. Over those three decades, he effaced his working-class heritage, and understood this denial to be necessary in order to refashion himself as a leftist cultural critic in Europe.

A call from his mother prompts the return home. His father – a factory labourer, a drinker and, from what Eribon writes, a hard and sometimes abusive man – is dying. It is his father’s sexism and homophobia that has engendered the long silence between them. During Eribon’s youth, his family and their community were communists. On his return to Reims, he is shocked to discover that his parents and his brothers have abandoned socialism and now vote for the far-right Front National.

Eribon never reconciles with his father. He does not attend the old man’s funeral. He can’t abandon the rage of his adolescence, and he seethes at the xenophobia, casual sexism and homophobia of his brothers. He finds it hard to understand how they have remained untouched by the liberating social movements that have defined his life after Reims. But what remains unanswered in the book is the question of how his family were to make sense of such cultural transformations if Eribon himself saw it as a precondition of his liberation that he break his link to family and to his class. Eribon’s portrait of his family is not distant; it is familiar and recognisable. As is the paradox of his avowal of socialist and social democratic principles while at the same time deploring and rejecting the working class itself. “

126

Abbe Faria 07.28.14 at 7:48 am

“All I need, to make my point, is that marriage is an ancient institution that, normally, adults have been able to expect to participate in.”

I don’t think you do. I agree denial of basic rights is a “gross and manifest injustice” (see torture, censorship). I’m not sure denial of an activities adults have in the past been able and expected to do is (see attendance at public executions, carrying blades in public, cruelty to animals). They’re very different classes of actions.

127

roy belmont 07.28.14 at 7:52 am

Collin Street 07.28.14 at 3:12 am
That was a cool and widely generally-applicable uber-comment.
-
Maggie Gallagher’s politesse should be a lesson to us all, but I predict, with my powers of prophetic vision, that it won’t be.
It’s stunning how often seemingly rational young people respond to
“these religious people think their religion is more important than the laws of a community which doesn’t share their religious views”
with
“Well, they shouldn’t.”
I tried to introduce that with the Rajneeshi anecdote, but no, still too thick I guess.
How’s this:
“Look asswipe, if somebody really really believes in God, a God that tells them specific things to do and not do, they aren’t going to put your community regulations above that. They won’t put tolerance above that, unless they feel their God has specifically demanded it of them.
They certainly won’t break what they feel is a covenant with a Supreme Being just to make you happy.”
Asswipe, “Well, they should.”

128

Ze Kraggash 07.28.14 at 8:17 am

” ‘Right’ is not quite it “

Wow, what the heck had happened here, while I was asleep (or am I still)? This is confusing. Is John Holbo a bigot now? Tell me it ain’t so.

129

Matt 07.28.14 at 8:44 am

I’ve seen Roy’s Parable of the Young Asswipe play out, more or less, many times. Its lesson might be that the Young Asswipe should just accept that true believers with a direct message from God will defy the community. Or it might be that the Young Asswipe shouldn’t just stand around declaring what ought to be and skip ahead to shaping what ought to be. Ensure that the believers’ kids hear ideas that contradict their parents’ beliefs, publicize scandals and divisive issues within the community of true believers, aid the groups that are closest to the true believers without actually being true believers, act like you’re really playing for keeps. Try to change things instead of declare things.

The Oregon Rajneeshees became most famous for food poisoning hundreds of people in 1984 in an attempt to rig a county election, so Young Asswipes shouldn’t assume that true believers will limit themselves to refereed debate or heartfelt declarations either.

130

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 8:58 am

“Is John Holbo a bigot now?”

Sorry, it’s bigoted to think that our modern notion of rights was not already present, full-blown, in the ancient world? If so, color me bigoted!

For good measure: if ‘murderer’ means wants a cup of coffee, I’m a murderer.

131

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 9:12 am

“I wrote: “All I need, to make my point, is that marriage is an ancient institution that, normally, adults have been able to expect to participate in.”

Abbe Faria writes: “I don’t think you do.”

This is the sort of puzzle that can be solved! Go back to the original passage. I declared (hereby setting off this kerfuffle):

“The right to marry, in various forms, is much older than any new-fangled modern freedom of conscience or thought … One reason opinion has shifted so quickly on the topic is, I suppose, just that the right to marry seems so basic, so elementally human and social.”

Now, substitute ‘marriage as an institution adults can expect to participate in’ for more more controversial ‘marriage is a right’ and see whether it still works. We get:

“‘[marriage as an institution adults can expect to participate in’ is much older than any new-fangled modern freedom of conscience or thought … One reason opinion has shifted so quickly on the topic is, I suppose, just that ‘marriage as an institution adults can expect to participate in’ seems so basic, so elementally human and social.”

I am content with this result, as an expression of the point I was getting at.

132

Sancho 07.28.14 at 9:53 am

Jerry Vinokurov’s comment at #31 immediately brought to mind Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The conservative movement stands proudly against blacks, women, Muslims, atheists having any voice or public influence, yet conservative intellectuals and think tanks love handing the megaphone to a black, female Muslim-turned-atheist when she criticises Islam.

Ali doesn’t say anything that a thousand white male Christian conservatives aren’t already, but whenever she publishes or makes a public appearance, it’s surrounded by that atmosphere of glee and barely-repressed cries of, “Checkmate, liberals! She’s all the minorities! Your own rules ban you from disagreeing!”

133

Brett Bellmore 07.28.14 at 10:49 am

“If the Greens say they will not be complicit in the purchase of those contraceptives, then they should not be writing checks to their employees. As in, they shouldn’t be in business, period. “

And, that is the intended end game for the left and freedom of religion: That it be restricted to the inside of your head, while you faithfully render unto Caesar everything that is Caesar’s, which is to say, everything. You can believe what you want, so long as the only beliefs you act on are the left’s.

Like I said, given a choice between the Greens’ religion and yours, I’ll go with the Greens any day. They just don’t want to be complicit in the evils others do, what you want is absolute obedience.

134

Barry 07.28.14 at 11:38 am

“And, that is the intended end game for the left and freedom of religion: That it be restricted to the inside of your head, while you faithfully render unto Caesar everything that is Caesar’s, which is to say, everything. You can believe what you want, so long as the only beliefs you act on are the left’s.”

As usual, you are lying. What the Greens want is to have the advantages of incorporation, but not the disadvantages. If Hobby Lobby was a non-profit, they’d have been OK.

135

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 11:50 am

Brett Bellmore: “They just don’t want to be complicit in the evils others do, what you want is absolute obedience.”

Out of curiosity, Brett: do you ever feel that maybe – perhaps out of frustration – you say things that you yourself don’t really believe are true? Maybe some of this stuff is just venting?

136

MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 1:27 pm

John Quiggin at 124 is exactly right.

Roy, as usual, is making excuses for bigotry.

Also this is pretty much all anyone needs to know about Maggie Gallagher:

“Gallagher received tens of thousands of dollars from the Department of Health and Human Services during 2002 and 2003 for helping the George W. Bush administration promote the President’s Healthy Marriage Initiative. During this time, Gallagher testified before Congress in favor of “healthy marriage” programs, but never disclosed the payments. When asked about that situation, she replied “Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it? I don’t know. You tell me. …frankly, it never occurred to me””

137

Dr. Hilarius 07.28.14 at 1:35 pm

Barry@134: an important point. I’ve read that some business groups stood back from supporting Hobby Lobby precisely because they feared a victory would erode the distinction between personal and corporate liability, undermining the very purpose of incorporation. Indeed, are the Greens willing to accept personal liability for the off-the-job torts of their employees? Thought not.

138

Layman 07.28.14 at 1:37 pm

Brett Bellmore @ 78

“I advocate that law leave us free enough that no religious practice it would be even remotely sensible to tolerate NEEDS an exception. You don’t, for instance, need a religious exception for sacramental wine, if you don’t have prohibition. You don’t need a religious exception for peyote, if you don’t have a war on drugs. But you’re not going to grant a religious exception to murder laws to a modern revival of Thugee. And we shouldn’t be giving Scientology an exception from laws against extortion and blackmail, whether or not you take that racket seriously as a religion.”

You choose your examples carefully, but there are others. There are e.g. religious people who oppose blood transfusions. If Congress can pass no law which offends their religious views, then there can be no minimum standards for health insurance which includes coverage for these things. In practice, this means there can be no minimum standards for health insurance at all, since any minimum requirement might offend some religious view.

Beyond that, ISTM your POV renders any government impossible. If Hobby Lobby can’t be required to fund contraception because it offends their religious views, how can Quakers continue to be required to fund drones to kill Afghanis? Surely the uses of taxation more profoundly violate their religious views! So even the minimal function of government – defense – usually granted by libertarians is unacceptable to you.

139

Brett Bellmore 07.28.14 at 2:16 pm

“If Congress can pass no law which offends their religious views, then there can be no minimum standards for health insurance which includes coverage for these things.”

I’m cool with that. I see no reason whatsoever that the federal government should be setting minimum standards for health insurance.

140

MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 2:20 pm

“I see no reason whatsoever that the federal government should be setting minimum standards for health insurance.”

Of course you don’t….

141

Stephenson quoter-kun 07.28.14 at 2:30 pm

John Q @84:

@49 Are you saying that while firing people for their political views is legal (in the US), it is always wrong, or that there is something special about the Eich case? And if it’s always wrong, why should it be legal?

“Always” is a bit of a hostage to fortune, but I find it hard to think of situations in which I could approve of it. I don’t think that the Eich case is particularly special in that regard. As I said, the abstract question of whether or not people should be fired for their political views has a fairly obvious liberal answer – “no”. The Eich case just proves how difficult it can be to be consistent about that in practice.

On the second question, should there be things which are “wrong” and yet not criminal offences? I’d be uncomfortable with saying that “anything which is wrong should be against the law”. Plenty of things are widely held to be wrong and are not illegal, so I don’t think “it’s wrong” suffices as an argument that something should be against the law. Of course, this opens the door to some fairly asymmetrical situations in which my wrongs happen to be legal and your wrongs happen to carry a lengthy prison sentence, and this is one of the sources of tension between liberalism and social justice (e.g. I should be pleased when a rich kid gets let off without arrest for drug offences, because I don’t believe that drug-taking should be an offence, but there’s a fairly obvious social justice problem here).

But I digress; should firing people for their political views be illegal? Probably yes. I think religious folk should learn that they can’t fire their pro-choice, LGBT-rights, pro-drug-legalisation etc. members of staff just because they don’t like their politics, and vice versa. (The “vice versa” bit is pretty important though). In the world we live in, where your job is your livelihood (and, in the US, your ticket to healthcare!), it seems unreasonable to allow people to be deprived of it for their politics. I could imagine some other world with a substantial basic income or permanently full employment where freedom of association might trump this without causing any harm, but that’s not where we live yet.

142

MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 2:37 pm

” In the world we live in, where your job is your livelihood (and, in the US, your ticket to healthcare!), it seems unreasonable to allow people to be deprived of it for their politics.”

What if the NAACP discovered that one of their employees was a committed KKK member? Would it be reasonable for people to put pressure on that KKK member to resign?

Remember that Eich was NOT fired. He resigned.

143

Layman 07.28.14 at 2:41 pm

“I’m cool with that. I see no reason whatsoever that the federal government should be setting minimum standards for health insurance.”

Yes, that’s what I thought you’d say; and that you’d ignore the rest of what I wrote. I’m going to hazard a guess, though, that you’re not posting from Somalia…

144

J Thomas 07.28.14 at 3:09 pm

#127 Roy Belmont

It’s stunning how often seemingly rational young people respond to
“these religious people think their religion is more important than the laws of a community which doesn’t share their religious views”
with
“Well, they shouldn’t.”

What do you think they ought to do instead?

Consider another group, NAMBLA. As I understand it, their main disagreement with mainstream culture is that they think some children should have the right to informed consent.

But mainstream culture says that children can’t perform informed consent. There’s too much power imbalance. You should never have sex with adults until you have learned what it all involves by means of extended experimentation with other people who don’t know any more than you do. Or maybe you become capable of informed consent when you reach a certain age, because your genes unlock things in your brain or something. Or maybe it’s that if you’re a virgin and you marry a virgin and neither of you ever has sex with anybody else, then power issues etc will never be important or if the man gets all the power that’s how it’s supposed to be. Or something else. Maybe the mainstream is a whole lot of ideas that partly fit together and partly conflict, and they agree on some practical specifics.

Anyway, if you were to make a religion out of NAMBLA and insist on doing things your way, as I understand it you could be arrested and jailed for talking about your preferences, for writing porn about it, for doing artwork depicting it, etc. There goes freedom of speech. You could be put on a sexual offenders list that would make it hard for you to find places to rent, it would be public knowledge, and most places you tried to live you would be hounded by your neighbors who can’t stand the thought of you living near their children. Segregation? Etc etc.

People who belong to despised minorities do not have rights because they are despised minorities. To have minority rights you must be a respected minority.

“these NAMBLA people think their preferences are more important than the laws of a community which doesn’t share their views.”

“Well, they shouldn’t.”

If people respect your religion they won’t do that. They will look for compromises. Perhaps they might agree that children of NAMBLA members can participate? No, I didn’t think so.

It’s harder when your minority tries to tell everybody else how to live. If a religious minority wants their own children to be unvaccinated, maybe we can let them do that. It is their own children after all, why should we infringe on their rights over their own children? If they insist that nobody should be vaccinated that’s harder.

If a minority thinks abortion is wrong and they shouldn’t do it, no problem at all! If they decide that nobody can do it, it’s harder.

If they want to baptise their children into their religion, that’s fine. If they insist that every child must be baptised into their religion, it’s harder.

The question is always, how important are they? If they’re the size of NAMBLA they get no respect whatsoever. If they have tens of millions of followers and billions of dollars, then it’s harder to argue that they should conform.

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Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 3:16 pm

@139

I’m cool with that. I see no reason whatsoever that the federal government should be setting minimum standards for health insurance.

And with no community rating, no guaranteed issue, the employee’s fungible wages can’t necessarily buy adequate health insurance.

But the important thing is that employers have to be free to coerce their employees, and insurance companies free to deny basic care. Those are the most important “freedoms”.

@141

As I said, the abstract question of whether or not people should be fired for their political views has a fairly obvious liberal answer – “no”.

I covered this back up at 58, but that’s not “the” abstract question. Here’s an even more basic one–should people be required to work for a boss they don’t want to work for?

Because that’s ultimately the question here. Eich wasn’t fired. He quit because people, including employees, complained, some threatening to quit. So the only way Eich could be kept on the job is by preventing those employees from doing that. So if you want to change the Eich case, the abstract principle you have to uphold is that employees can be required–either by law or by social norm–to keep working for someone they don’t want to work for. Seems to me that has an obvious liberal answer. Which suggests that the abstract q

I covered this back up at 58

146

Stephenson quoter-kun 07.28.14 at 3:30 pm

MPAVictoria @142

What if the NAACP discovered that one of their employees was a committed KKK member? Would it be reasonable for people to put pressure on that KKK member to resign?

