In Defence of Marriage?

by Harry on May 11, 2004

When some good is arbitrarily granted to one group of people but denied to another group of people, there are two ways of implementing fairness. The first is to remove the arbitrariness by granting it to both groups. The second is simply to deny it to both groups. The latter course is especially appealing when you think that the value of the good is, in fact, highly dubious, or when you think that it involves unwarranted interference in people’s lives.

Why, then, in the debate about gay marriage is the first strategy the only one that people are debating? My colleague, Claudia Card, a renowned lesbian philosopher, published a paper over a decade ago arguing against gay marriage — on the grounds that no-one should be married, because marriage is not a good thing. At the time I was more bemused than persuaded by the argument, and now that I have revisited the paper and the issue I think that she is wrong. But I am surprised that her basic stand has received so little attention in the debate, at least among thoughtful people who are not completely caught up in the politics of the issue. (Alex Cockburn has a column which expresses this view, but I’ve not seen it much in any more mainstream place).

Here’s why:

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In a famous letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson “set out the problem of intergenerational sovereignty”: :it is as unjust for the dead to impose their laws on the living as it is for one country to impose its laws on another. In both cases, those subject to the laws are being obliged to obey legislation that they had no hand in formulating and have limited opportunity to repeal. As Jefferson points out, later generations may be burdened in all kinds of similar ways by earlier ones. So, for example, they may be held liable for the borrowing of their ancestors. But why should they be any more responsible for the repayment of such debts that the inhabitants of one country are for the repayment of the debts of another?

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Time for him to go

by Ted on May 11, 2004

(I’m going to start with the punchline, in case you don’t click through: please consider signing the DCCC petition asking for Rumsfeld’s dismissal).

I recently saw a post on a conservative blog asking whether liberal bloggers were going to accept Rumsfeld’s apology. I know the answer to this one: It Doesn’t Matter. The Administration doesn’t have to worry about us. They need to worry about what they’re doing to minimize the firestorm raging among Iraqis and Muslims. The pictures could hardly have been scripted better to alientate and inflame the people that we’d like to have on our side. Dealing with this terrible stain is of incalculable importance right now.

Donald Rumsfeld has said that he accepts reponsibility, and there are a lot of people arguing that Rumsfeld should resign, not all from the left. Daniel Drezner says that he should resign, in part, because of his poor record of handling postwar Iraq. (So does Dwight Merideth, among others.) The Economist says that he should go, in part, because of his arrogant refusal to allow prisoners to be held to the Geneva Convention, or any standards or oversight at all, created a culture that led to Abu Ghraib. The Army Times says that he should resign because of the appallingly poor handling of the reports of prisoner abuse by his office. Jane Galt thinks that only real accountability can help repair the damage. Jacob Levy says that getting rid of Rumsfeld would be an acknowledgement of past error that would improve the Administration’s credibility. George Will points out that there are no indispensable men, and gently points out that Rumsfeld’s greatest contribution to the War on Terror at this point may be to cease to be the official most identified with it. I very strongly agree.

(UPDATE: William F. Buckley, too.)

What if, instead, the President and Vice-President decided to tell the world that we owe Rumsfeld a “debt of gratitude”, that Rumsfeld is “the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had”, and that people should “get off his back.” What effect would that have?

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Bias you can use

by Kieran Healy on May 11, 2004

I’m currently trapped in deepest Derbyshire, where very few people seem to have heard of the internet and the news is dominated by the recent death of the “Duke of Devonshire”: But I just caught this great opening paragraph from the “Seattle Times”: which is worth repeating:

bq. President Bush extended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a full-throated endorsement yesterday for a “superb job,” then went into Rumsfeld’s Pentagon office for his first private glimpse of Iraqi prisoner-abuse pictures never seen in public.


by John Q on May 11, 2004

I’ve been meaning for a long time to collect my thoughts about US interest rates, and where they are and should be going. As is often the case, I’m largely in agreement with Paul Krugman, at least as far as long-term rates are concerned. On the other hand, I’m a bit more hawkish in relation to short-term rates than Brad DeLong, with whom I agree on a lot of things.

I’m planning on reworking this piece as I have new thoughts, and in response to comments. so please treat it as a work in progress.

Warning: long and boring (but maybe scary) post over the fold.

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Why Do the Old Ladies Keep Turning Into Generals?

by Belle Waring on May 11, 2004

Is it just me, or are the increasingly implausible encomiums of Rumsfeld coming out of the Bush administration starting to sound a little Manchurian Candidate-esque?

George Bush: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your hospitality, and thank you for your leadership. You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You’re doing a superb job. You are a strong Secretary of Defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.

Dick Cheney
: As a former secretary of defense, I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had.

Bennett Marco: Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

Maybe someone should ask the president if he’d like to pass the time by playing a little solitaire, just to see what happens.

Gay marriage in Virginia

by Ted on May 11, 2004

Via Edward at Obsidian Wings, I see that the state of Virginia has been busy digging a trench to the 19th century.

The Virginia General Assembly… passed with veto-proof majorities a jaw-dropping bill that bans not only civil unions but any “partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage.” And it declares “void in all respects” and “unenforceable” in the commonwealth any such arrangement made in another state.

In other words, not only is any public affirmation of gay relationships banned but even private legal arrangements between two people who love each other are prohibited. The bill’s broad language would preclude contracts to share assets or provide for medical powers of attorney, and though its sponsors deny they intend to do so, it would seem to ban even certain contractual business relationships undertaken by people who happen to be of the same gender.

One of the arguments against gay marriage is that gays don’t need it. They can get the rights of married people by making their own contractual arrangements. That’s not exactly true- some rights, such as immigration rights, cannot be obtained by contract

The legislators who passed this bill are wasting their words. A protestor in