Well, that is a tough one. I could just say that hard cases make bad law, and that the existence of a small number of cases of such extreme mismatch between the beliefs of the employee and those of the employer should not invalidate the general principle, but this is the internet, and such answers won’t do.

I am happy enough to say that the NAACP should not be able to fire someone for their membership of the KKK unless it was obvious that it was interfering with their duties. You can argue that it would be impossible for the beliefs implied by KKK membership to not interfere somehow, in which case hurrah! you have your cause for firing the person as soon as you observe the interference. I think you’d need to find some actual evidence of the person having failed in their duties though, not some vague “loss of confidence”.

I suppose what we’re really getting down to is the question of whether we can have protection for the political beliefs of, say, pro-choice (or even, it seems, pro-contraception) employees of companies owned or managed by Christians, without needing to extend similar protection to racists employed by the NAACP. Maybe we can, and I’d certainly see the former as more deserving of protection. But I think the rule would work better if it were universal and thus considerably easier to understand and enforce, than if it were selectively applied to certain groups in certain situations. If even the racist NAACP employee is protected, the rest of us can be pretty damn confident that our rights are going to be secure, which just isn’t the case if someone gets to make exclusions based on their view of what happens to be beyond the Pale.

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Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 3:34 pm

Ugh, pushed the wrong key, 144 posted halfway through. Ignore the two half typed sentences at the end.

Anyway, I don’t see how it’s workable to ban companies from firing anyone in management or human resources who donates to an a political campaign that’s both at odds with the companies official values and disrespects some employees.

Heck, I don’t see how any restrictions on firing a CEO make any sense at all. If the owners of a company can’t change the top manager of their company as they see fit, what’s the point of owning a company or purchasing stock?

” In the world we live in, where your job is your livelihood (and, in the US, your ticket to healthcare!), it seems unreasonable to allow people to be deprived of it for their politics.”

You could solve this problem by insisting that the terminated employee be offered an alternative, comparable job. Which Brendan Eich was. He declined.

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Stephenson quoter-kun 07.28.14 at 3:41 pm

Consumatopia @144:

Eich wasn’t fired. He quit because people, including employees, complained, some threatening to quit. So the only way Eich could be kept on the job is by preventing those employees from doing that. So if you want to change the Eich case, the abstract principle you have to uphold is that employees can be required–either by law or by social norm–to keep working for someone they don’t want to work for. Seems to me that has an obvious liberal answer.

Yeah, here I am on slightly sketchy ground. That said, I think that laws have roles in shaping norms as well as their more direct role in the criminal justice system. If there’s a law which says that you can’t be fired for your political beliefs, we’d have at least some high-profile cases of people fighting and winning cases against their employers in court, we’d have stronger norms of separation between personal and employment-related views, and so on. So, a different legal setup might still have produced a different outcome even if the law would not have directly prevented the outcome that actually happened. In a “crisis” situation like Eich’s, we reach for precedent and the US doesn’t really have many precedents for a person retaining employment when challenged over their personal beliefs.

Beyond that, yes, you’re correct. I’m annoyed about the Eich case because in respect of the things that, in my view, really matter about Mozilla, he was on the side of the angels to a considerably greater extent than any other candidate. People who take technology user freedom seriously are, understandably but regrettably, pretty rare in technology leadership positions. Other people disagreed, and they won. I don’t think that they won by much, and I think modest differences in employment culture could have swung the case, but as a general principle I don’t think that it should be illegal to persuade someone to leave a job. What happened to Eich was perfectly legal and I wouldn’t wish to change that.

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Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 4:28 pm

I think you could find even more absurd cases than an envelope stuffing Klan member at the NAACP offices. Suppose an adviser to a political candidate makes donations to their opponent. Would you go so far as to protect that guy?

I think you’d need to find some actual evidence of the person having failed in their duties though, not some vague “loss of confidence”.

Isn’t maintaining confidence a significant part of the CEO’s job? Here’s a non-rhetorical question: if the company faced a civil rights lawsuit, could the CEO’s political donations be used as evidence?

I do understand and to some extent share your disappointment that Eich had to leave the Mozilla. But even putting the law aside, just as a matter of social norms, if a gay employee says “I don’t want to work for a homophobe”, I don’t feel right asking them to keep doing so, even though if I were working at Mozilla myself I would have kept working (not being gay I suppose that’s convenient for me to say.)

150

Barry 07.28.14 at 4:34 pm

BTW, in the Mozilla case it was worse – they rely on a large amount of unpaid labor being donated.

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Barry 07.28.14 at 4:36 pm

Dr. Hilarius 07.28.14 at 1:35 pm
“Barry@134: an important point. I’ve read that some business groups stood back from supporting Hobby Lobby precisely because they feared a victory would erode the distinction between personal and corporate liability, undermining the very purpose of incorporation. Indeed, are the Greens willing to accept personal liability for the off-the-job torts of their employees? Thought not.”

Notice that your last sentence is (a) bullsh*t and (b) would not be the result of even extreme unforeseen consequences of the Hobby Lobby decision. It’d only happen in a world so different from ours that the atmosphere would probably not be breathable by human beings.

152

Brett Bellmore 07.28.14 at 4:50 pm

Look, what is “freedom”? I think it’s the space between what somebody else thinks you ought to do, and what you can be forced to do, the space between what somebody else thinks you should refrain from, and what you can be forced to refrain from.

One of the problems liberals seem to have, is that they don’t seem to believe that space ought to exist. You think something’s good, you immediately want to mandate it, you think something’s bad, you immediately want to ban it.

No, the government shouldn’t be mandating what insurance has to cover, because it isn’t just the government that is entitled to make decisions. And if this means that somebody has to pay for Plan B out of pocket, instead of it being covered by their insurance? Fine. Part of getting to make your own decisions, is getting to pay for them.

The more government does, the more of life it takes over, the more it conflicts with people who want to make their own decisions.

No, choosing between the Greens and you folks is easy. The Greens know what it means to let somebody else make their own decisions. You? The idea that they might not make the decision YOU think they ought to make outrages you.

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MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 5:30 pm

“he Greens know what it means to let somebody else make their own decisions.”

Well unless they want to marry someone of the opposite gender….

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Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 5:33 pm

I think it’s the space between what somebody else thinks you ought to do, and what you can be forced to do, the space between what somebody else thinks you should refrain from, and what you can be forced to refrain from.

Sure, that sounds good. As long as we understand that deprivation of capability is one means of forcing people to refrain from action.

Actually, no, leave that aside. Lets keep our freedom negative. Private property undeniably forces people to refrain from things all the time. You want to step on this land. You can’t, you’re forced to refrain by laws against trespass.

It follows from that the restrictions on the ways in which private property is used to force people to refrain from action can mean that people have more freedom–they can be forced to do or refrain from doing less. Simple, albeit small, example: the recently passed restrictions on cell phone locking. Now it is harder to force people to refrain from unlocking their cell phone. Doing so means that phone companies are forced to refrain from forcing customers from refraining from unlocking their cell phone. This is an increase in freedom on net–as you defined it above–especially as wireless carriers, by their very nature, benefit from the government forcing people to refrain from lots of actions, in particular FCC regulation of spectrum.

Hobby Lobby is forcing employees to refrain from using their earned benefits to acquire certain medical services. Some of their employees might want to make their own decisions about how their benefits should be used. If the government forces Hobby Lobby to refrain from forcing their employees to refrain from using their benefits to purchase birth control, that’s a net increase of freedom–not only because the medical decisions of the employee are no proper business of the employer, but because those benefits are earned by the employee and shouldn’t be controlled by the employer’s religion.

You think something’s good, you immediately want to mandate it,

False. We mandated health insurance, in particular, because when we didn’t insurance companies were forcing people with preexisting conditions to refrain from buying it. Health insurance happened to be a unique market in this regard–we do not mandate broccoli purchases even though broccoli is both healthy and delicious.

No, the government shouldn’t be mandating what insurance has to cover, because it isn’t just the government that is entitled to make decisions.

It isn’t just the employer or the insurance company to make decisions, either. That would represent a loss of freedom.

The Greens know what it means to let somebody else make their own decisions.

No, that’s precisely what they don’t know. The idea that their employees might not decide to use the benefits those employees earned in the way the Greens think they ought to enrages them.

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MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 5:37 pm

“Well unless they want to marry someone of the opposite gender….”

Crap. Same gender.

/Need more coffee.

156

Abbe Faria 07.28.14 at 6:12 pm

John @ 131.

My understanding is part of the point of your post was: (1) deprivation of a basic right “would constitute a gross and manifest injustice”, (2) marriage is a basic right, therefore (3) denial of the right to marry is a “gross and manifest injustice”. (1) is pretty much true by definition, but the syllogism fails based on (2) since it’s unlikely that marriage is a basic right.

Can you save youself by substituting marriage as being an “ancient institution that, normally, adults have been able to expect to participate in”? Well, (2) works fine if you do, but (1) become extremely dubious. Plenty of ancient institutions that adults have been able to expect to participate in are commonly thought of as vile – as I say, attendence at public executions, cruelty to animals for sport, etc.

I think this is an interesting distinction when thinking about gay liberation. The Stonewall radicals thought of marriage as an oppressive ancient institution to be destroyed. Current legal actions have established same sex marriage by entrenching the precedent for marriage as a right. As we’ve established this is not something that was historically the case, and if you do think marriage is oppressive this is not good news.

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Barry 07.28.14 at 6:32 pm

Brett: “One of the problems liberals seem to have, is that they don’t seem to believe that space ought to exist. You think something’s good, you immediately want to mandate it, you think something’s bad, you immediately want to ban it.”

Well, no. Aside from that…………..

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K. Benton 07.28.14 at 6:45 pm

Maggie Gallagher @ 115
“What opinions in a democracy we are supposed to tolerate in one another and what are “outside the pale” for what theoretical reasons, is an important and not an easy question. “

You see, I think the language here is perhaps enlightening to the deeper problem. Tolerance of *opinions* ought to be a given, it is tolerance of *actions* taken in accordance with those opinions that is in question, and who is harmed thereby.

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TM 07.28.14 at 6:49 pm

4000 words!!! Congratulations, John.

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TM 07.28.14 at 6:53 pm

J Thomas 5: “If it turns out that someone argues against the existence of a right, and the large majority of people who believe in that right are disgusted to hear it and disgusted at the person who says it, the person who disgusts them still has the right to make the argument and disgust them. They have the right to be disgusted. If they don’t like hearing it and being disgusted they have the right not to listen.”

Seems to me that says it all. How can this even be controversial?

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Brett Bellmore 07.28.14 at 6:57 pm

“Hobby Lobby is forcing employees to refrain from using their earned benefits to acquire certain medical services. “

Not if you regard being paid as an earned benefit. They’re refusing to designate part of the earned benefit for acquiring certain medical services. Rather like a Muslim employer might be resigned to their employees spending part of their paychecks on bacon, but take exception to being forced to pay people in part with coupons redeemable at Bubba’s House of Pork Products.

The Greens are not taking people’s liberty away the way the government is. The Greens refuse to facilitate certain actions, the government refuses to permit certain actions.

162

Ze Kraggash 07.28.14 at 7:11 pm

“They have the right to be disgusted”

Those who want to get disgusted, they certainly have the right to be disgusted, but they shouldn’t participate in discussions. Otherwise, you get buckets of vomit and no light whatsoever. Give them an “I’m disgusted” counter, or something…

163

Barry 07.28.14 at 7:29 pm

Brett: “The Greens are not taking people’s liberty away the way the government is. The Greens refuse to facilitate certain actions, the government refuses to permit certain actions.”

No, because they could do that, except for the fact that they deliberately chose a corporate structure which separated the personal from the business. Until now, of course.

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J Thomas 07.28.14 at 7:30 pm

#148 Consumatopia

I think you could find even more absurd cases than an envelope stuffing Klan member at the NAACP offices. Suppose an adviser to a political candidate makes donations to their opponent.

What if it was an employee who was trying to organize a union? Shouldn’t they be able to fire him on the spot and arrest him for trespassing if he ever comes back onto company property?

This isn’t just somebody who has attitudes opposed to their politics. It’s somebody who’s working directly against the company, trying to suck away corporate profits, the most direct enemy the company can have.

How can it possibly be illegal to fire everybody who is suspected of union organizing? If a company can fire anybody at all, surely they can fire anybody who tries to start a union.

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TM 07.28.14 at 7:47 pm

Re Eich, I think liberals should oppose firing anybody for political reasons but there is no reason why they shouldn’t have the right to put pressure on somebody who, like Eich, has a high public visibility due to his position and uses that to advocate something that liberals find offensive.

On the other hand, how many of those who claim that Eich is a victim of persecution a willing to condemn churches when they fire gay employees (or even, in the case of the Catholic church, divorced ones)? I haven’t heard of any, not a single one – prove me wrong. As always – and I mean always, this is a 100% iron-clad rule of right-wing discourse – it is the religious right-wingers who demand both tolerance for their views, AND the right to infringe on their opponents’ rights, all in the name of religious freedom.

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TM 07.28.14 at 7:51 pm

JT 163, is your question serious? US federal law specifically states that union activity is one cause (out of very few) for which you cannot be legally fired.

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J Thomas 07.28.14 at 8:01 pm

#165 TM

JT 163, is your question serious? US federal law specifically states that union activity is one cause (out of very few) for which you cannot be legally fired.

No, I’m not serious. It just seems like if you can fire somebody for their political views which cannot hurt your company directly, how can it possibly make sense to let them create a union whose only purpose is to oppose you?

Surely we can expect union rights to be abridged whenever the courts get around to it.

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Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 8:05 pm

“Hobby Lobby is forcing employees to refrain from using their earned benefits to acquire certain medical services. “

Not if you regard being paid as an earned benefit. They’re refusing to designate part of the earned benefit for acquiring certain medical services.

No, that isn’t what’s happening. See my post @98.

Hobby Lobby insists on supplying health insurance, so that part of their employee’s compensation is one that they keep control over. They are not merely refusing to facilitate actions. The ACA left them that option–just pay wages and the mandate penalty instead of health insurance. That wasn’t good enough. Hobby Lobby insisted on taking control of benefits earned by the employee.

The Greens are trying to control how other people use their own medical benefits. Under the definition of freedom you gave at 151, the Greens are shrinking the “space” you call freedom.

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J Thomas 07.28.14 at 8:18 pm

#151 Brett Bellmore

Look, what is “freedom”? I think it’s the space between what somebody else thinks you ought to do, and what you can be forced to do, the space between what somebody else thinks you should refrain from, and what you can be forced to refrain from.

If *only* it was so simple!
If only it was so *simple*!

What about the space between what you think you should be able to force other people to do, and what you can actually force them to do?

And the space between what you think you should be able to stop them from doing, and what you can actually stop them from doing?

When you want to stop somebody from doing something and you can’t, that interferes with your freedom.

We can’t just let everybody do whatever they want — not unless we do so much mind control that we can make sure no two people want conflicting things.

So we are stuck deciding where one person’s rights end and another’s begins.

In our society this has turned into a complicated balancing act. I think it might be good to make it simpler. For example, if we established the custom that employers do not provide health insurance, then it would not be Hobby Lobby’s problem what kind of health insurance their employees got.

Unless they thought it was their problem. Maybe they might try to find out about employee health insurance, and fire anybody who used birth control? I guess they could do that. Or maybe they would prefer to fire any woman who didn’t get pregnant often enough, if that’s how they roll.

It makes a certain sense that employers should be able to fire any employee whenever they want. That’s freedom. And the other way, employees should be able to quit whenever they want.

And employers should be able to set up blacklists and refuse to fire each other’s fired employees. Set it up so that employees who believe the blacklists work, will believe they’ll starve if for any reason they quit or get fired. You could get all the advantages of slavery with none of the responsibilities!

There are definitely possibilities for employer freedom here.

170

Plume 07.28.14 at 8:36 pm

Brett,

It’s a major stretch for you to make this about freedom of choice, when the Greens are taking away a benefit from female employees, and only female employees. The Greens are making that choice FOR those employees, even though they aren’t involved, ever, in the choice to use contraception. That’s between the woman and her doctor. The Greens should have nothing to do with it.

If, however, the ACA mandated the USE of contraception, then you’d have an easy, slam dunk case to make. The Greens then could frame this all in terms of Big Government forcing them to do something against their will, and those of us on the left, I dare say, would support you and the Greens.

But this isn’t that. There is no mandate for usage. The Greens can say their religion prohibits them from using contraception, and they can decline. No law, anywhere, says they can’t do this. But the second they try to increase the realm of that prohibition to their employees, they no longer can claim that this is about their freedom of choice, much less that of their employees. They move from being the oppressed, to the oppressor.

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MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 8:55 pm

“But this isn’t that. There is no mandate for usage. The Greens can say their religion prohibits them from using contraception, and they can decline. No law, anywhere, says they can’t do this. But the second they try to increase the realm of that prohibition to their employees, they no longer can claim that this is about their freedom of choice, much less that of their employees. They move from being the oppressed, to the oppressor.”

Well said.

172

Plume 07.28.14 at 9:54 pm

A clear pattern whenever I read conservatives on issues of freedom: They seem incapable of realizing that the “freedom” of employers to do as they please takes freedoms away from workers. Pretty much always. And it almost always takes freedoms away from consumers, and creates even more imbalances of freedoms, privileges and power in society overall.

It’s maddening to try to discuss this with conservatives, though it’s even worse with propertarians. In general, they do not seem to recognize that one person’s freedom can and often does mean the loss of freedom for others. They seem to believe it’s always win/win . . . . just as they have this incredibly naive and rose-colored view of commercial transactions. That is, to them, always already voluntary and win/win. The concept of being forced by a system to do something seems foreign to them. They’ve drunk the koolaid.

An analogy: Joe hates smoke-filled bars, but he loves bars. He and his best friend, Milton Hayek, go to one and it’s overwhelmingly smokey for Joe.

“I can’t take it anymore, Milton.”
“Well, I like it here. If you don’t, you’re free to go to any other bar of your choosing.”
“But they’re all smokey, Milton.”
“You’re still free to choose.”

173

SamChevre 07.28.14 at 10:05 pm

how many of those who claim that Eich is a victim of persecution a willing to condemn churches when they fire gay employees

You keep missing the key distinction–I will say both, but you won’t agree with me.

Eich was treated badly; a gay janitor fired for going to a gay bar, even if a church fired him, was treated badly.

Both ought to be legal.

The key distinction is between people and organizations that aren’t legally allowed to use force to get money–who should be free to do what they want, including bad things like discriminating on unreasonable grounds–and governments, which ought not to discriminate in issuing licenses, giving out benefits, or anything else based on those private choices.

(The Eich case is also useful as a quick, clear demonstration that the left generally does not oppose firing people for political activity.)

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SamChevre 07.28.14 at 10:09 pm

The Greens can say their religion prohibits them from using contraception, and they can decline. No law, anywhere, says they can’t do this. But the second they try to increase the realm of that prohibition to their employees, they no longer can claim that this is about their freedom of choice

Let me make sure I’m understanding you.

I can say that I won’t engage in racist tirades in the store parking lot, but it would be WRONG for me to forbid my employees from doing so?

175

Plume 07.28.14 at 10:29 pm

Sam,

Given that we, as a society, are pretty much in agreement that racist tirades are wrong, that they are offensive to others, that’s not an apples to apples comparison. It is also common sense from a business point of view that employees going on those tirades would be bad for business, offend customers, lose customers. Via moral compass or a cold eye, those racist tirades would garner no support. And the law isn’t at issue in that case. There is no law that the Greens would be fighting that said they can’t tell their employees not to have those tirades, or to force them to go there.

The ACA said women would receive a certain benefit. Under the law. The Greens have a problem with that. The obvious answer is that they (the Greens) are “free” to try to change the law, through the democratic process, and abstain from using contraceptives, if their religion tells them so — even though it’s not in the bible. They can still choose NOT to use them. Their choice. They just don’t get to make that choice for others, or burden others with their own prejudices and bigotries. Or receive cover for those prejudices and bigotries simply by saying these are their religious beliefs.

In a sane society, the justices would have ruled against the Greens.

176

MPAVictoria 07.28.14 at 10:30 pm

And the curve bends a little bit more towards justice…

http://gawker.com/federal-appeals-court-strikes-down-virginias-gay-marria-1612122552

177

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 11:14 pm

Abber Faria, I think the problem is that you have mistaken a throwaway point for a restatement of my main thesis.

The throwaway point is this: one reason why opinion shifted on the gay marriage issue so quickly – this is a sociological guess – is precisely that marriage is such an old institution. It’s not that people are rushing to embrace some new-fangled modern thing. They are running to embrace an old-fangled ancient thing. This is one of the things ‘traditionalists’ on marriage are struggling against. The thing they are fighting is so damn traditional – in many ways, though not all, of course – that it’s hard to convince people there’s no value in it for everyone.

The main point of the post is something else entirely. And the liberal defense of gay marriage is yet a third thing. Make sense? So this whole thing about whether rights existed in ancient Greece is neither here nor there with respect to the post, or my general outlook on same-sex marriage.

I may sound to you, oddly, like I’m not insisting that gay marriage is a right – or should be one – because for thousands of years people didn’t even have our concept of rights. Well, the short version of the response to that, which really is a deep problem (how to conceptual the status of moral change over historical time) is this: if I went back in time, I wouldn’t try to convince some ancient Greek that he was ‘committed’ to gay marriage by other stuff he is committed to. Unquestionably he wouldn’t be. First I’d have to convert him to modern liberalism, then I might try to convince him that he’s really committed by all that to gay marriage. Arguing with my fellow Americans is something else. Given what Americans think about rights, and about marriage, it’s arbitrary for them NOT to allow gay marriage. Hence not permitting it amounts to imposing an irrational harm on their fellow citizens out of animus. Make sense (in the abstract at least)?

I’m trying not to be snarky this time. I took what I was saying to be obvious and took you to be trolling. But apparently it wasn’t obvious.

178

John Holbo 07.28.14 at 11:34 pm

“Look, what is “freedom”? I think it’s the space between what somebody else thinks you ought to do, and what you can be forced to do, the space between what somebody else thinks you should refrain from, and what you can be forced to refrain from.”

And your position is that no one should be able to force someone to do something – or obey anything – which they conscientiously object to. We get what you are saying, Brett. We should govern in such a way that such problems don’t even arise. So, generalizing, the Constitutional stricture should be is this:

Congress shall make no law to which anyone might conscientiously object.

You think people could only resist such an attractively permissive scheme out of sheer hatred for freedom itself. This makes you believe you are surrounded by moral monsters! But I think a more likely explanation is this: we think, as a scheme for optimizing the sphere of personal liberty, it’s unworkable – self-defeating in a lot of obvious ways.

You don’t see these problems because, in your mind, you aren’t applying it generally. You are going to use it as a trump in some cases you especially care about. It can semi-nullify Obamacare, and that’s a good thing. You are imagining that it will work like a dog you can let off its leash to drive damn liberals off your lawn whenever you like. And it would be that, no doubt. But you are wrong to think that the reason other people don’t like it is that they are bound and determined to trespass on your lawn. We’re thinking about it on the level of political philosophy and constitutional government whereas you, I think, are imagining it more as a tactical weapon in small-scale partisan skirmishes (and even at that level, you seem not to be thinking about how the other side might deploy it, tactically). The principle has problems. You don’t need to hate liberty to see that.

I encourage you to consider the big picture of how what you are asking for would work – or, rather, fail to – if implemented in a completely even-handed, general sort of way.

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Consumatopia 07.28.14 at 11:43 pm

The key distinction is between people and organizations that aren’t legally allowed to use force to get money

But they do use force. They maintain private property. Private property is defended through force. (Possibly, thanks to the Second Amendment, their own, personal, lethal force.) Without force, they wouldn’t be able to hold their property and use it to make money. Using that money, defended by force, they’re able to coerce other people. If those people resist that coercion, they can find themselves unable to meet basic needs because of the force employed to uphold private property.

(The Eich case is also useful as a quick, clear demonstration that the left generally does not oppose firing people for political activity.)

Not only was Eich not fired, I believe most of the people complaining at the time wanted him demoted from CEO rather than fired. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone say that everyone who supported Prop 8 should be fired from their job. (I mean, I’m sure some idiot believes that but I’ve never heard from them.)

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Brett Bellmore 07.28.14 at 11:51 pm

“And your position is that no one should be able to force someone to do something – or obey anything – which they conscientiously object to.”

Not only is that not my position, it is a position I have explicitly rejected. See my remarks regarding Thugee or Scientology.

It is my position that, since to make something “illegal” is to state that the government is to resort to violence if you do it, just as to mandate it is to state that the government is to resort to violence if you won’t do it, law is only appropriate for subjects where violence is appropriate.

And since I can’t delegate an authority I don’t possess, I refuse to advocate any law where I think *I* would not be justified in resorting to violence were it just my own will involved, rather than a legislature.

But the list of those laws is not the null set. Laws against murder, theft, rape.

Not laws against offering insurance I think inadequate.

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Dr. Hilarius 07.29.14 at 12:03 am

Barry @151: Why such an emotional response, particularly when I was agreeing with your general point? You may disagree that Hobby Lobby poses any threat to the the separation of corporate and personal spheres but the concern is not original with me, it’s been advanced by a number of legal commenters. But seriously, calm down, it’s nothing worth having a stroke over.

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Consumatopia 07.29.14 at 12:04 am

Laws against murder, theft, rape.

Theft and trespass being the big ones, because they mean that every conflicting set of desires for what to do with a scarce resources is one in which government force (or government sanctioned private force) must take a side. So when the insurance company decides to increase its profits by denying applications for coverage, it’s government force that defends the wealth, property, and contracts that make such a decision possible.

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 12:11 am

I understand that you don’t want to allow human sacrifice, Brett. But I take this not as a refutation of what I’m saying but a confirmation that you aren’t considering the implications of what you are advocating. You really ought to be on-board with Thugee, in a practical sense, insofar as your position implies anarchism and, within that sphere, Thugee may flourish. You can’t, rightly, institute anything to stop it. That would infringe religious liberty. Government can’t do that. This doesn’t mean you have to like Thugee, but it does mean you can’t forbid it. Either that or you have to adjust your principle to allow it to be forbidden.

Now at this point you are going to go for liberalism (despite the fact that you denounce it as fascistic): namely, we should limit religious freedom by considering harm to others, or something like that. The religious freedom of your sacrificial blade stops where my sternum starts. Something like that. (The thugees can going on thinking, but they can’t act! At this point you retract your point about how it’s fascism to make religious liberty just a matter of thought.) The trouble is: this won’t get you the Hobby Lobby result you want. The objection in the Hobby Lobby case is that it constitutes a harm to others – the employees – for the employers to deprive them of something the law says they are entitled to. (I know, you think it’s a bad law. Still. It’s a law. A scheme on which citizens are differentially entitled to protections the law says extends to all is a kind of harm to them.)

Here’s a possibility you may indeed accept. I’m curious, so I’ll throw it out. How about a slight harm principle. Hobby Lobby wants to slightly harm its employees, for religious conscience reasons. Liberals are not down with this for the same reason they are opposed to modern human sacrifice. In for a pound, in for a penny, when it comes to forbidding harm to others. But you might reasonably object that a pound is more than a penny. The employees aren’t hurt that much. And religion is important. Therefore the principle should be something like this: if people think it’s really important, for religious reasons, to inflict minor harms on non-consenting third-parties, the government should, as a policy, turn a blind eye to that sort of effect. We do this out of recognition of the importance of religion.

As principles go, it looks pretty weird. But I think it may correspond to what you are going for. Do you buy it?

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Collin Street 07.29.14 at 12:21 am

It’s probably worth pointing out that there’s a half-dozen countries out there that maintain some degree of institutional continuity with HRE fiefs: that is, they unquestionably arose as private landholdings under a larger sovereign. So the “private actors use force too” isn’t theoretical.

[belgium luxemborg monaco italy [via savoy] lichtenstein [obviously] and austria. Germany doesn’t, because the way modern germany was established after WWII wiped the institutional connections.]

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Barry 07.29.14 at 12:46 am

“It’s maddening to try to discuss this with conservatives, though it’s even worse with propertarians. In general, they do not seem to recognize that one person’s freedom can and often does mean the loss of freedom for others. They seem to believe it’s always win/win . . . . just as they have this incredibly naive and rose-colored view of commercial transactions. That is, to them, always already voluntary and win/win. The concept of being forced by a system to do something seems foreign to them. They’ve drunk the koolaid.”

I don’t think so; I think that they are quite aware of the power involved, and who won and who lost.

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Barry 07.29.14 at 12:47 am

Dr. Hilarius 07.29.14 at 12:03 am
“Barry @151: Why such an emotional response, particularly when I was agreeing with your general point? You may disagree that Hobby Lobby poses any threat to the the separation of corporate and personal spheres but the concern is not original with me, it’s been advanced by a number of legal commenters. But seriously, calm down, it’s nothing worth having a stroke over.”

I did not read it as such. To be fair, your comment had such bad logic that my getting your intent wrong was quite likely.

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 12:57 am

It may have been a bit tendentious to say that Hobby Lobby wants to inflict harm, for religious reasons. More generously they want to do something that happens to be a harm.

Cutting the harm language we could restate my proposed gloss on Brett’s ideal scheme like so. We are instituting a new, two-tier system of liberty. First class and economy. Religious freedom is first class. Way more legroom. But to make this possible you need to squeeze the folks in economy. They get less legroom than they would have had if there were just one class for everyone. Brett sees resistance to this sort of scheme as perverse because, as I said, he’s not thinking about how the system will work overall. What kind of a jerk would want to deprive people of possible legroom? The answer is: the motive is trying to optimize legroom for everyone equality. And now the rubber hits the runway. Many people, possibly including Brett, think it makes moral sense to regard religious beliefs as ‘first class’ if you will. Otherwise we wouldn’t get legislation like RFRA. The question is, do we like the sort of ‘all people are free but some people are more free than others’ result we get, when we try to accommodate that ‘first class’ ‘economy class’ division in political practice. I’m pretty sure some people will say this sounds good. Maybe Brett. But I don’t like it.

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MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 1:33 am

Digby has a great peace today on the stupidity of hoping to “build a bridge” to the tight wingers


Don’t count your populist chickens

by digby

Yes, these are the kind of people we can count on to join us in a populist revolution:
Fox News’ morning program questioned a Texas official about providing emergency services to undocumented migrants, asking whether 911 calls from immigrants must be answered “even though for the most part, when you get there, you realize they’re not even American citizens.”

On July 23, Fox & Friends centered a discussion on how undocumented immigrants in Brooks County, Texas are “bombarding” the police department with 911 calls. Host Brian Kilmeade set up an interview with the Texas county’s chief deputy by claiming that “illegal immigrants are learning the hard way there’s a deadly cost to crossing the border.” Kilmeade suggested Brooks County emergency response services might be strained because, “not only are they understaffed and lacking resources, now they’ve got to deal with illegal immigrants who have no business being here.”

As an example, the program aired two emergency calls from Spanish speakers each identified on-screen as “Immigrant.” In the first, a distressed male requests emergency assistance for his cousin, whom the man described as “turning blue.” Another call featured a man and woman explaining to the 911 operator that they have not had access to water in three days.

Kilmeade asked the deputy, “So those calls, you have to respond to, even though for the most part, when you get there you realize, they’re not even American citizens?”

I think we’ve determined that most of the right wing believes that only Americans deserve to live, just as a general principle. And even then, if they don’t have adequate insurance or are part of the 47% of parasites who fail to pay enough taxes to derive any benefits (unless you happen to be a white, conservative Real American 47percenter who deserves her benefits) then you probably don’t deserve to live either.

There is simply no way that people with these beliefs will ever join left wing populists. No matter how much they may hate the big banks and bailouts, they hate the “other” more. And that “other” includes liberals like you and me”

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SamChevre 07.29.14 at 1:34 am

John Holbo

I think the whole “religious freedom as first class” gets my (and Brett’s) argument wrong.

My argument (an extension of Stephen Carter, who I find very helpful in thinking through this topic, but who would make the opposite point) is that if you maintain strong protections for the traditional “liberal” rights – speech, association, contract, property – you limit the possible infringements on religious liberty to a small and manageable group. (Basically, in American history, military conscription and slavery, with a slight side quarrel over polygamy.)

It’s not that religious liberty isn’t a real interest; it’s that keeping clear the distinction between government and private action-avoiding the corporatist/fascist “all proper interests are public interests”[1]–makes the conflict between them much smaller than the “everything that is not forbidden is required” ethos of Progressivism.

1) “In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.”

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Main Street Muse 07.29.14 at 1:38 am

Sam Chèvre “I can say that I won’t engage in racist tirades in the store parking lot, but it would be WRONG for me to forbid my employees from doing so?”

You are missing the point of the Hobby Lobby decision. This is not about preventing employees from doing something socially wrong (though racists tirades in parking lots are likely protected under the 1st Amendment, FYI.)

The Greens feel the IUD & the morning after pill an instrument of murder – in opposition to physicians, gynecologists, science, etc. The Greens have decided that not only do THEY not want to use these highly effective FAMILY PLANNING methods, they do not want to provide insurance that covers these products to employees who, like many in the US, may believe that the IUD and morning after pills are effective FAMILY PLANNING tools, not instruments of murder.

As I understand it, prior to ACA, the Greens provided Hobby Lobby employees with insurance that DID cover these birth control methods they now find objectionable.

Five Catholic Supreme Court justices decided that these birth control methods are indeed objectionable, as their church dictates they should believe. FYI – I am a Catholic who strays far from the Catholic dogma surrounding the ability to control the size of one’s family – but the justices do not stray far at all from the teachings of their church. One hopes they do not decide all birth control is objectionable – we’ll see how that plays out in the future.

I find it HILARIOUS that the Satanic Temple is claiming religious exemption from distributing anti-abortion info to those interested in abortion http://bit.ly/WKOWK1

SCOTUS has opened up Pandora’s box with the Hobby Lobby ruling.

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ZM 07.29.14 at 3:20 am

Brett Bellmore,

“No, the government shouldn’t be mandating what insurance has to cover, because it isn’t just the government that is entitled to make decisions. …
The more government does, the more of life it takes over, the more it conflicts with people who want to make their own decisions.”

Well, one of the reasons franchise was extended to all adults both male and female and of any ethnic background was because people without much property and women and people of non-Anglo or European backgrounds found the lawmakers were not helping them and were instead making injurious laws that harmed them.

Despite suffrage being extended a lot of people still think the lawmakers are not making just or fair laws – so I think a lot of people would agree with you that it isn’t just the members and senators of parliament /congress etc that should hold all decision making power. But history has shown allowing property owners to be the most important decision makers can lead to terrible unjust outcomes.

I would like to hear your thoughts on more participatory decision making processes – whereby communities could deliberate together on matters, so it wouldn’t just be the government making decisions? Would you consider this sort of framework?

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Plume 07.29.14 at 3:21 am

Main Street Muse, you are correct. Hobby Lobby covered 18 of the 20 contraceptives in question up until 2012, dropping two of them not long before they took the whole thing to court. They also covered and still cover vasectomies.

But the Greens also invest tens of millions in the companies that make those contraceptives, including those they sought to ban from their employees.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/hobby-lobby-retirement-plan-invested-emergency-contraception-and-abortion-drug-makers

So, if “complicity” is their rationale, one would think making money off contraception would be a bigger no no than simply letting insurance cover them, while never knowing when an employee takes advantage of the new benefit.

And, as mentioned, there is nothing in the bible about contraception or abortion; Jesus never mentions them, nor does he talk about gay people.

I find it amazing that the Supreme Court could rule on a subject without requiring any supporting evidence from the Greens, as to why those two and then four forms of contraception go against their religious beliefs. One would think that any court, but especially the Supreme Court, would not just take their word for it.

“Defendant, we have several eye witnesses who place you at the scene of the crime. Do you have proof that you were not there on the 20th of November at 8:00pm?”
“No, your honor, but you can trust me, because I have sincerely held religious views, and one of them is that I am innocent.”
“Well, that’s good enough for me. Case closed!!”

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 5:26 am

“keeping clear the distinction between government and private action-avoiding the corporatist/fascist “all proper interests are public interests”[1]–makes the conflict between them much smaller than the “everything that is not forbidden is required” ethos of Progressivism.”

The problem with this, samchevre, is that your rhetoric is stepping on your argument in such a way that you are really pillow-fighting yourself with the soft bigotry of low expectations. It’s obviously silly to say that the ethos of Progressivism is fascistic – ‘everything that is not forbidden is required’. Serious people do not talk like Jonah Goldberg. It just isn’t done, not because it’s forbidden, but because serious people can recognize silliness when they see it. That said, this is the internet and I forgive you. Lots of elbows getting thrown – I am not innocent! So I don’t dismiss you for calling progressives fascists. No, the real problem is that this little problem infects your actual argument. You are trying to make the case that your view will be freer than progressivism. But, since you are using ‘progressive’ to mean fascist, really what you are claiming is that your view will be freer than the very worst sort of fascism. ‘All that is not required is forbidden.’ I should bloody hope you can do a bit better than that, so I’m glad to hear you think you can. But it hardly proves that your view is any good, or freer than progressivism, or any of that.

For what it’s worth, I DO think that your position is much better than the worst sort of fascism. I just don’t think it follows that it’s as free as liberalism. I think you are aiming at a kind of propertarian feudalism, for better or worse. That has it’s good points, I suppose, but it doesn’t do enough to secure liberty, in my opinion.

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Ze Kraggash 07.29.14 at 8:42 am

“The throwaway point is this: one reason why opinion shifted on the gay marriage issue so quickly – this is a sociological guess – is precisely that marriage is such an old institution.”

IMHO, the only reason opinion shifted is because the new opinion was sold through the media (mostly TV). Selling the opposite opinion would be even easier.

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godoggo 07.29.14 at 8:45 am

It was? How? It would have been? Why wasn’t it?

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 9:20 am

“IMHO, the only reason opinion shifted is because the new opinion was sold through the media (mostly TV). Selling the opposite opinion would be even easier.”

I think you underestimate the atavistic appeal of marriage, Ze. You are too willing to believe that people can be indoctrinated with any strange new ideology an elite may wish to disseminate – such as: marriage isn’t for everyone! – just because we live in a Brave New World of TV and so forth! You may think you could play Mustapha Mond on the keyboard of humanity’s soul, but I say there will always be some savage from the past to teach us the value of old things!

As Chesterton writes: “Tradition … is the democracy of the dead.” Our ancestors thought marriage was a pretty good thing that normal adults should expect to find as a graceful component of their lives. I suspect you are outvoted.

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Ze Kraggash 07.29.14 at 9:20 am

What, I have to explain how opinions are sold? Same way as cars and shoes are sold. And wars, sometimes. By broadcasting images and noises. Why this and not the opposite? I suppose the elites decided that at this time they could profit from this transaction. May have something to do with discrediting external enemies, similar to the human rights campaign in the 70s-80s. Giving a new spin to the culture wars never hurts. But I’m just guessing.

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Ze Kraggash 07.29.14 at 9:26 am

“You are too willing to believe that people can be indoctrinated with any strange new ideology an elite may wish to disseminate – such as: marriage isn’t for everyone! “

Marriage is for everyone. They issue is, rather, what “marriage” is. Here, I’ve been told, opinions differ.

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godoggo 07.29.14 at 9:28 am

I never noticed the campaign. I do know there were people with money who were against it.

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Ze Kraggash 07.29.14 at 9:46 am

You never noticed, in the last 10 years or so, any unusual presence of movies, TV shows, news items sympathetic to gay couples? Of course you have. You probably think it’s just natural. But it could be the opposite.

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 10:02 am

Ze Kraggash: “What, I have to explain how opinions are sold? Same way as cars and shoes are sold.”

But some things are harder to sell (or are you one of those blank slate-types who thinks you can reprogram humanity any way you like?) I’m merely suggesting that, once people decided that gay people are normal, in the relevant moral respects – decent, loving – it was quite natural that it rapidly became hard to sell the idea that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Nor was it going to be any easier for social conservatives to sell some fancy new gerrymandered concept of ‘marriage’ that arbitrarily excluded one class of obvious candidates for the condition. People know the sugar of love and commitment, so they are predictably going to reject an ersatz, aspartame substitute. (Marriage is just about making babies? As if people are just little factories? Grow a soul, man! There is a thing called love! Love!)

I kid, I kid. I understand that you think that you are the fine traditionalist, and I am the manic, rationalist revisionist. And, of course, you are right. But, in another sense, what I am saying is, I think, perfectly commonsensical. And you should consider whether, perhaps, you can expand the commonality of your senses so that you, too, can see it.

As Chesterton writes: “Without vanity, I really think there was a moment when I could have invented the marriage vow (as an institution) out of my own head; but I discovered, with a sigh, that it had been invented already.”

I think social conservatives have crashed into this truth. It was no good trying to convince people that marriage – the real deal – excludes gay people. Stamp it out by buying tv ads that deny its existence and normal people could be expected just to reinvent it out of their own heads. If gay people are nice, why shouldn’t they marry?

godoggo: “I never noticed the campaign.”

Maybe Ze is talking about “Will and Grace”?

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Brett Bellmore 07.29.14 at 10:02 am

“so I think a lot of people would agree with you that it isn’t just the members and senators of parliament /congress etc that should hold all decision making power. “

No, we’re not agreeing, because you’re talking about who makes the decisions, and I’m talking about what sorts of decisions it can be appropriate to make collectively, NOT who is part of the collective decision making.

Essentially, I think that government can only have the powers it’s delegated, and can only be delegated those powers the people doing the delegating had to begin with. And, in as much as people without government don’t have a right to insert themselves as a third party into voluntary transactions, they can’t delegate that power to a collective.

I favor a “night-watchman” state, because I think anything more goes beyond what people in a state of nature are entitled to do visa vi each other.

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 10:09 am

“You probably think it’s just natural. But it could be the opposite.”

But don’t you actually think it’s both? Seriously? Of course, some producers were proud to include sympathetic gay characters in movies and on tv. No doubt. But that’s not a sufficient explanation for why the culture shifted. Or do you really think otherwise?

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 10:12 am

“I favor a “night-watchman” state, because I think anything more goes beyond what people in a state of nature are entitled to do visa vi each other.”

But what if someone objects to night watchmen on religious grounds?

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ZM 07.29.14 at 10:44 am

“Essentially, I think that government can only have the powers it’s delegated, and can only be delegated those powers the people doing the delegating had to begin with. “

But when was this before delegation period? and how do you know what powers people originally had before delegating powers to kings and governments &c. ?

Written records usually come after some sort of the delegation of powers to kings and governments &c. as far as I can tell – so you have no way of knowing – unless you rely on oral history from non-writing societies like kinship societies – what powers people had before any sort of political delegation was begun?

Kinship societies are a common model and usually have gift based exchange practices – so then you would support the government having the power to impose gift based exchange practices on the population without any participation by the people not in government? If we relate this back to the OP you would also support the government exchanging women in marriage between states to keep the peace in the USA – no more red state/blue state?

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Ze Kraggash 07.29.14 at 1:57 pm

“I understand that you think that you are the fine traditionalist, and I am the manic, rationalist revisionist.”

I don’t think that I’m a traditionalist, quite the opposite. I only think I can understand a traditionalist. Since you mentioned it, I do think you’re a bit manic (no offense). The symptom: you stick to your paradigm and refuse to consider any other angle. That goes exactly to the question of tolerance (in the title).

To you, marriage is some signifier of love (so amazingly square of you, I must say). To someone else it’s an institutional mechanism for procreation, cultural reproduction and social stability. This is not complicated. These two are not necessarily easy to reconcile: love is ephemeral. Thus the clash. Am I evil for thinking this way?

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 2:12 pm

“I don’t think that I’m a traditionalist, quite the opposite.”

Really not? Well then, I won’t insist. (I must have gotten the wrong impression somehow.)

“I do think you’re a bit manic (no offense).”

I try not to take offense when people form true beliefs about me, so that’s fine.

“you stick to your paradigm and refuse to consider any other angle.”

What is my paradigm? And what angle have I failed to consider?

“To you, marriage is some signifier of love (so amazingly square of you, I must say).”

I am a bit of a square about marriage, that’s true. But I don’t take it to be solely a signifier of love. As I’ve written before in these threads, I take what I call the Swiss Army Knife view of marriage. It’s a multitool. It seems to me that a main defect of the anti-same-sex marriage line is that its partisans are forced to take an artificially abstract and narrow view – since, once you admit that marriage has many functions (companionate love, child bearing, child rearing, various practical arrangements for mutual support, contractual arrangements for ownership of goods) it’s game over, right? You have to stick narrowly with biological procreation, otherwise the exclusion of gays is arbitrary.

“love is ephemeral.”

I think it depends what you mean by ‘love’ and ‘ephemeral’.

“Thus the clash.”

Are you saying that love is necessarily inimical to marriage. There’s no such thing as love combined with successful (long-term) marriage?

“Am I evil for thinking this way?”

No, but it seems kind of sad.

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 2:13 pm

On second thought, it might also depend on what you mean by ‘is’ – the love is ephemeral thing, that is.

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 2:26 pm

I should probably also have mentioned the fun of sex as one of the likely benefits that may be secured through marriage – although there are also other ways to secure this benefit, of course. (I don’t want you to think I’m even more square than I really am, man.)

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MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 2:26 pm

” To someone else it’s an institutional mechanism for procreation, cultural reproduction and social stability”

Who exactly? I have been to a ton of weddings and have heard pretty much nothing about cultural reproduction and social stability. I have however heard a great deal about love and commitment and support.

In fact, I bet if you went to the weddings of these social conservatives they would say they were getting married because they loved their partners. Interesting how love no longer becomes a reason to get married as soon as it is homosexuals who want to take part in the activity.

Makes you think there might be something else behind their efforts to discriminate….

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 2:36 pm

“I have been to a ton of weddings and have heard pretty much nothing about cultural reproduction and social stability.”

In Ze’s defense, in an anthropological sense it seems reasonable to generalize that these are typical functions of the family unit, even if they don’t get a shout-out at weddings.

I’m a bit puzzled that he emphasizes this (correct) point, since it seems to undermine the anti-gay-marriage position. But fine.

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Ze Kraggash 07.29.14 at 2:57 pm

“Are you saying that love is necessarily inimical to marriage. There’s no such thing as love combined with successful (long-term) marriage?”

I have the impression that to a traditionalist ‘love’ means something else. It’s more like a warm feeling towards the mother of your children, respect for the “breadwinner”, this sort of thing. It doesn’t have to (and typically don’t) exist before the marriage. Marriage creates love. What you call ‘love’ they call ‘lust’.

Oh, and about the role of the media in people’s general attitude: I agree that “once people decided that gay people are normal, in the relevant moral respects …” etc. But for that to happen they had to stop seeing things like Cruising and Basic Instinct and start getting completely different images beaming from their boxes, don’t they? An elite consensus, I imagine.

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TM 07.29.14 at 3:00 pm

Sam 173 and 174, you are saying that private corporations have the right to dictate the private lives of their employees as they see fit, correct? This is just silly. An employer may reasonably regulate employee conduct on or in relation to the job but why should they get to have any say about their sex life and birth control?

Also, not to mince words, you are lying about Eich being “fired” “for political activity”. This has been debunked before and you are willfully lying.

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MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 3:12 pm

“n Ze’s defense, in an anthropological sense it seems reasonable to generalize that these are typical functions of the family unit, even if they don’t get a shout-out at weddings.”

Well yes but you can be a family unit without actually getting married. In modern society the purpose of the vast majority of marriage is to symbolize and codify the love that two people have for each other. There is no reason to deny gay people this except animus.

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John Holbo 07.29.14 at 3:14 pm

“What you call ‘love’ they call ‘lust’.”

Why, sir, we scarcely know each other! How forward you are!

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Lynne 07.29.14 at 3:22 pm

“Oh, and about the role of the media in people’s general attitude: I agree that “once people decided that gay people are normal, in the relevant moral respects …” etc. But for that to happen they had to stop seeing things like Cruising and Basic Instinct and start getting completely different images beaming from their boxes, don’t they? An elite consensus, I imagine.”

I haven’t kept up with this thread but just noticed this. It seems worth mentioning the recent general election here in Ontario. The leader of the governing Liberals was (and still is, after the election) Kathleen Wynne, a lesbian in a stable relationship. During the election campaign there was quite a bit of bitterness expressed about some big financial scandals that had happened under the Liberals’ watch (though Wynne was not premier during them). My son worked in the campaign of our local NDP candidate and knocked on many doors and talked to many people on the phone. Many people were angry at the Liberals but not once did anyone mention Wynne’s sexual orientation. I kept forgetting it myself because it just wasn’t relevant to the election and so many other things were.

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MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 3:23 pm

“I have the impression that to a traditionalist ‘love’ means something else. It’s more like a warm feeling towards the mother of your children, respect for the “breadwinner”, this sort of thing. It doesn’t have to (and typically don’t) exist before the marriage. Marriage creates love. What you call ‘love’ they call ‘lust’.”

Who are these people? I literally have never met one.

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MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 3:24 pm

“I kept forgetting it myself because it just wasn’t relevant to the election and so many other things were.”

Yeah that was great wasn’t it? I was so happy when it never became an issue.

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Lynne 07.29.14 at 3:29 pm

It really was great. It’s the way it should be, though, eh? I don’t know why Americans have such a hard time with this issue.

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William Timberman 07.29.14 at 3:40 pm

John Holbo @ 193

Serious people do not talk like Jonah Goldberg.

Maybe not, but people we’re obliged to take seriously because of the havoc, mayhem and misery they cause do talk like Jonah Goldberg — or at least to the unproselytized ear it sounds as though they do. Binyamin Netanyahu being but one very prominent example There are, sadly, many other voices joined in this malevolent chorus. It’s almost as though the 21st century was always destined to become the age of atavism, barbarism, and dirty talk, with dirty deeds to replace the dirty talk wherever circumstances seem propitious. Is it time, once again, for the withdrawal of reasonable persons to hidden scriptoria?

(Apologies to Yeats and his rough beasts, who were hustled off stage in the first act, before their true relevance could be revealed.)

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SamChevre 07.29.14 at 3:47 pm

you are saying that private corporations have the right to dictate the private lives of their employees as they see fit, correct?

That’s what I’m saying, yes. Not saying they should, not saying I would be willing to work for or buy from from them, but yes: if a corporation wants to ban its employees from smoking, even off the job, it should be able to. If it wants to require that they refrain from dongle jokes at tech conferences, it should be able to.

The government should neither encourage nor discourage people from associating with who they choose, for whatever reasons they choose their associates, except if there are actual demonstrable plans to wrongfully harm third parties. (That’s classic Mill/Smith liberalism.)

This is just silly. An employer may reasonably regulate employee conduct on or in relation to the job but why should they get to have any say about their sex life and birth control?

Because they think it’s important, the same as my employer thinks not smoking is important. Different people will think different things are important-letting them act on their opinions is conducive to public peace.

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sPh 07.29.14 at 3:52 pm

“That’s what I’m saying, yes. Not saying they should, not saying I would be willing to work for or buy from from them, but yes: if a corporation wants to ban its employees from smoking, even off the job, it should be able to. If it wants to require that they refrain from dongle jokes at tech conferences, it should be able to”

Working here allows me two luxuries to which I have grown accustomed: eating and sleeping indoors.

223

Plume 07.29.14 at 4:00 pm

Sam,

Not saying they should, not saying I would be willing to work for or buy from from them, but yes: if a corporation wants to ban its employees from smoking, even off the job, it should be able to.

My guess is you would be very upset if the government banned smoking at home. Why would you support a corporation banning it? I think it should be banned in all enclosed, public places, due to the fact that it kills nonsmokers who choose not to smoke. But I also think one has the right to smoke in one’s own home. The government shouldn’t be able to ban it, if it hurts no one by the smoker, and a corporation shouldn’t be able to tell its employees what to do off the job. Ever. It’s none of their business. It’s obviously a form of “tyranny” to allow them that kind of control.

If the government tells the corporation it can’t make those demands, it is the government that is protecting personal “liberty,” and it is the corporation trying to take that away.

It’s striking that when the issue is all about whose liberty, conservatives almost always choose that of business owners over workers, consumers or the earth, and propertarians always choose business owners over workers, consumers and the earth. Both consistently choose the liberty of the few over the many.

224

Layman 07.29.14 at 4:04 pm

“That’s what I’m saying, yes. Not saying they should, not saying I would be willing to work for or buy from from them, but yes: if a corporation wants to ban its employees from smoking, even off the job, it should be able to. If it wants to require that they refrain from dongle jokes at tech conferences, it should be able to.”

What is the difference between this form of society and feudalism? It can’t be the right to vote, because the effective range of government is so narrowed as to make elections largely irrelevant. I suppose it could be freedom, e.g. the freedom to choose another employer, but it requires only a modest level of unemployment (which can be manufactured by employers) to eradicate that option. Employers can limit the mobility of employees with bans on owning cars, homes, savings, etc.

So you’re left with peasants & barons, and a largely powerless king. Why not?

225

Bruce Wilder 07.29.14 at 4:09 pm

And, should the corporation that now owns the house that you are renting — should they be able to ban smoking in your home, which is their house, as a hotel might ban smoking in their rented rooms?

226

MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 4:12 pm

“It’s striking that when the issue is all about whose liberty, conservatives almost always choose that of business owners over workers, consumers or the earth, and propertarians always choose business owners over workers, consumers and the earth. Both consistently choose the liberty of the few over the many.”

+1

227

Bruce Wilder 07.29.14 at 4:12 pm

And, if the corporation that owns the house that you rent has deep religious convictions on some point — say birth control — should they be able to restrict the behavior of renters accordingly?

228

TM 07.29.14 at 4:13 pm

221: Thanks for your confirmation. I assume as good liberals we have no choice but to concede that you have the right to your opinions, even opinions as barbaric as those. I see no point in further debating this but at least we have clarified our disagreement.

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MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 4:16 pm

“Thanks for your confirmation. I assume as good liberals we have no choice but to concede that you have the right to your opinions, even opinions as barbaric as those. I see no point in further debating this but at least we have clarified our disagreement.”

He does of course have the right to an opinion. He has no right to being taken seriously.

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Tyrone Slothrop 07.29.14 at 4:21 pm

While Will and Grace will probably garner a well-deserved place in the SSM Hall-of-Fame (or, at least, as regards its implementation and acceptance in Canada), I can’t help but suspect that the burgeoning acceptance for it was immeasurably helped by the rapid growth and spread of the internet. In my own case, I’d only met a handful of (openly) gay people in real life ere the legislation was passed up here; but through the miracles of instant communication with a vast swathe of people of different nationalities, ethnicity, and interests, begun back in the halcyon days ere Windows 95 was sprung upon a poised civilization, I became exposed to a wealth of writings, comments, blogs, threads, essays, etc. from homosexuals; indeed, formed some of my fondest and most enduring virtual attachments with them, and, in the so doing, became immersed within reading and hearing about their travails, their experience with second-class citizenship, and, most importantly of all, the singular importance of their respective partners in every aspect of their lives. In this way I was moved from an initially halting toleration for the institution to full-bore support. I would imagine that similar exposure to large numbers of LGBT individuals whom many a one would otherwise never have met (nor expended comparatively much thought about) went at least as far as a the presence of a sympathetic media towards changing the minds of a significant number of people regarding SSM. Notwithstanding its abrasions, the internet is a humanizing environment, and became only more so once the technology allowed it to expand beyond being merely a textual domain.

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Consumatopia 07.29.14 at 4:40 pm

I know that with all of the horrors going on today–literally, right now–it’s silly to care about propertarian illogic. But it’s exactly because anarchism and pacifism deserve to be taken more seriously in this world–especially, right now–that I get so pissed off at propertarians for lying and pretending to be opposed to force and coercion.

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SamChevre 07.29.14 at 4:59 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 225

Well, the house I’m renting is owned by a couple, not a corporation, but smoking is forbidden (by them, in the lease).

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MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 5:10 pm

“Well, the house I’m renting is owned by a couple, not a corporation, but smoking is forbidden (by them, in the lease).”

And if they forbid the use of birth control by tenants? Or blood transfusions?

Is there any limit to what they could demand from their tenants?

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J Thomas 07.29.14 at 5:12 pm

#205 ZM

Written records usually come after some sort of the delegation of powers to kings and governments &c. as far as I can tell – so you have no way of knowing – unless you rely on oral history from non-writing societies like kinship societies – what powers people had before any sort of political delegation was begun?

I strongly doubt that Brett cares about the history. He’s interested in rights, and governments that arose illegitimately, trampling people’s actual rights, don’t really count. No existing government in the world is legitimate by his standards, but it might be possible to create one someday.

But looking at old records, the Gilgamish epic starts with Gilgamish as king. He sometimes required his people to build giant walls around his city-state, and other times let the walls deteriorate. He had sex with every woman on her wedding night. When people had a problem they didn’t know how to handle, they sent a messenger to Gilgamish and expected he would handle it.

Why was he king? It doesn’t explicitly say, but
1. He was big and the best wrestler in his kingdom.
2. His mother was an important priestess, and his father was kind of a god.

In old Ireland, the story is that when time came to select a new king, a truth-teller was chosen. He ate a lot of beef and drank the broth, and he dreamed of the new king, giving the details of how to find him. If his prophecy did not come true he was put to death. One time the seer told them to find a naked man on the road armed with a sling. They looked and brought in one of the king’s sons. They asked him why he was naked on the road, and he explained that he saw some waterfowl who lured him into the water as he tried to get close enough to kill him. Suddenly they turned into armed men who threatened him, but one of them made the others stop and told him to start walking home because he was going to be the new king. He was walking home naked carrying a spear because a big bird told him to.

Israel was sort of run by priests. People came to the high priest and told him they wanted a king like the nations around them. He warned them it would be a bad idea but they insisted. So he chose a tall but undistinguished man from an undistinguished family from a small tribe, somebody who would probably fail as king. Later when Saul was in trouble he went to Samuel for a blessing and Samuel told him to die. But after Saul was killed, a foreign ruler chose an Israelite mercenary to be the new king, and he got established well enough to shop around for a better patron to be vassal to, and David’s kingdom lasted two generations before it fell apart.

http://www.ishwar.com/judaism/holy_neviim/book03/book03_008.html

And he said: ‘This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them unto him, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots.

And he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties; and to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

He will take the tenth of your flocks; and ye shall be his servants.

And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not answer you in that day.’

Most governments have been monarchies. They tended to be restrained somewhat by tradition, and by ad hoc organizations that sprang up to oppose them. Like, there was a middle-east tradition that kings could not drag married women into their harems. Abraham and Sarah used this tradition to play the badger game, as did Isaac and Rebecca.

When the Israelite government had a census which would let it organize the tax base, immediately there were reports of a giant plague which made the census obsolete. The priests blandly reported that the plague happened because of the census.

As I remember the story, when Solomon sent 30,000 slaves to Hiram of Tyre, people got upset. It was one thing to do forced labor in their own country and something else to be sold into another country. Solomon’s hasbarah team went into overdrive, they said it was only for a month at a time and the slaves could come home, that it was only foreigners who could be enslaved and sold elsewhere, and the government sent food from Israel to Tyre for the slaves to eat so they wouldn’t have to eat foreign food or depend on foreign masters to feed them.

Kings might appear to have absolute power over their people, but they were vulnerable to public outrage and continually had to respond to stories that made them look bad, spread by people who did palace intrigue.

None of this has any obvious relation to Brett’s ideas about what governments should be allowed to do, which governments are legitimate, etc. Except to show that in the past it has not been the way he wants.

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SamChevre 07.29.14 at 5:20 pm

Is there any limit to what they could demand from their tenants?

Request, or demand?

Assuming that the terms were disclosed up-front, and the need for them can be predicted up-front[1], they should be able to request anything they want (within basic no-harm-to-others limits).

There are plenty of terms that would make it unlikely that anyone would rent the house. (The no-smoking requirement is probably why it stayed on the market long enough for me to rent it.)

1) I dislike, in finance and elsewhere, the types of terms that are designed to end-run people’s “Oh, that won’t happen” reflexes, like overdraft fees. They border on fraud. “I will not call the police” would be an example of a rental term I think would be forbidden on those grounds, as would forbidding emergency blood transfusions.

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J Thomas 07.29.14 at 5:26 pm

#230

In my own case, I’d only met a handful of (openly) gay people in real life ere the legislation was passed up here; but through the miracles of instant communication with a vast swathe of people of different nationalities, ethnicity, and interests, begun back in the halcyon days ere Windows 95 was sprung upon a poised civilization, I became exposed to a wealth of writings, comments, blogs, threads, essays, etc. from homosexuals; indeed, formed some of my fondest and most enduring virtual attachments with them, and, in the so doing, became immersed within reading and hearing about their travails, their experience with second-class citizenship, and, most importantly of all, the singular importance of their respective partners in every aspect of their lives. In this way I was moved from an initially halting toleration for the institution to full-bore support.

And this is why it is vitally important for Israel to strictly limit internet access for palestinians.

237

Plume 07.29.14 at 5:27 pm

MPAVictoria,

Imagine a lawsuit wherein the tenants you describe say their religion tells them they must use birth control, in that house.

This, of course, should be the class action lawsuit lodged by female employees of Hobby Lobby. That their religion tells them employers must pay for contraceptive coverage, all of it, and that they hold these beliefs sincerely and without reservation. Then we will see a classic example of what is good for the goose, etc.

And since the five reactionary theocrats on the Court asked for no proof from the Greens, they could not do so when it came to female employees of Hobby Lobby, either . . . . and since the bible doesn’t mention contraception or abortion, there is no way to adjudicate this on religious grounds, one way or another.

It’s time that we, on the left, start fighting fire with fire, against right-wing religious zealots.

238

MPAVictoria 07.29.14 at 5:48 pm

” (within basic no-harm-to-others limits).”

Requiring someone not use birth control seems to be a harm to me.

239

Yama 07.29.14 at 5:53 pm

Tyrone Slothrop 07.29.14 at 4:21 pm – Tyrone makes an excellent point concerning exposure to different views on the internet.

I was (am?) a militant athiest who went out of his way to antagonize religious folks. The internet has expanded my tolerance in this respect. I am not sure if I would still be so self righteous if not for that exposure.

240

TM 07.29.14 at 7:07 pm

“Assuming that the terms were disclosed up-front, and the need for them can be predicted up-front[1], they should be able to request anything they want (within basic no-harm-to-others limits).”

Wow, so there are limits! You will of course run into trouble defining what represents a harm, which is precisely at the crux of Hobby Lobby: Hobby Lobby claim that they are harmed by their employees using birth control, whereas many employees feel harmed by being denied birth control coverage. Which of these claims is more persuasive? Apparently that depends heavily on one’s gender and religion.

Sam’s scenario of a rental contract forbidding birth control might even be legal in the US, at least in some states, I’m not sure. In more civilized countries, there are laws regulating what can and cannot be part of a rental, or employment, contract, and it’s pretty clear that a contract clause saying that a tenant/employee must, or must not, use birth control would certainly be invalid and unenforceable (*). Sam would probably view such laws as oppressive, a restriction on the freedom of property and business owners. Am I right?

(*) except perhaps in the case of sex work, where it is legal.

241

SamChevre 07.29.14 at 7:15 pm

It may be useful to note that my restriction was harm to others. The landlord can insist that I pay rent, even though if someone stopped me on the street and demanded a week’s pay, I would definitely count that as a harm. The landlord couldn’t demand that I beat up a specified person every month as a condition of tenancy.

In the context of my landlord insisting on rent, I consider it paying rent part of the deal. Similarly with not smoking in the house, not entertaining more than X number of people, not having guests stay overnight for more than X nights unless they are added to the lease (both common restriction on college-town rentals).

242

Consumatopia 07.29.14 at 7:37 pm

The landlord can insist that I pay rent, even though if someone stopped me on the street and demanded a week’s pay, I would definitely count that as a harm.

In the state of nature, these two situations would be the same. Your landlord and a person stopping you on the street would be equivalent.

Claiming a piece of property means less property available for others. Putting arbitrary coercive restrictions on the use of that property–e.g. no birth control–is a harm to everyone else looking for a place to live.

243

Brett Bellmore 07.29.14 at 8:50 pm

If I’m not permitted to exclude people from a house I build, because it reduces the housing available to everybody else, I’ll never build another house, which I assure you will have the same effect.

Seriously, the necessity of the existence of private property, so long as scarcity continues to be an issue, (I don’t assume it always will be.) is so well established, that people who attack private property should be assumed to be either crazy or malign.

244

Layman 07.29.14 at 9:07 pm

“Seriously, the necessity of the existence of private property, so long as scarcity continues to be an issue, (I don’t assume it always will be.) is so well established, that people who attack private property should be assumed to be either crazy or malign.”

There’s a vast expanse between the two extremes. You’re standing on one peak, shouting across the valley toward another, ignoring the mass of humanity between you. And it has to be said, I’m really not sure there’s anyone on that other peak you keep shaking your fist at.

245

sPh 07.29.14 at 9:13 pm

“It may be useful to note that my restriction was harm to others. The landlord can insist that I pay rent, even though if someone stopped me on the street and demanded a week’s pay, I would definitely count that as a harm. The landlord couldn’t demand that I beat up a specified person every month as a condition of tenancy”

All of the examples provided above of ‘harm to others’ clauses that would be unconscionable, unenforceable, and by implication unthinkable were in fact imposed on the tenants of the Pullman Palace Car Company’s company town (at that time south of, now a neighborhood of, Chicago). Including block and flat monitors to control who could/could not date whom and the duty of tenants to beat up “agitators” (i.e. union organizers).

246

bianca steele 07.29.14 at 9:48 pm

The internet has expanded my tolerance in this respect. I am not sure if I would still be so self righteous if not for that exposure.

Interesting. My own experience is that nothing brought out the trolls as much as the time I claimed there could be a equivalent way for a humanist to understand something like “sin.” The middle ground may not exist on the Internet, but at least some souls end up getting pushed in the right direction.

247

Consumatopia 07.29.14 at 10:57 pm

If I’m not permitted to exclude people from a house I build, because it reduces the housing available to everybody else, I’ll never build another house, which I assure you will have the same effect.

Okay, but here’s a policy that wouldn’t have the same effect. You’re allowed to build the house, but if you rent it out and aren’t living in it, you aren’t allowed to put arbitrary restrictions on the tenants living in it. In other words, the community agrees to let you coerce people by excluding them from a piece of land, you agree to accept the community’s regulations and taxes. If either of you don’t agree, you don’t get to exclude people from the land.

“Seriously, the necessity of the existence of private property, “

Unregulated private property is not at all necessary–it’s the opposite of necessary, it’s incompatible with freedom, if not a self-contradiction. Regulated private property is probably necessary. (In the same way that violence is probably necessary–I can never be certain what life would be like in the counterfactual world in which most of us were pacifists, in which we followed Jesus or Gandhi’s teachings instead of your violent propertarianism or my violent liberalism.)

But being necessary doesn’t make it any less coercive, or make the force backing it any less violent. The point is not to abolish private property, the point is to acknowledge that private property is a very far reaching system of coercion–that the threat of force underlies essentially every transaction in the marketplace involving land or things that can be built on, made out of or extracted from natural resources. Given that, it’s likely that some government action can actually increase the amount of “freedom” in society, as you defined it @152.

“so long as scarcity continues to be an issue, (I don’t assume it always will be.)”

On the contrary, if scarcity were no issue than private property wouldn’t be coercive (unless you were trying to own sentient beings). It’s not scarcity that makes (regulated) private property justifiable, it’s that the value of scarce resources and the freedom of individuals can (sometimes) be increased by granting some some individuals limited power to control those resources.

“that people who attack private property should be assumed to be either crazy or malign.”

Justifications for violence are never far from propertarian thinking.

248

John Holbo 07.29.14 at 11:14 pm

SamChevre: “Different people will think different things are important-letting them act on their opinions is conducive to public peace.”

I’m glad you are retreating from the ‘my view will increase or optimize freedom’, since – I trust you see this now – it ain’t so. Good, we agree. But retreating to ‘public peace’, as an alternative ad for your view, although not conceptually confused, is totally empirically speculative. Are you really insisting your basically feudal night watchman state must be more conducive to public peace than any other form of government? Why would that be?

You are basically saying that if employers have power over every aspect of an employee’s life – no smoking, no birth control, cut your hair this way, go to this church – this will make everyone peaceful. But I think you are not reckoning with how people will yearn for freedom – among other things, but let’s just stick with freedom, since it’s kind of traditional in this thread, by this point. What if employees aren’t happy lacking freedom in your ideal way? Mightn’t they disturb the public peace? You’re advice, I know, is to quit if you don’t like it. But this assumes a tight labor market, in which employees have real, effective bargaining power. What if that condition doesn’t obtain? Now people cannot quit, because the bosses have all the power. So your choice is: submit or starve … or fight for freedom. You don’t consider that last option. You have retreated so far from advocating freedom as an ideal that you have forgotten that predictably – for better or worse – some people are going to hold onto it. This is going to disrupt public order in your utopia.

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J Thomas 07.29.14 at 11:16 pm

If I’m not permitted to exclude people from a house I build, because it reduces the housing available to everybody else, I’ll never build another house, which I assure you will have the same effect.

If for some reason land ownership became a big issue, we would likely get a big investment in mobile homes.

You find a place you can park your home. If you get bothered by people you can’t keep away from the property your home is on, move the home elsewhere.

For each set of moral restrictions we accept, we wind up with some sort of technology in response. If we were not allowed to have water works, people would collect rainwater and they would only have cities in places where it rained enough to keep the cisterns from going dry.

Each set of restrictions changes which technology is practical. People who can’t imagine living without some particular technology will say that we couldn’t have civilization at all under those rules. They are likely wrong, although some restrictions would reduce the maximum number of people who could survive.

If we decided we all had to be vegetarians, probably we could feed everybody. If we decided that everybody had to mostly eat beef, the population would probably have to shrink.

250

Brett Bellmore 07.30.14 at 12:29 am

“You’re allowed to build the house, but if you rent it out and aren’t living in it, you aren’t allowed to put arbitrary restrictions on the tenants living in it.”

I don’t see any good reason why somebody besides me and my potential tenants should have any say in what restrictions are “arbitrary”. The government wants to decide what the rules are in a house, let them build their own damn houses.

251

John Holbo 07.30.14 at 12:51 am

“I don’t see any good reason why somebody besides me and my potential tenants should have any say in what restrictions are “arbitrary”.”

Maybe other people value freedom more than you, Brett. Under pressure, you are abandoning an ideal of optimizing freedom in favor of narrow propertarianism. Fine. So you don’t see ‘any good reason’. That is all very logical, in a way. But others may think that freedom is a good reason. So you should at least be able to see why others see a good reason to do this thing, even if you do not. You yourself have often – in the recent past! – deployed a rhetoric of freedom. You have bitterly decried those who would infringe it. It can’t be conceptually alien to you that, per your rhetoric, people might be concerned about lack of freedom. Your scheme will obviously risk depriving them of it. At least concede there is no mystery about why this might bother people.

“Let them build their own damn houses” does not begin to address the problem. The concern will obviously be: what if conditions are not such that they can build their own damn house? Are you really going to ‘let them’, i.e. ensure that they have the power to do so? How so? If you aren’t, then what is the force of ‘let them’?

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Consumatopia 07.30.14 at 12:56 am

Here’s a good reason: because you are coercively excluding the rest of us from using that land, and even relying on the government to defend your claim to it. If you want the community to go along with that you’ll have to agree to the community’s terms. If you don’t like the community’s terms, go find a different community.

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J Thomas 07.30.14 at 1:00 am

I don’t see any good reason why somebody besides me and my potential tenants should have any say in what restrictions are “arbitrary”. The government wants to decide what the rules are in a house, let them build their own damn houses.

Genesis 47: 13-26

Think of the king of Egypt as a private citizen who got rich running a protection racket. Then he got a corner on the grain market. Everybody had to pay him for food or starve. It was a famine time and the crops were not growing, and all the farmers sold him their land in exchange for food, and then sold him themselves for more food. After the famine he let them farm his land as sharecroppers. There was no government to regulate any of this, so he wound up owning pretty much everything except for what the priests had.

On the other hand you can look at him as the government, and the result is no better.

When one entity gets too powerful, there isn’t much freedom. We need some way to keep any single entity from getting too powerful.

When there’s nothing going on except transactions between individual pairs of private citizens, there’s nothing to keep any single citizen from becoming too powerful except luck. That’s no good.

We can set up a government with the intention of balancing things out and keeping any one entity from getting too powerful, and that approach has some potential, but the government itself can become too powerful. Or if it fails then eventually it becomes a tool of the powerful one. “Failsafe systems fail, by failing to fail safe.”

I don’t see any guaranteed way to keep one entity from becoming too powerful. Maybe we could look for ways to make it less likely. It would almost have to involve some sort of institutions bigger than individual citizens, but I don’t now how it should work. If we got something like that which was effective, it might not look much like what we think of as government today.

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SamChevre 07.30.14 at 1:27 am

John Holbo,

Apparently, your idea of freedom is quite different from mine. In my usage, if I want to rent from you, letting you decide on what terms you’d be glad to do so, and me deciding whether that’s acceptable–and Joe and Jim doing the same–is MORE freedom than requiring that Joe and Jim reach the same agreement you and I reach.

Freedom (in the liberal, not the totalitarian, sense) is (pretty much always and everywhere) conducive to public peace; compare Europe pre-1600 and post-1650 to note the difference. I thought that “conducive to public peace” might be a more communicative term than “freedom”, in this “submitting to the will of your rulers is true Freedom” corner of the world.

It would almost have to involve some sort of institutions bigger than individual citizens, but I don’t now how it should work. If we got something like that which was effective, it might not look much like what we think of as government today.

No, it wouldn’t. It would probably look a lot like the traditional liberal democracies of a century ago.

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SamChevre 07.30.14 at 1:34 am

What if employees aren’t happy lacking freedom in your ideal way? Mightn’t they disturb the public peace?

Well, they might. Historically, workers disturbed the public peace about working conditions quite a lot; I can’t recall reading about any disturbances by workers about the requirements like temperance (the anti-smoking crusade of the 1800’s), church attendance (the “diversity” of the 1950’s), or grooming. The disturbances I recall about those things were by elites–college students and children of the wealthy–not workers.

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Matt 07.30.14 at 1:38 am

I have seriously had conversations with propertarians online where they admitted they were fine with private allodial title to land regardless of scale. The local government wants money from property owners each year? That’s theft, like all taxation. A giant parcel of land is privately owned by landlords who extract rents from all inhabitants? That’s a contract between free individuals. Someone who refuses to pay property taxes to government is resisting theft, while someone who refuses to pay rent in the new privately owned state of Idaho is initiating theft.

But of course that vast concentration of ownership couldn’t happen in libertopia, because government meddling is the sole cause of perverse outcomes in market economies. And because it couldn’t happen, libertopia will never enact laws against it. And then after the impossible happens you just have to accept the outcome in the name of consistency because all the paving stones on the road to private tyranny were sort of freedom-shaped.

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J Thomas 07.30.14 at 1:43 am

“It would almost have to involve some sort of institutions bigger than individual citizens, but I don’t now how it should work. If we got something like that which was effective, it might not look much like what we think of as government today.”

No, it wouldn’t. It would probably look a lot like the traditional liberal democracies of a century ago.

1915. Are you talking about the USA in 1915? The democracies that gave us 1915-style race relations and 1915-style union/management relations?

I guess there was a lot of freedom for the guys on top. Not so very much for the rest of us.

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John Holbo 07.30.14 at 2:03 am

““conducive to public peace” might be a more communicative term than “freedom””

I dunno, Sam, using ‘whatever keeps people quiet’ as an approximate synonym for ‘whatever keeps people free’ is too close to totalitarian, to my ear. Surely it doesn’t correspond to what people ordinarily mean by ‘freedom’. I think I’ll stick with my old-fashioned sense, which I think corresponds to what ordinary people want: a kind of alloy of negative and positive freedom, in the philosopher’s sense. People want freedom from: that is, they want a sphere in which they are not interfered with. People want freedom to; that is, they want to have opportunities, the positive capacity to do certain things they want to do – pursue personal projects, acquire goods. You are free to have a notion of freedom which is, instead, ‘no public disorder’, but I submit to you that this isn’t what most people mean by the word. If you don’t guarantee people something like an alloy of negative and positive freedom, in the philosopher’s sense, they won’t feel their freedom is guaranteed. Public order is something else.

Just do a google ‘freedom definition’. I don’t get any hits for ‘whatever preserves the public peace’.

259

Collin Street 07.30.14 at 2:11 am

I don’t see any good reason why somebody besides me and my potential tenants should have any say in what restrictions are “arbitrary”.

Because you expect the government to enforce the restrictions, see.

Unless you don’t expect the government to enforce the restrictions. But if the restrictions aren’t enforced by the government they’re going to have to be enforced by someone else, and that means that that someone else will have to do so violently, and that will run afoul of the current restrictions against violence.

Unless you propose that the government not enforce the current restrictions against violence. But that would mean your tenants would also not be restricted in using violence against you and your efforts to make them use your property in the way you want…

Unless you are proposing that the government enforce restrictions on violence except the violence you use to enforce your desires on how “your” property is used… but that’s still dragging the government in, still depends on expectations that the government act as you desire.

But the government isn’t your puppet. It’s an independent actor, with agency and judgement, and it’s not obliged to agree with you. Your position doesn’t work. Either the government decides what rights you have in your property, or there’s no “property” at all.

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Consumatopia 07.30.14 at 2:49 am

I don’t see any guaranteed way to keep one entity from becoming too powerful. Maybe we could look for ways to make it less likely. It would almost have to involve some sort of institutions bigger than individual citizens, but I don’t now how it should work. If we got something like that which was effective, it might not look much like what we think of as government today.

I am totally with you. I don’t argue with propertarians because I think modern liberalism is the perfect platonic form of government. I’m desperately searching for something better. I don’t even rule out the idea that some exotic new business model we can’t even imagine today could make markets and capitalism work as well and as justly as propertarians pretend it currently does.

But we aren’t going to find it if we think that poor people submitting to the will of their landlords and bosses is true Freedom.

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Dr. Hilarius 07.30.14 at 4:08 am

The discussion about landlords, smoking and sex strikes me as missing an important point. I’m a landlord who prohibits smoking in my rental house. I wish my tenants didn’t smoke for the sake of their own health but that’s not why the lease says “no smoking.” It’s so I don’t have to re-paint, clean blinds and field complaints from subsequent tenants about the smell. My rule is related directly to my property interest and not out of any desire to manage anyone’s personal choices.

On the other hand, my tenants are free to worship Satan (one tenant did erect a 20-foot tall mock obelisk covered in magical symbols, to the consternation of neighbors), hold abhorrent political views and engage in sex practices of their choice, with or without contraception. (Though I did have a concern with one tenant who practiced rope bondage and suspension, but only because he was suspending his partner from a floor joist and I was worried about the joist giving way.)

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Martin Bento 07.30.14 at 11:46 am

John Q., casting Eich in employment at will terms cuts both ways, though. I’ve heard a lot of liberals lately defending the situation by saying that of course the company has the right to fire anyone who has offended their sensibilities or that of the public. Had this been 20 years ago, and Eich pressured out of his job for pro-gay advocacy, I don’t think liberals would be making this argument. People who don’t think people should be fired or demoted, or pressured to resign by a movement advocating firing or demotion (I don’t see an important difference between firing and demotion here), but are OK with what happened to Eich have to make a case why this situation is different.

Some have tried to square the circle by saying that Eich as an executive should be accountable for his private views in ways that other employees are not. It is a huge struggle to prevent the affluent from having more rights than others; attempting to give them less is not going to fly. Aside from the political impossibility, it tosses out the whole concept of rights as universal. If people have a right to express their political opinions outside of work without reprisal in the workplace, then executives have this right too, because they are also people.

If liberals are going to accept the principle that people can be penalized at work for their private political views, the main victims will be liberals. Thanks to Google, Facebook, Twitter, your ISP, the NSA etc., your political views if given any voice online can be traced to you in great detail, unless you go to a lot of skilled trouble to avoid it. Up to now, routine political discrimination against employees has been usually more trouble than worth, because information was difficult to acquire (you could check voter rolls for party affiliation, but with only 2 significant parties, this doesn’t convey enough information). I don’t think the potential of the current situation has been fully exploited yet, but that is where we are heading. And liberals, having cheered the axing of Eich, will have little grounds to object. For getting to feel good jeering at one homophobe, we are undermining our right to object to what could easily become routine discrimination involving millions. Millions of us.

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John Holbo 07.30.14 at 1:24 pm

Martin Bento doesn’t like this: “Eich as an executive should be accountable for his private views in ways that other employees are not.”

I actually agree with you about some of what you wrote in your comment, Martin. But there really is a logic to holding someone like Eich extra accountable to his views, insofar as the ability to inspire confidence and trust in fellow employees may reasonably be deemed a part of his particular job. (Whereas it wasn’t in his previous position.) This gets dicey and hard to decide.

Suppose it turns out that the person in charge of handling promotions is a member of the KKK who has written about the need to promote whites over blacks. This might reasonably cause African-American employees to doubt whether they will get a fair shake from this fine person, come promotion time. If there is going to be a problem retaining African-American employees, or retaining their confidence, there is good reason to think this ‘private’ view impinges on the employee’s basic job competence. You have reason to suspect that the KKK employee literally can’t/won’t do his/her job.

On the other hand, suppose the CEO turns out to be a Republican, who gives generously to Republican causes and (in private, never in the workplace!) calls the president Obummer. Using his private email (only his private email) he circulates lots of right-wing jokes and manifestos and on and on. But most of the employees are Democrats, and word gets around. This causes a lot of employees not to like the CEO and generally to regard him as a jerk. Should he be removed as CEO, or encouraged to step down, since he’s bad for morale? This one is harder, because it seems much more like a ‘private’ belief he is being punished for here. It seems more reasonable to ask the employees to check their politics at the office door. There’s much more of a dangerous slippery slope. I don’t think being the least popular guy in the office should, normally, get you fired. Work isn’t suppose to be like “Survivor”. (You are making this point and I think it’s right, Martin.)

Eich’s case seems on the line. On the one hand, his contribution was a private thing. On the other hand, if it’s important for the CEO of this company to inspire trust in gay employees as well as straight – if you want them to feel confident they won’t be discriminated against at promotion time or whatever – it would be better not to have a CEO whom they know wants to discriminate against gays, in principle. (Maybe it’s just the marriage thing. Maybe he is totally happy with gays in the work place. Still, his contribution raises concerns. If that’s a problem, he’s a problem.)

I think you should be able to fire people if they demonstrably can’t do their jobs. I don’t think you should be able to fire people for their private beliefs. But when private beliefs make it hard for people to do their jobs, it gets harder. You sort of want to ask whether it’s their FAULT that their private beliefs are interfering. It is them? Or is it everyone else that’s the real problem? That’s just a hopelessly subtle standard, however, and also inevitably kind of question-begging, when people end up just making a call about who is morally in the right.

I don’t think there’s a satisfactory principle to be worked out around here, actually.

Of course, back in the real world, there’s at-will firing. I think liberals are willing to change that, and accept any implications of change for cases like Eich. If other folks gets extra protection, he gets it, too. Fair is fair. Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to wish for protections for Eich, but not for employees generally. Which doesn’t make sense to me.

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MPAVictoria 07.30.14 at 2:04 pm

“Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to wish for protections for Eich, but not for employees generally.”

100% right, 0% wrong.

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Brett Bellmore 07.30.14 at 2:18 pm

I arbitrarily demanded that my tennants not keep their dogs in the basement without cleaning up after them, they arbitrarilly skipped town when the rent was due after tearing holes in the walls. (Took six months’ rent to repair the place.) You should not perhaps expect me to automatically side with tennants in light of this, let alone side with the government against both tennants and landlords.

I think perhaps the problem here is that you don’t think of the government as a third party butting in where it doesn’t belong, except when people you don’t like are running it. Somehow you think of the government as “us”, not a protection racket with good pr.

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MPAVictoria 07.30.14 at 2:20 pm

“I arbitrarily demanded that my tennants not keep their dogs in the basement without cleaning up after them, they arbitrarilly skipped town when the rent was due after tearing holes in the walls. (Took six months’ rent to repair the place.) You should not perhaps expect me to automatically side with tennants in light of this, let alone side with the government against both tennants and landlords.”

Sorry you had bad tenants man but that doesn’t make you right about any of this.

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Consumatopia 07.30.14 at 2:23 pm

“Aside from the political impossibility, it tosses out the whole concept of rights as universal”

Rights don’t apply to different situations the same way. Discrimination laws protect job and apartment applicants from discrimination, but they don’t protect black landlords or employers from racist whites who refuse to work for or live with blacks. Overtime laws protect hourly but not salaried workers.

I think CEOs should have about the level of protection they have now–if they can prove they were fired for some illegal reason (e.g. race), they should win a lawsuit. But a system where the owners and the board of directors can’t choose who they want to run their company at will strikes me as very strange.

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Consumatopia 07.30.14 at 2:28 pm

“you don’t think of the government as a third party butting in where it doesn’t belong”

Property is government. If you hold a deed, you chose to involve the government. The problem is that you love government, coercion and force, but you like to pretend that you don’t.

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J Thomas 07.30.14 at 2:35 pm

But there really is a logic to holding someone like Eich extra accountable to his views, insofar as the ability to inspire confidence and trust in fellow employees may reasonably be deemed a part of his particular job.

Any way we do it, it turns into a question of enforcing the standards of a majority (or whoever has power) on a minority (or people who have less power).

In 1965, what if a company in fact had a policy not to hire blacks? The large majority of that company’s employees did not want to work with blacks and it would hurt their morale if they were forced to. If they were forced to, they would intentionally try to cause failures that would be blamed on the black employees and not on them. The company did not mind anybody knowing all this, because when a black applied for a job with them it was a waste of time for everybody involved. Many of their customers preferred to buy from a company that did not employ blacks.

We say they were wrong. But apart from them being wrong, and apart from the eventual law that said they could not do that, all the arguments you make would apply to them. Confidence of the employees, the customers, getting the job done, etc.

I see two ways to deal with this. One is to say that being fair is not really important, what’s important is to do what the majority wants. There’s a majority in favor of being nice to gays now, so it’s OK to punish people who are too mean to gays. By 1973 there was a majority in favor of being nice to blacks. Etc. There is not a majority in favor of being nice to racists or homophobes, so we don’t have to be as nice to them as they want.

A second way is to say that we are right and the other side is wrong. It’s right not to discriminate against blacks or homosexuals. People who argue that they have the right to do what’s wrong, are wrong. We do not have to give the same protection to racists or homophobes that we give to blacks or homosexuals. Blacks and homosexuals have suffered a lot of bad treatment in the past. Racists and homophobes deserve their turn in the barrel.

Now I will apply that logic to the Israel thing. If a CEO or important government employee said that Israel does not have the right to kill 1500 or so palestinians whenever they feel like it, and is wrong to do that now, there might easily be a big public uproar about it. Why should businesses or government offices be run by blatant antisemites? He would likely lose his job.

Applying my first approach to that, I would say that it’s sad things are this way but too bad, the majority rules, and the majority likes Israel and does not like people who say things that sound antisemitic. I can only hope that the majority will change their minds, but I can’t do anything effective to help them change their minds because I need to feed my family and the consequences to me of doing anything useful would be way disproportionate to the results.

The second way, I could say that it’s in fact right for homophobes and racists to suffer a little for their beliefs, given what they’ve done to their victims, but it’s wrong for anti-zionists to suffer for standing up for what’s right. An injustice is being done and I would try to fight it except I need to feed my family and I can’t afford to volunteer to be a victim just now.

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SamChevre 07.30.14 at 2:38 pm

John Holbo,

Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to wish for protections for Eich, but not for employees generally.

You keep saying this; I don’t think it means what you think it means.

I followed this somewhat; I can’t remember any conservative, anywhere, arguing that Eich’s firing/resignation under pressure/demotion (at the CEO level, it’s not usually called a firing) should be illegal. Cite, please? (I saw plenty of arguments that it was a bad idea, a demonstration of the left’s general lack of any concept of rights as universal, a dangerous precedent, etc; I saw no calls to change the law to make it illegal.)

Property is government.

I’m not sure whether the indications point more strongly toward needing an insane asylum or a history lesson.

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John Holbo 07.30.14 at 2:43 pm

“ou should not perhaps expect me to automatically side with tennants in light of this”

Sorry about your basement and walls. It sounds like a giant pain in the ass, and then some, but I don’t see why you are assuming that we would automatically side with your tenants. If it’s as you say, they were clearly in the wrong.

“I think perhaps the problem here is that you don’t think of the government as a third party butting in where it doesn’t belong, except when people you don’t like are running it. Somehow you think of the government as “us”, not a protection racket with good pr.”

If the US government is not a Hegelian God-State it must be the mafia? If I don’t think the US government is the mafia, I must think it is a Hegelian God-State? Where’s the sense in any of this, Brett?

Also, you still owe me an answer. When you say ‘let them build their own damn house,’ do you mean that what you say applies only in the case that they can build their own damn house, as a practical matter? Or, in the event that they can’t build their own damn house, are they flat out of luck?

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Layman 07.30.14 at 2:56 pm

“I followed this somewhat; I can’t remember any conservative, anywhere, arguing that Eich’s firing/resignation under pressure/demotion (at the CEO level, it’s not usually called a firing) should be illegal. Cite, please? (I saw plenty of arguments that it was a bad idea, a demonstration of the left’s general lack of any concept of rights as universal, a dangerous precedent, etc; I saw no calls to change the law to make it illegal.)”

Heck, John Fund says it already is illegal.

http://www.newsmax.com/NewsmaxTv/BrendanEich-JohnFund-gay-marriage/2014/04/08/id/564372/

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SamChevre 07.30.14 at 2:57 pm

People who argue that they have the right to do what’s wrong, are wrong. We do not have to give the same protection to [people who are wrong] that we give to [people who are not wrong]

You have elegantly restated a very old idea; the traditional name is “error has no rights”, and the idea dates back in Christian history at least to Audustine of Hippo.

One of the full statements is

And from this most putrid font of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous view or rather insanity, that liberty of conscience should be asserted and claimed for just anyone.

This viewpoint hasn’t been observed to promote liberal-sense freedom where it has been tried, historically.

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John Holbo 07.30.14 at 3:01 pm

SamChevre: “You keep saying this; I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

I don’t think “I don’t think it means what you think it means”‘ means what you think it means, Sam. But I’ll meet you halfway. You answer the questions I asked you, above. (I’m particularly curious about the trading freedom for public order stuff. I was surprised by that.) And I’ll answer you about why I think what conservatives said in response to the Eich case made no sense. Fair?

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Consumatopia 07.30.14 at 3:10 pm

Important government employee? Would you also extend this to political appointees, so Kerry couldn’t be fired for taking the wrong side in a war? Or, heck, what about when I vote some out of office because of his political opinions?

Are efforts to boycott corporations that make bad political donations still okay?

Yeah, if I got my way, an executive would likely get fired for expressing an unpopular political view, even if that view was ultimately correct. But what probably happens far more often than political firing is political refusal to hire. If you nullify the threats of political backlash from customers and employees, that would make the political influence of whoever does the hiring more important.

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John Holbo 07.30.14 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for the link, Layman. Sam, will you accept John Fund saying the Eich case was (maybe) actually illegal as evidence that at least one conservative suggested it should be illegal? I can add further examples, if need be. But, like I said, I’ll wait for you to answer my earlier questions first. One thing at a time.

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Layman 07.30.14 at 3:15 pm

” (I’m particularly curious about the trading freedom for public order stuff. I was surprised by that.)”

I’m surprised by the admission but not the sentiment. Libertarianism & propertarians can’t function outside of highly ordered states – they need strong regulatory regimes to create the conditions of public order which in turn protect their property rights while enhancing the value of their property.

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mud man 07.30.14 at 3:31 pm

Colin Street @259: But the government isn’t your puppet. It’s an independent actor, with agency and judgement, and it’s not obliged to agree with you. Your position doesn’t work. Either the government decides what rights you have in your property, or there’s no “property” at all.

So where does “The Government” get the standards it uses to make such decisions? Must be something like community standards, in which case it isn’t really an independent actor. And here we are back at the top. If it really is independent, we should maybe better call it “The Management” and it starts to smell like totalitarianism.

What John said @258 for sure. I guess the best thing is to maintain as much public peace as possible in defense of Holbosian freedom while community standards evolve … without moral teleology we’re just doomed. Fortunately, looking around and taking a longish view of a back and forth process, moral teleology we’ve got.

(… don’t really mean -ology. What’s a suffix denoting a process? Got no Greek here, sorry.)

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SamChevre 07.30.14 at 3:35 pm

I don’t think saying “this may be illegal” counts as advocating that something should be illegal, no. I would certainly tell you things are illegal (and if you’re going to do them, maintaining plausible deniability[1] would be a very good idea) that I’m quite strongly opposed to them being illegal.

Answering the question above–which I’d taken as rhetorical, given the obviousness of the answer.

Are you really insisting your basically feudal night watchman state must be more conducive to public peace than any other form of government? Why would that be?

Note, first, that I don’t agree that 1890’s New York is well-described as feudal.

Note that I’m talking about public peace in a Machiavellian sense–not public order. (How big a prize is the government? How willing are people to have the government run by “not-us”?) I’d would argue that a more-free society will be more peaceful (less likely to have to resort to high levels of coercion to make people comply with the government), but is likely to be less orderly.

Well, let’s see: there’s European history–when religious toleration was established, all of a sudden the number of religious wars, riots, etc went WAY down.

There’s American history–there seem to be many fewer quarrels between the national government and local residents in the East (where most property is privately owned and managed) than in the West (where there are endless conflicts between the BLM and approximately everyone.)

There’s the last fifty years, where as the scope within which private property was left alone by the national government has shrunk, the level of government force needed to maintain order has grown exponentially. (For a rough estimate, the imprisonment rate has gone up a factor of 5 since 1960.)

There’s the whole field of historical liberal philosophy (Smith, Mill, et al) giving reasons to think this isn’t accidental.

1) Like, dude, don’t put a picture of your awesome weed on Facebook. That would be stupid.

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Layman 07.30.14 at 4:01 pm

“There’s the last fifty years, where as the scope within which private property was left alone by the national government has shrunk, the level of government force needed to maintain order has grown exponentially. (For a rough estimate, the imprisonment rate has gone up a factor of 5 since 1960.)”

Yet property crime rates per capita have actually declined over that time, so there doesn’t seem to be any obvious relationship between the scope of government regulation over property and the incarceration rate.

http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/the-high-budgetary-cost-of-incarceration/

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John Holbo 07.30.14 at 4:09 pm

” I’d would argue that a more-free society will be more peaceful”

Sorry, that wasn’t the hard question I REALLY wanted an answer to. The hard question was: are you really serious in asserting also the converse; that a more peaceful – orderly – society perforce be more free? That is, a bit more strongly: public order just IS freedom? This is the step you seemed to need at that point in the argument. But it’s quite a step. Do you take it? If not, how is your argument supposed to work without it?

As to the easy question, I think you sort of flubbed that one, to, although this matters less to the overall argument: I agree with you that 1890’s New York wasn’t a mininal night-watchman state, so I don’t really see how citing alleged facts about 1890’s New York – or post-Reformation Europe, or any of the rest, can prove that a minimal night-watchman state would be more peaceful. But let that go. Just answer the other one.

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Brett Bellmore 07.30.14 at 4:11 pm

“Also, you still owe me an answer. When you say ‘let them build their own damn house,’ do you mean that what you say applies only in the case that they can build their own damn house, as a practical matter? Or, in the event that they can’t build their own damn house, are they flat out of luck?”

I have a hard time imagining that the government would ever be unable to build it’s own damn house.

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John Holbo 07.30.14 at 4:18 pm

“I have a hard time imagining that the government would ever be unable to build it’s own damn house.”

I was under the impression that we were imaginatively exploring a night-watchman state. Is the watchman moonlighting as a sort of vigilante housebuilder?

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Layman 07.30.14 at 4:23 pm

Correcting myself @ 280, I’m overstating the case. Property crime incarceration rates are marginally higher than in 1960, but only marginally. The point remains that the overall incarceration rate explosion can’t be explained by any expansion in government regulation of property.

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Consumatopia 07.30.14 at 4:31 pm

Conservatives may not generally have wanted it to be illegal to fire Eich, I dunno. But they definitely tried to push a norm against firing Eich*, while not saying anything about other employees. When you shift from laws to norms, conservative hypocrisy is far more widespread in Eich’s case.

(* well, actually, Eich wasn’t fired, he resigned. So what conservatives actually want is for workers who disagree with their boss to be shamed into keeping silent, so the CEO can be comfortable continuing to work there. Or at least, that would be the function of the norm they tried to create.)

“(How big a prize is the government? How willing are people to have the government run by ‘not-us’?)”

Even under your propertarian assumptions, note that it’s the potential government’s size that makes government a prize worth winning. So long as the government remains a democracy, that potential is unchanged whether or not you get your preferred regime in the current moment.

I would also note that we have plenty of bitter fighting between private landowners here in the East. I mean, as far as that goes here in PA, I’ve got two words for you: Marcellus shale. (And I’m not even talking about people trying to regulate or tax it, I’m just talking about people squabbling for a piece of it.)

There’s the last fifty years, where as the scope within which private property was left alone by the national government has shrunk, the level of government force needed to maintain order has grown exponentially. (For a rough estimate, the imprisonment rate has gone up a factor of 5 since 1960.)

1) The value of U.S. private property has risen exponentially (along with GDP), so on that theory you should expect the force required to rise exponentially as well.
2) Income inequality rose sharply in that same time.
3) You’re essentially blaming the left for the drug war and leaded gasoline. (The latter produced by the private sector, eventually banned by governments.)
4) Some other countries with more activist governments have fewer prisoners.
5) The incarceration rate has actually started falling (slowly) over the last few years, despite Obama’s totalitarianism.

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J Thomas 07.30.14 at 4:39 pm

#273 Sam Chevre

You have elegantly restated a very old idea; the traditional name is “error has no rights”, and the idea dates back in Christian history at least to Audustine of Hippo.

This viewpoint hasn’t been observed to promote liberal-sense freedom where it has been tried, historically.

Yes, agreed. It is logically consistent, but it isn’t pleasant for minorities who disagree with the consensus about what’s right and what’s wrong.

We have a whole lot of it running around. Like, we have a whole lot of people who think that abortion should be flat-out illegal, because they are sure they are right and that women who think they need abortions are wrong.

We have a lot of people who think that gays should not be allowed to marry, because they are right and gays are wrong.

Etc etc.

Imagine that the government did not intervene about property rights. For example, somebody has built a house on land you own because they wrongly think they own that land, and you persuade them to go away so you can move onto your own land. You have more guns than they do and you have more friends with guns than they do. Why should their wrong opinion about who owns the land get any traction at all, versus your actual ownership?

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Matt 07.30.14 at 10:08 pm

“(How big a prize is the government? How willing are people to have the government run by ‘not-us’?)”

Even under your propertarian assumptions, note that it’s the potential government’s size that makes government a prize worth winning. So long as the government remains a democracy, that potential is unchanged whether or not you get your preferred regime in the current moment.

That potential remains even if the government is not a democracy, for that matter. There’s no way to permanently freeze the rules of the game under any system of government, custom, or law. The existing order is never immutable.

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heteroskedastic 08.01.14 at 3:03 pm

The issue is a balance-of-power shift, then. But this makes all the stuff about liberal tolerance and religious freedom kind of… secondary.

The issue is the revised definition of tolerance, which is now taken to mean, not “live and let live” or “do your own thing” as one might expect, but rather “liberalism”.[1]

That is what allows people to argue that we should be very “intolerant” (procedural definition) towards those who are not “tolerant” (substantive definition). Or, to put it more bluntly, that is why you can be fired from your job for not being a liberal.

[1] “Bigot” of course is another a term which has undergone similar revisions, now meaning anyone who is not a liberal, regardless of the reasonableness of their opinions.

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John Holbo 08.02.14 at 3:33 am

“The issue is the revised definition of tolerance, which is now taken to mean, not “live and let live” or “do your own thing” as one might expect, but rather “liberalism”.[1]“

How so, hereroskedastic? What’s wrong with my argument in the post, and in the thread, that this is not the case?

Pro tip: if you want to induce people to believe something they have just made an argument is false, you should try to give them reasons to think it is true, after all.

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ZM 08.02.14 at 4:05 am

Brett Bellmore,
Re: your bad tenants experience &
“I have a hard time imagining that the government would ever be unable to build it’s own damn house.”

I don’t have time to write a thorough response I’m sorry, but this will have to do.

I think you live in the USA but I don’t know what state. I can’t tell whether your State has poor tenancy regulations or if because you don’t think governments should regulate overmuch you decided not to follow your state’s tenancy and animal cruelty regulations.

In Victoria tenancy is quite strongly regulated. Tenants pay a bond and sign a contract at the start of the lease. If tenants leave having damaged things, accidentally or on purpose, or having not cleaned up for the next tenant, or if they left with rent owing, – the landlord May keep the appropriate portion of the bond. If the damage/bill for cleaning exceeds the bond amount the landlord can go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to get awarded due compensation. Likewise, if the landlord has unfairly kept the bond then tenants can go to VCAT also. Their us a tenants union because tenants have less power than landlords. The government loans a bond amount to poor tenants – but it has to be paid back before they can get a second loan. Animal cruelty should be reported to the local council or the RSPCA I think.

With regard to governments building social housing – this is actually a difficult area. Governments have sold a lot of their social housing without rebuilding and their are very lengthy wait lists for social housing. The governments argue building housing is expensive, as is maintaining social housing. In Australia social housing has been more successful at low or medium density than in high rise towers it is generally thought. But we do not have such troubles as the Englush television show The Bill depicts (but this might not be a true depiction of social housing in England). At the moment the governments are not building very much social housing – there is a national affordable housing scheme where I think councils can try to get developers to provide some affordable housing in their developments, and the City of Port Philip have been notably progressive in this area too. But a shortage of social and affordable housing is quite apparent.

An additional problem is that done people are very troubled souls – but they need housing just the same anyway. We had a local tragedy recently when a young man was evicted from his social housing unit and then moved to the city to live in boarding houses and he very tragically died. RIP.

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ZM 08.02.14 at 4:05 am

Some people – not done people sorry

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